So I think I'm done with this. Things may change a bit, depending on getting permissions to use films and texts here, but I am happy with this. What do you think?
HIST401*: Topics in History
History vs. Pseudo-history:
Ancient Vikings, Ancient Chinese and Ancient Aliens in Canada
[Standard contact info redacted]
In this 12-week senior seminar, students will explore the prevalence of pseudo-history and pseudo-archeology in Canadian popular media (books, television, web). The course aims to provide students with critical tools to identify and debunk these attractive and pervasive modern myths. Popular media, especially television, is filled with wild claims of secret origins, hidden discoveries and forgotten ancestors. From ancient aliens to destroyed civilizations, we are used to being told we have been either lied to by governments or that scientists wilfully blind themselves to the “truth”. Why does history and archeology so easily inspire endless theories about aliens, lost civilizations, dark conspiracies, apocalyptic predictions, and mysterious technologies? How do we tell the truth from the bunk?
One of the most useable definitions of pseudo-history comes from (yes) Wikipedia: “Pseudohistory is a pejorative term applied to a type of historical revisionism, often involving sensational claims whose acceptance would require rewriting a significant amount of commonly accepted history, and based on methods that depart from standard historiographical conventions.” In this course, we will try to understand how this fallacy works.
Students will become familiar with the most common of these theories and unpack the real, evidence-based ones from the confabulations of pseudo-historians and pseudo-archeologists: the numerous purported Viking, Welsh and Irish landings on the Eastern sea-board, the claimed extra-terrestrial influence on First Nation cultures, the "secret" histories of various Canadian political entities, the supposed Chinese colonization of Cape Breton, among others.
Using critical, analytical tools commonly weld by historians, anthropologists, archaeologists and ethnologists, students will better understand the ways in which these ideas emerge and evolve in popular culture and public consciousness. More importantly, students will explore the many reasons why these hoaxes and pseudo-mysteries become and remain prevalent. More importantly, this course aims to explain why pseudo-science can so easily disguise itself as scholarly work in popular media.
To the extent possible, this course will operate in a seminar format, emphasizing discussion and minimizing lectures, though there will be short presentations during most sessions. Students will have three principal assignments in this class. First, each student will prepare a short paper presenting and analyzing a common pseudo-historical myth from a given list. Second, each student will prepare a short paper presenting a pseudo-historical myth of their own invention, explaining critically how their fallacy could become popularly known. Third, each student will be responsible for participating in the online weekly discussions on Moodle. As in all seminars, in-class participation will also be part of your final mark.
Myth Summary, 20%, Week 5
Create-a-Myth, 20%, Week 12
Online Discussion, 10x5%=50%, Week 3 to week 12
In-class Participation, 10%, All semester
Full assignment descriptions and guidelines will be posted on Moodle and explained in class.
•Myth Summary (5th week): Pick one theory from set list and present its original inception and origins; provide hypotheses as to why it remains popular despite being debunked.
•Create-a-Myth (12th week): Create a pseudo-historical theory and explain the process and details needed to make it fully believable in popular media.
•Online discussion (from 3rd week to 12th week): Weekly questions. One entry per week minimum in the Moodle weekly forum.
•In-class participation (every week): Diligence in reading and active in-class discussion.
Books to purchase:
• Garrett G. Fagan, ed. Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public. (Abingdon, UK and New York: Routledge, 2006).
• Feder, Kenneth L. Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. 8th edition. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2013).
• Fritze, Ronald H. Invented Knowledge: False History, Fake Science and Pseudo-religions (New York: Reaktion Books, 2009).
All other weekly readings will be accessible through Moodle.
WARNING ABOUT THE WEEKLY READINGS:
The weekly readings on Moodle are comprised of both serious, well-researched, academic works, AND fringe theories, pseudo-histories, bunk-filled speculations and sheer delusions. Nevertheless, the two types of writings are at times remarkably difficult to distinguish. In this course, we will endeavour to separate them. Be warned!
