Summer 2016 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Wilson, Michael
Discipline and Number
HIST 6340 Section 591
MW Time 5:30 PM - 10:00 PM
Course Title
Trials, Scandals, Microhistory

Description of Course:

A heretical miller in the sixteenth century, an eighteenth-century cat-killer, and a prostitute murdered in nineteenth-century New York: what do these figures have in common? Each is the subject of a foundational work of micro-historical analysis.

Since the 1970s, microhistory has established itself as an important methodology within cultural history. Microhistory focuses close attention on seemingly minor or intensely "local" events from the past in order to discover what possibilities and constraints shaped human behavior at specific historical moments. Scandals and trials provide an exemplary opportunity for this sort of analysis, for they create a highly charged confrontation between individuals and a variety of social institutions and discourses.

In this seminar we will read and discuss some foundational works (and a few recent essays) in microhistory. These studies examine scandals and trials from the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Our goal will be to identify and critique the range of approaches these historians have taken; to articulate what microhistory means as a field; and to explore the potential and limitations of this form of historical writing. We will also work on strengthening your bibliographic research skills.

Required Texts:

Natalie Z. Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre
Harvard University Press 978-0674766914

Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller
Johns Hopkins University Press 978-1421409887

Amy Gilman Srebnick, The Mysterious Death of Mary Rogers: Sex and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York
Oxford University Press 978-0195113921

Plus one of the following:
Gene Brucker, Giovanni and Lusanna: Love & Marriage in Renaissance Florence
University of California Press 978-0520244955

Steven Ozment, The Burgermeister’s Daughter: Scandal in a 16th-Century German Town
Harper Perennial 978-0060977214

Additional readings will be available electronically and on Reserve at McDermott Library

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Seminar preparation and participation; submission by email of 3 discussion questions for each session with readings; four bibliographic assignments; oral presentation; 4- to 6-page book review; 10- to 12-page review essay.

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