Lectures, Week 1, January 8-11: Introduction

8 Jan. [2007]

1) Lecture:

“History is like a forensic science”

That is my statement. I will leave you with that thought as my history lecture for today. We will return to it on Thursday. In the mean time we have administrative details, course outlines, and assignment expectations to get through, starting with …

2) an Administrative detail. All students will please complete the contact form.

3) … and we will move on to a discussion of the syllabus. As we go through it, please ask questions as they come to you so that you are clear on what it is you need to do.

Note: I can be found in my office during my office hours. I can be contacted by phone during those hours as well. Because it is unlikely that you will find me there at other times, your best bet, if you really need to discuss something with me, is to email me.

But do not assume email is a fail-safe means of contacting me: fave to face is best [a written note in my mailbox outside the department office is about on par with email; phone is probably the least reliable]. Do not expect an instant response to email. Be aware that appropriate use of email does not include:

  • chain mail – email sent repeatedly from user to user, with requests to send to others
  • harassing or hate-mail — any threatening or abusive email sent to individuals or organizations
  • virus hoaxes
  • spamming or email bombing attacks — intentional email transmissions that disrupt normal email service.
  • junk mail — unsolicited email that is not related to university business and is sent without a reasonable expectation that the recipient would welcome receiving it
  • false identification — any actions that defraud another or misrepresent or fail to accurately identify the sender

Note about the description: by the end of the course you should be able to say something intelligent about the history of the Atlantic Canadian region on each of the points in the description — on the bus, at a cocktail party, in an argument. By the end of the course it will be possible to grasp what it is the description is describing.

Note about the readings:

a) In History courses — very much as in Lit. courses — there is an expectation that you will read, and read a lot. As you take higher level courses the amount of reading you are expected to have done and be doing increases, pretty much exponentially. Consider this course an introduction to the experience of being a reader of history — the reading list for this course is only reading ‘lite’ in the world of studying history.

b) The Conrad/Hiller 2006 text is in the bookstore and on reserve at the QEII library. If you come across the 2001 version you may use it. The appropriate chapters and page numbers for each version are given on the lecture schedule. You will note that the chapters mostly correspond but the pages vary — make sure your reading matches the edition of the text that you have. Note as well that the 2001 version falls a little short in the later weeks — you can fill in the gaps by reading the 2006 reserve copy. Otherwise, the version you use is not critical because the lectures do not follow the text exactly.

Keeping up with the required reading is in your own best interests. What you get out of any history course is directly proportional to what you put into it. History is a discipline by which you are expected to be a self-directed learner who is capable of imparting your learning to others. [That is why, once you get beyond introductory level courses, you will find seminars dominate — a system of learning inaugurated by Leopold von Ranke, professor at the University of Berlin (1825-71)].

My guess is that if you attend the lectures, and you’re very clever, you may be able to intuit what the basics, that Conrad and Hiller cover in their text, might be — and get as high as a ‘C’. But, for a better mark, you’d better do the reading. Because then, when it comes to final exam time, you will be ready to demonstrate that you have practiced self-directed study and are ready to impart your learning to me. In other words, you will have practiced being a historian.

Articles: we will get to how they will be handled shortly.

c) Note about suggested readings: they are suggested only. If you intend to make this your field, read them, or at the very least keep them in mind for reading in the future, on evenings when you have the time. Note them down somewhere, or keep this syllabus [I have kept all of my reading lists and syllabi from the courses I took].

Term work:

We will go over both the assignments tomorrow — which is when they will be assigned.

The one flows from the other so it is really only one big assignment in two parts — which is one reason why you are getting both now. The other reason is to give you as much time as possible to be working on them — including thinking about them — what topic, what approach, what scheduling is going to work for you.

For now I want to point out that, in history courses, in addition to the basic expectation that, as a self-directed learner, you will read and there is an expectation that you will write. That is, after all, what historians do to impart their learning [and earn a living].

So the University Calendar statements included in this syllabus are included because they underscore that point.

As second year students, sampling what history as an academic field is all about, you are expected to take advantage of this opportunity to practice writing, by trying your darndest to write well.

