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 most instances these seminars are cross-listed with departments, which allows students to count the classes directly toward a major or minor in the relevant department; in some cases, the classes will simply count as electives.
Advanced Honors Seminars have as their goals to create mentoring relations between exceptional faculty and students, to challenge students intellectually through honors-level work in critical thinking, oral argumentation, and written expression, and to prepare students for conducting independent research (e.g., a DURF grant or a Senior Honors Thesis). 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
The Port of New York
(V28.0117; call # 76037)
Instructor: Bryan Waterman
Monday, 3:30–6:00 p.m.
This course offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of New York City cultures through the prism of its waterfront and harbor, a source not only of the city’s economic development but also of its multicultural and polyglot character. Through a combination of walking tours and museum outings, the seminar seeks to make the city itself the classroom: at least half of our course time will be conducted out of doors or in cultural institutions downtown and elsewhere, including the South Street Seaport Museum, the Museum of Chinese in America, Ellis Island Immigration Museum, the New York Historical Society, and others. Incorporating discussions from the disciplines of architectural history, archaeology, literary studies, and history, the seminar foregrounds problems of discipline and method in the study of the city’s cultures and therefore seeks participation from the range of disciplines and departments that make up CAS. Topics include the founding of New Amsterdam, slavery in British Manhattan and the early American republic, immigration’s perpetual reshaping of city cultures, the emergence of popular forms such as blackface minstrelsy, the invention of neighborhoods such as Chinatown and Little Italy, the “destruction” of lower Manhattan in the 20th century, the decline of the port and its marketplaces, the development of the World Trade Center, and the ongoing effects of the 9/11 attacks.
Bryan Waterman has been a member of NYU’s English Department since 2001 and currently is Director of Undergraduate Studies there. He teaches courses in American literature, including “Writing New York” (with Cyrus Patell). His scholarship includes the book Republic of Intellect: The Friendly Club of New York City and the Making of American Literature (Johns Hopkins, 2007) and, co-edited with Professor Patell, The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of New York (2010). He is a Faculty Fellow in Residence at the Residential College at Broome Street and is currently at work on a book about sex scandals in the era of the American Revolution.
“Varieties of Religious Experience” Revisited
(V28.0144; call # 73247)
Instructor: James Gilligan
Wednesday, 3:30–6:00 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. Cross-listed with Religious Studies as V90.0140.
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 President of the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy, and as Chair of the Committee on prevention, which was part 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 World Health Organization’s Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Law Lords of the House of Lords, and other groups and individuals throughout the world.
The Making of an Iconic Image
(V28.0148; call # 76047)
Instructor: Deborah Willis
Tuesday, 2:00–4:30 p.m.
Iconic images are pictures that become rooted in our personal memory and are stored away for future reference through our experiences with them. Often, the power of an iconic image extends beyond the meaning of its original purpose and takes on another form socially and historically. This seminar explores the range of ideas and methods used by photographers, artists, historians, filmmakers, and critical thinkers in addressing the notion of iconic images within photography, video, and film. It combines historical, contemporary, and theoretical approaches to identity politics and visual culture, and addresses how images are constructed through art, media, advertising, political campaigns, war and disaster, beauty, and popular culture. Class discussions highlight the trends and transformations that have characterized the evolution of the iconic image. Using a series of case studies, we explore the construction of beauty and style, gendered images, race, and pop culture. We also consider issues of representation, display, and reception, as well as the wider social context in which art, music, and culture are experienced in private and public spaces. In addition to classes held on campus, field trips are taken to archives, museums and galleries. Each week students discuss a photograph of their own choice.
Deborah Willis is University Professor and Professor of Photography and Imaging in the Tisch School of the Arts. Her many awards include a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, an Alfonse Fletcher Jr. Fellowship, a MacArthur Fellowship, an Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation Award, and an International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Writing on Photography. As a former curator of exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and as the curator of photography and prints at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, she has organized exhibitions and lectured extensively on African American photography. She is the author of Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present and, most recently, Posing Beauty: African American Images 1990 to the Present and Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs.
Reading and Representation in Early Modern Europe
(V28.0162; call # 76033)
Instructor: Jacques Lezra
Monday, 12:30–3:15 p.m.
