Special Courses

As part of our commitment to undergraduate education, our faculty are constantly devising innovative new courses. 

Programs for First-Years are listed under First-Year Offerings.

Featured Courses

Below are a list of courses devised in the interdisciplinary spirit of the Humanities Program that are currently on offer. Not all courses are taught by faculty with official appointments in the Humanities Program, but all share the outlook and mission of the Program. HUMS Majors - click here for a more detailed listing showing which major requirements they might fulfill

  • This course focuses on verbal artistry and textual analysis; on dramaturgy, staging and the nature of spectatorial experience, as on developing the craft of persuasive argument through writing in relation to European tragedies.

    Fall 2021
    MW 11:35am-12:50pm
  • From Gilgamesh to Persepolis is an introduction to Near Eastern civilization through its rich and diverse literary achievements. Our main approach will be close reading: to investigate deeply small parts of a text to illuminate the whole. 

    Fall 2021
    TTh 1pm-2:15pm
  • Introduction to techniques, strategies, and practices of reading through study of lyric poems, narrative texts, plays and performances, films, new and old, from a range of times and places. Junior seminar.

    Fall 2021, Spring 2021
    M 1:30-3:20
  • This course explores the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible found in all Bibles – Jewish and Christian.  We examine these writings as diverse and often conflicting expressions of the life and thought of ancient Israel and as a foundational element of western civilization.

    Fall 2021
    TTh 11:35am-12:50pm
  • This course has two main aims. One is to discover a Middle Ages that is different from the one popularly projected in modern culture. The other aim is to break the barriers between canonical and noncanonical authors, focusing on mutual influences and exchange. 

    Fall 2021
    MW 10:30am-11:20am + 1
  • From a cluster of huts perched on two unremarkable hills grew an empire that spanned much of the known world. This course will trace the origins, development, and expansion of Rome from the earliest times to the deaths of Caesar and Cicero in the late 40s BCE.  

    Fall 2021
    TTh 11:35am-12:50pm + 1
  • This course focuses on Dante’s Divine Comedy, a masterpiece of world literature. After looking at the Vita Nuova (New Life) as the starting point of Dante’s poetic trajectory, we will read the Comedy in its entirety and in light of what it claims to be – a journey to God. 

    Fall 2021
    TTh 1pm-2:15pm + 1
  • In this course on the theory and practice of contemporary biography, we study iconic and experimental biographies, novels about biographers at work, and texts both skeptical and critical of biographical insights.  

    Fall 2021
    TTh 1pm-2:15pm
  • This course is for students from all disciplinary backgrounds who love investigating images of the human face and bodyWe will participate in the discourse of art writing as practiced by journalists, public intellectuals, arts administrators, and artists themselves.  

    Fall 2021
    TTh 11:35am-12:50pm
  • Our experimental course pursues the mystery of consciousness by studying two writers working in different languages, in different centuries, in a variety of minor, unprestigious genres: Edgar Allan Poe and Franz Kafka

    Fall 2021
    MW 11:35-12:50
  • This course represents an introduction to the most important philosophical thinkers and texts in Chinese history, ranging from roughly 500 BC–1500 AD. Topics include ethics, political philosophy, epistemology, and ontology. 

    Fall 2021
    TBA
  • This course explores poetry that deals with any or all of these definitions, across a wide range of cultural and historical contexts, from the visionary, astral journeys of ancient Chinese verse to the visionary, redemptive apocalypse of William Blake.

    Fall 2021
    W 1:30pm-3:20pm
  • This seminar addresses the unsolved problems of racial and economic inequalities in American democracy through two classical texts: Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America.

    Fall 2021
    T 1:30pm-3:20pm
  • The literally life-changing technologies of biotechnology and AI have raised profound questions of what it meant to be responsible for them. We explore these questions through the work of American blockbuster author-director-producer, Michael Crichton (1942-2008).

    Fall 2021
    TTh 11:35am-12:50pm + 1
  • In the early modern period, a vast variety of people – aristocrats, apothecaries, merchants, and naturalists – assembled large collections of natural specimens and artworks. This seminar explores the history of these early collections and situates them in context.

    Fall 2021
    W 1:30pm-3:20pm
  • What can the Humanities tell us about climate change? Literary, political, historical, and religious texts on how individuals depend on, and struggle against, the natural environment in order to survive.

    Fall 2021, Spring 2021
    TTh 11:35-12:50
  • Goethe’s Faust, with special attention to Faust II and to the genesis of Faust in its various versions throughout Goethe’s lifetime. Emphasis on the work in context of Goethe’s time and in the later reception and criticism.

    Fall 2021
    M 3:30pm-5:20pm
  • Drawing on examples from antiquity to the present, from ancient Egypt to the Elm City, this interdisciplinary seminar explores monuments and memorials as political, cultural, social, and aesthetic expressions, and examines the ways they operate in history.

    Fall 2021
    W 9:25am-11:15am
  • This course is designed to look at issues of faith through the lens of poetry.  With some notable exceptions, we will concentrate on modern poetry—that is, poetry written between 1850 and 2015.  

    Fall 2021
    Th 1:30pm-3:20pm
  • An introduction to the core texts of the Chinese tradition, through which we will trace the development of Chinese literature, thought, and political theory from ~1200 BCE to the collapse of the imperial system in the early 20th century. 

