An interdepartmental program in History of Ideas

Last updated: December 7, 2018 at 2:33 p.m.

Santayana put it well: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." To understand the significance of our beliefs and commitments—even to understand the significance of the questions and problems that beset us—we need to trace their sources and their history. Because ideas are expressed in social and political institutions as well as in philosophical, scientific, religious, and literary works, the program in the history of ideas (HOID) is distinguished by its multidisciplinary approach. Because political structures and institutions are themselves articulated in vigorous intellectual debates, we need to understand the ideas that have formed and that continue to form them. HOID proposes to provide students with the historical background of the issues and values that have shaped their interests. The program is intended to provide students with the skills and the knowledge, the guidance and the freedom to construct a focused and rigorous course of study, one that explores the historical transformation of a set of ideas and institutions across several traditional disciplines.

The History of Ideas Minor was developed to help students explore the sources of human beliefs and commitments by tracing their development over time. Its goal is to deepen understanding of both the significance of familiar ways of thinking and the strengths of unfamiliar ways. Our courses help students broaden their perspective on important issues by drawing attention to the diverse and ever-changing ways in which human beings have tried to make sense of their world and its problems.

The History of Ideas minor has students take two different kinds of courses: electives from departments outside their major and 2 interdisciplinary seminars that act as capstones for the program. The electives allow students to exercise independent judgment in putting together a set of courses that pursue common themes within very different interdisciplinary settings. The seminars, in contrast, allow them to pursue intensive study of important issues or intellectual periods in an environment that emphasizes the development of verbal and written communication skills. The minor is constructed as an interdisciplinary supplement to students’ majors, one that broadens the range of approaches that students encounter, while still demanding rigorous intellectual engagement with key texts and thinkers. In addition, the History of Ideas Minor contributes to the university’s social justice mission in two ways: 1) intellectually, by deepening our students’ understanding of the nature and sources of our claims about morality and justice; 2) practically, by increasing appreciation and respect for the diverse and ever-changing ways in which these claims have been made over time.

Completing the History of Ideas Minor helps students develop the following core skills:

  1. Critical thinking, based on close analysis of texts and comparison of different and changing expressions of ideas.
  2. Ability to analyze and write about complex ideas.
  3. Ability to read and analyze texts from diverse and unfamiliar traditions.
  4. Judgment about how to make the best use of different methodological approaches to the same issue.

Our courses in the minor vary, with students selecting their own electives from a wide range of departmental offerings and with capstone seminars changing each year. So the minor does not claim to impart to students a single body of knowledge. All of our courses aim, however, to help students appreciate:

  1. The development of ideas over time.
  2. The nature and extent of cultural diversity.
  3. The sources of familiar and canonical ways of thinking.
  4. The diverse and often contingent sources of long established beliefs and commitments.

The History of Ideas minor is especially attractive to students interested in graduate study in Philosophy, History, and other fields in Humanities and Social Sciences. As a result, many of our students go on to earn Ph.Ds and become academics. But it also helps prepare students well for any field, such as law, that requires careful analysis of the meaning and development of written texts.

In order to declare a minor, students should meet with the undergraduate advising head of the program, who will help them to plan a course of study tailored to their intellectual needs while meeting core and elective requirements.

Eugene Sheppard, Director
(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Jonathan Decter
(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Richard Gaskins
(American Studies)

Jeffrey Lenowitz
(Politics)

Jennifer Marusic
(Philosophy)

Robin Feuer Miller
(German, Russian, and Asian Languages and Literature)

Kate Moran
(Philosophy)

John Plotz
(English)

David Powelstock
(German, Russian, and Asian Languages and Literature)

Chandler Rosenberger
(Sociology)

David Sherman
(English)

Bernard Yack
(Politics)

Affiliated Faculty (contributing to the curriculum, advising and administration of the department or program)
Stephen Dowden (European Cultural Studies)
Michael Randall (Romance Studies)
Marion Smiley (Philosophy)

The minor has three requirements:

A. Two history of ideas seminars. At least two seminars will be offered each year. Topics and faculty for the seminars will change each year. Students should consult the schedule of classes each semester for the specific seminar offerings.

B.  Three courses selected in consultation with the HOID undergraduate adviser, at least two of which will be taken in departments or programs beyond the student’s major(s). When joining the program, students will write a brief statement explaining the intellectual relationships that connect the subject matter of these three courses. Only one course from a student’s major—or one from each major, in the case of double majors—may be counted toward the total of five courses required for the minor.

C.  Students will present a substantial research paper or project to HOID faculty and students at a spring colloquium. This paper or project may develop out of work done in a history of ideas seminar, but it can also be drawn from independent research, such as a senior thesis or independent study, or from other work that students have done since coming to Brandeis. The colloquium is designed to give students the opportunity to engage with each other about their creative work at Brandeis.

