History 83 What Ifs and Might-Have-Beens, Spring 2011

History 83
What Ifs and Might-Have-Beens
Spring 2011
Professor Burke
TTH 11:20am-12:35pm

Tues Jan 18
Contingency, counterfactuals, alternate histories: causality and meaning in history

Theoretical debates

Thurs Jan 20
Tetlock and Parker, “Counterfactual History: Its Advocates, Its Critics, & Its Uses”, in Unmaking the West

Tues Jan 25
Johannes Bulhof, “What If? Modality and History”, History and Theory, 38: 2, 1999.

Thurs Jan 27
E.H. Carr, “What Is History?” [pdf]
Eric Hobsbawm, “Can We Write the History of the Russian Revolution?” [pdf]
(I’ll reconstruct E.P. Thompson’s “unhistorical shit” comment in class: it’s way too wrapped up in a convoluted argument about the Marxist theorist Louis Althusser that would take too much backstory for you all to read and digest.)

Tues Feb 1
Randall Collins, “Turning Points, Bottlenecks, and the Fallacies of Counterfactual History”, Sociological Forum, 22:3 2007
Catherine Gallagher, “When Did the Confederate States of America Free the Slaves?” Representations 98, 2007

Thurs Feb 3
Geoffrey Hawthorn, Plausible Worlds, Chapter 1. [pdf]

Tues Feb 8
Niall Ferguson, Introduction, Virtual History

Thursday Feb 10
Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft, “The Uses of Walter: Walter Benjamin and the Counterfactual Imagination”, History and Theory, October 2010. [pdf]
Paper discussion: a statement of principle on the counterfactual or alternate history
The embedded use of counterfactuals in scholarship and everyday life

Counterfactuals in practice

Tuesday Feb 15

Selections from Ferguson, Virtual History: Ch. 5 & 6

Thurs Feb 17
Selections from Ferguson, Virtual History: Ch. 2 & 8

Friday Feb 18
First paper due by 5pm, 5-6 pp.

Tues Feb 22
Selections from Tetlock, Lebow and Parker, Unmaking the West, Ch. 2, 4, 10

Thurs Feb 24
Selections from Tetlock, Lebow and Parker, Unmaking the West, Ch. 6, 7, 9

Tues March 1
James Axtell, “Colonial America Without the Indians: Counterfactual Reflections”, 73:4 1987, Journal of American History.

Thur March 3
Gary Cornblith, “Rethinking the Coming of the Civil War: A Counterfactual Exercise”.


Tues March 15
Cecilia Holland, “Repulse at Hastings” and Caleb Carr, “VE Day”, in What If? 2 [pdf]

Thurs March 17
Surveying the possibility space: what histories produce counterfactuals, which ones don’t, and why?

The recipe book: how to pick and develop a formal counterfactual

Counterfactuals vs. alternate histories

Alternate histories

Tuesday March 22

Ward Moore, Bring the Jubilee, pp. 11-54 [pdf]
Floyd Miller, Introduction to Martin Delany, Blake or The Huts of America, pp. xx-xxv [pdf]
Robert Sobel, For Want of a Nail: If Burgoyne Had Won at Saratoga, pp. 37-54 [pdf]

Thursday March 24
Harry Turtledove, “Must and Shall”, in Dozois, ed., Roads Not Taken [pdf]
Discussion of 2nd paper assignment.

Tuesday March 29
Jo Walton, Farthing

Thursday March 31
Film: “Fatherland”

Friday April 1st
Second paper due by 5pm

Tuesday April 5
Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt

Thursday April 7
Steven Barnes, Lion’s Blood [pdf]

Working with Digress.it.

Tuesday April 12
Dale Chace, “A Marriage of Choice” and Connie Wilkins, “The Heart of the Story”, in Wilkins, ed., Time Well-Bent: Queer Alternative Histories [pdf]

Thursday April 14
Sesshu Foster, Atomik Aztek

Tuesday April 19
Scott Westerfeld, Leviathan [pdf]
Film: Sliders, episode 1

Thursday April 21
Workshopping the final papers: first session


Tuesday April 25
Workshopping the final papers: second session

Thursday April 27
Workshopping the final papers: third session

Final papers due 5pm May 13th