HIST 2050: Medieval Societies and Cultures: Proseminar

HIST 2050: Medieval Societies and Cultures: Proseminar

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MEDIEVAL SOCIETIES AND CULTURES:
PROSEMINAR
History 2050
Thursday 3:00-5:45
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Dan Smail | Department of History | smail@fas.harvard.edu
Office hours W 10-12 and by appt.

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This proseminar provides a survey of recent scholarly literature in the history of high and later medieval Europe. Graduate students in all fields and departments are very welcome, as are highly motivated undergraduates. For doctoral students in History, this course provides essential preparation for the qualifying exams. Weekly readings focus on recent works in the broad field of medieval history. To explore and understand deeper trends in the field, members of the class will take turns researching and writing historiographical essays that will be shared and discussed by the whole class.  

Course Rhythm

This course is divided into six modules, each of which features two recent books by established as well as up-and-coming scholars. For the first week of each module, we shall read and begin our discussion of the two books in question. For the second week of the module, we will revisit the two featured books via further discussions based on student-authored historiographical essays as well as well oral reports summarizing the critical reception of the books.

Writing and Other Assignments

  • 6 Response Papers (ca 500 words each). These are due before class during the first week of each module. Respond to the two featured books anyhow you see fit, treating them either separately or together. Post the papers on the Slack channel called #response_papers by Wednesday at 5pm of each week.
  • 2 Bibliographic Essays (2,000-3,000 words each). Your essays will focus on the historiographical context of the featured books for that week and should be at least 2,000 words for single-authored essays or 3,000 words for co-authored essays. Collaborative research and co-authoring with another member of the class is warmly encouraged. We will divvy up the assignments during the first week or two of class. For each essay, identify a historiographical theme or set of themes raised by the author in her or his text and footnotes. Reading widely in English and European languages (ca 10-15 items per essay; your bibliography should include 5 books or articles in languages other than English), and highlighting major authors and turning points, explore that theme as far back into the literature as you choose to go.
    • Authors must share their essays (in pdf format) with the rest of the class by 5pm Tuesday of the second week. Use the appropriate Slack channel. All students: read the essays, and start or respond to discussion threads.
  • 2 Reviews of Reviews. For each review, read all the book reviews of the featured book and track down as much internet discussion and online reviews as you care to find. For the second week of the module, prepare an oral report ca 5-8 minutes in length summarizing the critical response. Post any especially interesting reviews in a Slack channel.

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3 September—Introduction

  • Introductions and course format
    • The Zoom room will open at 2:30 each week; you are welcome to drop in any time before the class
  • Discussion
  • Workshop: Writing a good historiographical essay
    • Read or review the first chapter of Peter Brown’s Cult of the Saints, focusing on the historiographical section that begins on p. 13. How did Brown leverage past intellectual trends in order to justify his study?
    • Identify a book or article in your field of study that provides a clear overview of historiographical trends and frameworks. Be prepared to discuss the piece in class.

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10 & 17 September — Berbers and Christians

  • Week 2
    • Before Class
      • Post essays on Slack by Tuesday the 15th at 5pm; all students read and comment before class
    • Discussion of essays by
      • Reed
      • Adan
    • Presentations of reviews of reviews by
      • Sama

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24 September & 1 October — Piety and Devotion

  • Week 1
  • Week 2
    • Discussion of essays by
      • Lydia and Sama
    • Presentations of reviews of reviews by
      • Andrew on Baumgarten
      • Colin on Remensnyder

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15 & 22 October — The Church in Society

  • Week 1
  • Week 2
    • Discussion of essays by
      • Adan and Andrew
    • Presentations of reviews of reviews by
      • Lydia on Armstrong-Partida
      • Reed on Forrest

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29 October & 5 November— Race and Identity

  • Week 1
  • Week 2
    • Discussion of essays by
      • Lydia on Heng
      • Colin on Jordan
    • Presentations of reviews of reviews by
      • Reed on Heng
      • Adan on Jordan

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12 & 19 November — Law and Justice

  • Week 1
  • Week 2
    • Discussion of essays by
      • Colin on Lauer
      • Reed on Johnson
    • Presentations of reviews of reviews by
      • Sama on Johnson
      • Adan on Lauer

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3 & 10 December — Economic Thought

  • Week 1
  • Week 2
    • Discussion of essays by
      • Andrew  and Sama
    • Presentations of reviews of reviews by
      • Lydia on Todeschini
      • Colin on Kaye

Course Summary:

Date Details Due