Classes

HIST-LIT 90ES: Prison Abolition

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Instructor: Thomas Dichter
Meeting time: Tuesday/Thursday 12:00 - 1:15

Prison AbolitionIs prison abolition a serious proposal, an aspirational ideal, a trendy slogan, or a blueprint for social transformation? This interdisciplinary and community-engaged course situates the prison abolition movement in deep historical context and explores its current relation to the politics of criminal justice reform. We will study the movement’s connections to slavery abolitionism, anti-lynching activism, Indigenous struggles for sovereignty, and the Black Power movement. We will examine the emergence of the modern prison abolitionist movement in the 1970s, as well as more recent developments concerning immigration detention, Black Lives Matter, and COVID-19. Our readings will include interdisciplinary scholarship on the carceral state in addition to protest... Read more about HIST-LIT 90ES: Prison Abolition

HIST-LIT 90EK: American Noir

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Instructor: Angela Allan
Meeting time: Monday, 12:00 - 2:45

American NoirMidcentury America saw the explosion of a genre on the page and screen—the hardboiled crime novel and the film noir. Noir represented a foil to postwar optimism: its protagonists were cynics and loners. Filled with lurid crimes and deeds, noir suggested a dark underbelly to American society and its promises of domestic fulfillment, economic stability, and institutional support. Husbands and wives plotted each other’s murders; the city streets beckoned with sin; and the police were no match for the private detective. Yet even while these stories foregrounded alienation, they also had a mass cultural appeal to American audiences. We will examine noir not only as an aesthetic—brutality stylishly dressed up in beauty—but also as a political commentary on disillusionment... Read more about HIST-LIT 90EK: American Noir

HIST-LIT 90EJ: Espionage: A Cultural History

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Instructor: Duncan White
Meeting time: Wednesday, 12:00 - 2:45

EspionageOver the course of the twentieth century the spy thriller became a central part of our culture, changing the way people imagined how the state operates in secret. Why are we attracted to stories of paranoia and conspiracy? What is the history of this genre, and how is it intertwined with the history of espionage? This course will consider the historical origins of spying, exploring how the modern intelligence agencies had their origins in the project of empire. The bulk of the course will be divided into three units. The first will consider the British spy panic of the early twentieth century, in which a wave of pseudo-realistic espionage fiction, including from Erskine Childers, Baroness Orczy and William le Queux, contributed to an atmosphere of panic and paranoia about Germany... Read more about HIST-LIT 90EJ: Espionage: A Cultural History

HIST-LIT 90EI: Islam in Early America

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Instructor: Arianne Urus
Meeting time: Wednesday, 3:00 - 5:45

Islam in Early AmericaMuslims first arrived on the shores of the Americas at the turn of the sixteenth century, yet their long history in the western hemisphere has been largely forgotten. For centuries Islam was the second-most widely practiced monotheistic religion in the Americas, after Catholicism; some Muslims came from Spain to escape persecution at the hands of the Inquisition for continuing to practice their religion, while others were taken captive and forcibly crammed into the hulls of ships on the West African coast and transported across the Atlantic, where, in 1522, they participated in the first uprising of enslaved men and women in the Americas on a sugar plantation on the island of Hispaniola (the site of present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). From the very beginning of European... Read more about HIST-LIT 90EI: Islam in Early America

HIST-LIT 90DZ: Too Soon? Comedy in Europe’s Tragic Twentieth Century

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Instructor: Kathryn Brackney
Meeting time: Thursday, 12:00 - 2:45

Too Soon?In the first half the twentieth century, Europe was the site of two wars that depleted the world’s population, dislocated millions, and stripped once diverse regions of the continent of their minority populations. Even as Europe started to rebuild itself in the 1950s, progress occurred under the shadow of two hegemonic superpowers in possession of weapons capable of incinerating not just both sides of the Iron Curtain but the entire planet.

