Speaking of American History
Sarah McNair Vosmeier
Studying historical documents provides
both pleasure and practical benefits. Reading primary sources
can be like taking a time machine -- it takes only a little imagination to
feel like you are in another time. Analyzing primary sources also
provide the practical benefits of a liberal arts education. We will
learn to use historical imagination, to analyze difficult texts, and to make
historical arguments; and we will consider the nature of oral communication,
both as it was practiced in the past and as historians practice it now.
This term, we will focus on the theme of "American
Slavery, American Freedom" – to what extent is the American experience
characterized by our highest ideals of liberty and individualism, and to
what extent by our failing to achieve those ideals?
23% Preparation and Participation
15% Prepared Interview
10% Historical Address
17% Article Presentation
16% Midterm Exam
19% Final Exam
Our class time provides an opportunity, rare in modern life, to focus for an
extended time on a single task and conversation. Please do not
multitask – to avoid distraction for others and temptation for ourselves, we
will not use laptops, cell phones, etc. during regular class time.
(Laptops will be useful during scheduled workshops, however.)
You will need to bring assigned texts to class in paper form.
Late assignments will be penalized, and in-class assignments cannot be made
up. If you have an emergency and want to request an exception to this
rule, contact me before the due date.About items needed for this class
Our discussions will be based on close readings of texts, and you will need
notes on the texts in the form of marginalia. Thus, you should
budget appropriately for printing and photocopying in addition to the books
The following are available at the bookstore:
Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery,
American Freedom (also on reserve at Duggan Library)
O'Hair, Rubenstein, and Stewart, A Pocket Guide to Public
You will also need a bound journal – choose either a good quality journal
with acid-free paper or an inexpensive composition book. Because you
will be printing out most of the readings for this class, a three-ring
binder will be convenient. All of these items are available at the
About Preparation, Participation, Presentations, and Exams:
Preparation and Participation:
We will all enjoy our time together more and find our
work more rewarding if everyone prepares and participates fully. People who
excel in participation make useful comments in class or ask helpful
questions, and they facilitate others' participation as well; they also
complete brief assignments included in this portion of the grade adequately
and on time.
Occasional written brief assignments (such as marginalia
checks or study guide contributions) allow you to demonstrate careful
preparation for class.
The elevator pitch assignment and impromptu recaps of
discussion or lecture details are brief, informal speaking opportunities.
Your commonplace book (also part of this portion of your
grade) is a place to make note of oral communication in your own life, and
it will also hold quotes you can use for future public speaking
occasions. Sharing it with your colleagues will provide opportunities
for brief, informal public speaking.
The prepared interview is similar to the kind of speaking
you will do in a job interview.
For the historical address, you will deliver a speech
presented on campus sometime in the past.
The article presentation is similar to the presentations
historians make at history conferences.
Two blue book exams will include identifications and essay questions.
September 5, 2017 (Tues.) Lecture: "Defining
Workshop: Visiting the college archives.
September 7, 2017 (Thurs.) Discussion: Pocket Guide,
2-6, 8-13, 27-32; Vosmeier, "On Marginalia," 2016 (online);
Kirkman, Science of Railways, 1903 (excerpt online);
Krantz, "Professionalism and Ethics," 2015 (online);
Beattie, Of Memory and Imagination, 1783 (excerpt online).
Lecture: The commonplace book.
Workshop: The commonplace book.
Speaking of Seventeenth-Century Virginia
September 12, 2017 (Tues.) Discussion: Morgan, American
Slavery, American Freedom, 1975 (pp. xiii-xv [2005 edition], 3-6, 379-87);
"Style Guide for Chicago Manual Footnotes" (online).
Lecture: "Seventeenth-Century Virginia."
September 14, 2017 (Thurs.) Discussion: Capt. John
Smith, True Travels, 1630 (excerpts online).
September 19, 2017 (Tues.) Discussion: Capt. John
Smith, General History of Virginia, 1624, and other autobiographical
excerpts, 1608, 1617 (excerpts online).
September 21, 2017 (Thurs.) Discussion: Morgan,
71-91; Mann, "America Found, and Lost," 2007 (online);
Krantz, "Developing Your Elevator Pitch," 2018 (handout).
September 26, 2017 (Tues.)
Discussion: Rountree, "Powhatan Indian Women," 1998 (online
-- click on "pdf full text" to the left, and then print);
Pocahontas, autobiographical fragments, c. 1608-1616 (online);
Rolfe, letter to Dale, 1614 (online).
September 28, 2017 (Thurs.) Discussion: Krantz, "Art of
Interviewing," 2018 (handout); Pocket Guide, 20-27, 34-44.
Elevator pitch due.
October 3, 2017 (Tues.) Discussion:
Frisch, "American History and the Structures of Collective Memory," 1989 (online
-- click on the blue "download pdf" box to the right, and then print);
"Memorable Americans," 2017 (online).
