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EN126 History and Textuality

The core module for first-year English and History students. 

Dr. Jonathan Schroeder, Department of English
Dr. Stuart Middleton, Department of History

History & Textuality examines the intersection of History and Literary Studies. This core module introduces first-year students reading for the English & History degree to the fundamental ways that historians and literary historians organize their inquiries. In the course of the year, we will examine the major questions, skills, and methods that these disciplines share—and that mark them as distinct areas of historical knowledge.

The module is divided into five units. The first is equally divided between the Departments of English and History; the second and fourth are weighted towards English; and the third and fifth towards History. Accordingly, it is hoped that team-teaching will occur at various points within each of the units. Core texts for each unit will be supplemented by weekly critical and theoretical readings.

The first term is organized by two questions: What is history? And what is literary history? Readings will introduce students to the key components of historical research and writing. We will then consider literary history as both a mode of history and as a mode of critique that provides the study of history with valuable analytic and interpretive tools. In taking the French Revolution as a focus, “What is History?” builds upon EN123 Modern World Literatures and HI153 The Making of the Modern World, both of which consider this period in their early weeks. “What is Literary History” stays with this timeframe in its consideration of Romanticism. The core text for these weeks will be Frankenstein, a novel students read in week 5 if they are taking EN123. Given the difficulty of the readings and concepts the students will encounter, this level of interaction with the other core modules is designed to provide students with stability and the time for reflection.

Term 2 introduces two new questions, “What is Cultural Memory” and “Where is History Going?” These units will give students the opportunity to explore and problematize the historicity of texts and the textuality of history in more depth.

Term 3 will consider “The Angel of History.” This unit is meant to encourage students to reflect on the module as a whole and to prepare them to think critically about the choices and specialization that will come in the following two years of the degree. The module will be taught by one lecture and one seminar each week.

This module will be taught by one lecture and one seminar each week.

Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Jonathan Cape. 2006.
Butler, Octavia. Kindred. Headline. 2018.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Penguin Classics. 2003.
Sebald, W.G. The Rings of Saturn. Vintage Classics. 2013.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus – The 1818 Text. Penguin Classics. 2018.

Please make sure to purchase the edition specified above to ensure that we can all refer to the same page numbers. (In particular, note that we shall be reading the original, 1818 text of Frankenstein.)

  • Formative Work: Term 1 consists of a series of four short, formative response papers (250-500 words each), which will be due on Wednesday evenings. These papers are not graded. However, they must be turned in for satisfactory completion of the module.
  • Assessed Work: In Terms 2 and 3, graded assessment will begin, and will consist of two responses (500 words each), one long essay (4,000 words), and a final examination (2 hours).
  • Attendance: Attendance will be taken and entered on Tabula each week. You can find the handbook policy on attendance here:
  • Participation: Participation in seminar is strongly encouraged. Please be courteous to other students and give them room in the class as well. Debate is highly encouraged. If you do not feel comfortable speaking up for any reason, you are always welcome to notify us and let us know what we can do to make the space more welcoming.
  • Electronic Reading Devices: Mobile phones may not be used during classtime and must be set so that they are completely inaudible. Laptops and tablets are only to be used for reading and notetaking in class. Printing out readings and bringing them to class is encouraged, so long as it is not too costly. Read attentively and mark up your readings no matter what you use to read them. Always bring copies of your reading to class!
  • Plagiarism: Plagiarism is unacceptable. Please familiarise yourself with University rules on plagiarism:
  • Week 1: Introduction to the module and its objectives
UNIT 1: What is History?
Core text: Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Week 2: Archives // Katherine Astbury (lecturer)

  • Arlette Farge, “Traces by the Thousands” and “Gathering and Handling the Documents,” in The Allure of the Archives (2013, 46 pp.)
  • Carolyn Steedman, “‘Something She Called a Fever’: Michelet, Derrida, and Dust” and “The Space of Memory: In an Archive,” in Dust: The Archive and Cultural History (2002, 42 pp.)
10 October First Formative Response Due
(Unless otherwise noted, all assignments are due on Wednesday by midnight)

Week 3: Evidence // Jonathan Schroeder

Lecture slides  

  • Roger Chartier, “Do Books Cause Revolutions?” in The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution (1991, 25 pp.)
  • Alain Corbin, “Introduction” and “Air and the Threat of the Putrid,” in The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination (1986, 24 pp.)
  • Joan Scott, “The Evidence of Experience,” Critical Inquiry 17, no. 4 (1990, 25 pp.)

