A central mission of the College of Arts and Science, within the premier research institution that is New York University, is to put its undergraduates into direct contact with great ideas and great thinkers. One way the College has done so is through its Seminar program, which gives students the opportunity to participate in small, intellectually stimulating classes on important topics taught by 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.
In spring 2005, the College of Arts and Science launched the Advanced Honors Seminar program, which extends the basic principles behind the very successful Freshman Honors Seminars, offered since 1992, to upper-level courses. These small classes are taught by faculty from across the University and from the wider New York community. In some instances students may count the classes toward their major or minor, if the departments consider this appropriate; other classes will count simply as electives.
Advanced Honors Seminars have as their goals to put undergraduates into contact with leading thinkers, to introduce them to important subjects, to challenge them intellectually through demanding standards of analysis and oral and written argumentation, and to prepare them to conduct their own research. In sum, these courses are meant to foster an environment in which learning is an exciting experience for students and faculty alike.
—Dean Matthew S. Santirocco
Current Political and Moral Conflicts and the U.S. Constitution
(V28.0116; call # 72828)
Instructor: Alan J. Pomerantz
Wednesday, 4:55–7:25 p.m.
The U.S. political and moral debate has moved steadily into the realm of the Supreme Court. Some have strongly argued that the Court’s interpretation and application of the Constitution have adversely affected our fundamental rights, usurped powers from other branches of government, disregarded all notions of federalism, upset the separation of powers necessary for a stable democracy, and created an “Imperial Judiciary.” Others have argued as strongly that the Court has acted properly to protect fundamental freedoms and individual rights in the face of unprecedented political and governmental efforts to limit them, and in doing so has fulfilled the role envisioned for the Court by the Constitution. Conducted by the Socratic method, the seminar examines current controversial political issues that have a constitutional basis and the Court’s participation in the debate. Topics include abortion, euthanasia, medical life support, and capital punishment; gay rights, gay marriage, and acts in private among consenting adults; college speech codes, including “hate” speech and symbolic speech; and racial and ethnic profiling. Participants read the relevant Supreme Court cases, news reports, and political and legal commentary from across the political spectrum. Students are expected to apply critical thinking to the topics.
Alan J. Pomerantz, Esq., is a practicing lawyer and partner of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, a major international law firm. A graduate of the NYU School of Law, he also studied in Chile and received an advanced legal degree from the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands). He has lectured and taught widely, including at the NYU School of Law, the University of Amsterdam, Columbia Graduate School, the University of Concepción (Chile), the School of Visual Arts, and Hunter College High School. He has published numerous articles and contributed to several treatises on legal topics and is recognized in the International Who’s Who—Lawyers. Mr. Pomerantz has participated in important and controversial matters affecting individual rights, including death penalty appeals, rights of public artistic expression, right of privacy for acts of consenting adults, and numerous free speech cases.
The United States and the War on Terror: Terrorism, Counterterrorism, and National Security
(V28.0122; call # 75545)
Instructor: Karen J. Greenberg
Tuesday, 2:00–4:30 p.m.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States launched a “war on terror” and in so doing challenged some of the basic assumptions of American domestic and international policy. In the name of security, the powers of the presidency, the nature of the courts, the role of the media, and the limits of internationalism have come under scrutiny. This seminar explores the questions that have come to the fore in the war on terror and seeks to place them in historical context. The course will address, among other topics, the balance between security and liberty, Guantanamo Bay, detention and the roles of the Office of the Vice President, Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Department of State, and the effectiveness of the United States as a partner in the global war on terror. The course considers the changes that may be required by a 21st century in which the emergence of security as a vital concern has come to dominate questions of policy and philosophy.
Karen J. Greenberg, Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security at the NYU School of Law, is the editor of the NYU Review of Law and Security. She co-edited The Enemy Combatant Papers: American Justice, the Courts, and the War on Terror; The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib; and is the editor of Al Qaeda Now and The Torture Debate in America. She is a frequent contributor on security issues for national publications.