D. No grade below a C- will be given credit toward the minor.

E. No course taken pass/fail may count toward the major requirements.

(1-99) Primarily for Undergraduate Students

HOID 98a Independent Study
Usually offered every year.
Staff

HOID 98b Independent Study
Usually offered every year.
Staff

(100-199) For Both Undergraduate and Graduate Students

HOID 102b Knowledge and Power
[ hum ]
What is the relationship between knowledge and power? Using the work of Michel Foucault as a foundation, this course will explore the interweaving effects of power and knowledge in institutions and their systems of thought. Usually offered every second year.
Staff

History of Ideas Seminars

ENG 133b Imagining Money: Literature and Economics from Barter to Bitcoin
[ hum ]
Money works because it is socially shared fiction; literature works because it has socially shared value. We will discuss the economics of literary experience: both literature about money (e.g. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Zola) and the picoeconomic game theory literature relies on. Usually offered every third year.
William Flesch

PHIL 109b Ethics and Emotions
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: One course in philosophy.
An examination of the historical and contemporary theories concerning the role that emotions and feeling ought to have in moral judgment and decision-making. Explores contemporary philosophical theories about the relationship between emotion and judgment. Usually offered every third year.
Berislav Marušić or Kate Moran

SOC 162a Intellectuals and Revolutionary Politics
[ ss ]
Examines the role of intellectuals in modern politics, especially their relationship to nationalism and revolutionary movements. In reading across a range of political revolutions (e.g. in Central Europe, colonial Africa and Iran), students will have the chance to compare the relative significance of appeals to solidarity based on class, religion, ethnicity, and national identity. Usually offered every second year.
Chandler Rosenberger

History of Ideas Electives

AAAS 115a Introduction to African History
[ nw ss ]
Explores the history of African societies from their earliest beginnings to the present era. Topics include African participation in antiquity as well as early Christianity and preindustrial political, economic, and cultural developments. Usually offered every year.
Staff

AAAS 135a Race, Sex, and Colonialism
[ oc ss ]
Explores the histories of interracial sexual relations as they have unfolded in a range of colonial contexts and examines the relationships between race and sex, on one hand, and the exercise of colonial power, on the other. Usually offered every year.
Carina Ray

AAAS 168b The Black Intellectual Tradition
[ ss wi ]
Prerequisite: Sophomore standing.
Introduces broad historical themes, issues and debates that constitute the black intellectual tradition. Examines the works of male and female black intellectuals from slavery to present. Will explore issues of freedom, citizenship, uplift, gender, and race consciousness. Usually offered every second year.
Chad Williams

AAAS/ENG 141b Critical Race Theory
[ hum ]
Traces an intellectual and political history of critical race theory that begins in law classrooms in the 1980s and continues in the 21st century activist strategies of Black Lives Matter movement. We proceed by reading defining theoretical texts alongside African American literature of the 20th and 21st centuries. Usually offered every third year.
Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman

AAAS/WGS 136a Black Feminist Thought
[ ss ]
Formerly offered as AAAS 136a.
Critical examination of the historical, political, economic, and ideological factors that have shaped the lives of African-American women in the United States. Analyzing foundation theoretical texts, fiction, and film over two centuries, this class seeks to understand black women's writing and political activism in the U.S. Usually offered every second year.
Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman

AMST 123b Interfaith, Interethnic, Interracial America
[ ss ]
Focuses on how religion, ethnicity, and race contributed to maintaining group separatism at some early points in American history and intersected to create a unified national identity at others. Usually offered every fourth year.
Keren McGinity

COML 123a Perfect Love?
[ hum ]
The conflict between "perfect” and carnal love has inspired artistic works from the Middle Ages through the present. This course studies how perfect love runs afoul of more human desires in works by authors, composers, and film makers like Chrétien de Troye, Marguerite de Navarre, Hawthorne, Monteverdi, di Sica, and Wong Karwai. Usually offered every second year.
Michael Randall

COML/ENG 141b Literature and Time
[ hum ]
Explores the human experience of temporality and reflection upon it. Themes covered by this course include: memory, nostalgia, anxiety, ethics, eternity, and time travel. Usually offered every third year.
Laura Quinney

COML/ENG 149a Dante's Hell and Its Legacy
[ hum ]
Studies the Classical underworld and its reworking in English verse. Topics include the descent to the underworld, the ambiguous Satan, the myths of Orpheus and Penelope, and the psychological Hells of the modernists. Usually offered every second year.
Laura Quinney

COML/REC 136a All in the Family: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and the English Novel
[ hum ]
Selected novels and writings of Austen, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Woolf will be read to trace both the evolution of the novel and the meanings, contexts and depictions of the family. The family novel encompasses such larger questions as how we regard the pain of others and how we define community. Usually offered every second year.
Robin Feuer Miller

ECS 100a European Cultural Studies Proseminar: Modernism
[ hum oc wi ]
Explores the interrelationship of literature, music, painting, philosophy, and other arts in the era of high modernism. Works by Artaud, Baudelaire, Benjamin, Mann, Mahler, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Kandinsky, Schiele, Beckett, Brecht, Adorno, Sartre, Heidegger, and others. Usually offered every fall semester.
Stephen Dowden

