HSTRY 388 B: Colloquium: Introduction to History

Winter 2024
Meeting:
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm / MGH 085
SLN:
15608
Section Type:
Seminar
Instructor:
"POLAR EXPLORATION AND ITS LITERATURE" RESTRICTED TO HISTORY MAJORS ONLY IN PERIOD I. NON- MAJORS MAY REQUEST ADD CODE IN PERIOD II. EMAIL HISTADV@UW.EDU FOR ADD CODE. *** THIS CLASS IS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR REGISTRATION BY AUDITORS OR ACCESS STUDENTS.
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Polar Exploration and Its Literature

HSTRY 388 B

Winter 2024

Tuesday/Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m.

Mary Gates Hall 085

 

Dr. Ross Coen

E-mail: rcoen@uw.edu

Office: Smith 108-B

In-person Office Hours: Tuesday 8:00-10:00 a.m., and by appointment

Virtual Office Hours: Friday 9:00-11:00 a.m.: https://washington.zoom.us/j/91605078567

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION AND OBJECTIVES:

The history of polar exploration is commonly understood in terms of the dramatic, romantic, and oftentimes tragic exploits of intrepid mariners such as Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, and Sir John Franklin. And while such stories abound in the literature and will be a significant part of the course, humankind’s connection to the Arctic and Antarctic touches on deeper historical themes such as nationalism, colonialism, science, geographical misconceptions, Indigenous cultures, racial theories, the biological impact of cold, and the advances and limits of technology. This course will trace the evolution of polar exploration, focusing on the 19th and early 20th centuries, to demonstrate that exploration is an integral part of being human. Students will work with primary sources, read and discuss secondary works, think and write analytically, and hone their skills in developing evidence-based arguments.

 

HSTRY 388 is a seminar course that emphasizes the basic skills of reading, analysis, and verbal and written communication that are central to the historians’ craft. In this course you will read a lot, write a lot, and speak a lot in both class discussion and small-group work. The objectives of the course are twofold: You will learn about the history of polar exploration in the 19th and 20th centuries, and, perhaps more importantly, you will acquire and hone skills in historical research, interpretation, and writing that will prove useful as you continue your university studies.

 

 

ASSIGNMENTS

1) Students will come to each class prepared to engage in thoughtful and courteous discussion that reflects completion and comprehension of assigned readings. Students will also actively participate in small-group work. Participation is worth 30 percent of the course grade and will be evaluated according to the following rubric:

 

  •  25-30 percent: excellent contributor to class; participates in discussion in nearly every class session; speaks and listens thoughtfully to peers, reflecting careful reading and attention to class content; informed, collegial contributions to group and in-class assignments.

 

  •  20-24 percent: contributes to discussion in the majority of class sessions, reflecting completion of reading assignments and attention to class content; completion of most in-class work.

 

  •  17-19 percent: contributes to discussion half of the time or less, reflecting completion of assigned reading and some attention to class content; completion of some in-class work.

 

  •  12-16 percent: rarely speaks in class; low engagement in group work; missing in-class assignments.

 

  •  11 percent and below: rarely or never speaks in class, could not demonstrate by comments or in-class assignments that reading had been completed or other content mastered; lack of collegiality to peers.

 

2) Students will write two short papers, each 3-4 pages in length. Each paper must analyze and interpret a single primary source, such as a collection of pages from a ship’s logbook, a selection of letters to/from a polar explorer, an excerpt of an expedition journal authored and published by an explorer after the completion of the journey, and so on. Students will select the primary sources for each paper themselves, and the sources must not substantially duplicate materials to be covered in class. More information will be provided by the instructor. Each paper is worth 10 percent of the overall course grade. The first paper is due Tuesday, January 23, and the second paper is due Tuesday, February 13.

 

3) Working in teams of three or four, students will research and prepare in-class presentations on an important figure in the history of polar exploration. Students will select the historical figure themselves, and the individual must be someone we have not covered extensively in class. The presentations should be 20 minutes in duration, and they must consist of photographs, maps, quotes from primary sources, and/or other historical materials. The presentation should also situate/contextualize the figure in the history of polar exploration. More information will be provided by the instructor. Presentations will be made in class on Thursday, February 22. The presentation is worth 20 percent of the course grade.

