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EN126 History and Textuality

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



This core first-year module is intended to introduce English and History students to the complex and constantly evolving relationship between the two disciplines, and will allow them to explore some of the ways in which – from the 1970s onwards especially – each has been fundamentally challenged and changed by the other. It aims to guide students through key concepts and methodologies: the linguistic turn, discourse analysis, cultural and historical materialism, and new historicism. Core texts will be supplemented by weekly critical and theoretical readings, and the structure and content of this module has been designed specifically to speak to other courses students will be taking in the first year of the degree.

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



  • Week 1: Introduction to the module and its objectives

UNIT 1: What is History?
Core texts: Selections from Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Carlyle, The French Revolution (1837), and Michelet, History of the French Revolution (1847)

  • Week 2: ARCHIVES: Farge, The Allure of the Archives; Steedman, Dust: The Archive and Cultural History
  • Week 3: EVIDENCE: Veyne, Writing History; Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution; Corbin, The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination
  • Week 4: METHODS: Braudel, On History; Koselleck, Futures Past
  • Week 5: CHALLENGES: James, The Black Jacobins; Gilroy, The Black Atlantic

UNIT 2: What is Literary History?
Core text: Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)

  • Week 7: NARRATIVE and HISTORY: Watt, The Rise of the Novel; McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel; Butler, “Frankenstein and Radical Science”
  • Week 8: HISTORICAL FORMALISMS: Gallagher and Greenblatt, Practicing New Historicism; Hacking, Historical Ontology; Armstrong, “A Gothic History of the British Novel”; Kramnick and Nersessian, “Form and Explanation”
  • Week 9: HISTORICAL MATERIALISMS: Lukács, The Historical Novel; Williams, Marxism and Literature; Jameson, “Marxism and Historicism,” Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe
  • Week 10: CRITIQUE: Michel Foucault, “Was ist Aufklärung?”; Judith Butler, “What is Critique? An Essay on Foucault’s Virtue”; Felski, The Limits of Critique


UNIT 3: What is Cultural Memory?
Core text: Alison Bechdel, Fun Home

  • Week 11: INHERITANCE: Hobsbawm and Ranger, The Invention of Tradition; Nora, “Between Memory and History”; Thompson, The Voice of the Past
  • Week 12: MEMORIALIZATION: Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country; Doss, Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America; Crimp, “The Spectacle of Mourning” and “Portraits of People with AIDS”
  • Week 13: MEDIATION: Landsberg, Prosthetic Memory; Rosenstone, Visions of the Past; Bell and Gray, “History on Television”
  • Week 14: TRAUMA: LaCapra, “Trauma, Absence, Loss”; Suleiman, Crises of Memory and the Second World War; Eyerman, Cultural Trauma: Slavery and the Formation of African American Identity
  • Week 15: COLLECTIVE MEMORY: Assman, Cultural Memory and Western Civilization; Dawdy, Patina: A Profane Archaeology; film screening of Daughters of the Dust (dir. Julie Dash)

UNIT 4: Where is History Going?
Core Text: W.G. Sebald, Rings of Saturn

  • Week 17: THE SENSUAL TURN: Taussig, “Tactility and Distraction,” Agamben, “Notes on Gesture”; Berlant, “Thinking about Feeling Historical”
  • Week 18: THE SENSORY TURN: Thompson, The Soundscape of Modernity; Smith, Sensing the Past
  • Week 19: THE NONHUMAN TURN: Callon, “Some elements of a sociology of translation: domestication of the scallops and the fishermen of St. Brieuc Bay”; Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses”; Roberts, Mirror-Travels
  • Week 20: THE DIGITAL TURN: Guldi and Armitage, The History Manifesto; Moretti, Graphs, Maps, and Trees


UNIT 5: The Angel of History
Core text: Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979)

  • Week 21: Benjamin, “On the Concept of History”; Trouillot, Silencing the Past
  • Week 22: Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations; Fasolt, The Limits of History
  • Week 23: Module review