Rhetoric of History, with a Focus on Kingship and Legitimacy

History 280U.003

Spring 2015
Section: 
003
Instructor: 
Instructor: 
Daniel Boyarin
Location: 
7415 DWINELLE
Day & Time: 
Tu 4-7
CCN: 
39861
Units: 
4
The writing of history is always a rhetorical act, an attempt to make something happen with words.  The means and modes of such writing differ from culture to culture, of course.  In this seminar, we propose a comparative study of ancient historiography in the Mediterranean and in the China.  Our materials for study will include the fifth-century BC Greek historian, Thucydides, the 1st century AD Judaeo-Roman Josephus, and two famous Chinese historians: Sima Qian, whose monumental Shiji or "Archivists' Records" (comp. 100 BC) of 130 chapters about the entire "the known world" is usually considered the history of history most comparable with that of Thucydides; and Ban Gu, author of the Hanshu or "Han History" (comp. AD 100), whose one hundred chapters represent a fine attempt to recast the basis for Han dynastic legitimacy. 
 
Two mammoth compilations that became part of the state-sponsored Classics in China during the early empires will also be consulted: the Zuo Traditions, which claims to supply the behind-the-scenes motivations for kings and nobles during the tumultuous centuries leading up to the time of Confucius (551-479 BC), and the Documents classic, which purports to provide the most exemplary speeches from the pre-unification (pre-221 BC) period in the form of "canons," "counsels," "oaths," and "proclamations."
 
All texts will be available in English but those capable of reading the Greek ones in Greek and the Chinese ones in Chinese are invited to do so.