Collaborative Humanities Seminar Descriptions

2020–2021 Academic Year

Fall 2020

HMAN 2400I | Environmental Humanities
Bathsheba Demuth (History and Environment and Society) and Lukas B. Rieppel (History)
We live in a time of immense global change and ecological rupture that poses a foundational challenge for modern society. How are we to respond to environmental crises on a geological scale without papering over complex issues of social inequality, racial difference, and gender norms? How do we promote the flourishing of sustainable communities that include both human and non-human, present and future beings? This collaborative seminar explores the emergence of the field of environmental humanities as a context for these questions. Readings include works from history, anthropology, philosophy, Indigenous studies, and science studies.

HMAN 2400Y | Suspicion and Its Others
Amanda Anderson (Cogut Institute and English) and Thomas Lewis (Religious Studies)
From the hermeneutics of suspicion to the post-critique, a range of thinkers and theories have positioned suspicion as a central critical disposition of the modern age. In this collaborative seminar we will explore the concept and practice of suspicion both in relation to the classic objects over against which it emerged — morality, religion, and tradition — and through the lens of other modes of engagement more recently proposed, including charity, reconstruction, attunement, quiet, resonance, and reparative practices of reading. Readings will be drawn from philosophy, critical theory, race and ethnicity studies, gender and sexuality studies, and literary theory and criticism.

HMAN 2400Z | Instruments and Instrumentalities
Emily Dolan (Music), in parallel with Jonathan Sterne (McGill University)
What is an instrument? Today, in a variety of fields, the definitions of instrument and instrumentality are transforming. While retaining its older connotations of delegation, means to ends, and tool-use, the "instrument" now also implies bigger, messier complexes of technologies, bodies, and rationalities. In this seminar, we will think transversally across categories and contexts to consider the form and meaning of musical instruments, technical instruments, and ideas of instrumentality. Readings will draw from music, media studies, science and technology studies, sound studies, cultural studies, and related fields. This is a distributed seminar, collaboratively taught between Brown and McGill Universities.

HMAN 2401 | Metaphor/Matter/Time: Literature and the Changing Earth
Thangam Ravindranathan (French Studies) and Ada Smailbegovic (English)
In this collaborative seminar we will consider the flickering edge between metaphor and materiality in the shadow of the Anthropocene. Weekly discussions will be built around a series of “threshold sites” — including Sea, Sun, Silk, Plastic, Forest, Photograph, Shell, Horse, Whale — in which “matter” and “figure” may be seen to be simultaneously in relation and at odds. We will endeavor to think metaphoricity as the imbrication of materiality and semiosis, and in its relationship to ecological time, through readings from Lucretius, Melville, Coleridge, Ponge, Moore, Bervin, Barad, Haraway, Derrida, and Ricoeur, among others.

HMAN 2401A | Bakhtin and the Political Present: Literature, Anthropology, Dialogue
Timothy Bewes (English) and Paja Faudree (Anthropology)
This collaborative humanities graduate seminar explores the revolutionary ideas of Mikhail Bakhtin, considering their influence in two disciplines, literary studies and linguistic anthropology. The primary historical context of the course is our own political present, characterized by linguistic homogenity, the unification of power, and the rise of authoritarian governments. How effective are Bakhtin's theories of dialogue, polyphony, and carnival as principals of resistance to the challenges of the current moment?

Spring 2021

HMAN 2401B | Thinking Breath: An Inquiry Across Literature, Performance, and Philosophy
Leela Gandhi (Cogut Institute and English) and Peter Szendy (Comparative Literature and Humanities)
This collaborative seminar proposes an interdisciplinary and inter-cultural inquiry into breath as the shared figment of philosophical, spiritual, therapeutic, athletic, musical, and environmental practices, among others. How does breath travel across disparate traditions, bodies, and technologies? Is it vital or metaphysical? Is it restricted to particular genres? Does it have a history? Topics include punctuation and phrasing; climate change and the crisis of oxygen; circular breathing and "breathy" vocalization in musical traditions; the notion of ruh in Sufism, pneuma in ancient Greek thought, qi in ancient Chinese thought, and "breath" as a synonym for "self" in ancient Indian philosophy.

