module specification

DN5016 - History, Memory and Nostalgia (2019/20)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2019/20
Module title History, Memory and Nostalgia
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass)
Total study hours 300
210 hours Guided independent study
90 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   Essay (2000 words) on historiography
Coursework 50%   Oral history project - audio tape or film of at least two interviews and a report (1500 words)
Running in 2019/20 No instances running in the year

Module summary

This level 5 module, ‘History, Memory and Nostalgia’, critically examines the narratives we create to make sense of the past, both real and imagined, and how we use objects and images to produce and sustain those memories.

The module will examine the concept of historiography and consider how memories are forged, recorded and circulated.  It will also use key works of fiction (for example Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence and W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz) to provide examples of illustrated, fictionalised histories.

You are actively encouraged to write your own and others’ histories in this module.  The first assessment is a set of oral history interviews, where students will select a key event in the past, which they may or not remember themselves, but which was widely covered in the media (the end of rationing in the UK, the arrival of ‘Windrush’, the first moonwalk, etc) and will interview at least two people to create an oral history of the event.  This will be in the form of an audio recording or film, with an accompanying report of 1500 words.  The other assessment will be an essay, of 2000 words, on historiographic methodologies.

Module aims

The module will enable you to:

  • demonstrate how ‘history’ is constructed from a variety of perspectives and for a variety of reasons and purposes
  • scrutinise, analyse and evaluate a range of personal, group and archival ‘histories’
  • create and/or interpret and present archival material in appropriate formats in order to question and critique that material in relation to its contexts and accepted accounts


A series of weekly lectures, seminars and study trips will enable students to consider the narrativisation of history in a critical way. In particular , they will be encouraged to draw on personal experiences, objects and images in analysing their pasts (for instance, family photographs, souvenirs, keepsakes, hand-me-down clothing, time capsules, social media identities, etc.).

In lectures, students will consider the concept of historiography and apply some of those ideas in seminar discussions and assessments. This will help with the first assessment.  The other assessment will focus on oral history, and students will interview at least two people about an event which was well covered in the media (for example, the events of 9/11, the election of Margaret Thatcher, the fall of the Berlin wall etc).  They will make an audio recording or film of those interviews and use them to produce an illustrated 1500-word report which will look at the relationship between the interviews and the ‘official’ histories.

Learning and teaching

Students are required to attend weekly lectures, seminars and any study trips.  Readings for seminar discussion will be provided on Weblearn in advance and students are expected to have read those.  Other preparations for seminars might include bringing along personal examples of their own histories in the form of photographs, souvenirs, artefacts etc.
Discussion fora will be facilitated on Weblearn to encourage peer-to-peer sharing.
Students will be offered feedforward and feedback tutorials for both assignments.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module, you will be able to:

  • recognise that ‘history’ is constructed and investigate how and why using a range of historiographical models and in a range of contexts
  • apply a range of appropriate approaches for interpreting primary sources to understand the differing ‘histories’ they record
  • use a range of means for the effective communication of the findings or questions arising from primary research with archives, groups or individuals

Assessment strategy

The module has two assessments, both weighted at 50%. The first assessment will require students to compare and contrast two historiographical models and demonstrate their application to material and visual cultures.
The second assessment is an oral history project: students will choose at least two people to interview about an event that the interviewees remember and that has been well documented in the official media.  Students will produce an audio recording or film of those interviews, accompanied by a 1500 word report.  In the report, they will focus on the discrepancies between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ histories.


Bollmer, G.D. (2011) ‘Virtuality in Systems of Memory: towards an Ontology of collective Memory, Ritual and the Technological’, Memory Studies 4 (4) 450-64
Boym, S. (2001) The Future of Nostalgia, New York: Basic Books
Carbonell, B. M. (2004) Museum Studies,  Blackwell (especially the section on ‘Locating History in the Museum’)
Carr, E.H. (1961) What is History?, Harmondsworth: Penguin
Hobsbawm, E. & Ranger, T. (eds) (1983) The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Huyssen, A. (2015) ‘Memory things and their Temporality’ Memory Studies, 9 (1) 107-110Lyotard, J.-F. (1984) The Postmodern Condition: a Report on Knowledge , Manchester: Manchester University Press
Nora, P. (2001) Rethinking France, Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Pamuk, O. (2008) The Museum of Innocence¸ London: Faber and Faber
Pamuk, O.  (2012)The Innocence of Objects, New York: Abrams
Schwenger, P. (2006) The Tears of Things: Melancholy and Physical Objects¸ Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Sebald, W.G. (2001) Austerlitz, London: Penguin
Slater, A. (2014) ‘Dress and Memory’, Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty, 5 (1): 125-139
Stewart, S. (1993) On Longing, Durham and London: Duke University Press (especially the section on ‘the souvenir’)