In part four, “History of Gender, Health, and Medicine,” students are asked to pick a book from special collections that pertains to the aforementioned topic and write a twenty page long annotated introduction for an imaginary “new edition” of the selected volume. Again, the course assignment is made available to viewers, along with images of some of the books selected by students, which range from an 1854 book about diet to an 1863 American Phrenological Journal.
The fifth part of the exhibition is entitled “Historiography,” and as the name implies both the course and its assignment have to do with the craft of writing history. The assignment asks students to choose a text for “thorough analysis.” As Gary Shaw, Associate Professor of History, puts it, “In the end, a substantial research paper of 15-20 pages should be written on the book as a work of history, seeking to expose its underlying art, philosophy, and conceptual apparatus.” (from Part Five, course assignment link). Professor Shaw describes his course and the resultant assignment as being an enlightening experience for his students:
My goal in creating this assignment is complex. I've become convinced that one of the best ways to capture the imagination of students interested in history is to present them with historical, i.e. old things. Because I'm especially keen on their learning that history is a finding-out discipline, I want to turn that approach to old things into research. Although archaic materials such as Special Collections presents to the students are difficult and potentially repellent, the Textual Report allows them to break down the barrier to reading and coping with the text and clears the ground for more effective intellectual engagements. (from Part Five, textual introduction).
Once again, examples of materials chosen by students are displayed as semi-thumbnail images along with the assignment and introductory text. They include Charles Dickens’sA Child’s History of England; Thomas Fuller’s The history of the worthies of England, and other canonical historical works. Though the materials examples are mostly British they could have just as easily been American, and one can envision this course working quite successfully with Americana materials.
The next part and the last one that this review will consider deals with by far the most contemporary, and controversial, of Americana materials. The section name is “Queer Periodicals,” and the meaning of this title and its import as well as the relevance of primary source materials to this seminar are discussed by the course’s instructor, Kevin Murphy, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, Center for the Humanities:
“Queer American History" is an upper-level undergraduate seminar that examines transformations in the cultural meanings, politics, and social organization of same-sex sexuality in United States history with an emphasis on the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Major themes include the production of hetero- and homo-sexuality in medical, political, juridical, and cultural discourses; the formation and sustenance of sexual communities; and the politics of sexual oppression and resistance. An important requirement for this seminar is the "Queer Periodicals Assignment," developed in collaboration with Suzy Taraba. Each student selected one periodical in