Take the Calendar’s advice to heart: use this course to hone your skills — so that you can, increasingly effortlessly, “demonstrate proficiency in logical organization, clarity of expression and grammatical correctness in [your] writing.”

If you don’t already have a style guide book, and you intend to do well as a student, then get one. As for the Department’s guide, go through it. You will note it does not describe the APA or MLA (or any other ‘A’) systems of citing references [the ‘A’ styles use the author-page method of in-text citation, embedded in brackets in the body of an essay. APA stands for American Psychology Association and is similar to MLA (Modern Language Association)]. Though commonly used in the humanities and sciences, these systems are not used in History.

There are a couple of reasons for this: one is that historians have traditionally been concerned about narrative flow — the embedded citations are seen as too interruptive, especially if there are a lot of them. And sometimes, in some works, there are a lot of references to be made, because historians are finicky about mentioning sources.

Some non-historians might call this finickyness pedantic [overly obsessed with correctness], but historians are concerned with minute inflections of interpretation because they know how slippery seemingly ‘factual’ statements can be. They are sensitive to ‘spin doctoring’ and the intrusion of personal ‘bias’. Historians want to be able to check your references, to make sure you didn’t just ‘make something up’ — or stretch something too far while casting around for support for your argument. So they want to know exactly where to look for your inspiration.

That is the second reason for not using the embedded reference style. Historian use the ‘Chicago’ style, which has footnotes or endnotes, that supply detailed references [See Anthony Grafton, The footnote: a curious history (Harvard University Press, 1999), Google Books limited preview: http://bit.ly/53IBYy].

Deadlines: You will note that that syllabus says that there is some flexibility in terms of deadlines for the papers/written assignments for this course that you will be assigned tomorrow.

The flexibility allows you to hand them in early, get my feedback — including editorial suggestions for improvement, and a mark — and re-submit them, with improvements, to raise your mark. Note: your mark will not get lower.

The final deadline, however, is final. It has to be met and there is no re-writing after it has passed.

Note about the class participation mark: Attendance is not graded — that would be against MUN policy — but attendance is advisable, as the exam will draw upon material that might only be covered in class. And the class participation mark depends on being present in class to participate, on the days you are expected to participate.

Today, if you are here, is one such day. We are going to look at the reading list and begin the first in-class exercise while we’re at it.



In-class Exercise 1: Negotiation and Completion of Reading Responsibility [Part I — for the people present]

Percentage of final mark — 3.5%


  • Each student will agree to be responsible for one article from the reading list (excluding chapters in Conrad and Hiller). Students will negotiate their choice of article so as to ensure that every article has readers and that readers are distributed over readings as equally as possible. [The class has a choice here — we can set up a scramble akin to musical chairs, or we can pass the list along, or they can suggest an alternative] [1 mark]
  • Readers are responsible for composing a brief summary and evaluation of their article (one page, point form is acceptable). [2 marks]


  • Students are required to submit the summary and evaluation to the instructor before or during the week for which it is assigned in order to qualify for the full 3.5 marks.
  • The instructor will distribute copies of the summary to the rest of the class.
  • Note: the article read will be discussed in class at the end of the week for which it was assigned.

Point of the exercise

1. participate in reducing the workload without sacrificing exposure to pertinent material.

2. practice in participating publicly in opinion forums.

Article to summarize and evaluate:

Author Title Source Week Due

Points worth elaborating on in a summary/evaluation:

  • What seems to be the main point/argument/thesis of the article? [hint: check the introductory paragraph]
  • Is there a particularly interesting point made or fact introduced in the article [check the body of the text]
  • Was the author persuasive? [check the conclusion]
  • Does the article help to answer the ‘Questions to Consider’ for its week? [check the syllabus]
  • If you were designing an exam question based on this article, what would it be?
  • Random thoughts. For example: what will you remember about this article one year from now? Would you rate the article as easy to comprehend for the general public, or undergraduate reader, or was it written for readers with specialized knowledge or vocabulary?


Once you have completed this exercise, you will have taken care of a 3.5% chunk of your final mark [this could be the difference between sitting in the Bs or scoring an A]. And, you will have done it relatively painlessly.