HMAN 2401C | Inscribing the Event: Poetics and Politics of the Date
Marc Redfield (Comparative Literature and English) and Gerhard Richter (German Studies and Comparative Literature)
What is a date? How does it relate to our understanding of historical time? How can the idea of a date be represented in words and images? Is our interpretation of a date fixed once and for all, or does it change over the course of time? What does it mean to commemorate the anniversary of a date? When it comes to a date, what is the relation between its repeatability and its singularity? This graduate seminar will devote itself to the vexing question of the date in literature, the arts, critical thought, and cultural theory. Among other things, we will analyze Marx’s revolutionary perspective on 1848; the notion of an individual date in light of Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence of the same; Benjamin’s notion that “to write history means to give dates their physiognomy”; Faulkner’s literary engagement with the date of the Haitian Revolution; Adorno’s reflections on art and thought “after Auschwitz”; Derrida’s meditations on Celan’s poetry of the date; and the politics of memory in the American discourse on 9/11 in relation to “the other 9/11” of Pinochet’s coup in Chile.

HMAN 2401D | The Fugitivity of Slowness, Stillness, and Statis
Tina Campt (Modern Culture and Media) and Dixa Ramírez D'Oleo (American Studies and English)
Slowness, stillness, stasis — these terms signal diminished velocity, extended duration, delayed development or reduced exertion. But what if we understand them as an intensification, rather than a reduction, of forces? How do slowness, stillness, and stasis animate fugitivity in various bodies of thought? What if slowness, stillness, and stasis instantiate modes of anticolonial practice and thought, or imagine/realize a world nonsensical to much of dominant western thought? This collaborative humanities seminar will explore practices of slowness, stillness, and stasis in literature, theory, performance and art, and the ways in which they unsettle our understanding of fugitive social practices of refusal.

HMAN 2400Q | War and the Politics of Cultural Memory
Daniel Kim (English and American Studies) and Ravit Reichman (English)
The past several decades have seen the rise of a veritable memory industry devoted to the memorializing of wars. This seminar focuses on a selection of British, European, and American novels, memoirs, and films that self-consciously engage in remembering a range of conflicts, from the First World War to the “War on Terror,” alongside a relevant body of theoretical writings. Our aim is to think in detail, and collectively, about the political stakes of such literary remembrances and to develop together a “contrapuntal” approach that engages with the collaborative tensions between Anglo-European, postcolonial, and US minority modes of memory.

HMAN 2500 | Project Development Workshop
Amanda Anderson(Cogut Institute and English) and Tamara Chin (Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies)
In this capstone course, students completing the Graduate Certificate in Collaborative Humanities pursue individual or collaborative projects, such as a dissertation prospectus, a dissertation chapter, or a methodological/theoretical exercise relating to their field of interest. Weekly sessions are devoted to work-in-progress and discussion of key texts addressing method and theory in and beyond the humanities. At the end of the semester, participants present in a Collaborative Public Workshop. Admission to the seminar requires a formal application process and the completion of two HMAN 2400 seminars.

2019–2020 Academic Year

Fall 2019

HMAN 2400P | The Idea of the University
Gerhard Richter (German Studies and Comparative Literature) and Peter Szendy (Cogut Institute and Comparative Literature)
What is the future of the university? Its very idea has undergone drastic changes, from the formulation of “academic freedom” in 1155 to what, under neoliberal capitalism, has been called the “uberfication of the university.” Our seminar is dedicated to key texts — from Kant to Derrida and Butler — in this history, focusing on topics such as the corporatization of universities, political protest, and the unconditional. Students will pursue collaborative inquiries into the idea of a university, conduct archival work, or jointly translate and comment upon significant historical and theoretical documents. Read more on Courses @ Brown.