ENG 1a Introduction to Literary Studies
[ hum ]
This course is designed to introduce students to basic skills and concepts needed for the study of Anglophone literature and culture. These include skills in close reading; identification and differentiation of major literary styles and periods; knowledge of basic critical terms; definition of genres. Usually offered every semester.
Staff

ENG 38a Fantasy Worlds: From Lilliput and Middle Earth to LARPs
[ hum ]
Fantasy is as old as Gilgamesh, as new as Harry Potter; appleaing to both young and old readers as few other genres do. We explore its historical roots in satires like Gulliver's Travels, its modern rebirth in Narnia, Middle Earth, Le Guin's Earthsea, as well as on film. Also explores recent participatory fantasy realms, including online gaming and live action role-playing. Usually offered every third year.
John Plotz

ENG 50a Love Poetry from Sappho to Neruda
[ hum ]
This course explores the relationship between love and poetry. Starts with the ancient Greek poet Sappho and proceeds through the centuries, reading lyrics by Catullus, Ovid, Propertius, Petrarch, Dante, Shakespeare, Donne, Rossetti, and others. Usually offered every third year.
Ramie Targoff

ENG 52a Refugee Stories, Refugee Lives
[ hum nw ]
Examines the functions of storytelling in the refugee crisis. Its main objective is to further students understanding of the political dimensions of storytelling. The course explores how reworking of reality enable people to question State and social structures. Usually offered every third year.
Emilie Diouf

ENG 56a American Journeys
[ hum ]
Explores the ways American literature imagines a range of geographies and landscapes in the long nineteenth century, from the regional to the global, and frontier farms to urban tenements. Authors may include Olaudah Equiano, Sarah Orne Jewett, Herman Melville, and Mark Twain. Usually offered every second year.
Jerome Tharaud

ENG 57b Writing the Nation: James Baldwin, Philip Roth, Toni Morrison
[ hum ]
An in-depth study of three major American authors of the twentieth century. Highlights the contributions of each author to the American literary canon and to its diversity. Explores how these novelists narrate cross-racial, cross-gendered, cross-regional, and cross-cultural contact and conflict in the United States. Usually offered every third year.
Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman

ENG 78b Modernism, Atheism, God
[ hum ]
Explores European and U.S. literature after Nietzsche's proclamation, at the end of the 19th century, that God is dead. How does this writing imagine human life and the role of literature in God's absence? How does it imagine afterlives of God, and permutations of the sacred, in a post-religious world? How, or why, to have faith in the possibility of faith in a secular age? What does "the secular" actually mean, and how does it persuade itself that it's different than "religion"? Approaches international modernism as a political and theological debate about materialism and spirituality, finitude and transcendence, reason and salvation. Readings by Kafka, Joyce, Rilke, Faulkner, Eliot, Beckett, Pynchon, and others. Usually offered every second year.
David Sherman

ENG 110b The Great American Picture Book
[ hum ]
The Great American Picture Book: Contemporary consumers and citizens are constantly bombarded by words and images designed to shape how we think, feel, and act. This course explores the history and theory of American “imagetexts,” multimedia works that combine pictures and words to simulate the real thing, whether the abundance of New World nature, New York’s immigrant neighborhoods, or “vanishing” Native American cultures. We trace the phenomenon from Audubon’s Birds of America to the graphic novel. Usually offered every third year.
Jerome Tharaud

ENG 115b Fictions of Liberty: Europe in a Revolutionary Age
[ hum ]
The "Age of Enlightenment" fostered new notions of human rights that found their tumultuous proving ground in the French Revolution. Through writings from several genres and nations, this course explores some of the political, economic, religious, racial, and sexual "fictions of liberty" that have shaped our own time. Usually offered every second year.
Staff

ENG 130a Representing Poverty
[ hum ]
Explores influential theories of poverty and their impact on filmmakers. Compares cinematic tools and traditions for representing the lives of the world's poor. Includes neorealist classics and many contemporary variations. Usually offered every third year.
Caren Irr

ENG 131a Comedy: Literature, Film, and Theory
[ hum ]
Explores comedy as an enigma at the heart of social belonging, psychological coherence, and philosophical speculation. Investigates the strangeness of human laughter. Compares comic literary and film genres in different historical periods as a way to ask: what is the nature of comic pleasure? How does comedy organize desire and make sense of suffering? How are communities regulated by comedy, and how is comedy involved in social freedom? How are basic philosophical questions about minds and bodies illuminated by comedy? Texts by Chaplin, Shakespeare, Monty Python, Swift, Marx Brothers, Aristophanes, Wilde, and others. Usually offered every third year.
David Sherman

ENG 140a American War Novels of the 20th Century
[ hum wi ]
Studies classic war novels of the 20th and 21st century, from Hemingway, Heller, and O'Brien through recent novels by Jin, Benedict and Vollman. Usually offered every third year.
John Burt

