Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Realization and a Question

A Realization and a Question



I fall behind in my Ancient/Medieval survey. Always. I just realized why. It's the Punic Wars. There is no good reason in a survey course to go into detail about them. The important things for the survey are that they help to solidify Rome's control over the Med and leave Rome with issues I need to talk about, like latifundia, the Gracchi and land reform, social upheaval, changes in the makeup of the army -- all that stuff. But ... Punic Wars, people!

How could I not talk about Punic Wars II: The Wrath of the Barcas?? How could I not talk about -- the war elephants??? How could I not talk about the brilliance of Rome's expanding through the quite sensible defense of her friends? How could I not talk about the political brilliance of granting proconsular imperium to P. Cornelius Scipio -- and the problems that tweaking the mos maiorum eventually causes??

Yes, it's a survey class. But you know, there should also be some good stories in history, because it's the stories that are part of the fun. Maybe it's because my research really is all about dry stuff and adding pieces to a puzzle -- intellectually, it's a challenge, and I find it satisfying. And I love teaching students to tease information out of primary sources. But although they will probably retain some of the skills I teach them, it's the stories that the non-majors will remember. So they should be good ones. I guess I should start planning time for the Punic Wars into my syllabus.

So I also have a question: Does anyone else find that there are some stories they just have to tell, even in a survey class?

9 comments:

Jonathan Dresner said...

Oh, absolutely. For me, it's intellectual and religious history. I get hung up on the Reformation, Scientific Revolution, the Quantum revolution, the Enlightenment. And the Hideyoshi invasions of Korea.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Mine are Black Death stories. Now, the Black Death is important, of course, but I probably go a little overboard! I also like telling crazy-lady-saints-drinking-the-pus-from-Christ's-wounds stories. I guess I just like to gross my students out. ;-)

Kirsten said...

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Steph said...

This is my 12 year-old boy mentality emerging, but when I first read your post I thought you were talking about puBic wars. It totally made my day.

What Now? said...

I'm in a completely different field, of course, but I do teach survey classes, and I've finally made peace with the fact that I'm just not going to cover everything anyway, so I may as well spend more time on the things I like. So I spend a heck of a lot of time on the Progressives, basically skip World War I, and spend as little time as possible post-1960. And this doesn't seem any more unreasonable than my colleagues who spend most of their time post-1960 and skip the Progressives. All survey courses are by their very nature incomplete, so have fun!

Rebecca said...

I get caught up in the blood and gore...like George Percy capturing a weroansqua and her children, clubbing the children and dumping their unconscious bodies in the James River to drown, and then marching their mother back to Jamestown where the English brutally execute her. Yep, love those stories. Makes students who poo-poo English brutality sit up straight in their chairs, I tell you.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

That's not my Steph, is it?

Greg said...

Obviously, I spent more time on the Merovingians than is probably healthy, but the books go from Clovis to Charlemagne! That's no good. Blood and gore is always good for students, so I spent a while on the Terror, even though it's less important than other parts of the Revolution.

timna said...

I TA-d for a class on war and literature. It was a war-a-week with a Regents professor doing the lecturing. Sometimes I think we got to TA to learn how great classes are taught -- and it was pretty much all stories in that one.