HUMN 1020 Introduction to Humanities II
Giulia Bernardini/Alexandra Eddy
This course provides an analytical, chronological, comparative and integrated study of works in literature, music and visual arts from the Baroque to contemporary eras. While students are reading Racine and Moliere, for example, the art and music lectures examine the architecture of Versailles and compositions of Lully and other court composers. In the appropriate context with the literature, such composers as Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, and Stravinsky are studied, along with such artists as Fragonard, Goya, Monet, and Picasso. Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: historical context or literature and the arts.
HUMN 2601 Kafka and the Kafkaesque
One proof of a writer’s acknowledged status as a classic is undoubtedly the currency of his or her name in ordinary parlance. Not only has “Kafka” become a household name, but even the adjective derived from his name, “Kafkaesque” is liberally applied to anything, from works of art to state bureaucracies, from types of shoes to architectural styles, by people who may have never read a word of Kafka’s writing. The term is therefore often misused and misunderstood, in spite of being by now recorded and defined in every dictionary of the language. This course is meant to counteract such a trend and to expose the students to a wide selection of Kafka’s literary output, with the aim of reaching our own tentative answer to the question: What is the Kafkaesque? We will then expand upon Jorge Luis Borges’ suggestion, in a seminal essay he devoted to “Kafka and His Precursors,” that extraordinary writers change our understanding and appreciation of the past, as much as they modify the future of literature, and upon Gilles Deleuze’s contention, in his fundamental study of film aesthetics, The Movement-Image, that Orson Welles’ cinematographic style is the visual equivalent of Kafka’s literary style. We will do so by looking for traces of the Kafkaesque in the verbal as well as the visual arts, beyond the empirical existence of the writer called “Kafka”. Same as GRMN 2601. Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: literature and the arts.
HUMN 3092 Studies in Humanities: Literature in History: Shipwrecks, Mutinies & Other Catastrophes at Sea
As the scene of sinking, the sea is the mise-en abîme par excellence of human history. But it is also the stage for a variety of other catastrophic events: mutinies, discoveries, acts of piracy, deadly confrontations with marine creatures natural and supernatural. This course will consider the conditions under which history stages its own catastrophe against the background of the sea, the most archetypical symbol of human destiny, and then sacralizes the wreckage as relic. Materials will include theoretical texts (selections from Aristotle’s Poetics, the Peri Bathous, or The Art of Sinking in Poetry, Thoreau’s Cape Cod, Ferenczi’s Thalassa, Blumenberg’s Shipwreck with Spectator), accounts of witnesses and survivors (selections from Columbus’ and Cortes’ reports, Melville’s Journal, Garcia Marquez’s Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor), historical accounts (Xenophon’s Anabasis, Barber’s History of the Amistad Captives, Conrad’s “Loss of the Titanic”), fictional narratives (selections from Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Melville’s Benito Cereno and Billy Budd, Conrad’s Lord Jim, Crane’s The Open Boat, Coetzee’s Foe, Yoshimura’s Shipwrecks, Barnes’ History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters, Junger’s Perfect Storm), poems (selections from the Aeneid and The Divine Comedy, Hopkins’ The Wreck of the Deutshcland, Ungaretti’s Joy of Shipwrecks, Walcott’s The Bounty), plays (Shakespeare’s Tempest and Pericles, Synge’s Riders to the Sea), paintings (Copely’s Brook Watson and the Shark, Turner’s Wreckers andThe Slave Ship, Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa, Friedrich’s Monk by the Sea and The Sea of Ice), and movies (Eizenstejn’s Battleship Potemkin, Welles’ Four Men on a Raft, one version of The Mutiny on the Bounty, Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, Spielberg’s Amistad.)