ENG 146a Reading the American Revolution
[ hum ]
Explores the role of emerging literary forms and media in catalyzing, shaping, and remembering the American Revolution. Covers revolutionary pamphlets, oratory, the constitutional ratification debates, seduction novels, poetry, and plays. Includes authors Foster, Franklin, Jefferson, Paine, Publius, Tyler, and Wheatley. Usually offered every third year.
Jerome Tharaud

ENG 151a Queer Studies
[ hum ]
Recommended preparation: An introductory course in gender/sexuality and/or a course in critical theory.
Historical, literary, and theoretical perspectives on the construction and performance of queer subjectivities. How do queer bodies and queer representations challenge heteronormativity? How might we imagine public spaces and queer citizenship? Usually offered every second year.
Thomas King

FA 61a History of Photography
[ ca ]
The history of photography from its invention in 1839 to the present, with an emphasis on developments in America. Photography is studied as a documentary and an artistic medium. Topics include Alfred Stieglitz and the photo-secession, Depression-era documentary, Robert Frank and street photography, and postmodern photography. Usually offered every second year.
Peter Kalb

FA 174a Art and Trauma: Israeli, Palestinian, Latin American and United States Art
[ ca ]
May not be taken for credit by students who took FA 154b in prior years.
A comparative and critical examination of the various ways in which personal traumas (illness, death, loss) and collective traumas (war, the Holocaust, exile) find meaningful expression in the work of modern and contemporary artists from diverse regions. Usually offered every second year.
Gannit Ankori

FREN 111a The Republic
[ fl hum wi ]
Prerequisite: FREN 106b or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.
The "Republic" analyzes how the republican ideal of the citizen devoid of religious, ethnic, or gender identity has fared in different Francophone political milieux. Course involves understanding how political institutions such as constitutions, parliaments, and court systems interact with reality of modern societies in which religious, ethnic, and gender identities play important roles. Usually offered every year.
Michael Randall

FREN 139a Bad Girls / Les Filles de mauvais genre
[ fl hum ]
Prerequisite: FREN 106b or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.
Through a selection of literary texts, articles, images and films, students will explore how works from the Middle Ages to present day depict female figures in the French and Francophone world who have failed to conform to expectations of their gender. Usually offered every second year.
Hollie Harder

FREN 150b French Detective Novels: Major Questions for a Minor Genre?
[ fl hum ]
Prerequisite: FREN 106b or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.
Examines how French and Francophone detective novels take on big questions such as the origin of evil and how do you know what you know. Authors include Fred Vargas, Simenon, Driss Chraibi, Moussa Konate. Usually offered every second year.
Michael Randall

FREN 151b Francophone Identities in a Global World: An Introduction to Francophone Literature
[ fl hum wi ]
Prerequisite: FREN 106b or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.
Introduces Francophone literature and film, retracing, through the works of great contemporary Francophone writers and directors, the evolution of the Francophone world, from the colonial struggles to the transcultural and transnational trajectories of our global era. Usually offered every second year.
Clémentine Fauré-Bellaïche

GECS 131b Goethe—A European Romantic and his Muses
[ hum wi ]
Conducted in English.
The women he loved and collaborated with inspired Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) to write bestsellers like The Sorrows of Young Werther, which in turn inspired Jules Massenet to compose the opera “Werther”. In this course we will look at Goethe’s work with a critical eye to the representation of women, and the influence Goethe had on 19th century Europe and beyond. Usually offered every third year.
Sabine von Mering

GRK 115b Ancient Greek Drama
[ fl hum ]
The plays of Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides, and Sophocles, in Greek. A different playwright is studied each year. See Schedule of Classes for current topic. Usually offered every fourth year.
Staff

HIST 121a Breaking the Rules: Deviance and Nonconformity in Premodern Europe
[ ss wi ]
Explores the ways in which "deviant" behavior was defined and punished by some, but also justified and even celebrated by others in premodern Europe. Topics include vagrancy, popular uprisings, witchcraft, religious heresy, and the status of women. Usually offered every second year.
Govind Sreenivasan

HIST 133a Politics of the Enlightenment
[ ss ]
Examines the Enlightenment as a source of the intellectual world we live in today. Examination of some of the political, philosophical, and scientific writings of the philosophers. Usually offered every third year.
Mark Hulliung

HIST 153a The History of Big Data
[ ss ]
How did numbers become the gold standard for truth? This course will ask how people, things and ideas have been quantified since the seventeenth century, and explore how numbers can clarify and obscure our social, political, and economic ideologies. Special one-time offering, spring 2019.
Rachel Knecht

HIST 169a Thought and Culture in Modern America
[ ss wi ]
Developments in American philosophy, literature, art, and political theory examined in the context of socioeconomic change. Usually offered every third year.
Staff