HMAN 2400R | Tracing Translations: Artistic Migrations and Reinventions in the Early Modern World
Shahzad Bashir (Middle East Studies and Religious Studies) and Holly Shaffer (History of Art and Architecture)
This is a seminar about what happens when arts and ideas move. It defines processes of artistic and literary translation, from the repetition and reuse of narratives to the uncanny meeting of pictorial conventions to the tweaks, adjustments, and inventions that propelled arts across the early modern world. We will address theories of translation and imitation, and focus on problems of style, language, impostors, dictionaries, media, and ethnography, especially in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Class will include training in artistic practices of replication and a collaborative project with special collections. Read more on Courses @ Brown.

HMAN 2400S | Race, Nation, Immigration
Michael Steinberg (History and Music) and Prerna Singh (Political Science and International and Public Affairs)
This collaborative seminar investigates the imbrications of race, nation, and immigration from the comparative perspectives of the social sciences and the humanities. Taught by a political scientist with an emphasis on state/society relations in Asia and a historian with a focus on modern European intellectual history, politics, and arts, the course examines questions of belonging, inclusion, and exclusion in areas of the world that provide fruitful sites of analysis, such as the United States, Europe, South Asia (India), Latin America (Brazil), and Africa (South Africa). Materials will include films, fiction, theoretical writings, and data sets. Read more on Courses @ Brown.

Spring 2020

HMAN 2400T | Imagining Cities: Early Modern Urban Perspectives
Laura Bass (Hispanic Studies) and Evelyn Lincoln (History of Art and Architecture and Italian Studies)
Every city is a palimpsest in space and time. Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” of reputation and imagination and Miéville’s double-awareness in “The City and the City” provide points of entry to visualizations and narrations of real and imagined urban centers. This course considers cities as varied as Rome, Seville, Mexico City, and the City of God in literature, political and architectural treatises, maps, images, and archaeological and historical records. This multidisciplinary archive forms a basis for collaborations in recovering and reconstructing built environments from different perspectives in text, image, and digital media, working with original materials in special collections.

HMAN 2400U | Italian Thought: Inside and Out
Laura Odello (French Studies) and Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg (Comparative Literature and Italian Studies)
This collaborative seminar provides an introduction into what is called “Italian Thought” (Agamben, Cacciari, Cavarero, Esposito, Federici, Fortunati, Gramsci, Muraro, Negri, Rovatti, Tronti, Vattimo). It offers close readings of texts considered as classics of “Italian Thought” (the “Inside” of our title) and also seeks to include and make functional other languages excluded from this discourse (the “Out” of our title: feminism, queer theory, psychoanalysis). Students will engage with the Pembroke Center Archive and collaborate on translation and glossary projects.

HMAN 2400W | The Visual Frequency of Black Life
Tina Campt (Cogut Institute and Modern Culture and Media), in parallel with Saidiya Hartman (Columbia University)
How does one represent black life? What forms of accounting or reckoning are enacted by black photo books? Defined by Gerry Badger as “a book — with or without text — where the work’s primary message is carried by photographs,” these texts offer densely layered accounts of blackness and black sociality that are not restricted to the visual — they are haptic and sonic engagements and improvisations that render black life through visual frequencies that register well beyond what we see in their images. Placing a series of historical and contemporary black photo books in conversation with sonic scripts, embodied performances, and moving images inspired by and in dialogue with them, we will unpack the multiple visual frequencies of black life articulated in and through these works with an eye toward understanding the practices of black refusal and futurity that structure their varied creative practices.

HMAN 2400X | Premodern Art-Science, or the Work of Knowing in Europe before 1800
Harold Cook (History) and Tara Nummedal (History and Italian Studies) — in parallel with JB Shank and Michael Gaudio (University of Minnesota)
This collaborative seminar examines premodern ways of knowing through entangled histories of art, craft, science, and medicine in Europe before 1800. Whether through the visual representations of naturalists or the manipulation of matter by artists/artisans to render nature meaningful, useful, or both, premoderns made knowledge in ways that defy modern disciplinary divisions. In studying premodern knowledge work through its own disciplinary understandings, we explore the research methodology of reconstruction, i.e., the argument that we must reconnect material objects with texts, and both with laboratory research practices, to fully understand premodern knowledge work.