Origins of World War I
(V28.0128; call # 72832)
Instructor: Stewart A. Stehlin
Tuesday, 2:00–4:30 p.m.
The course explores the instability of the European state system in the pre-1914 era and the causes and responsibility for the war by examining the contributions of each of the major European states to the outbreak of war. It considers the Bismarckian system of European diplomacy and the balance of power as it existed before the war, the various diplomatic crises before 1914, the interrelation of internal events in the various countries to their foreign policy, and the various interpretations of the causes of the war. Topics include the Moroccan crises, the weaknesses of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Anglo-German naval and economic rivalries, the Balkan struggles for independence, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo, the personal responsibility of the individual statesmen, the ever-widening conflict, and the attempts to contain it. May be counted toward the major in History.
Stewart A. Stehlin is Professor Emeritus of History. His areas of teaching have been the development of the modern European state system in the 19th and 20th centuries, the history of modern Germany, and European diplomatic history of the 19th and 20th centuries. His research has centered on European cultural history, diplomatic history, and German history, especially German-Vatican affairs. Among his publications are Bismarck and the Guelph Movement, 1866–1890, a translation of Friedrich Ratzel’s Sketches of Urban and Cultural Life in North America, and Weimar and the Vatican, German-Vatican Diplomatic Relations between the Wars, 1919–1933. He is currently working on a book, Rome and the Reich: German-Vatican Relations during the Kaiserreich, 1870–1919.
Rethinking Who We Are: Interpersonal Approaches to the Person
(V28.0129; call # 75298)
Instructor: Michael A. Westerman
Monday, 2:00–4:30 p.m.
There are unresolved tensions in the field of psychology between individual-centered models of the person and interpersonal ones. The seminar is based on the belief that in order to make progress on these unresolved issues we need to recognize that they refer to a long-standing fundamental question philosophers began wondering about centuries before the discipline of psychology came into existence—what place do our relationships with other people have in our lives? Moreover, we need to engage in an inquiry that involves a dynamic interplay between psychological considerations and philosophical ones. Participants in the seminar learn about work in several specific areas where these tensions appear, including models of child development, approaches to psychopathology, and basic questions about psychotherapy. We also consider more “interpersonal” versus more individual-centered ways in which psychologists think about interpersonal interaction itself. The final topic concerns the philosophy of the social sciences. We look at recent contributions by psychologists and philosophers suggesting that we replace traditional concepts of the process of psychological research with a social view of that process. Throughout the seminar, we refer to classic philosophical texts and contributions by historians of ideas to explore critically the ways in which contemporary efforts by psychologists reflect concepts of the person from our philosophical tradition. Students who have taken V50.0247 may not register for this seminar.
Michael A. Westerman is Associate Professor of Psychology. He also holds a Consulting Faculty appointment in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Beth Israel Medical Center. His area of expertise is clinical psychology. He has conducted research on several topics concerning interpersonal relationships, including studies of mother-child interaction, family systems, and the patient-therapist relationship in psychotherapy. His publications also include articles on issues in philosophical psychology. He is currently involved in a program of research based on an interpersonal reconceptualization of psychological defenses he has developed that is called the theory of interpersonal defense.
Abortion: Examining the Issues
(V28.0142; call # 72834)
Instructor: Evelyn Birge Vitz
Tuesday and Thursday, 2:00–3:15 p.m.
This multidisciplinary course takes as its purpose a careful and thought-provoking examination of many issues surrounding abortion today. In a seminar setting, we will read about and discuss legal, medical, historical, psychological, political, religious, ethical, and gender questions in a balanced manner, considering both—indeed, sometimes several—sides of the issues involved. We will also look at the representation of and attitudes toward abortion in contemporary literature and popular culture. This seminar will provide a forum for civil, informed, and open discussion of this difficult issue.
Evelyn (Timmie) Birge Vitz is Professor of French, and Affiliated Professor of Comparative Literature, Religious Studies, and Medieval and Renaissance Studies. She has published widely on many aspects of medieval literature and culture. She has also been researching and writing about abortion for several years, and has held workshops of a dramatic script about abortion, entitled “Voices,” in New York and Washington, D.C.
