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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.


Courses for Spring 2009


HMAN 1970C                                                M Hour (M 3:00 – 5:20pm)

Europe in the Vernacular
Elizabeth Bryan, Faculty Fellow                                      

Why did a few early medieval European authors write not in Latin or Arabic but in vernacular languages like Castilian, Early Middle English, or Old French?  We will read primary texts by Layamon, Alfonso X, Dante, troubadours and anonymous others, and assess previous claims about the “rise of the individual” and various proto-nationalisms as we potentially rewrite the story of how, why, and for whom vernacular writings came to be.  Readings in modern English supplemented by medieval languages. Graduate projects must engage a text in a medieval language.


HMAN 1970E                                                  O Hour (F 3:00 – 5:20pm)

Arts of Deformation: Fantasy and Caprice in European Music, Literature and Visual Arts, 1600-1850
Dana Gooley, Faculty Fellow  

This interdisciplinary seminar examines the history and cultural significance of fantasias, capriccios, and other genres of bizarre and grotesque expression across the arts. Themes include the historical origins of “fantasy” and “caprice,” the social purposes of creative “free play,” the Enlightenment’s troubled engagement with the irrational, and the marginality of fantastic genres relative to classical aesthetic traditions. Subject material includes music from Frescobaldi to Liszt, visual arts from Piranesi to Delacroix, and literature from the commedia dell’arte to ETA Hoffmann and Victor Hugo. Working proficiency in either Italian, French or German preferred.


HMAN 1970D                                                 N Hour (W 3:00 – 5:20pm)

Prejudice in Early Modern England

Timothy Harris, Faculty Fellow

Examines English attitudes towards the ‘other’ in the period from the Reformation to the early Enlightenment. Utilizing a combination of theoretical and secondary readings and primary source materials, the course will investigate English prejudices against and stereotypes of  religious minorities within England (Catholics and Puritans), the non-English peoples of the British Isles (Scots, Welsh and Irish), continental Europeans (particularly the Spanish, the French and the Dutch), and the non-Christian other (Jews, Turks, and Blacks) during a period of revolutionary upheaval.


HMAN 1970I                                                   P Hour (T 4:00 – 6:20pm)

Works of Memory
David Kyuman Kim, Visiting Professor in the Humanities

In an age shaped by globalization, migration, mobility, and terrorism, the challenge of analyzing and understanding the work of memory takes on renewed significance. The work of memory comes at the service of quests and questions about “home,” “homeland,” “race,” “a people,” “nation,” “culture,” “trauma,” and the like. For example, how do ideas such as “home” begin with an identification with a particular physical place/space and time/history and evolve into an idea, a metaphor, or even a state of mind? What are the public and private mechanics of memory that serve to fortify as well as unsettle individual and collective psyches? What are the effective features of forms of public memory making, such as memorials and memoirs?

In this seminar, we will examine how concepts such as identity, home, diaspora, exile, homeland, return, cultural nationalism, displacement, estrangement, and nostalgia function as symbolic resources as well as sites of political, psychological, cultural, and spiritual identity. Our approach will be to read meditations by playwrights, memoirists, and critics on these concepts and experiences against an array of theoretical approaches from political theory, psychoanalytical theory, theories of religion, and cultural and literary studies, with the objective of gaining a broad understanding of the work of memory.


HMAN 1970B                                               Q Hour (Th 4:00 – 6:20pm)

Clean and Modern: Meanings of Health and Hygiene in the 19th and 20th Centuries
Ethan Pollock, Faculty Fellow

This seminar will explore the ways in which health and hygiene fit into broader conceptualizations of European “modernity” and the process of modernizing others.  The seminar will be organized into three sections.  We will start by reading and discussing general histories of public health.  Then we will move on to monographs and articles that address disease, the body, and the advent of medicine in various modern European contexts (including “backwards” Russia!).  Finally, we will study how modern medical ideas came into contact with local healing traditions in China, British India, and elsewhere. This seminar will be relevant to programs in history, public policy, international relations, and medicine.


For Fall 2008 classes, click here.

For related 2008-09 classes, click here.