Introductory Seminar in Pre-1700 European History

Spring 2013

HIEU 1501 (1)

Introductory Seminar in Pre-1700 European History

"Seeing and Hearing History"

Erin Lambert

Every day, we are surrounded by images and sounds, from family photographs to advertisements, film soundtracks to national anthems.  Often, we take for granted how much such visual and aural cues can reveal about us.  Through uniforms and fight songs, we communicate membership in a group; we assess others through their body language and tone of voice.  Yet despite the centrality of sight and sound to our daily lives, historians have traditionally turned to texts in order to study the past.  In this seminar, we will explore what sight and sound can tell us about history, and specifically, about the societies and cultures of pre-modern Europe.  Throughout the semester, we will explore the ways in which we can use music and images as sources for the study of the past.  We will also examine the roles of sight and sound in the lives of late medieval and early modern Europeans.  How, for example, did visual and oral communication structure a largely illiterate society?  What can images and music tell us about religious beliefs or political developments?  And how did an early modern European community look and sound?    

A few topics for discussion include:

  • the reconstruction of pre-modern soundscapes
  • medieval understandings of vision and hearing
  • clothing and conspicuous consumption
  • popular music, ballads, and stories
  • political propaganda
  • religious rituals

Throughout the semester, we will read the work of historians who incorporate music and images in their research.  We will also look at many images and listen to music, and build analytical skills for working with these media.  No prior background in music or art is necessary.  The course also seeks to improve students’ writing skills; each student will complete several response papers over the course of the semester.    

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

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