Speaking of American History

Sarah McNair Vosmeier


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Course Description
    Studying historical documents provides both pleasure and practical benefits.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? 

Calculating Grades
                Informal Communication
                23%    Preparation and Participation
                15%    Prepared Interview

                Formal Communication
                10%    Historical Address
                17%    Article Presentation               

                16%    Midterm Exam
                19%    Final Exam

Nota Bene
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 you purchase. 

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 Speaking
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 bookstore.

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 Terms." 
                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).  Review.
October 5, 2017 (Thurs.)     Midterm exam.

October 10, 2017 (Tues.)     Prepared interviews (schedule t.b.a.).  
October 12, 2017 (Thurs.)     Prepared interviews (schedule t.b.a.). 
    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 Center.
                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 t.b.a. 
                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 in class.


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 (online).
                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, 140-54.
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.


Conference on Twentieth-Century America
November 28, 2017 (Tues.)     Article presentations.  Discussion: Ingrassia, "Public Influence inside the College Walls: Progressive Era Universities, Social Scientists, and Intercollegiate Football Reform," 2011 (online, click on "download pdf" to the right, and print).
November 30, 2017 (Thurs.)     Article presentations.  Discussion: Bailey, "Scientific Truth . . . and Love," 1987 (online, click on "pdf full print" to the left, and print)

December 5, 2017 (Tues.)     Article presentations.  Discussion: Lowe, "From Robust Appetites to Calorie Counting," 1995 (online)
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 instruction.
?    Observe these skills in historical documents and in other speakers.
?    Demonstrate this skill in the Historical Address and Article Presentation.

Present clear positions on subjects of importance and support them with evidence
?    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 Presentation.

Consider purpose, audience, context, and style in spoken work
?    Learn about purpose, audience, etc. in A Pocket Guide to Public Speaking.
?    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 historical context.  
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 objective.

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 issues.
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.