History

The history curriculum covers the globe. Most courses focus on particular regions or nations, but offerings also include courses that transcend geographical boundaries to examine subjects such as African diasporas, Islamic radicalism, or European influences on US intellectual history. Some courses are surveys—of colonial Latin America, for example, or Europe since World War II. Others zero in on more specific topics, such as medieval Christianity, the Cuban Revolution, urban poverty and public policy in the United States, or feminist movements and theories. While history seminars center on reading and discussion, many also train students in aspects of the historian’s craft, including archival research, historiographic analysis, and oral history.

2020-2021 Courses

History

First-Year Studies: In the Tradition: Introduction to African American History

Open, FYS—Year

African American history is an important window into the history of the United States and the rise of the modern world. This course explores classic narratives and examines major developments. The classic narratives are stories of self-emancipation and self-determination. The major developments range from the Atlantic Slave Trade to the Black Renaissance. On the one hand, students examine the dynamics of modern racism; on the other hand, students explore the contours of African American social, cultural, and intellectual history.

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First-Year Studies: Inventing America: Cultural Encounters and American Identity, 1607–1877

Open, FYS—Year

“The past is a foreign country,” T. H. Hartley once declared, and perhaps the past of one’s own country is doubly so. The present, after all, always seems inevitable. Surely, the United States of 2020 is but the flowering of the seeds planted so many centuries ago. This course seeks to challenge that assumption, as we consider not only how Americans in the period between 1607 and 1877 differed from us but also how much they differed from one another. Indeed, neither the Native Americans who lived in North America, nor the Europeans who colonized that region, nor the Africans whom the colonists imported as slaves had any intention of establishing a new nation. Consequently, in examining American history from the early 17th century to the Civil War, the question should not be “Why did the United States divide during the Civil War?” but, rather, “Why were Americans able to unify as a nation at all?” In our consideration of this question, we will focus on two interrelated themes: how the different cultures interacted with and affected one another and how Americans defined their identity. Who was considered American, and what did it mean to be an American? What was the relationship between American identity and other forms of social identity, such as gender, class, race, and culture? This course is not meant to be a comprehensive survey but, instead, will explore these questions through select case studies that illuminate major political, social, and cultural developments in American history from the colonial period to the Civil War and Reconstruction. Among the techniques that the course will use are role-play simulations of events, such as the American Revolution and the Constitutional Convention, based on the “Reacting to the Past” pedagogy developed by Mark Carnes at Barnard College; students will reenact the debates and conflicts that engaged the participants in those events. Students should be aware that, because they will be reenactments, the process of playing those historical roles and immersing themselves in an earlier time can be emotionally intense and even uncomfortable. To enter the world of colonial and 19th-century America—one where people of European descent considered themselves more civilized than others, where women were viewed as subordinate to men, and where the elites saw themselves as superior to ordinary people—students should be prepared to engage in and express views that are alien and, indeed, at times aversive to them. The course thus aims to cultivate a sense of historical empathy by trying to understand the foreignness of the past on its own terms. This course will have weekly conferences for the first six weeks; thereafter, biweekly conferences.

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First-Year Studies: The Urban Century: How Cities Shaped and Were Shaped by Modern European History

Open, FYS—Year

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, life in cities, including European ones, has changed dramatically. For weeks, almost all of urban life came to a halt. As European cities, both small and large, slowly emerge from the lockdown, the pandemic effects on urban life are difficult to predict. While the current moment is certainly historic, it is not without precedent. Urban life from its outset was also a history of pandemics and illness. Even the period of rapid urbanization on which this course will focus has been shaped by disease, from cholera outbreaks in the 19th century, to the “Spanish” flu in the wake of World War I, to the coronavirus today. And yet, amidst those diseases, Europe became increasingly more urban and its cities produced, adopted, and promoted many of the things, both positive and negative, that we consider hallmarks of modernity. In the middle of the 20th century, only 16 percent of Europeans lived in cities. On the eve of World War I, that number had roughly doubled. In Western Europe, already half of the population was urban. Though many of the cities were small, with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, the European metropoles grew, too. In Germany, for example, by 1910, 21 percent lived in cities over the size of 100,000 inhabitants—up from only five percent in 1871. Berlin, Paris, London, St. Petersburg, and Vienna all had several million citizens. This urbanization shaped, and was shaped by, European history. Industrialization and advances in agriculture, sanitation, and transportation played a vital role in that process. Wars and Europe’s changing borders shaped cities’ fate. Much of what we today think of as modern originated in cities, which often set political and cultural trends. The “Roaring 20s” or the student movements of 1968 were fundamentally urban phenomena. Yet, precisely for that reason, cities also inspired vitriol and opposition—from nationalist back-to-nature advocates afraid of the negative consequences of their “cosmopolitan nature” to health care professionals worried by the detrimental effects on their inhabitants’ health. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s chief propagandist, railed against “Jewish Berlin.” To this day, conservative French politicians extol “la France profonde,” the true France to be found in its provincial towns rather than in Paris, Lyon, or Marseille. Through the lens of the city, this course investigates major developments in modern European history: from the birth of mass politics and the modern welfare state that included sanitation and public health, across the effects of World War I and World War II, to the emergence of modernist art and environmentalism. Students will not only be introduced to European history but also to the historian’s craft. Making use of online archives and tools, we will work with a variety of primary sources—from government documents to literature, from movies to propaganda speeches, from city maps to diary entries. We will tour cities virtually and model urban landscapes. In addition, students will learn to read secondary sources and analyze historiographical arguments. During the fall semester, students will have an individual conference every other week and a group conference on alternating weeks. In the group conferences, we will discuss the nature of academic work in general and practice research, reading, writing, and editing skills; but we will also, on occasion, use the time for movie screenings related to the course or other shared and, if need be, virtual activities.

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A History of Poverty and Public Policy: The New Deal or the Raw Deal for Black America?

Open, Small Lecture—Year

This is a history of urban poverty and public policy in America. Was the postwar urban crisis in cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, and Newark caused by the howling contradictions between the New Deal for White America and the Raw Deal for the Other America? What did those savage inequalities mean for employment, housing, and schooling, as well as for public health? What happened when grassroots movements aimed a death blow at Jim Crow public policies?

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Europe’s Civil War: 1914–1945

Open, Lecture—Fall

In 1909 Norman Angell wrote The Great Illusion, a book that went on to become a bestseller. Its premise: Industrialized countries had become so interconnected that war between them did not make sense and would not happen anymore. Five years later, Europe’s industrialized countries were at war with each other. The Great War, as it was called then, lasted from 1914 until 1918 and would change the course of the 20th century. But Angell was not entirely wrong. Precisely because European economies were so interconnected, the war and its aftermath were particularly devastating. After 1918, they were entangled through an additional layer of massive loss of life, devastation, and the resulting resentment and hostility from which Europe struggled to extricate itself until 1945. This period now is sometimes called “Europe’s civil war.” Not all of this, however, was war. Beyond earnest struggles for a new peacetime order, much of what we consider modern, from entertainment to consumption but also new modes of politics, has its origins in this period. The course will investigate the cultural, social, economic, and military causes and reverberations of the conflict, from the war itself to the revolutions that followed it, the enfranchisement of women and expansion of democratic government, but also the rise of Communism and Fascism and ultimately war again from 1939 to 1945. The impact of these developments was not contained to Europe alone but, rather, extended to the rest of the world—not least, the United States. In this course, we will look, on occasion, beyond the continent’s border. Through a variety of sources to be read and discussed in the group conferences, students will also be introduced to the craft of history. Making use of the rich online collections created in the wake of the centennial of World War I and 75th anniversary of the end of the World War II, we will read diary entries and private letters, government documents and poetry. We will watch movies and investigate (pop)cultural memory of the period. We will discuss the importance of smell and sound, of technology and medicine, for shaping and advancing history. In order to have sufficient time for discussions, the course meets for weekly 90-minute lectures, which will include a Q&A session following the lecture itself and weekly 90-minute group conferences.

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The Atomic Bombs as History, Experience, and Culture: Washington, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki

Open, Lecture—Fall

In January 2018, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the hands of the Doomsday Clock (yes, it’s a thing) at two minutes to midnight, the nearest it has been to catastrophe since 1953. Donald Trump goaded Kim Jong-un with tweets about the size of his nuclear “button,” and the North Korean pushed ahead with missile tests. In late 2019, Putin announced that Russia had developed “invincible” hypersonic nuclear missiles capable of hitting virtually anywhere on the globe. With world leaders flirting with the prospect of nuclear holocaust, an understanding of the only instance of nuclear warfare is again relevant, even crucial. Through a rich variety of sources (textual, visual, and cinematic), this lecture-seminar hybrid course will examine, from three major perspectives, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. First, by reading scholarship and primary documents, we will look at the decision to drop the bombs, as well as the postwar claims justifying them. We will challenge the American narrative that the bombings were militarily necessary while also putting them into the historical context of World War II, specifically the strategic bombing of non-military targets, the prospects of Japanese surrender in the final months of the conflict, and the looming Cold War with Russia. Second, we will confront the effects of the bombs on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and their populations. Technical descriptions and firsthand accounts will help us grasp the unique destructiveness of the atomic bombs on both bodies and buildings, as well as how people coped with that destructiveness. The diary of HACHIYA Michihiko, for example, will reveal a medical doctor’s observations on the breakdown of society and how ordinary Japanese dealt with the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. Next, the course examines the impact of the bombs on Japan’s postwar culture, including the profound sense of victimization that they imparted, which has complicated Japanese narratives about World War II and inspired an abiding pacifism in Japanese society. In a different vein, serious literature written by survivors will open up the relevance of atomic narratives by exploring the social alienation endured by the hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) in postwar Japan. TOMATSU Shomei’s photography of Nagasaki and its hibakusha will provide a visual window on the bombs’ legacy, as well. And finally, we will examine some popular culture—the original (1954) Godzilla (Gojiro) movie and some anime and manga—for the ways in which the bombs were appropriated and invoked in apocalyptic imagery, one that expressed a distinctive understanding of the dark side of science and technology and that made a lasting contribution to wider global culture. This course will consist of weekly lectures paired with a weekly seminar meeting for close discussion of our syllabus readings. Thus, each student must not only attend the lecture but also choose one of the three seminar section times.

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International Law

Open, Lecture—Fall

In a global landscape pocked by genocide, wars of choice, piracy, and international terrorism, what good is international law? Can it mean anything without a global police force and a universal judiciary? Is “might makes right” the only law that works? Or is it true that “most states comply with most of their obligations most of the time”? These essential questions frame the contemporary practice of law across borders. This lecture provides an overview of international law—its doctrine, theory, and practice. The course addresses a wide range of issues, including the bases and norms of international law, the law of war, human-rights claims, domestic implementation of international norms, treaty interpretation, and state formation/succession.

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Human Rights

Open, Lecture—Spring

History is replete with rabid pogroms, merciless religious wars, tragic show trials, and even genocide. For as long as people have congregated, they have defined themselves, in part, as against an other—and have persecuted that other. But history has also yielded systems of constraints. So how can we hope to achieve a meaningful understanding of the human experience without examining both the wrongs and the rights? Should the human story be left to so-called realists, who claim that power wins out over ideals every time? Or is there a logic of mutual respect that offers better solutions? This lecture examines the history of international human rights and focuses on the claims that individuals and groups make against states in which they live.

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The Enlightenment

Open, Seminar—Year

The 18th-century Enlightenment was arguably the most important single episode in the last thousand years of European intellectual history—an upsurge of new ideas and attitudes that ushered in the “modern” climate of opinion. Dozens of our own society’s most characteristic beliefs about the structure of the universe, human nature, the foundations of political community, and the principles of morality were first put into circulation by Enlightenment thinkers. This course will examine the development of the Enlightenment from its origins in the age of the Baroque to its demise in the era of the French Revolution and Romanticism. While the course’s central focus will be doctrines, values, and sensibilities as expressed in works of philosophy, literature, and art, we will also consider 18th-century political and social history and the role of the Enlightenment in inspiring the revolutionary upheavals that brought the Old Regime in Europe to an end. Students may pursue conference projects examining almost any aspect of life or culture in early modern Europe.

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China’s 20th Century Through Fiction

Open, Seminar—Year

There is no prerequisite knowledge of China (history or literature) for this course.

