Honours Seminars

Seminars for Honours Students in History, 2017

Robert Aldrich
Europe through Non-European Eyes (field seminar)

Europeans, in their travels, writings and politics, often regarded non-Europeans as the ‘other’. But what about when the tables are turned? This seminar will examine the way that non-Europeans, particularly travellers, writers and painters from Asia and Africa, viewed Europe and Europeans. Moving from the late 1600s through the twentieth century, we will examine a number of works – reports by diplomatic delegations, travelogues and memoirs, novels and paintings – by non-Europeans who sojourned in Europe. These will include a Thai diplomatic delegation that visited the court of Louis XIV and a Burmese ambassador to Britain in the age of Queen Victoria, memoirs by one of Napoleon’s bodyguards (a former slave in Egypt) and a North African imam who visited Paris in the 1820s, documents from visits by King Chulalongkorn of Thailand, King Sisowath of Cambodia and Emperor Khai Dinh of Vietnam, travelogues by Indian visitors to Europe in the late nineteenth century and letters home from Indian soldiers serving in the First World War, essays on London by Japan’s most famous early twentieth-century novelist, Natsume Soseki, and a later novel by Shusaku Endo, as well as one by a travelling Thai prince, and paintings by Indonesian, Japanese and Chinese artists who worked in Europe. Secondary readings on Europe and Asia will contextualise these accounts. We will be asking what the primary documents say about Europe, about non-European areas of the world, and about the transnational and intercultural encounters that they record, and how we as historians can approach these sources.

Peter Hobbins,
Imagining the past: crafting your historical voice (approach seminar)

One of the most important transitions during your honours year is the shift from writing essays for assessment to shaping original historiography suitable for publication. A central element of this process is developing and communicating your historical imagination. How did participants in the past think, feel, behave and speak? What physical, political, social, emotional, economic and cosmological worlds did they inhabit? How can you effectively convey this historical sensibility to your readers? Indeed, who are those readers? When and why might you mobilise dialogue, vignettes, thick description, fables, counterfactuals, speculation, humour or the dreaded personal pronoun, “I”? This seminar takes a craft-based approach to writing the past. Beyond discussion of set readings, participants will nominate examples of historiography that they have found both evocative and effective, from Montaillou to Horrible Histories. Seminars will alternate between discussion, writing and editing exercises, and reflection on narrative strategies. Assessment will similarly comprise a short piece designed to help you explore and develop your own historical voice, plus a major essay where you will interweave evocative and analytical strands of historiography.

Julie Smith,
Reading Travel Writing (field)

According to Mary Carruthers [The Witness and the Other World], “The travel book is a kind of witness”. However, witnessing and ways of seeing are culturally and historically inflected. For centuries, travellers (whether explorers, pilgrims, ambassadors, merchants, missionaries, tourists) have related their experiences for a variety of audiences, and have claimed authority as eyewitnesses, “I have seen”. Thus travel writing cannot be satisfactorily understood unless it is historicised against contemporary understandings of visuality, of ways of seeing. If travel writers from other places and times were seeing for others, how should this inform our reading of their works? The seminar readings and discussions will take into account matters such as author-audience relations, geographical knowledge, gender, faith, cross-cultural contacts. Individual projects will offer opportunities for students to study travel writings and eye-witnessing from their particular research field and period.

Altin Gavranovic,
AMST4011 American Studies Honours Seminar (cross-listed, field)

American Studies is an interdisciplinary field that has evolved significantly over the decades since World War II. This seminar traces the development and evolution of American Studies to demonstrate how and why the field has changed over time. We will examine key themes and concepts, including the history of American Studies, American exceptionalism, 1960’s ‘dissensus’ and the impact of race, gender and sexuality, as well as the linguistic, cultural and transnational ‘turns’ and their impact on American Studies.

Miranda Johnson,
"Presenting the Past" MA Seminar (cross-listed, approach)

In this seminar, cross-listed with Museum and Heritage Studies, students will learn how to apply historical research in the making of a museum exhibition. Focusing on aspects of the Macleay Museum's rich Australian and Pacific Indigenous material, we will research the social and material history of selected objects with the aim of staging a small exhibition at the end of the semester. The seminar will include introductory readings in Indigenous history, museum practice, and object theory, before students choose a more intensive research angle directed at understanding specific objects, their entangled histories, the worlds they refer to and make anew in the present. Honours students participating in the seminar will be expected to produce a final research paper that delves into some aspect of the histories of these objects and why they matter in and for the present.

Chin Jou,
Historical and Anthropological Approaches to Food and Eating (approach)

Food has been central to lived experience. It has shaped history through events and phenomena such as famines, uprisings, imperialism in search of commodities and markets, and population surges though more efficient methods of agricultural production. It has informed the development of structures of labour along lines of race, gender, and class; it has, of course, also been an essential part of daily life. In this seminar, we will consider examples of how historians and anthropologists have written about food and eating in order to illuminate broader historical developments, social relations, and identity. Readings will cover a variety of chronological and geographic contexts, although a disproportionate share of readings will focus on the United States since the early-twentieth century.