Caroline Boswell is a faculty member in Humanistic Studies and History. We thought you might like to know a little more about your professor and colleague, so we asked her a few questions about herself.
Where did you go to college?
I went to UW-Madison for undergrad. Although I received my advanced degrees from Brown University, in my heart I will always be a Badger.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
My favorite professor at UW-Madison was Lee Wandel. Not only did she introduce me to historiography and early modern witchcraft (fascinating!), but also she taught us all that professors are first and foremost regular people.
You have a PhD in what field?
History – early modern British history, to be exact.
What do you research?
I research intersections between the politics of everyday life—social interactions, squabbles or ordinary power struggles—and larger political and social crises. My forthcoming book, Disaffection and Everyday Life in Interregnum England, explores such issues in England when, after having executed King Charles I, England became a Commonwealth and then a Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell (1650s). Using a series of case studies, I argue that the factional discourses and shifting power relations produced by civil war and revolution complicated traditional patterns of social interaction. Men and women who discussed unwelcome taxes by the market stall, griped over policies at the alehouse, and were pointedly silent before state pageants expressed their disaffection through acts of protest that threatened to provoke new divisions or redefine old conflicts. Grassroots agitation–from disaffected mutters to ritualistic violence against officials–formed an integral part of the broad political culture that shaped debates over governance during one of the most volatile decades in British history.
I am also increasingly engaged with the scholarship of teaching and learning. As many of my students may attest, I’m invested in digital pedagogies that enhance learning and promote student expression through a variety of rich media. Next semester students in my Foundations of Western Culture II course will contribute to a new online, open access resource for future students of European history. I hope to assess this project as a tool that fosters community and student engagement within large humanities courses.
What courses do you teach?
I teach a wide-variety of courses that touch on my interests and areas of expertise. Besides Foundations of Western Culture II, I teach our Humanistic Studies course the Age of Reason and Introduction to the Digital and Public Humanities, which I recently instructed with the amazing and awe-inspiring Chuck Rybak. In history I teach courses on the French and Haitian Revolutions, Drinking and Politics in the British Atlantic World, British History 1500-1700, and Crime and Mentalities in Early Modern Europe. I always have an eye on new courses, and I am very excited to teach our new Humanistic Studies course, HUM STUD 100 “Living the Humanities.” Three of us will team-teach this course, which is designed to introduce students to the humanities as a way of study. By grappling with one of humanity’s problems our students will explore various ways in which the strengths and values that are unique to the humanities can best prepare students for their future. Each section has a topic, and next year we plan to offer “Everybody Eats,” which will consider the culture, politics and ethics of eating.
How would you describe your teaching style?
Evolving. I’m always open to experimenting with new and innovative methods of teaching and I love playing with the ever expanding number of digital tools. Though I often teach large classes, I include a series of student-centered activities—debates, role-playing, and team-based assignments—to engage students directly in the learning process. I prefer problem-based approaches to learning that allow me to take students on an intellectual exploration of enduring historical questions or important trends in European society and culture. Recently I’ve been researching the “maker” movement and authentic learning, and as a result more and more of my courses have assignments that ask students to produce a resource that is designed to assist future learners, teachers, and/or members of the public.
What do you like to do for fun (hobbies)?
I love to explore sights unseen whether in my backyard or abroad. My academic research on drinking habits is matched by a love of beer, so I enjoy visiting breweries across the US when traveling. When I need a distraction I watch sports and when I need comfort I read murder mysteries.
If we looked at your playlist what would we find?
You should ask Prof. Gabriel Saxton-Ruiz, who, in his “spare” time, functions as my personal DJ. I tend to listen to albums, and I have toyed with the idea of teaching a course structured by The Kinks’ Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). What do you think?