October 5, 2017 (Thurs.) Midterm exam.
October 10, 2017 (Tues.) Prepared
interviews (schedule t.b.a.).
October 12, 2017 (Thurs.) Prepared interviews
Commonplace book due Friday, Oct. 16.
October 17, 2017 (Tues.) Discussion:
Speeches from the archives -- Crowe, Address to Literary Societies, 1857 (online);
Bruce, graduation speech, 1945 (online);
Austin, Commencement Address, 1964 (online);
Pence, Commencement Address, 2008 (online);
Reisser, Commencement Address, 2014 (excerpt online)
-- Pocket Guide, 80-108, 126-37, 192-97.
October 19, 2017 (Thurs.) Meet in the Learning
Workshop: Use of sources. Pocket Guide, 60-77.
Workshop: Transcribing Civil War letters.
FALL BREAK, Oct. 21-24
Speaking of the American Revolution
October 26, 2017 (Thurs.) Discussion: Declaration of
Independence, 1776 (online);
Abigail Adams, letters, 1776 (online);
Pocket Guide, 13-20.
Lecture: "The Revolutionary Era."
October 31, 2017 (Tues.) Discussion: Assignment
Attend at least one session of "The Lutheran Reformation: 500 Years Later,"
on campus, Oct. 31, schedule t.b.a.
November 2, 2017 (Thurs.) Historical Addresses delivered
November 7, 2017 (Tues.) Meet in the
Duggan Library computer lab.
Workshop: Bibliographic Instruction.
Speaking of the Nineteenth Century
November 9, 2017 (Thurs.) Discussion: Monfort letters
Lecture: "The Civil War."
November 14, 2017 (Tues.)
Discussion: Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 1863 (online);
Truth, "Ain't I a Woman?" speech, 1851 (online). Pocket Guide, 110-23,
November 16, 2017 (Thurs.) Discussion: Pogle, New
Popular Reciter and Book of Elocution, 1901 (excerpt online); Pocket
Guide, 167-87, review 129-37.
November 21, 2017 (Tues.) Presentation
consultations, no class meeting.
THANKSGIVING BREAK, Nov. 22-26
Conference on Twentieth-Century America
December 5, 2017 (Tues.) Article
presentations. Discussion: t.b.a.
November 28, 2017 (Tues.) Article
presentations. Discussion: t.b.a.
November 30, 2017 (Thurs.) Article
presentations. Discussion: t.b.a.
December 7, 2017 (Thurs.) Commonplace book due.
Suggestions for Achieving the Objectives
of the General Education Requirements
(the Speaking Area of Competence and Engagement
the Historical and Social Perspectives Core Curriculum Requirement)
Objectives of the Speaking ACE
Demonstrate skill in structuring oral presentations for maximum
effectiveness, interest and clarity
? Learn about structure, verbal/non-verbal communication,
and visual aids from A Pocket Guide to Public Speaking and classroom
? Observe these skills in historical documents and in
? Demonstrate this skill in the Historical Address and
Present clear positions on subjects of importance and support them with
? Learn about using evidence from Bibliographic
Instruction and "Use of Sources" brief assignment, especially.
? Observe the use of historical argument supported by
evidence in scholarly articles and lectures.
? Demonstrate this competence in the Prepared Interview,
Article Presentation, Impromptu Recaps, and class discussions.
Critically evaluate and respond to the arguments of others, recognizing
premises, chains of reasoning, ambiguities, implications, and logical
? Learn about historical argument and other forms of
argument from A Pocket Guide to Public Speaking, classroom instruction,
lectures, and class discussions.
? Demonstrate this competence in class discussions, in
providing feedback for your colleagues, and in preparing for the Article
Consider purpose, audience, context, and style in spoken work
? Learn about purpose, audience, etc. in A Pocket Guide to
? Demonstrate this competence in class discussion and in
the Prepared Interview, Article Presentation, and Historical Address.
Objectives of the HS CRE
Examine the distinguishing features of the social world in a global or
By reading and discussing primary and secondary sources on American history
(detailed above), we will examine features of American society in
historical context. This objective is a part of everything we do, but
exams are an especially clear way for students to demonstrate this
Confront issues of causality and human motivation.
We will use primary and secondary sources to consider what motivates people
to behave the way they do and how to determine what causes change over
time. Class discussions and most graded assignments provide the
opportunity to demonstrate this objective.
Give consideration to ethical issues embedded in the social world.
Discussing liberty and individualism in historical context is an example of
considering ethical issues embedded in the social world. Class
discussions and most graded assignments provide the opportunity to
demonstrate this objective.
Explain key ways of evaluating evidence when examining historical and social
From readings and lectures, students will learn how historians make
historical arguments and how they use evidence to support those
arguments. This objective will be a part of almost everything we do,
but the "Use of Sources" assignment is an especially clear way for students
to demonstrate this objective.