    Fall 2021
    MW 10:30am-11:20am
  • The truth can set you free, but of course it can also get you into trouble. We begin with the revolt of the Hebrews and the Socratic questioning of democracy, and end with various contemporary cases of censorship within and between regimes. 

    Fall 2021, Fall 2020
    W 3:30-6:00pm
  • Major currents in European intellectual history from the late nineteenth century through the twentieth. Topics include Marxism-Leninism, psychoanalysis, expressionism, structuralism, phenomenology, existentialism, antipolitics, and deconstruction.

    Fall 2021
    MW 11:35am-12:25pm
  • This seminar examines the major novels, short stories, and novellas of the first decade of the Negro Renaissance. Close reading is emphasized throughout; students are guided through a process of archival research and sustained formal analysis to produce a critical essay.

    Fall 2021
    W 3:30pm-5:20pm
  • In our time, when everyone is suspected of being hyper-critical, it is not surprising that the limits of critique are called to question. This course develops critical models to show the great variety of options available beyond and within the so-called “hermeneutics of suspicion.”

    Fall 2021
    Th 1:30pm-3:20pm
  • Money matters, whether we like it or not. It plays a major role in the lives of individuals and the social fabric at large – a role scrutinized by philosophers and cultural theorists. This course explores the meaning of money by tracing the arc from Aristotle to the present.

    Fall 2021
    T 3:30pm-5:20pm
  • This course examines the two revolutions in German Romantic writer Georg Büchner’s (1813-1837) work, the political and social revolutions (France 1789, Germany 1836), and the modernist literary revolution that departs from European romanticism. 

    Fall 2021
    M 1:30pm-3:20pm
  • Students apply to this workshop with a project in mind. Practical translation is supplemented by readings in the history of translation practice and theory, and by reflections by practitioners.

    Prereq: HUMS 427

    Fall 2021, Spring 2021
    Th 3:30pm-5:20pm
  • The course looks closely at the intersection of literature, philosophy and natural science through the lens of the thought experiment. Throughout we try to be attuned to overlap between the humanities and the sciences. 

    Fall 2021
    TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm
  • The city of Rome from its legendary origins to its role in post-war Europe. Significant moments of Roman and world history considered through literature, intellectual history, political science, theology, and the arts.

    Fall 2021, Spring 2019, Fall 2020
    T 3:30pm-5:20pm
  • This course explores fundamental philosophical questions of the relation between matter and form, life and spirit, necessity and freedom, by proceeding from Aristotle’s analysis of the soul in De Anima and his notion of practical agency in the Nicomachean Ethics. 

    Fall 2021
    W 1:30pm-3:20pm

Core Seminars: Interpretations and Modernities

Humanities Majors are required to take one seminar in “Interpretations” and one seminar in “Modernities.”  Both core courses include substantial attention to methodological concerns that are fundamental to the humanities disciplines, and to distinctively humanistic activities like persuasion and interpretation. Click here for more information

  • A close reading (in English) of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, with emphasis upon major themes: time and memory, desire and jealousy, social life and artistic experience, sexual identity and personal authenticity, class and nation.

    Fall 2021, Fall 2018
    MW 1pm-2:15pm
  • This course offers a close reading of his two major treatises, the Prince and the Discourses on Livy as well as important sections from Livy’s history of Rome. We then consider influential nineteenth and twentieth century interpreters from Hegel to Gramsci to Leo Strauss.

    Fall 2021
    TBD
  • Working from a new translation, this seminar studies Hugo’s epic masterpiece in all its unabridged glory and uses it to explore the world of nineteenth-century France.  Attention is also paid to famous stage and screen adaptations of the novel. No French required. 

    Fall 2021
    T 1:30pm-3:20pm
  • HUMS 192. What happens when intellectuals enter into politics? Do they betray a higher spiritual calling, or merely practice what they preach?  We will use methods of intellectual history to measure the social power of ideas. 

    Fall 2020, Fall 2021
    T 9:25a-11:15a

Franke and Shulman Seminars

The Franke and Shulman Seminars are upper-level seminars for Humanities majors conducted in conjunction with the Franke and Shulman Lectures; a series of four visiting lectures in the Whitney Humanities Center.  Click here for more information about past seminars.
 

We explore the possibility of a ‘cognitive metaphysics’ where each field is enriched by the other. Topics include the ways in which we understand the nature of space, time, objects, events, causality, persistence, and possibility. 

Spring 2022
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

An investigation of the experience and purposes of mass incarceration in the Soviet Union and the United States in the twentieth century. Incarceration is a crucial aperture into basic questions of values and practices. 

Fall 2021
Th 9:25am-11:15am

Special Admissions

Below are a number of courses that require instructor permission, application, or have otherwise irregular entrance procedures. Click here for a complete list.

Nothing is simply ancient history in the Eternal City. The intersection of past and present, of arts, politics, and theology in a five-week, interdisciplinary study of Rome from its origins through today.

Summer 2021
N/A

The Life Worth Living Program is an effort to revive critical discussion in universities and the broader culture about the most important question of our lives: What is a life worth living?

Spring 2022
HTBA