HMAN 2500 | Project Development Workshop
Timothy Bewes (English) and Brian Meeks (Africana Studies)
In this capstone course, students completing the Graduate Certificate in Collaborative Humanities pursue individual or collaborative projects, such as a dissertation prospectus, a dissertation chapter, or a methodological/theoretical exercise relating to their field of interest. Weekly sessions are devoted to work-in-progress and discussion of key texts addressing method and theory in and beyond the humanities. At the end of the semester, participants present in a Collaborative Public Workshop. Admission to the seminar requires a formal application process and the completion of two HMAN 2400 seminars.

2018–2019 Academic Year

Fall 2018

HMAN 2400G | It's About Time: Temporalities of Waiting in Theory, Literature, and Film
Adi Ophir (Cogut Institute and Middle East Studies) and Peter Szendy (Cogut Institute and Comparative Literature)
This is a seminar on four forms of temporality: suspension, rupture, heterochronia, and coming to an end. These forms will be explored as pertaining to politics, theology, and experience. Agamben’s reading of Paul (The Time That Remains) provides us with a conceptual grid, and “waiting for the Messiah” will be one of the modes of temporalization examined. Kafka’s staging of delay in The Castle, Fritz Lang’s invention of the filmic countdown, and the “checkpoint” in occupied Palestine will constitute major counterpoints. Students will work on collaborative assignments defined collectively and focusing on a specific event, text, or film. Read more on Courses @ Brown.

HMAN 2400H | Art History from the South: Circulations, Simulations, Transfigurations
Tapati Guha-Thakurta (Visiting Professor) and Vazira Zamindar (History)
Addressing history and art history, this collaborative seminar will look at the colonial and postcolonial circuits of movement, transaction and replication that have shaped not just the destinies of art, archaeological and architectural objects but equally the structures of institutions and disciplines that govern these object-worlds. This will involve thinking through critiques of a Eurocentric aesthetics and art history and engaging with practices such as theft, fugitivity, replication, mimicry, and free adaptations. While drawing on South Asia for its primary lines of enquiry, the "south" of South Asia in this seminar will serve more broadly as an epistemic pull. Read more on Courses @ Brown.

HMAN 2400J | Archives: Histories, Practices, Theories, and Formations
Ariella Azoulay (Comparative Literature and Modern Media and Culture) and Laura Wexler (Yale University)
The seminar explores some theoretical, historical, material, practical, methodological and curatorial aspects of archives. Special attention will be given to archives’ modes of operation in dis/placing people and objects, and the roles “documents” play in the co-constitution of “well-documented-objects” and "un-documented people." Students will be asked to work collaboratively in and with archives as sources and tools, and to experiment with creating archives of their own. The seminar involves one trip to Yale and some irregular hours, which are noted in the syllabus. Read more on Courses @ Brown.

HMAN 2400L | Religion and Internationalism
Nathaniel Berman (International Affairs, Law, and Modern Culture) and Thomas Lewis (Religious Studies)
Scholarly debates across many disciplines and political upheavals around the globe demonstrate the continued urgency of the struggle between the "secular" and the "religious." This collaborative seminar traces the intertwined genealogies of the three key terms in this conundrum: religion, secularity, and the international. These terms have been continually subject to theoretical and practical contestation and reconfiguration, from early modern Europe, through the histories of colonialism and anti-colonialism, to post-Cold War turmoil. Readings include judicial decisions from the United States, Europe, and India, as well as authors such as Saba Mahmood, Ashis Nandi, J. Z. Smith, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and Winnifred Sullivan. Read more on Courses @ Brown.

