HUMN 1001 Forms of Narrative: An Introduction to Humanities

Multiple sections

Introduces students to forms of narrative from different historical, geographical, and cultural contexts in different media in order to explore how narrative, as cognitive tool and form of representation, functions as a means of understanding human experience. Students learn to analyze and interpret narratives and improve critical thinking, the practice of close reading, and written and verbal communication. Serves to introduce students to the types of questions and methods of interpretation encountered in Humanities.


HUMN 1002 Visualizing Culture: An Introduction to Humanities

Multiple sections

How do we see, what do we consider worth looking at, how does this shape culture? What do visual media do to/for us and how do we endow them with meaning? This class probes such questions using a range of visual media including visual art, film, music videos, and social media. With the help of theoretical, scholarly, and popular sources, students analyze examples of visual culture and articulate their responses to the issues raised.


HUMN 1003 Conflicts in History: Civilization and Culture: An Introduction to Humanities

Multiple sections

Introduces students to concepts of culture, history, and civilization as sites of conflict across different historical times and geographical locations. Course materials address political and artistic questions that intersect across different ages through their different histories and guiding concepts. Students will learn to read and understand critical, historical, political, and artistic works. Emphasis will be placed on developing critical thinking, close reading, and the ability to articulate and develop issues in writing and verbally.


HUMN 1004 Sound and Meaning: An Introduction to Humanities (compare to HUMN 1220)

This course examines how music creates meaning. Topics include: How ancient and modern writers conceive of the effects of music on its listeners; how the meanings of canonic texts are transformed in contemporary digital culture; how musical works are established though music writing and sound recording; and how music is used to voice identity. Musical examples are drawn primarily from historical repertories of western art music with comparative perspectives from more recent popular and recorded music.


HUMN 2000 Methods and Approaches to Humanities

Provides a transition from the introductory courses to the upper-division courses. The goal of this course is to introduce Humanities majors and minors to a rich range of interdisciplinary interpretive strategies and theories and to apply those strategies to a broad selection of cultural products. The “methods and approaches” in the course title points toward this process: we will look at different methods of interpretation and different ways that particular lenses or theories might inform our acts of interpretation. By taking this course, you will gain an understanding of some of the key developments and perspectives that inform studies in the Humanities and you will put those methods and theories into practice. 


HUMN 2100 Arts, Culture, and Media

Promotes a better understanding of fundamental aesthetic and cultural issues by exploring competing definitions of art and culture. Sharpens critical and analytical abilities by asking students to read and compare different theories about arts, culture, media, and identity, and then to apply and assess those theories in relation to a selection of visual and verbal texts from a range of cultural and linguistic traditions.


HUMN 3092 Studies in Humanities

See individual courses for descriptions


HUMN 3092 Studies in Humanities: Modern Poetry

David Ferris

Explores the literary and critical significance of lyric poetry in the modern age. Begins with the modern turn of poetry in Romanticism, in particular, Wordsworth and Shelley, then works through the poetry of Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Dickinson, Yeats, Hughes, Celan, Bachmann, Bishop, Sexton, Attridge, Adonis, and Hill.  Will also include critical material on the concept of “modern” poetry.


HUMN 3092 Studies in Humanities: Capturing Sound

Matthew Peattie

This course examines how musicians and writers have attempted to describe the sonic, aesthetic, and affective aspects of sound, with an emphasis on notation, writing, and visual representations of sound. We will consider how musical sound has been translated into images, signs, and symbols, as well as how music and its effects have been described in literary and theoretical texts. Examples will range from the earliest records of music writing in the Western tradition through to graphic notations of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The course will also consider literary, theoretical, and scientific texts from Ovid and Augustine through to the present day, focusing on how organized sound is captured in language.


HUMN 3092 Studies in Humanities: Aesthetic Theory

The primary focus of this course is to explore the philosophy of art. Creating, enjoying and appreciating art is one of the most distinctive features of human beings. Artworks are among the most valued entities in our culture, but also in most human cultures. But what is art, and why do we, or why should we, value it so highly? These are the core questions that we will address in this course. We will explore a variety of answers that philosophers have given to these basic questions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out to be difficult to formulate a coherent and consistent theory of art and of its value. One aim of the course is to become familiar with the main answers to these questions, and the arguments for and against them. The range of theories we will explore include: the representational theory, the expression theory, formalism, neo-Wittgensteinianism, and the institutional theory. But aesthetic theory encompasses more than the domain of art. A secondary aim of the course will be to locate art within the wider domain of aesthetic objects, aesthetic properties, and aesthetic experiences. We will examine a general account of aesthetic value, one that resurfaces from time to time, and was most explicitly expounded by Francis Hutcheson in An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725). The concept of beauty, which was once thought to be central to the understanding of art, was pretty much sent into exile in twentieth century philosophy of art, but recently some philosophers of art have begun to pay attention to it again. Hutcheson’s thesis is that beauty is unified complexity. We will explore how far this idea can give us a general theory of art and its value, and how that might fit in to a general theory of value. Same as Phil 3700


HUMN 3092 Studies in Humanities: Reading Culture: Meanings and Metaphors

Cathy Comstock (Honors section)

Because metaphors structure our interpretations of experience, they are “metaphors we live by”: metaphors that can shape our perceptions and actions without our ever noticing them. In this class, we will view cultural and literary texts through the lens of critical theory in order to come to more understanding of how we are making meaning, how those meanings make us, and how we might use that awareness to open new fields of possibility.

Central to this consideration will be what Jacques Derrida has described as “violent hierarchies.” This concept refers to our cultural tendency to make meaning through binaries such as up and down, male and female, human and animal, black and white. Since we also tend to privilege one term over the other, in ways which can have impact on all concerned, learning how to analyze these processes can provide a powerful lens through which to read and respond to our culture.

Texts: Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff and Johnson; “A Report to the Academy,” Kafka; Discipline and Punish, Foucault; Thinking Animals, Weil; Literary Critical Theory,Eagleton; and other intriguing texts


HUMN 3093 Topics in Humanities

See individual courses for descriptions


HUMN 3093 Topics in Humanities: The Art of Critical Race Theory

Jennifer Ho

Art. Critical Race Theory. These are two different disciplines/bodies of knowledge/practices that are rarely discussed together or put into conversation with one another. Both terms also invite debate and disagreement: What constitutes art? What is Critical Race Theory? And both have also been sites of controversy, political polarization, and liberation. In this seminar we will tackle each term separately but also think about works that bring “art” and “critical race theory” together. We will use principles of critical race theory to analyze works of art. And we will consider whether a work of art can be a form of critique that uses the principles of critical race theory. At the end of the semester we will hopefully have many questions remaining, and perhaps some answers, but most of all I hope that everyone will land on a definition of both “art” and “critical race theory” to see how both are enriching and necessary for our lives.


HUMN 3093 Topics in Humanities: Cinema, Landscape & Architecture

This topic is a multicultural investigation of the ways in which landscape and architecture are represented on film, focusing on issues such as margins and centers, political geography, exile, inner space, memory and time, the sublime, and transcendence. Course has strong intellectual content and draws exclusively on international cinema. Same as FILM 3043


HUMN 3093 Topics in Humanities: Literature and Law

David Ferris

This course will examine how literature engages with how law (legal, scientific, aesthetic) is established and enforced and with how literature exposes contradiction and violence within law.  The course will cover a wide range of material and forms each of which present a conflict between literature’s tendency to defer and suspend judgement and law’s desire to enforce it.  Works and authors to be examined include Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Sophocles’ Antigone, selected stories from Boccaccio’s Decameron, The Return of Martin Guerre (book and film), Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Kleist’s “The Earthquake in Chile,” “The Foundling” and “Improbably Veracities,” Kafka’s “Before the Law” and “The Problem of Our Laws,” Carl Schmitt on law and sovereign decision, and excerpts from Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence.”


HUMN 3093 Topics in Humanities: The Arabic Novel

Description to come.


HUMN 3104 Film Criticism

Surveys the range and function of film criticism, introduces major positions and concepts of film theory, and focuses on students’ abilities to write about film. Prerequisite FILM 1502. Same as FILM 3104.


HUMN 3200 Fictions of Illness: Modern Medicine and the Literary Imagination

Audrey Burba

Examines the ways in which the rise of modern medicine fueled the literary imagination with a new focus, new patterns of perception and potent metaphors. Through a study of various works of fiction, critical theory and medical history, the course traces how medical discoveries and the increasing professionalization of medicine manifested itself in modern literature.


HUMN 3210 Narrative

Annje Wiese

This course will examine narrative as a central form of representation in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by analyzing the effects of form on how we understand and represent our world. Two questions will guide this examination: “what kind of relation (if any) is there between narratives and reality (or ‘life’)?” (posed by Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan); and, “what kind of notion of reality authorizes construction of a narrative account of reality?” (posed by Hayden White). With the aid of different theories of narrative, we will attempt to answer these questions by closely analyzing how narrative form represents and informs perception and experience as well as how this has changed throughout the past century.

Over the course of the semester we will analyze works of fiction to see how narrative functions and we will look at narrative as a way of organizing thought that applies to interdisciplinary contexts including pop culture, art, identity studies, medicine, and law.


HUMN 3240 Tragedy

In this course we will examine theories of tragedy (Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche) and apply those theories, in order to examine their potential efficacy, to various works of art. After a careful examination of Greek tragedy, beginning with Aeschylus and Sophocles and concluding with Euripides’ last play on The Bacchae, the only extant tragedy which deals with Dionysus and the “birth of tragedy,” we will examine the survival of tragedy in 19-th and 20th century works of art—specifically, the works of the William Butler Yeats, Ibsen (Hedda Gabler), Chekhov (The Cherry Orchard), and Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire).


HUMN 3310 The Bible as Literature

No single book has been as influential to the English-speaking world as the Bible. We’ll read the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament for stories, poetry, and wisdom traditions. We’ll approach the Bible as literature by analyzing its plots, characters, and meanings. Students study its textual history, how there came to be a “Bible,” and the many writers, conflicts, and cultures from which it emerged. We’ll consider the Bible’s powerful influence on ethics and philosophy. Same as ENGL 3310.


HUMN 3500 Literatures of Consciousness

Annje Wiese

This course is an interdisciplinary study of human consciousness and its representation. We will analyze a variety of works, including literature, film, cognitive theory, philosophy, and scientific studies in order to see what we can learn by synthesizing the different perspectives each has to offer. More specifically, we will analyze the representation of thought in fiction (both literature and film) alongside the information more theoretical and scientific approaches bring to bear on the following key questions: What is consciousness? How do we think and perceive? What does it mean to be “neurotypical” or, by contrast, to be cognitively impaired? And what does all of this have to do with who we are? Our goal is to see how such an interdisciplinary approach can facilitate a complex and productive understanding of consciousness and its implications.


HUMN 3600 Avatars: Studies in Contemporary Posthumanism

Andrew Gilbert

This course seeks to introduce students to the analysis of posthuman thought via the concept of the avatar within our digital cultures. Through an interdisciplinary approach to theory, art, and culture, students will become familiar with the discourse of both humanism and posthumanism as it relates to games, virtual spaces, and digital embodiments. Students will read selected theories on defining avatars and posthumanism and engage with these texts in a critical fashion in order to develop skills in close-reading, critical thinking, and analytical writing. Our primary creative texts will span different modes and genres of media from video games to poetry from around the world. The final grade will be assessed based on tests, papers, quizzes, and participation. It is my desire that students gain a foundational knowledge of human complexity. These skills will be integral to the further study of cultural texts that shape society within any given class or within your everyday reality where the borders of the human self are measured or tested.


HUMN 3660 Postmodern

David Ferris

This course will examine the event of the Postmodern and its effect within literature, film, architecture, culture, and critical theory. Beginning with works that signal and examine the onset of modernity, the consequences of postmodernity for our understanding of the modern as a sign of our intellectual, cultural, and social progress will be presented. Once defined in relation to the modern, our attention will turn to the problems and issues posed by the postmodern with respect to history, perception, and the concept of an era that is also our present. We will also examine various recent attempts to think beyond the postmodern. The course will include a broad selection of works from architectural theory to performance art.


HUMN 3666 Critical Futures: Theorizing Climate Change

Annje Wiese

This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding environmental humanities and explores the insights that arts and humanities can provide in the face of climate change, environmental injustice, and our uncertain futures. By looking at diverse representations/theories about the Anthropocene, this course considers how we account for humans’ relationship to nature and what the consequences of this are. It also discusses how art and fiction might harness individual and group will to sustain our world.


HUMN 3702 Dada and Surrealist Literature

Surveys the major theoretical concepts and literary genres of the Dada and Surrealist movements. Topics include Dada performance and cabaret, the manifesto, montage, the ready made, the Surrealist novel, colonialism and the avant-garde, and literary and philosophical precursors to the avant-garde.


HUMN 3800 Paris, Modernity, and the Avant-Garde

Giulia Bernardini

Investigates the development of the concept of the 'avant-garde' in late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century Paris against a backdrop of political and social revolution. Analyzes the innovative nature of certain works of art, theater, photography, music and literature as well as the influence of the city. Probes and problematizes the concept of the artist as social outsider and cultural critic. 


HUMN 3801 Muslims, Christians, Jews & the Mediterranean Origins of the West

Brian Catlos

Provides a historical foundation for the study of western Modernity, including the Anglo-European and Islamic worlds. It focuses on the Mediterranean region in the long Middle Ages (650-1650), emphasizing the role of Christian, Muslim and Jewish peoples and cultures, in Europe, Africa and West Asia. The approach is interdisciplinary incorporating social, economic, cultural, literary and art history, combining lectures with discussions based around readings of contemporary documents and the analysis of contemporary artifacts. Same as RLST 3801.