Week 4: Method // Stuart Middleton

Lecture slides  

  • Fernand Braudel, “History and the Social Sciences: The Longue Durée,” in On History ([1969], 33 pp.)
  • Robert Darnton, “A Bourgeois Puts His World in Order: The City as Text,” in The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History ([1984], 37 pp.)

Week 5: Challenges // Tim Lockley

Lecture slides  

  • Eric Williams, “The Origin of Negro Slavery,” in Capitalism & Slavery ([1944], 32 pp.)
  • Paul Gilroy, “The Black Atlantic as a Counterculture of Modernity,” in The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness ([1993], 47 pp.)
31 October: Second Formative Response Due

Core text: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus ([1818], 336 pp.)

Week 6: Reading Week


Week 7: Narrative & History // Michael Meeuwis

  • Ian Watt, “Realism and the Novel Form,” in The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding (1959, 25 pp.)
  • Marilyn Butler, “The First Frankenstein and Radical Science,” The Times Literary Supplement (April 9, 1993, 3 pp.)

Week 8: Historical Formalisms // Michael Meeuwis

  • Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt, “Counterhistory and the Anecdote,” in Practicing New Historicism (2000, 28 pp.)
  • Ian Hacking, “Making Up People,” in Historical Ontology (2004, 16 pp.)
  • Jonathan Kramnick and Anahid Nersessian, “Form and Explanation,” Critical Inquiry 43, No. 3 (2017, 20 pp.)
21 November: Third Formative Response Due

Week 9: Historical Materialisms // Neil Lazarus

  • Roy Bhaskar, “Materialism,” in A Dictionary of Marxist Thought (2001, 5 pp.)
  • William Shaw, “Historical Materialism,” in A Dictionary of Marxist Thought (2001, 6 pp.)
  • Raymond Williams, “Dominant, Residual, and Emergent,” in Marxism and Literature (1977, 7 pp.)
  • Gyorgy Lukács, “The Classical Form of the Historical Novel,” in The Historical Novel (1962, 44 pp.)

Week 10: Critique // Stuart Middleton & Jonathan Schroeder

  • John Guillory, “Literary Study and the Modern System of the Disciplines,” in Disciplinarity at the Fin de Siècle (2010, 25 pp.)
  • Michel Foucault, “Structuralism and Literary Analysis,” Critical Inquiry ([2019], 10 pp.)
  • Eve Kosofksy Sedgwick, “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, Or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay is about You,” in Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (2002, 29 pp.)

5 December: Fourth Formative Response Due


Core text: Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006, 240 pp.)

Week 11: Mediation // Christina Lupton

  • John Guillory, “Genesis of the Media Concept,” Critical Inquiry 36, no. 2 (2010, 42 pp.)
  • Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, “Introduction,” in Remediation: Understanding New Media (2000, 13 pp.)

Week 12: Memorialization // Daniel Katz

  • David Lowenthal, “Wanting the Past” and “Nostalgia: dreams and nightmares,” in The Past is a Foreign Country (2015, 32 pp.)
  • Dana Luciano, “Nostalgia for an Age Yet to Come: Velvet Goldmine’s Queer Archive,” in Queer Times, Queer Becomings (2014, 30 pp.)
  • Douglas Crimp, “Mourning and Militancy,” in Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics (2004, 17 pp.)

Week 13: Inheritance // Christina Britzolakis

  • Eric Hobsbawm, “Introduction: Inventing Traditions,” in The Invention of Tradition (1983, 14 pp.)
  • Pierre Nora, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux des Mémoire,” Representations 26, no. 2 (1989, 18 pp.)
  • Benedict Anderson, “Introduction,” “Cultural Roots,” and “The Origins of National Consciousness,” in Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (1983, 45 pp.)

