H548D, Graduate Seminar in Historiography

Syllabus for 2014, PDF  Syllabus for 2014, DOC  Syllabus for 2013  Peer Review Worksheets  Reading & Writing


Links for H548D



C.L.R. James, the author of The Black Jacobins








This course offers an introduction to how the discipline of history has developed and where it stands, for the most part moving from the semantically straightforward to the more complex, and focusing largely on two vexing problems – interpretation and culture, and power and violence, and how these two problems demand interrogations of the categories of race, class, gender, and modernity. Along the way, we will delve into a variety of other disciplines and sub-disciplines and also wander through time and across the globe, traversing Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean, China, the Middle East, and India. Our journey will engage metropole and periphery, colonizer and colonized, indigene and foreign, androcentric and feminist. And we will explore a range of literatures, voices, and genres: fiction; literary criticism; anthropology; works categorized as strictly historiographic; historical monographs aimed at making sense of the past but also at how we make sense of the past; engaged polemic and putatively detached analysis.

We begin with an overture comprised of two texts, one literary and the other historical, which, though they antedate the post-modern era, may well challenge many received modes of contemporary historical and critical analysis. These texts – Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno,” and C.L.R. James’s investigation of the great slave revolt in Saint Domingue, The Black Jacobins – raise questions about voice and personhood, agency and narration, and historical representation and method, and do so in ways which should prove accessible to those who have little or no formal graduate training. These works also foreground issues of historical epistemology that stand at the centre of the enterprise.

To read more about H548D, please see the syllabus.


From the French film, “Benito Cereno” (1967)


Why we should take notes by hand, and not on a laptop.