I hope the last few months have treated you well! Despite my best intentions to consistently post each month, the daily grind and routines at home and work take precedence. My last blog post in February came right before the busy season of my school year — when state testing begins, followed quickly by the chaos of the closing weeks of the school year (not to mention the whole family getting sick amid all that) — and I’m just now finding time to sit down and check back in with you. However, I do have some pieces of news to share.
East Europe College Course
If you’ve been following along with me over the past two plus years, you’re aware that I’ve been writing and teaching college courses online. In particular, I wrote a course on East Europe and offered it this past fall semester. I never tied up that loose end by sharing how the course ended up doing and what my general reflection of it was after it was finished.
I completed the preparation for that course over the summer of 2021, in plenty of time to start the new academic year in August. My course roster ended up containing between 12-15 students (a few dropped and one added early on), most of whom did well in the course; the majority ended up with final grades of B or better. Only a few of them completed course evaluations in the last week of the semester before Winter Break, but that’s to be expected. The good thing from my perspective was that they were generally positive reviews with helpful feedback for me.
As for the course itself, it was fascinating for me to see the students work through what I had created, consuming the history of eastern Europe through readings, discussions, an examination, and finally their research paper (an academic book review, in this case). At the start, I had given them a list of books from which to choose one, all of which pertained to various countries/sub-regions of East Europe; the one I read beforehand, Borderland, was mentioned in a blog post from May 2021…I really enjoyed that book! Many of the students said they appreciated having the ability to choose what they read, and that they subsequently enjoyed their chosen book more. This is something I’m applying to the Early Modern Europe course I’m currently writing, which I’ll get to shortly.
For me, the course was a success and something I’m extremely proud of creating. This is bittersweet, however, because in the few weeks following the start of the spring semester in 2022, I learned that the East Europe course was no longer being offered and that portions of it were being covered in political science courses, especially more recent historical developments (e.g., the development of Soviet communism, the Eastern Bloc, and their legacies). I had spent many months and a good deal of energy writing a course that was to be offered only once. Of course, these are things that fall into the category of ‘changes in education’ that are all too familiar to me at the secondary level; I just never thought such an important history course would be removed from the course catalogue completely. Alas, I am grateful for the opportunity to write that course, teach it, and learn more about the histories therein in the process; it gives me a greater appreciation of that region and its developments over time, not to mention it allowed me to fine-tune my scholarship skills.
Early Modern Europe College Course
Taking what I learned and experienced from the East Europe course, I set about writing the Early Modern Europe course that is to be next offered in Spring 2023. Given that this course has been designated as a core sequence course, it is very unlikely that it will be removed from the curriculum. Furthermore, my university has instituted a course development program where the online presence of each course is placed into a university-wide template course so students can easily navigate and access their courses when not in the physical classroom (which all of my courses currently are not). That being said, I have some general security and optimism regarding the future of this course.
I started working on this course in earnest the week of April 25, with the aim of completing everything for the course by the start of the 2022-23 school year. This is mostly due to my OCD and desire to have sensible timelines; continuing to work on something while starting something else is a no-no for me. As of this writing, I am on track to at least get the bulk of coursework finished by the start of school. This includes the lecture notes, their recordings, and the key documents for the course (i.e., writing assignment prompt, syllabus). Because of things out of my control, I will have to work on the course into September after school begins, so with that I won’t fret too much. By mid-September, though, I should have this course pretty much wrapped up and can move on to (or rather, back to) writing the Revolutionary Europe course, which I’ll offer in the Fall 2023 semester.
As with the East Europe course, I’m thoroughly enjoying revisiting this time period in history as I read more about the developments of the period from roughly the 1550s to the 1780s. This was a class I took in college but it didn’t evoke a great deal of excitement or wonder from me. I think I was more preoccupied with the Contemporary Europe course and its content; I would eventually go on to write my undergrad senior thesis on Hitler and the Third Reich. Perhaps when I first learned about the early modern period, there was too much for me to process or maybe the content just wasn’t engaging enough for me; whatever the reason, I’m warming up to it now and am enjoying it. To reinforce this, I have changed my 2022 reading list for the remainder of the year so that I can read a handful of the books I’m requiring for this course; that way when the course begins in January 2023, I am much more in tune with the history and the readings from which students will choose.
These readings are set up in this way: five books are required (a lot, I know, but there’s a new program at my university where course textbooks are included in the cost of the semester, so the students don’t readily see the cost in front of them like I did when I physically went to the bookstore each semester) from which students will pick according to a research prompt associated with the book(s):
- Early Modern Europe, An Oxford History by Euan Cameron (Amazon)
- Europe’s Babylon: The Rise and Fall of Antwerp’s Golden Age by Michael Pye (Amazon)
- London and the Seventeenth Century: The Making of the World’s Greatest City by Margarette Lincoln (Amazon)
- The Secular Enlightenment by Margaret Jacob (Amazon)
- The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment by Alexander Bevilacqua (Amazon)
The first book, Early Modern Europe by Cameron, is more of a general survey of the period from which students will choose one main topic to research and write about; this is the option with the most latitude for student choice but there’s less structure in how students go about it. I intend this approach more for students who already have a handle on or feel comfortable with their knowledge of the time period (more or less).
The second two books, Europe’s Babylon and London and the Seventeenth Century, look at the history of the period through the a comparative lens where the cities of London and Antwerp illustrate the wider history of the period. Using these two sources as a starting point, students will explore this ‘wider history’ idea in a way they deem appropriate.
The last two books, The Secular Enlightenment and The Republic of Arabic Letters, explore the intellectual movement in the latter third of the period under study, taking developments of the European Enlightenment and the contributions of the Arabs as the central theme of this research option. Students will address the idea of how these two intellectual processes contributed to developments in Europe, and whether they can be considered the culmination of the early modern period.
I am excited to dive into these books and to see how they pan out once I get the course underway come January!
One Final Bit of News
As I have alluded to before, I have had a manuscript in progress for my next book for a while now, since September 2017 to be exact. I reached the point of feeling comfortable with saying “this is my rough draft” only about a couple of weeks ago, at which point the MS was hovering around 65,000 words. A few literary-minded friends have graciously offered to beta read this early draft for me, with the hope that I can have their feedback in hand by this September in order to revise as necessary and tweak in general as needed. With me, I always feel like things I create or work on could be improved, so hopefully that trait doesn’t plague me too much in this process.
Without giving away hints of the story still at this point, I will say that I intend on hiring a professional editor once I have my draft as polished as I think I can make it before handing it off to a stranger; I haven’t done that with my previous books, mainly because I didn’t have the money at the time, but now I’d like to think that this book will reflect not only growth in my writing abilities (i.e., the story itself) but also the expanded caliber of professionalism and literary seriousness in how that story is produced and presented. I hope I’m not risking too much in saying that if things go how I’ve planned, then I should have this book launched and live for sale by Fall 2023. Of course, I will keep you apprised of its progress and what the release date ends up being for certain over the coming year. I am very proud of this story and the work I’ve put into it, and I can’t wait to share it with you all when it’s ready.
That’s it for now, so I wish you well and look forward to my next post (hopefully next month, but we’ll see)!