HUMN 3850 The Mediterranean: Religion before Modernity

Brian Catlos

Offers an innovative approach to the multifaceted history of Christian-Muslim-Jewish interaction in the Mediterranean. It eschews established paradigms (e.g., Europe, Islamic world) that distort our understanding of these and pushes students to reconsider the accepted paradigms of Western history. Students will reappraise assumptions regarding the nature of ethnic, religious, national and cultural identity, and their role in human history. Same as RLST 3850.


HUMN 4000 Question of Romanticism

This course focuses on the Romantic ideal of art as both a spiritual and social force.  Through close attention to the painting, poetry, drama, prose fiction, and aesthetic theory of the period we will examine some of Romanticism’s central aesthetic issues, including its tropes of inspiration and alienation; the idea of nature as a source of art and its object; and the roles of exoticism, the supernatural, and the imagination. Course requirements: informal writing assignments on the readings; two exams; and a final paper. 


HUMN 4004 Topics in Film Theory

See individual courses for descriptions


HUMN 4006 Game Studies

Andrew Gilbert

Game Studies introduces basic media literacy by exploring the aesthetic and cultural principles behind the use and creation of one of (if not the) largest cultural forms of modern media. As 60% of all Americans play video games daily, and the industry itself surpasses cinema as the global games market reached 148.8 billion, it is wise for us to be able to read and critique such a massive part of our culture. This class will explore the specific theories associated with the media of gaming as well as dive deeply into several aspects unique to gaming (the avatar, the Dungeons and Dragons live stream, etc.).


HUMN 4011 Criminal Hero

Studies various theories of literary transgression by Aristotle, Nietzsche, Freud, Bataille and others to understand the many works, beginning with Genesis and the Iliad and including contemporary works such as Norman Mailer's The Executioners Song and the films of Herzog (Aguirre, Nosferatu) and Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Cape Fear) which feature this paradoxical figure.


HUMN 4030 The Art of Travel

Giulia Bernardini

Examines the art of travel: not where to go and what to do, but rather philosophical concepts about why people travel. Areas of discussion will include exploration, discovery, escape, pilgrimage, the grand tour, expatriotism, exile, nomadism, armchair travel, and the sense of home. Materials will include books by travel writers, novels, films, essays, short stories, art, music, and historical documents.


HUMN 4050 Representations of People with Disabilities

Oliver Gerland

Introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of disability studies by investigating key concepts in disability theory, disability history and culture, media representations of people with disabilities, and pertinent bioethical issues.


HUMN 4070 Making Meaning: Language, Myths, Dreams

Audrey Burba

How is meaning produced? How does it circulate? How is it consumed and interiorized? “Making meaning: Language, Myths, and Dreams” will consider how meaning works, how it configures our experience of the world, and our understanding of the self. As students are introduced to various theories concerned with signification, communication, and meaning, they will discover by what processes our chaotic world remains intelligible, and inhabitable.
          The course will focus on the legacy of Ferdinand de Saussure’s study of the sign, known as semiology or semiotics. We will examine how Saussure’s insights have been put to work in a variety of intellectual contexts from literary analysis, to cultural anthropology, and psychoanalysis. Key readings will include Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics, Barthes’ Mythologies, Levi-Strauss’ Myth and Meaning, and Freud’s On Dreams. With each theoretical introduction, we will analyze and interpret texts, myths, and images from fine arts to popular culture.


HUMN 4092 Studies in Humanities: Musical Origins

Matthew Peattie

This class will examine musical practices from Antiquity through the Renaissance, relying on the witness of primary sources such as manuscripts and early prints of music, as well as the written records of theologians, poets, philosophers, and music theorists. A central theme of the course is how to ask (and answer) questions using a fragmentary and often decontextualized historical record. The class will examine numerous primary sources in facsimile, as well as examples of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and early prints in the CU Rare and Distinctive Collections library. A background in music is not required, but a willingness to listen to ancient music and poetry, and to examine primary sources in unfamiliar languages and scripts is essential.


HUMN 4135 Art and Psychoanalysis

Explores psychoanalytic theory as it relates to our understanding of literature, film, and other arts. After becoming familiar with some essential Freudian notions (repression, narcissism, ego/libido, dream work, etc.), students apply these ideas to works by several artists (e.g., Flaubert, James, Kafka, Hoffmann, and Hitchcock).Same as FILM 4135.


