Humanities (HMAN) Courses
This topics seminar in the humanities is available to junior or senior undergraduates as well as graduate students. The number, variety and topics of sections will vary from semester to semester and year to year. All classes are taught either by Brown faculty, as Cogut Center Faculty Fellows, or Visiting Professors in the Humanities from other institutions who are in residence at the Cogut Center. Topics are offered that relate directly to faculty expertise and research as well as to the interests and needs of relevant departments. This seminar provides an in-depth enhancement to humanities scholarship for the advanced undergraduate. Graduate students are welcome.
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Courses for Fall 2013
HMAN 2970F M Hour (M 3:00 - 5:20pm)
Nationalism, Colonialism, and International Law
Nathaniel A. Berman
Rahel Varnhagen Professor of International Affairs, Law, and Modern Culture, Cogut Center for the Humanities
This seminar explores the internationalism of the past century in terms of its relationship to separatist nationalism, anti-colonialism, and religious radicalism. It takes as its point of departure the dramatic political, cultural, and intellectual transformations that followed in the wake of World War I. A guiding hypothesis of the seminar is that internationalism cannot be understood apart from its complex relationship to "identity" broadly conceived – identity of local/transnational groups as well as the identity of internationalists themselves. Readings will be drawn from law/cultural studies/politics/postcolonial theory. Enrollment limited to 20 graduate students. Advanced juniors/seniors by permission only.
HMAN 1970P Q Hour (Th 4:00 - 6:20pm)
Pragmatism, Religion and Politics
Stephen S. Bush
Pragmatism is a distinctive American school of thought that sees the goal of philosophy not as the apprehension of timeless truths but as a practical project of bettering individual lives and society as a whole. Pragmatists such as William James and John Dewey were devoted to deepening America's commitment to democracy. Both saw an important place for an unconventional sort of religion in democratic life. This course explores the pragmatist thought of James, Dewey, and others, looking especially at their views on religion and politics. We also will explore the influence of pragmatism on Barack Obama. Enrollment limited to 20 juniors and seniors.
HMAN 2970J N Hour (W 3:00 - 5:20pm)
Realism, Idealism, and Modernity
Paul D. Guyer
Jonathan Nelson Professor of Humanities and Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
This course continues discussion of realism and idealism as alternative responses to the challenges of modernity. We begin with Schelling's System of Transcendental Idealism and selections from Hegel; subsequent authors include Nietzsche, a Neo-Hegelian such as F.H. Bradly, a Neo-Kantian such as Ernst Cassirer, a pragmatist such as John Dewey or C.I. Lewis, and more recent philosophers such as Rudolf Carnap, Thomas Kuhn, Jurgen Habermas, and others. We will especially consider how recent versions of conceptual relativism such as Kuhn's draw on both the realist/idealist traditions to model the modern scientific outlook. Undergraduates with instructor permission. HMAN 2970H helpful but not required. Enrollment limited to 20.
HMAN 1971A N Hour (W 3:00 - 5:20pm)
City Spaces, City Memories
E. Tamar Katz
Since 9/11, New York City has become a site of collective memory, in which a variety of disciplines have asked how we can memorialize people and the buildings that house them. The city, however, has been a space of memory for much of the twentieth century. This course will discuss 20th and 21st century New York City to consider the ways people have located personal and the communal pasts in the city's spaces, especially in its buildings. We will examine novels, journalism, memoirs, architectural criticism and photography, along with memorials and tourist attractions. Enrollment limited to 20 juniors and seniors.
HMAN 2970L Q Hour (Th 4:00 - 6:20pm)
History and Theory of Catastrophes
Mellon Visiting Professor in the Humanities
Cogut Center for the Humanities
This seminar proposes a philosophical history of catastrophes (large-scale disasters) and uses it as a vantage point for questioning contemporary critiques of modernity/secularization. Starting from Biblical narratives of God-made disasters, we will follow God's role in the way north-western societies interpret/cope with catastrophes. Reading/viewing documentation of catastrophes from Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year to Cooper's/Block's/Spike Lee's reports on Hurricane Katrina, we will examine the emergence of the state as a major actor responsible for preparing for catastrophes/mitigating their effects, but often also for their generation, and discuss the globalization of catastrophes and with catastrophes as special sites of globalization. Enrollment limited to 20.