In 1902, China’s leading intellectual and political theorist, LIANG Qichao, observed, “If one intends to renovate the people of a nation, one must first renovate its fiction.” In the century that followed, reformers, radicals, and regimes repeatedly placed fiction at the center of the national project of modernity. Exploring literature’s contribution to the construction of the Chinese national body, this yearlong seminar uses short stories and novels as windows on a cataclysmic century filled with wars, political revolutions, cultural change, and social upheaval. As writers participated in and commented on those traumatic events, fiction was a key battleground for political, social, and cultural change. In the fall, we will encounter short stories and novels that carried forward radical demolitions of the Confucian cultural tradition and political critiques in the first half of the century. Beginning in the 1920s, urban feminists wrote to promote the emancipation of the individual while, a decade later, leftist writers exposed the evils of Western imperialism and capitalist exploitation. How did those works contribute to revolutionary movements? Despite an overall focus on the political dimension, we will take time out to consider some more lyrically inclined writers who explored China’s ethnic margins and the intricate and private dramas of love and despair. In the spring semester, we will delve into the socialist realism of Communist fiction to identify its unique qualities and role in Maoist political life before turning to the literary reassessments of Maoist excesses in the reform era (1980s) and the place of literature in the neoliberal atmosphere of post-Tiananmen (1989) China. We will interrogate fictional works in post-revolutionary China for how they deal with and understand China’s revolutionary past, its ragged cultural tradition, and a rapidly changing society and economy. What is the relationship between art and politics in those ostensibly (even studiously) apolitical works? And finally, we will also cover Taiwanese literature from the 1960s through the 1990s, as it, too, grappled with economic development, its political basis, and social effects. Our readings include many of the great characters in early 20th-century literature, such as Lu Xun’s cannibalistic madman and hapless Ah Q, Ding Ling’s tubercular Miss Sophie, SHEN Congwen’s Hmong villagers, and Zhang Ailing’s college student turned mistress-assassin. We will also meet blood-drenched bandits, long-suffering peasants, and disaffected urban youths in an age of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. For those taking this class as an FYS, conferences in the fall semester will consist of biweekly individual meetings, with a group session held on alternate weeks to handle matters concerning all FYS students. Conferences in the spring will be on the regular biweekly individual model (i.e., no group conferences).

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The Cultural and Political Work of Women Writers in the United States, 1790–1990

Open, Seminar—Year

“This is what I want you to do,” novelist Rebecca Harding Davis wrote in 1861. “I want you to hide your disgust, take no heed to your clean clothes, and come right down with me—here, into the thickest of the fog and mud and foul effluvia. I want you to hear this story. There is a secret down here, in this nightmare fog, that has laid dumb for centuries: I want to make it a real thing to you.” Using the literary and expository writing of US women, we will explore American stories and secrets, what these writers are working to make “a real thing to you.” Readings will include autobiography, letters, novels, stories, and cultural criticism. Rather than following just canonical literary or intellectual history, we will investigate less well-known and popular fictions alongside classics. Major themes will include questions of politics, race, class, and regional conflict; womanhood, manhood, and sexuality; American identity and nationalism; and immigration. Course work will focus on literary and print culture, but students may explore other media in conference. Particular emphasis will be placed on careful research of the historical context when analyzing primary documents from the period. A working knowledge of the political history of the time is necessary; students who need refreshing will be expected to regularly consult a textbook.

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‘The Losers’: Dissent and the Legacy of Defeat in American Politics from the American Revolution to the Civil War

Open, Seminar—Fall

Though our nation was born in conflict and is sustained by conflict, the present always seems inevitable; surely the United States of 2020 is but the flowering of the seeds planted so many centuries ago. To imagine that the Revolutionary War ended in failure and the Founding Fathers were hung and the names of loyalists such as Hutchinson and Arnold were as much on our lips as Washington, Adams, and Jefferson seems blasphemous. Or to imagine celebrating the loyalist William Franklin as a hero rather than his father Benjamin seems utterly absurd. The world just wouldn’t be what it is if instead of calling ourselves American we identified ourselves as Canadian. The melodic themes of liberty, dissent, and equality would seem less lyrical if Americans could no longer claim them as their own, but would our understanding of American identity be the richer if we viewed these themes as forged in conflict? To this end, the course will focus on those groups who were on the losing side of major political conflicts from the American Revolution to the Civil War -- namely, the loyalists, the Anti-Federalists, the Federalists, the Whigs, and the Confederacy. The course will also consider the ultimate losers in these conflicts -- those who were denied political rights altogether and thus even the possibility of victory. What did the treatment of these different political groups reveal about the extent of -- and limits to -- American acceptance of dissent? How did a culture that placed a premium on success and achievement regard loss and defeat? How was the South able to turn the defeat of the Confederacy into a badge of honor and a source of pride through the idealization of the Lost Cause? What was the long-term legacy that these losing groups left behind? When viewed from this perspective, were these groups really losers at all? After all, without the Anti-Federalists, there would have been no Bill of Rights in the Constitution. Ultimately, the course aims to cultivate a “tragic” perspective that goes beyond viewing history in terms of winners and losers, heroes and villains, and instead recognizes that in the final analysis we are all in bondage to the knowledge that we possess.

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‘In an Antique Land’: An Introduction to Middle Eastern Studies

Open, Large seminar—Fall

This will be a 25-student course, with one lecture and one seminar a week, in addition to small-group work.

This course is designed as a broad overview of the cultures, religions, history, and politics of the region typically referred to as the “Middle East”—one of the most complex and least well-understood areas in the world today. Rather than viewing the Middle East as a unified whole—and in sharp contrast to prevailing Western media images of the Middle East as hyperpoliticized, overly ideological, or inherently violent—the course adopts a multilayered, bottom-up approach in order to emphasize the region’s fundamental underlying social and cultural diversity. Topics to be covered in this course include: the origins and spread of Islam and “Islamicate” civilization; an overview of the region’s major ethnic and linguistic groups, including Arabs, Turks, Persians, Kurds, among others; the evolution of Middle Eastern empires and their political structures and institutions; the varied geographies of the Middle East (ranging from empty deserts to storied metropolises); the dynamic impact of key forces of modernity (such as capitalism, globalization, and nationalism) across the region; gender and the status of women and the family in the Middle East; and the consequences of various 20th-century wars and conflicts (ethnic, sectarian, revolutionary) for Middle Eastern history and politics. 

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Latin America in the World

Open, Seminar—Fall

From La Malinche’s mediation of the encounter between the Old World and the New World to Castro and Che Guevara’s path for Third World liberation movements, Latin America has been at the center of global process. In turn, the expansion of European empires, the massive movement of people from Africa, and the most recent connection to China have shaped and continue to reconfigure the destinies of millions in the Americas. This course attempts to situate Latin America’s history within global history while understanding the influence of Latin American history in global processes. While guiding students through major historical processes of colonial expansion and rule, revolution and nation-state formation, the first and second waves of globalization, social and socialist revolution and authoritarian counterrevolution, and neoliberalism, among others, we will delve into particular national and individual histories to understand historical agency and concrete effects of such processes. The seminar will experiment with a non-essay, collaborative conference project.

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Realisms: Currents and Crosscurrents in 19th-Century European Thought

Open, Seminar—Fall

The term “realism” enjoyed an unprecedented vogue in 19th-century Europe. All manner of doctrines and ideologies prided themselves on their “realistic” understanding of the human predicament and the structure of the universe while disdaining rival doctrines as captive to illusions and prejudices. Students in this course will read and discuss texts illustrating influential forms of 19th-century European realism in philosophy, ethics, and politics. They will also consider realism in literature and painting. We will try to identify what exactly “realism” meant to each of these philosophical and artistic tendencies and to discover why 19th-century Europeans found the concept of “realism” so irresistible. Since the schools of thought to be investigated often conceived “reality” in diametrically opposed ways, the course will provide an introduction to a number of the most significant intellectual debates of the 19th century. Thinkers to be discussed include Malthus, Hegel, Marx, Darwin, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Weber, and Freud; creative artists include Turgenev, Strindberg, Courbet, Manet, and Degas.

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‘We Refugees’—A History of Displacement in Modern Europe

Open, Seminar—Spring

In 1922, in response to a wave of refugees from civil war Russia, the League of Nations created a passport for stateless people: The Nansen Passport. It was one of several measures to deal with the massive displacement occasioned by the results of World War I and the revolutions and redrawing of boundaries that followed. Migration, for economic or political reason, was not new to 20th-century Europe. Yet, the (re)emergence of strict border regimes, the rise of international law but also of fascism and communism, and the sheer numbers of people on the move within Europe as a result of two world wars fundamentally changed the conditions, as well as the experience, of displacement. This course investigates the events that forced (or motivated) Europeans to move in the 20th century. It traces the development of law, language, and institutions dealing with migration that arose in response to it. Yet, the course also gives voice to the individual experience of refugees, be it Hannah Arendt, the German-Jewish intellectual who wrote “We Refugees” in her New York exile in 1942, or a Polish forced laborer stranded in Germany following World War II. The course will primarily focus on mid-century Europe, when the structures emerged that regulate today’s refugee-related politics. We will consider the history of terms such as stateless people, refugees, displaced persons, and asylum seekers and the way these terms influenced both politics and experience. Toward the end of the semester, we will discuss current events in Europe in light of this history.

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The City of Yonkers: Histories of Change, Continuity, and Community

Open, Seminar—Spring

The fourth-largest city in New York State, Yonkers is known as the “Queen City of the Hudson.” Over the course of its history, Yonkers has also been known as “The City of Gracious Living” and, more recently, “Westchester’s Hippest City.” During the 20th century, the city weathered social, economic, political, and cultural movements that mirrored national developments. A stronghold for industry, factories within Yonkers were vital to World War I and World War II production. In the wake of the world wars, the city became a site of mass deindustrialization as companies looked westward and to the Caribbean for more cost-effective options. Following this economic wane, public housing became the centerpiece of a US Supreme Court case that linked desegregation to education and community. After a nearly 30-year battle, the case forever changed the landscape and composition of the city. The aftershocks of that monumental legislation have reverberated well into the 21st century, as Yonkers experiences a revitalization of its waterfront and downtown area. At the core of each of the transitions are communities and organizations that responded using a variety of tactics. This course studies the local history of Yonkers and its role within state and national narratives. Through readings, music, film, and course work, we will consider how history relied on the actions of individuals, as well as community groups. Moreover, we will analyze their role in dismantling or upholding systems of inequality. In order to do this, we will focus on conceptions of citizenship and examine the entwined relationships of the people, places, and ideas that have shaped the city. This semester-long class will enable students to develop an understanding of how race, class, gender, and community shaped the changes that the city experienced over the last century to provide an interdisciplinary discourse on how Yonkers continues to thrive and survive.

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War in the American Imagination

Open, Seminar—Spring

Some background in history is helpful but not required.

Americans often like to think of the United States as a nation founded on ideals; but the United States also was, as one historian has put it, a nation “founded in blood.” Valley Forge was once our Statue of Liberty. After all, the American Revolution was not just a struggle for the ideals of liberty and equality that Jefferson so eloquently expounded in the Declaration of Independence; it was also a war for independence from Britain, an international conflict that included France and Spain and, let us not forget, a bitter and cruel civil war amongst Americans themselves. In effect, we were birthed as a nation divided. How did this legacy of bloodshed shape American identity? To what extent did Americans sacralize bloodshed and, thus, conflate it with idealism? We remember the Alamo, but can anyone recall the basis of our claim to that territory? Are we not here going further and actually equating bloodshed with idealism? To what extent did Americans see their later wars as an extension of the Revolutionary War? Was the Civil War a second American Revolution, or was the American Revolution the nation’s first civil war? The course will examine these questions by looking at how Americans perceived and remembered the wars in which they fought, from the Revolution to World War II. Among the other wars to be considered are the War of 1812, the US-Mexican War, the Civil War, and World War I. In effect, the course offers an exploration into how we may “see things not as they are but as we are.”

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China, 1768–1963: From Empire to Nation

Open, Seminar—Spring

What did it mean to be a subject of the Qing dynasty in 1800 or a citizen of one of the modern Chinese Republics founded in the 20th century? What changed in the course of that century and a half? This course is a reading seminar in China’s fitful transition from the empire of the Manchu (Qing) dynasty (1644-1911) to the nation-state of the PRC (1949-present). The Qing dynasty was massive. From its height in the 18th century to the middle of the 20th, this continental power was remade into a member of the modern international community of nation-states. As we chart this process, recurring themes will be the changing nature of (state) sovereignty, relations with outsiders/foreigners, and the relationship of individuals to state power. We will examine the sinews of the Manchu dynasty’s domestic authority, including the balancing act between the emperor’s personal will and the bureaucracy’s routinized power. Qing colonialism in Xinjiang will illuminate the multiethnic nature of its empire and its interactions with foreign “others.” Despite internal challenges, external relations with expansive Western powers brought fundamental challenges to the imperial state—particularly the corrosive interactions with another imperial power, the seafaring British. The role of translation (of Western philosophy and international law) will be our entry point for China’s slide into the modern international system of nation-states. The concept of race highlights how Chinese struggled with the definition of “nation” itself. From there, we will turn to the growth of a modern nation-state. Keeping in mind the distinction between rural and urban environments, the changing nature of power and the relationship between state and individuals, along with revolutionary political mobilization, will be topics of particular interest.

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Liberations: Contemporary Latin America

Sophomore and above, Seminar—Fall

After the military regimes that swept Latin America came to an end in the last quarter of the 20th century, a new era of liberation emerged. The transition to democracy and the broad-based coalitions then formed renewed the hopes and expectations of justice, equality, and freedom that had been shattered by torture, censorship, and state power. But the era that emerged from those transitions—and which is coming to an end—is full of contradictions. Alongside the liberation of prisoners and the press and the return to party politics came the demise of social revolution and the retreat of the left. Alongside the liberalization of markets and the so-called neoliberal reforms came innovative social policies and a multiplicity of social movements, the most salient of which were led by indigenous groups and peasant-based organizations. Similarly, the ascendancy and hegemony of liberal ideas and policies gave rise to a new left, which brought the world’s attention back to Latin America with its combination of growth and equality. This course will examine the dynamics of revolution and counterrevolution in which contemporary Latin America emerged; study the origins of neoliberalism in Latin America and its economic and political repercussion; delve in the contradictions of the democratic transitions and its legacies; and explore the new rural, labor, feminist, and indigenous movements that challenged both neoliberalism and democracy.

