Historical Credibility of Self-Accusatory Practices

Course Description: 

The members of the seminar will try to come to terms with the historical validity of narratives, confessions, and biographies of the accused produces under duress. The class will analyze both police, and court documents, censored diaries, pseudo-autobiographies, but also attempts that try to interpret, make use and sense of the confessions and the self-accusations. The majority of the documents come from secret police archives of the Cold War, while the theories discussed range from theological tracts and philosophical explanations to historiographical and literary analysis. As Arthur Koestler wrote in his autobiography, reflecting on Darkness at Noon: “To the Western mind, unacquainted with system and the rules, the confessions in the Trials appeared as one of the great enigmas of our time”. Besides archival documents and theoretical works, members of the class will analyze documentary and experimental films; documents and reflections on forced self-accusation. The seminar probes the limits of making good use of fabrications in historical analysis. Members of the class are expected to write one-page positional papers for the classes, and produce a short research paper – experimenting with theories and methodologies discussed in class – by the end of the semester.


Learning Outcomes: