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HIST 481 Seminars

FALL 2023


Takkara Brunson

HIST481-900: Visual Culture and the African Diaspora

This course explores how persons of African descent used photography to create identities for themselves as slavery came to an end. Invented in France in 1826, photography emerged as a popular technology among elites living throughout the Americas during the 1840s. Photography became an affordable commodity that individuals from all social classes began to use by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Our exploration will identify how artists and scientists have used photographs to reproduce racial stereotypes. We will then examine how Black people challenged these stereotypes by posing for photographs from the period of slave emancipation through the early-twentieth century. This course takes a comparative approach that looks at African-descended populations in the United States, Brazil, and Jamaica among other nations. Students will also develop and revise an original research paper based on primary source materials.


Rebecca Schloss

HIST481-901: Paris at War

In this seminar we will explore how war influenced social, political, and cultural dynamics in France’s capitol city during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Through a series of case studies- the 1848 Revolution, the Paris Commune, World War 1, World War 2, and the Algerian War – we will examine how historical changes influenced ideas about and the practice of war in France and her colonies. We will pay particular attention to how things such as race, class, gender, and nationality influenced the way that individuals understood and experienced war in Paris. Students will identify and analyze primary sources to produce original research papers in this writing-intensive (W) course.


Jonathan Brunstedt

HIST481-902: Remembering (and Forgetting) War

This course looks at how societies have “remembered” war—through monuments, public holidays, commemorative rituals, reenactments, popular culture, and so on. More specifically, we will focus on how collective war memories have shaped and sustained notions of group identity. In the process, students will produce an original research paper, based on primary and secondary sources, that incorporates the theoretical insights gleaned from class readings and discussions. Students will produce original research papers in this writing-intensive (W) course.


Evan Haefeli

HIST481-???: The Salem Witch Trials

Taking as a case study the famous Salem Witch Trials, when hundreds of people in Massachusetts were accused of being witches and a number of them executed for what was then a capital crime, this course aims to develop students’ critical thinking, writing, reading, and researching skills through the drafting of an individual research paper on a topic of the student’s choice on a subject related to this matter. Through our close study of the trials, and historiographic debates about their origins, course, and consequences, students will see how studying a specific incident can open up avenues for understanding early American history more broadly. The Salem Witch Trials are an excellent place for honing one’s historical skills, for the incident has produced a vast amount of scholarship but also useful resources (like easily available primary sources) that make it easy to craft a research paper. Student research topics do not have to be about the Salem Witch Trials alone, however. Possible topics including the history of witchcraft in Europe, religion and popular culture in colonial New England, politics, war, gender, legal history, and more. This class fulfills the Writing Course (“W”) requirement.


Katherine Unterman

HIST481-903: Pandemics in American History

The recent Covid crisis was not the first pandemic in American history. Over the last 250 years, Americans have faced periodic outbreaks of deadly diseases such as smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, influenza, polio, and HIV/AIDS. This course compares responses to different pandemics in the United States, considering the changing social, political, cultural, medical, and economic contexts. We also examine how pandemics have left lasting changes on American society and how they have been imagined and represented in American popular culture.