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Germany Confronts the Enlightenment

Sophomore and above, Seminar—Spring

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, German-speaking Europe was the scene of one of history-s most remarkable explosions of human creativity. This was the age that gave the world the philosophy of Kant, the poetry of Goethe, the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, and many of the pioneering works of European Romanticism. In this course, we will read and discuss writings by a number of eminent German thinkers and men of letters of the period. Besides Kant and Goethe, we will read works by Lessing, Herder, Schiller, Fichte, Novalis, Hölderlin, Hegel, and Kleist. Those writers chose very diverse genres in which to express their ideas, and their views on important issues were often opposed. Yet it may be argued that they were all responding to the same challenge. The 18th-century Enlightenment undermined the credibility of orthodox Christian belief among educated, middle-class Germans without persuading them that the Enlightenment’s own answers to the problems of human life were adequate. It, therefore, stimulated a search for a new faith, a new ethics, and a new vision of what human beings could and should achieve. Since the assumptions of the Enlightenment remain, in many ways, the determining principles of our culture, the works created by German thinkers in their efforts to formulate an alternative system of values have also retained their relevance—continuing to inspire critics of modernity (Marx, Nietzsche) up to the present day. Even when we are not conscious of their influence, their thought continues to shape our own. To familiarize oneself with their ideas is to acquire an indispensable key to understanding the intellectual history of the modern world.

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Gendered Histories of Sickness and Health in Africa

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

How does an individual’s gender expression determine how s/he or they receive health care in Africa? In what ways does gender influence who provides health care, the kind of care that they offer, or the social determinants of peoples’ health? In the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries, African citizens, refugees, and internally displaced persons have had to cope with a range of health care challenges. These include: high levels of disability as a result of car accidents and work-related injuries; disruptions to health care services and food provision stemming from war or political unrest; lack of supplies and access to quality care resulting from neoliberal economic policies; and, most recently, the challenges of food insecurity due to seasonal locust infestations. These concerns paint a bleak picture of the status of health and health care provision in Africa. Epidemics like ebola and cholera complicate conditions for people seeking to improve the quality of their health. In addition, pandemics like HIV/AIDS and now COVID-19 have transformed demographics and gender relations in both predictable and unexpected ways. Despite these challenges, millions of African men, women, and children find ways to survive and respond creatively in order to address their needs for health and wellbeing. This class is organized around the understanding that the idea of “good health” is a useful critical lens through which to analyze gender-related questions. How do women, men, and LGBTQ+ individuals organize, navigate, and seek care in order to attain good health? What historical, political, and economic factors influence the provision of quality health care? How have African citizens, governments, faith communities, activists, and indigenous healers responded to the challenges associated with disease and the goal of maintaining good health? Because the African continent is massive and every country is complex and diverse, this class will use case studies from countries like Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and Kenya to answer these questions. In addition, students will be able to choose other African countries to study in depth in order to gain as broad a picture as possible of this complex and important topic. While we will primarily focus our inquiries by using historical works, we will actively monitor innovations in African countries resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal of developing a deeper understanding of what it takes to maintain a sense of “good health” in Africa.

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#BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName: Centering Black Women in the Fight for Racial Justice

Intermediate/Advanced, Small seminar—Year

Three black women—Alica Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors—created #BlackLivesMatter (#BLM) in 2012 to protest George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Three years later, #BLM became a rallying cry against police brutality across the country, particularly in Ferguson, Staten Island, and Baltimore. The African American Policy Forum created #SayHerName in 2014 to call attention to black women who have been killed by the police. Once dismissed as “hashtag activism,” #BLM has now become a global movement, as people have taken to the streets this summer not only to protest specific incidents of police brutality, such as the killing of George Floyd, but also to call for the abolition of the police state itself. Despite the popularity of #BLM, black women such as Breonna Taylor, who suffer state and gendered violence, have been downplayed or ignored in most media reports on police violence. This course will examine the historical contexts of both movements, focusing on the experiences of black women as activists and as targets of racial, gendered, and state violence. A core premise of the course is that we gain a much richer understanding of social systems and their problems by paying attention to society’s most vulnerable actors. Through classic and contemporary texts, we will also explore connections among #BLM, #SayHerName, and other social movements for racial justice in housing, health care, education, food, and the environment.

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Visions/Revisions: Examining Histories of Women and Gender

Advanced, Seminar—Year

Open to juniors and seniors

This course focuses on writings about women’s history and the history of gender. We will read a number of different examples of genres that engage in successful history writing: memoirs, novels, political histories, case studies, cultural histories, and biographies. These works will be considered with an eye toward developing students’ abilities in several critical areas, including analyzing primary sources, developing historiographies, and applying relevant theories in the fields of women’s history and gender studies. The required readings represent a range of locations on a global scale, as well as historical subjects that fall roughly within the 19th and 20th centuries—with a few notable exceptions. As a graduate-level course, students take an active role in guiding seminar discussions.

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Alternative Americas: A Cultural and Intellectual History of the United States, 1776–1976

Advanced, Seminar—Year

The story most typically told of America focuses on the path taken, the victors and the nature of their victory, the dreamers whose dreams were realized, and central figures in a largely political narrative. In this course, we will revisit the United States through the lives of those more on the margins, dreamers and doers who faced heavier odds or who dreamed of a world that never arrived. Through the words, dreams, memories, and exhortations of African Americans, workers, women, immigrants, and cultural critics of all sorts, we will revisit the story of the idea of America as it has unfolded. Readings will include primary sources from the time period, as well as historical articles and books. In the spring, we will add film. As we read and watch, we will also write, as this will be a course that emphasizes the synthesis of historical research and expository writing. A working knowledge of the political history of the time is necessary; students who need refreshing will be expected to regularly consult a textbook.

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Making the World Go Round: Children as Cogs in the Machinery of Empire

Open, Lecture—Fall

In the 1920s, a Miss Wilson presented a paper at a London conference, addressing “The Education of European Children in Contact With Primitive Races.” In her talk, she described the life of rural white settler children in Kenya growing up with African playmates and expressed her concerns about the “morally deleterious” effects of such play on those future imperial leaders. This particular case illustrates discourse about the role of privileged white children in imperial regimes; but children of diverse social classes, races, and nationalities across the globe were all implicated in processes of imperial expansion and European settler colonization over (at least) the past three centuries. What was believed about children, done to children, and required of children was central to the political and economic success of empire. In this lecture, we will examine a series of cases in order to understand the diverse roles, both intentional and unintentional, of children in colonial processes. In addition to the white sons and daughters of European settler colonists in Africa and Southeast Asia, we will look at the contrary things that were said and done about mixed-race children (and their mothers) at different historical and political moments of empire. We will learn, too, about the deployment of “orphans” in the service of empire. In the metropole, particularly British cities, orphan boys were funneled into the military and merchant navy, while children of both sexes were shipped across the globe to boost white settler populations, provide free labor, and relieve English poorhouses of the responsibility of taking care of them. The ancestors of many contemporary citizens of Canada, Australia, and South Africa were exported as children from metropolitan orphanages. We will deploy approaches from sex-gender studies, postcolonial studies, and critical race theory. Questions that we will explore include: Why did settler authorities in Australia kidnap mixed-race indigenous children and put them in boarding schools, when such children in other colonies were expected to stay with their local mothers out of sight of the settlers? How did European ideas about climate and race frame the ways in which settler children were nursed in the Dutch East Indies? How did concepts of childhood and parental rights over children vary historically, socioeconomically, and geographically? How did metropolitan discourses about race, class, and evolution frame the treatment of indigent children at home and abroad? The sources for this class include literature, scholarly articles, ethnographic accounts, historical documents, and film. Students will attend the lecture twice a week and group conference biweekly.

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Gendering in African Postcolonies

Sophomore and above, Seminar—Spring

This seminar explores ways in which gender operates in myriad African contexts during colonial and “postcolonial” periods. We will interrogate concepts of gender and of the postcolonial, identifying the ways in which colonial relations endure beyond the period of occupation. We will begin by historically looking at local articulations of gender in Nigeria (female political power), Sudan (boy wives) and Kenya (intersexuality). Reading European colonial’s narratives about gender in African contexts will tell us much about their own gender systems and their (mis)understandings of African societies. Readings will describe contested attempts by European government officials and missionaries to abolish practices that they consisered “barbaric,” such as the use of traditional medicinal practices, “paganism,” and circumcision. As we look at the period from the end of formal colonial rule to the present, we will analyse ongoing transformations in gender systems as they articulate with global issues. Of particular interest will be the ways in which Western feminist and queer-rights discourses impinge on African systems of gender and sexuality, resulting in a new kind of colonial relationship. The class will be discussion-based. Our texts will be archival documents, ethnographies, films, historical accounts, and fiction. Our writers will include Mariama Baa, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Ifi Amadiume, Ann Stoler, Gayle Rubin, and many more.

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Art and Society in the Lands of Islam

Open, Lecture—Fall

This course will explore the architecture and visual arts of societies in which Islam is a strong political, cultural, or social presence. We will follow the history of some of these societies through the development of their arts and architecture, using case studies to explore their diverse artistic languages from the advent of Islam through the contemporary world. We will begin with an introduction to the history surrounding the advent of Islam and the birth of arts and architecture that respond to the needs of the new Islamic community. We will proceed to follow the developments of diverse artistic and architectural languages of expression as Islam spreads to the Mediterranean and to Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America, exploring the ways in which arts can help define and express identities for people living in multi-confessional societies. We will then draw this exploration into the present day, in which global economics, immigration, and politics draw the architecture and artistic attitudes of Islam into the global contemporary discourse. Our work will include introductions to some of the theoretical discourses that have emerged concerning cultural representation and exchange and appropriation in art and architecture. One of our allied goals will be to learn to read works of art and to understand how an artistic expression that resists representation can connect with its audience. And throughout this course, we will ask: Can there be an Islamic art?

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Art and Myth in Ancient Greece

Open, Seminar—Year

The spring semester (Intermediate) is open to students continuing from the fall semester or by permission of the instructor.

This course will examine the use of mythic imagery in the visual arts of the Greeks and peoples of ancient Italy from the eighth century BCE to the beginning of the Roman Empire. We will consider all visual artistic media—both public and private. We will focus largely on problems of content or interpretation, with special attention to the role of patronage in the choice and mode of presentation of the mythic themes. In order to appreciate the underlying cultural or religious significance of the myths and their visual expression, we will also examine the relation of the artworks to contemporary literature, especially poetry, and the impact of significant historical events or trends. Fall: Homeric and Archaic Greece. In the fall semester, we will examine the earlier Greek development from the Geometric to the Classical periods, focusing on the paradigmatic function of mythic narratives—especially the central conception of the hero and the role of women in Greek religion and society. Discussion will also concentrate on key historical or political developments such as the emergence of tyranny and democracy. Spring: From Classical Greece to Augustan Rome. The spring semester will examine the use of myth during the Classical period, focusing on the impact of the prolonged conflict with the Persian Empire and the great monuments of Periklean Athens. We will then consider Greek myth in the later Classical and Hellenistic periods and the absorption of Greek myth in the art of the Etruscans and early Romans. The course will conclude with the adaptation of Greek myth within the emerging Roman Empire.

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The Birth of Medieval Europe

Open, Seminar—Year

The spring semester (Intermediate) is open to students continuing from the fall semester or by permission of the instructor.

This course will examine one of the most challenging problems of Western and European history—the transformation of the Roman Empire and the ancient world into the world of medieval Christian Europe. Toward this end, we will examine major artistic monuments against the background of a broad range of evidence, including literature and religion as well as military and political history. Within this perspective, the fall of the Roman Empire will emerge not as an event but as a process, one that unfolded slowly over several centuries to evolve continuously into the complex mosaic of early medieval Europe. Fall: The Fall of the Roman Empire. During the fall semester, we will examine how Rome went from a period of unquestioned power and prosperity in the late second century AD into an era of economic, political, and military instability that resulted in a steady decline, punctuated by periodic revivals that ultimately failed. The course will focus on the root causes of this decline in Roman military and economic policy under relentless pressure from barbarian Europe and the neighboring Persian Empire. We will also consider the emergence of Christianity, not so much as a cause or symptom of decline but as the cultural process through which the Romans reinvented themselves one last time. Spring: From Barbarian Kingdoms to the Holy Roman Empire. The spring semester will begin with the various Germanic “successor states” that filled the vacuum left by Rome’s collapse. We will examine the various Germanic-speaking peoples who settled within the former Roman territories and how they accommodated themselves to surviving Roman institutions. A key factor here will be the early medieval Church hierarchy that rapidly came to assume the organizing cultural and administrative role formerly maintained by the Roman Empire in Western Europe. We will then consider how the Merovingian Frankish successor state eventually merged with the papacy to revive the old Christian imperial ideal as a new “Holy Roman Empire” under the Carolingian and Ottonian dynasties. Here, we will examine the theme of revival not only as a political and economic phenomenon but also in terms of the great rebirth of architecture and the arts under Charlemagne and his political heirs.

