Fall 2023 Sections
01. Superintelligence, Entrepreneurship, and Ethics. TTh 9.00-10.15
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” —Henry Ford
This course studies the anatomy of big ideas. We can offer only abstract predictions about the future of a world in which neural lace, biointelligence, and self-driving cars are commonplace. Instead, this course asserts that we have much to learn from how scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, and educators argue over such predictions. What makes an idea revolutionary or contrarian in an age when so much knowledge is at our fingertips? How do we speak about that which is yet unknowable? How are narratives about superintelligence composed through the disciplines of economics, philosophy, religion, and engineering; the worlds of finance and entrepreneurship; and the concepts of evolution, futurism, and humanism? And what kinds of racial, gender, or class inequalities might superhuman intelligence reinforce or dissolve? Our course materials include peer-reviewed scholarly research, film, and in-class interviews with contemporary entrepreneurs. Throughout the course, we will reflect on what these issues mean for developing our own strategies of reading, writing, and public speaking—what will we really need to thrive in a world with superhuman intelligence?
02. Home. MW 11.35-12.50
Where do you call home? Is your sense of home fixed to specific places, persons, languages, or memories? Must the idea of home always suggest rootedness ? What does it mean to feel at home? In this course, we examine the affective responses elicited by various notions of home, from feelings of nostalgia and familiarity to estrangement, and we consider the ways in which generic and particular spaces enable or constrain individual agency and constitute our relation to others. Unsettling the easy boundary between the private and the public, we will seek to understand what various imaginings of home reveal about our collective and individual desires and anxieties, and we will examine the social and political forces at play in the making of home. Drawing from multiple disciplines and different modes of argument including essays, poetry, song, and film, we will study how home overlaps with spirituality, language politics, hierarchies of gender and labor, and educational opportunities, and how climate crises, pandemics, global economies, and immigration policies impact home. As we examine the debates and contests over space, we will think about who has the right to belong where and what it means—for instance—to belong at Yale. Informed by various theories and poetics of home, at the end of the course, we will revisit the places that make us.
03. Writing Rebellion. MW 2.30-3.45
What motivates rebellion? Is resistance always revolutionary? In this course, we will seek to understand the ideologies that energize dissenting discourses and acts of rebellion across a wide range of contexts and histories. As we study resistance to British colonialism and American imperialism, religious non-conformity in the Middle Ages, ongoing struggles for independence and reparative justice, and education reform, we will seek to understand how these various performances disrupt master narratives, subvert political and religious orthodoxies, and enable freedom. Challenging ourselves to think about rebellion beyond political protests, we will ask ourselves how resistance might be enacted in the everyday— in language use, in community building, and in creative projects. How might discourses of rebellion legitimate marginalized identities, and how— as bell hooks suggests— might the margins be a space of “radical openness and possibility,” a place from which to “envision new, alternative, oppositional aesthetic acts?” To what extent can these practices heal deep wounds? What new knowledges and selves emerge in these acts of resistance? What are their limits? These questions will guide our discussion of topics such as civil rights, Indigenous land recuperation, and contemporary movements such as Black Lives Matter and Stop AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Hate. As we examine rebellion in its written, spoken, and embodied modes and across various platforms and technologies, we will reflect deeply on how different forms of writing shape meaning and how meaning gives shape to form. Each of you will think about how you can use your own voice to theorize, improvise, and invent new possibilities for meaning.
04. Black and Indigenous Ecologies. MW 11.35-12.50
“Red earth, blood earth, blood brother earth”
—Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to My Native Land (1965)
Who gets to define the meaning of ecology, along with the earth we stand on, and how is this definition bound up with the legacies of colonial power, empire, slavery, and other forms of racialized oppression? And what new modes of ecological thought might emerge once we engage with the perspectives of indigenous peoples and communities of color—traditionally excluded from dominant environmentalist discourses—and their alternative ways of thinking and imagining a relation to the earth? Through readings in anthropology, geology, critical race studies, philosophy, literature, and poetry, this course explores the ecologies and counter-ecologies born of anti-imperial opposition, from 1492 to the present. Struggles for liberation, as we will examine, are never separable from struggles for land, food, water, air, and an earth in common. From Standing Rock to Sao Paulo, the Antilles to New Zealand, and Mauna Kea to Lagos, we will engage with anti-colonial and anti-racist attempts to craft an image of the earth no longer made in the ecocidal image of imperialist Western Man (or the anthropos of “Anthropocene”), and to imagine a future to be held and composed in common by all.
