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.

    Spring 2022
    MW 11:35am-12:50pm
  • This seminar discusses the workings of ambition and conscience in some exemplary plays by Shakespeare. We will consider how political legitimacy is achieved, and how it is perpetuated. 

    Spring 2022
    T 9:25am-11:15am
  • A new course offering an introduction to medieval song in England via modern poetic theory, material culture, affect theory, and sound studies. Song will be studied through foregrounding music as well as words, words as well as music.

    Spring 2022
    MW 1pm-2:15pm
  • A survey of major French novels, considering style and story, literary and intellectual movements, and historical contexts. Writers include Balzac, Flaubert, Proust, Camus, and Sartre. Readings in translation. One section conducted in French.

    Spring 2022; Spring 2021
    TTh 1:30pm-2:20pm
  • Exploration of Arabian Nights, a classic of world literature. Topics include antecedents, themes and later prose, and graphic and film adaptations.

    Spring 2022, Spring 2021
    TTh 1-2:15
  • We will discuss the major poems and the major prose statements of imaginative purpose by William Wordsworth and Percy Shelley. 

    Spring 2022
    MW 11:35am-12:50pm
  • Medieval understandings of womanhood examined through analysis of writings by and/or about women. Introduction to the premodern Western canon and assessment of the role that women played in its construction.

    Spring 2022, Spring 2021
    TTh 1-2:15
  • 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. 

    Spring 2022
    MW 10:30am-11:20am +1
  • In this course we will reflect on the relation between Galileo’s anti-Aristotelian physics and Hobbes’ political system by reading key texts by both thinkers along with an array of interpretations and criticisms of Hobbes. 

    Spring 2022, Spring 2021
    W 3:30pm-5:20pm
  • 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.

    Spring 2022, Fall 2021, Spring 2021
    TTh 11:35-12:50
  • What does it mean to read poetry as a poet? Or, as someone interested in how poems get made? This course reads a trajectory of poetic influence in English language poetry that stretches from Shakespeare into the twenty-first century.

    Spring 2022
    W 1:30pm-3:20pm
  • In-depth examination of James Baldwin’s canon, tracking his work as an American artist, citizen, and witness to United States society, politics, and culture during the Cold War.

    Spring 2022, Spring 2021
    MW 4:30pm-5:20pm + 1
  • How and why contemporary societies continue to symbolize sacred and profane meanings, investing these meanings with materiality and shaping them aesthetically.

    Spring 2022
    M 3:30pm-5:20pm
  • Comparative survey of ancient discourses about wisdom from China, India, the Near East, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Topics include teaching, scheming, and dying.

    Spring 2022
    TTh 11:35am-12:50pm
  • A seminar in the field of European intellectual history, based on primary sources. How philosophers, novelists, sociologists, and other thinkers developed and articulated a philosophy of dissent under communism. 

    Spring 2022
    W 1:30pm-3:20pm
  • Examination of the origins of human modernity in the light of evolutionary and archaeological evidence; merging evolutionary reasoning with humanistic theory to understand the impact of human culture on natural selection across the last 250,000 years.

    Spring 2022; Spring 2020
    T 1:30-3:20
  • The course looks closely at detective stories, novels and films, with attention to the narrative structure of criminal enigma, logical investigation and denouement (whodunnit), and considers the meaning of “genre” more broadly. 

    Spring 2022; Spring 2021
    TTh 2:30-3:45pm
  • Unclassifiable in its combination of romanticism, realism, and modernism, The Strudlhof Steps or, Melzer and the Depth of the Years might be the ultimate “cult classic” or Geheimtipp (“secret tip”) of German literature. 

    Spring 2022
    W 1:30pm-3:20pm + 1
  • This course discusses how, where, and when to identify the other of alienation or a non-alienated way of life or reconciliation in Rousseau, Hegel, Marx; Simmel, Lukács, Sartre; Lefebvre, J.B. Foster, J.W. Moore and others.

    Spring 2022
    M 1:30pm-3:20pm + 1
  • This course surveys the history of the picture book, from the early modern period to the late 20th century, considering the Anglo-American tradition within a broader European context and in relationship to the picturebook tradition in Japan.

    Spring 2022
    T 1:30pm-3:20pm
  • We will consider how poetry attempts to make sense of our interaction with the earth at important moments of change, from pre-industrial agriculture to global capitalism and the Anthropocene.

    Spring 2022
    W 1:30pm-3:20pm
  • Against the backdrop of European colonialism, post-1945 labor migration, and the so-called “European Refugee Crisis” in 2015, this course analyzes media representations of migration to Europe in the 21st century. 

    Spring 2022
    Th 3:30pm-5:20pm
  • Study of the Bible as a literature—a collection of works exhibiting a variety of attitudes toward the conflicting claims of tradition and originality, historicity and literariness.

    Spring 2022
    TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm
  • This course explores the Western conception of the human place in the natural world as it has shifted across four centuries.

    Spring 2022
    W 3:30pm-5:20pm + 1
  • Theater artists from Aeschylus to Alvin Ailey evoke the immensity, mutability, & mystery of the sea that surrounds us. Their work asks us questions about good & evil, life & death, the fate of the planet, & deep-sea bioluminescence.

    Spring 2022
    M 9:25am-11:15am + 1
  • This course combines a seminar on the history and theory of translation with a hands-on workshop.  A series of case studies comparing multiple translations of given literary works and classic statements about translation.

    Spring 2022, Spring 2021
    TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm
  • This course draws from feminist, postcolonial, and indigenous studies, critical race theory, and multispecies thought to explore questions in metaphysics, history of science, and politics. 

    Spring 2022
    T 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

  • In this Interpretations seminar on Plato, we read the Alcibiades I, Laches, Protagoras, Symposium, Phaedrus, and Statesman–rich and complex dialogues that are rarely taught at the undergraduate level. 

    Spring 2022
    MW 9am-10:15am
  • Claude McKay was the preeminent queer black leftist poet, novelist, and political thinker of the early 20th century. This course covers the full range of his many contributions.

    Spring 2022
    W 3:30pm-5:20pm + 1
  • This course juxtaposes the thought of the medieval Torah scholar Maimonides (1138-1204) with postmodern philosophy. We explore the questions of the possibility of a stable subject, stable meaning, stable truth.

    Spring 2022
    W 9:25am-11:15am
  • This seminar offers a multidisciplinary exploration of one of the most daring and beautiful architectural achievements of medieval Europe, the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris (constructed 1242-48) with three specialists from different departments.

    Spring 2022
    T 1:30pm-3:20pm
  • Course Description:

    Spring 2022
    T 3:30-5:20pm

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
T 3:30pm-5:20pm

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
Varies per section