The College is one of the most diverse communities anywhere–an exciting, sophisticated center in one of the most exciting and cosmopolitan cities in the world. Our mission is to prepare students to be thought leaders and successful global citizens. We do this by creating unique academic opportunities for student and faculty engagement that emphasize research and scholarly communication. Part of the College’s Honors Program, the Advanced Honors Seminars place students in small classes with distinguished faculty to study topics that have the potential to change how we think and how we work. As such, they are ideal gateways for the intellectually stimulating discussions we aim to foster. They challenge students and faculty to engage intensively within and beyond their fields of study, and they inspire intellectual responsibility towards the scholarly community and the wider world.
In spring 2005, the College of Arts and Science launched the Advanced Honors Seminar program, which extends the basic principles behind the Freshman Honors Seminars to upper-level courses (open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors). Distinguished professors drawn not only from the College’s faculty but also from NYU’s professional schools, and from among New York’s professional, cultural, and governmental leaders, teach these small classes. In many instances, the seminars are cross-listed with departments and students may count the classes toward their majors or minors; in some cases, the classes will count only as electives.
Advanced Honors Seminars have three central goals: to create close mentoring relationships between exceptional faculty and students; to challenge students intellectually through honors-level work in critical thinking, writing, and conversing; and to strengthen students’ interest in and aptitude for conducting independent research (e.g. a DURF grant or a Senior Honors Thesis). They are designed to foster scholarly insight and debate and to nurture the intellectual passions of students and faculty alike. We encourage you to try one this year!
Advanced Honors Seminars
Fall Term 2016
NYU Mediation Lab VII: Startups at the Frontiers of Knowledge
AHSEM-UA 176 (class # 7960)
Instructor: Cliff Siskin
Tuesday, 2:00–4:30 p.m.
The NYU Mediation Lab is open to ALL disciplines in FAS 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. In the first “Startups” Lab last fall, majors across the humanities, sciences, and social sciences invented a new kind of search engine—one that “takes your gaze beyond what you think you want—and what others think you want—to return information that is new and unexpected.” This fall, we’ll build on that success to pioneer new frontiers. Our first step will be to map the existing frontiers in our different subject areas by sharing our own areas of expertise and then heading out into the city for field research at other universities, as well as other institutions, from think tanks to museums. Our goal is to identify opportunities for knowledge startups like the ones that gave birth to Silicon Valley. We’ll then all choose one and work collaboratively to make it happen. Its fate will be in your hands, and, instead of only receiving a letter grade from me, you’ll end the term by presenting what you’ve built to an invited audience from outside and well as inside the University. [Since we will prepare ourselves by learning from “startups” in the past, the Lab will have the added bonus for English majors of fulfilling the pre-1800 requirement.] Origin of the Lab: 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. Cross-listed with English as ENGL-UA 252.001.
Clifford Siskin is the Henry W. and Alfred A. Berg Professor of English and American Literature and the Director of The Re:Enlightenment Project. His subject is the interrelations of literary, social, and technological change. Links between past and present inform all of his work, from his sequencing of the genres of subjectivity (The Historicity of Romantic Discourse) to his recovery of literature’s role in the formation of the modern disciplines (The Work of Writing). He is also co-editor, with William Warner, of This Is Enlightenment, and a forthcoming monograph that asks when and how the central genre of Enlightenment became the thing that we now love to blame: the SYSTEM.
Making Art in the Anthropocene: The Creative Research Project on Climate and Species
AHSEM-UA 193 (class # 20305)
Instructor: Una Chuadhuri
Wednesday, 4:55–7:25 p.m.
This workshop-seminar will explore key themes in post-humanist thought by reading, discussing and testing—in our own creative practice—a variety of recent ideas about what it means to live, think, and feel in this time of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change, ecological turmoil, and species extinction. We will read texts by thinkers such as Bruno Latour, Phillipe Descola, Elizabeth Grosz, Gilles Deleuze, Donna Haraway, Jane Bennett, and Timothy Morton, and we will study a variety of literary, cinematic and visual art works, such as Wallace Shawn’s Grasses of a Thousand Colors, Marina Zurkow’s “Necrocracy,” Alan Sekula’s “The Forgotten Space,” Beyonce’s “Formation,” Nick Hayes’s “The Rime of the Modern Mariner,” Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter, Laars Von Trier’s Melancholia, and Richard McGuire’s Here. A main interest of this course is to experiment with “creative research,” a way of doing intellectual work in which art-making is regarded as—and systematically used as—a mode of knowledge and inquiry, and in which ideas are developed by doing and making as well as by thinking/writing/speaking. Prior artistic training/practice is welcomed but not required; however, all students must be willing to and interested in exploring their "inner artist." Cross-listed with Animal Studies as ANST-UA 393.001; with Environmental Studies as ENVST-UA 593.001; with Dramatic Literature as DRLIT-UA 971.001; and with the Department of Drama in the Tisch School of the Arts as THEA-UT 632.001.
Una Chaudhuri, Collegiate Professor and Professor of English, of Drama, and of Environmental Studies, has served as Chair of both the Department of English in the Faculty of Arts and Science and of the Department of Drama at the Tisch School of the Arts. She is the author of No Man’s Stage: A Semiotic Study of Jean Genet’s Plays and Staging Place: The Geography of Modern Drama, editor of Rachel’s Brain and Other Storms: The Performance Scripts of Rachel Rosenthal, and co-editor, with Elinor Fuchs, of the critical anthology Land/Scape/Theater. Her current work explores the intersections of performance studies and the emerging field of animal studies, on which she just guest-edited a special issue of TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies. She has won both the College’s Golden Dozen Award for Teaching Excellence and the University’s Distinguished Teaching Award.