Description to come.
06. Liberalism and its Critics. MW 11.35-12.50
Our course readings will address important claims about the philosophical and political meanings of “liberalism” since the early-nineteenth century, including the claims brought against it by some of its most influential critics. We will also explore how the meanings and aims of “freedom” – which liberalism is designed to promote – have been shaped by historical, economic, racial, and social contexts, e.g., the Cold War, the struggle for black liberation and civil rights, the globalization of financial markets, and the looming threat of climate disaster. Authors may include Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Rosa Luxemburg, Frantz Fanon, Friedrich Hayek, Angela Davis, Andreas Malm, and Wendy Brown.
This is a big, multifaceted topic, which we will by no means cover in its entirety. However, since the primary aim of this course will be to familiarize ourselves with conventions of academic research and writing, the topic will help us explore questions of perspective that are so key to writing and argumentation: how and why do we hold the beliefs and assumptions we do? What role do culture, economics, nationality, ideology, and identity play in these beliefs? What does it mean for core beliefs to be challenged by an intelligent interlocutor?
07. The Once and Future Campus. MW 2.30-3.45
Once again universities are back in the headlines. Florida is remaking its flagship university system along partisan lines; deans encourage disciplines in the humanities to reduce hiring; and the rise of LLMs forces even once-confident departments such as computer science to rethink outcomes. A raft of small colleges closed during the pandemic. Meanwhile, already rich institutions accept enormous donations from the likes of Stephen Schwarzman and Kenneth Griffin, whose names will adorn buildings and graduate schools presumably forever.
Do universities have values? And is that even the right question to ask? Should universities equip students narrowly for the jobs that already exist, or rather give them well-rounded educations to meet an uncertain future? Can universities promote social justice or must they entrench inequality? None of these questions is settled, and each has a long history. What would our ideal university look like?
This course takes a long view of the global university, especially the American college and with a special emphasis on Yale, to bring the values and goals of higher education into focus. We will read for these themes across a wide range of forms including university reports, scholarly articles, economics and sociology, administrative emails, a documentary film, a recent horror movie, and selections out of novels. Emphasis on non-fiction and college writing in addition to archival skills. Occasional class sessions at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Authors to include John Henry Newman, Owen Johnson, William F. Buckley, R. O. Kwon, and Mariama Diallo.
08. How Romantic! TTh 1.00-2.15
The romance is a genre we might turn to for comfort in times of distress without thinking twice. Having a hard day? Throw on a rom-com. But the romance is much more complex than it appears at first encounter. This course samples how the romance is taken up as a keyword in philosophy, contemporary literary studies, and psychotherapy. The philosopher Stanley Cavell argues that the romantic comedy of remarriage, a genre pioneered by the Hollywood talkies of the 1930s and 40s, reveals the “inner desires” of a nation that longs for reconciliation. Over recent decades in the cultural conversation over genre literature, romance novels have been criticized for re-entrenching patriarchal scripts about female passivity on the one hand and lauded as a genre that centers female pleasure on the other. Esther Perel, a couples therapist and host of the popular podcast “Where Should We Begin?,” has long argued that the romantic couple is an unnatural unit of social organization, and that infidelity may be useful for reinvigorating romance. Each of these flashpoints provide a different way of thinking about what constitutes the romantic, and relatedly, the cultural, political, and ethical dimensions of love.
The course engages a range of disciplines, including political theory, feminist studies, queer studies, film studies, literary studies, popular cultural studies, and religious studies. Wielding resources from across the disciplines, we ask: what exactly is the romance, and why is it the source of so much controversy? What are the cultural, political, and ethical consequences of romance’s narrative scripts? Is romance an ideal to be striven for in long-term relationships, or is it a fictive ideal?
