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Humanities (HMAN) Courses

This topics seminar in the humanities is available to junior or senior undergraduates as well as graduate students.  The number, variety and topics of sections will vary from semester to semester and year to year.  All classes are taught either by Brown faculty, as Cogut Center Faculty Fellows, or Visiting Professors in the Humanities from other institutions who are in residence at the Cogut Center.  Topics are offered that relate directly to faculty expertise and research as well as to the interests and needs of relevant departments. This seminar provides an in-depth enhancement to humanities scholarship for the advanced undergraduate. Graduate students are welcome.

You may click on the highlighted course titles to link to the Banner listing.

Courses for Fall 2014

HMAN 2970F                              P Hour (T 4:00 - 6:20pm)

Law, Nationalism, and Colonialism
Nathaniel A. Berman
Rahel Varnhagen
Professor of International Affairs, Law, and Modern Culture, Cogut Center for the Humanities

This seminar explores the internationalism of the past century in terms of its relationship to separatist nationalism, anti-colonialism, and religious radicalism. It takes as its point of departure the dramatic political, cultural, and intellectual transformations that followed in the wake of World War I. A guiding hypothesis of the seminar is that internationalism cannot be understood apart from its complex relationship to "identity" broadly conceived – identity of local/transnational groups as well as the identity of internationalists themselves. Readings will be drawn from law/cultural studies/politics/postcolonial theory. Enrollment limited to 20 graduate students. Advanced juniors/seniors by permission only. Advanced juniors and seniors with permission.

HMAN 1971C               M Hour (M 3:00 - 5:20pm)

History, Theory and Practice of Storytelling Using Stereoscopic ("3D") Motion Pictures
Theodore Bogosian
Visiting Professor of the Practice
Cogut Center for the Humanities

This course will support/enhance Brown’s tradition in the Humanities by sharpening the focus on interdisciplinary/comparative work across cultural/linguistic boundaries. Can science/technology/medicine foster the presentation of innovative work in humanities by bringing 3D to New Media? Why do some cultural values dictate genres typically produced in 3D? What were the origins of 3D motion pictures/how might new technologies affect the distribution/visualization of 3D projects? How can 3D enrich relations between humanities and studio/performing arts? We provide Brown students with an opportunity to establish a foundation for analyzing/telling stories using stereoscopic tools, and receive basic technical experience using 3D small-format video equipment.

HMAN 1971E                                    N Hour (W 3:00 - 5:20pm)

Cross-Cultural Approaches to Death and Dying
Willoughby Britton
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior

Warren Alpert School of Medicine

Despite the universality of death, human responses to it are incredibly varied. Because the significance of death and dying is deeply socially constructed, this course situates biological, medical, and psychological conceptions of death and dying in conversation with the religious and ethical perspectives that have also informed human responses to death and dying in different cultural contexts. This interdisciplinary course—team-taught by a psychologist, a scholar of religion, and two end-of-life care physicians—will facilitate a more informed understanding of death-related cultural practices as well as a more skilled response to death-related decisions that arise in the practice of medicine and in life. Enrollment limited to 20 students in Medical Humanities and graduate Humanities fields. Honors undergraduates and PLMEs may enroll with instructor permission.
Enrollment limited to 20 students in Medical Humanities and graduate Humanities fields. Honors undergraduates and PLMEs may enroll with instructor permission.

HMAN 1971E                                    N Hour (W 3:00 - 5:20pm)

Digital Media and Virtual Performance
Kiri Miller
Faculty Fellow

Music Department

This seminar investigates digital media practices at the intersection of virtual and embodied experience, exploring overlapping genres of play, performance, pedagogy, and participatory culture. Topics include digital games, viral videos, online music and dance lessons, and the performative aspects of virtual communities. Theoretical approaches draw on scholarship in media ethnography, performance studies, human-computer interaction studies, gender studies, and ethnomusicology. We will give equal attention to production, circulation, and reception practices, and consider their contemporary convergence. The course requires critical engagement with a diverse range of media, genres, and cultural contexts, encouraging students to examine their own media practices.

HMAN 1970H                    Q Hour (Th 4:00 - 6:20pm)

Skin Deep: Reading Race, Reading Form
Ralph Rodriguez
Faculty Fellow
American Studies

There has been a trend to move away from symptomatic/paranoid readings of literature. In 2009, Stephen Best/Sharon Marcus pitched this most provocatively in their call for surface readings, which deals with what is manifest/present in texts, rather than the latent/concealed. We hope to get beyond politically-instrumental readings of literature/to thinking in a sustained fashion about language/form/aesthetics of race. The seminar will divide between reading histories/theories of race (obsession with physical variation as race and technologies of seeing that we use to read race)/working through a range of post-nationalist works of literature/sharpening our understanding of reading as a mean-making event.

HMAN1971F                                       Q Hour (Th 4:00 - 6:20pm)

World of Walden Pond: Transcendentalism as a Social and Intellectual Movement
Kenneth S. Sacks
Professor of Humanities and History of Art and Architecture

World of Walden Pond examines the 19th century phenomenon of Transcendentalism: this country’s most romanticized religious, philosophical, and literary movement. Focusing especially on Emerson, Thoreau, and Fuller, we’ll examine the ideas of the Transcendentalists in the age of reform and evaluate the application of their principles to abolition, feminism, and nature. The central problem which they wrestled with will be the focus, too, of our investigations: the tension between individualism and conformity.