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A Talent for Every Noble Thing: Art, Architecture in Italy, 1300–1600

Open, Seminar—Spring

This course involves an in-depth survey of the major monuments of Italian art and architecture from 1300 to 1600. Equal emphasis will be given to the histories and societies of major city-states such as Pisa, Siena, Florence, Venice, and Rome; the canon of artworks by artists such as Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo; readings of major critics and historians of Italian art; and the broader intellectual trends, social realities, and movements that provide a context for our understanding of the artists’ and, to a lesser extent, the critics’ creations. Thus, unified Italian church designs will be juxtaposed with gender-segregated social practice, theories of genius with concepts of handicraft, pagan ideals with Christian rituals, creative expression with religious orthodoxy, and popes with monks, dukes, financiers, and “humanist” intellectuals. The course will focus on a close reading of texts surrounding the first polemical “humanist” pamphlets about art in early modern history—Alberti’s On Painting and On Architecture—and will include works by Erwin Panofsky, Ernst Gombrich, and Michael Baxandall. We will also engage the development of the “High” Renaissance and the intellectual and aesthetic debates surrounding Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael as philosophers, naturalists, geniuses, models, and marginalized outcasts. Class papers will deal with developing a vocabulary for compositional analysis, critical issues in Italian intellectual and social history (particularly, gender studies), and varied interpretive strategies applied to works of visual art and culture. Conference projects may involve selected topics in religion, history, and philosophy of the Italian Renaissance and art and architecture in Europe and the “New World” from 1300 to the present.

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The History of the Museum, Institutional Critique, and the Artist as Curator

Sophomore and above, Seminar—Fall

This course looks closely at the art museum as a site of contest and critique: How are museums not neutral spaces but, rather, powerful institutions that shape narratives about the objects they collect and display? Readings will consider the origins of the modern art museum in Europe in the 17th century and explore how the histories and conventions of display impacted art’s reception and meaning. We will analyze the history of institutional critique in the West in the 1970s to look at how artists have taken aim at the museum as a site of discursive power, raising questions about the kinds of value judgments that go into determining what counts as art. We will also explore recent trends in curatorial practice toward the artist as curator: What happens when the museum becomes a medium for contemporary artists? Lastly, we will investigate recent protests at museums around issues of representation, patronage, and power. We will use the opportunities opened by remote learning to engage with and interview curators and activists across the globe in our Zoom seminars. And we will investigate what access and protest looks like in this virtual age, as museums take their collections online and activism takes different shapes. Because this course considers the historiography of art, some previous course work in art history is expected; but with its broad historical and topical coverage, this course will have something for everyone—regardless of their background in art history.

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Art, Religion, and Identity: Christians Jews and Muslims in the Arts of Medieval Spain

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

As an intermediate course, some of the things that would qualify you to enroll for this course would be having previously taken a course in medieval art or Islamic art, having taken a course in medieval or Islamic history or civilization, or having the ability to conduct research in Spanish. You are also welcome during interviews to make a case for other skills or background that you feel might qualify you.

How can we read peoples’ sense of identity in the arts? How do religious identities interact with national, regional, and cultural identities? Is European identity necessarily Christian? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in this seminar. From 711 to 1492, the Iberian Peninsula was home to a number of kingdoms with constantly transforming demographics, cities marked by religious pluralism, and kaleidoscopic political alliances between political and religious groups. Opposing forces rarely aligned simply with religious affiliation in medieval Spain. If documents give us a biased and incomplete picture of the relationship between and among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, the arts can provide a different kind of testimony to these rich and complex histories that continue to have an impact on our lives today.

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The Atomic Bombs as History, Experience, and Culture: Washington, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki

Open, Lecture—Fall

In January 2018, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the hands of the Doomsday Clock (yes, it’s a thing) at two minutes to midnight, the nearest it has been to catastrophe since 1953. In early 2018, Donald Trump goaded Kim Jong-un with tweets about the size of his nuclear “button,” and the North Korean pushed ahead with missile tests. In late 2019, Putin announced that Russia developed “invincible” hypersonic nuclear missiles capable of hitting virtually anywhere on the globe. With world leaders flirting with the prospect of nuclear holocaust, an understanding of the only instance of nuclear warfare is again relevant, even crucial. Through a rich variety of sources (textual, visual, and cinematic), this lecture-seminar hybrid course will examine, from three major perspectives, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. First, by reading scholarship and primary documents, we will look at the decision to drop the bombs, as well as the postwar claims justifying them. We will challenge the American narrative that the bombings were militarily necessary while also putting them into the historical context of World War II, specifically the strategic bombing of non-military targets, the prospects of Japanese surrender in the final months of the conflict, and the looming Cold War with Russia. Second, we will confront the effects of the bombs on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and their populations. Technical descriptions and firsthand accounts will help us grasp the unique destructiveness of the atomic bombs on both bodies and buildings, as well as how people coped with that destructiveness. The diary of HACHIYA Michihiko, for example, will reveal a medical doctor’s observations on the breakdown of society and how ordinary Japanese dealt with the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. Next, the course examines the impact of the bombs on Japan’s postwar culture, including the profound sense of victimization they imparted, which has complicated Japanese narratives about World War II and inspired an abiding pacifism in Japanese society. In a different vein, serious literature written by survivors will open up the relevance of atomic narratives by exploring the social alienation endured by the hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) in postwar Japan. TOMATSU Shomei’s photography of Nagasaki and its hibakusha will provide a visual window on the bombs’ legacy, as well. And finally, we will examine some popular culture—the original (1954) Godzilla (Gojiro) movie and some anime and manga—for the ways in which the bombs were appropriated and invoked in apocalyptic imagery, imagery that expressed a distinctive understanding of the dark side of science and technology and that made a lasting contribution to wider global culture. This course will consist of weekly lectures paired with a weekly seminar meeting for close discussion of our syllabus readings. Thus, each student must not only attend the lecture but also choose one of the three seminar section times.

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China’s 20th-Century Through Fiction

Open, Seminar—Year

There is no prerequisite knowledge of China (history or literature) required for this course.

In 1902, China’s leading intellectual and political theorist, LIANG Qichao, observed, “If one intends to renovate the people of a nation, one must first renovate its fiction.” In the century that followed, reformers, radicals, and regimes repeatedly placed fiction at the center of the national project of modernity. Exploring literature’s contribution to the construction of the Chinese national body, this yearlong seminar uses short stories and novels as windows on a cataclysmic century filled with wars, political revolutions, cultural change, and social upheaval. As writers participated in, and commented on, those traumatic events, fiction was a key battleground for political, social, and cultural change. In the fall, we will encounter short stories and novels that carried forward radical demolitions of the Confucian cultural tradition and political critiques in the first half of the century. Beginning in the 1920s, urban feminists wrote to promote the emancipation of the individual while, a decade later, leftist writers exposed the evils of Western imperialism and capitalist exploitation. How did those works contribute to revolutionary movements? Despite an overall focus on the political dimension, we will take time out to consider some more lyrically inclined writers who explored China’s ethnic margins and the intricate and private dramas of love and despair. In the spring semester, we will delve into the socialist realism of Communist fiction to identify its unique qualities and role in Maoist political life before turning to the literary reassessments of Maoist excesses in the reform era (1980s) and the place of literature in the neoliberal atmosphere of post-Tiananmen (1989) China. We will interrogate fictional works in postrevolutionary China for how they deal with and understand China’s revolutionary past, its ragged cultural tradition, and a rapidly changing society and economy. What is the relationship between art and politics in these ostensibly (even studiously) apolitical works? And finally, we will cover Taiwanese literature from the 1960s through the 1990s, as it, too, grappled with economic development, its political basis, and social effects. Our readings include many of the great characters in early 20th-century literature, such as Lu Xun’s cannibalistic madman and hapless Ah Q, Ding Ling’s tubercular Miss Sophie, SHEN Congwen’s Hmong villagers and Zhang Ailing’s college student turned mistress-assassin. We will also meet blood-drenched bandits, long-suffering peasants, and disaffected urban youths in an age of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. For those taking this class as an FYS course, conferences in the fall semester will consist of biweekly individual meetings, with a group session held on alternate weeks to handle matters concerning all FYS students. Conferences in the spring will be on the regular, biweekly individual model (i.e., no group conferences).

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Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors: Chinese Religion in Daily Life

Open, Seminar—Year

This course will look at the rise and unfolding of China’s major religious traditions—Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism, and popular (folk) religion—and seeks to place them within a broader historical, social, and cultural context. In doing so, we will take a two-pronged approach. The first approach will involve the close reading of texts that were foundational in each of the traditions. Topics to be explored will include: notions of the Dao (Tao) and the ways in which it might be attained by individuals, families, and communities; the essence of the mind, human nature, and the emotions and the ways in which they interact in behavior; and practices of inner self-cultivation and social engagement. The second approach will be to explore the specific religious practices associated with each of the traditions (e.g., ancestor worship, exorcisms, community worship, and prayers), the origins and transformation of popular religious festivals (including New Years, All Souls Day, and Hell), and the rise and spread of deity cults (including Guanyin, Mazu, and City Gods). This will involve a different set of texts, including ritual and liturgical texts, temple records and regulations, “how-to” manuals for specific practices, miracle tales, temple performance pieces, government documents, legal cases, diaries, and journals. In bringing these two approaches together, we will consider the ways in which religious traditions and practices both shaped and were shaped by social, cultural, economic, and political institutions.

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China, 1768–1963: From Empire to Nation

Open, Seminar—Spring

What did it mean to be a subject of the Qing dynasty in 1800 or a citizen of one of the modern Chinese Republics founded in the 20th century? What changed in the course of that century and a half? This course is a reading seminar in China’s fitful transition from the empire of the Manchu (Qing) dynasty (1644-1911) to the nation-state of the PRC (1949-present). The Qing dynasty was massive. From its height in the 18th century to the middle of the 20th, this continental power was remade into a member of the modern international community of nation-states. As we chart that process, recurring themes will be the changing nature of (state) sovereignty, relations with outsiders/foreigners, and the relationship of individuals to state power. We will examine the sinews of the Manchu dynasty’s domestic authority, including the balancing act between the emperor’s personal will and the bureaucracy’s routinized power. Qing colonialism in Xinjiang will illuminate the multiethnic nature of its empire and its interactions with foreign “others.” Despite internal challenges, external relations with expansive Western powers brought fundamental challenges to the imperial state—particularly the corrosive interactions with another imperial power, the seafaring British. The role of translation (of Western philosophy and international law) will be our entry point for China’s slide into the modern international system of nation-states. The concept of race highlights how the Chinese struggled with the definition of “nation” itself. From there, we will turn to the growth of a modern nation-state. Keeping in mind the distinction between rural and urban environments, the changing nature of power and the relationship between the state and individuals, along with revolutionary political mobilization, will be topics of particular interest.

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First-Year Studies: Economics for Responsible Citizens

Open, FYS—Year

Today’s world is facing multiple economic, social, environmental, and political challenges: increasing income and wealth inequality, growing economic uncertainty, unstopping climate change, artificial intelligence and robotic automation of the workplace, political polarization, growing nationalism and populism, and diverging quality of life between the developed world and the majority of the developing world, to name a few. The challenging world requires every one of us to act as more responsible citizens. Using the economics literature, we will learn: Why do the challenges exist? What is our role in the community and in the bigger economic and political world? How can we transcend the “contemplation of single individuals and of civil society” and take the standpoint of “human society” or “social humanity”? In addition, through in-class practices, discussions, assignments, conference meetings, and conference work, we will work together to prepare you for academic achievement. You will enhance your academic skills, such as finding and reading academic literature, writing literature review, thinking critically, making your own argument with quantitative or qualitative evidence, and formatting a conference paper. Most importantly, you will grow professionally and prepare yourself to be a responsible citizen. During the fall semester, you will meet with me weekly for individual conferences. In the spring semester, we will meet weekly or every other week, depending on your needs and the progress of your conference projects.

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First-Year Studies: Historical Foundations of Economics: Politics, Power, Ideology, and Change

Open, FYS—Year

The first two decades of the 21st century have witnessed two major economic crashes, the first one being the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007/2008 and the second one being the pandemic crash of 2020. The irony is that, in conventional discourse (in, say, the mass media), the prelude to each of these economic catastrophes involved a triumphalist hubris that celebrated the stock-market booms, economic growth, and falling unemployment rates that occurred in each decade before the crashes occurred. As in the run-up to the previous crash, conventional commentators were blindsided when the world fell off the proverbial cliff. How did history, in a sense, repeat itself in 2020, yet political and economic “experts” at the highest levels of government and the mass media did not see the dangers ahead while they were celebrating “free markets”? The study of economics looms large with regard to the above questions; however, economics is hardly a monolithic discipline, since rival schools of thought in the discipline conceptualize the nature of markets, “market forces,” and policy in very different ways. This course will situate the current crisis in a theoretical and historical context by drawing on insights from different schools of thought in economics, as well as from other disciplines such as law, politics, sociology, and history. At the heart of this course is a methodological one that counterposes conventional or neoclassical economics, which sees the economy in apolitical and ahistorical terms, against other perspectives that argue that it is impossible to study economics outside a political, social, and historical context. Some of the key questions that we will study in this course are: Why do people distinguish between “regulation” and “deregulation” (laissez faire), and is that a false dichotomy? What if laissez-faire capitalism is, itself, the outcome of a particular type of regulatory system? What is the history of public policy in the United States and other countries? How do we understand the role of political power and the “rule of law” with regard to market outcomes? With inequality as one of the central themes of our current political climate, how do we understand its causes? And what is the link to the history of taxation policies in the United States? Can it be argued that the subprime mortgage crash of 2007/2008 and the pandemic crash of 2020 have the same roots; and, if so, what are they? These will be some of the questions that we will be tackling throughout the course of the year, thereby ensuring that students develop a solid foundation for the fundamental debates in economic theory and policy and understand the key role of methodology in the study of political economy phenomena. Finally, the goal is to ensure that students develop the ability to critically engage scholarly work in economics.

