Spring 2015

HIEU 3559 (2)

New Course in European History

"History of the Hellenistic Age"

Benjamin Jasnow

This lecture-and-discussion class will focus on the tumultuous period of Ancient Greek history known as the Hellenistic Age, from the death of Alexander in 323 BC to the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC. This was a time of radical growth for Hellenic culture, when the Greek world stretched all the way to India and incorporated vast numbers of non-Greek peoples. It was also a period of great chaos, a time of warring kings, during which the traditional Greek polis (city-state) ceased to be the center of power. Accompanying the political changes of the Hellenistic Age were great cultural changes. This was the era of Alexandria and its library, a period of innovation in art, literature, science, and religion. This course will begin with the conquests of Alexander that set the stage for the Hellenistic world, and then concentrate on the political and cultural history of the European, Asian, and Egyptian realms ruled by his successors, until the death of Cleopatra and with it the fall of last Hellenistic kingdom to Rome. There will be a midterm, final, one 5-6 page paper, and one 8-10 page paper. Readings will include:

  • Errington, R. Malcolm. 2008. A History of the Hellenistic World, 323-30 BC. Malden, Mass.
  • Diodorus, Library of History
  • Livy, The History of Rome
  • Plutarch, Lives
  • Polybius, The Histories
  • Readings on Collab


Spring 2015

HIUS 4591 (2)

Topics in United States History

"U.Va. History: Race and Repair"

Phyllis Leffler

This special topics class will focus on the university and the surrounding community of Charlottesville with a special emphasis on issues of race.  Students will explore the history of the University from its founding and construction to the late twentieth century, exploring both the documented history and the community’s perception of that history. 

This course will invite and encourage community members who have worked or lived in the surrounding area to help construct the forgotten or buried histories of university/community relations from their perspective.  Students enrolled in the course will develop projects that actively engage members of the community, and will develop final products that serve the wider community needs for revealing and understanding this history.

Course readings will be available through Collab and will include published and unpublished essays, primary source documents,  university published reports, newspaper articles, website materials.  Reading will be heavier during the first half of the semester, allowing students more time to focus on research for group projects during the second half.  Students will maintain analytic journals based on the readings, and will produce a final group project.  Active class participation is critical.  (The course will be co-taught with Professor Frank Dukes, who chairs the UCARE initiative at the university,  and is cross-listed with ARH 4500 and PLAN 4500.)

Grades will be based on the following:

  • Active participation in the class (25% - based on analysis of readings, regular submissions of discussion questions, and other responses to readings; and posted responses to THREE  campus or community events  related to issues of race);
  •  Journal kept throughout the semester (submitted on February 19 and April 9 – 40% cumulatively)
  • Final group project (35%)

The class can meet the Second Writing Requirement guidelines. 



Spring 2015

HIST 3201

Museums, History, Interpretation

Phyllis Leffler

Museums are fascinating places.  They present and preserve things that are of “value.”  Often, curators tell the visitor what to think about the collection of artifacts or the structures on display.  By shaping the story that is told, the visitor is educated to a particular slant on history and culture.

This course explores the history of museums (mostly in America) and analyzes how those museum spaces shape national and regional values. By the end of the course, students will have a deeper understanding of how museums both reflect contemporary culture and how they implicitly and explicitly control our thinking about the past.  By the end of this class, students should:

  • Understand the historical evolution of museums
  • Appreciate the complexity of creating exhibits in a public context
  • Develop awareness of how local, regional, and national values constrain and/or activate public historians
  • Distinguish between a variety of presentation strategies used in exhibit settings, and be able to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses for attracting audiences
  •  Acquire an ability to evaluate the messages embedded in museum contexts

For the purposes of this course, museums are defined broadly, and include historic sites, open landscapes, historic houses, and more formal national and regional museums.  Some attention will also be paid to memorial sites and historic districts, with limited comparisons will be drawn to non-American sites. 

Readings for the course are available at the Bookstore.

Materials for the course include the following books and printed materials:

  • Catherine Lewis, The Changing Face of Public History
  • Michael Kammen, Visual Shock

In addition, more extensive web based readings will ber available through the electronic syllabus for the course on Collab.

Grades will be based on class participation and discussion (15%), and three essays.  Two of these will be based on class readings (25%, 30%).  In addition, a final project will take the form either of an independent analysis of a specific museum in the context of the final class readings or a project (group or individual) to design a museum exhibit on a topic that will need to be approved in advance.  If you select the exhibit design project, we will also need to find a creative way for use to account for the final set of class readings.  (Possibilities include a blog, a short journal, or incorporation of the readings into the project itself – if appropriate).

Some students will be able to use this course to qualify for the Second Writing Requirement.



Spring 2015

HIEU 4501 (1)

Seminar in Pre-1700 European History

"Crime in Late Medieval Europe"

Jolanta Komornicka

Crime is a constant in human civilization, but what constitutes a criminal offense is not. From 1200 to 1500, medieval jurists, judges, kings, theologians, and accused criminals all debated when an offense rose to the level of a crime and the appropriate response it entailed. Should the victim or the victim’s family be the arbiter of what was just? The bishop? The local lord? The king? Time immemorial?

