Lyde Cullen Sizer

BA, Yale University. MA, PhD, Brown University. Special interests include the political work of literature, especially around questions of gender and race; US cultural and intellectual history of the 19th and early 20th centuries; and the social and cultural history of the US Civil War. Authored The Political Work of Northern Women Writers and the American Civil War, 1850-1872, which won the Avery O. Craven Award from the Organization of American Historians. The Civil War Era: An Anthology of Sources, edited with Jim Cullen, was published in 2005; book chapters are included in Love, Sex, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History; Divided Houses: Gender and the American Civil War; and A Search for Equity. SLC, 1994–

Undergraduate Courses 2017-2018

History

The Art of Democracy: A Cultural History of the United States

Advanced , Seminar—Year

Open to juniors and above; permission of the instructor is required.

The story most typically told of America focuses on the path taken, the victors and the nature of their victory, the dreamers whose dreams were realized, and central figures in a largely political narrative. In this course, we will revisit the United States through the art and lives of those more on the margins—dreamers and doers who faced heavier odds or who dreamed of a world that never arrived. Through short stories, novels, memoirs, and cultural criticism, we will revisit the story of the idea and reality of America as it has unfolded. Themes will include gender and sexuality, race and prejudice, class and class struggle, region and religion, and immigration and national identity. Readings will include primary sources from the time period, as well as historical articles and books. In the spring, we will add film. As we read and watch, we will also write; this will be a course that emphasizes the synthesis of historical research and expository writing. A working knowledge of the political history of the time is necessary. Students who need refreshing will be expected to consult a textbook regularly.

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The Political and Cultural Work of Women Writers in the United States, 1790-1990

Open , Seminar—Year

"This is what I want you to do,” novelist Rebecca Harding Davis wrote in 1861. “I want you to hide your disgust, take no heed to your clean clothes, and come right down with me—here, into the thickest of the fog and mud and foul effluvia. I want you to hear this story. There is a secret down here, in this nightmare fog, that has laid dumb for centuries: I want to make it a real thing to you." Using the literary and expository writing of US women, we will explore American stories and secrets, what these writers are working to make “a real thing to you.” Readings will include autobiography, novels, stories, and cultural criticism. Rather than just following canonical literary or intellectual history, we will investigate less well-known and popular fictions alongside classics. Major themes will include questions of politics, race, class, and regional conflict; womanhood, manhood, and sexuality; American identity and nationalism; and immigration. Course work will focus on literary and print culture, but students may explore other media in conference. Particular emphasis will be placed on careful research of the historical context when analyzing primary documents from the period. A working knowledge of the political history of the time is necessary; students who need refreshing will be expected to consult a textbook regularly.

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Graduate Courses

Women's History 2017-2018

Visions/Revisions: Issues in the History of Women and Gender

Graduate Seminar—Year

Core class required of all first-year Women’s History graduate students.

This seminar surveys pathbreaking studies in the history of women, gender, and related subjects. Course readings, which include both theory and historiography, exemplify major trends in feminist scholarship since the 1960s—from early challenges to androcentric worldviews to the current stress on differences among women and multiple systems of dominance and subordination. Class discussions range from fundamental questions (e.g., What is feminism? Is “women” a meaningful category?) to theoretical, interpretive, and methodological debates among women’s historians. The course is designed to help advanced students of women’s history clarify research interests by assessing the work of their predecessors. MA candidates will also use the course to define thesis projects.
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Previous Courses

Body Politics: A 20th-Century Cultural History of the United States

Advanced , Seminar—Year

Open only to juniors, seniors and graduate students.

Historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg argues that “in the 20th century, the body has become the central personal project of American girls.” Increasingly in US culture, the body is seen as the ultimate expression of the self; and that personal project has become a project of more than girls. This course will analyze the emergence of this consuming anxiety against the backdrop of other conversations about what are understood as women’s and men’s bodies: as workers, as mothers and fathers, as public figures, as sexual beings. Using cultural criticism, novels, and films, as well as history, we will discuss questions of body politics generally and how a study of the body reveals crucial cultural and political values. The way the body is displayed, hidden, used, misused, celebrated, transformed, and vilified provides a lens through which to make sense of ideals of gender, beauty, sexual politics, racial politics, labor politics, and family politics—all areas of interest in this class. Although most of the course will focus on the 20th-century United States, the first third of the fall semester will be devoted to general questions about defining body politics and a quick look at the 19th century. In the fall, we will end at the close of World War II and pick up at the same moment in the spring, finishing at or near the present by May. Conferences will involve research into primary materials. This will be a writing-intensive course, including (mostly) expository writing but also creative nonfiction.

