Trials of Uncertainty, HUMS 295a (Fall 2019)

Meeting Time: 
MW 2:30-3:45

Course Description:

Is the demise of the trial at hand? The trial as cultural achievement, considered as the epitome of humanistic inquiry, where all is brought to bear on a crucial matter in an uncertain context. Truth may be hammered out or remain elusive, but the expectation in the court case has been that the adversarial mode works best for sorting out evidentiary conundrums. Inquiries into issues of meaning of the trial, its impartiality, and challenges to its endurability. The role of character, doubt, and diagnosis explored in Sophocles, Plato, Cicero, Burke, Jane Austen, Tocqueville, and Kafka, as well as in twentieth-century trials, films, documentaries, and twenty-first-century medical narratives.

Syllabus

Led by:

Professor Norma Thompson

NORMA THOMPSON is Associate Director of the Whitney Humanities Center and Senior Lecturer in the Humanities. She received her A.B. from Bowdoin College and her Ph.D. from The Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Her scholarship and teaching are in the humanities, with special interests in political philosophy and politics and literature. She is the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Humanities major in Yale College.

Her latest book is Unreasonable Doubt: Circumstantial Evidence and the Art of Judgment (Paul Dry Books, 2011), first published by the University of Missouri Press in 2006. She has published two books with Yale University Press: Herodotus and the Origins of the Political Community: Arion’s Leap (1996) and The Ship of State: Politics and Statecraft from Ancient Greece to Democratic America (2001).

She edited the volume Instilling Ethics with Rowman and Littlefield (2000) and has also published in Arion, Nomos, International Journal of the Classical Tradition, Perspectives on Political Science (2015, 2017), Western Civilization and the Academy (2015) and in the festschrift for David Grene, Literary Imagination, Ancient and Modern. She has articles on Herodotus and Thucydides in The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Greek Political Theory (2009) and in The Encyclopedia of Political Thought (Wiley Online Library, 2014). Her latest book project is entitled Trials of Uncertainty.

Testimonials:

This course was previously offered in the Spring of 2019. Testimonials are taken from student course evaluations.

  • “Professor Thompson is an amazing professor who leads a great seminar. I would recommend this class to anyone.”

  • “The concept of the class is fascinating and the amount of reading/writing really ensures that you are internalizing the material.”

  • “Discussions were riveting. I have no improvements. Challenging but worthwhile experience!”