2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

History and Theory: Pedagogical Notes on the Recent Publications in English

Chia-Fu Sung

Ph. D. Candidate, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

Although this essay is meant to introduce five recently published books on contemporary Western theories of history to the professional historians in Taiwan as well as other Chinese-reading academic audience, it is neither a composite book review nor a review article on the theoretical matters involved. Instead, the viewpoint I adopt here is primarily pedagogical. That is, while summarizing the content and structure of the books, my reading of them in this essay is dominated by my concern with the practice of teaching history and theory in the local academia. Consequently, there are two questions I attempt to answer. First, what is the most suitable type of reading material for a beginner's course on contemporary Western theories of history, given the linguistic and cultural limitations of local students of history? Concerning this question, my own vote goes to the genre of Reader as an acceptable compromise between textbooks, which tend to domesticate the sophistication of theories, and the theoretical masterpieces, most of which are notoriously difficult to read in their original, not to mention in translation. Second, with the local reality in mind, how could we make the best use of each of the Readers or collected essays that I choose to include here? In this regard, my main argument is that Readers, or collected essays with the similar function, not only provide us a more dynamic picture of the state of affairs in the field but also serve as the guiding map for a newcomer to discern the typography of discursive communities and to formulate one's own institutional affiliations and intellectual identities. Finally, I conclude the essay with a personal note on the coming of the internet age and its possible impact on teaching and research practice of history.


Key Words: history and theory, pedagogy, Reader, historiography