Historiography

Course Description: 

Format

The course is divided into a lecture, mandatory for students in the 1YMA and 2YMA program, and a seminar, mandatory for students in the 1YMA program, elective for all others. The lecture will consist of a presentation by the instructors followed by half an hour of questions and in-class discussion. 

Content

Representing history as a branch of cognition that has been found directly relevant to the human condition since antiquity, the class highlights a number of influential, and controversial, ways of engaging with it in modern and contemporary times. It will present a critical overview of the theoretical approaches and research methods that have been conceived and practiced in academic historiography from its inception in the nineteenth century until the present. The major historiographical schools and trends will be presented from three angles, first with their context-dependent characteristics, then in their disciplinary, scientific and systemic aspirations, and finally in their possible practical use for research in the historical field under present-day circumstances. The class will start with an introduction discussing the goals and contexts of history-writing since antiquity, as well as the importance of historiographical self-reflection in source work and scholarly communication. We will then explore the influential nineteenth-century schools of historicism, positivism, and philology, the development of critical methodology regarding sources, and the ensuing emphasis on the peculiarities of times, places, and ethno-cultural traditions. We will then consider the objections to historicism and the twentieth-century turn towards the sociological, psychological and anthropological structuring of the historical field, with the use of quantitative methods. The third and most important part of the class will discuss the development of historiographical theory since the "linguistic turn". We will explore disciplinary approaches as evolving, yet recurrent ways of thinking about the relation between life conditions and history writing. From this point of view, the class will be attentive to the tension between particular histories on the one hand and cultural regularities, memory and collective representations on the other hand. 

Learning Outcomes: 

Assessment

In order to obtain the credits and grades for this class, each student will be required to write class journals for four out of the twelve lecture sessions. After each session, the instructors will upload to the present site a list announcing the names of those students who will be asked to report on it. Each class journal should develop, in a minimum of 900 words, an overview of the session topic, making use of the assigned class readings and your notes or memories from the lecture. The class journal should have footnote references, but no  bibliographies or long quotations. The purpose of these papers is to test your adequate understanding of the intellectual dialogue mentioned above and to train your ability to write on theoretical issues of historiography in a structured, systematic, and concise manner. In writing these short essays, you should not simply reproduce what you have heard and read, but use your own words in order to make clear that you have understood the main ideas and the internal logic of the argument. You are welcome to add ideas from other readings, personal comments or open questions for further reflection, but this is optional. The four journals will be graded and your class grade will in general reflect the arithmetical mean; however, good participation in the question-and-answer sessions can favorably influence the assessment, whereas the breach of class rules concerning attendance and electronic devices (see below) can result in downgrading or the need to submit additional assignments.

Class Attendance

Regular attendance is mandatory in all classes. A student who misses more than two units (two 100-minute sessions) in any 2 or 4 credit class without a verified reason beyond the student's control must submit an 8-10 page paper assigned by the professor, which as a rule covers the material in the class missed. The paper is due no later than 3 weeks after the missed class.

 

Assessment: 

Goals

The goal of the lectures is to familiarize students with a selection of the most influential approaches to academic history writing, placing an emphasis on trends that are relevant in present-day research. Our purpose is to present in a systematic way the theoretical frameworks and conceptual tools most commonly shared among twenty-first-century historians. Students will be encouraged to engage theoretically with these approaches, and in some cases with the ways in which they are presented in the assigned literature; they can also expect to acquire references for scholarly discussions and possible approaches to their own research in CEU's History program; however, the practical implementation of these approaches cannot be the task of this lecture, but will be the object of the thesis writing seminars and colloquia. The readings consist of source extracts from the works of major historians, as well as secondary literature. The class readings, lectures, and discussions will contribute to the participants' formation of a self-reflective historiographical consciousness on the basis of a well-informed understanding of History's achievements and failures in the past, but also an awareness of the enduring capacity of history-writing to engage with the social and cultural questions of the present.