CAS Seminars (2018 - 2020)
This is a sampling of recent seminars in the program. Except where noted, the seminars do not assume any specific course or background on the student’s part.
FYSEM-UA 205 Gerety. 4 points.
Examines terrorist attacks and movements from an interdisciplinary perspective, seeking to reach a better understanding of the attackers themselves, their motivations and backgrounds, and their plots and ideologies—whether secular or religious. We read case studies of terrorism and counter-terrorism, including moral and legal arguments about torture, detention, and targeted killings. We visit various sites in New York City and meet with people with direct experience of terrorism and radicalization, including representatives of both the police and the immigrant communities who have suffered profiling, prejudice, and mistrust. Also examines local, national, and international strategies to prevent such attacks and to halt the radicalization that brings fresh recruits to terrorist movements.
Language and Reality in 20th-Century Science and Literature
FRSEM-UA 210 Ulfers. 4 points.
Posits a common ground between the two cultures of science and the humanities and proposes a correlation between postclassical science (e.g., quantum theory) and "postmodern" literature and philosophy. Examines Heisenberg's "uncertainty principle" and the "undecidability" of deconstructive theory. The discussion of these notions and their implications in literary works focuses on their effect on classical logic, the referential function of language, and the traditional goal of a complete explanation/description of reality.
School and Society: NYU in the Sixties and Seventies
FYSEM-UA 255 Tannenbaum. 4 points.
The 1960s and 1970s brought profound changes in American society, changes mirrored in the history of the nation, academe, and New York University. It was a time that witnessed the struggle for civil rights, assassinations, war abroad and riots at home, and a youth-led revolution in music, dress, and values. Aims to develop an appreciation of those years by examining the events and the reactions as they affected campuses and students across America. Students prepare reports on different aspects of the era and work on group projects. In both cases, and in the spirit of the times, the topics are self-chosen with the approval of the group and the seminar leader.
Welcome to College: The Novel
FRSEM-UA 371 Sternhell. 4 points.
Starting college can be exhilarating—and terrifying. A chance for intellectual enlightenment—or intense loneliness. We read a selection of college novels from different historical periods, ranging from F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise to Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons. We discuss these novels from a variety of perspectives: literary, historical, and journalistic. In addition to presenting reports on the readings, students write about their own experiences as first-year students at NYU in several genres, including fiction and nonfiction.
Journalism of War, Revolution, Genocide, and Human Rights
FYSEM-UA 384 Linfield. 4 points.
We read some of the key journalistic works on war, revolution, genocide, and human rights that have been written in the past one hundred years. How, and why, has the nature of war changed in the past century? Why do some revolutions, such as those in Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism, largely succeed, while others, such as those of the Arab Spring, fail so miserably? Why do sufferers of violence and oppression so often become perpetrators of it? What is the difference between war and genocide, and why did the latter emerge in the 20th century? Why has terrorism re-emerged with such vengeance in the past two decades? What are “human rights”—another invention of the 20th century—and how, if at all, have they become a reality?
What is College For?
FRSEM-UA 474 Jordan. 4 points.
Why did you decide to attend college? To broaden your intellectual horizons and become open-minded? To gain specialized knowledge in a specific subject? To achieve a financially rewarding career? To satisfy your parents? At the beginning of the twenty-first century, current models and practices of higher education are receiving increased scrutiny. Topics for discussion: Does higher education need to redefine its academic mission? Should everyone attend college? What is the impact of new technologies? How can students, professors, and administrators all contribute to creating a successful college environment?
Global Citizenship: Theory and Practice
FYSEM-UA 484 Baer. 4 points.
Explores the notion and practice of global citizenship—the capacity and willingness to think across and beyond actual and imagined boundaries, and to develop skills that can solve problems and explore opportunities in unfamiliar contexts. Examines globalization as a historical, economic, and cultural phenomenon. Topics include local resistance to global homogeneity; human rights; the role of language in global contexts; the specificity of culture and arts; the idea of film or photography as universal languages; and an exploration of New York City as an international city that has turned its diversity into strength.
In Search of Lost Time
FRSEM-UA 503 Clements. 4 points.
We will read Proust (in translation) as he should be read: hedonistically—with respect and admiration but also with delectation. A prodigious novel of more than 4,000 pages, In Search of Lost Time is still unparalleled in how it combines finesse and wit with raw emotion, self-examination with social history, profound psychological acuity with a dazzling portrait of the French beau monde at the outset of modernity, and how it merges an audacious explosion of literary form with explorations of memory, desire, attachment, deception, lust, jealousy, ambition, and disappointment. We move at a brisk pace through the entire work (reading assignments average 350 pages per week).
Facing Fascism: The Spanish Civil War and U.S. Culture
FRSEM-UA 539 Prerequisite: AP credit in Spanish, or in U.S. or world history. Fernández. 4 points.
The West is in the grip of the Great Depression, and liberal democracy is in crisis. On the rise: a spectrum of ideologies ranging from anarchism to fascism. July 1936: a right-wing military coup attempts to overthrow a democratically elected left-wing coalition government, and all eyes turn toward Spain. We conduct research in NYU's Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA), a vast collection of materials that chronicles the lives of the 2,800 Americans who, between 1936 and 1939, volunteered to fight fascism in Spain. We explore the place occupied by Spain and the Spanish Civil War in American culture from the 1930s forward and how journalists, writers, artists, and citizens reacted to the war in Spain.
