Monday, August 30, 2010


History 5800 Schedule, Fall 2010
The Masters Seminar is designed to introduce students to our graduate program and to discuss aspects of historiography and historical research. All incoming graduate students are required to complete the seminar, which is graded as a pass/fail course. To pass the course, students must attend classes, participate in discussions, and present their thesis proposal to the seminar. Please keep in mind that all graduate students are also expected to attend the Stokes Seminar, which meets on most Fridays during the academic year at 3:30. If you haven't done so already, please read over the message I distributed earlier about getting ready for the semester.

During the Fall semester, the seminars will comprise two types of discussions: 1) general themes related to the historians' craft, e.g., scholarly and theoretical frameworks, logic and fallacies, ethics and politics, and writing and rhetoric; 2) specific discussions of issues related to your program, e.g., teaching assistantships, library research, SSHRC applications, and the MA thesis proposal.

The seminar will be held on Mondays, 11:00-1:00, in room 2021 of the McCain building. The first meeting will be on Monday, September 13th. Attendance is mandatory, so please email me if you have to miss a seminar for some reason. The schedule for January will be posted later in the Fall.

The sessions in January will be devoted to preparing the MA thesis proposal: students will be required to present their draft proposals to the seminar and participate in peer-review discussions of all the drafts. Students will then present the revised thesis proposal to the Graduate Committee for approval. MA thesis proposals should be about 1500-2000 words in length. They should meet three basic criteria: present a particular historical problem and research question; identify and discuss relevant secondary and primary sources; and outline a research methodology and schedule for completion. When developing your thesis proposal, keep in mind this five-point checklist:
1) Does the proposal show a good understanding of the secondary literature?
2) Does the proposal identify a significant and testable thesis, or a specific, concrete research question?
3) Is the method of testing the thesis well-conceived and logical?
4) Are there adequate primary sources and are they accessible within the timeframe proposed for the project?
5) Are the sources and methodology manageable within the timeframe proposed for the project?

Required Readings:
The readings for the Masters Seminar will follow our weekly discussions and will draw on a mixture of sources: the required textbook, Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research (University of Chicago Press), which is available for purchase at the University Bookstore; blog enties and online comments posted by others; online readings linked to weekly topics; and institutional web sites.

The first law of history is the law of selection: in order to cover a sufficient range of topics in a short period of time, I've had to be eclectically choosy. I've selected the following readings and web sites based on criteria such as accessibility and length: in no way are they meant to represent an authorized list or some sort of potted canon. My hope is simply that the readings will offer a good starting point for your graduate studies.

I think it's important to read authors with whom one disagees, and I certainly don't agree with all of the readings we'll cover this semester. For those of you looking for starting points, you might want to check out this quirky list of history quotations, plus two old-fashioned definitions of history by E.H. Carr and David Hackett Fischer. I will be posting comments fairly regularly this semester based on our weekly readings and discussions: some of my comments will be re-workings of postings from last year, and you're welcome to read them in the blog archive.


September 13th: Introductory Seminar. Please come to class prepared to talk about your own research interests. We will discuss the structure of the programme and some of the historiographic and research themes we'll be pursuing the following week. We will also discuss the issue of applying for scholarship funding.
1) The Canadian Historical Association, "Life as a Graduate Student."

September 20th: Historiography and Academic Culture
1) Jill Lepore, "Just the Facts, Ma'am: Fake memoirs, factual fictions, and the history of history."
2) Jill Lepore, "Our Own Devices: Does technology drive history?"
3) Louis Menand, "The Historical Romance." [excerpt]
4) Anthony Grafton, "The Nutty Professors."

September 27th: Teaching and History, part I
1) Neil Postman, "The Educationist as Painkiller."
2) Paul Edwards, "How to Read a Book"

October 4th: Teaching and History, part II
Suzanne Le-May Sheffield from the Centre for Learning and Teaching will join us to discuss teaching.
1) Centre for Learning and Teaching, "Teaching Tips and Handouts"

October 11th: No Class -- Thanksgiving Holiday

October 18th: SSHRC Workshop -- Students not preparing a SSHRC application are not required to attend this workshop
1) The Canadian Historical Association, "Funding Graduate Study."

October 25th: Historical Questions and Research Problems.
1) Booth, The Craft of Research, parts I-III.

November 1st: The Craft of Research and Your Thesis
1) Booth, The Craft of Research, parts III-IV

November 8th: Rhetoric and Writing
1) Strunk and White, The Elements of Style
2) Geoffrey K. Pullum, "50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice"
3) George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language."

November 15th: Historians' Fallacies. Your assignment for this week is to select a scholarly article from your field, subject it to a critical analysis, and come to class prepared to discuss whether it commits one or more logical fallacy.
1) Excerpts from David Hackett Fischer, Historians' Fallacies.
2) Excerpts from "Fallacy Files."

November 22nd: Ethics and Scholarship
1) AHA "Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct."
2) David Gates, "No Ordinary Crime."
3) Doris Kearns Goodwin, "How I caused that story."
4) Timoth Noah, "Historians Rewrite History."

November 29th: Politics and History
1) Gershom Gorenberg, "The War to Begin All Wars."
2) Tony Judt, "In Defence of Academic Freedom." (video)

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