There are two goals met with this exercise:

1) reducing your workload without sacrificing your exposure to pertinent material

2) practicing that other aspect of being a historian — there is reading, there is writing, and — as part of imparting your learning to others — there is putting your opinions out there in front of your peers (and anybody else who happens along as well). I am giving you the opportunity to practice that. To get used to the idea that what you say as a historian you say in public.

So you are getting your marks for participating in the act of voicing opinions. Not for being ‘right’, not for being ‘perfect’, not for being ‘impressive’ — but for daring to have an opinion in the first place, and, in the second place, for making that opinion available to others. [And it will be an informed opinion — not just conjecture — because you will have done the reading]

One other thing — in the long run, it will be to your advantage to have read all the articles — and if not all the articles for the course, then at least all the articles for assigned for your week. The more you know, the more you will have to say — as a conversationalist, at exam time — this year, or at some point in your future.


If there are no further questions, then I will allow you the remainder of the period to go to the library, get your article, and either photocopy it, or wait til 4 o’clock and take it home for the night. Read it. Think about it. Let it cogitate in your brain. Write down your impressions of it. Look at the handout. Put together a page or two to hand in and get it in to me — the sooner the better. I have given you the time, you can start getting the whole thing over with now and, if you want, be done with it by tomorrow.


Jan. 9

1. Info. Check.

2. Review:

Last class you were assigned the 1st in-class exercise, one meant to alert you to the importance of:

a) being self-directed (curious enough to look into things) so that you develop the Historian’s Skill Set, which includes:

— reading

— writing

— presenting your opinion to others

Check the Readers’ List, if you’re not on it, now’s your chance for 3.5% of your Participation Mark, which is 3.5% of your Final Mark. Does everybody have a copy of the assignment? of the syllabus?

b) last class you were introduced to the concept of relexivity: Be conscious [you can check it out on Wikipedia] Know what you think history is, ask yourself where you got that idea, and be aware of your ‘bias’ — how where you are from, what you do, affects your opinions and interests.

[Think of the awareness of being like a projection (we criticize in others what we don’t like about ourselves).]

3. Today, I am handing out your 2 major term assignments — really one big one in two parts.

They are to give you practice in a) research b) presentation, which are two more things to add to the historian’s skill set.

Read through the assignments.

Hint: evidence of Critical Thinking is what I am looking for in your work.

— that is not being ornery and criticising/trashing

— it is being aware that historians do have biases related to their time and place

— it is being willing to question assumptions — your own and other peoples’

Ask: are there gaps? maybe your thesis will be that more needs to be done. ask if previous ideas are outdated



In History courses, reading, writing, and presenting your opinion matters.

Critical Thinking is not just being critical and trashing an idea. It is being aware that historians do have biases related to their time and place. There is always an argument, stated or unstated, to be thought about. Look for their assumptions.

Concept introduced: reflexivity: cultivate a conscious approach to history: know what you think it is. be aware of your bias.

II. Concepts and Terminology

a) What is History?

I was told that 2nd year history students don’t like theory [#5 vocab. list], which impressed me because when I was a second year student I couldn’t have told you if I liked it or not because I didn’t know what theory in History was.

I have a better idea about it all now — maybe you have a pretty clear idea about it already — for the purposes of this course a formal theory of History, or the Atlantic region, or whatever else, is not particularly necessary [or even desirable, or even possible].

But awareness of some basic concepts and terminology common to historical discussion is — you will come across some of it in the articles you read for example — so, in case you really don’t like ‘theory’, I’ll try to get the theoretical stuff mostly out of the way today — but, be forewarned, it is bound to crop up now and then.

It already has, with #1 reflexive and we barely scratched the surface of the concepts behind that one, and there are theories galore behind words — theories in history, etymology, linguistics, psychology, literary criticism.

There is nothing really very awful about theory. Developing a theory is thinking out an organized explanation for phenomena.

To theorize is to think. We’re human beings and theorizing comes pretty naturally, because thinking is what we do.

So, maybe, “History is: an intellectual exercise” would be a reasonable statement?

