Course syllabus

Summary information is provided below. For the full programme, download or view the course syllabus here


History 737 / Rethinking History


Contact Information

Joseph Zizek

Room 735, Arts 1


Phone: (09) 923-8852 or ext 88852 (on campus)

Office Hours (Semester 1): Th 1-3pm, Fri 1-2pm and by appointment

Office Hours (Semester 2): TBA


Class Times

History 737 students are expected to attend class on the dates listed in the seminar schedule. Please note that location is subject to change, so please confirm via SSO prior to the first meeting and in-between Semester 1 and Semester 2. The room may change between semesters.

Location:   Room 107 Pacific Studies (273-107 Fale)

Time:        Th 10am-12pm

Although Hist 737 is considered a full-year course, it does not meet each week. Instead, the course meets at approximately fortnightly intervals in Semester 1 and Semester 2. History 780 (Dissertation workshop) meets in those weeks when there is no Hist 737 seminar. Hist 737 also concludes earlier than the other full-year 700 level courses in History; this is intentional, and designed to balance student workloads as best as possible across the year. It is vital to make sure that you have the dates of all class meetings entered on your calendar.


Introduction and Objectives

Hist 737 is a compulsory course for the Honours programme and a valuable prelude for those embarking on MA or PhD research. This course offers an intensive introduction to key issues in the theory and practice of history, and is meant to expose you to different ways of posing research questions, thinking about historical sources, and choosing what sort of history you might write. Hist 737 is intended to be a challenging learning experience; it will require a commensurate investment of time and effort in order for you to gain the maximum benefit from readings, discussions, and coursework.

Hist 737 focuses on the controversies and consequences stemming from an array of scholarly influences sometimes dubbed the ‘linguistic turn’. It is probably more accurate to say that there has been not one but several ‘linguistic turns’ in recent historical practice, and each has generated profound dispute within the discipline. As a result, our course readings range from classic articles (sometimes several decades old) to newer works illustrating recent trends in scholarship, all of which throw into sharp relief the myriad ways in which historical knowledge is conditioned and produced. Hist 737 cannot offer an exhaustive survey of key historiographical controversies, but it does seek to illuminate how and why, over the past four decades, issues of language, culture, and interpretation have led scholars dramatically to ‘rethink’ historical practice and chart new directions in the writing of history.

Our readings and discussions this year will examine critiques of historical epistemology, appraise different linguistic and cultural approaches, assess the nature of historical narratives, and explore experimental approaches to doing history in the aftermath of the linguistic turn(s). The course touches upon questions that often generate anxiety in the profession (and sometimes in the public): Is there such a thing as historical ‘truth’, particularly in the aftermath of new ways of thinking about texts and language? Is historical knowledge ‘discovered’—or is it created by the historian? What are the appropriate relationships between ‘history’ and ‘theory’? What role does the historian play in writing history? Should scholars embrace alternative modes of historical practice and, if so, what kinds?

The purpose of this course is not to provide you with ready-made answers to such questions—it’s arguable whether the discipline has any—but instead to give you the knowledge and confidence to tackle them in your own work. What you learn in Hist 737 is intended to be transferable to your other courses and to your research projects: the key objective of the course is to make you self-aware about how historians ‘do history’ and self-critical about your own preconceptions concerning history and the past.   To accomplish this, the specific aims of the course include:

  • introducing you to significant recent debates over historical theory, method, and practice.
  • training you to evaluate and specifically engage with historians’ arguments, methods, and theoretical approaches.
  • encouraging you to greater reflexivity towards the ways that historical knowledge is constructed and represented.
  • fostering ‘information literacy’ by enabling you to locate, critically evaluate, and employ information from a variety of sources (print as well as electronic)
  • refining your ability to offer coherent arguments—both oral and written—about the theory and practice of history

 Academic Expectations

  1. Late policy

In fairness to students who meet course deadlines, all unexcused late submissions will be penalised. Extensions for medical, religious, or compassionate reasons are willingly granted, but require advance approval from the instructor.

