Teaching: Current Courses
HIST 106: The Grand Tour (section of: Exploring History)
Professor Bonnie Effros
In an era in which John Locke’s idea of humans as a blank slate upon which knowledge might be impressed, travel became a key ingredient in completing the education of the British upper classes from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. The Grand Tour, as conceived in a variety of forms over this period (since values associated with it were not static), was a form of pedagogy in which all of the senses were implicated. Through this experience, it was thought that that young men (and later women) would gain exposure to the cultural riches of the continent (especially those of the classical era), gain a certain worldliness and polish through exposure to different cultures and experiences, and enjoy a last period of freedom before they returned to Britain to take up their professions and accept more staid family responsibilities. The impact of these privileged experiences was enormous, and both personal and cumulative. With regard to the latter, the Grand Tour contributed to the burgeoning genre of travel writing, shaped fictional works of the era like Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, filled British private and public collections with antiquities and art, and lay the foundation for classical studies, archaeology, and modern tourism (in the form of travel guides and companies like those of Thomas Cook and Baedecker’s, that were created to serve these travelers). As Europeans moved beyond Europe, whether to North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, or the Americas, their movement also became entangled in the growing web of European imperialism. Although the latter developments will not be a part of our exploration this term, this first module will focus above all on the implications of travel to Italy informed by the classics and the implications of European views of themselves in relation to others they viewed as “Oriental”, “exotic”, or “primitive”.
Besides sketching the many places they visited, many of the British men and women who embarked on the Grand Tour thankfully also recorded their thoughts and encounters in journals and fictional works; their experiences shaped not just their understanding of the contemporary world but also their ideas about antiquity. Edward Gibbon, for instance, was strongly influenced by the time he spent in Rome and other parts of Italy in 1764. These left an indelible mark on his subsequent composition of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. In studying British fascination with ancient Rome and the place of the Grand Tour in the British imagination, our sources for module-based group projects will be the travel accounts that were written by contemporary visitors, especially those who traveled to Italy and visited its ancient wonders, as well as the objects that they picked up in the course of their wanderings.
HIST 114: Global History of the Present
Dr Deanna Heath (Module Convenor)
How do we explain the global surge to power of right-wing political parties, as well as of new forms of popular resistance to such politics? What is fueling the growth of isolationist politics, such as the Brexit vote, at a time when cooperation between nation-states is arguably more vital than ever before? What are the origins of protest movements such as Black Lives Matter, and what do they reveal about race and racism in the contemporary world? How do we account for the rise of global terrorism, and its appeal to generally young and marginalised men? What are the causes of climate change, and why does it seem to be disproportionately affecting the global south?
This module explores contemporary issues and debates through considering the relationship between the past and the world in which we live. In light of the tremendous impact that modern imperialism and colonialism have had in shaping such a world the module focuses, in particular, on questions relating to race, empire and their legacies. By exploring some of the ways in which historical investigation enriches urgent contemporary debates the module aims to introduce students to a range of new ways of approaching the past, both in terms of subject matter and of new approaches to history, and to broaden students’ historical understanding of both western and non-western history (or what scholars refer to as the global north and south) and the myriad connections between them. In addition, therefore, to preparing students for the range of subject matter, geographical areas and approaches that they will be able to study in the second and third years of your degree programme this module also aims to make students better global citizens.
HIST 206: Christian Bodies 200-800 CE
Professor Bonnie Effros
This second year module bridges the disciplines of European history and archaeology in late antique Christianity and the European early Middle Ages by focusing on the differential representation and treatment of male and female bodies. Its point of departure is the ancient belief that women's reproductive organs were inverse versions of male genitalia. The logical implication of this view was that a woman's body, as opposed to a man's body, was incomplete and thus less than fully human; in order to attain full humanity and the dignity of a soul, a woman had to, in some sense, become a man. Students in the seminar explore some of the ways in which the dominant male standard and the desire to control and transform an inadequately formed body constituted a central intellectual preoccupation in the medieval Mediterranean and later in Western culture.
Some of the themes addressed during the semester include monastic claustration (permanently imprisoning the body), self-mutilation, martyrdom (fragmentation), cross-dressing and gender slippage in late antique and early medieval written sources. Readings include translated selections from the Church fathers, histories of saints, monastic Rules, visionary texts, theological works and ancient and early medieval medical treatises. We also treat where possible archaeological representations of Christian bodies, and supplement the primary sources with modern interpretations of this complex source material. It is hoped that in looking at the ways in which men and women were conceptualized and represented, we can recuperate a body of literary texts and practices that without such contextualization seem incomprehensible and bizarre. The central problems that the readings variously thematize, namely the exercise of power, control and interpretation with regard to human bodies, are highly "modern" and relevant to us today.