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September 10, 2008

Cultural History Course - Fall 2008

Topics in History (HIST 698-004, ASIAN 500)
The History and Historiography of the Tang and Song Dynasties
Monday, 4:00-7:00 p.m., 1023 Tisch Hall

Instructor: Christian de Pee Telephone: (734) 763-6968
Office: 1632 Haven Hall
E-mail: cdepee@umich.edu
Office hours: Thursday, 1:00-3:00 (and by appt.)


This course offers a topical survey of the history and historiography of the Tang and Song dynasties or, more specifically, of the profound cultural transformation that took shape between the eighth and twelfth centuries. It is intended in the main to convey an impression of the shape of the field of Middle-Period studies in the United States, with its small first generation of economic, intellectual, and political historians, its second generation of social historians, and its budding third generation of cultural historians. This historiographical disposition of the course not only lends form to the succession of topics (which are arranged by the sequence in which they were addressed by the developing field of inquiry), but offers an opportunity for the development of a wider range of academic skills. The reading assignments for the course will provide a basic knowledge of the historiography of the Tang-Song transition, but class discussions will also address the conception of research projects, inventive approaches to sources, style and argument in prose composition, the politics of publishing, the nature and development of academic fields, and the shape of academic careers. In short, this seminar is intended not only as an introduction to the history and historiography of the Tang and Song dynasties, but also as an opportunity to reflect on graduate education and to develop some of the critical and practical skills required therein.

Since the design of this manner of survey cannot be but a prejudiced endeavor, I have felt free to include a piece of my own writing in both the first and the final week of the course—not to impose, but rather to explicate the dispositions that inform the syllabus.


The requirements of the course are intended to further the above intentions. First, the course requires attentive reading of the assignments and the composition of a brief reflection on the week’s readings, to be posted to the CTools site of the course. Second, the course requires lively participation in discussion during seminar meetings. The most effective way of testing and developing your ideas is to articulate them, in writing and in speech. In order to ensure the continued variation of discussion, I shall propose a succession of themes for discussion (treatment of sources, uses of prose style, politics of publishing, and so forth). Third, the course requires a short review of one of the assigned articles, as a practice in the composition of peer reviews. Fourth, the final assignment consists of either a review essay (of two or three books on a topic in Tang or Song history) or a short research paper (on a topic in Tang or Song history), according to academic need and ability.

Posted by zzhu at September 10, 2008 10:49 AM