“Varieties of Religious Experience” Revisited
(V28.0144; call # 72836)
Instructor: James Gilligan
Tuesday, 2:00–4:30 p.m.
This seminar will utilize but also update William James’s pioneering approach to interpreting and understanding religion in psychological rather than theological terms. We will examine how the term “religion” is more confusing than helpful when it fails to differentiate between a wide variety of utterly incompatible beliefs and practices at different stages of cognitive and emotional development. We will discuss the phenomenon of “political religions” (nationalism, racism, totalitarianism, apocalyptic fundamentalism) as attempts to reject or distort modernity (the worldview of modern science), in order to fill the vacuum that Sartre called “the God-shaped hole in the soul of modern man” that resulted when the traditional sources of moral, legal, and political authority (God, religion, pure reason) lost their credibility as sources of knowledge. We will consider the political religions as resulting from psychological regression, and contrast them with the current moment in the evolution of religious consciousness, in which the challenge is to find progressive forms of religious expression, understanding and experience that are consistent with the modern scientific mentality, while not being reducible to it. The seminar will conclude by examining whether this is the context in which the next major step in the evolution of both culture and personality will need to occur.
James Gilligan, Collegiate Professor, headed the Institute of Law and Psychiatry and directed mental health programs for the Massachusetts prison system while on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry. He has also served as Director of the Center for the Study of Violence and as a member of President Clinton’s National Campaign against Youth Violence. His books include Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, and Preventing Violence: An Agenda for the Coming Century. He has been a consultant to the Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention at the World Health Organization, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Secretary General of the United Nations, and numerous other organizations and political leaders.
The 14th Century—When Europe Was Transformed
(V28.0147; call # 72839)
Instructor: Jill N. Claster
Thursday, 2:00–4:30 p.m.
The century covered in this course saw disasters of many kinds, some all too familiar to us in the 20th century. It was a time of the Black Death and the decimation of the population on an enormous scale; a time of recession that changed the pattern of prosperity that had existed in the preceding two centuries; a time when the papacy and the Roman Church were faced with the rise of heresy and challenges to religious authority; a time of wars and of rebellions. Yet, in the same era, there was a march forward—toward new ideas, new political forms, vernacular languages, a reawakening that brought changes of immense consequence for all of Europe . . . and for our own culture. Through the darkest periods, the great and beautiful changes that are the beginnings of the Italian Renaissance emerged. This was the age of Petrarch and Boccaccio, among many others, and the great Italian painters who transformed the nature and conception of literature and art and who informed our own worldview. Overall we will study a century that many historians have understood as the most creative and the most terrible of all the centuries before the 20th. May be counted toward the major in History.
Jill N. Claster is Professor of History Emerita with a specialty in the Middle Ages. She has served as Dean of the College of Arts and Science and as Director of the Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies. She has been the recipient of a Fulbright grant and was honored with the Great Teacher Award by the Alumni Association of NYU. She is currently working on a book about the Crusades.
Reading The Dream of the Red Chamber
(V28.0149; call # 72841)
Instructor: Jing Wang
Thursday, 4:55–7:25 p.m.
The Dream of the Red Chamber is an epic literary classic produced by Cao Xueqin in the middle of the 18th century. Following the traditional form of Chinese fiction, known as “the chaptered novel,” it covers a vast terrain of Chinese culture and social life and is widely regarded as the culmination of the vernacular novel of imperial China and a synthesis of Chinese aesthetic and philosophical traditions. With the tragic love story between two teenage members of an aristocratic clan in southern China at its dramatic center the novel intimately explores the questions concerning what is eternal and what is ephemeral; love and affection, or “qing,” as the heart of being that both animates and destroys life; the nature of individual talent and its fragility; the excesses and decadence of the privileged; as well as the growing, if hidden, social and class tensions. Its manifold structure, intricate plot development, coupled with its dazzling array of memorable characters, makes this novel the most complex and colorful of all times. Both reading and discussions are conducted in English.
