Courses

SPRING 2023


FRS 180            
Civilization and its Narratives 
Célia Abele

The question of the origins and stages of civilization remains a key focus for contemporary debates about society. Why is this so? Can the notion of "civilization" today still be a useful one? Or should we get rid of it entirely? Drawing on sources and evidence from diverse fields including archaeology, literature, history, and political thought, we will examine the long tradition of hypothetical narratives about the origins and future of "civilization," while also grappling with more contemporary takes on the problem, such as Graeber & Wengrow's recent- and bestselling- The Dawn of Civilization.

ITA 309 / COM 386 / ECS 318 / HUM 327    
Topics in Contemporary Italian Civilization: Weird Italy
Andrea Capra

Italy, homeland of poets, saints, navigators, and... weirdos. In this class, we turn stereotypes that depict Italy as the land of beauty and classicism inside out, and focus instead on how distinctively weird much of Italy's modern artistic production is. Is the Italian polymath Giacomo Leopardi the unsung grandfather of weird fiction? Did Giorgio De Chirico and Italo Calvino influence Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation? Leveraging theorizations on the topic as well as transmedial and transnational perspectives, we study what it means for something to be weird, why weird art fascinates us, and if we should all try to be weirder.

HUM 402 / MED 403 / HIS 457    
Making the Viking Age
Matthew Delvaux

Between the 700s and 1000s, pirates known as Vikings raided much of Europe. Some were linked to merchant communities trading in Central Asia, while others joined diaspora groups that settled the North Atlantic. They made their world through various means--texts, images, artifacts, and behaviors. In this course, students will accomplish parallel work, guided by the principle that making is best studied by doing. Students will learn how Viking-Age peoples made their world and consider how we recreate and represent that world today. This course includes travel to Denmark during spring recess.

COM 464 / HUM 464 / MUS 457 / ENG 464
Conversations: Jazz and Literature
Maya Kronfeld

Why have so many masters of verbal art relied on the stylistics and epistemologies of jazz musicians for the communication of experience and disruption of conventional concepts? We'll draw on musical recordings, live in-class performances by guest jazz artists, poetry, fiction, and recent debates in jazz studies, critical theory and Black studies. Advanced undergraduate and graduate students of literature and/or music are welcomed, but proficiency in both disciplines is NOT required. We will develop together techniques of close reading and listening. Optional performance component for music instrumentalists and vocalists.

AAS 336 / GSS 408
Racial Histories of Gender and Sexuality
Marcus Lee

Students will examine histories of and historiographical debates over sex and gender within Black communities. The following questions will orient the course: How have issues of sex and gender been articulated, used, or represented within the context of Black life? To what extent has the study of racialized gender/sexuality changed over time? Which methods have researchers taken up to pursue this line of research? And, what uses, limitations and ethical dilemmas do different modes of historical inquiry pose when deployed in the study of racialized gender/sexuality? Three subjects anchor the course: AIDS, the "closet," and gender mutability.

AAS 306 / HIS 312            
Topics in Race and Public Policy: A History of Anti-Black Racism in Medicine
Ayah Nuriddin

The course traces how anti-Black racism shaped the development of western medicine in the Americas. It will examine how ideas of anti-Blackness shaped the work of health practitioners and the experiences of patients. It will engage the emergence of racial science and scientific racism, and how they contributed to the production of medical knowledge. It will also address the enduring legacies of anti-Black racism in medical practice, and its impact on health inequality.

SPA 350 / LAS 349            
Topics in Latin American Cultural Studies: Latin American Imaginaries of Extraction: Rubber, Bananas, and Other
Nicolás Sánchez-Rodriguez

Global capitalism has often imagined Latin America as a collection of "raw" commodities ready to be extracted. In this class, we explore this way of conceiving the region through its cultural production. Throughout the semester, we will engage with various "exemplary" commodities, including bananas, rubber, and sugar. We will look at their representations in literature, art, movies, and economic texts, but also at how commodities themselves -as material objects with a history- have shaped aesthetical forms. This approach will serve as an entry point for understanding inequality, neocolonialism, patriarchy, and climate change in the region.

HUM 218 / 219            
Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture II: Literature and the Arts

Katie Chenoweth, Joel B. Lande, Sarah E. McGrath, Yair Mintzker, Simon A. Morrison, Bailey E. Sincox
This team-taught double credit course examines European texts, works of art and music from the Renaissance to the modern period. Readings, lectures, and discussions are complemented by films, concerts, and special events. It is the second half of an intensive interdisciplinary introduction to Western culture that includes history, religion, philosophy, literature and the arts. Although most students will have taken HUM 216 - 217, first-years and sophomores are welcome to join at this point.

REL 395 /SAS 395            
Tantric Religion in South Asia
Guy St. Amant

This course introduces students to the Tantric traditions of premodern India through a close study of the idealized religious careers of Tantric initiates. It uses primary sources (in translation) to reconstruct the milestones, practices, and experiences that defined what it meant to be a member of a Hindu or Buddhist Tantric community. We will consider especially the broader religious context, Tantric initiation, and post-initiatory rituals involving yogic exercises, sexual practices, and violent sorcery. Students will also gain an understanding of the relationship between Hindu and Buddhist forms of Tantric scripture and practice.

ANT 357 / HUM 354 / TRA 356                   
Language, Expressivity, and Power
Aniruddhan Vasudevan

This course explores what we do with language and other modes of expression and how these modes shape our communicative capacities. Why do we gossip? How do we decide what communication is appropriate face-to-face or via text or email? What informs our beliefs about civility and obscenity? How do we decide what credible speech is? What happens when a culturally rooted expressive form (say, a dance) is taken up by people elsewhere for other aesthetic and political ends? We will explore such questions by studying theories and ethnographies of a range of phenomena: love-letters, gossip, poetry, asylum appeals, spoken word, and more.