Academic Integrity Statement: [standard copy]
Disability Accommodations : [stardard copy]
Late Assignments, Extensions, and Rewrites: [standard copy]
Weekly Themes, schedule, readings:
1. Introduction to the course: concepts and caveats
Please try to read:
• Gulyas, Aaron, “History, Pseudohistory, and the Survey Classroom”, paper presented at the 2013 Midwest Popular Culture Association Meeting, St. Louis, MO, http://www.ajgulyas.com/papers-and-presentations/history-pseudohistory-and-the-survey-classroom/#_ftn7
2. Pseudo-histories: So attractive, so wrong
• Read the Gulyas article above.
• H. E. Legrand and Wayne E. Boese, “Chariots of the Gods? And All That: Pseudo-History in the Classroom”, The History Teacher, Vol. 8, No. 3 (May, 1975), pp. 359-370
• Benjamin Kelly, “Deviant ancient histories: Dan Brown, Erich von Daniken and the sociology of historical polemic”, Rethinking History, Vol. 12, No. 3, September 2008, 361–382.
• DOUGLAS ALLCHIN, “Pseudohistory and Pseudoscience”, Science & Education, 13 (2004): 179–195.
3. A history of pseudo-histories I: National narratives
• Stefan Berger, “On the Role of Myths and History in the Construction of National Identity in Modern Europe”, European History Quarterly, Vol. 39(3), 490–502.
• Bettina Arnold (2006). “Pseudoarchaeology and nationalism. Essentializing Difference”, Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public (Ed: Garrett G. Fagan) (Abingdon, UK and New York: Routledge), p. 154-179.
•Feder, Kenneth L., Konstantin Sheiko and Stephen Brown) ‘Pseudo History/Weird History: Nationalism and the Internet,’ History Compass, 7, (6), November 2009
4. A history of pseudo-histories II: History before/beside professionalization
• Wright, Donald A., The professionalization of history in English Canada, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), p. 3-27.
• William D Rubinstein, Shadow Pasts: 'Amateur Historians' and History's Mysteries. (New York: Routledge, 2007), chap. 1 (“Introduction”).
• Fagan, Garrett G. (2006). "Preface". Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public (Ed: Garrett G. Fagan) (Abingdon, UK and New York: Routledge). pp. xvii-xix.
• Feder, Kenneth L. (2006). “Skeptics, fence sitters, and true believers: student acceptance of an improbable prehistory”. Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public (Ed: Garrett G. Fagan) (Abingdon, UK and New York: Routledge). pp. 71-95.
5. Ancient Explorers? St. Brendan and the like
• Feder, Kenneth L. Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. 8th edition. (McGraw-Hill 2013). chap 5.
• T. J. Oleson, “BRENDAN, SAINT,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 26, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/brendan_saint_1E.html.
• Jude S. Mackley, The Legend of St. Brendan: A Comparative Study of the Latin and Anglo-Norman Versions. BRILL, 2008, p. 43-68.
• David B. Quinn, “MADOC,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 26, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/madoc_1E.html.
• Fagan, Garrett G. (2006). "Preface". Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public (Ed: Garrett G. Fagan) (Abingdon, UK and New York: Routledge). pp. xvii–xix.
6. Ancient Explorers? Vikings, the real and the fake
• Feder, Kenneth L. Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. 8th edition. (McGraw-Hill 2013). chap 6.
• Wallace, Brigitta, ed.. Where is Vinland? http://www.canadianmysteries.ca/sites/vinland/home/indexen.html
• Palmer, Craig T., Wolff, Benjamin and Cassidy, Chris. “Cultural Heritage Tourism along the Viking Trail: An Analysis of Tourist Brochures for Attractions on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland.”, Newfoundland & Labrador Studies. Fall 2008, Vol. 23 Issue 2, p. 215-230.
