English | Junior Honors Seminar
L399 | 1908 | Linton


2:30p-3:45p TR (15) 3 cr.

COAS INTENSIVE WRITING SECTION. REQUIRES THE
PERMISSION OF ENGLISH DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR OF
HONORS. OBTAIN AUTHORIZATION FROM BH402.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FICTIONS OF HISTORY

This course examines the ways we study and think about history
by focusing on three historical figures--Richard III, Pocahontas,
and Richard Nixon--and the documents and fictions that, over
time, have developed around them. In exploring the relationship
between fiction and history, the course aims to help students
develop a more complex and dynamic understanding of both, one
that recognizes the role of fiction in the making of history both as
representation and as process. Discussion will move from critical
analysis of primary texts and their receptions to the questions
these texts pose for historical inquiry, the literacy practices and
technologies through which historical knowledge is mediated, and
the possibility of an ethical response to history within the context
of current cultural politics.

Primary texts may include: Shakespeare's RICHARD III
(sources, refutations), Tey's DAUGHTER OF TIME, LOOKING
FOR RICHARD, the Pocahontas story from first colonists to
Disney, Woodward and Bernstein's ALL THE PRESIDENT'S
MEN, Stone's NIXON (and relevant materials from news
reports, documentaries and memoirs). Secondary texts will
include historical studies and theoretical essays on fiction and
history.

Discussion of specific issues will rotate from one historical figure
to another, a recursive format that provides a basis for a
self-consciously historicized comparative analysis. In group
inquiry, students will focus on one historical figure, in order to
better articulate conceptual insights and practice interpretive
strategies. Students will also present book reports from a list of
secondary readings, providing a context for class discussions of
individual chapters from those books. In addition to free-writes,
focused reflections, and workshops, assignments may include: (1)
A three-page "interview" with one of the historical figures
studied; (2) a five-page comparison between two versions of a
historical fictions, exploring the relation between genres and the
cultural narratives being enacted in these versions); (3) a group
inquiry project, defining a set of criteria for historical inquiry and
applying it to a specific text; and (4) a research paper, about 15
pages long, in which students pursue a topic of interest, where
appropriate, drawing on ideas and insights developed in earlier
assignments for the course.