Seminars 2014-15

Students must complete two 300-level history seminars in order to complete the major. Here are our seminar offerings for the 2014-2015 academic year.

FALL 2014

History 322.01 "Sex and Sexuality in American History."

This seminar investigates the history of sex and sexuality in the United States, from the colonial era through the twentieth century.  We will identify changes, contradictions, and continuities in sexual ideals as well as the even more complicated realities of Americans’ sexual experiences.  We will discuss the invention of heterosexualities and same-sex sexualities, as well as the laws, policies, and traditions that shape them.  Students will write in-depth research papers on some aspect of American sexual history.  Prerequisites:  HIS 100 and either HIS 222 or GWSS 111.  4 credits.  Ms. Lewis

History 336.01 "The European Metropolis."

This seminar takes as its starting point the explosion of large cities in Europe from the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries.  As the narrative goes, parallel political and economic revolutions made possible-–even inevitable-–the blossoming of entirely new spaces characterized by unprecedented population density and diversity, radical shifts in architecture and infrastructure, and vertiginous social and cultural developments.  We examine this phenomenon by concentrating upon the ways in which artists and intellectuals in London, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin (and occasionally elsewhere) grappled with the idea and the experience of the metropolis.  Our investigations include political developments, social theory, the visual arts, film, literature, architecture, consumer culture, and music.  Among the myriad of qualities and tensions inherent in the modern urban experience, we consider community and alienation, the fluidity of the self, spectacle and entertainment, disease and criminality, gender, and class.  Prerequisites:  HIS 100 and HIS 236, 237, 238, 239, or 241.  4 credits.  Ms. Maynard

History 373.01  "Chimerica:  The History of a Special Relationship."

This seminar will address the history behind China and America's tumultuous - and increasingly symbiotic - bilateral relationship by examining American/Chinese interactions over the course of the 20th century.  After reviewing the rich historiography on international, economic, and intercultural contact between these two Pacific states, we will turn to mapping out a collaborative research agenda based on available resources at Grinnell and surrounding libraries and archives.  Students will then write individual research papers focused on some aspect of China-U.S. relations, with an eye toward explaining how contemporary patterns have been anticipated by historical interaction.  Our penultimate goals will thus include:  1) extensive drafting and re-writing of a substantive, paper-length work of original research, and 2) developing an understanding of U.S.-China relations which accounts for the multiple levels of exchange, meaning, and past precedent at work in shaping our global present.  Prerequisites:   HIS 100 and any 200-level course on East Asian history or U.S. History.  4 credits.  Mr. Johnson

SPRING 2015

History 320.01 "Nature and the New Deal."

This seminar examines the central role that environmental issues played in the era of the New Deal. Students will explore how a generation of policy-makers, intellectuals, and artists came to see a fundamental connection between the economic crisis of the “Great Depression” and the environmental crisis of the “Dirty Thirties” (manifest in a series of epic droughts, dust-storms, floods, forest fires, and collapsing farms). The course readings will focus on a variety of iconic programs that embodied the New Deal’s environmental vision of rebuilding society through innovative programs in conservation and public outreach: e.g. the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the “Greenbelt” program, Soil Conservation Districts, rural electrification, and the funding of environmentally conscious literature, photography, and film by the Works Progress Administration. Students will design their own research projects that examine in greater detail some aspect of environmental policy or thought during this era. Prerequisites: HIS 100 and HIS 220. With permission, students may substitute HIS 220 with relevant coursework in Environmental Studies or Policy Studies. 4 credits. Mr. Guenther 

History 325.01 “American Indian Reservations.”

This course examines the history of American Indian reservations from the late-nineteenth century to the present. The common readings will introduce students to the origins and major historical problems of reservation history, especially the tricky task of defining the relationship between American Indian reservations and the United States. Specifically, we will examine the end of treaty-making between the United States and Indian tribes, allotment of Indian land, federal assimilation programs, boarding schools, the meaning of U.S. citizenship for Native peoples, and the opportunities and challenges of casinos. Prerequisites: Any HIS 100 course and any 200-level history course. 4 credits. Mr. Lacson 

History 329.01 "Latin America and the United States."

As the saying goes, Latin America lies too far from God and too close to the United States.  This proximity has affected Latin American economics, demographics, culture, and politics.  The seminar will begin with common readings.  This year those common readings will focus on US attempts–both official and unofficial–to democratize and modernize the region.  Students will then write a research paper using primary documents.  These papers could focus on anyone of a number of issues that were central to US-Latin American relations such as hemispheric security, economic affairs, democracy, and socialism.  A reading knowledge of Spanish or Portuguese is helpful but not required.  Prerequisites:  HIS 100 and HIS 201, 202, or 204.  4 credits.  Mr. Silva

History 331.01 "Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe."

A knowledge explosion took place in Europe between 1450 and 1700.  Its powder keg was stocked with newly recovered ancient texts, with thrilling stories from Europeans’ encounters with the New World, and with the results of the observation and experimental interrogations of nature.  Independent research projects will examine the effects of the media revolution-the development of print culture-which ignited and sustained the blast of this “information age” in Europe and beyond.  This course offers its students an opportunity to explore the impact of the knowledge explosion on the formation of social, ethnic, religious and political identities, and the creation of museums, libraries, archives, databases, and learned societies.  Ultimately, we will ask whether early modern practices of communication and information transmission actually redefined the meaning of “knowledge” for the modern world.  Prerequisites:  HIS 100 and HIS 233, 234, 235, or 295-03 (on “Sex, gender and family in Europe, 1300-1700”).  With permission, students may substitute HIS 233, 234, 235 with relevant coursework in classics, renaissance, or early modern studies.  4 credits.  Ms. Pollnitz.

PLEASE NOTE:

Mr. Cohn will not be offering his Stalinism seminar in 2014-15, but will do so again in 2015-16.

Mr. Elfenbein will not be teaching seminars in 2014-2015 or 2015-2016.