 

4) Students will write a final paper, 9-10 pages in length, on any aspect of polar exploration that has not already been covered in class. More information will be provided. The final paper is due on Monday, March 11, and it is worth 30 percent of the course grade.

 

 

REQUIRED READINGS

There are two required books. Please acquire copies if you have not done so already.

 

Elizabeth Kolbert and Francis Spufford, eds., The Ends of the Earth: An Anthology of the Finest Writing on the Arctic and the Antarctic (New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2007)

 

Anthony Brandt, The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage (New York: Anchor Books, 2010)

 

In addition, you will be reading a selection of articles, excerpts, letters, and other materials, all of which are either posted on the Canvas course page or available online. You will be reading up to—and in some cases significantly more than—a hundred pages each week. This may seem like a lot, but written work is the foundation of historical inquiry. Completion of the reading assignments is vital to your success in the course. When doing the readings, please do not simply read the words in an effort to get it over with as quickly as possible. Engage your critical thinking skills and, in the case of primary sources, identify the purpose of the work, its scope, intended audience, author’s motivation, and so on. When reading a secondary source, identify the author’s argument, evidence, sources, and so on. Keep a note pad handy and jot down important themes from the readings, then refer to your notes during class discussions. The reading load will vary from week to week, so please look ahead in the syllabus and plan accordingly.

 

 

ATTENDANCE POLICY

Class attendance is required. I acknowledge students may be absent on occasion for a variety of reasons, and all I ask is that you contact me before (if possible) or as soon as possible after the class you missed. During these trying and uncertain times, I am fully prepared to extend deadlines when warranted. Students should prioritize their physical and mental health. If you anticipate or encounter a problem (illness, injury, family crisis, etc.), it is always useful to contact the professor promptly. I respect your privacy and will do what I can to try to reasonably accommodate your situation.

 

 

COURSE SCHEDULE

Please note the course schedule is subject to revision. Any changes to the schedule will be announced in class and posted on the Canvas site. It is the student’s responsibility to keep apprised of the course schedule. All readings, assignments, and other materials will be posted to that week’s Module on Canvas. Please get in the habit of checking Modules on a regular basis so that you remain aware of all assignments.

 

Week 1: Introduction to the Course

Thursday, January 4:

Andrew Mahoney et al., “Sea-Ice Distribution in the Bering and Chukchi Seas: Information from Historical Whaleships’ Logbooks and Journals” Arctic 64, No. 4 (December 2011), 465-77.

 

Adriana Craciun, “The Frozen Ocean” PMLA 125, No. 3 (May 2010), 693-702.

 

 

Week 2: The Polar Regions and the Explorers

Tuesday, January 9:

Adrian Howkins, The Polar Regions: An Environmental History (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016), Introduction and Chapters 1-3.

 

Thursday, January 11:

With the exception of the DeLong excerpt that is posted on Canvas, all selections below are from Elizabeth Kolbert and Francis Spufford, eds., The Ends of the Earth: An Anthology of the Finest Writing on the Arctic and the Antarctic (New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2007)

 

The Arctic:

Elizabeth Kolbert, Introduction, pp. 1-6.

 

John Franklin, “The Extreme Misery of the Whole Party,” pp. 7-10.

 

Elisha Kent Kane, “The Return of Light,” pp. 11-13.

 

Chauncey Loomis, “Murder in the Arctic?” pp. 14-29.

 

Salomon August Andrée, “Andrée’s Second Diary,” pp. 58-61.

 

Hinrich Rink, “Kasiagsak, The Great Liar,” pp. 71-75.

 

Knud Rasmussen, “Songs of the Inuit,” pp. 76-81.

 

Gontran De Poncins, “Kabloona,” pp. 88-98.

 

Tété-Michel Kpomassie, “A Greenland Christmas,” pp. 99-111.

 

Valerian Albanov, “Land Ho!” pp. 127-33.

 

George W. DeLong, “The Voyage of the Jeannette,” in The North Pole: A Narrative History, Anthony Brandt, ed. (Washington, DC: National Geographic Adventure Classics, 2005), 292-302.

