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Last May, I finished the first section (Modul “Lehren und Lernen I”) of the program of advanced vocational training at the Freiburg center for academic teaching.

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Besides two two-day workshops on teaching skills (“Fit für die Lehre”), the program included four individual consultation sessions (Praxisberatung), a reciprocal visitation (Lehrhospitation) with a colleague (recorded on video) as well as a written didactic reflection. This is the first of three stages that (may) ultimately lead to the Baden-Württemberg certificate for academic teaching.

 

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This summer semester I will be teaching one master seminar and an exercise course on the reading of French sources. As usual, I have assembled a ‘pearltree’ for each of these courses with weblinks to the specific themes.

A History of Time – Changing Cultures of Temporality (ca. 1750-1850)
(Pearltree – websites on this topic)

and

Politeness – Sources on the History of Manners in France (ca. 1700-1850)
(Pearltree – websites on this topic)

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As usual, this winter semester I’ll be teaching two courses:

Power and Morals: Britain in the Victorian Age

and

Bourdieu for Historians

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Pearltree

Using the pearltrees web environment, I’ve started a systematic collection of links to websites of historical interest. Primarily, I aim to use these links as a teaching tool, providing useful background information to my various courses. Beyond this, I hope to provide students (and other people interested in various historical topics) with an accessible gateway into the digital side of historical research. The collection is dynamic and built to – using the input of colleagues and students – grow and ‘branch out’ over time.

It may be found here

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My courses for the summer semester 2012 are:

Political Assassinations in the long 19th Century (from Jean Paul Marat to Franz Ferdinand)
Even today, political assassinations are by no means rare. Time and again, individuals or groups decide to use targeted violence as a means to attack or even end a political order that is – in their eyes – unjust. Most often, the key factor in their choice of target is not just his or her political function, but especially their symbolic significance as the representative of a certain political system. The reaction to such events has always been highly controversial, such that at times, the assassins themselves (Charlotte Corday, Carl Ludwig Sand, John Wilkes Booth, Gavrilo Princip) subsequently became as famous as their victims. Taking our starting point from a number of European and American case studies, this course traces the history of the phenomenon of political assassinations in the ‘long’ 19th century. Beyond the individual histories of single (successful or unsuccessful) attempts, its focus will lie on the attempt to identify long-term developments and trends. In addition to the assassin’s methods, motives and goals, we will discuss the multifarious dimensions of impact and reaction in politics, the justice system, the media and the culture as a whole.

The Bielefeld School of Social History: History and Significance of a Historiographical Program
It is without doubt that the so-called ‘Bielefeld School’ of social history marks one of the decisive turning point in the history of (Western) German historiography in the 20th Century. In the 70s, a group of historians around Hans-Ulrich Wehler and Jürgen Kocka, voiced an opposition to the Historicism then dominant in the historical field. Instead of the traditional history of political events, their focus was on the theory based interpretation of long-term structural developments, a full fledge ‘history of society’. Even if this program of historiographical innovation was controversial from the start, it has unmistakably had a profound influence on historiographical writing in Germany and beyond. For all that, however, from the 80s onwards, the paradigm of social history, came under criticism – especially from the perspective of new varieties of so-called ‘cultural history’. Since then, new models of historiography – from discourse analysis to the history of everyday life, from gender history to the plurality of ‘turns’ – seem to have displaced social history as the discipline’s dominant paradigm. And yet, in recent years, many have argued for the integration of cultural and social history. Against this background, this course aims on the basis of several programmatic texts to trace the history of the Bielefeld School and its critics. In a second step, we will discuss the significance of the Bielefeld program for historiography in the present.

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This winter semester, I will again be teaching two courses.

The Salon: a Form of Enlightened Sociability
The social life of the Ancien Régime has never lost its fascination. In many books and movies, a world is evoked in which beautifully dressed gentlemen and ladies cultivate a witty and light-footed conversation. The central and most famous form of this type of elitist sociability was, without a doubt, the salon. In this setting, an exquisite circle of guests of all sorts met under the gentle guidance of an elegant hostess. Drawing upon French and ‘German’ cases from the 18th and 19th centuries, this seminar studies the social, cultural and gender dimensions of this social form in their historical development. Its focus will lie on several questions which have been the subject of heated historiographical debate. Were these salons hatcheries of Enlightenment thought, of emerging civil society or of women’s emancipation, or did they rather represent a late – and ultimately dying – branch of aristocratic (court) culture? In the conversations that built the central element of any salon, what was the relationship between serious discussion and lighthearted amusement? Were the salons able to adjust to the new political environment after the French Revolution, or did the rise of bourgeois society spell their end?