What cultural role has comedy played in coming to terms with all of this tragedy? In a 1966 profile of Bertolt Brecht for The New Yorker, Hannah Arendt wrote of “the terrible freshness of the... Read more about HIST-LIT 90DZ: Too Soon? Comedy in Europe’s Tragic Twentieth Century

HIST-LIT 90DV: Red Scares

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Instructor: Steve Biel and Lauren Kaminsky
Meeting time: Monday/Wednesday, 3:00 - 4:15

Red ScaresWhen, in his 2019 State of the Union address, President Trump said, “We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” he invoked American rhetoric that reaches back to the European revolutions of 1848. The first so-called Red Scare, precipitated by World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, produced the Espionage Act, which was recently used to charge former CIA analyst Edward Snowden in the leak of classified documents related to the NSA’s surveillance program. In the second Red Scare that followed World War II, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), Senator Joseph McCarthy, the FBI, and others conducted widespread investigations of suspected communists and purged “subversives” from... Read more about HIST-LIT 90DV: Red Scares

HIST-LIT 90AN: God Save the Queen! Ruling Women from Rome to the Renaissance

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Instructor: Sean Gilsdorf
Meeting time: Monday/Wednesday, 12:30 - 1:45

God Save the QueenThis seminar will explore female rulership in Europe from the late Roman empire to the age of Elizabeth I. Discussion of varied texts and images (most of them primary sources in translation) will reveal the role of queens within their societies, their relationship to broader social and cultural institutions such as the Christian Church, and the ways in which queens were celebrated, criticized, and imagined by writers and artists of their time. 

HIST-LIT 90DB: Museums in America

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2020

Instructor: Reed Gochberg
Meeting time: Monday, 12:00 - 2:45

Museums in AmericaIn this seminar, we will consider the literary and cultural history of American museums from the eighteenth century to the present. How have museums prompted broader discussions about taste, expertise, and authority? How can we understand the legacies of historical collecting practices for contemporary institutions? And how have recent debates about decolonization, repatriation, and accessibility informed new ideas about what role museums can play in American culture? Throughout the semester, we will examine a range of sources, from fiction, museum catalogues, and periodicals to paintings, artifacts, and installations; we will also research objects in Harvard’s museum collections and develop a collaborative digital exhibit.  

HIST-LIT 90ER: Industrialization and Inequality: From the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2020

Instructor: Morgan Day Frank
Meeting time: Wednesday, 3:00 - 5:45

Industrialization and InequalityIndustrialization after the Civil War transformed American life in dramatic and horrifying ways, and it transformed “literature” as a category of cultural consumption too. Some writers, like the muckrakers, believed that their work had the capacity to shape public life. Others like Henry James conceived of their writing as art that operated according to its own rules. Still others like Ambrose Bierce grew pessimistic about literature’s capacity to accomplish anything whatsoever. This course will examine American literature at the turn of the twentieth century, when robber barons enriched themselves and many Americans were plunged into deep poverty. Through readings like Edith Wharton’s Custom of the Country, Mark Twain’s Mysterious Stranger, and Sutton Griggs’s Imperium in Imperio,... Read more about HIST-LIT 90ER: Industrialization and Inequality: From the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era

HIST-LIT 90EQ: Nuclear Imperialisms

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2020

Instructor: Rebecca Hogue
Meeting time: Tuesday/Thursday, 6:00 - 7:15

Nuclear ImperialismsThis course will examine nuclear narratives in global contexts as reminders and remainders of empire. Are nuclear futures only tied to whims of unpredictable world leaders, or are they already part of our daily realities? Whose stories of nuclear proliferation are told, and whose are suppressed? Drawing on government propaganda, activist writing, television, fiction, photography, poetry, and film from 1945 to the present, this course will explore the cultural and material legacies of radiation around the world. From American “atomic culture” of the 1940s and ‘50s to Cold War era peace movements in the Pacific Islands to nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima, we will assess whether nuclear cultures have changed over time by using a place-based investigation of nuclear... Read more about HIST-LIT 90EQ: Nuclear Imperialisms