09. What We Eat. MW 11.35-12.50
You are what you eat. Taking inspiration from a dictum that is widely repeated but multifariously interpreted, this course will draw on a range of disciplinary perspectives and modes of writing to explore how our dietary and culinary practices connect to larger questions of biology, selfhood, and civilization. Readings, discussion, and paper assignments will be organized around a trio of thematic areas: the history of food and nutrition science; agricultural practice, sustainability, and our interrelationship with the foods we consume; and the role of food and eating in shaping individual and cultural identity. Texts will include articles and book chapters by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Rachel Laudan, Michael Pollan, Steven Shapin, and Benjamin Wurgaft, among others. We also will look at the genre of contemporary food writing, and in addition to research-based essays, participants will complete a multimedia project about a dish or recipe of personal significance. Please note that roughly one-quarter of class meetings will take place outdoors at the Yale Farm and will involve field time and hands-on experience.
10. The Work of Art. MW 1.00-2.15
A Martian anthropologist visits Earth to survey human culture from its wreckage. Can she get to know literature from ordinary language? Say she makes an exhaustive study of human culture, a complete encyclopedia for her assignment, could she then distinguish an avant-garde poem from a CV? After all, what kind of thing is a poem? Brillo Boxes are thing-ly enough—but what in the anthropologist’s toolkit could sift out Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes as art? Or distinguish a recycled urinal from Duchamp’s Fountain?
This course will guess at the identity of the aesthetic object. We will read texts in aesthetics, philosophy, and criticism. We will see how recent criticism considers the problem of aesthetic form. We might take a particular interest in the distinction between ordinary and literary language, the denotative and the poetic, the relation between form and content, and the function of metaphor. We will think about the nature of the object and about our experience of objects natural and aesthetic. We will also consider the possible distinctions, and possible equations, of art and craft. We may take field trips to Yale’s art galleries. Authors include Edmund Burke, Thierry de Duve, Roman Jakobson, William Wimsatt, Abigail Zitin, Sandra Macpherson, and Anahid Nersessian.
This course is about art. Art that shows us how odd it is to think about a thing or to take things for granted. Art that isn’t obviously about anything. Art, in particular, that challenges our understanding of what makes art.
11. Shakespeare on Film. TTh 11.35-12.50
This course will take students through Shakespeare on a variety of screens: from film to TV to online media. As the notions of “film,” television,” and “video” have become somewhat collapsed, we will see how the presentation of “Shakespeares” has evolved. This course will also look at Shakespearean productions through the lens of genre. We’ll focus on tragedies and romance, and through these different genres, we’ll interrogate how Shakespeare and the filmmakers who interpret his work play with familial and structural social issues. As we explore the playtexts, screenplays, and productions, we will uncover the ways in which Shakespeare exposes the problems with or subverts traditional notions of race, class, gender, familial relationships, and war within patriarchal societies.
12. On Being (Un)Reasonable. TTh 1.00-2.15
Human beings have long been defined as rational animals. But is it really reason that defines us? One might look at wars, carbon footprints, and Tide Pod eating challenges for evidence to the contrary. It hardly stops there, however. Irrationality plagues our political convictions, motivates our economic behavior, and dominates our psychic lives. In this course, we will examine models of human reason that try to explain such failures of rational thinking. We’ll investigate the role of irrationality in behavioral economics and modern political culture. We’ll read one of literature’s great arguments for willful irrationality and look at surrealist art designed to defy reason and aesthetics. We will explore the ancient Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna’s efforts to push logic to its limits and discover enlightenment on the other side and we will engage Zen koans in all their seeming absurdity. This course seeks out the reason for human beings being so unreasonable and tries to decipher the logic of the illogical.
13. Writing Essays with AI. TTh 1.00-2.15
ChatGPT can code, dash off student recommendations, make “stunning” rhymes and “pretty awful verse,” write a “graduate level” essay on pedagogy. It will be the “death of student papers” or maybe just the death of a paper no one wants to write or read. How will we write college essays in the presence of AI? What new skills are required of essayists and readers, and who will have access to those skills? What can be automated—ethically, productivity, creatively, without fear of plagiarism? At a recent roundtable, one faculty member argued that chatGPT “confronts us with a new aspect of ourselves.” Another recognized its threat to our sense of authenticity—what’s mine?—perhaps because it reveal this is always partly a fiction. We’ll attempt to write authentically in this class by directly exploring the impact of AI on the written expression of knowledge. The course begins with literary analysis (human and not) of poems and songs (human and not), but research projects will study a range of disciplines and cultural contexts in which authorship matters. No coding skills are required.