 

The Antarctic:

Francis Spufford, Introduction, pp. 1-11

 

Frederick A. Cook, “Into the Night,” pp. 13-27

 

Edward Wilson, “Sledge Dogs and Englishmen,” pp. 33-42

 

Ernest Shackleton, “Farthest South,” pp. 43-54

 

Nobu Shirase, “Lt. Shirase’s Calling Card,” pp. 55-62.

 

 

Week 3: The Northwest Passage

Tuesday, January 16:

Anthony Brandt, The Man Who Ate His Boots, Introduction and Chapters 1-12 (pages 3-220)

 

Thursday, January 18:

Wilma Belden Fairchild, “Explorers: Men and Motives,” Geographical Review 38, No. 3 (July 1948), 414-25.

 

Adriana Craciun, “Writing the Disaster: Franklin and Frankenstein,” Nineteenth-Century Literature 65, No. 4 (March 2011), 433-80.

 

 

Week 4: The Northwest Passage, cont.

Tuesday, January 23:

Anthony Brandt, The Man Who Ate His Boots, Chapters 13-20 and Epilogue (pages 225-396)

First primary source analysis paper due at the start of class.

 

Thursday, January 25:

W. Gillies Ross, “The Type and Number of Expeditions in the Franklin Search 1847–1859,” Arctic 55, No. 1 (March 2002), 57-69.

 

Margaret Atwood, Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature (Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 1996), Chapter 2: “Concerning Franklin and His Gallant Crew.”

 

 

Week 5: Peary and Cook

Tuesday, January 30:

Robert Peary, “We Reach the Pole” in Kolbert and Spufford, eds., The Ends of the Earth, 62-70.

 

Matthew Henson, “A Negro Explorer at the North Pole,” in The North Pole: A Narrative History, Anthony Brandt, ed. (Washington, DC: National Geographic Adventure Classics, 2005), 394-98.

 

Frederick A. Cook, “My Attainment of the Pole,” in The North Pole: A Narrative History, Anthony Brandt, ed. (Washington, DC: National Geographic Adventure Classics, 2005), 372-93.

 

Michael F. Robinson, “Frederick Cook: A Reappraisal,” in North By Degree: New Perspectives on Arctic Exploration, Susan A. Kaplan and Robert McCracken Peck, eds. (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2013), 49-62.

 

Lyle Dick, “Robert Peary’s North Polar Narratives and the Making of an American Icon,” American Studies 45, No. 2 (Summer 2004), 5-34.

 

Emma Bonanomi, “To Be Black and American: Matthew Henson and His Post-Pole Lecture Tour, 1909–10,” in North By Degree: New Perspectives on Arctic Exploration, Susan A. Kaplan and Robert McCracken Peck, eds. (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2013), 185-209.

 

Lisa Bloom, Gender on Ice: American Ideologies of Polar Expeditions (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), Chapter 1: “Nationalism on Ice: Technology and Masculinity at the North Pole.”

 

Thursday, February 1:

No class. Each student will have a 20-minute, one-on-one conference with instructor to discuss final paper topics, sources, and progress to date. Meeting times will be open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week, and a schedule will be made available as the date gets closer.

 

 

Week 6: Nansen and Amundsen

Tuesday, February 6-Thursday, February 8:

Roald Amundsen, The North West Passage, Being the Record of a Voyage of Exploration of the Ship “Gjöa” 19031907, Volumes 1 and 2 (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1908). [Note: Complete copies of Amundsen’s book are available online at Google Books, HathiTrust, and probably other websites. You will read two chapters for this assignment. First, everyone will read Volume 2, Chapter 10: The North West Passage. Next, please choose one additional chapter from either Volume 1 or Volume 2, read it, and come to class prepared to tell your classmates about it. This is an experiment to see if together we can read and discuss both books more or less in their entirety.]

 

Kjell-G. Kjaer, “The Arctic vessel Gjøa,” Polar Record 41, No. 4 (September 2005), 355-61.

 

Fridtjof Nansen, “The Winter Night,” in Kolbert and Spufford, eds., The Ends of the Earth, 45-57.