1) Historians think about history in a lot of different ways:

I once had a prof. who insisted “History is: Philosophy teaching by example” [I had no idea what he meant by that — he was a philosopher — I knew no philosophy.  I found out years later that he was quoting Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War (c.411 BC)]

Carl S. Becker said “History is a trick we play on the dead”

I googled for history definitions for today:

Elbert Hubbard said: History is: “gossip well told.” — The Roycroft Dictionary

Konrad Adenauer: “History is the sum total of the things that could have been avoided.”

Norman J. Wilson, History in Crisis? (1999), defines history as “a subject, what has happened, and the process of recounting and analyzing that subject.”

Recall that on Monday, Jan. 8, I wrote: “History is like a forensic science”.

What I meant by that is that, to my way of thinking, History is the intellectual equivalent of forensic medicine. Because, historians research the past = the lives of dead people, to find out what happened to them — their experience [#6 vocab. list].

Historians write up the results of the research and put it before the public, and — and this is why I am claiming History is forensic [#7 vocab. list] — forensic means those results are judged, used, or debated in legalistic contexts and contests, to establish probable cause and effect, to posit positions of right and wrong, to call for redress, correct mistakes, or justify maintaining current conditions.

Doing History in a forensic way can be unpleasant. It can get ugly, messing around in a corpsefied corner of the past. You may uncover something that makes other people hopping mad. But, then again, even if you cannot right a wrong that has been long-buried, by exposing what has been hidden or ignored you might stop a lie, or a hoax, or some other intellectual ‘crime’ from being perpetuated. Combating ignorance can be a good thing. It is also a political act [#8 vocab. list].

All the same, if you’re not afraid of dead people and what they may have to tell you, doing history can be fun, and rewarding.


Lecture: ‘Dead people don’t tell tales

Why do I find history similar to forensic sciences? For starters, because its an examination of dead people. But, consider the phrase ‘dead people don’t tell tales’. It’s common.

Q: If ‘dead people don’t tell tales’, because they are not here among us to do so, then, when it comes to history, who does?

A: historians.

Carl L. Becker, The Heavenly City of Eighteenth-Century Philosophers (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960), writing about historians, wasn’t too nice about it, saying: “History is a trick we play on the dead.”

Q: what is the difference between a tale and a fact?

A: a fact is a ‘truth’ claim. Historians do look for facts — for example: an event happened at a place on a specific date — that kind of fact is important to historians, it is what they build their interpretation around. A teller of tales is not so concerned with getting the facts straight as with establishing morality (right vs. wrong).

Q: Do historians tell the truth?

A: they certainly try, by being honest

So, what does this ‘honesty’ look like from a historian’s perspective?

a) Example 1: take the phrase above: ‘Dead people don’t tell tales’.

To be honest, the correct/authentic version, according to today’s usage of cliches, is: ‘dead men tell no tales’, which has been traced to “The dead cannot reveal any secrets”, which is a proverb that has been traced back to Thomas Becon (c.1560). First attested in the United States in “Porcupine’s Works” (1797). [found in the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (New York: Random House, 1996).] To be honest again, I only know this because I googled it. .

b) Historical honesty, Example 2:

An example of my checking up on another historian’s honesty. Take Carl L. Becker, and his phrase mentioned above. As an undergraduate, I had to write an essay based on that phrase for a second year class. We were supposed to demonstrate our ability to be critical thinkers, that is, to get at the core ‘truths’ presented by a historian of our choosing, and to question that historian’s ‘facts’, thereby discovering their ‘trick’. Because I was annoyed with Becker, I decided to go after the very phrase that the prof. had used to justify the essay assignment: “History is a trick we [read historians] play on the dead.”


a) I was annoyed with Becker because he did not supply a reference. He said it was a well-known phrase penned by Voltaire, but he gave no citation information — no footnote.

b)Becker toyed with the phrase. He worded it differently each time, changing its nuance. “History is after all only a pack of tricks that we play on the dead” appears on page 43. “History is only a pack of tricks we play on the dead” on page 88.

