285.001A Imagining the Barbarian

History 280A.001

Fall 2016
2231 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Tu 2-5
280A - 16120; 285A - 15905

The questions surrounding of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire as opposed to its transformation has exercised scholars and thinkers for a very long time. Part and parcel of these debates is the topic of the barbarians. Who were they and what was their role? For obvious reasons, these questions are particularly acute with regard to the Western part of the Roman Empire, famously overrun by Gothic, Vandal, Alan, Suevian, Frankish, Alemannic and Hunnic federations. The scholarly debates are intense (Heather, Pohl, Halsall are some of the current leading contenders), in part because both written and material sources are very complex and hard to interpret. One of the principal difficulties is the question of what “barbarian” actually means if applied by late Roman sources to persons active in the later Roman empire. This will be our focus. Concentrating on sources focusing on Africa (and hence the Vandals) and Gaul, that is, mostly Latin sources, but also taking Greek, Constantinopolitan sources into consideration (Synesius, John Chrysostom), we will ask the question of how one should imagine the barbarian in the context of late Roman notions of masculinity, thus bringing together disparate scholarly discussions: those focusing on the narrative and military aspects of the fourth and fifth century West and those discussing the so-called late antique crisis of masculinity.


Note this course is offered as a combined section:  280A.001 is class no.16120; 285A.001 is class no. 15905.

Course Books

The Goths in the Fourth Century by Matthews and Heather Liverpool. ISBN: 978-0853234265 Required
The Sociology of Taste by Gronov, Jukka Routledge. ISBN: 978-0415132954 Required
The Vandals by Merills and Miles Wiley Blackwell 2014. ISBN: 978-1118785096 Required