Epics 4.1: The Odyssey, the Aeneid, Paradise Lost, Moby Dick
FYSEM-UA 630 Gilman. 4 points.
The question of what it means to be human is the fundamental concern of all works of literature. The epic sets the human protagonist on a global stage, in its very amplitude opening a wide expanse of time and place and history. Its fundamental question: what does it mean to be a human in the world? Examines the epic, with a careful study of Homer’s Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Melville’s Moby Dick, supplemented by briefer related readings; as time permits, Paradise Lost may be accompanied by selections from Milton’s other poetry, and Moby Dick by Melville’s Benito Cereno and/or “Bartleby.”
Love: The Sociology of Intimacy
FYSEM-UA 660 Royster. 4 points.
Much has been written about love from every conceivable point of view, but sociology asks very specific questions about how social contexts influence how people love across different eras, societies, and groups. American society has undergone many changes that profoundly affect how we love, including what forms we expect our relationships to take; when we expect to form enduring relationships with romantic partners; and what it may take to move from exploration to commitment. Sociology de-bunks many “love” myths that we’ve told ourselves as a society and instead highlights realities we’ve lived but not understood well—providing clarity on the distance between “idealized” and “realized” love.
ADVANCED HONORS SEMINARS
This is a sampling of recent seminars in the program. Except where noted, the seminars do not assume any specific course or background on the student's part.
Metapatterns from Quarks to Culture
AHSEM-UA 154 Identical to ENVST-UA 254; counts toward the major in environmental studies. Volk. 4 points.
Metapatterns are structural/functional patterns in systems, which occur across the levels of the universe as it built in a series of steps of "combigenesis" from quarks to culture (about 12 main-path steps, including the emergence of atoms, simplest cells, animal societies, agriculture, the state). Examining these steps, we explore themes such as binaries, borders, centers, alphabetic holarchies, complexity theory, networks, and positive and negative feedbacks. Topics for student projects may include the environment, music, language, biological or cultural evolution, or levels in politics.
The NYU Mediation Lab
AHSEM-UA 176 Identical to ENGL-UA 252; fulfills the pre-1800 requirement for the English major. Siskin. 4 points.
The NYU Mediation Lab is open to students in all disciplines in CAS and to everyone who wishes to put their majors to work in the world. In your other classes this fall, you’ll learn what’s already in those majors. Our goal in this lab is to figure out what’s not in them—yet. MIT has its famous Media Lab (media.mit.edu) to ask “the questions not yet asked–questions whose answers could radically improve the way people live, learn, work, and play.” At NYU, we go beyond the “media” to “mediations” of every kind—to every strategy for turning the present into a better future.
Narrating Poverty in Brazilian Literature and Film
AHSEM-UA 186 Identical to PORT-UA 704. Conducted in English. Peixoto. 4 points.
Texts by Graciliano Ramos, Carolina Maria de Jesus, Clarice Lispector, Rubem Fonseca, and Patricia Melo. Films include Barren Lives, The Scavengers, The Hour of the Star, Pixote, Bus 174, City of God, Babilônia 2000, and Black Orpheus. Topics: the nature of representation and the investments of author and reader in images of deprivation; connections of poverty with violence, stigmatization, and citizenship rights; and the ethical responsibilities of the artist, reader, and spectator.
Making History: Culture and Politics in the Caribbean
AHSEM-UA 204 Identical to SPAN-UA 551 and HIST-UA 760. Fischer. 4 points.
Key moments of Caribbean history: “Discovery;” slavery and the struggles against it; colonialism and independence movements; U.S. occupations; dictatorships and revolutions; the Caribbean diaspora; and the transformation of the Caribbean islands into so many tourist destinations. Focuses on the Spanish-speaking islands (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic) without neglecting the French- and English-speaking Caribbean or questions that concern the Caribbean as a as a whole. Readings include primary sources (slave testimonies, declarations of independence, revolutionary discourses) and literary texts.
Game Theory and the Humanities
AHSEM-UA 237 Prerequisite: a willingness to learn and apply sophisticated reasoning to analyze the interactions of players in games. Brams. 4 points.
Game theory is a mathematical theory of strategy that has been applied to the analysis of conflict and cooperation in such fields as economics, political science, and biology. We discuss more unusual applications—to history, literature, philosophy, the Bible, theology, and law. Topics: Abraham’s decision to offer his son Isaac for sacrifice; the choices made by accused witches and their persecutors in medieval witch trials; Lady Macbeth's incitement of her husband to murder King Duncan in Shakespeare’s play; several strategic games played by presidents and their antagonists in domestic crises (e.g., the Civil War) and international crises (e.g., the Cuban missile crisis); and coping mechanisms used by characters in catch-22 games (including those in Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22).
Suffering and Comfort: Explorations in Narrative Medicine
AHSEM-UA 245 Shedlin. 4 points.
How do people cope with the complexities that illness, the need for care, and loss bring into our lives? Readings in narrative medicine and other sources, including film, newspaper and magazine articles, novels, poetry, and religious texts, guide our discussions about the different ways individuals and cultures treat these important aspects of the human experience. Familiarizes students with the importance of narrative expression in understanding the human experiences of illness, loss, coping, and resilience, and the conceptual frameworks that physicians, nurses, social workers, and clergy use as they assist patients and families.