Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2011 Civil War Syllabus

Tomorrow, I get to start teaching this semester's "Sectionalism and Civil War" (H303) course.  I've not had the chance to teach it for a few years (I share the duties with my good friend, David Raney), and I'm very excited.  Here's the syllabus (you'll notice some things from the blog explanation).  Let the semester begin. . .

Sectionalism and Civil War
-150th Anniversary Edition-

Dr. Bradley J. Birzer
HIST303; Spring 2011
Office: Delp 403

“Whatever [General Lee’s] feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”
--General U.S. Grant, April 1865


Required Readings (available in bookstore)
  • James McPherson, Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction, 3d or 4th edition, all in one volume. But, frankly, any edition—as long as it has all three volumes—is acceptable.
  • Harriett Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
  • Michael Shaara, Killer Angels.
  • A number of misc. readings (sent through email or posted on the website).

Class format: lecture.

Course content:  This course examines America’s movement toward secession, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, covering the years from roughly 1848 to 1877 with very brief excursions back to 1776, 1787, 1798, 1820, and 1833.  We will especially focus on the reasons for the Civil War (not surprisingly, they are varied and complex, though the issue of slavery and competing nationalist and republican visions explain many, many things), the reasons why soldiers fought, and the aftermath of the war.  We will meet heroes and villains (especially two killers with the first name of John), the Yankee Leviathan, the Yankee garden, nationalists, the C.S.A. socialist war state, the harassment committees, ignorance, bad intentions, the poets, the ministers, the priests, good intentions, idiocy, the machine, brilliance, cruelty, Christianity (in all its wondrous manifestations–Protestantism and Catholicism (sorry, no Eastern Orthodox in the war that I know of–though there were a few Greeks fighting, so probably some)), Siamese elephant troops, New Yorkers, Californians, Texans, South Carolinians, the reluctant, the beautiful, the too willing, the political theorists, the philosophers, the journalists, the ideologues and terrorists, the republicans (everywhere–North and South), the egalitarians, the enslavers, Barnburners, Fire-eaters, the weak, the dispossessed, Crackers, the strong, the brave, the liberated, the preyed upon, and the righteous.

To summarize the grading structure:
·                         research paper:                                             25%
o   précis and bibliography                                 5%
·                         midterm examination:                               25%
·                       two book reviews                                          10%
·                         final examination:                                       35%

Research Papers: On the Civil War (1848-1877) topic of your choice.  Please refer to the list at the end of this syllabus for ideas.  You must turn in a 900-1200 word précis/bibliography by 5pm, February 11 (my office).  Your final paper should be 15- to 20-pages in length, in twelve-point font with one-inch margins, footnoted properly (according to Turabian or Chicago Manual of Style), and accompanied by a full and properly-formatted bibliography.

Book Reviews.  Please submit a one-page, single-spaced review (12 point Times, one-inch margins, no footnotes) and synopsis of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (end of class, February 24) and Killer Angels (end of class, April 12).

Misc. rules pertaining to class:
  1. Never enter class after it’s begun.
  2. Don’t attend class unless you have completed the readings for the day.
  3. No side conversations, notes, texts, etc. in class.
  4. No internet/cell connections allowed during class.
  5. Plagiarism and/or cheating of any kind will result in an “F” and your permanent dismissal from the class.

Important Dates (others to be announced)

  1. February 11, 5pm: research paper précis and bib turned in
  2. February 24: Have Uncle Tom’s Cabin read; Part One of McPherson read
  3. March 17: Midterm
  4. April 7: Part Two of McPherson read
  5. April 12: Have Killer Angels read
  6. May 3: Final research paper turned in; Part Three of McPherson read

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