Teaching

Note: the syllabi on this page are for reference purposes only. Current students should consult the Moodle for each course for up-to-date information about assignments.

Making Race: History of a Fiction (History 368): offered spring 2014
What does it mean to call race a "social construction" or a "historical fiction"? How, when, and why did race develop as a way to categorize human beings? What roles did law, social practice, and scientific and religious thought play in the process of race-making? What alternative notions of human community or human difference resisted the power of the race concept? This course focuses on North America from the age of European colonization to the present, but we will also reach back to antiquity, the Middle Ages, and early modern Europe to understand the roots of modern racial thought. Sojourns to other parts of the world (such as South Africa and Latin America) will help put our discussion of American racialization into comparative perspective. Throughout, we will consider the development of race in relationship to other categories of human difference, including gender, ethnicity, nation, and religion. Examining both classic and recent scholarship, we will devote particular attention to several historiographical problems: understanding "whiteness" as a racial category; interpreting race "mixing" and "passing"; and placing race in American history beyond the black-white binary.

American Social Reform from Revolution to Reconstruction (History 363): fall 2013 syllabus
Countless nineteenth-century Americans participated in movements for social reform.  What made it possible for ordinary people to believe that they should and could change their world?  What were the boundaries of their reformist visions?  How did reformers balance radical and conservative impulses within their movements?  This course considers these questions with reference to temperance, abolitionism, women's rights, health reform, and other reform agendas.  In contextualizing these movements, we will consider the transnational dimensions of American reform, as well as connections between social reform and the rise of market capitalism, evangelical Christianity, and democratic politics in the early republic.

Junior Seminar: The United States in the 1840s (History 412): spring 2013 syllabus
Many narratives of the nineteenth-century United States present the era's turning point as the Civil War, which casts its shadow over the preceding decades by labeling them (anachronistically) as "antebellum." This course asks what happens to our narratives of the nineteenth century if we shift our gaze to an earlier decade. In the 1840s, the problems of slavery and sectionalism were certainly of great concern, but they preoccupied Americans alongside and in competition with a host of other issues. This was an era of religious and cultural ferment, of large-scale migration and long-distance travel, of imperial ambition and millennial anxiety, of agitation for both war and peace. As the nation's territorial boundaries expanded and its population diversified, Americans wondered what, if anything, held them together as a nation, and they grappled to make sense of their young republic's place in the world. In this course, we will read scholarship stressing various historiographical approaches and problems, with particular emphasis on recent efforts to situate American history in a global context. Students will develop and write a substantial research paper based on both primary and secondary sources.

Sources and Methods in Early African American History (History 367): fall 2012 syllabus
What do historians know about the early African American past (c. 1619-1865), and how do they know it?  This course will explore major problems in African American historiography, including the relationship between the rise of slavery and the development of racial ideology; the nature of slave resistance, rebellion, and revolution; the transmission of African cultural forms and the creation of black culture(s); the social dynamics of the slave plantation; and the significance of regional differences in the historical experience of African Americans.  We will study various historians' interpretations of these problems, as well as the primary sources that form the basis of those interpretations.  While analysis of written texts remains a mainstay of historical practice, scholars in this field have also drawn on less traditional forms of evidence, such as DNA, demography, folklore, oral history, material artifacts, and human remains.  We will critically assess the possibilities and pitfalls of using these diverse sources to reconstruct the early African American experience.  Students will apply what they have learned from other scholars' methods to produce their own primary source-based research papers.

Revolutionary America (History 362): spring 2011 syllabus
In the late eighteenth century, thirteen North American colonies severed their colonial ties to Britain and constituted a new nation. This course will assess the causes of these changes, as well as the extent to which they altered the political, diplomatic, social, and cultural landscape of North America.  We will address major conflicts of the period from 1763 to 1815, including the tensions between libertarian ideology and institutionalized slavery, household dependence and national independence, centralized authority and local control, enlightenment rationalism and evangelical religion, private property and communal interests, and Indian sovereignty and American expansionism.

Mapping Colonial America (History 361): fall 2009 syllabus
At a moment when historians of early America are pondering the field's so-called "geographic turn," this course considers the significance of space and geography to the history and historiography of colonial North America.  Major questions include: Why is geography such an important—perhaps the mostimportant—organizing principle in early American historiography?  How important should it be?  How did cartographic knowledge shape colonial power, and vice versa?  How did Indians, Africans, and Europeans give meaning to the various "new worlds" in which they found themselves?  How did the convergence of different peoples in key locations give rise both to hybrid cultures and devastating violence?  How did the diverse peoples of colonial America seek to order not only the physical landscape, but also domestic spaces and human bodies?  This course focuses on negotiations for space and power in British North America, alongside comparative perspectives from other colonial contexts.  In addition to reading works by major scholars of colonial America, we will also apply that scholarship to interpreting primary sources ourselves, with particular attention to Reed's extraordinary collection of early modern antiquarian maps.
For more on Reed's map collection, click here.

Colonial America (History 361): spring 2008 syllabus
This course examines the interactions among Indians, Africans, and Europeans in the centuries after they first encountered each other on the North American continent.  Many of our readings draw from the historiography of the mainland colonies of British America, but we will also explore how recent historians have sought to expand the temporal, geographical, and theoretical boundaries of "colonial America."

Introduction to Western Humanities: current syllabus