The rationale for this course is to provide an outline of some of the main debates around historical usage of key concepts such as class, gender, race, power, space, memory, narrative and archive since the 1960s. It will, in other words, provide a kind of pre-history of our contemporary uses of such terms and enable students to see how they developed out of arguments and historical interpretation. At the same time, it will introduce students to a series of seminal texts. So this course will be a mapping of a conceptual terrain and an intellectual journey.
In Explanatory Paradigms three historians examine specific paradigms. John Seed considers the continuing importance of Marxism, both in its classical materialist form and in its rendition as ‘history from below’. He then examines the implications for history of recent theories of ideology and discourse. Sally Alexander evaluates the growing salience of psychoanalysis in historical enquiry. John Tosh assesses the claims of gender not only to uncover new subject matter, but to provide a powerful explanatory tool. John Seed returns to consider some of the theoretical implications of narrative, through the work of Paul Ricoeur. In a concluding session we will discuss how these theoretical positions have influenced our own scholarly work.
The course is organised as a term of ten weekly sessions to be held in the IHR on Wednesday evenings (5.30 - 7.30), as follows:
April 24 Introducing Paradigms (JT)
May 1 Feminism and women’s history (SA)
May 8 Marxist historians and radical social history (JS)
May 15 Gender and masculinity (JT)
May 22 Linguistic turns (JS)
May 29 Racialising British history (SA)
June 5 Space: Foucault and the city (JS)
June 12 Psychoanalysis and history (SA)
June 19 Interrogating the archive (JT)
June 26 Theory meets practice (students and the teaching team)
There is no formal assessment for this course, but students are recommended to keep a study journal from week to week, and to use it as the basis of their contribution to the discussion in the last two weeks. Students who would like written feedback from a tutor are invited to submit their reflections on how the theories covered in the course have affected their work (1000 words max.)
The course is open to postgraduates and all who are interested in exploring historical theory.