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Economic Policy and the 2020 General Elections: Money, Trade, Industrial Policy, and Inequality

Open, Lecture—Year

We live in unprecedented, turbulent times in which a pandemic crisis has combined with a major economic crisis and plunged the world into chaos. How should we, as economists, understand the nature and roots of this crisis, and how do we think of a way forward for humanity beyond these dark times? Needless to say, the general elections of November 2020 loom large in our collective consciousness. While we can speculate or worry about the effects on political institutions as the new administration takes office in January 2021, we also need to pay crucial attention to key economic issues pertaining to jobs, inequality, health care, climate change, and industrial policy. In fact, it will be argued that the nature of political institutions, including any society’s legal foundations, cannot be divorced from economic outcomes. This course will focus on the above key themes by not only looking ahead but also by looking behind at recent history to understand the roots of our current turmoil. At every step of the way, students will be exposed to rival theoretical and methodological perspectives in economics.

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Macroeconomic Analysis and Policy: Institutions, Uncertainty, and Financialization

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Spring

Keynes not only revolutionized economic theory in 1937 but also led generations of economists to believe that the government should play an active role in managing a country’s aggregate demand. Yet, since the 1980s, the theoretical and policy world of mainstream economics took a great U-turn and, once again, embraced the free market. In macroeconomics, this is reflected by the pursuit of goals such as fiscal austerity, financial deregulation, and liberalization of international finance. In this course, we will examine the fundamental debates in macroeconomic theory and policy making. The standard analytical framework of GDP determination in the short run will be used as our entry point of analysis. On top of that, we will examine multiple theoretical and empirical perspectives on money, credit and financial markets, investment, governmental spending, unemployment, growth and distribution, crisis, technological change, and long swings of capitalist economies.

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Introduction to Property: Cultural and Environmental Perspectives

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Perhaps few issues are more contentious in the environmental arena than those surrounding struggles over rights to private, as well as common, property resources. What is property, and how is it made? Who makes property? How are property rights performed, publicized, and enforced? What is a commons, and what is common property? Debates over the “commons” implicate ideas of citizenship, community, the public good, justice, and governance. Controversies over public space and community gardens, genetic recombinant research and rights to the genome, and North-South disputes over rights to biodiversity in the geographic South—as well as debates over property in the Middle East—form some of the hotly contested terrain of property rights and the commons use and ownership. Property rights on a variety of scales—from the biomolecular to whole organs and organisms, from individual trees to whole ecosystems—are examined in varied geographic, biological, cultural, and historical contexts. This course is an introduction to ideas and cultures of property (private, public, and collective); debates, claims, and arguments over the commons; and the environmental and social consequences of different property regimes.

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Landscapes in Translation

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Spring

This course investigates the multiple ways in which landscapes have been imagined, interpreted, physically shaped, and controlled in a variety of historical and contemporary sites. The literatures of environmental humanities, landscape design, and political ecology provide theory and cases. The first section, Cartographies, explores ideas of landscape in Euro-America, Southeast Asia, and colonial-era Africa. We examine how landscapes on a variety of scales, from “bioregions” to nations, are imagined, codified, and transformed through representational processes and material moves ranging from mapping to making walls. The second section, Visions, investigates how landscapes are imagined and embodied in fine arts and literature, as well as in garden and urban design. Readings draw on examples of landscape making and design in colonial New England, Indonesia, and other sites. We examine contemporary examples of landscape design in response to climate change, especially sea-level rise in the Netherlands, United States, Indonesia, and China. We also study reworkings of the urban landscape to integrate more productive, biologically diverse “fringes,” as well as rooftop farms and apiaries. The third section, Security-Scapes: Landscape Imaginaries and Embodiments, investigates the rise of “security-scapes” or “surveillance-scapes,” dating from slavery in the United States to the Department of Homeland Security in the post-9/11 era. Contemporary urban-design imaginaries and plans for “resilience” and “smart cities” are investigated. We draw upon websites, advertisements, and new scholarship in security studies, landscape design, and critical political theory. This course is open to students with developed skills in critical thinking and the analysis of texts and other representational forms.

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First-Year Studies: Introduction to Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

Open, FYS—Year

Some experience in the social sciences desired but not required.

In this yearlong seminar, we will begin by examining competing paradigms and approaches to understanding “development” and the “Third World.” We will set the stage by answering the question: What did the world look like 500 years ago? The purpose of this part of the course is to become acquainted with and to analyze the historical origins and evolution of a world political economy of which the Third World is an intrinsic component. We will thus study the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the rise of merchant and finance capital, and the colonization of the world by European powers. We will analyze case studies of colonial “development” to understand the evolving meaning of that term. These case studies will help us assess the varied legacies of colonialism apparent in the emergence of new nations through the fitful and uneven process of decolonization that followed. The next part of the course will look at the United Nations and the role that some of its associated institutions have played in the post-World War II global political economy—one marked by persistent and intensifying socioeconomic inequalities, as well as frequent outbreaks of political violence, across the globe. By examining the development institutions that have emerged and evolved since 1945, we will attempt to unravel the paradoxes of development in different eras. We will deconstruct the measures of development through a thematic exploration of population, resource use, poverty, access to food, the environment, agricultural productivity, and different development strategies adopted by Third World nation-states. We will then examine globalization and its relation to emergent international institutions and their policies; for example, the IMF, World Bank, AIIB, and WTO. We will then turn to contemporary development debates and controversies that increasingly find space in the headlines—widespread land grabbing by sovereign wealth funds, China, and hedge funds; the “global food crisis”; and the perils of climate change. Throughout the course, our investigations of international institutions, transnational corporations, the role of the state, and civil society will provide the backdrop for the final focus of the class—the emergence of regional coalitions for self-reliance, environmental and social justice, and sustainable development. Our analysis of development in practice will draw upon case studies primarily from Africa, but also from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the United States. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage substantive research project beginning in the fall semester and completed in the spring. Project presentations will incorporate a range of formats, from traditional papers to multimedia visual productions. Where possible and feasible, you will be encouraged to do primary research during fall study days and winter and spring breaks.

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Food, Agriculture, Environment, and Development

Open, Lecture—Year

Where does the food that we eat come from? Why do some people have enough food to eat and others do not? Are there too many people for the world to feed? Who controls the world’s food? Will global food prices continue their recent rapid rise? And if so, what will be the consequences? What are the environmental impacts of our food production systems? How do answers to these questions differ by place or by the person asking the question? How have the questions changed over time? This course will explore the following fundamental issue: the relationship between development and the environment, focusing in particular on agriculture and the production and consumption of food. The questions above often hinge on the contentious debate concerning population, natural resources, and the environment. Thus, we will begin by critically assessing the fundamental ideological positions and philosophical paradigms of “modernization,” as well as the critical counterpoints, that lie at the heart of this debate. Within this context of competing sets of philosophical assumptions concerning the population-resource debate, we will investigate the concept of “poverty” and the making of the “Third World;” access to food, hunger, grain production and food aid, agricultural productivity (the Green and Gene revolutions), biofuels, the role of transnational corporations (TNCs), the international division of labor, migration, globalization and global commodity chains, and the different strategies adopted by nation-states to “develop” natural resources and agricultural production. Through a historical investigation of environmental change and the biogeography of plant domestication and dispersal, we will look at the creation of indigenous, subsistence, peasant, plantation, collective, and commercial forms of agriculture. We will analyze the physical environment and ecology that help shape, but rarely determine, the organization of resource use and agriculture. Rather, through the dialectical rise of various political-economic systems—such as feudalism, slavery, mercantilism, colonialism, capitalism, and socialism—we will study how humans have transformed the world’s environments. We will follow with studies of specific issues: technological change in food production; commercialization and industrialization of agriculture and the decline of the family farm; food and public health, culture, and family; land grabbing and food security; the role of markets and transnational corporations in transforming the environment; and the global environmental changes stemming from modern agriculture, dams, deforestation, grassland destruction, desertification, biodiversity loss, and the interrelationship with climate change. Case studies of particular regions and issues will be drawn from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the United States. The final part of the course examines the restructuring of the global economy and its relation to emergent international laws and institutions regulating trade, the environment, agriculture, resource extraction treaties, the changing role of the state, and competing conceptualizations of territoriality and control. We will end with discussions of emergent local, regional, and transnational coalitions for food self-reliance and food sovereignty, alternative and community supported agriculture, community-based resource management systems, sustainable development, and grassroots movements for social and environmental justice. Films, multimedia materials, and distinguished guest lectures will be interspersed throughout the course. One farm/factory field trip is possible in each semester if funding permits. The lecture participants may also take a leading role in a campus-wide event on “food and hunger,” tentatively planned for the spring. Please mark your calendars when the dates are announced, as attendance for all of the above is required. Attendance and participation are also required at special guest lectures and film viewings in the Social Science Colloquium Series, which are held approximately once per month. The Web Board is an important part of the course. Regular postings of short essays will be made there, as well as followup commentaries with your colleagues. There will be in-class essays, a midterm quiz, and a final exam each semester. Group conferences will focus on in-depth analysis of certain course topics and will include debates and small-group discussions. You will prepare a poster project each semester on a topic of your choice that is related to the course and which will be presented at the end of each semester in group conference, as well as a potential public session.

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Advanced German: Postwar German Literature and Film

Advanced, Small Lecture—Fall

This course is taught in English.

In our lecture, we will explore postwar German literature and film from 1945 to the present. As we read plays, short stories, and novels (including one graphic novel) by Wolfgang Borchert, Heinrich Böll, Gunther Grass, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, Peter Weiss, Jurek Becker, Bernhard Schlink, Nora Krug, Helga Mueller, and others, we will give special attention to the question of how German writers have dealt with the lasting legacy of both National Socialism and Stalinism (in East Germany from 1945 to 1989). Other topics might include German reunification, immigration, and the question of national identity. The films that will enhance our understanding of postwar German history and culture will include Murderer Among Us, Germany Pale Mother, The Lives of Others, and Good-Bye Lenin. Students will be required to read an entire play or novel per week. During an extra weekly seminar, we will work on all aspects of your German—reading, speaking, and writing. 

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Intermediate Greek: The Perils of Passion: Ancient Greek Wisdom for Today’s Troubled Times

Intermediate, Lecture—Year

See course description under Literature.

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Readings in Intermediate Greek: Herodotus and Thucydides

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

This course will review grammar concepts, as necessary, while reading—in Greek—selected passages of Herodotus and Thucydides.

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Beginning Italian: Viaggio in Italia

Open, Seminar—Year

This course, for students with no previous knowledge of Italian, aims at giving the student a complete foundation in the Italian language with particular attention to oral and written communication and to all aspects of Italian culture. The course will be conducted in Italian after the first month and will involve the study of all basic structures of the language—phonological, grammatical, and syntactical—with practice in conversation, reading, composition, and translation. In addition to material covering basic Italian grammar, students will be exposed to fiction, poetry, songs, articles, recipe books, and films. Group conference (held once a week) aims at enriching the students’ knowledge of Italian culture and developing their ability to communicate, which will be achieved through readings that deal with current events and topics relative to today’s Italian culture. Activities in pairs or groups, along with short written assignments, will be part of the group conference. In addition to class and group conference, the course has a conversation component in regular workshops with the language assistant. Conversation classes are held twice a week (in small groups) and will center on the concept of viaggio in Italia, a journey through the regions of Italy through cuisine, cinema, art, opera, and dialects. The Italian program organizes trips to the Metropolitan Opera and to relevant exhibits in New York, as well as offering the possibility to experience firsthand Italian cuisine as a group. By the end of this yearlong course, students will attain a basic competence in all aspects of the language.

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Intermediate Italian: Modern Italian Culture and Literature

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

This intermediate-level course aims at improving and perfecting the students’ speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, as well as their knowledge of Italy’s contemporary culture and literature. In order to acquire the necessary knowledge of Italian grammar, idiomatic expressions, and vocabulary, a review of all grammar will be carried out throughout the year. As an introduction to modern Italian culture and literature, students will be introduced to a selection of short stories, poems, and passages from novels, as well as specific newspaper articles, music, and films in the original language. Some of the literary works will include selections from Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, Natalia Ginzburg, Gianni Rodari, Marcello D’Orta, Clara Sereni, Dino Buzzati, Stefano Benni, Antonio Tabucchi, Alberto Moravia, Achille Campanile, and Elena Ferrante. In order to address the students’ writing skills, written compositions will be required as an integral part of the course. All material is accessible on MySLC. Conferences are held on a biweekly basis; topics might include the study of a particular author, literary text, film, or any other aspect of Italian society and culture that might be of interest to the student. Conversation classes (in small groups) will be held twice a week with the language assistant, during which students will have the opportunity to reinforce what they have learned in class and hone their ability to communicate in Italian. When appropriate, students will be directed to specific internship opportunities in the New York area centered on Italian language and culture.