14. Antiquity in Pieces. TTh 2.30-3.45
“How do we know what we know? In the case of the Greco-Roman Ancient Mediterranean, much of what we know comes from piecing together fragmented evidence: Scraps of papyrus have preserved some poems of Sappho, one of the world’s first known female and queer poets. The iconic Parthenon monument has been destroyed and rebuilt through years of war and earthquakes, while its sculptures are housed across the continent at the British Museum. Even objects that appear to be intact still don’t show the full picture, such as white marble statues which were originally painted in bright colors.
However incomplete or piecemeal, this ancient material continues to be entangled with high stakes questions in the present. For example, ongoing debates about repatriating ancient objects are rooted in problems of politics, colonialism, and cultural heritage. Likewise, harmful ideologies often rely on symbols from the past. At the same time, though, a focus on the fragmentary can allow us to uncover marginalized voices and to challenge established, canonical narratives about the past.
Throughout the semester, we will explore the intentional and accidental processes that make fragments. We will also scrutinize how museums, media, and archives—including the Beinecke Library and Art Gallery here at Yale—display and contextualize the remains of the past according to modern values. In addition, we will ask: Who owns the past? Can ancient evidence ever provide neutral facts? How did ancient thinkers themselves confront the impermanence of their world?”
15. Our Bodies, Ourselves. MW 4.00-5.15
What does the body know? In 1970, the Boston Women’s Health Collective published the first version of their book on women’s health, Our Bodies, Ourselves. The book reformed practices for the collection and dissemination of reproductive health information, relying on the experiences of the women around them as the primary starting point for their research. By shifting the research site from the university to the home, the book valued and affirmed what women know about their bodies. Following the lead of this set of researchers, this course invites students to think about how to value embodied experience in a university setting. How do these experiences shape our perception of the world and the kinds of critical questions we ask of it? How do they inform the performance of identity and positionality in our writing? How can we value and affirm the ways our communities have built and sustained knowledge while writing in a university setting?
To engage with these questions, this course also investigates the social and political phenomena that have shaped our understanding of the self, particularly through a focus on our contemporary struggle for bodily autonomy, reproductive justice, gender affirmation, and body liberation. Our course content will draw from a wide range of genres: poems, personal essays, short narratives, and zines in addition to scholars and theorists from gender, sexuality, disability studies and writing studies. By the end of the course, we will think about what it means to write from a place of embodied knowledge, how that knowledge can inform the work we do at the university, as well as how to enact that knowledge in our everyday lives.
16. Mind Reading. TTh 1.00-2.15
I know what you’re thinking. Well, maybe not, but, within reason, I might be able to guess: Because you’re reading a course description, perhaps you’re thinking about your Fall schedule, and because the class has a slightly supernatural title, maybe you’re thinking I’m promising more than I can realistically deliver. And while it’s true that this course won’t actually teach psychic powers, we will explore the practice of ‘reading’ minds — of figuring out what other people are thinking — that is a fundamental and essential characteristic of human communication and cognition. Sometimes called the Theory of Mind, this ability is what lets you finish your loved ones’ sentences, guess people’s emotions from their expressions, and read between the lines in everyday conversations. In this course, we’ll explore recent work in psychology, neuroscience, and linguistics that attempts to explain this seemingly psychic capacity: How did it develop? What are its limits? How can we get better at it? How does it affect the way we understand one another? Is it universal or cultural? We will also consider questions of how neurodivergence and demographic differences may affect habits or expressions of mind reading, and, inversely, how our assumptions about mind reading ability affect the way we view disability and difference in our communities. As we explore these questions, we will also ask what Mind Reading has to teach us about reading texts and writing them. How do you imagine what your audience knows, and how can you change their mind with your argument? We will break down the mechanics and techniques of writing the college essay with these questions in mind as we practice building essays around a central claim, thinking into and alongside the minds of others.
