Core Seminars


Every version of Interpretations will provide an experience that is lacking in survey courses – sustained, deep engagement with one particular work, and with the interpretive world that arises around it. Courses focus on one or several books or works of art, music or film, on their historical context, on the interpretive questions they raise, on histories of their reception and transformation. 

The goal is to give students the experience of coming to know works very deeply, to grapple with the many ways of understanding a work and with the universe of meanings that can arise from the distinctly humanistic activity of interpretation.


Every version of Modernities will seek to expose students to the provocative question: What is modernity? Nietzsche might say it begins with Socrates, while Weber might say it begins with rationalization.Is it is one phenomenon or many? When does modernity begin? Students should be exposed to a palate of interpretive frameworks for understanding the question.

The course is envisioned as a broad survey that will build on the sort of material covered in foundational courses, with more thematic coherence, historical context, and theoretical self-consciousness.

  • HUMS 319. A study of the poetry of John Ashbery (1927-2017) through examining the films, music, and art that provoked his imagination and structured and inhabited his poems. Critiques of the interdisciplinarity of Ashbery’s poetics.

    Fall 2020
    Th 1:30p-3:20p
  • 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
    T 9:25a-11:15a
  • HUMS 313. 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 2021
    M 1:30p-3:20p
  • HUMS 349This class explores the complexities of identity through  modern literature, philosophy and social theory, from psychoanalysis to critical race theory, romanticism to postmodernism, autobiography to autofiction. 

    Spring 2021
    T 3:30p-5:20p