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First-Year Seminar--European History (101-6-20)


History of the Self


Robin Duffin Bates
Harris 242

Meeting Info

Harris Hall L05: Mon, Wed 3:30PM - 4:50PM

Overview of class

How have people explained the meaning of their lives? What historical circumstances have driven them to try?
How have people throughout history understood more abstract features of their societies -including politics, nationalism, religion, race, gender, and sexuality - in relation to themselves?
What do we discover about these big, abstract issues when we look closely at the human experience of them in historical context?

To address these questions, we will engage with autobiographical historical sources ranging from medieval love letters to memoirs of the Holocaust; discover experiences of fighting wars, adopting new religious beliefs, and escaping from slavery; see what can be learned from lives changed by claiming new identities and reinventing old ones.

Learning Objectives

In this seminar, you'll learn to: understand, evaluate, and respond to arguments and narratives; formulate persuasive arguments based on independent analysis and interpretation of historical evidence; express your thoughts convincingly in writing. You'll achieve these objectives as you: identify, explain, and compare historically specific practices of self-fashioning with an awareness of context, contingency and change over time; assess historical sources in class discussion, as well as evaluating competing explanations of what they mean and why they matter; complete written assignments in which you make original arguments based on your own appraisal of sources and informed opinion about the bigger issues that they raise.

Evaluation Method

Class discussion, brief readings response assignments, take-home final project

Class Attributes

WCAS First-Year Seminar

Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment Requirements: Reserved for First Year & Sophomore only