HUMN 3092 Studies in Humanities: Fiction and Reality: Literature, Science, and Culture
Reality television, fiction, metafiction, virtual reality, magical realism, documentary, propaganda, autobiography, testimonial, digital manipulation of images, robotics–all are popular today for their ability to explore and question the line between fiction and reality. This issue is not a new phenomenon; throughout history humans have tried to understand the distinction between fiction and reality. But our contemporary culture seems particularly interested in both the differences and similarities between the two concepts. In this course we will explore the ramifications of the assumption that a recognizable distinction between reality and fiction exists or that there is no objective way to distinguish the two. With the aid of various theoretical sources, we will analyze a selection of literary, scientific, and cultural works in order to see how they define reality and fiction while considering the consequences of these definitions. The goal of this approach is twofold: 1) to arrive at an idea of what these often ambiguous concepts mean in our culture and 2) to be able to critically apply this idea to the problems posed by the questionable status of the separation between reality and fiction.
HUMN 3093 Topics: Dramatic Deceptions
This course is an interdisciplinary one, intended to explore and compare various types of dramatic deception as they manifest themselves in play texts and films. We will begin by defining dramatic irony in its more official form and comparing it with the looser usage of irony as paradox. The course will continue with close readings of plays by such authors as Shakespeare, Pirandello, Wilde, Shaffer, and Stoppard. Topics of discussion will include how characters deceive others, how they deceive themselves, how the audience is deceived by the characters, how it is deceived by the author, and many more. Usually the class is required to attend one live dramatic performance. This course is reading and writing intensive.
HUMN 3093 Representing Islam
Explores the cultural politics of representations of the Arab and Islamic worlds with an emphasis on novels and travel narratives from both the Arab world and the West. Examines historical, anthropological, and visual texts to consider how Islam has been narrated in colonial European imaginings about the Islamic world as well as contemporary representations of Islam. Authors include Shakespeare, Al-Tayyib Salih, Edward Said, Amitav Ghosh, and Leila Ahmed. Taught in English. Same as ARAB 3340.
HUMN 3505 The Enlightenment: Tolerance and Emancipation.
Examines notions of reason and humanity in Enlightenment literature and thought. Emphasizes eighteenth-century European arguments for and against freedom of religion, abolition of slavery, and emancipation of women, as well as views on science, education, and government. Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: ideals and values.
HONR 4055 Discourse Analysis and Cultural Criticism: Deconstructing Our Culture/Reconstructing Our Lives
How do we “read” the world and the discourses around us, and how does that reading shape our considerations and our actions? Deconstruction explores the vested interests or hidden contradictions in an ideological system by looking at that which has been marginalized in the service of its preservation. In Western culture, for example, we have placed so much emphasis on high achievement and physical perfection that perhaps the great majority of us walk around feeling “disabled” in some way: not buff enough, not smart enough, not good-looking enough, not thin or rich enough . . . When our hierarchies are applied to other races and other species, to the very environment we rely on for life, the effects can be even more damaging. Hence, we may want to question our traditional power hierarchies and consider new kinds of relationship to the world, to other species and to the environment. This class also gives you the opportunity to earn from one-to-three hours of credit for doing outreach to communities in need, where we often can intimately experience what life is like on the margins. Approved for Honors Senior Seminar, Humanities Upper Division, Critical Thinking.
Readings Include: On Deconstruction; “Freaks As-At the Limit”; Discipline And Punish; Gandhi; Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It; Compassionate Communication; PLAN B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization; and others.
HUMN 4082 Nineteenth Century Art and Literature
In this course, we will conduct an expansive investigation into the art of 19th century Europe and North America. Relying on Marxist aesthetic theory, we’ll examine the social functions and contexts of art; specifically, its capacity – indeed, its newly formed vocation – for critically calling into question social, political, and aesthetic norms. As we’ll discover, such was an uneasy vocation: the 19th century emancipation of art from state and religious tutelage opened a host of problems for artists. How exactly should artists make use of their newly established freedoms? What new relations could they forge with the public sphere? Should art serve an exclusively critical social function (as would become the position of the avant-garde) or pursue an immanent interrogation of its formal properties (as would typify the works of modernists)?