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Beginning Latin

Open, Seminar—Year

This course provides an intensive introduction to Latin grammar, syntax, and vocabulary with a view toward reading the language as soon as possible. Close reading of Vergil’s Aeneid in English will accompany intensive language study in the fall. By mid-semester, students will be translating authentic excerpts of Latin poetry and prose. During the spring semester, while continuing to develop and refine their knowledge of Latin grammar and vocabulary, students will read selections from the Aeneid in Latin.

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Queer Theory: A History

Sophomore and above, Seminar—Spring

For students with a background in women’s, gender, or LGBT studies.

Queer theory emerged in the United States, in tandem with Queer Nation, at the beginning of the 1990s as the intellectual framework for a new round in ongoing contests over understandings of sexuality and gender in Western culture. “Queer” was presented as a radical break with homosexual, as well as heterosexual, pasts. Queer theorists and activists hoped to reconstruct lesbian and gay politics, intellectual life, and culture; renegotiate differences of gender, race, and class among lesbians and gay men; and establish new ways of thinking about sexuality, new understandings of sexual dissidence, and new relations among sexual dissidents. Nevertheless, queer theory had complex sources in the intellectual and political work that had gone before. And it has had, predictably, unpredictable effects on subsequent intellectual and political projects. This class will make the history of queer theory the basis for an intensive study of contemporary intellectual and political work on sexuality and gender. We will also be addressing the fundamental questions raised by the career of queer theory about the relations between political movements and intellectual movements, the politics of intellectual life, and the politics of the academy—in the United States, in particular—over the past half-century.

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First-Year Studies: Mythology in Literature

Open, FYS—Year

In this course, we will define myths, broadly, as recurring narrative energy fields of great intensity and durability that supply cultures and persons with universal patterns by which to reflect on their origins and destinies. We will consider ways in which writers, primarily in Western literary traditions, have used certain mythic patterns—odysseys in the first term and metamorphoses in the second term—to explore their questions and concerns about the operations of the cosmos and the psyche, history, and morality. Those patterns provide both archetypal structures for the articulation of plot and tropes for the implication of meaning in literary texts. We will proceed chronologically through texts from ancient, through medieval and Renaissance, to Romantic and contemporary periods. Tracking the same narrative pattern through this sequence of literary periods will provide us with insights into the way in which literature represents changing understandings of the way the world is structured and the way that the human mind and human culture engage with it. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences. In the spring, we will meet weekly or every other week, depending on students’ needs and the progress of their conference projects.

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First-Year Studies: The Marriage Plot: Love and Romance in American and English Fiction

Open, FYS—Year

“Reader, I married him. A quiet wedding we had,” Charlotte Bronte’s title character exclaims in the concluding chapter of Jane Eyre. Jane’s wedding may be quiet, but the steps leading up to her marriage with the man who once employed her as a governess are tumultuous. With the publication of Jane Eyre, we left behind the early marriage-plot novel in which a series of comic misunderstandings pave the way for a joyous wedding. From that point on, marriage would be a high-risk adventure for both parties. This course will begin with classic marriage-plot novels such as Jane Austen’s Emma, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady, and Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. But the course will also look at love and courtship in such untraditional marriage-plot novels as Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. By the time the course concludes with Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot and Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage, the marriages and courtships that we see will be distinctly modern in the form that they take and in the complexity and divorces that they bring with them.

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The Perils of Passion: Ancient Greek Wisdom for Today’s Troubled Times

Open, Lecture—Year

With the permission of the instructor, qualified students may opt to take this course as Intermediate Greek and read selected portions of the text in Greek.

Are we unwittingly reliving the past? Authoritarianism, magical thinking, and tribalism are beginning to characterize the 21st century as they characterized archaic Greece. Over centuries, however, the ancient Greeks experienced a movement in the opposite direction: They began to prioritize reality, condemn tyranny, and experiment with broader forms of political participation. During the late sixth through fifth centuries BCE, ancient Athenians devised, simultaneously, the concepts of democracy and history. As the Athenians were experimenting with the world’s first-ever democratic political institutions, the historians Herodotus and Thucydides distinguished history from myth and offered examples of behaviors to emulate or to avoid. Today, those early historians can help us analyze facts, identify causes and consequences, and avoid the pitfalls of the past. Students will read, in English translation, Herodotus’ Histories and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, as well as selected works by Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristotle, and Ps.-Xenophon.

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Postwar German Literature and Film

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

This course is taught in English. German language skills are not required. Advanced German students have the option of taking this small lecture for five credits; during an extra weekly seminar, we will work on all aspects of your German—reading, speaking, and writing—by analyzing and discussing (in German) the same postwar German texts and/or others not covered in this lecture.

We will study short stories about the war by Heinrich Böll; plays about a German soldier coming home from the war and having no home anymore (by Wolfgang Borchert); Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit; Max Frisch’s parable about anti-Semitism; Peter Weiss’ play about the Auschwitz trials in Germany; Schlink’s famous and problematic novel, The Reader; Eugen Ruge’s In Times of Fading Light, a family novel covering East German history; Christoph Hein’s novel, Tango Player, about a man who was jailed in East Germany for playing a tango; creative nonfiction by Anna Funders, about a young girl who wanted to get across the Berlin Wall; Sebald’s haunting novel, Austerlitz, about a man dealing with the trauma of his Kindertransport; and the graphic novel Belonging, by Nora Krug, about a German woman who is exploring her family’s history. The list of films includes Murderer Among Us, The Tin Drum, Germany Pale Mother, and The Lives of Others. Thematically, all these texts and movies are tied together by one common theme: the question of how German writers and film makers were dealing with the legacy of both National Socialism and Stalinism in East Germany.

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Reading High Romantic Poetry (Blake to Keats)

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

This course focuses on the interpretation and appreciation of the most influential lyric poetry written in English in the tumultuous decades between the French Revolution and the Great Reform Bill of 1832. Over the course of two generations, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats invented a new kind of autobiographical poem that largely internalized the myths that they had inherited from literary and religious traditions. The poet’s inward, subjective experience became the inescapable subject of the poem—a legacy that continues to this day. We will be exploring ways in which the English Romantic poets responded to the political impasse of their historical moment and created poems out of their arguments with themselves, as well as their arguments with one another. Our preeminent goal will be to appreciate each poem’s unique contribution to the language.

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Japanese Literature: Translations, Adaptations, and Visual Storytelling

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

No previous background in Japanese studies, literature, art history, or film history is required for this course.

This lecture course is an introduction to Japanese literature from the 10th century to contemporary fiction, and we will explore the connections between and among literary texts, translations, and visual adaptations—paintings, hand scrolls, performing arts, film, and manga. We will read selected works of Japanese literature in English translation(s), including early Japanese tales such as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, The Tale of Genji, Life of an Amorous Woman, and modern novels and short stories by writers such as Shimazaki Toson, Hayashi Fumiko, Ota Yoko, Nakagami Kenji, and Murakami Haruki. With each text, we will examine other texts that are in conversation with these literary works and explore the content and forms of those conversations. In addition to the lectures, there will be weekly group conferences and regularly scheduled film screenings throughout the semester.

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Studies in Ecocriticism: The Idea of Nature in the Western Tradition

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

As the capitalistic and predatory model aggressively promoted by the United States continues to reveal itself as a major threat for biodiversity and the environment in general, it is vital to explore and understand the concept of “nature” at the core of the Western tradition and how it was shaped over the course of more than 2,000 years. This course will create a series of bridges between and among the history of literature, philosophy, and science, with implications for many other disciplines. Most importantly, we will discuss the Western and Judeo-Christian concept of nature in the context of race and ethnicity in America today by confronting it with works and arguments developed by black, indigenous, Latine, and Asian American authors. Among many themes, we will study how antiquity came to develop a concept of “physis,” so different from our modern understanding of physics, but also shaped our aesthetic eye with the creation of the pastoral genre and the idea of agreeable and tamed landscapes or set a model for a utilitarian relationship to nature with Hesiod and Vergil’s agricultural treaties. We will also analyze specific places, such as the forest in medieval chivalric romances and American “wilderness” fictions, or chaotic landscapes admired and imagined by the Romantics, or the sea as depicted in Melville’s Moby Dick. The 17th-century scientific revolution and its mathematical and mechanistic approach to nature will lead us to discuss with Descartes the concept of animality in parallel with contemporary philosophers such as Deleuze and Guattari, who make use of models like the burrow or territoriality imported from the animal realm. Going into a completely different direction, we will question the characteristics of a Judeo-Christian conception of the world, organized around a remote and immaterial god, in direct opposition to a more organic understanding of nature as a “motherly” and immanent figure with all of the reservations that such a figure implies. These are some of the questions that we will explore, and the focus of our discussions will be to bring new voices in order to deconstruct the Eurocentric concept of “nature.”

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Epic Vision and Tradition

Open, Seminar—Year

The epic is a monumental literary form that is an index to the depth and richness of a culture and the ultimate test of a tale-teller’s creative power. Encyclopedic in its inclusiveness, epic reflects a culture’s origins and projects its destiny, giving definitive form to its vital mythology and problematically asserting and questioning its formative values. This course on the emergence and development of the epic genre, from its oral origins to its modern and postmodern manifestations, will be organized around four central purposes. First, we will study the major structural, stylistic, and thematic features of each epic. Second, we will consider the cultural significance of the epic as the collective or heroic memory of a people. Third, we will examine how each bard weaves an inspired, yet troubled, image of visionary selfhood into the cultural and historical themes of the poem. Fourth, we will notice how the epic form changes shape under changing cultural and historical circumstances and measure the degree to which the influence of epic tradition becomes a resource for literary and cultural power.

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Imagining War

Open, Seminar—Year

This is an interdisciplinary course.

War is one of the great themes in European literature. The greatest works of Greco-Roman antiquity are meditations on war; and as an organizing metaphor, war pervades our attempts to represent politics, economics and sexuality. Efforts to comprehend war were the genesis of the disciplines of history and political science; and the disaster of the Peloponnesian War forms the critical, if concealed, background to first great works of Western philosophy. We’ll begin the first semester with readings from the Iliad, Thucydides, Plato, and Augustine and go on to study the Aeneid, Machiavelli, Shakespeare’s Second Tetralogy, and Hobbes. In the second semester, we’ll look at the origins of political economy, among other things a discipline that sought to transcend the military metaphor; at Marxism, which remilitarized the language of political economy; at Byron’s mock epic, Don Juan; and at two 19th-century novelists, Stendhal and Tolstoy—one of whom described war directly, and the other used it as an organizing metaphor for erotic, economic, and political life. We’ll conclude with a look at some 20th-century literary, artistic, historical, and critical attempts to represent war with an allegedly unprecedented accuracy.

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Literature in Translation: 20th-Century Italian Literature and Culture

Open, Seminar—Year

The course will explore 20th-century Italian literature, focusing on important intellectuals, works, and movements that helped shape it and their connection with the arts, cinema, and society at large. Italy had become a unified nation by 1860, and its literature addressed issues such as (national and personal) identity, tradition, innovation and modernity, the role of literature and of the writer, and the changing role of women in Italian society. We will also explore the interrelation between Italian literature and crucial historical events such as the Great War, the rise and fall of fascism, World War II, the Resistance, the birth of the republic, the postwar economic boom, the students’ and women’s movements of the 1960s and ’70s, and the terrorism of the “Anni di Piombo.” Among the authors and intellectuals we will explore are: Sibilla Aleramo for her literary treatment of the issue of female emancipation at the beginning of the century; Luigi Pirandello and his work as a novelist and playwright; Gabriele D’Annunzio as a poet, playwright, and novelist but also a war hero and politician; F. T. Marinetti, whose futurist manifestos and literary works reflected his desire to renew Italian art, literature, and culture in general; B. Mussolini’s fascist regime, its dictates, and their influence on propaganda literature and cinema; Ignazio Silone’s novels on the fascist era; Roberto Rossellini’s neorealist cinema; Italo Calvino’s, Beppe Fenoglio’s, and Elio Vittorini’s literature of the Resistance; Primo Levi’s depiction of the Holocaust; and influential women writers such as Anna Banti, Natalia Ginzburg, Elsa Morante, and Dacia Maraini. Readings will be supplemented by secondary source material that will help outline the social, historical, and political context in which these authors lived and wrote, as well as provide a relevant critical framework for the study of their works. On occasion, we will watch films that are relevant to the topics and period in question. No previous knowledge of Italian is required. Students proficient in Italian may opt to read sources in the original language and write their conference projects in Italian. Conference topics may include the study of a particular author, literary text, or topic relevant to the course and that might be of interest to the student.