HIST-LIT 90EP: The Global History of Pests

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2020

Instructor: Samuel Dolbee
Meeting time: Wednesday, 6:00 - 8:45

Global History of PestsPests have had impacts large and small on human life, serving as sources of lethal pandemics and minor annoyance alike. But what constitutes a pest has varied greatly over time and space. This course examines these themes with a focus on the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, an era of optimism for pest eradication and visions of environmental control more broadly. It subsequently turns to the consequences of these efforts--both life-saving and deleterious--to the present. Throughout, the course contextualizes pests as products of sedentary agriculture, empire, and capitalism. Topics include mosquitoes and revolution in Haiti, street dogs and health in Istanbul, and rats and race in Baltimore. The course also touches on the broader cultural resonance of pests, by attending... Read more about HIST-LIT 90EP: The Global History of Pests

HIST-LIT 90EO: The Reinvention of New York City

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2020

Instructor: Mike King
Meeting time: Monday/Wednesday, 3:00 - 4:15

Reinvention of New York CityThe recent history of New York City is one of crisis, resilience, and rebirth. From the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to the devastation of the pandemic, New Yorkers have experienced tragedy and reinvented their city in its aftermath. This is a cycle with a deeper history: in this course we will focus on how New York City reinvented itself in the Seventies and Eighties. On October 16, 1975, New York City was on the brink of bankruptcy. With nearly five hundred million dollars of debt due the next day and only thirty-four million in its bank, catastrophe seemed inevitable. Fortunately, the city was able to raise funds and avoid bankruptcy. Nevertheless, New York City was and had been a space on fire—both literally and figuratively speaking—for at least a decade prior. Landlords burned down buildings... Read more about HIST-LIT 90EO: The Reinvention of New York City

HIST-LIT 90EN: Latin American Revolutions

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2020

Instructor: James Mestaz
Meeting time: Monday/Wednesday, 4:30 - 5:45

Latin American RevolutionsThis course explores the origins, trajectory, and outcomes of three twentieth century Latin American revolutions: Mexican, Cuban, and Nicaraguan. Students will analyze what these three revolutions shared in common, such as the causes, which included discrimination, US imperialism, state violence, economic inequity, and political marginalization, but also consider the nuances of what made them different, and in which ways the later revolutions were inspired by the previous ones. The class will rely on primary sources, such as novels, film, photographs, music, murals, and manifestos to explore how all sectors of society helped foment changes to the physical, economic, and social landscapes in these countries. Students will investigate community grassroots mobilization tactics... Read more about HIST-LIT 90EN: Latin American Revolutions

HIST-LIT 90EM: Empire and Archive in the Colonial Americas

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2020

Instructor: Alan Niles
Meeting time: Wednesday, 12:00 - 2:45

Empire and ArchiveHow do we know the histories of colonialism and empire? In this course, we will study how European expansion in the Americas fueled and was fueled by the production of records and representations of colonial spaces and their peoples. We will study how violence and resistance shaped alternative systems of knowledge making among Indigenous and African communities, including oral histories, wampum, featherwork, graffiti, and vodou. We will work with sources by canonical authors including Columbus, Montaigne, Mary Rowlandson, and Juana Inés de la Cruz alongside the works of anonymous or unfamiliar writers, artists, and craftspeople including Afro-Brazilian healers, Tupinambá featherworkers, and the Massachusett and Nipmuc printers who worked in Harvard Yard. Throughout... Read more about HIST-LIT 90EM: Empire and Archive in the Colonial Americas

HIST-LIT 90EL: France and its "Others": Race, Nation, and Identity in (Post)Imperial Society)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2020

Instructor: John Boonstra
Meeting time: Monday/Wednesday 12:00 - 1:15

France and Its OthersIn a controversial—and bestselling—recent novel, Michel de Houellebecq imagines France’s government and society taken over from within by Muslim extremists who impose Sharia law. Fears of internal “colonization”—by Muslims, immigrants, Jews, Americans, and various “Others”—are nothing new in French history. Yet, by tapping into the growing influence of the anti-immigrant extreme right in French politics over the past several decades, the popularity of Houellebecq’s novel raises a number of provocative questions for contemporary French—and global—society: how has a country premised on the “equality” and “fraternity” of all of its citizens continued to exclude religious, ethnic, and racial “Others?” And, perhaps more perplexingly, how did what was once a global... Read more about HIST-LIT 90EL: France and its "Others": Race, Nation, and Identity in (Post)Imperial Society)

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