Recent and Current Humanities M.A. Seminars

Fall 2018

Humanities 700: Introduction to Integrative Study

Professor Laura Garcia-Moreno Mondays, 4-6:45 pm

(Note: students who have already taken CWL 800 as a substitute are encouraged to take HUM 700, which we will count as an elective)

This course is the gateway to graduate study in the Humanities and is meant to familiarize you with some of the approaches, theories and methodologies that have changed the way literature and other fields in the Humanities are read, studied, and analyzed since the 1960s. The seminar offers an introduction to some foundational texts, ideas, critical practices, and research methods in the Humanities. We will consider Marxist, poststructuralist, feminist, and postcolonial perspectives, among others, and focus on their distinct contributions to the field. Practice in close reading of prose and research methods is a key component of the seminar. 

Humanities 720: Current Topics in the Humanities 

Professor David Peña-Guzman, Wednesdays, 4 - 6:45 pm

Posthuman Studies

Arguably, every humanistic discipline orbits a single question: What does it mean to be human? Although we tend to assume that the answer to it is self-evident (“we all know what it means to be human because we are human”), recent developments in animal studies, science and technology studies, comparative cognition, and environmental humanities have called into question the stability of this answer. These developments indicate that it may be impossible to draw a clear line in the sand separating the human from the nonhuman. Posthuman studies is a recent academic field that explores the scientific, technological, philosophical, and political implications of this unsettling new reality. 

The ‘post’ in ‘posthuman studies’ has a double meaning. It refers to that which is beyond human reach (such as the experience of nonhuman entities, such as nonhuman animals and AI). But it also refers that which comes after humans. According to numerous scholars, we are approaching a new era—the posthuman era—that is defined not only by a growing recognition of the porosity of the boundary between the human and the nonhuman, but also by the increasingly likely possibility of human extinction due to ecological catastrophe (the so-called "Anthropocene").  Drawing specifically on animal studies, technology studies, and recent work on the Anthropocene, this course will introduce students to posthuman studies and encourage them to rethink in radical ways iwhat humans are, what our place in the world might be, and what (if anything) separates us from the rest of nature.

Spring 2018

Humanities 712: Seminar in African Cultural Forms

5:10 – 7:55 Wednesday in HUM 412
Professor Steier

Until fairly recently a course on African Culture would have been, though revelatory, narrower than this one will be. Some traditional materials and a few modern classics is what you would have encountered, but things have changed. A new generation of writers have become visible, and though many of them were born and raised in Africa, they now live in London, Paris, Brooklyn, Brussels and other cities in which appointments at a number of European and American universities are their reason for leaving Africa. Some of them are first and second generation abroad, others live in both places and some live primarily on the African continent. In short, variety is the defining characteristic and we will be trying to determine how this global community identifies itself as African. We will be reading literature and criticism, watching films, and listening to music and examining visual art and theater. The works we will examine are exciting in and of themselves e.g. African post-modernism and post-colonialism. You’ll do an in class presentation, a short essay, and a long research paper. We will try to articulate what it means today to “be African”. Whether we succeed or not, the course ought to be fun.

Humanities 713: Asian Form & Culture

5:10 – 7:55 Tuesday in HUM 412
Professor Scott

We will explore questions of national and cultural identity in modern East Asian colonialism that arise in novels, short stories, films, essays, memoirs, and non-fiction from Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan. Readings will include works by Sōseki, Tanizaki, Lu Xun, Xiao Hong, Wu Zhuoliu, Richard Kim, and others. The historical epicenter is the puppet state of Manchukuo (1932-1945), one piece of Japan’s East Asian colonial empire. There will be room in the course for you to read and write about your own favorite modern East Asian writers if you already have some--- and if you don’t have any yet, you will by the end.