7. Ancient Explorers? The Chinese and The Island of Seven Cities
Film in class: Mysterious Ruins: Cape Breton (2006, Ellis Entertainment, approx. 50 min)
• Chiasson, Paul. The Island of Seven Cities. Vintage Canada (2007), p. 1-24.
• Harrold, Francis B. and Eve, Raymond A. (1987). "Preface". Cult Archaeology & Creationism: Understanding Pseudoarchaeological Beliefs about the Past (Iowa: University of Iowa Press). pp. ix–xii.
• Fritze, Ronald H. (2009). Invented Knowledge: False History, Fake Science and Pseudo-religions. Reaktion Books, chapter 2.
• Wade, Geoff, ed. 1421 Exposed, http://www.1421exposed.com/
8. Secret History? Ancestors, Indian Princesses and Disgraced Nobles
• Allen B. Robertson. "'In a glass clearly': Genealogy, History and the Professional Researcher", Nova Scotia Historical Review, 15:2(1995)
• William Cronon, “Loving History”, Perspectives on History, April 2012, <http://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/april-2012/loving-history>
• John P. DuLong, « The Origins of the Acadian Michel Forest ». Acadian Genealogical Exchange, 27, no 4 (oct. 1998): 103-121; extended article at <habitant.org/forest/index.html>
• Lambert, Robert D. «Looking for Genealogical Motivation». Families, 34, no 3 (1995): 149-160.
9. Secret History? Oak Island
Film in class: excerpt from Ancient Aliens, season 1, episode 4, “Closer Encounters” (approx. 10 minutes).
• Robertson, A. B. (1996). “Oak Island Secrets”. Nova Scotia Historical Review, 16(1), 163-176.
• Joltes, R. "A Critical Analysis of the Oak Island Legend." History, Hoax, and Hype: The Oak Island Legend. Critical Enquiry, last updated 2012. <http://www.criticalenquiry.org/oakisland/analysis.shtml>
10. Ancient Aliens? Influencing First Nations since 10000 BCE?
Film in class: Indians and Aliens, season 1, episode 1 (22 minutes).
• Feder, Kenneth L. Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. 8th edition. (McGraw-Hill 2013). chap 9.
• Andrew Hind, “Ojibwa Tale of a 'Skyman' Visitor May Have Been Alien”, UFO Casebook, http://www.ufocasebook.com/2012/skyman.html
• m_spicer, “Ancient Alien Theory and BC Coast First Nations People”, InfoBarrel, http://www.infobarrel.com/Ancient_Aliens_Theory_and_BC_Coast_First_Nations_People
• Coppens, Philippe, The Ancient Alien Question (Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books, 2012), chap. 8.
11. Ancient Aliens? Mysterious Ruins, or not
• Kenyon, J. Douglas “Exposing a Scientific Cover-Up: Forbidden Archeology Co-Author Michael Cremo Talks about the 'Knowledge Filter' and Other Means for Cooking the Academic Books”, in Kenyon, J. Douglas, ed. Forbidden History. Prehistoric Technologies, Extraterrestrial Intervention, and the Suppressed Origins of Civilization. Bear & Company, 2009.
• Feder, Kenneth L. Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. 8th edition. (McGraw-Hill 2013). chap. 7.
• Robert C. Mainfort, Jr., and Mary L. Kwas, “THE BAT CREEK STONE: JUDEANS IN TENNESSEE?”, Tennessee Anthropologist, Vol. XVI, No. 1, Spring 1991
12. Wrapping up. Why all the bunk?
• Karl Banse, “Mermaids – Their Biology, Culture and Demise”, Limnology and Oceanography, 35.1 (1990), p. 148-153.
• Feder, Kenneth L. Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. 8th edition. (McGraw-Hill 2013). chap 13.
• Michael D. Gordin, “Where Are the Pseudohistory Wars?” History News Network blog, 31 December 2012, http://hnn.us/article/14986
• Fagan, Garrett G. (2006). "Conclusion". Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public (Ed: Garrett G. Fagan) (Abingdon, UK and New York: Routledge). pp. 362-367.