17. Plastic Planet, Plastic People. TTh 11.35-12.50
Plastic is the material of the modern world. We come into contact with it innumerable times within a single day: from the moment we roll out of bed and grab our toothbrush to the moment we turn off the lights at the end of the night with a flick of a plastic switch. Debuting in the 1930s and exploding during the time of the Second World War, plastic is a defining feature of the Anthropocene. This course will ask students to explore how plastic, as both a material and a concept, has transformed the human experience: on the level of culture (art, clothing, consumerism, plastic surgery, food preservation/cooking), as well as on the level of environmental and human health. Should plastic be considered as significant as Climate Change in our battle to maintain a habitable planet? What would a world without plastic look like? How can our understanding of plastic’s deep infiltration of modern culture help us build solutions to lessen our reliance on this toxic substance? In this course, students will look at both scholarly and public-facing writing on plastic from a variety of disciplines: environmental studies; art history; political theory; cultural history; public health; and marine biology. Students will learn a range of writing techniques suited to different disciplines and audiences, and will develop a final writing project based on their individual interests.
18. On Beauty. MW 1.00-2.15
Beauty has challenged thinkers both ancient and modern to describe and account for its place in our lives. How do we “see” beauty and in what ways does beauty matter? When you look at a beautiful thing, does it stay with you, or leave quickly only to be replaced by another? What shapes our various definitions of beauty? How do certain stereotypes of beauty narrow our field of vision or even oppress us? Can beauty be a force for the good? Perhaps embracing a broader understanding of beauty and its role in society has the potential to enhance our humanity. In this course we will read both written and visual texts to construct arguments that explore questions of beauty and truth and the relationship between what we see, or are persuaded to see, and who we are. This course requires that students adopt a readiness to look at art. While a background in art history is not required, if the Yale art galleries stay open safely, you will be asked to visit them and to use your observations as evidence in your work.
The assigned readings will form the basis of our class discussions and will prove helpful as models for creating your own arguments. We will analyze and evaluate how writers identify a problem, how they generate a line of reasoning in response to that problem, how they use evidence to support their claims, and how they demonstrate a motive for their thinking. As you practice writing these elements of argument, you will learn how to write clear, compelling prose. Your major paper will be a researched argument about an aspect of beauty and its place in the world.
19. K-Pop Phenomenology. MW 1.00-2.15
What is K-pop, and what kinds of critical tools do we use to engage with it? Mainstream Western discourses surrounding K-Pop often treat it as a “factory-product” or “unoriginal” without adequately reflecting on the potentially loaded connotations of such language. This class will instead approach K-Pop through cultural criticism and media theory, asking how our experiences of it are affected and structured through parasociality (a sort of psychological relationship experienced through mediated encounters with celebrities) and media phenomenology (broadly put, the study of how media transforms experiences of the world). Units will be dedicated to K-pop “paratexts,” from the history of the photocard to the potential applications of philosophy of game to variety show content. Points of cross-cultural, transhistorical comparison will include interventions from Girl Studies, riot grrrl, and Black American art. How do we closely engage with K-Pop without falling into exoticization and fetishism? How do we think about global forms of media production and consumption under late capitalism?
20. The Menu. TTh 9.00-10.15
How do writers make descriptions so vivid and real that an object seems to hover in front of our eyes and make our mouths water (or, at another extreme, pucker in disgust)? In this course, we’ll look at some of the best food writing of the last half century, from famed restaurant critics of the 20th century in magazines like The New York Times and Playboy to today’s offerings of polished, glittering paeans (see Salt Fat Acid Heat) and slickly produced “Eat the Rich” fantasies (see The Menu). Subjects examined include early food satire (Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal), the rise of ‘gourmet’ cuisine, the problematics of food tourism, the rise of the food critic and celebrity chef, and the democratization of food writing in the Internet. As we’ll discover, the best writing about food has everything to teach us about vivid description in language and argumentative persuasion, and it also raises more serious questions. We’ll investigate what’s at stake when we write and think about food: issues of class and socioeconomic inequality, food scarcity, Eurocentricity, and evolving discourses of wellness and diet culture, to name a few. Together, we’ll explore these topics through critical readings supplemented by films, podcasts and an in-class tasting, with the goal of learning how to write more persuasively and argumentatively about the foods we love and hate, how to contend with the business of what we consume.