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First-Year Studies: Literature, Culture, and Politics in US History, 1770s-1970s

Open , FYS—Year

This is an interdisciplinary course in which we use literature and other cultural texts to illuminate a history of ideas and politics in the United States. The course is premised on a series of assumptions: First, the public words and stories that Americans choose to tell reflect ideas, concerns, presumptions, and intentions about their time period; that they do, both intentionally and unintentionally, "political work" in revealing the world in the way that they shore up, modify, or work to change power structures. Second, this course assumes that you, the reader, have some sense of context for these stories (or that you will work to acquire one) and, hence, have some sense of how they reflect the material world that they seek to change. Novels, stories, memoirs, and critical essays all derive from a single vantage point and, therefore, need to be understood as one voice in a larger conversation coming from a particular time and a particular place. Third, these readings are largely primary sources that are always paired with a secondary source chapter, article, or introduction; this pairing presumes a desire on your part to grapple with the material of this moment yourselves, to write history as well as read it. Themes of particular significance will include the construction of national identity, class consciousness, the experience and meaning of immigration, slavery and particularly race, and the political significance of gender and sexuality. In the fall, conference projects will focus on history and literature to 1900; in the spring, on history and literature to just yesterday.

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Body Politics: A 20th-Century Cultural History of the United States

Seminar

Historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg argues that, “in the 20th century, the body has become the central personal project of American girls.” Increasingly in US culture, the body is seen as the ultimate expression of the self—and that personal project has become a project of more than girls. This course will analyze the emergence of this consuming anxiety against the backdrop of other conversations about what are understood as women’s and men’s bodies: as workers, as mothers and fathers, as public figures, as sexual beings. Using cultural criticism, novels, and films, as well as history, we will discuss questions of body politics generally and how a study of the body reveals crucial cultural and political values. The way the body is displayed, hidden, used, misused, celebrated, transformed, and vilified provides a lens through which to make sense of ideals of gender, beauty, sexual politics, racial politics, labor politics, and family politics—all areas of interest in this class. Although most of the course will focus on the 20th-century United States, the first third of the fall semester will be devoted to general questions about defining body politics and a quick look at the 19th century. In the fall, we will end at the close of World War II and pick up at the same moment in the spring, finishing at or near the present by May. Conferences will involve research into primary materials. This will be a writing-intensive course, including (mostly) expository writing but also creative nonfiction.

Faculty

Activists and Intellectuals: A Cultural and Political History of Women in the United States, 1775-1975

Open , Lecture—Year

Through activism and organizing of all kinds, through fiction, memoir, poetry, and cultural criticism, through dance, visual art, and sport, and through the quotidian choices of daily life, American women have expressed their ideas, their desires, their values, and their politics. This course will approach US history through the words and actions of all kinds of American women from the late 18th century through the late 20th century. Using a variety of primary sources mixed with histories narrow and broad, we will analyze the ways in which women worked to survive and to intervene in the cultural and political world. Themes will include race, class, ethnicity, immigration and migration, sexuality, and, of course, gender. This is not a classic survey but, rather, readings in the cultural history of the nation framed with political and social history.

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Alternative Americas: A Cultural and Intellectual History of the United States, 1776-1976

Advanced , Seminar—Year

Juniors with permission of the instructor.

The story most typically told of America focuses on the path taken, the victors and the nature of their victory, the dreamers whose dreams were realized, and central figures in a largely political narrative. In this course, we will revisit the United States through the lives of those more on the margins—dreamers and doers who faced heavier odds or who dreamed of a world that never arrived. Through the words, dreams, memories, and exhortations of African Americans, workers, women, immigrants, and cultural critics of all sorts, we will revisit the story of the idea of America as it has unfolded. Readings will include primary sources from the time period, as well as historical articles and books. In the spring, we will add film. As we read and watch, we will also write. This will be a course that emphasizes the synthesis of historical research and expository writing.

Faculty