I  ‘yahooed’ it — this was in the days before google. Here’s what I found out from an online discussion group:

i) This was not a well-known phrase at all if well-known is taken to mean common knowledge to a wide array of people, although the original author — François-Marie Arouet — is certainly well-known by his pen name, Voltaire. The phrase, it turned out was obscure — repeated once in print, in 1888, by John Morely [Voltaire (Macmillan and Company), page 304] who represented it as “History … is after all nothing but a parcel of tricks that we play on the dead.” Morely was in turn quoted imprecisely in a philosophy text book of 1926 [Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy — this may be the reason that Becker claimed the phrase was well-known, the text book appears to have been popular].

So, I went to the library and found Voltaire’s original phrase [in Theodore Besterman, ed., Voltaire: Correspondence iv (janvier 1754-decembre 1757). Gallimard, 1978, p. 945]. In its original context, translated according to 18th century usage — I got a historical dictionary — the phrase was actually a pun of sorts.

In a letter to a friend [Pierre-Robert Le Cornier de Cideville], Voltaire makes an apologetic joke about his own and another author’s history-writing [Pierre Damiens], assuring Cideville that neither author’s work need be taken too seriously. Voltaire compared his own writing to rubbish [fatras: jumble] using terms suggesting scraps swept into a pile on a floor:

“It is, after all, naught but a fussed-with heap one makes of the dead” is how I translated the phrase, “… l’Histoire. Ce n’est après tout qu’un ramas de tracasseries qu’on fait aux morts.”

What is my point? Am I just trying to entertain? to show off? to trash Becker? Nuh-uh.

Becker is still a writer worth reading — he is considered one of the ‘good-guys’ by lots of good historians, because he was a skeptic. Becker taught that ‘truth’ and ‘fact’ even if ‘out there’ somewhere, were not things a historian could grasp and then lay out and pin down on paper in all their original glory. And it is commonplace now that in the field of History, there is no truth — just perspectives — guesses, hypotheses, questions.

So what is my point with these examples?

My point is that critical thinking is important. Undergraduate students have the ability to apply it. Critical thinking is worth practicing, if you wish to excel in History, at least now-a-days, and in this class.

In this class, you have an opportunity to practice.

i) you need to be ready to question

ii) you need to be comfortable about ‘living in the question’ as opposed to asserting certainty. Because you need to care about being honest — consciously and conscientiously.

It’s good to know some ‘facts’ — some dates, some geographical things, some names. It is good to train your mind to remember that stuff. But, without the capacity to question, all of that remembering ‘facts’ is not ‘doing history’, it’s ‘doing trivial pursuit’ or ‘doing mechanical repetition’ — ingemination. That will not help illuminate why ‘dead people’ did what they did, where they did, and how they did it when they were alive.

iii) You also need a good vocabulary — take that word ingemination for example. It is not particularly important to historians, not part of the vocabulary I expect you to learn. It’s not a word I’ve ever used except for today. I just included it to segue to the next lecture’s topic — Vocabulary and Concepts.


Jan. 11


FAQ: does the proposal/essay topic have to be the same as for the article I’m reading?

A: No

Q: How do I pick a subject — can the essay be on anything I want?

A: The essay must relate to the broad topic assigned, but, you have to narrow that topic down to something more specific to make it manageable. Note that when we say ‘Atlantic Region’ in this course we mean ‘Canadian’ Atlantic region.

How do you narrow that topic down if you don’t know much about the history of the Canadian Atlantic region?

This is where research comes in: you will have to practice applying your research skills [you have them, you have used them every time you have searched for something on the internet or ferreted out a phone number or email to add to your contacts.]

the term research [#2 on the vocab. list] is a verb that means “attempt to find out in a systematic and scientific manner”

the etymology [#3 vocab. list: research into/science of word origin, or, history of a word] of the word research, traces it back to 1577 and the Old French term ‘recercher’ which meant the “act of searching closely,” from re-, intensive prefix, + cercher “to seek for”

[btw, ‘scientific inquiry’ is first attested to in 1639]

scientific [#4 vocab. list] is “M.L. scientificus “pertaining to science,” from L. scientia “knowledge” = ficus “making”

[‘scientific method’ is from 1854 — meaning something different now than it did then — originally, from the 1300s, science simply meant “knowledge of something” and so was used interchangeably with ‘philosophy’.]