Week 14: Trauma // Susan Carruthers

  • Dominick LaCapra, “Trauma, Absence, Loss,” Critical Inquiry 25, no. 4 (1999, 32 pp.)
  • Susan Rubin Suleiman, “Introduction: Crises of Memory,” in Crises of Memory and the Second World War (2008, 10 pp.)
  • Ann Cvetkovich, “Legacies of Trauma, Legacies of Activism: ACT-UP's Lesbians,” in Loss: The Politics of Mourning (2005, 34 pp.)
30 January: First Assessed Response Due

Core Text: W.G. Sebald, Rings of Saturn (1995, 308 pp.)

Week 15: The Affective Turn // Carolyn Steedman

  • Michael Taussig, “Tactility and Distraction,” Cultural Anthropology 6, no. 2 (1991, 7 pp.)
  • Giorgio Agamben, “Notes on Gesture,” in Means without End: Notes on Politics (2000, 14 pp.)
  • Lauren Berlant, “Thinking about Feeling Historical,” Emotion, Space, and Society 1 (2008, 6 pp.)

Suggested Reading

  • Eric Shouse “Feeling, Emotion, Affect” M/C Journal
  • Ruth Leys, "The Turn to Affect: A Critique," Critical Inquiry (2011, 39 pp.)
  • Linda Zerilli, "The Turn to Affect and the Problem of Judgment," New Literary History (2015, 25 pp.)
Week 16: Reading Week

Week 17: Global History // Giorgio Riello

  • Jeremy Adelman, “What is Global History Now?” Aeon (10 pp.)
  • Nandini Das, “Richard Hakluyt,” in The Oxford Handbook of English Prose 1500-1640 (2013, 19 pp.)
  • Martin Dusinberre, “Japan, Global History, and the Great Silence,” History Workshop Journal 83, no. 1 (2017, 21 pp.)

Week 18: The Nonhuman Turn // Katayoun Shafiee

  • Michel Callon, “Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St. Brieuc Bay,” The Sociological Review 32, no. 1 (1984, 35 pp.)
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 2 (2009, 26 pp.)
  • Jennifer L. Roberts, “Introduction” and “Spiral Jetty/Golden Spike,” in Mirror-Travels: Robert Smithson and History (2004, 44 pp.)

Week 19: New Directions: Food Studies // Ross Forman

  • Parama Roy, “Disgust: Food, Filth, and Anglo-Indian Flesh in 1857,” in Alimentary Tracts: Appetites, Aversions, and the Postcolonial (2010, 43 pg.)
  • Brenda Assael, “Gastro-Cosmopolitanism and the Restaurant,” in The London Restaurant, 1840-1914 (2018, 44 pg.)
  • Arjun Appadurai, “How to Make a National Cuisine: Cookbooks in Contemporary India,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 30, no. 1 (1988, 20 pp.)
6 March: Second Assessed Response Due

Core text: Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979, 264 pp.)

Week 20: Angels of History I // Nick Lawrence

  • Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History,” in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings Vol. 4, 1938-1940 ([1940], 12 pp.)
TERM 3 (Note: Read Kindred over break)

Week 21: Angels of History II // Mike Niblett

  • Michel-Rolph Trouillot, “The Power of the Story” and “The Presence in the Past,” in Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History ([1995], 52 pp.)

Week 22: Angels of History III // Keith Ansell-Pearson

  • Friedrich Nietzsche, “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life,” in Untimely Meditations ([1874], 67 pp.)

Suggested Reading

  • Charles R. Bambach, ‘History and Ontology: A Reading of Nietzsche’s Second “Untimely Meditation,”’ Philosophy Today 34:3 (1990, 14 pp.)
  • Vanessa Lemm, “Animality, Creativity and Historicity: A Reading of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Vom Nutzen Und Nachtheil der Historie für das Leben,” Nietzsche-Studien 36:1 (2007, 31 pp.)

Week 23: Module Review





Tuesday from 10-11a in Social Sciences A0.23
Thursday from 2-3p and 3-4p in Humanities 5.07
Office Hours:

Dr. Jonathan Schroeder, Tuesdays 2-4p, and by appointment, in Humanities 5.09

Dr. Stuart Middleton, Mondays 2-3p, Thursdays 12-1p, and by appointment, in Humanities 0.16