Student Feedback on HMAN Classes

“One of the best courses I have taken.  Discussion was better than any other class.”

“While I am in an interdisciplinary major, it was the first truly interdisciplinary course I have taken.”

 “This course very much influenced the way I see the world and the way I will approach my future academic work.”

Great course — wide-ranging in focus but cohesive overall goals.  Quality of discussion was very high level.  I learned so much from this course and was continually challenged in the best possible way.”

“I loved this course; it was way out of my comfort zone but so rewarding.”

“I’ve never had a professor challenge me and respect me as much as [the instructor] did this semester.  She asked me to have ideas and arguments and thoughts on an enormous range of issues, and then to defend the hell out of them.  I couldn’t help but learn and grow because of it.”

“This course was phenomenal—it bridged worlds.”

2014-15 Humanities Related Courses

The Cogut Center administers two programs that bring teaching postdoctoral fellows to campus: Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows and Postdoctoral Fellows in International Humanities. In addition to doing research and participating in the life of the Cogut Center, each fellow teaches one course per semester for his/her "home" department. These courses, taught by fellows brought to campus by the Cogut Center, help to expand, explore and enhance humanities education at Brown.

You may click on the highlighted course titles to link to the Banner listing.

Related Courses for Spring 2014

URBN1230R                                   H Hour (T/Th 9:00 - 10:20am)

Crime and the City
Stefano Bloch
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Urban Studies

This seminar examines urbanism conceived as the autonomous, creative, and everyday making of city space. It analyzes the concepts of “right to the city” and “do-it-yourself” urbanism through protests over public space in Istanbul, Occupy encampments across the U.S., individual gestures of anarchist contestation, and graffiti and street artists' small-scale acts of aesthetic transgression. We engage the major conversations in the academy and on the streets about possible urban futures, including Latino urbanism from a thirdspace perspective and in its guerrilla, insurgent, participatory, and vernacular incarnations.

AFRI1010C                                       P Hour (T 4:00 - 6:20pm)

Race, Gender, Ethics and Environmental Justice
Vanessa Fabien
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Africana Studies/Environmental Studies

This course examines the role of African Americans in the larger environmental history conversation. It utilizes a gendered lens to investigate how African American interpreted their natural surroundings and contributed to the development of 20th century American environmental consciousness. This course is reading and writing intensive.

ENGL1360H                                E Hour (MWF 12:00 - 12:50pm)

Seminar in Old English Literature
Lesley Jacobs
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

This course will offer a thorough introduction to the earliest period of English language and literature, and allow students, by the end of the course, to read and appreciate a language that is both intriguingly foreign and importantly familiar. We will start with an extensive coverage of grammar and syntax, before reading short texts, and Old English poetry, including excerpts from Beowulf. Enrollment limited to 20. Not open to first-year students.

PHIL2190E                             Q Hour (Th 4:00 - 6:20pm)

Medieval Metaphysics
Rafael Nájera
Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities

A seminar on medieval metaphysical theories, both in the Arabic and Latin traditions, covering topics such as matter, substance, extension and unity.

RELS1725                                P Hour (T 4:00 - 6:20pm)

Religion and Visual Culture
Elayne Oliphant
Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities
Religious Studies

This course examines questions of representation and image through the lens of religion and secularism. Art is often imagined as the replacement for religion in a secular age, with the museum serving as a site of reverence and awe. With the rise of modern and contemporary art, however, the coherence of the social value of the “aesthetic” has, like that of religion, faltered. This course is offered in connection with a project entitled “The Art of Invisibility.” The key assignment will be the production of an online catalogue to accompany an art exhibit, which will include works by RISD students.

MES1999B                                    N Hour (W 3:00 - 5:20pm)

Colonialism and Human Rights
Nicola Perugini
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Italian Studies/Middle East Studies

Are anti-colonial struggles human rights struggles? Is emancipation the objective of these struggles? Where and when do anti-colonial and human rights discourses converge and diverge? What is the role of violence in the moral, political and discursive trajectories of anti-colonialism and human rights? This course takes up these questions, starting with the reconstruction of the historical relationship between colonialism, anti-colonial struggles and the post-World War II formation of the international human rights regime. We then turn to discuss different authors who developed their anti-colonial thought and dealt with, appropriated or ignored human rights in their different conceptions of anti-colonial justice.

MES1999C                                 P Hour (T 4:00 - 6:20pm)

Elites in Arab Culture and Society
Mayssun Succarie
Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities
Middle East Studies

Social science studies the marginalized while ignoring elites and their role. This is especially the case with “Arab” Elites. Yet, to understand the conditions of the poor and marginalized, one must study elites. Elites are a lens to historically understand class formation in the Arab World, and influences beyond. We will consider how and why we study elites, different theories and methodologies of studying elites, and focus on elites in Arab societies. The course will deal with elites in the mandate period and early independence. The last part of the course will focus on elites in contemporary Arab society.

HMAN and Humanities Related Courses

HMAN Courses in Past Years

Humanities Related Courses
These are courses taught by Cogut Center Fellows for other departments.