New courses: Memory, music and digital humanities

Blacks in the military, women and war, Islamic history among 57 offerings

What do memory architecture, digital humanities and African-American military history have in common? They are three of 57 new courses to be offered at Brandeis this spring.

Associate Professor of Fine Arts Talinn Grigor, who specializes in modern and contemporary architecture, including monuments, will teach Memory Architecture, FA 181A, the syllabus for which she initially prepared as preparation for her Ph.D.

The course will delve into how architects and theoreticians have dealt with questions of commemoration, celebration, erasure and preservation of collective identities since the 19th century.

“I have a number of students who have been taking my courses since they were freshmen, who are now graduating,” Grigor says. “I wanted to give them something different, more in-depth. I wanted them to read primary sources, to read the big guys” like John Ruskin and Frances Yates.

Architecture has often been seen as an instrument used to protect collective memory – to celebrate or commemorate historic events, Grigor says.

Her own writing has focused on post-colonial identity and nationalism in Iran, where monuments have been repeatedly re-appropriated by political groups.  

She advises that though there will be some indirectly related reading, the course will not cover Jewish identity as it is too broad a topic.

Chad Williams, who came to Brandeis last year to chair the African and Afro-American Studies Department in 2012, will teach African-American Military History, AAA 160B. 

Williams says the course is a broad sweep showing how African-Americans have approached military service and war from the colonial period to the present. It will explore themes of violence, freedom, citizenship, manhood, internationalism and civil rights. 

He expects the Civil War discussion to attract a lot of students given all the attention the war received in recent films like “Lincoln.” Williams also anticipates Vietnam will intrigue students because it’s more recent. 

“These students have come of age in a period of constant warfare, issues of war and citizenship.” Williams says. “Civil rights are very much at the forefront of how students think about war.”

Williams, who specializes in African-American military history and published the book “Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era” in 2010, added that he and his colleagues are not aware of courses on African-American military history being taught at any other university.

“It’s a pretty unique opportunity for students here at Brandeis,” Williams says.

John Unsworth, vice provost for Library and Technology Services and chief information officer, will teach Digital Humanities, ENG 158B, which focuses on areas where the humanities and computing intersect.

The course will introduce students to the history and range of digital humanities, from its beginnings in the 1940s to present, with a focus on literacy studies. It will include extensible markup language (XML), text mining and social media. The course will consider digital humanities projects and students will do hands-on work with tools typically used in such projects.

Unsworth, who was named by President Barack Obama to the National Council on Humanities last year, came to Brandeis from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he also taught digital humanities.

In Unsworth’s experience in Illinois, “People felt they understood what ‘digital’ meant,” he says. “The part that confuses them and needs explaining, actually, is ‘humanities.’” 

He says the course typically attracts a combination of humanities majors as well as computer science students.

“If you are interested in the humanities and you have never looked into the intersection of humanities and information technology, there’s a lot going on there,” Unsworth says.

Course number Title Professor
AAAS 160B African American Military History Chad Williams
AAAS 168B The Black Intellectual Tradition Chad Williams
AMST 123 Interfaith, Inter-ethnic, Interracial American Keren McGinity
AMST 129 From American Movies to Music Videos James Mandrell
ANTH 120B Environmental Antropology of the Middle East: Israel, Oman and Beyond Emily McKee
ANTH 151B Nature, Culture, Power Jonathan Anjaria
ANTH 160B Dirt, Disgust, and Contagion: The Anthropology of Pollution Anita Hannig
ANTH 179B Women and War Ellen Schattschneider
BIOL 112B Evolutionary Developmental Biology Maria Miara
CHIN 136B Chinese Modernism in International Context Pu Wang
CLAS 192B Slavery in the Roman World (1st-4th C.ce) Bernadette Brooten
COML 121B Tragedy and the Tragic Steve Dowden
COML/ENG 140B Children's LIterature and Construction of Childhood Robin Feuer Miller
COSI 137B Information Extraction Nianwen Xue
ECON 173A Central Banking: Theory and Policy Lynn Browne


Introduction to Macroeconomics Scott Redenius
ED 150A Politics of Education Eran Tamir
ED 163 Creativity and Caring Joseph Reimer
ENG 158B Introduction to Digital Humanities John Unsworth
ENG 233B Early Modern Knowledges Mary Baine Campbell
ENG 58B Women and Madness Dawn Skorczewski
ENG 70B Science Fiction Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman
FA 181 Memory Architecture Talinn Grigor
FA 189 From Broadsheets to Blogs: Reading Magazines Across the 20th Century Lori Cole
FREN 150A Images of the Immigrant in French Media, Literature, and Films from the First world War to the Present Frederique Donovan
FYS 43B Visions of the Environment: Images to Action Laura Goldin
FYS 466 La Justice Sociale a la Francaise: Issues of Social Justice in the French and Francophone Hollie Harder
HISP 128B Picaros, Prostitutes, and Peasants: Representations of the Underclass in Early Modern Spain Dian Fox
HIST 136B Project Colony Jonathan DeCoster
HIST 143B European Imperialism, 1870-1914 Ian Hopper
HIST 167B American Indian History Jonathan DeCoster
HRNS 231B The American Jewish Community in Historical Persepective Jonathan Sarna
Jewish Spirituality in Society Philip Wexler
IGS 170A The Rise of Brazil Moises Lino e Silva
LGLS 123 Immigration and Human Rights Douglas Smith
LGLS 142B Law and Psychology Rosalind Harel
MUS 54 Music and Poetry in the German Art Song During the Nineteenth Century Eric Chad
MUS 88 Middle East Music Ensemble Ann Lucas
MUS 11B Fieldwork Seminar in Ethnomusicology Ann Lucas
BIO 15A The Neurobiology of Pain Vincent Pizzano
NEJS 147 Visions for Constructing the State of Israel Sara Hirsch
NEJS 155 Introduction to Jewish Legal Thought Yehudah Mirsky
NEJS 189B Classical Islamic Political Thought Elizabeth Urban
NEJS 195B Early Islamic History from Muhammad to the Mongols Elizabeth Urban
NEJS 213B Teaching the Bible Marc Brettler
NEJS 259A Renaissance, Revolution, Redemption: Readings in Early Zion Jehuda Mirsky
PHIL 167 Hegel: Self-Consciousness and the Grounding of Freedom in the Phenomenology of Spirit Eugene Sheppard
POL 171B National Intelligence: Theory, Practice, and Cinematic Imagination Steven Burg
POL 135B The Politics of Islamic Resurgence Eva Bellin
PSYC 142A Sport Psychology: A Health Psychology Perspective Jutta Wolf
REL/SAS 162B Religions in Asia: India, Pakistan and Beyond Harpreet Singh
RUS 115 Topics in Russian Culture and Society Irina Dubinina
SOC 124A Gender and Human Rights Casey Ritchie Clevenger
SOC 125A Sport and Society: A Sociological Perspective Brian Fair
SOC 149B Social Production of Food Laura Miller
SOC 199B Senior Capstone Seminar: Sociology in the World David Cunningham
WMGS 130B History of Sexuality in the United States Grace Leslie

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