Bad histories


István Rév

Bad histories

Syllabus 1999-2000 Academic Year, Fall Semester

The course aims at taking stock in a modest way at the end of the 20th century. The participants of the class are offered the opportunity to revisit some of the more unfortunate and tragic periods of recent history. The readings and in-class discussions will focus on selected topics related - in most cases, in an indirect way - to the history of Fascism and Communism. The members of the class are invited to reflect on the intedepencies of the way these two periods are dealt with, reflected, remembered, refashioned, and forgotten in recent writings of history and political science.

Lectures, readings and discussions will concentrate on text with important methodological questions, that can direct the attention to general theoretical and historiographical problems. The class does not aim at providing a systematic and concise description of twentieth century history or a political history approach to Fascism and Communism. The content of the course is highly selective, the reflection is consciously indirect.

Participants will be asked to write short, one page long ‘position papers’, for each class, that highlight the most important methodological, theoretical problems related to the readings. The papers will be circulated electronically among the members of the class, to enable participants to have an informed discussion in-class. It is expected that the members of the class will write short but important final essays by the end of the semester based, whenever it is possible, on individual research conducted in the Open Society Archives of the CEU. Students will get all necessary help for their individual work. Attending the class is recommended to students with theoretical interest in borderline disciplines - historical anthropology, political theory, history of ideas - dealing with recent history. It should be mentioned however, that theoretical discussions are coupled with work with primary documents throughout the course.

Topics and Readings

1. Clues in/ of history. Reading: Carlo Ginzburg, Clues: Roots of Evidential paradigm.

2. A model of historical inquiry. Reading : Carlo Ginzburg, The Inquisitor as Anthropologist.

3. The dangers of Apocalyptic History. Reading: Michael Andre Bernstein, Forgone Conclusions. Against Apocalyptic History. (selected chapters)

4. Memorials and Counter-memorials. Reading: James E. Young, The Texture of memory. (excerpts) 

5. History as metaphor. Reading: Emilio Gantile, Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy. (selected chapters)

6. Fashioning Fascism. Reading: Mabel Berezin, Making the Fascist self. (selected chapters)

7. parading history. Reading: Claudio Fogu, History on Parade.

8. Burying history. Reading: I. Rév, Parallel Autopsies.

9. Complications of recalling. Reading: Saul Friedlander, Memory, History and the Extermination of the Jews of Europe. (selected parts)

10. Making sense of the terror. Reading: Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust. (selected chapter)

11. History and Counterhistory. Reading: Amos Funkenstein, History, Counterhistory, and Narrative. (In: Friedlander, Probing the Limits of Representation)

12. Idols of the past. Reading: Matt K. Matsuda, The memory of the Modern.(selected chapter)

13. Shaping ‘ideological reality’. Reading: Thomas L. Schumacher, the Danteum.

14. The special dead. Reading: Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer (excerpts)

15. Silence around the past. Reading: I. Rév, Counterrevolution

Grading will be based on in-class work (30%), position papers (30%), and the quality of individual research and the final essay (40%).