On course: Bryn Mawr courses and their reading lists

'The Historical Imagination' History 101

History 101: The Historical Imagination is the "introductory bookend" for history majors, according to Madhavi Kale. Several professors take turns teaching the course, thus the content varies depending on the instructor's research and teaching interests. This pedagogical strategy is fitting, considering that historical imagination is not limited to the works and teachings of professional historians, Kale says.

"The course seeks to explore with students the proposition that historical imagination itself is historically constituted."

—Madhavi Kale


No Telephone to Heaven, M. Cliff.
The Return of Martin Guerre, N. Davis.
The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account, B. De Las Casas.
Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, M. Kurlansky.
A Way in the World, V. Naipaul.
The Atlantic Sound, C. Phillips.
Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, M. Trouillot.

"By looking at historical practices across time, space and epistemological traditions," she explains, "the course seeks to explore with students the proposition that historical imagination itself is historically constituted." The department's permanent full-time members each take a turn: Kale and assistant professors Ignacio Gallup-Diaz and Kalala Ngalamulume.

History: A Very Short Introduction, J.H. Arnold.
The Histories, Herodotus, translated by R. Waterfield.
Oroonoko, A. Behn.
A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya, L. Schele and D. Freidel.
The Return of Martin Guerre, N. Davis.
The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, C. Ginz-burg.
First-Time: The Historical Vision of an Afro-American People, R. Price.
The Discoverie of the Large, Rich, and Bewtiful Empyre of Guiana, W. Ralegh.
Paths in the Rainforests: Toward a History of Political Tradition in Equatorial Africa, J. Vansina.
Visible and Invisible Realms: Power, Magic, and Colonial Conquest in Bali, M. Wiener.

Gallup-Diaz's course is designed as a seminar, with class participation a major component of the grade. His reading assignments provide students with a comparative and global focus on the workings of the craft. "The aim of the course," he says, "is to help students develop their own skills as readers, critics, researchers and authors by discussing the methods used by historians to construct and present their arguments and interpretations." One assigned book, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, is the study of popular culture in the 16th century as seen through the eyes of a surprisingly literate miller brought to trial during the Inquisition. Using his trial records, historian Carlo Ginzburg shows how the miller responded to the confusing religious and political conditions of his time. Another assigned reading, Visible and Invisible Realms: Power, Magic, and Colonial Conquest in Bali, is an anthropological history. In 1908, the ruler of the Balinese realm of Klungkung and more than 100 members of his family and court were massacred when they marched deliberately into the fire of the Dutch colonial army. Their action carries continued significance in contemporary Klungkung.

Kale, a specialist in British and imperial history, teaches courses on the British empire (focusing on intersecting cultural, social, economic and political histories of metropolitan Britain, colonial India, and the Anglophone Caribbean), and on British women's history. Her current research explores notions of domesticity in 20th-century India including the domestications of film and women's education. Her History 101 uses scholarly monographs, documents, monuments, oral traditions and other media "to explore the ways people have thought about, represented and used the past across time and space." The Atlantic Sound is a meditation on the legacy of slavery and the impact of the African diaspora on the life and place of its people, focusing on the three cities which made up the major route of the slave trade: Liverpool, England; Accra, Ghana; and Charleston, South Carolina. Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, theorizes that cod is the reason Europeans crossed the Atlantic.

What Is History? E. H. Carr.
The Peloponnesian War, Thucydides.
Early History of Rome, Livy.
A Forest of Kings: the Untold Story of the Ancient Maya, L. Schele & D. Freidel.
Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali, D. T. Niane.
Bathing in Public in the Roman World, G. G. Fagan.
Paths in the Rainforests, J. Vansina.
Paris Sewers and Sewermen: Realities and Representations, D. Reid.
Burying SM: the Politics of Knowledge and the Sociology of Power in Africa, D. W. Cohen.

Ngalamulume is an expert on the medical and social history of Senegal in the 19th and 20th centuries. His current research compares the French experience of disease and sanitation in Senegal of the British experience in Ghana. Ngalamulume's History 101 emphasizes ancient Rome and Mali, classical Maya civilization, premodern equatorial Africa, modern Kenya and Paris in the 19th and early 20th centuries. One book, Bathing in Public in the Roman World, is an exhaustively detailed portrayal of the society of the bathers, who snacked on fish, eggs, and lettuce while bathing, pandered shamelessly for dinner invitations, and lathered liberally with oil and then scraped off the resulting mess with metal instruments. Another book, Paris Sewers and Sewermen: Realities and Representations, lays out the technological and political triumph of the city's expansion of its sewer systems, suggesting that the ways cesspool cleaners and other laborers represented themselves can illuminate the material and cu ltural foundations of everyday modern life.

You may order these books from the Bryn Mawr College Bookstore, whose proceeds benefit the College: Elizabeth Morris, Bryn Mawr College Bookshop, New Gulph Road, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010, 610 526 5322, emorris@brynmawr.edu

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