Spring 2019

HMAN 2400I | Environmental Humanities
Mark Cladis (Religious Studies) and Sharon Krause (Political Science)
We live in an age of immense, intersecting environmental problems that pose deep challenges to democratic life. How are we to respond to ecological crises that interweave race, class, ethnicity, and gender/sexuality; humans and the non-human; and politics, economy, religion, and culture? This collaborative seminar explores a range of contemporary and historical work in environmental humanities, with a focus on radical imaginaries of ecological democracy. The readings reflect a diversity of normative commitments and methodological approaches and include such authors as Wollstonecraft, Emerson, Thoreau, Du Bois, Silko, Wendell Berry, Jane Bennett, Donna Haraway, Jacques Derrida, Rob Nixon, and Glenn Coulthard. Read more on Courses @ Brown.

HMAN 2400K | Theories of Affect: Poetics of Expression Through and Beyond Identity
Daniel Kim (English and American Studies) and Ada Smailbegovic (English)
Drawing on the tools of affect theory and critical race studies this collaborative seminar examines how poetic works can simultaneously be engaged in audacious formal and conceptual experimentation while remaining committed to imagining how subjectivity might be experienced both through and beyond structures of gender, race and sexuality. Readings include Theresa Cha, Myung Mi Kim, Fred Moten, Claudia Rankine, Sara Ahmed, Gilles Deleuze, Baruch Spinoza. Read more on Courses @ Brown.

HMAN 2400M | Philosophy and Architecture
Paul Guyer (Cogut Institute and Philosophy) and Dietrich Neumann (History of Art and Architecture, Urban Studies, and Italian Studies)
One of the most ancient human practices, answering to the need for shelter, architecture also counts as a fine art in modern times. Is there tension between the functionality of architecture and the disinterested contemplation seen as the hallmark of aesthetic experience? Taught by a philosopher and an architectural historian, the course is interdisciplinary and collaborative. Students work in multi-disciplinary teams to prepare seminar presentations and papers. Case studies will draw on texts and buildings from a diversity of sources, historical periods, and geographical regions. Read more on Courses @ Brown.

HMAN 2400N | Care of the World, Between Politics and Theology
Bonnie Honig (Political Science, Modern Culture and Media) and Adi Ophir (Cogut Institute and Middle East Studies)
Arendt’s “care for the world,” inspired by Augustine, resonates with Foucault’s "care for the self." Both are secularized versions of theological ideas. This seminar explores “care for the world,” at the intersection of politics and theology, in Arendt and Foucault, with texts from the Bible, Mishna, Marx, Fanon, Augustine, Winnicott, and Bouteldja. Attending to genre — Arendt’s and Foucault's essays (on refugees) and journalism (the Eichmann trial and the Iranian revolution) — we will work collaboratively through a series of exemplary figures — the revolutionary, journalist, activist, environmentalist, therapist — to ask what care for the world means in theory and practice. Read more on Courses @ Brown.

HMAN 2500 | Project Development Workshop
Amanda Anderson (Cogut Institute and English) and Tamara Chin (Comparative Literature)
In this capstone course, students completing the Graduate Certificate in Collaborative Humanities pursue individual or collaborative projects, such as a dissertation prospectus, a dissertation chapter, or a methodological/theoretical exercise relating to their field of interest. Weekly sessions are devoted to work-in-progress and discussion of key texts addressing method and theory in and beyond the humanities. At the end of the semester, participants present in a Collaborative Public Workshop. Admission to the seminar requires a formal application process and the completion of two HMAN 2400 seminars. Read more on Courses @ Brown.

2017–2018 Academic Year

Fall 2017

HMAN 2400B | Trans/Passing, in Theory
Jacques Khalip (English) and Matthew Guterl (Africana Studies and American Studies)
This course examines the social, political, and cultural deployments of what we call "trans/passing" in a variety of literary and visual texts, mostly drawn from the national popular imaginary. While passing has been considered an extension and disruption of "settled" racial identities, and trans has generally been invoked as an intersectional or gender/queer subject position, our neologism points to the confluence of these terms in contemporary popular culture, a confluence that braids and scrambles the multiple registers of gender, race, sexuality, and class.