So, for your research proposal and essay, your task is to:

  • conduct a search for a subject
  • collect information on that subject
  • organize that information into a knowledgeable statement about that subject (an extended statement, written as though it is a response to an argument put forward by someone else that you want to take issue with. Argue that sucker into the ground.)

To do any of this you will have to think.

My suggestions are:

1. look for the topic keyword in the index of your text book — right now. As you can see, there are numerous subjects that relate to it. Do any of them spark some interest in you?

2. a) Think about what interests you — why does it? what aspect of it would you like to know more about?

b) Google it — see what comes up, snoop through some of the hits, modify your search

That is research.

Why didn’t I give you a list of subjects to choose from?

Because no matter what level of study a historian is at, finding a subject for a proposal is a hefty part of their research — often enough, the most difficult part of their research.

The cold hard truth is that there is no handy master list of history essay topics out there somewhere for historians to choose from. Each historian has to search: for a subject, and, for information about that subject. [Note: if you are good at it, you can get $$$ at the grad student level — for example a SSHRC grant in excess of $100,000]

In this course you are learning what being a historian is like. That is why there is no ready-made list of subjects for your essay. I want you to practice thinking, to help you move a little closer to be good at coming up with the $$$ proposals.

Discussion: subject possibilities.

The main thing is to get started, research til something starts to click for you — when you’ve found a subject that you think is interesting and that has books and articles you can use.

If you feel uncertain about any part of this, consult with me — sometimes just talking it out can clarify a really good idea you didn’t realize you already had.

Lecture: [b)] Vocabulary — Terminology — Jargon

You may have history teachers who advise you to use plain language. Historians have been proud of their reputation as communicators. Plain language is great for telling a story in a narrative. But to use plain language effectively you need to have a sophisticated grasp of words and their meanings — you need a good vocabulary.

A good vocabulary

1) helps you be concise in your writing

2) helps you to readily understand what you are reading

Historians, for all their talk of favouring plain language, are as guilty as the practitioners of other disciplines in using some rarified terms — jargon — when outlining and arguing their theses.

You may find it helpful to keep a list of terms you come across that are new, or obscure, or used in confusing ways. I’ve started you off with some:

A) The Big Three

1) History:

As I pointed out before, History means different things to different people. What I want you to be aware of is that History is different from the Past.

2) the Past:

The Past is the real, physical, lived-in world that existed at a previous point in time. We cannot go there … it is gone. The Past is History’s [ostensible] object of inquiry.

History, then, is not the past — it is what people recount, say, write about the past. It is one of many discourses [#10 vocab list] about the world (geographers, sociologists, artists, economists have other discourses).

As well, one past can generate many histories — sometimes divergent histories. Historians do not all agree. Because:

— no historian can cover, and thus re-cover, the totality of past events.

— there is no way to check a history against the past for accuracy because the past is gone [typically, to be considered ‘history’ and not ‘current events’ the past studied is over 50 years gone].

Historical evidence [# 11 vocab. list] is distinct from scientific evidence, because history cannot be repeated in similar conditions — historians can’t experiment.

Historical facts [# 12 vocab. list] are what the historian happens, or chooses, to find and they may change if she or he learns more about the subject. Historical facts are unlike scientific facts because the scientific ones can be re-verified by experiment when needed.

— History, no matter how verifiable, widely accepted, or checkable, remains a construct [# 13 vocab. list], a manifestation of the historian’s perspective as ‘narrator’. History is never for itself: it is always for someone. [The critical question when reading is, “who is this history for?”]

— What we can ‘know’, our knowledge [# 14 vocab. list] about the past is always contingent/dependant upon, or limited by, our own views, our own present. [In some ways we know more about the past than the people who lived in it — in many ways less.]

Knowledge is a loaded word. Harold Adams Innis, a Canadian historian who deserves greater attention, as well as Michel Foucault a very famous French intellectual, both argued that knowledge is related to power, and, within social formations, those with the most power distribute and legitimate knowledge.

So the answers that we ‘find’ are contingent on the questions that we ask.

3) Historiography: literally ‘history’ + ‘writing’; also refers to the comparing and contrasting of historians’ writings in introductions to articles and books.