Is there a distinctively modern way of seeing? Of reading? What sorts of objects are proper to each? Are viewers and readers the same sorts of subjects? How do changes in technology help to shape how we see and read, and in consequence who we are? Pressing for answers to these questions, this seminar tacks between Renaissance painting, philosophy, cartography, anatomy, and narrative fiction, treating works by Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Dürer, Vasari, Vesalius, Cervantes, Descartes, Montaigne, and Velázquez. It pays close attention to theories of perspective (early modern as well as contemporary), embodiment, the gaze, subjectivity, fetishism, and reflection. Additional readings are from Freud, Damisch, Panofsky, Lacan, Cassirer, Foucault, Irigaray, Hockney, Mulvey, and others. Cross-listed with Comparative Literature as V29.0162.
Jacques Lezra is Professor of Spanish, English, and Comparative Literature, and Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature. He is author of, among other works, Wild Materialism: The Ethic of Terror and the Modern Republic and Unspeakable Subjects: The Genealogy of the Event in Early Modern Europe. Lezra's research focuses on the points of contact and conflict between contemporary and early modern philosophy, on the theory and practices of translation, and broadly on the literary and visual culture of the early modern period.
The Renaissance of the 12th Century
(V28.0163; call # 76070)
Instructor: Jill N. Claster
Thursday, 2:00–4:30 p.m.
The 12th century was a period of astonishing change and creativity—a century which witnessed an explosion of activity in every area of human endeavor so remarkable that it is called a Renaissance. The cultural achievements are astounding: the glorious Gothic cathedrals; a new literary culture inspired by the classical Roman past; a vernacular literature—the chansons de geste, heroic epics, love poetry, and courtly love…all these and more were the abundant fruits of the 12th century. In the political sphere it was a time of organization—in the secular kingdoms and in the Roman church. The century witnessed the growth of papal power, the spread of monasteries, and, under the leadership of the papacy, of one of the great movements of the century: the crusades to the Holy Land. The century had an abundance of gifted, colorful, and influential people, among them Henry II of England and Thomas a Becket; Heloise and Abelard; Eleanor of Aquitaine; Richard the Lionheart; Frederick Barbarossa; and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. The list is long and wonderful. There was another, far less glorious side of the century: the beginnings of what one historian has called “a persecuting society.” So we will study the role of heresy and heretics; the position of the Jews in Europe; the fear and the treatment of lepers; and finally, the position and role of women. Cross-listed with History as V57.0107. (Please note that this course does not satisfy the advanced research seminar requirement for the history major.)
Jill N. Claster is Professor of History Emerita with a specialty in the Middle Ages. She has taught and studied the Crusader era extensively and, among her other books, is the author of the recently published book, Sacred Violence: The European Crusades to the Middle East, 1095–1396 (2009). She 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.
Marx, Nietzsche, Freud
(V28.0164; call # 76072)
Instructor: Paul Fleming
Tuesday and Thursday, 2:00–3:15 p.m.
This course introduces students to the work of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, three German-language authors who in different and decisive ways provided radically new understandings of economics, philosophy, and the psyche. Writing from the mid-19th century through the 1930s, the three thinkers placed their indelible stamps on reformulating modern notions of the state, the subject, knowledge, and the mind. The purpose of this course is to provide a comprehensive engagement with the writings of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud by bringing them into dialogue with each other. That is, rather than reading the three authors chronologically, the course is organized around six topoi—interpretation, history, subjectivity, politics, religion, and art—in which a paradigmatic text from each author is read. The seminar underscores their prevailing actuality and thereby strives to delineate the origin of much modern thinking. Cross-listed with German as V51.0240 and with Comparative Literature as V29.0240.
Paul Fleming is Director of College Honors and Chair of the German Department. Twice a recipient of the Golden Dozen Teaching Award, he has published numerous essays on German literature and philosophy as well as the books Exemplarity and Mediocrity: The Art of the Average from Bourgeois Tragedy to Realism (2009) and The Pleasures of Abandonment: Jean Paul and the Life of Humor(2006). His translation of Peter Szondi’s Essay on the Tragic appeared in 2002 and Hans Blumenberg’s Care Crosses the River in 2010.