Jing Wang is Assistant Research Scholar in the College of Arts and Science and the Department of East Asian Studies, where, from 1999 to 2006, she was Lecturer in Chinese. She is the editor and translator of Anthology of Short Stories by American Women Writers in the 1990’s (2002). In 2000, she was the featured columnist/translator on foreign literature for the literary magazine Shanghai Literature. Her teaching and research interests include women writers in China and the West, literary translation, modern Chinese social thought, and comparative studies of cities and urban culture. In addition to literary translations, she also publishes personal essays.
Civil War at Rome
(V28.0153; call # 75602)
Instructor: Michèle Lowrie
Monday and Wednesday, 2:00–3:15 p.m.
This course examines the rich literature documenting the civil wars that tore apart the Roman Republic in the first century BCE and the empire in the first century CE. Contemporary and later writing of history, epic, elegy, and lyric poetry finds civil war a defining experience for Roman identity. The legend about Romulus and Remus puts fratricide at the center of the city’s foundation. The expanding empire found former enemies drawn within, so that what previously was a war between city states took on the coloring of civil contention retrospectively once these areas were unified. Different sides elevate their leaders as heroes in a cascading sequence: Caesar versus Pompey, Brutus and Cassius versus Caesar, Antony and Octavian versus Brutus, Octavian versus Antony. But what do the leaders stand for? Why does civil war become a paradigm for thinking about the state? Is social violence the reason Roman literature is obsessed with politics? We will examine the differences between sedition, conspiracy, and civil war through the writings of Cicero, Caesar, Sallust, Vergil, Horace, Propertius, Livy, Lucan, Tacitus, and Suetonius along with selections from the Greek historians Plutarch and Appian. All materials will be read in English translation. May be counted toward the major in Classics.
Michèle Lowrie, Associate Professor of Classics, teaches classes ranging from elementary language to advanced graduate seminars. She specializes in the literature of Republican and Augustan Rome and has published on the majority of authors represented in the course, including a monograph on Horace and an edited volume on the reception of Vergil. Current research interests are ancient conceptions of foundation and sovereignty, the role of the exemplum as a figure that tells consequential narratives, and national identity. The reception of Rome in modern literature and political thought is an abiding concern. She recently organized a conference on this topic at the University of Konstanz in Germany. Forthcoming are another monograph, Writing, Performance, and Authority in Augustan Rome, and an anthology of articles on Horace.
Transdisciplinary Investigations across Multiple Evolutionary Scales
(V28.0154; call # 75429)
Instructor: Tyler Volk
Monday, 3:30–6:00 p.m.
This TIMES seminar will take on the basis of pattern itself across the scales of nature and mind, and search for common functional principles in those patterns. The guiding context is the fact that evolution as a form-generating process, in the general sense, occurs on multiple scales, such as biological (theory of evolution), cultural (invention and social selection), and cognition (learning and directed creativity). All these scales have unique but also similar subprocesses of replication, variation, and selection. Therefore, where the functional advantages of certain general solutions are the same to the challenges of existence on different scales, we should expect to find common patterns as those solutions. Students will find this an exciting area of inquiry, and are expected to enlarge their intellectual horizons as they engage in self-directed research in the context of a diverse group. Students from all disciplines are encouraged to enroll.
Tyler Volk is Associate Professor of Biology and also Director of Science in the new Environmental Studies Program. He is author of Metapatterns across Space, Time, and Mind, as well as of recent papers that elucidate the reasons for the generation of common functional principles at different scales. He has also looked at death as a functional aspect of life on multiple scales, from bacteria to human psychology, in his book What Is Death?: A Scientist Looks at the Cycle of Life—and so this view of transdisciplinary patterns has implications for building bridges of understanding across scales. He is now working on a project called “the evolution of gods.”