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Theory for Reading

Open, Large seminar—Fall

In this introductory class, we will deepen our understanding of how the acts of writing and reading have been understood in the Western tradition since antiquity and what they mean for us today. Each week, we will pair a piece of fiction or poetry with a philosophical or theoretical commentary. We will thus read Homer in the context of Plato and Aristotle’s understanding of poetry and fiction but with also in mind Nietzsche’s criticism of Platonism in The Birth of Tragedy. In the same spirit, Walter Benjamin’s use of Marxist theory will help us read E. A. Poe’s fiction and Baudelaire’s poetry in the context of mid-19th century Paris. We will also discuss Shakespeare’s Hamlet in light of its psychoanalytical readings by Freud and Lacan and analyze Kafka’s Metamorphosis alongside Deleuze and Guattari’s theorization of marginal forms of writing. Feminist and gender theory with Beauvoir and Butler, linguistics with Barthes, works by Foucault and Baldwin will also be discussed. Students will be encouraged to apply the material of this course to other texts of their choice. There are no conferences associated with this seminar, but students will have the option of developing a small personal research project.

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Wilde and Shaw

Open, Seminar—Spring

Toward the end of the 19th century, Oscar Wilde stated repeatedly that he was “an Irishman”—and, therefore, beyond good and evil as defined by gentlemanly codes—while George Bernard Shaw deemed nationalistic allegiances absurd and (prophetically, given the wars of the 20th century) lethal. In their stances, we can begin to see how the complexities and paradoxes of Irish identity—ethnic marginalization, religious zeal (secularized), linguistic play, knowing laughter—informed their ultimate self-definition as citizens of the world and thereby enabled them to fashion distinctively challenging art. It is also no exaggeration to say that each left the English language not as he found it. Wilde’s life was short, and we shall read a good deal of his oeuvre: his fairy tales, his plays, his novel, much of his poetry, many of his essays. Shaw’s life was long, and we shall focus on his plays written before World War I, along with two brilliantly painful postwar works: Heartbreak House and Saint Joan. And, in both, we shall see how revolution can come disguised in conventional forms, as both playwrights transform drawing-room comedy into political commentary whose implications have yet to be resolved.

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First-Year Studies: FYS in Music

Open, FYS—Year

In this class, we will study the major styles and techniques of Western classical music. No prior knowledge of music or music theory is required. Technical and analytical terms will be introduced as we go, but students who have had some background in music theory will be able to do more advanced work in conferences. The material will range from the music of the Middle Ages to the present day. Musical works will be examined in detail, as well as in the context of various other issues: What was the role of art in society? How did music relate to the other arts? What social and economic issues affected the dissemination of music? What role does history and interpretation play in our understanding of music? Students will meet for weekly conferences during the first six weeks of the semester and every two weeks thereafter.

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The Music of Russia

Open, 3-credit seminar—Spring

This course may also be taken as a semester-long component.

This course will survey the great contributions to Western music by Russian composers, from the first half of the 19th century to the end of the Soviet era and beyond. We will study these works in the context of the important historical events and intellectual movements that galvanized Russian artists: the desire to find the appropriate expression of Russian identity, the ambivalence toward the achievements of Western Europe, the ideals of civic responsibility, the aestheticism of the later 19th century, the Russian Revolution, and the repressions of Soviet society. Composers to be studied include Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Gubaidulina. We will end the course with a look at of some of the emigré composers—such as Stravinsky, who composed his most Russian works for non-Russian audiences.

 

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The First Philosophers

Open, Lecture—Fall

What is being? What is time? What is justice? What is truth? What is the best way to live, and should we fear death? More than 2,500 years ago in Ancient Greece, a tradition of asking this sort of questions developed under the name “philosophy,” which is Greek for “love of wisdom.” Veering away from the mythological and religious traditions that were dominant at the time, the first of the writers whom we now recognize as “philosophers” broke radically new ground for self-understanding and set the stage for modern scientific, political, and theological ideas. We will read the earliest surviving texts of this tradition, written by a group of authors who are now known collectively as the “Pre-Socratics.” (These include Thales, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, and the Ancient Atomists, to name a few.) The texts are fragmentary, as the full texts are lost. The ideas that we find in them are creative, inspiring, and often funny. Studying them is an opportunity to reflect about what “philosophy” means and an invitation for us to philosophize. This survey course is designed both for beginners in philosophy, for whom it would serve as an introduction, and for those more experienced in philosophy, who want to enrich their knowledge of its roots. We will accompany our readings of the first philosophers, with commentaries by later thinkers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, and occasionally by reference to non-Greek or non-philosophical sources. Group conferences will meet once every other week to engage later and contemporary commentaries on the Pre-Socratics and will involve a final paper project of the student’s choice.

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Discipline and Sexuality: Reading Michel Foucault

Sophomore and above, Seminar—Fall

In this reading seminar, we will focus on two of Michael Foucault’s books: Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975) and The History of Sexuality, Vol. I: The Will to Knowledge (1976). Foucault is one of the most influential philosophers and historians of the second half of the 20th century, famous for developing Nietzsche’s thesis that knowledge is not a progressive quest for objective truth but, rather, a historical construct produced in the service of sociopolitical power structures. The texts that we will read mark a transition in Foucault’s conception of power, from seeing it as a mechanism of control (incarceration and punishment but also disciplining, education, and surveillance) to seeing it as a mechanism of producing pleasure (through practices, regulation, and inhibitions of sexuality, as well as its transgressions). Foucault’s is an extremely original mind, which has the capacity to change our understanding of our history, our culture, our upbringing, and ourselves in the deepest and least-expected ways. When it works (and much of it depends on our own commitment to the reading process), his writing can liberate us from bonds and preconceptions that we never even knew we had. This will be a guided reading and discussion-centered seminar, with weekly reading responses. It is reserved for sophomores and above, with preference to those who’ve had experience reading philosophy in class, in conference, or independently. The reason for this is not that we need much background in philosophy to understand Foucault but, instead, that we need the capacity and enthusiasm for actively and independently participating in a rigorous process of reading and discussing a philosophical text. For the conference component of the class—unless you have a well-defined and executable alternative in mind, which we agree upon in advance—each student will conduct an independent study with me of one philosophical text of their choice from a list of options.

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Deformed Democracy: Structural Roots of Democratic Dysfunction

Open, Lecture—Year

Modern democracy, as defended by its most progressive advocates and pursued by a succession of social movements, promised to resurrect an ancient form of popular self-rule on a newly inclusive and egalitarian foundation. At certain points in recent history, it seemed credible to believe that the “moral arc of the universe bends toward justice”; i.e., that there was a long-term trend in modern democracy that more fully institutionalized meaningful self-government, increasingly treated all members with equal concern and respect, and better realized fair equality of opportunity for all while limiting social inequality and facing up to the daunting task of repairing historical injustices. Over the course of your lifetimes, however, this claim has appeared far less credible; instead, modern democratic politics seem increasingly less equal, inclusive, just, responsive, functional, and democratic. Is 21st-century democracy, increasingly an instrument of unjust politics, impotent in the face of the social and environmental changes that globalization and galloping technological innovation produce—or perhaps simply doomed? Or might it be possible to reform democracy to render it compatible with conditions of global interconnection and deeper diversity while also making it capable of securing the requisite degrees of political and social equality? To address these questions, this course surveys the development and defense of modern conceptions of democracy through the history of political thought; examines mature democracy by looking at its practice, successes, and failures from the mid-20th century to the present; and contemplates proposals for reform that seek to eliminate deformations while realizing the normative potential of modern democracy. The first semester concentrates on the history of modern democracy, looking both to develop a strong, critical account of democracy as a normative ideal—by studying its theoretic roots in seminal texts of modern political thought from Locke to Tocqueville—and to gain a critical historical overview of its cultural and institutional genesis, evolution, and decay (Fukuyama and Habermas). We will then turn, mainly in the second semester, to examine some main aspects of the forces troubling democracy in the United States and elsewhere, surveying, in turn: the decline of the legislative process; the decline of political parties and voluntary associations and the consequent “hollowing out” of civil society; important changes in the political economy that have rendered democratic capitalism more prone to economic inequality and crisis, oligarchic capture, and cultural distortion; the role of (new and old) mass media in successively structuring and disrupting the public sphere of democratic politics; the question of whether constitutional democracy is intrinsically valuable or inherently contradictory, in general, and whether the American Constitution is [anti]democratic; the way in which different aspects of an electoral system, from districting to how winners and losers are determined, structure different forms of democracy; and whether the politics of identity is, at once, redressing historical injustice while also fracturing democratic solidarity. The course will conclude by considering proposals to strengthen, reform, or refound modern democracy as we move into the middle of the 21st century. The course will draw on a wide range of disciplines and texts, drawing on political science and economy, history, sociology, and philosophy; but the central focus will be on historical and contemporary political theory.

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International Political Economy: The Rise (and Fall) of Neoliberal Hegemony

Open, Seminar—Fall

It is often said that all politics is economics. The aim of this course is to show that all economics is politics. Though economists and policymakers often present their economic policy decisions and views as neutral—based solely on abstract mathematical models, guided by the laws of nature (or the “invisible hand” of the market)—they are, in fact, driven by sometimes surprisingly transparent political ends and ideology. In this class, we will question the frequently proclaimed universality, neutrality, and inevitability of economic principles and policies through a close examination of neoliberal ideology and the ways in which it limits political discourse, reforms, and development. Specifically, we will examine the economic and political origins and consequences of shock therapy in Latin America and Eastern Europe, structural adjustment policies in countries suffering from economic crisis, and austerity measures imposed by the Troika on Greece and other states in the European Union. We’ll also look at socioeconomic explanations for the recent rise of populist parties and political candidates. Some of the questions that we will explore include: What is the role of international economic institutions in domestic and international affairs? How do the interactions between international and domestic institutions and actors determine the production and distribution of scarce resources? And what is the relationship between capitalism and democracy, conditional lending and democratization, and international institutions and national sovereignty?

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Critical Realignments in American Politics: Obama/Trump

Sophomore and above, Seminar—Fall

There will be two sections of this course.

In light of the 2020 election, this course will tackle the question of whether America is in the midst of a critical realignment that began in the 1990s with Newt Gingrich and the election of George W. Bush to the White House and may be playing out in the Obama and Trump presidencies. To do this, we will examine the concept of critical realignments in political science and political history that are, generally, a set of notable and trajectory shifting changes in party ideology, issues, party leaders, regional and demographic bases of power of political parties, and the structure or rules of the political system such as voter eligibility or financing. The changes result in a new political power structure that lasts for decades, replacing an older dominant coalition. We will look at past American examples that are universally accepted as realignments—such as the 1896 presidential election, when the issues of the Civil War political system were replaced with those of the populist and progressive eras, and the 1932 election, when the populist and progressive eras were replaced by the New Deal issues of liberalism and modern conservatism. Since the realignment of the 1930s, however, political scientists and historians often disagree about which elections are realignments, what defines a realignment, and even whether realignments occur. Thus, the course will examine major sociopolitical changes in the United States—from the voting rights era in the 1960s, to the Reagan revolution, and now to the chaos of Donald Trump. We will cover a lot of ground—from America’s founding to today. We will look at numerous aspects of American social and political life—from examining the masses, political elites, Congress, and policymaking communities to social movements, the media, and America’s position in a global community—all with a focus on understanding power and how it has been organized. This course will be driven by data, not dogma. We will use modern political-economy approaches based in logic and evidence to find answers to contemporary public-policy problems and questions of polarization. We will treat this material as social scientists, not as ideologues. Comfort with numbers and statistics is expected. Moreover, students should have a background in American political history.

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The Senses: Art and Science

Open, Seminar—Spring

The perceiving mind is an incarnated mind. —Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1964

Sensory perception is a vital component of the creation and experience of artistic works of all types. In psychology and neuroscience, the investigation of sensory systems has been foundational for our developing understanding of brains, minds, and bodies. Recent work in brain science has moved us beyond the Aristotelian notion of five discrete senses to a view of the senses as more various and interconnected, with each other—and with the fundamental psychological processes of perception, attention, emotion, memory, imagination, and judgment. What we call “taste” is a multisensory construction of “flavor” that relies heavily on smell, vision, and touch (mouth feel); “vision” refers to a set of semi-independent streams that specialize in the processing of color, object identity, or spatial layout and movement; “touch” encompasses a complex system of responses to different types of contact with the largest sensory organ—the skin;, and “hearing” includes aspects of perception that are thought to be quintessentially human—music and language. Many other sensations are not covered by the standard five: the sense of balance, of body position (proprioception), feelings of pain arising from within the body, and feelings of heat or cold. Perceptual psychologists have suggested that the total count is closer to 17 than five. We will investigate all of these senses, their interactions with each other, and their intimate relationships with human emotion, memory, and imagination. Some of the questions we will address are: Why are smells such potent memory triggers? What can visual art tell us about how the brain works, and vice versa? Why is a caregiver’s touch so vital for psychological development? Why do foods that taste sublime to some people evoke feelings of disgust in others? Do humans have a poor sense of smell? Why does the word “feeling” refer to both bodily sensations and emotions? What makes a song “catchy” or “sticky”? Can humans learn to echolocate like bats? What is the role of body perception in mindfulness meditation? This is a good course for artists who like to think about science and for scientists with a feeling for art.

