Speaking of American History
Sarah McNair Vosmeier
Studying history provides both pleasure and practical
benefits. Reading primary sources can be like using a time
machine -- it takes only a little imagination to feel like you are in
another time. Analyzing primary and secondary sources also provides
the practical benefits of a liberal arts education. In particular, we
will learn to use historical imagination, to analyze difficult texts, and to
make historical arguments. Speaking about history under various
circumstances will help us strengthen oral communication skills.
In our discussions 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? We will also consider how oral communication has changed over
21% Preparation and Participation
15% Prepared Interview
12% Historic Speech
20% Article Presentation
16% Midterm Exam
16% 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.)
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. (My class records show that the printing costs
associated with marginalia pay off in significantly better grades.)
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
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 read carefully and come to class with
effective reading notes; they 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 brief assignments (such as marginalia checks
or study guide contributions) allow you to demonstrate careful preparation
Brief, informal speaking opportunities include the
elevator pitch assignment, impromptu recaps of discussion or lecture
details, and sharing your commonplace book entries.
Your commonplace book (also part of this portion of your
grade) will hold quotes you can use for future public speaking occasions,
and it can also serve as a keepsake for this stage of your academic career.
The prepared interview is similar to the kind of speaking
you will do in a job interview.
For the historic speech, you will deliver a speech from
The article presentation is similar to the presentations
historians make at history conferences.
Two blue book exams will include identifications and essay questions.
Speaking and Reading about History
Jan. 8, 2018 (Mon.) Lecture: "Defining Terms."
Jan. 10, 2018 (Wed.) "Discussion: Vosmeier, "On
Marginalia," 2016 (
online); Walker, Of Education, 1673 (excerpt online);
Johnson, lecture at Google, 2010 (video online);
Fleming, "Keeping a Commonplace Book," 2012 (online);
"Chicago Manual Footnote Style" (online).
"The Commonplace Book."
Jan. 12, 2018 (Fri.) Meet in the Duggan Library
archival material (manuscript speeches). Pocket Guide,
Jan. 15, 2018 (Mon.) Discussion: Kirkman, Science of
Railways, 1903 (excerpt online);
Krantz, "Professionalism and Ethics," 2015 (online);
Miller, "Why What You Learned in Preschool is Crucial in Work," 2015 (online);
Pocket Guide, 27-32.
Jan. 17, 2018 (Wed.) Meet in the Learning Center.
Workshop: Use of
sources. Pocket Guide, 60-77.
Speaking of Seventeenth-Century Virginia
Jan. 19, 2018 (Fri.) Lecture: "Seventeenth-Century
Jan. 22, 2018 (Mon.) Discussion: Morgan, American
Slavery, American Freedom, 1975 (pp. xiii-xv [2005 edition], 3-6, 379-87).
Jan. 24, 2018 (Wed.) Discussion: Smith, True Travels,
1630 (excerpts online).
Jan. 26, 2018 (Fri.) Discussion: Smith, General
History of Virginia, 1624, and other autobiographical excerpts, 1608, 1617
Jan. 29, 2018 (Mon.) Discussion: Morgan, 71-91.
Elevator speeches. Krantz, "Developing Your Elevator Pitch," (handout).
Jan. 31, 2018 (Wed.) Discussion: Rountree,
"Powhatan Indian Women," 1998 (online); Pocahontas, autobiographical
fragments, c. 1608-1616 (online).
Feb. 2, 2018 (Fri.) Workshop: Prepared
Interview. Krantz, "Art of Interviewing" (handout); Pocket Guide,
20-27, 34-44. Elevator pitch due.
Feb. 5, 2018 (Mon.) Discussion: Mann, "America Found,
and Lost," 2007 (online); Rolfe, letter to Dale, 1614 (online).
Feb. 7, 2018 (Wed.) Prepared interviews (schedule
Feb. 9, 2018 (Fri.) Prepared interviews (schedule
Feb. 12, 2018 (Mon.) Prepared interviews (schedule
Feb. 14, 2018 (Wed.) Discussion: "Memorable
Americans," 2017 (online); Frisch, "American History and the
Structures of Collective Memory," 1989 (online).
Feb. 16, 2018 (Fri.) Review.
Feb. 19, 2018 (Mon.) Midterm exam.
Feb. 23, 2018 (Fri.) Meet in the Duggan Library Archives.
Feb. 21, 2018 (Wed.) Discussion: Speeches from
Hanover's history (online).
Special occasion speeches. Pocket Guide, 80-108, 192-202.
Commonplace books due.
Transcribing Civil War letters.
Speaking of the American Revolution
Mar. 5, 2018 (Mon.) Lecture: "The Revolutionary Era."
Mar. 7, 2018 (Wed.) Discussion: Declaration of
Independence, 1776 (online).
Mar. 9, 2018 (Fri.) Discussion: Abigail Adams,
"Remember the Ladies" letter, 1776 (online).
Public speaking. Pocket Guide, 13-20, 126-37.
Mar. 12, 2018 (Mon.) Historic speeches delivered.
Mar. 14, 2018 (Wed.) Historic speeches delivered.
Mar. 16, 2018 (Fri.) Meet in the Duggan Library computer
Speaking of the Nineteenth Century
Mar. 19, 2018 (Mon.) Lecture: "The Civil War."
Mar. 21, 2018 (Wed.) Discussion: Monfort letters
Mar. 23, 2018 (Fri.) Discussion: Lincoln, Gettysburg
Address, 1863 (online); Sojourner Truth, Ain't I a Woman?" speech, 1851
Mar. 26, 2018 (Mon.) Workshop: Presentations and visual
aids. Pocket Guide, 110-23, 140-54.
Mar. 28, 2018 (Wed.) Discussion: Pogle, New Popular
Reciter and Book of Elocution, 1901 (excerpt online); Pocket Guide,
Mar. 30, 2018 (Fri.) Presentation consultations, no class
Conference on Twentieth-Century America
Apr. 2, 2018 (Mon.) Article presentations.
Apr. 4, 2018 (Wed.) Article presentations.
Apr. 6, 2018 (Fri.) Article presentations.
Apr. 9, 2018 (Mon.) Article
presentations. Assignment t.b.a.
Apr. 11, 2018 (Wed.) Assignment t.b.a.
Apr. 13, 2018 (Fri.) Review. 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
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 Public
- 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
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.