HMAN1970O P Hour (T 4:00 - 6:20pm)
Autonomy and Globalization
Linda E. Quiquivix
Postdoctoral Fellow in Global Humanities
Cogut Center for the Humanities
Many of today's dissident movements adopt leaderless/self-managed practices presenting us with radically different notions of what it means to self-determine. We will situate these movements within historical struggles for autonomy. By "autonomy" we understand the quality or state of being self-governing/self-determining. By "self," we understand not the self-originating/self-determining/rational individual constructed by Enlightenment liberal humanism, but rather, a diversity of self-defined collectivities made up of social individuals. We will consider runaway slave societies (Western Hemisphere), Operaismo (Italy), Zapatistas (Mexico), Tahrir Square's protesters (Egypt), Occupy Movement (US), Shackdwellers (South Africa), refugee/migrant movements. Readings include Marx/ Cleaver/Linebaugh/Rediker/Negri/Tronti/Virno/Berardi/Holloway/others, and documents from movements we engage. Enrollment limited to 20 juniors and seniors.
Student Feedback on HMAN Classes
“One of the best courses I have taken. Discussion was better than any other class.”
“While I am in an interdisciplinary major, it was the first truly interdisciplinary course I have taken.”
“This course very much influenced the way I see the world and the way I will approach my future academic work.”
“Great course — wide-ranging in focus but cohesive overall goals. Quality of discussion was very high level. I learned so much from this course and was continually challenged in the best possible way.”
“I loved this course; it was way out of my comfort zone but so rewarding.”
“I’ve never had a professor challenge me and respect me as much as [the instructor] did this semester. She asked me to have ideas and arguments and thoughts on an enormous range of issues, and then to defend the hell out of them. I couldn’t help but learn and grow because of it.”
“This course was phenomenal—it bridged worlds.”
2013-14 Humanities Related Courses
The Cogut Center administers two programs that bring teaching postdoctoral fellows to campus: Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows and Postdoctoral Fellows in International Humanities. In addition to doing research and participating in the life of the Cogut Center, each fellow teaches one course per semester for his/her "home" department. These courses, taught by fellows brought to campus by the Cogut Center, help to expand, explore and enhance humanities education at Brown.
You may click on the highlighted course titles to link to the Banner listing.
Related Courses for Fall 2013
ENGL1311H G Hour (MWF 2:00 - 2:50pm)
Sagas Without Borders: Multilingual Literatures of Early England
Lesley Jacobs, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
This course traces evolutions of the hero in Old English, Norse, Welsh, and Irish narratives within and around early medieval England. Introduction to genres of saga, romance, and the short poetic lai, as students consider how the nature of the hero changes in specific cultural and linguistic moments. Texts in modern English translation. Essays will focus on close textual readings. Not open to first-year students.
GRMN2660S O Hour (F 3:00 - 5:20pm)
Inheriting (in) Modernity
Visiting Professor in the Humanities
Professor of German Studies
This seminar will devote itself to the vexing question of what an intellectual and cultural inheritance is and how one should respond to its demanding complexities. How do we relate to a tradition, a legacy, a canon, an estate, a previous way of thinking and being? The readability of an inheritance and its many ghosts can be confronted in a rigorous fashion only in the moment when this very readability threatens to break down and the idea of a straightforward understanding is suspended. Readings include Nietzsche, Freud, Kafka, Bloch, Benjamin, Heidegger, Adorno, and Derrida. (Taught in English).
FREN1110G N Hour (W 3:00 - 5:20pm)
En Marge: Exilés et Hors-la-Loi au Moyen Age
Jason M. Moreau, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
French Studies/Comparative Literature
Through a close reading of medieval texts from a diverse selection of genres and voices, this course will seek to understand not only those excluded from medieval society, but also their relationship to that society. The thematic focus will be on the condition of marginality itself—the way in which the margins belong fully neither to the outside nor to the inside, but describe a meeting point between them. In this course, students will be asked to consider the marginal space as it provides a dual perspective on excluded individuals and on the world that excludes them.
PHIL1680 H Hour (T/Th 9:00 - 10:20am)
Rafael Najera, Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities
Since the Renaissance, medieval philosophy has often been unjustly dismissed as arcane and irrelevant, despite impressive innovations in ethics, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and logic. Instead of surveying so vast a field, the course focuses on one or two sets of problems, such as the problem of evil, the freedom of the will, the existence of God, universals, substance, mind and meaning.
HIST1978E N Hour (W 3:00 - 5:20pm)
Global Ideas of Race in the History of the Biological, Medical and Human Sciences
Richard Parks , Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Despite the certainty with which these authors made their pronouncements, "race" has remained not only a salient concept within a variety of disciplines, but also an enduring object of scientific investigation and controversy. The purpose of this course is to trace the origins of "scientific" concept of race and interrogate its transformations and uses over time. The primary sources assigned, ranging from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, will highlight the multiple, and often ambiguous, definitions of the term; also underscoring the concept's correlation, at various points in history, to idea of species, variety, tribe, linguistic group, nation, civilization. Enrollment limited to 20.