Enlightenment and Revolution: Reading Course on French Sources
The French Revolution is often thought of as the birthplace of European modernity. Contemporaries were already very aware of its significance and debated about its various causes. Central among these was a diffuse set of phenomena that would gradually come to be subsumed under the title of ‘Enlightenment’. In this context, a controversial debate about the relationship between ‘Enlightenment’ and ‘Revolution’ emerged that has not quieted down since. Reading French primary sources (pamphlets, theatre, speeches, lexicon articles, etc.), this course will trace the political dimension of the Enlightenment as it was understood before, during and after the French Revolution.

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Starting in Freiburg in the summer semester of 2011, I will be teaching two courses.

The Intellectual: Genesis of a Modern Social Type
The Dreyfus Affair is often viewed as the birth of the modern intellectual.  In fact, however, the origins of this important ‘persona’ are much older and reach into the Enlightenment period. Taking a series of case studies from France, England and the German lands as a starting point, this BA-Seminar from a comparative perspective traces the emergence and development of this figure during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Besides questions of social structure, finance, forms of communication and use of media, its focus will be on the problematic relation of the intellectual (and his locus naturalis, the public realm) with the political.

Zeitgeist: History and Impact of a Controversial Concept
The concept of ‘zeitgeist’ or ‘spirit of the age’ has all but disappeared from our vocabulary. If used at all it is usually employed in an ironic mode. Yet at one time, this was remarkably different. For a long time, zeitgeist was the central concept within Western discourses of historical reflexion. It expressed the reflexion upon the present as a changing form of life and thus built the center of a historical consciousness that emerged at the onset of the modern era. This reading course (Übung) will trace the history of this modern concept from its beginnings in the seventeenth up to his heyday in the first half of the nineteenth century. On the basis of source material (pamphlets, journal articles, poetry, theatre) from the German, French and English language areas several questions will be posed, i. e.: what meanings did the concept convey and how did these change over time? In what contexts and to what purposes was it used? How was it instrumentalized for political aims? Against which social background did it arise and how did it influence this in turn? Thus, on the basis of this example, general question are put forward about the history of concepts and its method.

More information about these courses may be found here.

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Next semester, I will have te opportunity to teach a seminar on the concept of Enlightenment to students of the University of Bielefeld. This is a translation of the text published in the syllabus.

Dimensions of Enlightenment: Self-Understanding, Descriptions, Historiography

The most famous characterization of the essence of Enlightenment stems from the philosopher Immanuel Kant. He defined the concept as the “departure of man from his self-inflicted minority” and tied this to the motto “Sapere aude!”: “Have the courage, to use your own understanding!”

The question ‘What is Enlightenment?’ is not only at the centre of the historical study of Enlightenment. The age that we now know under that name asked herself the same question. Furthermore, it has up until the present played a major part in debates about the self-understanding of modern culture.

The aim of this seminar is to consider the concept of Enlightenment in all its many dimensions. Accordingly, the question mentioned is examined from three perspectives:

1. What is Enlightenment in Historiography?

With reference to the example of Enlightenment historiography general questions are posed about problems of historical periodization (when was Enlightenment?), terminology (what does Enlightenment mean?) theory and method (how does one study Enlightenment?). Several ways in which this field has been studied will be compared with regard to their particular understanding of the subject.

2. What was Enlightenment in the Enlightenment?

In the course of the Eighteenth Century a group of authors emerged that closely tied their self-understanding to the historical mission of ”enlightening’ the world. On the other hand, others viewed this group as ridiculous posers in the best case, a world-wide conspiracy against throne and altar in the worst. What Enlightenment meant was highly controversial. It was negotiated in a long discursive process. On the basis of selected sources, such debates will be analyzed. The focus will be both on strategies of (linguistic and visual) self-presentation as well as on the hostile depictions by enemies of the Enlightenment.

3. What is Enlightenment now?

Most strongly in France and in the Anglo-Saxon countries, but also in Germany, Enlightenment plays a significant role in debates about the cultural self-understanding of modernity. The question is posed, if we live in enlightened times – or at least in an ‘Age of Enlightenment’ today. Is Enlightenment obsolete? Has she in the course of the Twentieth Century, as Horkheimer and Adorno thought, proven to be dialectical? Or does she still shape the present? What does this mean in the confrontation with non-Western, ‘unenlightened’ cultures?

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