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The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open, Seminar—Spring

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon in which people move into another nation with the intention of making a better life for themselves and/or residing there temporarily or permanently. While anchored in a multidisciplinary perspective, this seminar explores the crucial role of psychology in understanding the processes associated with our conceptualizations of immigrants and immigration. The course will begin with some theoretical perspectives on immigration, as well as a brief historical overview of some sociological and some social psychological research on immigrants. We will then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. We will explore the processes through which “illegality” is constructed by reflecting on the lives of undocumented immigrants. We will also look very closely at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and culture to see how they shape the psychological experience of immigrants. Seeking to extend our analysis to immigration’s impact on the host population, we will conclude the course by discussing several social psychological issues, such as intergroup relations, discrimination, and modes of adaptation.

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Mindfulness: Science and Practice

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Mindfulness can be described as nonjudgmental attention to experiences in the present moment. For thousands of years, mindfulness has been cultivated through the practice of meditation. More recently, developments in neuroimaging technologies have allowed scientists to explore the brain changes that result from the pursuit of this ancient practice, laying the foundations of the new field of contemplative neuroscience. Study of the neurology of mindfulness meditation provides a useful lens for study of the brain in general, because so many aspects of psychological functioning are affected by the practice. Some of the topics that we will address are attention, perception, emotion and its regulation, mental imaging, habit, and consciousness. This is a good course for those interested in scientific study of the mind. One of our two weekly meetings will be devoted to a mindful yoga practice.

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First-Year Studies: Judaism, From Religion to Radicalism

Open, FYS—Year

Judaism since the biblical age has defied easy categorization, oscillating between religion and ethnicity and taking on political aspects. Our understanding of Judaism is complicated by the very nature of diasporic existence, which involves resisting or appropriating features of the dominant culture. We begin with the Bible and the Talmud and proceed through texts produced by traditionalist movements that challenged and, at times, displaced normative Jewish practice, including Kabbalah, messianism, and Hasidism. We proceed to movements that were more “modern” in their orientation, like Haskalah, Reform Judaism, Hebrew and Yiddish literature, and Zionism; and we will discuss the pioneering Jewish role in phenomena like psychoanalysis, musical theatre, and Hollywood. We conclude with manifestations of Jewish radicalism like socialism, communism, anarchism, and American counterculture.

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First-Year Studies: The Emergence of Christianity

Open, FYS—Year

Perhaps no one has not heard the name of a seemingly obscure carpenter’s son executed by the Romans around 33 CE. Why? The religion that we call Christianity shaped the Western world for at least 1,500 years. In this course, we will study the origins of that tradition. As we study those origins, we will explore Judaism in the strange and fertile Second Temple period (515 BCE–70 CE). We will encounter the learned societies of holy men like the Pharisees and the Qumran sectarians, as well as the freedom fighter/terrorists called the Zealots. Our main source will be the New Testament of the Christian Bible, though these sources will be supplemented by other primary materials. Excerpts from the Dead Sea Scrolls, rabbinic literature, as well as other Hellenistic texts from that period provide the cultural backdrop in which Christianity has its roots. We will learn about the spread of the new movement of “Christians,” as they were called by their detractors in Antioch, from its roots in the Holy Land into the greater Greco-Roman world. How did that movement, which began among the Jews of the Eastern Mediterranean, come to be wholly associated with Gentiles by the end of the second century? Who became Christian? Why were they hated so much by the greater Greco-Roman society? What did they believe? How did they behave? What are the origins of Christian anti-Semitism? What kind of social world, with its senses of hierarchy and gender relations, did these people envision for themselves?

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The Hebrew Bible

Open, Seminar—Year

The Hebrew Bible stands at the foundation of Western culture. Its stories permeate our literature, our art—indeed, our sense of identity. Its ideas inform our laws, have given birth to our revolutions and social movements, and have thereby made most of our social institutions possible (as well as the movements to remove them). What is this book? How was it written? Who wrote it? Who preserved it for us? Why has all or part of this body of literature been considered holy to the practitioners of both Judaism and Christianity? Four thousand years ago, various groups from small tribe-wandering nomads would get together and tell stories. Those stories were not preserved on stone tombs but in the hearts and memories of the people to whom the stories belonged. We will read the collection of traditions in a book called Genesis and compare those stories with other texts (written in mud and stone), such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Babylonian Creation Epic, which were contemporary with biblical traditions. We will read the biblical epic of liberation, Exodus; the historical books that weave theology into a history of a nation; and the oracles of the great Hebrew Prophets of Israel—those reformers, judges, priests, mystics, and poets to whom modern culture owes its grasp of justice. We will trace the social, intellectual, and political history of the people formed by those traditions from the Late Bronze Age until the Roman Age.

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The Hasidic Movement

Open, Seminar—Fall

Hasidism, a popular mystical movement founded in Eastern Europe that continues to flourish in centers in both Israel and America, has been romanticized as revolution and reviled as reaction. This class begins with the transformative ideas of Hasidism’s founder, Israel Ba’al Shem Tov (1700-60), a kabbalistic healer who reconceived the entire Jewish mystical tradition in a way that sanctified daily life and revitalized ritual. We trace the crystallization of Hasidic wisdom in tales and mystical discourses, observe the rise of its charismatic leaders (rebbes), and analyze burgeoning dynasties like Lubavitch, Bratslav, Ruzhyn, Ger, and Satmar. Throughout the course, we confront the movement’s controversial stances toward gender, sexuality, humanism, and secular education; however, we also attempt to understand Hasidism’s emergence as a culture of joyful resistance in the face of “civilizing” initiatives of empires and nation-states, collective violence and genocide, and Zionist and American conformist agendas. We conclude with a look at the way Hasidic communities of today are responding to contemporary challenges like the coronavirus pandemic.

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Jewish Mysticism From Antiquity to the Present

Open, Seminar—Spring

This course traces the path of Jewish mystical study, practice, and wisdom. Beginning with the Hebrew Bible, we proceed through early Jewish mystical magic, divination, and ascents. We then delve into the erotically-charged Kabbalah, focusing on The Zohar (Book of Splendor) and proceeding to the 16th-century Safed (Tzefat) mystical schools and the mass messianic eruption around Shabbetai Tzvi. Next, we explore varied manifestations of East European Jewish popular Kabbalah, Golem literature, and Hasidism. We conclude with contemporary manifestations of Kabbalah and Hasidism in America and Israel. Throughout the course, we will reflect on issues like gender, sexuality, messianism, magic, and resistance rituals.

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Veiled Lives: Women and Resistance in the Muslim World

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course is designed to enable participants to better understand the complexities, nuances, ambiguities, and contradictions that surround our understanding of the lives of women in those places designated as the “Muslim” world. Our examination will not be based on a comprehensive historical accounting of women’s lives in the geographical spaces under scrutiny. Instead, it will be informed by central guiding questions, including the following: What are the different conceptual frameworks that inform our perceptions of women in the Muslim world? What politics and histories are embedded in different “ways of seeing”? What are the various discursive and material forces that inform women’s lives in the places under scrutiny, and how do they serve to restrict women and simultaneously provide openings for women’s resistance to their oppression? We will analyze the debates surrounding the origins of women’s subordination in the Muslim world; consider the harem and the veil, both as representational devices and embodied spaces; examine the multiple modalities through and in which women’s lives are lived out (historically and socially); and examine the shifting and dynamic constitution of their existence. In order to do so, the course will take into consideration colonialism, modernity, and postcoloniality in relationship to women’s ability to carve out their own histories. For our analysis, we will draw upon ethnographic and visual materials, colonial and literary writings, sociological texts, films (including documentaries), and (auto)biographies. For conference, possible topics include an analysis of women’s movements in a particular place or in multiple spaces, the roles of the state and the law and their impact on women, representation of women and Islam in the media and in colonial writing; and women’s writing and voice(s). The course will be of interest to students who wish to pursue studies of gender and sexuality, colonialism and postcoloniality, media and Islamic studies, law and society, studies of the global south and diaspora studies, as well as writing, film, and media studies.

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First-Year Studies: Theatre in Action, the ’60s Thru Tomorrow

Open, FYS—Year

This course examines the greater role of theatre in our culture, particularly as to how theatre responds to the events and movements that shape our lives—even as they occur. We will look at how theatre frames political discourse, as well as its distinct role as a means of social activism in this country over the past 50 years. Students will read and discuss a variety of plays, with an emphasis on looking at the context in which those plays were written and why they still resonate today. Discussions will range from influential works and innovations of mid-20th-century theatre artists like Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett, political theatre groups like The Living Theatre and El Teatro Campo of the 1960s, agitprop theatre events of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights eras, and ACT Up in the 1980s AIDS Crisis to the form-bending techniques of contemporary theatre makers and artists like Anna Deavere Smith, Young Jean Lee, Jackie Sibbles Drury, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Annie Baker, Tony Kushner, Dominque Morriseau, Quiara Alegria Hudes, and queer, female, and trans playwrights in The Kilroys List collection of plays, among many others. Students will read aloud from plays in class, study documentaries, and see productions and showings in New York City over the course of the year. Guest artists will join designated classes. Students will meet with the teacher to devise conference projects to serve their distinct interests. Projects might range from original plays written in the style of the events of the period and plays that we study or rehearsed or staged scenes from published plays to designing dramaturgical presentations, among other options. In addition to conference projects each semester, students are regularly required to submit critical essays and participate fully in the discussion. Theatre in Action will alternate individual conferences with small-group meetings/conferences to include screenings, field trips, performances, and workshops. Students enrolled in FYS in Theatre have the option, but are not required, to take one extra component in the theatre, dance, or music programs as part of their Theatre Third. All students enrolled in the FYS in Theatre join the theatre program community, attend theatre meetings, and complete technical-support hours (tech credits).

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Intensive Semester in Yonkers: From the Known to the Unknown: Getting to Know the World Through Writing

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Students may take this course individually or apply to participate in the Intensive Semester in Yonkers.

This course is open for interviews and registration. Please visit Intensive Semester in Yonkers on MySLC for program information and application.

We will begin the semester by writing about the familiar—how it becomes beloved, despised, forgotten, lived within. We will explore how we experience the familiar at different ages while we take notes on the new, using words, photographs and sketches at our sites, on bus rides and walks, and in restaurants, parks, and churches. We will move from writing about the known to writing about how we get familiar with the new. We will pick five or more pieces to finish, revise, and edit for conference work and make chapbooks, using sketches and photographs to illuminate the world of our words. We will read other people’s explorations of their worlds, known and new, in an anthology that includes these writers, graphic novelists, and oral tale tellers: Dominican-American Junot Diaz, Iranian Marjane Satrapi, Malaysian Lat, Russian Isaac Babel, Italian Natalia Ginsberg, The Arabian Nights, African American folk tales, and poems from three languages—both ancient and modern.

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Ecopoetry

Open, Seminar—Year

In this poetry class—a yearlong school of poetry and the living world—we will consider the great organism Gaia, of which we are a part. We will read and write poems every week. We will ask questions: When did we begin to think of nature as apart from us? Why did we begin to speak of the animals as if we are not also animals? What are the stories and myths that have determined our attitude toward what we are and what we believe? We will read some of these stories and myths (myths of creation; Eden, the lost garden). We will read the long and rich tradition of poetry addressing itself to this subject, from the early indigenous peoples through the Zen monks and Wordsworth and right up through Gary Snyder to utterly contemporary poets writing right now. We will read books and articles that teach us about the other animals and living entities that we call plants and trees and planets and galaxies. Each student will research an aspect of the living world and teach the rest of us what they have learned. And we will write poems that incorporate that knowledge. We will read books of poems but also watch films, take field trips, and meet with each other outside of class in weekly poetry dates. By the end of the class, my hope is that each of us will have a greater understanding of the great organism that we call Earth and will create a collection of poems that engage the questions that our class raises: What is time? What is death? What is Eden? Where is the garden now? Who are the other organisms? How have we, as a species, affected the other organisms? How have we affected the oceans, the Earth, the air? How can poetry address the planetary emergency? Required for this class: intellectual curiosity, empathy, and a willingness to observe the world, to pay attention, and to write poetry that matters. This is a class for experienced writers, as well as for those who want to give writing poetry a try. All are welcome.

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Poetry Workshop: Wearing a Mask: Persona Poems

Open, Seminar—Spring

When I state myself, as the representative of the verse, it does not mean me, but a supposed person.—Emily Dickinson, in a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

For centuries, poets have spoken in the voices of other people. From the early Greeks to Shakespeare, from Walt Whitman to Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, Robert Hayden, Lucille Clifton, Louise Gluck, Patricia Smith, Nick Flynn, Jorie Graham, Tyehimba Jess, etc. What is made possible when one speaks in the voice of a character that is not oneself? What is made possible when speaking through a character in an ancient story or myth? What is made possible when one gives voice to a character nothing like oneself? Who dares to speak in the voice of a flower? Of a bee? Of a storm? Of a star? What if one gives voice to the fragments of voices within one’s consciousness? In this class, we will read poems where the poet has spoken in a different tongue or worn the mask of someone else or of something else. Each participant will be expected to deeply read assigned collections each week, to meet with another student in a weekly poetry date, and to bring in one new persona poem each week. I hope we will find that outside the limits of the personal story is a cosmos of possibilities for empathy, revision, wonder, instruction, and finding another way in: slant.

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