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Writing History


**This is a provisional syllabus and is subject to change.**


The course consists of four units, each organised thematically and flexible in the order they are taught. Term 1 will begin with a co-taught introductory session and Term 2 with a practical workshop. Each unit explores a different zone where fiction and history writing overlap, raising theoretical and methodological questions about the nature of truth telling and suggesting ways that fiction plays into accounts of what we understand as history. In addition to the core texts identified the course will also be identifying a range of other sources for students to consult.


Unit 1: Utopianism and Counterfactualism

  • Barbauld, “1811”
  • Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
  • Bellamy, Looking Backward
  • Elster, Logic and Society
  • R. J. Evans, Altered Pasts: Counterfactuals in History

Unit 2: Memory, Narrative and WW1

  • Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory
  • Reading packet to include: letters, especially by women, propaganda, newspaper reports, poetry
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (1930 film)
  • David Jones, In Parenthesis
  • Selections from the work of Michel Foucault

Unit 3: The Play of History

  • Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall
  • Shakespeare, Henry VIII
  • Phillipa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl
  • Selections from Hume’s History of England
  • Hayden White, “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality”

Section 4: Representing Race

  • Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince
  • John Mitchell, An Essay upon the Causes of the Different Colours of People in Different Climates
  • 12 Years A Slave (film, 2013)
  • Caryl Churchill, Cloud Nine
  • Barbican Exhibit B Protests (You Tube)