2016-2017 courses

Galileo's sketches of the moon, Starry Messenger (1610)

Galileo's sketches of the moon, Starry Messenger (1610)

FIRST YEAR SEMINAR: REACTING TO THE PAST (Fall)

“Reacting to the Past” is a series of immersive games, set in the past, in which students assume roles based on classic texts. We’ll be playing two games in this seminar: The Trial of Galileo and Henry VIII and the Reformation Parliament. Together, these games will introduce you to the religious, scientific, and political world of early modern Europe. You’ll grapple with Galileo’s science, debate Henry VIII’s marital problems, and try to hold your own in a culture of secrecy and intrigue.

What will class be like? Like all first-year seminars, this course is reading-, writing-, and speaking-intensive. But here’s the catch: you’ll be writing and speaking from the perspective of your character. For example: if you’re a conservative cardinal opposed to Galileo’s “new science,” you’ll be reading up on Aristotle and crafting arguments that the earth is the center of the universe. You’ll give speeches citing the Bible and denouncing Galileo as a heretic. And, behind the scenes, you’ll plot with your fellow conservatives to have Galileo tried and found guilty by the Inquisition. Our goals are the same as with any FYS – to teach you to gather evidence, write persuasively, and speak confidently – but through immersive role-playing. It’s a lot of fun and a very effective way to learn.

 
Pierre Mignard, "Louis XIV couronné par la Victoire" (1673)

Pierre Mignard, "Louis XIV couronné par la Victoire" (1673)

lecture: europe's age of expansion, 1492-1789 (Fall)

The practice of European politics changed dramatically over the course of the early modern period, the age that stretched from Columbus to the French Revolution. National governments became more centralized and more powerful at the same time that European empires stretched around the globe. Yet the history of early modern Europe does not reveal an easy march to the modern nation-state but rather a halting back-and-forth marked by compromise, cooperation, and coercion. This class examines the complex dance between states and their subjects and Europeans and indigenous peoples, with an eye on the tension between what political leaders wanted to do and what they could do.

 
Alexandre-Auguste Robineau, "The Fencing Match Between the Chevalier de Saint-George and the Chevalier d'Eon" (c. 1787-1789)

Alexandre-Auguste Robineau, "The Fencing Match Between the Chevalier de Saint-George and the Chevalier d'Eon" (c. 1787-1789)

SEMINar: politics of Private life (spring)

This course explores the history of private life, especially romantic love, sex, and gender, in Europe and the Atlantic World. How was the personal political? How did ideas about and practices of intimate life change in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, colonial expansion, the rise of Atlantic slavery, and political revolutions? To contemplate these questions, we will read widely in primary and secondary sources. Students will conduct original research and write a formal research paper.

 
Jean-Baptiste Lallemand, "Arrest of de Launay" (1790)

Jean-Baptiste Lallemand, "Arrest of de Launay" (1790)

lecture: old regime and revolutionary france (Spring)

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, many heralded King Louis XIV of France as an exceptionally powerful king. At the end of the century, the French people overthrew this vaunted monarchy. How and why did this happen? We will consider: what social, cultural, and intellectual conflicts shaped politics and society; why France had a revolution; and why the Revolution became radical and—all too often—violent. We will devote the first part of the course to exploring tensions and fissures in Old Regime France before turning to the the history of the Revolution itself. To help students understand the motivations of and limitations placed upon revolutionary actors, the class will spend several weeks playing an immersive role-playing game.