This hands-on interdisciplinary undergraduate seminar is for students who want to think about what a book is and how to read one. Readings include historical and literary narratives of reading by Cervantes, Richardson, Franklin, Sterne, Ellison, and Bradbury, together with paper-making, printing, and research exercises in Harvard library and museum collections. Jointly taught by Jill Lepore (History) and Leah Price (English).
History 97 is a team-taught introduction to the discipline of history. It is required for all sophomore History concentrators. Six different seminars are offered. In each, over the course of the term, you will explore the historian’s craft by studying and practicing a particular method. In my seminar, we will consider the methods used by biographers. Biographers write histories of lives. Their storytelling is often novelistic but their standards of evidence are those of the historian. They confront distinctive questions: What lives are worth writing? Read more about Historical Methods | History 97i | What is Biography?
A survey of the field, with an emphasis on the range of interdisciplinary methods in the humanities, history, and social sciences. Required of first and second-year graduate students in American Studies and open to others by permission of the instructor.
The course is designed primarily for students interested in further study in the field, but all students are welcome. We cover topics, from the seventeenth- to the twenty-first century, in political, social, intellectual, and cultural history. Students read both primary and secondary materials, and receive intensive guidance for their writing. Taught jointly by Jill Lepore (History) and Louis Menand (English). Note: Ninety-minute lecture-discussion, plus one-hour section led by the instructors.
This hands-on research seminar and conference course will take you out of the classroom and into the archives. An intensive study of the political, cultural, literary, and social history of the American Revolution, with an emphasis on Boston from the Writs of Assistance, in 1761 to the British evacuation of the city, in 1776. The class includes field trips to Boston and Cambridge historic sites, archives, museums, and graveyards.
The seminar investigates Charles Dickens’s visit to the United States in 1842. Readings will include Dickens’s bitter and controversial account of that trip, American Notes; an American parody called English Notes; Dickens’s American novel, Martin Chuzzlewit; and accounts of his visit by Americans, in diaries, letters, and newspapers. We’ll also read other antebellum travel narratives, including those of Frances Trollope and Alexis de Tocqueville, and, after a field trip, we’ll write some Dickensian travel narratives of our own.
An intensive writing workshop for history graduate students across field groups. Readings consist of essays on historical writing and samples of particularly effective prose. The purpose of the readings is to help you think about how and maybe even why you want to write about the past. The work of the course consists of weekly writing assignments that we will together critique in class, paying special attention not only to standards of evidence and modes of argument but also to plot, character, and storytelling.
In 1800, Thomas Jefferson ran against the incumbent, John Adams, in arguably the most important presidential election in American history. Students in this seminar will re-visit the election by researching the debate, state by state, in newspapers, political pamphlets, and the private letters of politicians and political observers. Meanwhile, as the semester progresses, we will watch the current presidential election unfold, giving us ample opportunity to contrast contemporary political rhetoric with the charged campaigning of two centuries past.
“The Secret History of Wonder Woman is as racy, as improbable, as awesomely righteous, and as filled with curious devices as an episode of the comic book itself. In the nexus of feminism and popular culture, Jill Lepore has found a revelatory chapter of American history. I will never look at Wonder Woman’s bracelets the same way again.” —Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home
“Jill Lepore’s obsessively researched book on Wonder Woman, the four-color embodiment of the women’s rights movement, reveals that the life of the character’s creator, Dr. William Marston—inventor of the lie detector, charming crank, ardent feminist and secret polygamist—was waaay more colorful than any comic book superhero. Suffering Sappho!” —Art Spiegelman, author of Maus
“An absolutely unputdownable book. The life history of polymath charlatan and/or genius (I couldn’t ever decide) William Moulton Marston, who worked his way through law, movie scenarios, lie detection, ménages a trois, free love, BDSM and polygamy before creating the first feminist super-person had me saying ‘wow’ practically every other page. And that’s not even mentioning the tough-as-nails women he exalted, lifted from and, uh, shared who make up the molten core of this newly-revealed story. Rocketing from the suffragism of the 1910s to the ERA of the 1970s on a wave of home-spun pop culture righteousness, this story’s head-spinning weirdness ultimately makes you question your own accomplishments, aims, and—almost like a great modern novel—your real motives.” —Chris Ware, author of Jimmy Corrigan
From the publisher:
A riveting work of historical detection revealing that the origins of one the world’s most iconic superheroes hides within it a fascinating family story—and a crucial history of twentieth-century feminism.
Wonder Woman, created in 1941, is the most popular female superhero of all time. Aside from Superman and Batman, no superhero has lasted as long or commanded so vast and wildly passionate a following. Like every other superhero, Wonder Woman has a secret identity. Unlike every other superhero, she has also has a secret history.
Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore has uncovered an astonishing trove of documents, including the never-before-seen private papers of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator. Beginning in his undergraduate years at Harvard, Marston was influenced by early suffragists and feminists, starting with Emmeline Pankhurst, who was banned by from speaking on campus in 1911, when Marston was a freshman. In the 1920s, Marston and his wife, Sadie Elizabeth Holloway, brought into their home Olive Byrne, the niece of Margaret Sanger, one of the most influential feminists of the twentieth century. The Marston family story is a tale of drama, intrigue, and irony. In the 1930s, Marston and Byrne wrote a regular column for Family Circle celebrating conventional family life, even as they themselves pursued lives of extraordinary nonconformity. Marston, internationally known as an expert on truth—he invented the lie detector test—lived a life of secrets, only to spill them on the pages of Wonder Woman.
The Secret History of Wonder Woman is a tour de force of intellectual and cultural history. Wonder Woman, Lepore argues, is the missing link in the history of the struggle for women’s rights—a chain of events that begins with the women’s suffrage campaigns of the early 1900s and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later.
A Finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for Nonfiction
From one of our most accomplished and widely admired historians, a revelatory portrait of Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister and a history of history itself. Like her brother, Jane Franklin was a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator. Unlike him, she was a mother of twelve. Benjamin Franklin, who wrote more letters to his sister than he wrote to anyone else, was the original American self-made man; his sister spent her life caring for her children. They left very different traces behind. Making use of an amazing cache of little- studied material, including documents, objects, and portraits only just discovered, Jill Lepore brings Jane Franklin to life in a way that illuminates not only this one woman but an entire world—a world usually lost to history. Lepore’s life of Jane Franklin, with its strikingly original vantage on her remarkable brother, is at once a wholly different account of the founding of the United States and one of the great untold stories of American history and letters: a life unknown.