Literature and Machines
AHSEM-UA 226 (class # 19696)
Instructor: Nicola Cipani
Tuesday, 12:30–3:15 p.m.
Machine metaphors play an important role in modern literature, conveying beliefs, anxieties, shifts, and reflections on key topics, including the nature of consciousness and creativity; the dynamics of desire and gratification; gender roles; the organization of society; the meaning of "nature"; and the function of technology. This course explores different manifestations of the machine theme, broadly clustered around the following categories: imaginary machines constituting the centerpiece of narrative plots; machine aesthetic as modernist ideal; and mechanization of the inventive process (text-generating machines). Students read and discuss a selection of works from different cultural contexts, primarily from the late 19th and 20th century (e.g., Belle Époque, Futurist, and postwar), representing a wide spectrum of attitudes toward the machine, from dreamy immersion in virtual realities to enlightened machine-assisted awakening, from the fear of dehumanization to the desire for man-machine fusion.
Nicola Cipani is Assistant Clinical Professor at the Department of Italian Studies and has been working at NYU for ten years. His interests include reception of antiquity in medieval and early modern culture, Renaissance philosophy, the intersection of verbal/ visual forms (such as the art of memory, emblem books, and representations of dreams), and 20th-century experimental literature. At the Italian Department he has served in the capacity of Director of Language Programs (since 2005), Director of Summer Programs (2011-12), and Director of Undergraduate Studies (2011, 2013).
Game Theory and the Humanities
AHSEM-UA 237 (class # 25159)
Instructor: Steven J. Brams
Wednesday, 4:55-7:25 p.m.
Prerequisite: No mathematical background beyond high school mathematics is assumed, but a willingness to learn and apply sophisticated reasoning to analyze the interactions of players in games is essential.
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. In this seminar, we discuss more unusual applications—to history, literature, philosophy, the Bible, theology, and law. We discuss 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). Cross-listed with the Department of Politics as POL-UA 895.001.
Steven J. Brams is Professor of Politics at NYU. He is the author of several books—most recently, Mathematics and Democracy and Game Theory and the Humanities—that apply game theory and social choice theory to voting and elections, bargaining and fairness, international relations, and the Bible, theology and literature. He holds two patents for fair-division algorithms and is Chairman of the Advisory Board of Fair Outcomes, Inc., and a former president of the Peace Science Society and of the Public Choice Society. He is an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow and was a Guggenheim Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation.
Spies in Ireland: Literature and Surveillance
AHSEM-UA 239 (class # 24945)
Instructor: Kelly Sullivan
Tuesday and Thursday, 2:00–3:15 p.m.
Secret liaisons, listening in, seduction, betrayal: these are characteristics not only of the act of espionage, but also of the art of literature. In this course, we will examine the importance of the spy novel in 20th century literature, with special attention to work by Irish writers. Through close reading and historical contextualization, we will consider classics like Erskine Childers’ The Riddle of the Sands, John Le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, and John Banville’s The Untouchable. Our reading will help us formulate the political and cultural parameters of 20th century espionage — Banville and Graham Greene both fictionalize the infamous Cambridge spy ring and the life of Kim Philby of the 1930s, and many writers were also spies. But we will also use these texts as a way of examining the relationship between literature and privacy, and the art of fiction and the act of spying. After all, aren’t we listening in to private lives when we read? Cross-listed with the Department of Irish Studies IRISH-UA 188.001.
Kelly Sullivan received her PhD in British and Irish literature from Boston College in 2014. She has an MA in Anglo-Irish literature from University College, Dublin (2005) and a BA from Skidmore College (2002). Her research and teaching interests are in literary modernism and late modernism, with a particular focus on fiction and poetry of the 1930’s and 1940’s. She also researches modern Irish art and the connections between literary and visual arts movements in Ireland in the 20th century, contemporary Irish poetry, and ecocritical writing.
Her fellowships and awards include the Adele Dalsimer Dissertation Fellowship (2012-2013) and the Boston College Irish Studies Fellowship (2008-2014); the Gus Martin Memorial Prize and the Charlotte Kelleher Award at University College Dublin (2005); and a Fulbright Scholarship for study in Dublin in 2002-2003.
The New Documentary in Brazil
AHSEM-UA 217 (class # 25687)
Instructor: Marta Peixoto
Tuesday and Thursday, 3:30–4:45 p.m.
How does documentary film represent reality? Is it a transparent window? Or is it a more complex form that may include elements of staging and fiction? In Brazil (as elsewhere) the last twenty years have seen a surge in documentary filmmaking and critical thinking about this kind of film. The increased production of documentary film is part of the Retomada or Renewal of Brazilian cinema of all kinds since the 1990s, made possible by favorable government policies. This course, CONDUCTED IN ENGLISH, will examine a selection of these Brazilian films from the 1990s to the present (with brief retrospectives to earlier films) and explore issues such as: the uses of fact and fiction and the multiple ways in which documentary film may go beyond offering realistic versions of preexistent realities; the scope of its political impact; ethical concerns about the respectful use of other people's images and words; the construction of layered and complex images of Brazil. Readings concern these and other aspects of documentary films. Cross-listed with the Department of Portuguese as PORT-UA 706.001 and with the Department of Dramatic Literature as DRLIT-UA 527.001.
Marta Peixoto is Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese. Her studies focus on Brazilian literature and culture, and she has written books and essays on the major 20th-century writers Machado de Assis, João Cabral de Melo Neto and Clarice Lispector, as well as on other novelists and poets. Her work draws on gender theory and more recently on theories of affect. She has also published essays on Brazilian cinema, focusing on representations of urban crises, on the blurring of distinctions between documentary and fiction, and on lyric aspects of recent documentary films.