22. Creative Obsessions. TTh 4.00-5.15
What is the nature of creativity? Is there such a thing as “creative genius,” or are most creative endeavors achieved through hard work and practice? Can it be taught? From childhood crushes to white whales, artists, scientists, and writers have transformed ordinary obsessions into expressions of beauty and wonder. But as much as we praise the imagination and the work it produces, it can have a darker side; creative types are sometimes linked to mental instability, substance abuse, and self-delusion. This class will allow you to explore and write about the many varieties of creativity. We’ll read scholarly work from different academic disciplines, such as neuroscience, psychology, and education, as well as professional writers, artists, and musicians. What is the relationship between creativity and obsession? Creativity and addiction? Are we motivated by external validation or an inward drive to manage, or even escape, reality? Readings may include work by such writers as Gloria Anzaldua, Maurice Sendak, Albert Einstein, and Toni Morrison.
23. Writing the Emotions. MW 4.00-5.15
How do we express emotion in language? In what ways does emotion shape moral, political, and rhetorical discourse? Does emotion have a place in critical writing? In this course, we will be exploring how thinkers from a range of genres and disciplines have engaged with the emotions, both as an object of study and as an expressive device. We will consider the distinction between written and oral forms of expression, the racial and gendered dynamics in theories of feeling and “affect,” and the arguments for and against using emotion as an ethical guide to live our lives.
24. The Modern Metropolis. TTh 2.30-3.45
What makes a city great? How can we build communities on a large scale without fostering inequality and injustice? What do we most want from our cities, and what can our cities tell us about ourselves? In this course, we will investigate these and other questions through our study of texts about city life in a variety of disciplines, including sociology, history, urban ethnography, and political science, as well as through cultural artifacts, such as newspaper articles, photographs, and video clips. Keeping our own urban experiences in mind throughout, we will engage with these texts in order to explore the changing nature of the world’s cities, continually asking ourselves what are the greatest gifts and the greatest challenges the modern metropolis offers. Along the way, we will investigate a number of constructs within the study of cities, including city planning/design, urban renewal, public policy/infrastructure, the intersection of race and class, and the city as a conduit for personal discovery.
25. War Today. MW 1.00-2.15
When the last US troops withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021, President Biden remarked that he was “ending America’s longest war.” No one, however, expected US withdrawal to mean peace in Afghanistan. Moreover, the end of America’s war did not necessarily mean America was at peace. The US maintains a global network of military bases, is heavily involved in the war in Ukraine, and faces a militarized immigration crisis at the US-Mexican border. Ongoing conflict and legacies of past wars saturate everyday experience all around the globe. Defining the temporal and geographic boundaries of war is much harder—more full of gray areas, more prone to contentious debate—than President Biden’s rhetoric of an “ending” would suggest. Technologies like the nuclear bomb, the drone, and advanced AI and surveillance systems keep parts of the world in constant, militarized face-offs. Some would argue that the US has been perpetually at war since the beginning of its colonial projects at the end of the 19th century, or that the history of settler colonialism means the US has never been *out* of war. In this class, we will explore the nature of war today, with particular attention to (1) its temporality and geography, (2) the role of advanced technologies, and (3) the modes and technologies of perception that shape our relationship to war in everyday life. Likely authors include Grégoire Chamayou, Judith Butler, Teju Cole, Susan Sontag, and Paul Virilio. Readings draw upon American examples, but students are encouraged to apply their thinking to any context of interest.
26. What is Friendship For? TTh 2.30-3.45
“Are we better friends today than people were in the past? This course invites sustained reflection on the idea of friendship in time and place. It asks whether the meaning of friendship has changed alongside the profound intellectual and cultural transitions from pre-modernity to modernity and post-modernity. Together, we will ask whether the friendships classical and medieval thinkers like Cicero, Confucius, and Aelred of Rievaulx envisioned even ‘translate’ into contemporary life, and if so, whether they are desirable. Do these older accounts rest on ideals that no longer have cultural purchase, or are there features that transfer across time and space? Does the practice of friendship hinge in any concrete way on culturally specific structures, institutions, or technologies? Do monasteries or social media, in other words, facilitate better friendships? Underlying all of these is the larger question of what is constant in human experience across time, and what is shaped, even defined, by historical contingencies. In dialogue with thinkers and scholars from the disciplines of philosophy, global intellectual history, religious studies, classics, and psychology, and looking into the premodern past, we will dive deeply into questions of what makes friendship worthwhile in the present day.”