HMAN 2400D | Potential History of Photography: Collaboration
Ariella Azoulay (Comparative Literature and Modern Culture and Media) and guest lecturers
Photography is usually practiced in the presence and assistance of several or many individuals but its history and theory have been written as the story of single heroes—the photographers—and of the technology of the instruments they used. This course will question such types of history and theory by presenting the event of photography as a collaborative enterprise and examining different uses of photography in various historical, geographical, economic, cultural, and political contexts. Apart from making historical and theoretical interventions, students will also be encouraged to experiment with cameras and explore strategies for archiving images.

HMAN 2400E | What Was Europe?
Kevin McLaughlin (English and Comparative Literature) and Peter Szendy (Cogut Institute and Comparative Literature)
Europe begins with a myth: Europa (meaning something like a broad face), the mother of King Minos, who is abducted by Zeus appearing as a white bull and taken to Crete. In the Politics, Aristotle employs the word Europe in order to distinguish between the Greeks and their barbarian neighbors. Europeans for Aristotle are those nations that lack "political organization and the capacity to govern their neighbors." The Ancient Greeks use the word Europe to refer to the Balkans. Some historians have argued that the term Europe was understood in the early middle ages as signifying the overcoming of the older distinction between the Orient and the Occident. During the early decades of the twentieth-century wars and other political disasters led to a discourse of "crisis" around the question of the "European spirit" that was revived near the end of the century as the European Union was established. In this course we will look at the origins of Europe and its aftermath in the literary study, philosophy, and political theory. Read more on our blog.

Spring 2018

HMAN 2400A | Politics and Literature
Amanda Anderson (Cogut Institute and English) and Bonnie Honig (Modern Culture and Media and Political Science)
This course will identify a set of key themes in the field of politics and literature and examine them using methods and theoretical frameworks from political theory and literary studies. It is a cross-disciplinary course meant to promote collaboration and self-reflection about disciplinary method and interdisciplinarity, using key examples from the field. Likely themes and concepts include: the ideology of form, affect, ethos, and the relation between political practice and literary mode, political mode and literary practice. Texts will include classical tragic or comic drama, the modern novel, melodramatic film, and the literary essay.

HMAN2400F | Scales of Historiography
Tamara Chin (Comparative Literature) and Rebecca Nedostup (History)
This seminar explores the construction of new geographies and timescales of historical narration during the late nineteenth- and twentieth-century periods of social upheaval (displacement, colonialism, war). We will explore shifts within a set of genres and disciplines (e.g., genealogy, Classics, religion, geohistory). Questions include: How did cosmological and geological timescales change? How were classicists in different parts of the world compelled to re-scale their vision of antiquity? What kinds of comparativism and universalism shaped debates about the time-space of history? We will focus on debates in China, Taiwan and Europe, but also look at how they related to other parts of Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

2016–2017 Academic Year

Fall 2016

HMAN 2970W | Ethics/Politics
Amanda Anderson (Cogut Institute and English) and Leela Gandhi (Cogut Institute and English)
This team-taught seminar examines the intersection of ethics and politics from the perspective of critical theory, comparative political and moral philosophy, and transnational intellectual history of the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries. We will examine antagonisms and hierarchies of ethics and politics, ethics as a political discipline, the tension between politics as an institution and as a way of life or ethos. Authors to include Arnold, Wilde, Nietzsche, Gandhi, Berlin, Arendt, Weil, Foucault, Rawls, Habermas, Shklar, Cavell, Butler.

Spring 2017

HMAN 2400C | Around 1948: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Global Transformation
Ariella Azoulay (Modern Culture and Media and Comparative Literature) and Leela Gandhi (Cogut Institute and English)
This seminar will look at the year 1948 across international locations and from an interdisciplinary perspective. An array of new nation-states, institutions, political and cultural formations and styles emerged at this moment, with the movements of decolonization, the spread of global socialism, and aftermath of the Second World War. We will analyze these events through documents, images, philosophical texts, archives, literary texts from the era.