The last few weeks for me have been occupied by creating a syllabus for a course titled “The Contemporary South.” It is a dream opportunity for me, and one that I hope only further heightens my excitement about teaching in the classroom. Today I wish to toss around ideas I have had for what I will call “dream intellectual history courses”—in other words, the kind of classes I want to teach down the road once I have my Ph.D. in hand. These are class ideas I’d have for graduate seminars, although they could also be adapted for upper-division history courses for undergraduates. What follows are five of my ideas. I hope to see yours in the comments section!
Paul Robeson and the American Century—I tossed this idea around with a few colleagues of mine (one a 20th century Africa historian and the other Reconstruction and Gilded Age era African American historian) of one day doing a course on Paul Robeson and American intellectual and cultural history. It would trace not just his trajectory in American culture, but also use Robeson as a lens into wider African American and Left movements from the 1920s through the early 1970s. Plus, I think any opportunity to talk Paul Robeson in a class should be taken with all haste.
The New South, 1960-2000—The title is probably self-explanatory, but nonetheless it’s a course I would love to teach someday. In relates back to the “Contemporary South” course, which is an interdisciplinary course housed in Southern Studies designed to give students exposure to scholarship about the South from 1970 until the present. While “The New South” would be a history course, I would focus on the intellectual history of the region—as well as how the intellectual history of the country relates back to the South during that time period.
Sports and American History—the intersection between sport and intellectual history is one that we should think more about. We have seen posts here at S-USIH that have examined this question from a number of angles. How intellectuals have viewed sport—and how sport has become a key component of American life—would be the foundation for this course.
Black American Intellectual History—this one would be a favorite of mine as well. A field that still has plenty of places left to go, Black American Intellectual History would offer new ways of viewing American intellectual history. Inspired by W.E.B. Dubois, Harold Cruse, Anna Julia Cooper, Angela Davis, and a wide variety of others, this course would be a survey of a vibrant intellectual history.
Towards an Intellectual History of the Western Hemisphere—this one would be the most ambitious idea. Thinking about the importance of Latino/a Intellectual History—seen on this blog in both a recent roundtable and the winner of the S-USIH book award—is going to become crucial for U.S. intellectual historians as time goes on. And we can’t forget our friends up in Canada, either. Such a course would ask students to consider how intellectuals across the Western Hemisphere interact with one another. I am not sure when the class would start, although the Age of Revolutions seems as good a place to start as any.
So those are my dream classes. By no means comprehensive, I hope to start a conversation here about the kinds of classes you’d like to teach if you could—or better yet, classes you have taught in the past and what worked about them.
Also, I heartily recommend checking out the last week in U.S. Intellectual History blogging. We had another wonderful entry in what’s becoming a series of meditations on Between the World and Me; the very look of being an academic; the work behind cultural creation; two fantastic interventions in the debate over Confederate memorials; thoughts on settler colonialism as an idea; Common Core and the Right; and finally, morality and foreign policy. All wonderful posts. And a special shout-out for the latest #Blktwitterstorians discussion, this time about Black Power. It will be archived and storified soon, but until then, check out the previous discussions they’ve had.