HIST 172b Historicizing the Black Radical Tradition
[ ss ]
Introduces students to the many ways that people and scholars of African descent have historically struggled against racial oppresion by formulating theories, philosophies, and practices of liberation rooted in their experiences and understandings of labor, capitalism, and modernity. Usually offered every second year.
Gregory Childs

HIST 181b Red Flags/Black Flags: Marxism vs. Anarchism, 1845-1968
[ ss ]
From Marx's first major book in 1845 to the French upheavals of 1968, the history of left-wing politics and ideas. The struggles between Marxist orthodoxy and anarchist-inspired, left Marxist alternatives. Usually offered every third year.
Mark Hulliung

HIST 183b Community and Alienation: Social Theory from Hegel to Freud
[ ss ]
The rise of social theory understood as a response to the trauma of industrialization. Topics include Marx's concept of "alienation," Tönnies's distinction between "community" and "society," Durkheim's notion of "anomie," Weber's account of "disenchantment," and Nietzsche's repudiation of modernity. Usually offered every fourth year.
Mark Hulliung

HIST 192b Romantic and Existentialist Political Thought
[ ss ]
Readings from Camus, Sartre, Beckett, and others. Examination and criticism of romantic and existentialist theories of politics. Usually offered every second year.
Mark Hulliung

HIST 195a American Political Thought: From the Revolution to the Civil War
[ ss ]
Antebellum America as seen in the writings of Paine, Jefferson, Adams, the Federalists and Antifederalists, the Federalists and Republicans, the Whigs and the Jacksonians, the advocates and opponents of slavery, and the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Usually offered every second year.
Mark Hulliung

HIST 196a American Political Thought: From the 1950s to the Present
[ ss ]
Covers the New Left of the 1960s, its rejection of the outlook of the 1950s, the efforts of liberals to save the New Left agenda in the New Politics of the 1970s, and the reaction against the New Left in the neoconservative movement. Usually offered every second year.
Mark Hulliung

HIST/SOC 170b Gender and Sexuality in South Asia
[ ss ]
Prerequisite: Sophomore standing or permission of the instructor.
Explores historical and contemporary debates about gender and sexuality in South Asia; revisits concepts of "woman," "sex," "femininity," "home," "family," "community," "nation," "reform," "protection," and "civilization" across the colonial and postcolonial periods. Usually offered every second year.
Hannah Muller and Gowri Vijayakumar

HUM/UWS 1a Tragedy: Love and Death in the Creative Imagination
[ hum uws ]
Enrollment limited to Humanities Fellows.
How do you turn catastrophe into art - and why? This first-year seminar in the humanities addresses such elemental questions, especially those centering on love and death. How does literature catch hold of catastrophic experiences and make them intelligible or even beautiful? Should misery even be beautiful? By exploring the tragic tradition in literature across many eras, cultures, genres, and languages, this course looks for basic patterns. Usually offered every year.
John Burt and Stephen Dowden

HUM/UWS 2a Crime and Punishment: Justice and Criminality from Plato to Serial
[ hum uws ]
Enrollment limited to Humanities Fellows. Formerly offered as COML/HOI 103a.
Examines concepts of criminality, justice, and punishment in Western humanist traditions. We will trace conversations about jurisprudence in literature, philosophy, political theory, and legal studies. Topics include democracy and the origins of justice, narrating criminality, and the aesthetic force mobilized by criminal trials. This course also involves observing local courtroom proceedings and doing research in historical archives about significant criminal prosecutions. Usually offered every year.
Eugene Sheppard and David Sherman

IGS 120a Inventing Oneself
[ hum ]
Do our backgrounds determine our lives, or can we transcend such limits to pursue dreams of our own? This class explores themes of liberation in works by French and Francophone writers and filmmakers and the global artistic and social movements they have inspired. All works in English. Usually offered every second year.
Clementine Fauré-Bellaïche

IMES 104a Islam: Civilization and Institutions
[ hum nw ]
Provides a disciplined study of Islamic civilization from its origins to the modern period. Approaches the study from a humanities perspective. Topics covered will include the Qur'an, tradition, law, theology, politics, Islam and other religions, modern developments, and women in Islam. Usually offered every year.
Carl El-Tobgui

JAPN 145a The World of Classical Japanese Literature
[ hum nw ]
A survey of some of the most important works of Japanese literature from its origins to the late sixteenth century, including a wide range of genres: fiction, essays, travelogues, poetry, and drama. All readings are in English. Usually offered every third year.
Matthew Fraleigh

LAT 118b Roman Historians
[ fl hum ]
Selections from the histories of Julius Caesar, Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus, in Latin. Usually offered every fourth year.
Cheryl Walker

MUS 1a Exploring Western Music
[ ca ]
Does not meet requirements for the major or minor in music.
A general introduction to the materials and forms of music, and a study of western musical literature. Training in analytical listening, based on selected listening assignments. Open to non-majors who are assumed to have little or no previous knowledge of music. Usually offered every second year.
Staff

