How do we make sense of the past and what do we do with this as individuals and societies? Why do we need to find meaning in what we have lived through both personally and collectively? How are private memories and public commemorations created and how are they used? How do the stories of history — historical narratives — come to be and why? How do these narratives influence our outlooks and actions today? Who selects what to remember and why? What are their motivations? How do the issues of the present frame our views of the past? How do memories and meanings of the past change over time? What are the implications of not understanding the differences between actual historical events and our interpretations of them?
These are some of the questions we will be examining during the course, using specific case studies.
Week 1. Private and Public Experience: Introduction; the Ancient Shoemaker and the Boston Tea Party; Paul Revere’s Ride
Week 2. Events and Interpretations: Remembering the Revolution, America’s Creation Story; Grandfathers, Grandsons
Week 3. The Dangers of Denial: Slavery in New England; the Complex Case of Thomas Jefferson; Gone with the Wind and the “Lost Cause” Narrative
Week 4. Changing and Challenging Meanings: the Énola Gay Controversy; Suffrage and Little Women; Maine’s 200th Birthday
Week 5. Inventing Traditions: The Shaping of Christmas and Other American Holidays
Week 6. Landscapes of Memory: Monuments and Battlefields; Walden and Walden Pond; Memorializing 9/11; Your Own Sacred Sites
There will be no class on Feb. 14
Instructor Jayne Gordon is Vice-President of Coastal Senior College, and a member of the curriculum and activities committees. She has taught courses for CSC on Maine history and literature, and on the writers of her former hometown of Concord, MA. Jayne worked for decades as a public historian, educator, administrator, and consultant at numerous history museums and literary sites. Before retiring and moving to Damariscotta, she served as Director of Education and Public Programs at the Massachusetts Historical Society.