Explorations in Comparative Historiography: Reading Foundational Texts from the East Asian and Mediterranean Traditions

History 283.001

Spring 2007
2231 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
M 2-4

In this seminar we will read some notable works of history from ancient and medieval China and Japan, and read them against equally important works from our own classical and medieval traditions. The aim is to induce students to confront their assumptions about what history is and should be by showing them how different were the assumptions of East Asian historians, especially the Chinese, who were probably the greatest writers of history of pre-modern times. We will read very little contemporary theory; I believe students are best served when they are encouraged to make their own theories.

To give an idea of how we will proceed, here are readings from weeks two to four (in all cases, we will read selections, not entire books):

1. Beginnings: chronicle and epic.
";Confucius,"; The Spring and Autumn Annals and the Tso Tradition; Homer, Odyssey; Herodotus, Histories. Plus ancillary readings.

2. The Annal-biography form and official historiography.
Ssu-ma Ch'ien, Records of the Historian; Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War. Plus ancillary readings.

3. The Annal-biography form: annals.
Pan Ku, History of the Former Han Dynasty; Tacitus, Annals of Imperial Rome. Plus ancillary readings.

We will also look at biography, autobiography, medieval historiography, and traditional Chinese historical fiction.