MUS 56b Romanticism in Music: Breakdowns, Breakups, and Beauty
[ ca ]
Intended for non-majors. Music majors and minors and any students who have taken MUS 101a,b must obtain permission from the instructor.
Considers musical expressions of psychological breakdowns, fragmented breakups, and experimental forms of beauty. Connects nineteenth century music with specific paintings, poems, and political events. Charts the towering influence of Romanticism on 20th and 21st century artists. Usually offered every fourth year.
Staff

NEJS 114a Death, Memorial, and Immortality in Biblical Literature
[ hum nw ]
Surveys biblical concepts of death in its social, historical, and literary context. Topics include human mortality and divine immortality, dying as a social process,the afterlife and the 'soul', and communication with the dead. Usually offered every third year.
Staff

NEJS 123b Crossing Boundaries and Being Human in Rabbinic Literature
[ hum ]
Being "human" is defined by distinguishing between and ordering different beings according to race, gender, disability and species. This privileges some in society while diminishing the value of others. This course introduces the main texts of rabbinic literature around fundamental questions of what is a legal "person" and what is not. Usually offered every year.
Lynn Kaye

NEJS 125a Just Communities and Neighborhoods in Talmudic Literature
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: Any 30-level Hebrew course or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.
Talmudic texts debate how to create communities led by trustworthy people with fair relations between neighbors. Class includes in-depth textual analysis and introduces contemporary Talmudic studies from multiple perspectives. This course traces how the Babylonia Talmud featured legal reasoning and storytelling to address issues of contested space and authority in a community committed to justice. Usually offered every year.
Lynn Kaye

NEJS 140a Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages
[ hum ss wi ]
Surveys Jewish political, social and intellectual history in the domains of Islam and Christianity from the rise of Islam (622) to the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492) and Portugal (1497). Topics include the legal status of Jews, Jewish communal organization, persecution and response, inter-religious polemics, conversion, the origins of anti-Judaism, and trends in Jewish law, philosophy, literature, and mysticism. Usually offered every second year.
Jonathan Decter

NEJS 141b Human Rights: Law, Politics, Theology
[ hum ]
How did human rights work arise in recent decades, and why only then? Is it a new sort of religion? What critical thinking will help this vast work of advocacy, international law, democratization and humanitarianism alleviate human suffering? Usually offered every second year.
Yehudah Mirsky

NEJS 142a Modern History of East European Jewry
[ hum ]
A comprehensive survey of the history (economic, sociopolitical, and religious) of the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe from the middle of the eighteenth century until World War II, with emphasis placed on the Jews of Poland and Russia. Usually offered every fourth year.
ChaeRan Freeze

NEJS 154a World Without God: Secularization and its Discontents
[ hum ]
What is secularization and its relation to the political? What does it mean to describe the modern world as wholly secular or independent of any prior religious foundations of beliefs? Do all major political concepts remain translations of religious ones? This advanced undergraduate course surveys various debates concerning the historical process and philosophical-political significance of secularization, most especially the secularization of political norms and political theology. Concentrates on the history of European thought from the 17th century to the 20th century, with special reference to the encounter between Judaism and Christianity and modes of modern rationalist criticism. Usually offered every third year.
Eugene Sheppard

NEJS 155a Maimonides: A Jewish Thinker in the Islamic World
[ hum ]
A study of the life, world, and thought of Moses Maimonides, the most significant Jewish intellectual of the Islamic world. This course traces his intellectual output in philosophy and Judaism, from its beginning in Islamic Spain to the mature works produced in Morocco and Egypt, in the context of the Arabic-Islamic milieu. Half of the course is dedicated to studying his Guide of the Perplexed, a Judeo-Arabic work that engages the demands of revealed religion and philosophical rationalism. Usually offered every third year.
Jonathan Decter

NEJS 155b Jewish Law and Ethics
[ hum ]
Traces the history of Jewish law from the Bible to the present. Jewish law is indispensable for understanding Jewish life, past, present and future, and is a rich source of reflection on law, ethics and religion. This course examines contemporary debates and controversies and explores its spiritual dimensions. Usually offered every second year.
Yehudah Mirsky

NEJS 159a Modern Jewish Philosophy
[ hum ]
Surveys the contours of modern Jewish philosophy by engaging some of its most important themes and voices. Competing Jewish inflections of and responses to rationalism, romanticism, idealism, existentialism, and nihilism. This provides the conceptual road signs of the course as we traverse the winding byways of Jewish philosophy from Baruch Spinoza to Emanuel Levinas. Usually offered every second year.
Eugene Sheppard

NEJS 169b From Sunday Schools to Birthright: History of American Jewish Education
[ hum ]
Empowers students to articulate a reality-based, transformative vision of Jewish education that is grounded in an appreciation for the history and sociology of American Jewish education. It will familiarize students with and contextualize the present Jewish educational landscape, through the use of historical case studies and current research, encouraging students to view the field from an evolutionary perspective. The seminar will address Jewish education in all its forms, including formal and informal settings (e.g., schools, camps, youth groups, educational tourism). Usually offered every third year
Jonathan Krasner