As we analyze its emergence from the tumultuous political contexts of the previous century, we will examine how 19th century art and literature thrived on the many contradictions of revolution and modernization, including: artists’ anxieties about the loss of nature; the tension between the aesthetic contemplation of landscape and the economic need to “humanize” nature; cultural negotiations between Europe and North America; representations of the working poor and, more broadly, of the class character of consciousness; representations, sometimes liberating, sometimes less so, of feminine sexuality; the invention of photography and its impact on painting; the simultaneously epic and ephemeral qualities of modern city life; the rise of mass culture and consumerism; the movement towards abstraction in painting. In addition to analyzing works of art and literature, we will study the construction, literally, of the “artwork” most exemplary of these desires and contradictions, namely, the city of Paris itself which Walter Benjamin famously called “the capital of the nineteenth century.”
Throughout we’ll touch on the problem of aesthetic alienation, the idea that art’s uncertain (if not wholly marginal) place and function in modern society is itself a dominant theme of art. We will close with a consideration of two giants, Cézanne and Mallarmé, whose shadows extended well into the 20th century. Prereq., HUMN 2000 or junior/senior standing.
HUMN 4093 Advanced Topics: Human, Animal, and Earth: Framing Territories in Art and Philosophy
The history of Western philosophy commonly regards animals as incapable of abstract symbolic expression, indeed as devoid of symbolic faculties altogether. Correlatively, this tradition also depicts animal life as inescapably tied to its environment, wholly reactive to material stimuli, and therefore devoid of freedom with respect to the demands of natural life. In our course, we will examine the ways in which various artists and thinkers over the past two-hundred years have called into question this twin characterization of both human and animal: the human as free because symbolic, and the animal as unfree because lacking in language. Specifically, we will read the works of philosophers who have made enduring contributions to both animal philosophy and the philosophy of art. Following Heidegger, Deleuze, and others, we’ll investigate the manner in which modern art contests the primacy of rational thought as it opens a renewed attention to the materiality of the world precisely through its own manner of highlighting the materials or media in which it is made. Through analyses of literature, modernist painting, film, and land art, we will pursue the following hypothesis: art might not bridge the linguistic distance between human and animal but it might recall for us our shared embodiment with animals, and therefore our mutual dependent relation to the earth.
Readings in literature will include the works of Kafka, J. M. Coetzee, and John Berger. In philosophy, we will begin with Aristotle and Rousseau and then turn to major thinkers from the twentieth century, moving from Heidegger to Derrida. At each stage we will consider the works of a complementary visual artist, for example, Truffaut with Rousseau, Cézanne with Merleau-Ponty, Bacon with Deleuze
HUMN 4110 Greek and Roman Epic
In this class we will read the bulk of four major classical epics in English translation: the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, the Argonautica of Apollonius and Virgil’s Aeneid. Taken together, the Iliad and Odyssey define the genre of epic across the full spectrum of its tragic and romantic potentialities. In the later epic of Apollonius, by contrast, it is the psychological potential of the genre that is developed. With Virgil, heroism, tragedy, romance and psychological characterization are amalgamated to yield a complex epic vision of Rome’s triumphant destiny – a vision pervaded nonetheless by a profound consciousness of the price paid by that destiny’s agents and opponents alike. We will explore the nature of classical epic from a number of different angles, as well as its place in the literary legacy of antiquity. Same as CLAS 4110. Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: literature and the arts.
HUMN 4150 Decameron: Age of Realism
Analyzes the rise of realism in 13th and 14th century Italian literature and parallel manifestations in the visual arts. Focuses on Boccaccio’s Decameron and contemporary realistic prose and poetry with emphasis on gender issues and medieval cultural diversity. Taught in English. Same as ITAL 4150. Prerequisite: junior standing or instructor consent. Approved for arts and science core curriculum: literature and the arts, or cultural and gender diversity.
HUMN 4502 Nietzsche:Literature and Values
A study of Nietzsche’s major philosophical writings, with attention to his views on metaphysics, aesthetics and his critique of morality. Restricted to sophomores/juniors/seniors. Same as GRMN 4502. Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: ideals and values.
HUMN 4821 20th Century Russian Literature and Art
Focuses on major works of 20th century Russian fiction and selective affinities with Russian art, from the syncretism of Russian Modernism to the formal parallels between postmodern literature and art. Follows the changing cultural landscape from the time when Russia was in the vanguard of modern European literature to the gradual cultural relaxation that culminated in perestroika and glasnost. Same as RUSS 4821. Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: literature and the arts.