Humanities 721: Culture and Style

5:10 – 7:55 Monday in HUM 412
Professor Augsburg

In this course we will consider how certain key concepts in the humanities “travel,” and in so doing, influence contemporary visual culture and style. We will begin by reading Mieke Bal’s Traveling Concepts in the Humanities (2002). We will then turn to examining concepts such as performance, gender, performativity, the gaze, and ars erotica. We will read several key texts theorizing performance and gender performativity, including Diana Taylor’s Performance (2016); Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (1990); Jack Halberstam’s Female Masculinity (1998); Diane Torr and Stephen Bottoms’s Sex, Drag, and Male Roles (2010); Paul B. Preciado’s Testojunkie (2013); and Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (2015). We will read additional shorter texts pertaining to feminist visual culture, the gaze, and ars erotica. Each student will write weekly reading responses, do a class presentation, and write a paper exploring at least one travel​ing concept related to one’s own research interests.

Spring 2017

Humanities 703: History in the Humanities

4:10 – 6:55 Wednesday in HUM 412
Professor Scott

This course is a somewhat idiosyncratic introduction to the field of cultural history. We’ll be reading some of my favorite modern historians, including--but not limited to-- historians of modern China. I've chosen the texts for their impact on their field, philosophical or methodological interest, and readability. You may write your paper on a course-related historical event or topic or on the work of a particular historian.

Humanities 711: American Form and Culture

4:10 – 6:55 Wednesday in HUM 412
Professor Garcia-Moreno

Description coming soon.

Fall 2015

Humanities 700: Introduction to Integrative Studies

4:10 – 6:55 Wednesday in HUM 412
Professor Garcia-Moreno

An introduction to some of the foundational and current texts, ideas, theories, debates, critical practices and research methods in the humanities. Practice in close reading of textual and visual materials; in research methods; in writing a prospectus and a theoretically informed essay.

Humanities 703: History in the Humanities

5:10 – 7:55 Monday in HUM 412
Professor Luft

The philosophical conception of history dominant in the west in the modern age has been the optimistic view of history as infinitely progressive and perfectible. That view culminated in the nineteenth century in two very different conceptions of the ultimate “end” to progressive history, those of Hegel and Marx. Starting with Nietzsche the assumptions that ground the Western conception of history as progressive, or even linear, were undermined, and Nietzsche's critique was "radicalized" by contemporary post-modern writers who deny that history is either orderly or purposeful. Our readings this semester follow the development of the progressive view of history in the writings of Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Foucault, and Walter Benjamin.

Besides this focus on the theme of progressive history, we will be concerned with an even more important and equally fascinating issue, that of the role of interpretation in the reading and writing of history. Our last two readings explore this issue in two very different ways. For Derrida, all reading and writing is inherently dynamic, interactive and, always informed by one’s previous readings and writings, intertextual. Derrida thematizes that interaction in his reading of Hegel and Marx in Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, insisting on the need to retain the “ghost” of the liberatory goals of Marxism. Hayden White develops an even more explicit challenge to the epistemological claims of history by deconstructing those claims to reveal the inherently narrative and literary nature of history writing. We evaluate this interpretive view of history as we read White’s literary interpretations of Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche.

Humanities 713: Asian Forms and Culture

5:10 – 7:55 Tuesday in HUM 412
Professor Scott

This course is about how modern Chinese writers and artists respond to what they refer to as traditional Chinese culture. To use the term “tradition” is to express a feeling of rupture with the past. The use of the term is thus paradoxically a symptom of modernity. One may use the word positively, with nostalgia for a quality of experience that one has lost, or negatively, with a sense of having fortunately made a clean break with the past. Either way, one assumes that “now” is somehow decisively different from “then.” The past is not directly accessible to us; it must be reconstructed, and the border between “now” and “then” may be drawn differently by different observers, or even partially erased. The overarching question in this course is: how have modern Chinese writers and artists decided where to draw the line between past and present, how have they constructed a usable past, and what do their depictions of the Chinese past tell us about the Chinese present?