2. Academic responsibility

Plagiarism—appropriating, as one’s own, the ideas or words of another—is an extremely serious breach of trust, which will be dealt with according to University regulations. The University’s official Plagiarism Warning Notice reads as follows:

'The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework and examinations as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student’s own work, reflecting his or her learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the world-wide web.'

You can find further information, including the University’s Academic Integrity policies, at:


In conformity with the University’s academic guidelines, History 737 enforces the policy of computerised review of student submissions via Turnitin, which is the University-subscribed anti-plagiarism service. Turnitin submission is done through Canvas (see appendix if you have never used Canvas before). Turnitin submission is mandatory: if your essays are not submitted, you will not receive a grade in the course. It is imperative that you contact the instructor, in advance, if for any reason you are unable to meet the Turnitin requirement.

Coursework and Assessment

  1. Coursework Grade Distribution and Due Dates

Evaluation is entirely dependent on coursework, which consists of one essay each semester. Please hand in your essays at the Faculty of Arts (Arts 1) to ensure a stamp with time and date of receipt. Please do not hand essays to the lecturer or email them unless you have made special arrangements in advance. Attach to your essay a completed and signed Cover Sheet, which you can generate via Canvas.

All coursework essays must conform to History’s conventions for references and bibliography. These are explained in the ‘History Coursework Guide’, which can be accessed via the ‘Disciplinary Area Forms’ section at:

Grades are distributed as follows:                 

  • 40% = Semester 1 Essay, 3,000 words, due 4 pm, Friday, 16 June
  • 60% = Final essay, 5,000 words, due 4 pm, Friday, 22 September


IMPORTANT NOTE: All written coursework must be submitted in two formats

1) as hardcopy handed in on the assigned due date

2) as computer file uploaded to Turnitin (via Canvas) within 72 hours of the hardcopy submission. Essay grades will not be awarded until Turn-it-in submission is confirmed.

Please note that although there is no formal mark assigned to seminar attendance, it is expected that you will contribute energetically and attend regularly. Seminars are an essential part of the learning experience and absences for other than medical or compassionate reasons will not be tolerated. More than three (3) unexcused seminar absences constitutes failure to fulfill the course requirements.

Since Hist 737 is a postgraduate seminar, the coursework final marks are provisional pending external assessment, which is carried out in mid-November each year.

 2. Seminars

Hist 737 is run in a seminar format oriented towards discussion rather than the presentation of ‘seminar papers’, which are generally stressful to the presenter and unbearably stodgy to the audience. The opening weeks of the course are devoted to group discussion moderated by the instructor, but most classes will be led by students working in small groups (2-4 students per week, depending on enrolment). Students in charge of presenting during a given week should consider themselves to be the local ‘experts’. Experts should take as their main goal the facilitation of discussion; this means that experts should not reiterate or summarise the arguments or content of the seminar readings (please assume that everyone has read them). Presenters should instead generate a series of discussion points and/or questions designed to elicit their colleagues’ reflections on the given reading. In the past, experts have occasionally done a modest amount of external reading, but this is purely optional. All class experts should adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Each group (not each individual member of the group) is required to provide a handout to serve as discussion aid for classmates. Handouts should not exceed one double-sided sheet (not including images) and should be cleared in advance with the instructor.
  • At the experts’ discretion, the handout can be used to summarise main issues, raise questions for debate, or otherwise assist in understanding key themes for discussion.
  • Experts are welcome to use tools or technological resources to stimulate discussion. Our seminar room is equipped with computing facilities, a flatscreen monitor, and a smart whiteboard, and the instructor is happy to assist in setup and operation. If class experts require other equipment, the instructor can book it on request.
  • To ensure equitable participation, experts’ presentations should not exceed 20 minutes before giving way to dialogue involving the entire class. Experts will receive a warning two (2) minutes before reaching the 20-minute limit. Presentations that exceed 20 minutes will be terminated by the instructor in favour of round-table class discussion.

Remember: The point of the seminar is to exchange ideas through vigorous discussion. Within the constraints listed above, experts are free to run their class session in any manner they see fit—round-table discussions, group exercises, mock debates, etc.—provided only that their choice generates worthwhile, directed discussion that involves the entire class.

Course summary:

Date Details