Edmund Wilson and the Art of Cultural Criticism
(V28.0165; call # 76075)
Instructor: Paul Berman
Tuesday, 3:30–6:00 p.m.
Edmund Wilson (1895–1972) was the greatest cultural critic that America has ever produced—or so a good many cultural critics of our own time have come to believe. Wilson belonged to a circle of writers from the First World War generation that included John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. He wrote novels, poetry, plays, and diaries. But mostly he wrote book reviews and essays on literary, political and historical topics, which ran in the New Republic, the New Yorker, theNew York Review of Books and other magazines. Reading a substantial sampling of Wilson’s work, we will examine a series of large topics, including the cultural atmosphere of Greenwich Village early in the 20th century; the rise of literary modernism; the influence of Marxism; the literature of the Civil War; and various traditions of American thought and literature over the centuries. We will pay close attention to Wilson’s style of journalistic writing: his emphases on clarity, on conversational ease, and on emotional forcefulness. Students will be asked to apply Wilson’s principles of writing to their own compositions—an extremely useful thing to do for any student who seeks to become a better writer. Cross-listed with Journalism as V54.0401, section 001.
Paul Berman is a Distinguished Writer in Residence, a Professor of Journalism, and a Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU. He is the author or editor of nine books, including The Flight of the Intellectuals; A Tale of Two Utopias: The Political Journey of the Generation of 1968; Terror and Liberalism; and Power and the Idealists: Or, The Passion of Joschka Fischer and Its Aftermath. He edited Carl Sandburg: Selected Poems, published by the American Poets Project of the Library of America. His books have been published in fourteen languages. He writes for the New York Times Book Review, the New Republic, and other magazines in the United States and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from the MacArthur and Guggenheim foundations, among other awards.
Power, Domination, and Resistance
(V28.0166; call # 76086)
Instructor: Steven Lukes
Tuesday, 12:30–3:00 p.m.
This course will introduce students to the complexities of conceptualizing and studying power. How do we determine where it lies? Who has more and who less? How do we study its mechanisms and effects, above all in view of the intuition that it is at its most effective when least observable by both agents and observers? Is power at its most effective when most imperceptible, and, if so, how are we to study it? What are the relations between the concept of “power” and such related concepts as “authority,” “influence,” “manipulation,” “coercion,” “force,” and “violence”? What is the relationship between so-called “hard” and “soft” power? We will look at some classical writings (from Thomas Hobbes to Max Weber), at modern writers (such as Hannah Arendt, Pierre Bourdieu, and Michel Foucault), and at work by contemporary political scientists and sociologists. Abstract discussion will be leavened throughout by case studies exemplifying the conceptual discussion. Cross-listed with Sociology as V93.0941.
Steven Lukes is Professor of Sociology. He studied philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford, where he obtained his doctorate, writing a thesis on Durkheim under the supervision of the anthropologist E. E. Evans-Prichard. He has previously held posts in Politics and Sociology at Balliol College, Oxford; in Political and Social Theory at the European University Institute in Florence; in Moral Philosophy at the University of Siena; and in Sociology at the London School of Economics. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and an editor of the European Journal of Sociology. His writing and teaching have ranged over political science, political and moral philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and the philosophy of the social sciences. His published works include Emile Durkheim: His Life and Work; Individualism, Marxism, and Morality; Liberals and Cannibals: The Implications of Diversity; The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat: A Comedy of Ideas (a novel soon to be reissued); and Power: A Radical View, which recently appeared in a much-expanded second edition. He is also co-editor of Rationality and Relativism and The Category of the Person: Anthropology, Philosophy, History. His most recent book is Moral Relativism.
Disability and Sexuality in American Culture
(V28.0167; call # 76069)
Instructor: Julie Passanante Elman
Monday and Wednesday, 11:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m.