This course explores how people in Western Europe approached the task of defining wrong-doing and castigating wrong-doers. We will look at the legal position of women and the question of sentencing disparities, debates over whether a crime was the same thing as a sin, and arguments over jurisdiction. Modern popular conceptions of the Middle Ages often depict a lawless society, swift, cruel and arbitrary in its punishments. Over the course of the semester, students will encounter numerous law codes, the origin of the concepts of due process, the right to a lawyer and the confrontation of witnesses, and the solemnity of the twin ideals of justice and mercy.

The course is run as weekly discussions that draw upon primary sources and academic literature. Students will learn how to read law codes and court cases as historians as they develop a historian’s skill to analyze primary documents while critically engaging with scholarly arguments. Students will write periodic primary and secondary source analyses, prepare an annotated bibliography and an annotated edition of a primary text, all of which build toward a final research project designed in consultation with the professor.

Medieval Christianity

02 Oct 2014


Spring 2015

HIEU 3181

Medieval Christianity

Jolanta Komornicka

This is a lecture and discussion course on the history of Latin-rite Christianity in Western Europe. The course begins with the Desert Fathers at the close of Antiquity and continues to the eve of the Reformation.

The course is especially concerned with how ordinary people experienced and understood Christianity, whether they were monks, the self-confessed Christian laity, heretics, or Jews. Transformations in lay devotion and piety were connected to developments in the administrative and intellectual culture of the Church, such as the Investiture Controversy, the nature of the Eucharist, and the creation of the mendicant orders. Over the course of the semester, students will explore how official doctrine and daily practice interacted, cooperated, and clashed.

The topics covered will include, but are not limited to, the adaptation of pagan beliefs and practices into a Christian framework, the development of the papacy, the creation of heresy, miracles and the preternatural, saints and relics, and popular conceptions of priests and God.

At the 3000 level, students are expected to engage with a wide variety of primary and secondary source materials. Readings will include sermons, papal bulls, narrative histories, academic articles, fabliaux, letters, and chronicles. Students will write periodic source analyses, two shorter papers, and a final, longer research paper.



Spring 2015

HIEU 3559 (1)

New Course in European History

"Eastern Europe since 1815"

Hanna Schmidt Hollaender

To Western observers, Eastern Europe has often seemed like “the other Europe” – a mass of lands in between Germany and Russia. For all that, the countries of Eastern Europe have consistently been at the center of European history. This region was the starting point of both World Wars and the geographical focus of the Holocaust. It was also the site of Europe’s major confrontations: between nationalism and imperialism, between fascism and communism, between the Soviet Union and the capitalist west. This course explores the development of Eastern Europe from the early nineteenth century to the present day. It covers a geographical area with more than a dozen contemporary countries. Rather than study these countries individually, however, we will examine the forces that created and changed them. In the nineteenth and twentieth century, social and economic issues, from mass unemployment and commercialization to gender relations and urban transformation, influenced people’s lives, and people, as individuals and groups, shaped the political sphere and the world they lived in like never before. Therefore, these centuries saw an hitherto unknown radicalization in questions of class, gender, ethnic, and political issues, but also rapidly increasing liberalization and emancipation for wider parts of society. Emphasis will be placed on cultural and social history.

Readings include sources and scholarly literature, as well as a selection of literary texts and films. The class will be conducted as a lecture with regular discussion, and active participation of every attendee will be expected. Assessment will be based on active participation in class, weekly response papers or other short assignments (200-300 words), and a term paper. In order to support the writing process there will be several stages in the production and submission process. Stages will include a topic proposal (300 words), an argument proposal (1-2 pages), and a research paper (4,000 words). This class fulfills the second writing requirement.

New Course in History

02 Oct 2014


Spring 2015

HIST 3559 (1)

New Course in History

"History of Jewish Women"

Hanna Schmidt Hollaender

After an introduction into gender studies and women’s history, this course explores the experiences of Jewish women over the course of three centuries of Jewish communal existence in Western and Eastern Europe, the United States, and Israel, following the assumption that their history was distinctive as Jews and as women.  The course will focus on Jewish women’s encounters with modernity. We will analyze women’s lives, occupations, and thoughts, their impact on Jewish and gentile societies, and the perception of their changing roles among Jews and gentiles. Class discussion will be based on sources and scholarly literature, as well as a selection of literary texts, artwork, and films. Readings include:

  • Hasia Diner and Beryl Benderly, Her Works Praise Her: A History Of Jewish Women In America From Colonial Times To The Present, 1 edition (New York: Basic Books, 2002).
  • Avraham Grossman, Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in Medieval Europe, Tauber Institute for edition (Waltham, MA : Hanover: Brandeis University Press, 2004).
  • Paula E. Hyman, Gender and Assimilation in Modern Jewish History (Seattle, WA ; London: University of Washington Press, 1995).
  • Marion A. Kaplan, The Making of the Jewish Middle Class: Women, Family, and Identity in Imperial Germany (Studies in Jewish History (Oxford University Press, USA, 1994).
  • Ruth Kark, Margalit Shilo, and Galit Hasan-Rokem, eds., Jewish Women in Pre-State Israel: Life History, Politics, and Culture, HBI Series on Jewish Women (Waltham, MA : Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press, 2008).
  • Dalia Ofer and Lenore J. Weitzman, eds., Women in the Holocaust (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998).

