History 101.018

Spring 2008
Instructor (text): 
321 Haviland
Day & Time: 
TuTh 2-3:30
Theodore Varno is a graduate student affiliated with the Office for History of Science and Technology. He's interested in the history of biology in the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly genetics and evolution; the history of agriculture, particularly plant and animal breeding; and the history of animals, particularly the domesticated kind. He's currently working on a dissertation that traces biological research on inbreeding from Darwin through the Evolutionary Synthesis. He can be reached at varno@berkeley.edu and would be happy to answer questions about the seminar.

Is it possible to write a history of non-human beings? What does it mean to say that an organism has a past? How might incorporating non-human actors into our narratives present us with new modes for thinking about human history?

In this seminar, we will build the supportive atmosphere needed in order to think in original ways about these and related questions. At the core of the seminar will be independent research into primary materials, research that will culminate for each participant in an essay of between 30 and 50 pages. Our meetings will facilitate these research projects by focusing on three general goals: 1) how to use secondary literatures to formulate worthwhile historical questions, 2) how to locate and utilize primary materials, and 3) how to transform abstract ideas and concrete sources into effective historical writing. While the seminar is devoted to the history of animals (both real and symbolic), participants are encouraged to pursue topics related to this general theme in any region of the world, any time period, or any historical methodology. Those interested in this seminar might wish to consult the webpage for History 103: The Animal in History, taught in Fall 2007, in order to get a better sense of the kinds of topics this seminar will address.