27. The Politics of Museums. MW 2.30-3.45
According to historian Steven Conn, we live in a “museum age,” with new museums being built and old museums transformed at a staggering rate. The American Alliance of Museums reports that there are approximately 850 million visitors to museums across the United States every single year. Museums are everywhere in American society.
But what is a museum? And whom is it for? To answer these questions, we’ll look at the work of art historians imagining what museums are and could be, sociologists investigating how museum-goers see, and historians tracing the legacy of protest against major American museums. You’ll have the opportunity to visit the world-class museums on Yale’s campus and to examine the work of artists thinking critically about the relation of their work to institutions. Throughout the semester we will consider museums as central sites for debates over class, race, disability, and representation in contemporary culture.
28. On Dolls, Puppets, and AI. TTh 11.35-12.50
Description to come.
29. Censorship and the Arts. MW 9.00-10.15
What right does any authority have to control expression? This writing seminar will treat legal and critical debates from recent times, as well as various arguments concerning politics, artistic freedom, and religion, ranging from those of Plato to contemporary cancel culture. Written assignments will comprise argumentative essays and research papers of various lengths and formats, carefully designed to introduce a variety of writing skills. For more detailed information, please refer to the online syllabus.
30. The Art of Time. TTh 4.00-5.15
Time is a problem. Even in common parlance it attracts a rich set of metaphors, all signaling our obsession with the rate at which it moves: Time “races” when we wish we could “freeze” it, “crawls” when we wish it would “fly.” Reminding us of the old maxim “time is money,” business gurus want to tell us how to “manage” it, while gurus of the religious sort offer the hope that it can be “transcended.” Even so, we’re not really quite sure what “it” is. Physicists like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, philosophers like Henri Bergson and Martin Heidegger, and artists from Shakespeare to Marcel Proust have all tried to penetrate the enigma. This course will suggest that the urge to investigate—and intervene in–the dilemma of time is a basic force driving the creation of art, literature, philosophy, and science. As we explore the human experience of time, we will examine the problem of mortality, the mysteries of memory, the malleable nature of subjective time, and the way our understanding of time is influenced by technological and cultural factors. As the course concludes, students will reflect on how they navigate the challenge of living in time and consider how our relationship with time shapes who we are and what we do.
31. Fashioning the Self. MW 9.00-10.15
In Sartor Resartus, Thomas Carlyle writes that “[the] Body and the Cloth are the site and material whereon [the] beautified edifice of a Person is to be built.” Whether one puts as much emphasis on the significance of clothing as Carlyle or not, getting dressed is an unavoidable part of our lives, and we deal with this fact in ways ranging from the utilitarian to the artistic and expressive. In this course, we’ll investigate this link between clothing and subjectivity, thinking about the meaning we give to the clothes we wear and the relationship between fashion and self-fashioning. How and why is clothing meaningful? Can we read clothing as a kind of text written on the body? What is “personal” about personal style? How is personal style subject to or influenced by larger discourses and cultural systems like race, class, gender, and age? In this course, students can expect to encounter a variety of texts ranging from the semiotic theories of Roland Barthes to films like Paris is Burning and The Devil Wears Prada in the hopes of finding some unifying threads between the complex composition of the self and the clothing we all wear.
32. Presence, Mindfulness, and Belonging.
With the explosion of information made available through instant and constant connectivity to some nebulous ‘elsewhere,’ presence has become both elusive and at the same time, much needed and desired. As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” What does it mean to be present, and how do we experience it—individually, through various social and intimate relationships, and in nature?
Whether it is experienced in the form of attention and translated into something of a currency (Michael H. Goldhaber remarked that the global economy would increasingly run on human attention), or it is experienced as something sacred and ineffable, presence offers a dynamic look into how we define success and fulfillment, experience meaningful relationships (with other humans and the nonhuman world), and understand our sense of belonging.
In this course, we will examine these questions through nature writers such as Henry David Thoreau, Mary Oliver, and Wendell Berry who encouraged readers to cultivate attentiveness and a focus on the present moment in the natural world, authors of popular self-help texts such as Jon Kabat-Zinn and Jack Kornfield, a novel by Ruth Ozeki, as well as various studies from neurobiology and psychology concerning mindfulness.