Humn 4150 Boccaccio's Decameron: Tales of Sex and Death in the Middle Ages

Suzanne Magnanini

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.


HUMN 4155 Philosophy, Art, and the Sublime

“Perhaps the most sublime utterance is that inscribed on the temple of Isis: “I am all that is, that was, and that will ever be; no mortal has lifted my veil.” (Kant) In this course we will examine theories of the sublime and apply those same theories to various works of art. Beginning with Longinus, we will then move to the beginning of modern discussions of the sublime in Burke and Kant before proceeding to the “golden age” of sublimity, 18-19th century German and English romanticism. After a study of sublimity in Goethe’s Faust we will then turn our attention to the writings of the English romantic poets (Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge), as well to the early 19th-century novel, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. After an examination of the sublime paintings of Turner (and his predecessors) we will move, in the final section of the course, to an examination of the survival of the sublime in the 20th century paintings and films of Barnett Newman, Georgia O’Keefe, Werner Herzog, and John Carpenter.


HUMN 4170 Fiction and Reality

Annje Wiese

Fake news, reality television, meta-fiction, virtual reality, fantasy, documentary, propaganda, autobiography, testimonial, digital manipulation of images, robotics—all are popular today for their ability to question and explore 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 (maybe obsessed with?) the relationship between the two concepts. In this course we will explore the consequences of the assumption that a recognizable distinction between reality and fiction exists. We will also consider the increasing sense that there is no tangible way to distinguish the two. Over the course of the semester, we will analyze a diverse selection of sources in order to see how they define reality and fiction and what the consequences of these definitions are. 


HUMN 4502 Nietzsche: Literature and Values

Emphasis is placed on Nietzsche's major writings spanning the years 1872-1888, with particular attention to the critique of Western values. A systematic exploration of doctrines, concepts and ideas leading to the values of creativity. Same as GRMN 4502.


HUMN 4502 Nietzsche: Literature and Values

Emphasis is placed on Nietzsche's major writings spanning the years 1872-1888, with particular attention to the critique of Western values. A systematic exploration of doctrines, concepts and ideas leading to the values of creativity. Same as GRMN 4502.


HUMN 4720 Architecture and the Feminine

Audrey Burba

This course examines women’s depictions of space, confinement, and liberation in literature, art, and film. Women’s artistic productions have long sought to conceptualize, expose, and subvert the ways that gender and power relations are inscribed into the spaces they inhabit. Together, we will trace the rich history of these visions of spaces (physical, geographical, psychological, and imagined) and explore their relationship to gender, subjectivity, power, and creativity.

Over the course of the semester, we will consider how representations of the traditional places assigned to women are used to comment on the physical, intellectual, economic, and religious boundaries erected by these spaces. Most notably, we will examine how the home, sometimes painted as a valuable and meaningful source of identity, also represents male dominance and female subjugation.


HUMN 4811 19th Century Russian Literature 

Surveys background of Russian literature from 1800 to 1900. Russian writers and literary problems in the 19th century emphasizing major authors: Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Chekhov. Same as RUSS 4811.


HUMN 4821 20th Century Russian Literature and Art

Interdisciplinary course emphasizing the influence of literature and art in 20th century Russian literature. Follows the changing cultural landscape from the time when Russia was in the vanguard of modern European literature to the period of Stalinism. Same as RUSS 4821.


HUMN 4835 Literature and Social Violence

Cathy Comstock

Social violence affects us all, and the most vulnerable are affected the most profoundly by these “savage inequalities.”  But we can change our society and also ourselves in ways that can bring help and hope for everyone.  In this seminar we will use the insights of both great literature and social science to bring light to the sources of darkness in our schools, our mass incarceration, our immigration policies, and the wars on drugs and disease that too often have effects more like a war on the poor.

As we discover the surprising and successful solutions that the media neglects to tell us, we will also consider the best ways to cure the personal consequences of living with the kind of stresses that have led to all-times highs in depression and anxiety.  The good news from neuroscience is that we have astonishing capacities for health and happiness, from mindfulness to the immune system, just waiting to rescue and restore us in the very process of trying to help others.

Through our contact with great authors and films as well as each other this seminar will explore intriguing possibilities that promise to be as transformative as they are heartening and sometimes even humorous. 

There is also the option (not a requirement) for one to three hours of extra credit by doing service work in the community, since that kind of the personal experience helps us to understand the class materials—and our culture overall—more deeply.

The class texts include Angels in America, The Bluest Eye, Bliss Brain, Tattoos on the Heart, Freedom Writers’ Diary, Savage Inequalities, Gandhi the Man and Tortilla Curtain.