From Adam and Eve to the Trial of Jesus: Justice and Injustice in Biblical Narrative
(V28.0155; call # 75348)
Instructor: J. H. H. Weiler
Thursday, 9:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
The Bible, as one of the foundational texts of Western civilization, is a gallery of lively episodes that stimulate, nurture, or otherwise challenge our sense and value of justice and injustice. Its full-blooded characters gush forth with all their imperfections, and their arresting lives present specimens of ethical problems that we continue to confront in our everyday lives. In this course students examine legal, moral, and normative existential issues embodied in the dramas of such characters. In light of their episodes, themes that have relevance to contemporary issues—such as “axis of evil,” “communal responsibility,” “ecological crisis,” “ethics vs. religion,” “genocide,” “holy war,” “law and ruler,” “the Other,” “religious intolerance,” “sanctity of human life,” and “sexual temptation and moral obligation”—will be thoroughly scrutinized. Readings will cover some key texts on the notion(s) of justice, readings from the Bible and selected bibliographies for each of the biblical episodes. Students will acquire tools to differentiate and hone their understanding of the meaning of “justice” and be challenged to reconsider, both critically and creatively, their assumptions and apprehension of moral responsibility, and ultimately, their own worldview and self-understanding through a rereading of passages from the Bible. The seminar will be taught at the Law School by law school methods (“Socratic” interactive) and standards—rigorous but academically and intellectually rewarding. May be counted toward the major in Religious Studies or in Jewish History and Civilization.
J. H. H. Weiler is University Professor and European Union Jean Monnet Chair at NYU Law School. He serves as Director of The Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law & Justice and The Tikvah Center for Law and Jewish Civilization. He was previously Professor of Law at the Michigan Law School and then the Manley Hudson Professor of Law and the Jean Monnet Chair at the Harvard Law School. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the Editor-in-Chief of The European Journal of International Law. His recent publications include Un Europa Cristiana(translated into nine languages), The Constitution of Europe (translated into seven languages), and a novella, Der Fall Steinmann.
Reconstructing World Violence: A Hobbesian Approach
(V28.0156; call # 75320)
Instructor: William Klein
Wednesday: 12:30–3:00 p.m.
Humans are as violent as any creature, but we have something in abundance that others may lack: the ability to sustain and glorify our violence by justifying it. After attempting to develop coherent accounts of this phenomenon, students in this seminar consider ways in which pacifist systems of thought have interacted with violent systems of justification, often but not always with genocidal results. It was in the midst of such a violent crisis that Hobbes initiated what remains an undeveloped approach. If one can extrapolate from Hobbes’s nationalist agenda and redirect his approach in a democratic way, one can arrive (as many have) at the following claim: only when globally sovereign conflict-resolving institutions are fully authorized will any subordinate system justifying violence lose its force and coherence, except in the case of violent revolutionary movements which challenge the global authority itself. Partly by examining various fledgling attempts to operate aspects of a future sovereign system, we ask of this claim not so much whether it is practical as whether we resist its implications or suspect its grounding.
William Klein teaches social foundations in NYU’s Liberal Studies Program. In the College of Arts and Science he has also taught in both the Morse Academic Plan and the Freshman Honors Seminar Program. Before coming to NYU, he was at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he taught the history of Western social thought. He writes on a range of topics, from Renaissance political thought to constitutional history and (under a pen name) modern crime.
(V28.0157; call # 75428)
Instructor: Georgina Dopico Black
Wednesday, 12:30–3:00 p.m.