NEJS 191b The World to Come: Jewish Messianism from Antiquity to Zionism
[ hum ]
Messianism is an important component in Jewish history. This course examines the messianic idea as a religious, political, and sociological phenomenon in modern Jewish history. Examining how the messianic narrative entered Jewish political discourse enables a critical discussion of its role in Zionist activities as an example of continuity or discontinuity with an older tradition. Usually offered every year.
Alexander Kaye

NEJS 195a Muhammad: From Early Muslim Accounts to Modern Biographies
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Studies the life of Muhammad based upon the earliest biographical accounts and the academic analyses in both Islamic and non-Islamic sources, accompanied by an examination of his legacy in different aspects of Islam, such as Shi'ism and Sufism. Usually offered every third year.
Suleyman Dost

PHIL 7a Science, Evolution, and Design
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This seminar considers several versions of the argument from design for the existence of God, culminating in a critical examination of the contemporary debate over intelligent design theory and the claim that it is a genuine science. Usually offered every second year.
Jennifer Marušić

PHIL 13b The Idea of the Market: Economic Philosophies
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Historical survey of philosophical assumptions in the defense and critique of market capitalism, starting from Adam Smith's views on value, self, and community. Explores philosophical alternatives in Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Dewey, and Hayek, including debates on justice and individualism. Usually offered every fourth year.
Richard Gaskins

PHIL 21a Environmental Ethics
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Explores the ethical dimensions of human relationships to the natural world. Looks at environmental ethical theories such as deep ecology and eco-feminism and discusses the ethics of specific environmental issues such as wilderness preservation and climate change. Usually offered every second year.
Kate Moran

PHIL 107b Kant's Moral Theory
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An examination of the main philosophical issues addressed in Kant's Critique of Practical Reason from the perspective of their relation to works specifically belonging to his ethical theory: the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and the Metaphysics of Morals. Usually offered every second year.
Robert Greenberg or Kate Moran

PHIL 114b Topics in Ethical Theory
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a, or PHIL 17a, or PHIL 23b. May be repeated for credit.
Is morality something we have reasons to obey regardless of our interests and desires, or do the reasons grow out of our interests and desires? Is the moral life always a personally satisfying life? Is morality a social invention or is it more deeply rooted in the nature of things? This course will address such questions. Usually offered every year.
Staff

PHIL 115b Art, Technology, and Thinking in Heidegger's Later Thought
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Offers a close reading of selected texts from Heidegger's late work after the publication of Being and Time on poetry and works of art, his critique of technology and his "turning" to history. The seminar will focus on the following texts in particular: "The Origin of the Work of Art," "The Question Concerning Technology," "What Are Poets For?" "The Thing," "Building, Dwelling, Thinking," "Conversations on a Country Path about Thinking" and "The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking." Usually offered every third year.
Andreas Teuber

PHIL 122a History of Ethics
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Explores several major ethical traditions in the history of modern philosophy/ Examines the natural law theories of Hobbes and Grotius; moral sense theory; Kantianism; utilitarianism; and Nietzsche's response to these traditional moral theories. Usually offered every third year.
Robert Greenberg or Kate Moran

PHIL 123a Existentialism
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May not be taken for credit by students who took PHIL 78a in prior years.
A study of French existentialist philosophy and its reception, with special attention to the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Usually offered every second year.
Berislav Marušić

PHIL 123b Neuroethics
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Focuses on the philosophical and ethical implications that arise from advances in neuroscience. We will investigate questions like: What are the evolutionary origins of moral judgement? Does evolutionary theory shed light on morality? Do our moral motivations derive from reason or pre-reflective intuition? Do psychopaths have moral responsibility? Do we have free will? Is there an obligation to enhance ourselves? Should drugs be used to enhance mental functioning? Is it moral to grow human organs in animals for purposes of transplantation? Usually offered every third year.
Staff

PHIL 146a Idea of God
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a, PHIL 35a, PHIL 37a or PHIL 66b or permission of the instructor.
Engages in a philosophical investigation, not of religion as an institution but of the very idea of God. Studies the distinction between human being and divine being and addresses the issue of the relation of God's essence to his existence. Usually offered every second year.
Palle Yourgrau

PHIL 167a Hegel: Self-Consciousness and Freedom in the Phenomenology of Spirit
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or equivalent.
Offers a close reading of Hegel and pays special attention to his analyses of the changing patterns of understanding and self-understanding and the way in which he opens up these transformations for the reader to experience. In his modern paradigm, the Subject and the Object of thought necessarily affect one another's potential, essence, and fate. And through a rational comprehension of role of Spirit (Geist) in thought and the world, we can see how they become inextricably bound together. Indeed, for Hegel, the dialectic between subject and object provides the very ground for the self-aware and free subject to participate in modern life. Usually offered every third year.
Eugene Sheppard

