Digital History Theory
This course explores the theoretical and methodological issues raised at the intersection of the history profession and technology. It aims to provide conceptual fluency on broad topics such as the uses of “new” media in relation to history and historical narrative, the implications of copyright law on future historical work, new directions in scholarly publishing, and the changing role of museums and libraries in a digital world. The course also examines in some depth the future of historical research, especially how powerful new research methodologies now allow historians to ask and answer fundamentally different kinds of questions. Overall, the course seeks to challenge the typical conceptions of how one ought to produce and consume history, and, more broadly, to provide guidelines for effectively using technology in the humanities.
Digital History Techne
Food, Health, and Cultural Tastes
Diet and health have always gone hand in hand, but preferred dietary regimens to restore or maintain health (along with definitions of a healthy body) have undergone constant and sometimes radical transformations. This course explores how Western medical theories and cultural contexts have come together to shape dietary fashion from antiquity to the present (or, as some would say, from Athens to Atkins).
We will approach the history of food and health from both dietary and cultural points of view. From a dietary perspective, we consider how preferences for various foodstuffs (herbs, spices, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, etc) and their perceived medical virtues have changed over time. From a cultural perspective, we consider how meanings of food and dietary choices (vegetarianism, organics, bio-engineering, etc) are shaped by broader cultural and medical forces. How and why did certain fad diets come in and out of fashion? How have changing attitudes about the body and health shaped our choices about what constitutes healthy food?
The Scientific Revolution
This course surveys the so-called Scientific Revolution (SR), the supposedly fundamental shift in the way people began to investigate and understand nature between roughly 1550-1750–a period that is still described as the “birth of modern science.” But what is the nature of a scientific revolution? What social and cultural forces encouraged a new kind of “science” during the SR? To what extent was this “new” inquiry into nature a real break from the past? How and why have historians constructed different narratives about the SR? The course as a whole is more thematic than chronological—we’ll trace how ways of thinking, methods of investigation, disciplinary boundaries, roles of institutions, social structures of knowledge production, and the relationship between science and religion did and did not change during the SR. We’ll also consider how scholarship in the last 30 years has considerably altered both the standard story of the SR and the traditional views of the iconic figures like Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton.
History of Western Medicine
This course provides synthetic and interpretive frameworks for understanding the evolution of (mostly) western medicine. It explores, through broad narratives and specific case studies, topics such as the range of theories and practices employed by physicians, the social construction of disease, and the rise and development of the medical profession. The course demonstrates how, in addition to medical knowledge, shifting social and cultural values have motivated change in medicine; it also shows how a historical awareness of medicine provides crucial perspectives on contemporary medical philosophies and controversies.