The class will be mostly discussion-based. Therefore, active participation of every attendee will be expected. Assessment will be based on active participation in class, weekly response papers or other short assignments (200-300 words), and a term paper. In order to support the writing process there will be several stages in the production and submission process. Stages will include a topic proposal (300 words), an argument proposal (1-2 pages), and a research paper (4,000 words). This class fulfills the second writing requirement.



Spring 2015

HIUS 4591 (1)

Topics in United States History

"Grand Strategy, foreign policy, and Presidential Decision-Making, 1945-Present"

Melvyn P. Leffler

This seminar will explore the role of strategic thinking in the conceptualization and implementation of U.S. foreign policy during and after the Cold War.  We will look at four cases: origins of the Cold War; end of the Cold War; post-Cold War; and post-9/11.  To what extent did strategic thinking shape U.S. policy? Or was policy the result of domestic politics, organizational imperatives and bureaucratic infighting; individual predilections; or spontaneous reactions to external threats? If strategic thinking was important, what inspired it and how was it designed?  

This is NOT a lecture course.  In our weekly meetings, much emphasis will be placed on discussion of the primary sources and scholarly writings.    

We will spend about three weeks on each of the cases.  In each instance, we will read some primary policy documents, speeches, and memoranda; some excerpts from memoirs of key participants; and some important biographies, monographs, and articles.  Weekly reading will probably average around 200 pages.  I will probably assign documents like Kennan's "Long Telegram," and Kennan's Policy Planning Documents; NSC 68; excepts from memoirs by Ronald Reagan, George Shultz; Condoleezza Rice; Donald Rumsfeld; Douglas Feith; and Robert Gates; some CIA analyses of Soviet intentions, capabilities, and economic performance; essays by officials like Paul Wolfowitz, Eric Edelman, and Philip Zelikow; the Defense Policy Guidance of 1992 and the National Security Strategy Statement of 2002.  Among other scholarly books, we will read parts of John Gaddis's, Strategies of Containment; Hal Brands, What Good is Grand Strategy; James Wilson's Triumph of Improvisation.

Students will be asked to write two short papers (5-7 pages) on two of the cases and one long paper on one of the cases (20 pages).  The long paper will require additional research and reading in primary and secondary sources.

This course will fulfill the second writing requirement.



Spring 2015

HIUS 3456

History of U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1914

Melvyn P. Leffler

This course will examine the role of the United States in the international arena from World War I to the present.  In my lectures, I will examine the motivations, objectives, and tactics of U.S. policymakers.  The course will focus on America's embroilment in two world wars; its Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union; its responses to revolutionary movements abroad; its intervention in Vietnam; its role as hegemon in the international economic system; and its struggle against terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There will be two lectures each week and a discussion section.

There will be two or three take-home writing assignments of 5-10 pages.  I may ask for weekly reflections on the readings or give quizzes.

Readings will average about 150-225 pages a week.  There will be a textbook, weekly primary documents on UVA collab, and five or six monographs.

This will not fulfill the second writing requirement.



Spring 2015

HIAF 1501 (1)

Introductory Seminar in African History

“Africa and Virginia”

James La Fleur

This seminar explores relationships between Africa and Virginia in the very long run, from earliest arrivals of Angolans near Jamestown in 1619, through Jefferson’s view of the continent and its people, to mass emigration to Liberia after 1820, through dialogues and commerce during colonial overrule in Africa and after independence, and finally to the resurgence in trans-Atlantic families and experiences in the 21st century.

No prior experience studying Africa is expected nor is previous college-level study of History required.

As a first-year and new-student seminar, the course uses a broad topic to provide opportunities to learn and improve skills – in research, analysis, and written and oral communication – broadly applicable towards success at the University and beyond.  As a course in History, it introduces learners to how people (and not just scholars) interested in the past think, and how academic historians do their work with never-straightforward sources (or “evidence”).  To that end, seminar participants will learn through doing, and this will surely include some meetings at the University’s “Special Collections Library,” where we will handle and engage primary sources (e.g., old books and private letters).  Depending on student interest and practicalities, it may also include some site visits to places of significance on Grounds and nearby, as well as interaction (or “fieldwork”) with fellow UVa students whose life experiences transcend any notion of separation between “Africa” and “Virginia.”

This seminar will fulfill the College’s second writing requirement through the composition (including drafting and revision) of papers written to address the major epochs in the course – altogether four essays of about five pages each, and ultimately presented at the end of the course as a polished portfolio.



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



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