 

Peter Schledermann, “The Fram: Profile of a Famous Polar Exploration Vessel,” Arctic 42, No. 4 (December 1989), 384-87.

 

Jeannette Mirsky, To the Arctic! The Story of Northern Exploration from Earliest Times (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934), chapter 16.

 

 

Week 7: The South Pole

Tuesday, February 13-Thursday, February 15:

Second primary source analysis paper due on Tuesday, February 13

 

Roald Amundsen, “Topsy-Turvy,” in Kolbert and Spufford, eds., The Ends of the Earth, 78-85.

 

Robert Falcon Scott, “Tragedy All Along the Line,” in Kolbert and Spufford, eds., The Ends of the Earth, 86-96.

 

Apsley Cherry-Garrard, “The Winter Journey,” in The Worst Journey in the World. [Note: This is Chapter 7 in Cherry-Garrard’s book, first published in 1922. There are many digital copies available online at Google Books, HathiTrust, and probably other websites. Please locate one and read this chapter. Be sure you are reading Chapter 7: The Winter Journey. There are other chapters with similar titles, such as ‘The Depot Journey,’ ‘The Polar Journey,’ ‘The Search Journey,’ and so on.]

 

Francis Spufford, “Scott Dies,” in Kolbert and Spufford, eds., The Ends of the Earth, 97-101.

 

Douglas Mawson, “Mawson Lives,” in Kolbert and Spufford, eds., The Ends of the Earth, 102-08.

 

Carolyn Strange, “Reconsidering the ‘Tragic’ Scott Expedition: Cheerful Masculine Home-making in Antarctica, 1910–1913,” Journal of Social History 46, No. 1 (Fall 2012), 66-88.

 

 

Week 8: Perceptions of the Poles

Tuesday, February 20:

Vilhjalmur Stefansson, “Some Erroneous Ideas of Arctic Geography,” Geographical Review 12, no. 2 (April 1922), 264-77.

 

Jenny Diski, “Cabin 532,” in Kolbert and Spufford, eds., The Ends of the Earth, 162-72.

 

Andrea Barrett, “See the Esquimaux,” in Kolbert and Spufford, eds., The Ends of the Earth, 30-36.

 

Robert McCracken Peck, “Arctic Imagery and Decorative Arts,” in North By Degree: New Perspectives on Arctic Exploration, Susan A. Kaplan and Robert McCracken Peck, eds. (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2013), 291-318.

 

Helen Reddick, “The Polar Trek and the Children’s Book,” in North By Degree: New Perspectives on Arctic Exploration, Susan A. Kaplan and Robert McCracken Peck, eds. (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2013), 319-32.

 

Thursday, February 22:

Small-group presentations

 

 

Week 9: Science at the Poles

Tuesday, February 27-Thursday, February 29:

Christy Collis and Klaus Dodds, “Assault on the Unknown: The Historical and Political Geographies of the International Geophysical Year (1957–8),” Journal of Historical Geography 34 (2008), 555-73.

 

Dian Olson Belanger, Deep Freeze: The United States, the International Geophysical Year, and the Origins of Antarctica’s Age of Science (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2006), Chapter 12: “Life on the Ice: The Experience.”

 

Ross Coen, Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil: The Epic Voyage of the SS Manhattan through the Northwest Passage (Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2012), Chapters 5-7.

 

 

Week 10: Review and Catch-up

Tuesday, March 5-Thursday, March 7:

Readings TBD

 

 

FINAL EXAM WEEK:

Our final exam period is Monday, March 11, 10:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m. Your final paper is due at that time. You may submit your paper in class or via email. No final exam will be given in the course, but students are invited to join the instructor at that time to watch a movie about polar exploration—something like ‘Nanook of the North,’ Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Gold Rush,’ or John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing.’ We will decide the film by popular vote. Snacks will be provided by the instructor. Attendance at the film screening is not required.

 

Catalog Description:
Introduction to the discipline of history for new or prospective majors. Emphasizes the basic skills of reading, analysis, and communication (both verbal and written) that are central to the historian's craft. Each seminar discusses a different subject or problem.
GE Requirements Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Credits:
5.0
Status:
Active
Last updated:
July 15, 2024 - 5:32 pm