How do we define a “normal” body? A healthy body? How do we define abnormal or unhealthy bodies? This course will examine disability as it is culturally-constructed, experienced, and represented by analyzing the complicated cultural significance of embodiment. We will examine major strands of disability theory, relating them to and understanding them through disability history, lived experience, activist movements, and cultural production. Although medical institutions have constructed disability and disease through ideas of cure and rehabilitation, we will analyze cultural meanings of disability and ability in mainstream and independent film, television, memoir, popular literature, and stand-up comedy. Through the lenses of queer, disability, and feminist theory, we will not only interrogate the issue of sexuality in the lives of people with disabilities, but also think critically about the role of disability and able-bodiedness in constructing norms of gender and sexuality. Students will perform cultural critique using the tools of disability and queer studies to analyze the cultural construction of “healthy” and “unhealthy” bodies, normal/abnormal bodies, dis/ability, sexuality, and mental capacity. Cross-listed with Social and Cultural Analysis as V18.0481, section 001.
Julie Passanante Elman received her Ph.D. in American Studies from George Washington University in 2008. Her dissertation, “Medicalizing Edutainment: Enforcing Disability in the Teen Body, 1970–2000,” historicizes shifting cultural constructions of adolescence to argue that disability has been a central trope through which American teen citizenship and coming-of-age have been culturally imagined. Interdisciplinary in approach and materials, the project analyzes news media, film, television, young adult literature, legislation, policy debates, technology, and neuroscience. Julie’s broad research interests include the intersections of disability studies and queer theory, 20th-century American media and cultural history, American literature, science and technology, and youth cultures.
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in 20th-Century America
(V28.0168; call # 76076)
Instructor: Michael Nash
Monday, 2:00–4:30 p.m.
Conflicts over racial equality, freedom of speech, and equal protection under the law that were guaranteed in the Constitution have been contested terrain throughout U.S. history. These struggles sharpened in the 20th century as African Americans fought to end racial segregation, women sought equal rights, business interests resisted labor militancy, while federal and state governments suppressed radicals and other dissenters. This seminar examines the legal struggles and the social movements that took place as Americans fought for civil rights and civil liberties during periods of war, industrial unrest, and social change. It will explore these stories by analyzing legal history as political, social, and cultural history. This is an interdisciplinary course. Students study novels, poems, oral memoirs, view motion picture films, and read historical monographs that speak to this big and important subject. The Tamiment Library, one of the most important repositories in the United States documenting the history of radical politics, civil rights, and civil liberties, will be our laboratory. Students will work with archives and other special collections on a weekly basis. They will learn how to use and evaluate these primary sources, interpret evidence, make analytical arguments, and develop research questions. Cross-listed with History as V57.0664. (Please note that this course does not satisfy the advanced research seminar requirement for the history major.)
Michael Nash is the Director of the Tamiment Library and teaches in the History Department. He is co-director of NYU’s Center for the United States and the Cold War and the Frederic Ewen Academic Freedom Center. His publications include Conflict and Accommodation: Coal Miners Steel Workers, and Socialism, 1890–1920; Red Activists and Black Freedom: James and Esther Jackson and the Origins of the Modern Civil Rights Movement; and The Good Fight Continues: World War II Letters from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
Love and Violence
(V28.0169; call # 76318)
Instructor: William Klein
Wednesday, 2:00–4:30 p.m.
If there are many types of love, ranging from the romantic to the civic, there may be just as many, if not more, types of violence. One reason for this close correspondence is that people who love someone, something, or some activity, may find themselves in the presence of a rival. Not that rivalries need turn violent, as some reductive theorists claim; whether or not violence is attached to rivalry would seem to depend not only on the type of love involved, but also on the nature of the desiring community. Thomas Hobbes, seeing rivals for Christ’s love slaughtering each other in the wars of his time, longed for a fresh start. Could we retreat from the most dangerous forms of rivalry by founding a society on the lowest and least competitive forms of self-love? Maybe, but does Hobbes’ now-dominant mode of imagining our common space tend to inculcate a basic indifference to the higher forms of life, an indifference that lies behind the systemic violence of our era? Could other types of foundational theory really change things? Readings drawn from Thucydides, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Marx, Schmitt, Foucault, Girard, Agamben, and Baudrillard, and from the Buddhist tradition.
William Klein teaches the history of political discourse 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. He specializes in early modern European legal and political thought and has been on the editorial review board of the Journal of the History of Philosophy. He has also published, under a pen name, several mysteries for young adults.