PHIL 168a Kant
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Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or permission of the instructor.
An attempt to understand and evaluate the main ideas of the Critique of Pure Reason, the subjectivity of space and time, the nature of consciousness, and the objectivity of the concepts of substance and causality. Usually offered every year.
Robert Greenberg or Kate Moran

PHIL 177b Simone Weil
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Studies the French philosopher Simone Weil, revolutionary and mystic. Is divine perfection reconcilable with human suffering? Weil shook the foundations of Christianity and Judaism attempting to answer this question and this course will rejoin her quest. Usually offered every third year.
Palle Yourgrau

PHIL 180b From Sensation to Understanding: Locke, Berkeley, and Hume
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Prerequisite: One course in philosophy.
The subject of this course is Empiricism, the (mainly) British philosophical movement of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that develops and defends the view that our understanding of ourselves and the world is wholly based on our experience. Empiricism is one of the two great competing traditions characterizing what has come to be known as the Modern period in philosophy. Analyzes key writings of the three most influential empiricist thinkers of this period, and attempts to elucidate several themes which get to the heart of their empiricism, and which continue to exert a powerful influence on contemporary philosophical thought. Students will read substantial portions of historically significant original works, dissect and criticize them, consider some of the respected secondary literature, and also consider their relevance to contemporary philosophy. Usually offered every third year.
Jennifer Marušić or Jerry Samet

PHIL 181a Gazing into the Abyss: Schopenhauer and Nietzsche
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Examines two philosophers whose subversive ideas and brilliant prose have stirred the deepest human anxieties and hopes for our kind's relationship to nature, values, aesthetics, religion, law, and society. Usually offered every third year.
Staff

POL 10a Introduction to Political Theory
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Open to first-year students.
Examination of classical political texts and modern writings for insights on central problems of political discourse, such as power and authority, human nature, freedom, obligation, justice, and the organization of the state. Usually offered every year.
Bernard Yack or Jeffrey Lenowitz

POL 116b Civil Liberties in America
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The history and politics of civil liberties and civil rights in the United States, with emphasis on the period from World War I to the present. Emphasis on freedom of speech, religion, abortion, privacy, racial discrimination, and affirmative action. Readings from Supreme Court cases and influential works by historians and political philosophers. Usually offered every year.
Jeffrey Lenowitz

POL 187b Conservative Political Thought
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Focuses on American and European thinkers, with an emphasis on critics of equality and unlimited commercial and civil liberty. Readings include political philosophy and literature. Authors may include Burke, Oakeshott, Calhoun, Conrad, Hayek, Macintyre, and Strauss. Usually offered every second year.
Bernard Yack

POL 189a Marx, Nietzsche, and Twentieth-Century Radicalism
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Comparison of two powerful and influential critiques of modern politics and society. Explanation of Marx's work, both for its own insights and as a model for radical theorists; and of Nietzsche's work as an alternative conception of radical social criticism. Usually offered every second year.
Bernard Yack

POL 190b Seminar: Democratic Theory
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Explores in depth the nature, virtues, and limitations of democracy as a way of organizing political affairs. Brings together classic texts, for example, Rousseau's Social Contract, with more recent topical readings on topics like democracy and nationalism. Usually offered every second year.
Jeffrey Lenowitz or Bernard Yack

POL 192b Seminar: Topics in Law and Political Theory
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Prerequisite: Sophomore standing or higher. May be repeated for credit if different topic.
Interplay among law, morality, and political theory. Specific topics vary from year to year. Usually offered every year.
Bernard Yack or Jeffrey Lenowitz

RECS 100a Russian Soul: Masterworks of Modern Russian Culture
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Open to all students. Conducted in English. Students may choose to do readings either in English translation or in Russian. Satisfies the Proseminar requirement for the Russian Studies major.
Examines masterpieces of modern Russian culture in literature, film, philosophy, art, music, theater, opera and ballet. How has Russian culture treated such common human themes as life, death, love, language, identity, and community? What makes Russian cultural tradition unique? Usually offered every second year.
David Powelstock

RECS 130a The Great Russian Novel
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Open to all students. Conducted in English. Students may choose to do readings either in English translation or in Russian.
A comprehensive survey of the major writers and themes of the nineteenth century including Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, and others. Usually offered every second year.
Robin Feuer Miller

SOC 168a Democracy and Inequality in Global Perspective
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Can democracy survive great inequalities of wealth and status? In authoritarian countries, does inequality inspire revolution or obedience? What role does culture play in determining which inequalities are tolerable and which are not? Cases include the United States, India, and China. Usually offered every second year.
Chandler Rosenberger

WMGS 105b Feminisms: History, Theory, and Practice
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Prerequisite: Students are encouraged, though not required, to take WMGS 5a prior to enrolling in this course.
Examines diverse theories of sex and gender within a multicultural framework, considering historical changes in feminist thought, the theoretical underpinnings of various feminist practices, and the implications of diverse and often conflicting theories for both academic inquiry and social change. Usually offered every year.
Faith Smith