• Evil

    Session 2

    There are many books and courses that focus on the good life or the virtues. Yet despite their obvious apparent presence in our life and world, evil and the vices are rarely taken as explicit topics. Here we shall focus on the following three main questions: (I) What is the nature of evil?, (II) Are humans by nature good or evil?, and (III) How should we, as a society, deal with evil? We shall read philosophical and literary texts that deal with the question of evil at an abstract level and then use other readings that help us consider the more practical implications of the meaning and consequences of evil.

  • Magical Realism and Globalization

    Session 2
    The Street

    What is “magical realism?” Is it a genre, a style, a label for elaborated fiction from the Third World? How does magical realism, a globalized phenomenon, reflect upon globalization itself? The course will address such questions by studying fascinating works (excerpts) from places as diverse as Cuba, Colombia, India, Germany, and the U.S. The two main goals will be 1) to trace the trajectory of the concept from its origins in 1920s post-expressionist painting to its contemporary developments, and 2) to articulate well-informed positions on the scholarly debates that pertain to both particular seminal works and magical realism as a whole.

    Topics include: transactions between metropolitan centers and peripheral locations in the production and transformation of magical realism; postcolonial approaches from and against the literature on the topic; politics of authenticity; relations between story-telling and historical grand-narratives, and between fantasy and critique. Works include: novels, plays, and short stories by García Márquez, Rushdie, and Morrison; movies by Schlondorff and Benigni.

  • Racial Identity in the American Imagination

    Session 2

    From Sally Hemings to Barack Obama, this course explores the ways that racial identity has been experienced, represented, and contested throughout American history. Engaging historical, legal, and literary texts and films, we will examine the major historical transformations that have shaped our understandings of racial identity. We will also explore autobiography, memoir, photography, and music to consider the ways that racial identity has been represented in American society. We will consider the following questions:

    • What is the interplay between racial and American identity?
    • What role do mixed-race identities play in American society?
    • Is race merely a performance? What does it mean for race to be a “social construct”?
    • What roles do class, gender, and sexuality play in the construction of racial identity?
  • Revolutions

    Session 1

    “Revolutions are the locomotives of history,” wrote Karl Marx.

    As the ongoing turmoil of the Middle East reminds us, revolutions have the power to reshape the political order of the world more than any other social, economic, or cultural forces. Most states today were born out of a revolution. But what exactly is a revolution? Is it, like Marx believed, the inevitable result of a social conflict? Or does it take determined revolutionaries to make a successful revolution? To have a revolution, do you have to call it “a revolution”?

    To answer these and other questions, this course will take students back to the early revolutions of seventeenth-century England, and the revolutions of America and France. We will then make our way through the revolutions of the nineteenth century, to the great revolutions of the twentieth century in Russia, China, Cuba, Cambodia, and Iran. We will conclude by considering the recent revolutions in the Middle East.

    For their papers, students will have the opportunity to study one revolution in greater detail, or compare a set of revolutions. They can also explore the description of revolutions in literary or artistic works.

  • Rome

    Session 1

    From a few huts on seven hills in the eight century (or so they say), Rome would grow into an empire that, at its greatest expanse, comprised all of western Europe, the north of Africa, the Middle East, and the territory west and south of the Black Sea; more impressive than its expanse, it would last, its eastern half, until 1453.

    Its roads, many still in use, formed a network along which goods and ideas travelled; its awe-inspiring buildings, like the celestial Pantheon or the magnificent Pont Du Gard, set standards not to be reached again for over a millennium; its art, like the murals in Nero’s Domus Aurea, and literature, like Vergil’s Aeneid and Tacitus’ Annals, entice and inspire to this very day, and its law code provides the foundation for Civil Law.

    In this course we will study aspects of this historical phenomenon: read many of its most famous texts, reflect on how the Romans thought of themselves and others, trace the history of one of its texts, considered most dangerous by some, follow its rise and fall as an empire, and remark throughout on how different it is from western societies today, even though the latter are profoundly indebted to it.

  • The Age of Jefferson

    Session 1
    Photo of Thomas Jefferson

    The Age of Thomas Jefferson spanned the years roughly 1770 to 1820, some of the most exciting and tumultuous in American and European history. During this half century, such world-changing events as the American and French Revolutions and the transatlantic Enlightenment stretched people's thinking into many new and unexpected directions.

    This course will examine a few of these new ideas in the Age of Jefferson. Though we'll be using Jefferson's life, travels, and writings as a base, we'll range far afield to look at how he and famous contemporaries such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Hume thought about their world. We'll frame our discussions around a series of questions that Jefferson and his contemporaries fiercely debated.