This seminar explores the privileged position of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote as first modern novel while also attending to the historical and literary contexts from which it emerged. On one hand, our close reading of Don Quixote considers how it is a work of recycling and crisis that incorporates, parodies, and transforms all previous literary —and many non-literary— discourses to invent a new narrative form that does not subscribe to any single poetics. On the other hand, this seminar attempts to contextualize Cervantes’s work within its historical moment. To this end we consider some of the most important social, political, economic, religious and cultural debates and institutions of Renaissance Europe including Inquisition, imperial expansion, and political and economic decline. We also explore questions of madness, erotic and literary desire, authorship, subjectivity, the seductions and the dangers of reading, the status of representation, translation, literal vision versus literary visions, the workings of gender, race, class and nation, and the tenuous frontiers between fiction and history. The seminar is conducted in English. Students may read the text in English (using Edith Grossman’s acclaimed translation) or in the original Spanish. May be counted toward the major in Spanish or in Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
Georgina Dopico Black is Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and Editor of the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies. She is the author of Perfect Wives, Other Women: Adultery and Inquisition in Early Modern Spain (2001), winner of the MLA’s Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize and of Yale’s Heyman Award. She has co-edited Suplemento al Tesoro de la lengua española de Sebastián de Covarrubias (2001), as well as two books on Cervantes: En un lugar de la Mancha (1999) and USA Cervantes (2008). Her current projects include one book on Don Quixote, another on bodies and methods of truth production in the early modern period, and a cultural history of medieval and Renaissance Spain. She has also published articles on the morisco expulsion, the first Spanish dictionary, Renaissance libraries, Inquisitorial torture, prostitution, relics, and questions of national definition.
The New York Dance Scene: Performance and Criticism Today
(V28.0158; call # 75427)
Instructor: Jennifer Homans
Wednesday, 3:30–6:00 p.m.
This course offers a tour of today’s dance scene in New York. We attend and discuss performances ranging from classical ballet to “cutting edge” contemporary dance. But seeing is only the beginning. Students also study the historical roots of each performance we attend and read about the artists involved (dancers and choreographers but also musicians and designers). We evaluate each performance critically and historically, and situate it within the larger cultural debates of our time. We study classical ballet in its traditional and contemporary forms through performances by New York City Ballet and Armitage Gone! Our examination of the current state of American modern dance takes us to performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Dance Theater Workshop, and the Baryshnikov Arts Center, among others. Students attend performances every other week; the interim week is devoted to discussion and analysis. In preparation for class, students read historical background, biographies, and criticism, and each student prepares an in-class presentation relating to the performances we attend. In consultation with the instructor, students also select a topic or artist for a final extended essay.
Jennifer Homans is the dance critic for the New Republic and a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at New York University. She holds a Ph.D. in Modern European History, and her forthcoming book, Classical Ballet: A New History, is a cultural history that follows ballet from its origins in 17th-century France to the present. Her articles have also appeared in the New York Times and the New York Review of Books. In her previous career, she was a professional dancer, trained in ballet, modern, and jazz techniques. She performed with the Chicago Lyric Opera Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet and has danced a wide repertory, ranging from the ballet classics to works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and other contemporary choreographers.
The Pastness of the Present: Exploring “Historically Informed Performance” and “Historically Involved Composition”
(V28.0159; call # 75642)
Instructor: Elizabeth Hoffman
Monday and Wednesday, 12:30–1:45 p.m.
How have performers of notated Western musics resolved the interpretive dilemmas that result from performing musics which arose amidst distant historical conditions and traditions? Tracing 19th- and 20th-century answers to this question, students will explore the historically informed performance movement in music studies. Concurrently, we will consider what this movement’s hypotheses and ethics might reveal if used as a framework for viewing composers’ confrontations with past style practices. The ultimate goal of the course is to give students a new set of questions with which to interrogate musical culture in the 21st century, and an intellectual framework with which to formulate their own responses and experience. Case studies will be drawn from the baroque period and the 19th and 20th centuries, and will include selected examples of recent popular musics. The course should be of interest to students majoring in music, history, philosophy, and other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. There are no prerequisites for this course. Ability to read music is strongly suggested, but is not required.
Elizabeth Hoffman, Associate Professor of Music, is the recipient of a Golden Dozen Teaching Award. Her research interests include theories of tuning; timbrally and texturally driven media forms; rhythmic complexity; theories of notation and interpretation; aesthetics; the impact of technology on creative thought; and the involvement of women in the field of music composition. In addition to acoustic music, she composes electroacoustic music, including works for stereo and multi-channel sound, instrument and computer generated sound, and live electroacoustic music. Her work has been recognized by artists grants from the Seattle Arts Commission, a Bourges Residence Prize, and a Prix Ars Electronica mention.