In my own formal written work, for clarity, I use ‘historiography’ when I mean written history, ‘historiographer’ when I mean history writer, and ‘the past’ when I mean ‘the real world, once upon a time.’ I seldom use the term ‘history’, unless I mean the academic discipline [‘capital H’ History].

Other Terms Commonly Encountered when reading Historiography:

# 10: discourse: a term from literary theory, as developed by Michel Foucault; it has lots of meanings, depending on where it is used and by whom, and, is often, unfortunately, left undefined.

Dictionary definitions: “verbal communication, talk, conversation”; may include the observation that ‘discourse’ especially applies to a conversation of a formal nature.

A Foucaultian definition is very broad, so that ‘discourse’ includes “all utterances or texts which have meaning and which have some effects in the real world” [see Sara Mills, Discourse (1997)]

I use ‘discourse’ when I want to acknowledge/indicate that I am aware that historiography is never ‘neutral’ or ‘objective’, it is always for someone — it always involves a contest for power. It is a shorthand way of letting my reader know that I know that what I am writing is political.

8) [the smiley face is a wordpress invention, not of my doing] #eight) political: there is a contest involved, for the power to control knowledge.

#15) postmodernism: a disputed term — means different things in different disciplines; tends to indicate a reaction against principles and practices of established modernism — ie. 18th and 19th century, and residual 20th century, ‘knowledge’/belief systems.

But the use of the term is subject to the ‘lumpers and splitters’ problem. Some scholars have very tight definitions — to guard their turf from somebody else’s intellectual encroachment — Then there are those who believe the world has changed so profoundly that the term applies to nearly everything, and is used in a broad cultural sense.

Scholars who believe that the postmodern is really still just an extension of the modern period, specifically an extension of its conservative aspect, may instead use terms such as “high modernism” to show there has been no cultural break.

If you don’t hate theory and like it enough to resort to it in an essay, I would advise you not use the term ‘postmodern’ unless you are clear on what you mean — or a source you are quoting means. It is wise to assume you cannot know what an author really means if they use loaded terms without clearly defining them.

#17) epistemology: theories of knowledge; from the Greek episteme = knowledge; philosophical area concerned with how we know anything.

#18) ontology: theories of being [hint: use ‘onelook.com’, ‘wikipedia.org’, Google etc. They are all quick. And bookmark sites that prove useful to you — for even quicker future reference. There is no ‘don’t have the time’ excuse for building a knowledge base of your own anymore.

#19) truth claims: do we have to go here? For the purpose of this class, it is safe to assume that I will be hugely sceptical of any claim that the entire historical truth about anything is now known. It may be ‘out there’, but it’s really too big for us to grasp.

#20) meta-narratives/Grand narrative: somewhat similar to seeking ‘unified theory’ in Physics; “an assumption that it is possible to produce a utopian/complete narrative for the future, or past, or even present. [Those big, national, march of progress, the future is beckoning, and our place in it is assured, multi-volume histories] Most theorists now are critical of the tendency to construct grand narratives, since it is clear that events cannot be ordered into perfect schema so easily — too much variation, heterogeneity within categories, as well as too much crossing-over among categories.

#21) hegemony: google Antonio Gramsci — whole groups of people within society apparently accepting the status quo even when it appears not in their own interest to do so. take cars for example and how we accept them as a necessary evil.


[Graphic created long after class was over (2014). Click image to embiggen. Source for quote: http://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/552:_Correlation. Top chart: http://www.skepticalscience.com/DMI-data-on-Arctic-temperatures-Intermediate.html. Bottom chart: http://revel.unice.fr/eriep/?id=3301.]

#22) othering: google Edward Said — representing a group in negative and degrading ways — stereotyping — all the while setting up an ‘us’ and ‘them’ divide.

#23) discontinuity: google the word, and check on Thomas Kuhn and his ‘paradigm shift’ — historical events do not unfold seamlessly, rather history is characterized by a series of  breaks and reactions against past events.

#13) construct: Keith Jenkins. Rethinking History (1991), sounding Voltaire-ish, notes “documents and other traces [of the past] are ripped out of their original contexts … to … illustrate … a pattern which might not be remotely meaningful to … their authors”

That is what we will begin doing next week — ripping Atlantic Canada into existence.



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