History and the Novel
AHSEM-UA 235 (class # 24462)
Instructor: Susie Linfield
Wednesday, 3:30-6:15 p.m.
What sorts of insights into history can they provide? How much imaginative leeway should the author of a historic novel be allowed – and how closely should she stick to "true" events? In this course we'll read a wide range of novels--looking at them both as literature and as keys to history--on topics that include slavery in the U.S., the Holocaust, post-apartheid South Africa, McCarthyism, the 9/11 terror attacks, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Arab Spring. One of our major aims will be to analyze each mode of inquiry (fiction, history, journalism), and discover the ways in which they synthesize--and, sometimes, conflict--with each other as we attempt to discover the truth of these complex and painful events. Cross-listed with the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute as JOUR-UA 504.001.
Susie Linfield is Associate Professor at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and writes about the intersection of culture and politics for a wide array of publications. Recent essays have addressed Syrian torture photographs (the New York Times), war photography (Aperture and The Nation), the Zionist Left in Israel (the Boston Review), and an anti-Vietnam War classic (Bookforum). Professor Linfield’s book The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. Prior to joining the NYU faculty, Professor Linfield was the editor in chief of American Film, the deputy editor of the Village Voice, and the arts editor of the Washington Post; she also spent six years as a critic for the Los Angeles Times Book Review. She serves on the editorial boards of Dissent and Photography and Culture, and is a member of the New York Institute of the Humanities. Professor Linfield received her BA from Oberlin College, where she studied American history, and her MA in journalism from NYU (minor: documentary film). From its founding in 1995 until 2014, Professor Linfield was instrumental in building NYU’s Cultural Reporting and Criticism Program, first as Associate Director and then as Director.
Religious Skepticism from Ancient Greece to Medieval Islam
AHSEM-UA 257 (class # 19744)
Instructor: Coleman Connelly
Monday, 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
This course examines premodern figures who not only dissented from their societies’ mainstream religious beliefs, but radically questioned the rational basis of religious authority or even the validity of religion itself. We will range in time and place from the ancient Greek and Roman worlds to medieval Islam, a principal heir to the Graeco-Roman intellectual tradition. How did the figures we are examining justify their dissent from religion and do their arguments succeed or fail? How did others react to their challenge? Was their dissent met with tolerance or intolerance? In addition to viewing each figure’s dissent in its own social historical context, we will make broader cross-cultural comparisons. At the same time, we will examine our own critical assumptions. Do these diverse figures belong to a single, historically useful category of ‘religious skeptic’? Alternatively, are we viewing them through an anachronistic post-Enlightenment lens? Figures we will consider include: the ‘Pre-Socratic’ philosophers, Socrates as portrayed by Plato and Aristophanes, the authors of the Hippocratic corpus, Epicurus, Lucretius, Ibn al-Rāwandī, Abū Bakr al-Rāzī, and Abū l-‘Alā’ al-Ma‘arrī.
Coleman Connelly is a Visiting Assistant Professor at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. He studies the cultural and intellectual history of the eastern Mediterranean and Near East, 500-1100 CE, with a special focus on how and why ancient Greek scientific texts were translated into Syriac and Arabic. His current book project investigates competing narratives of ownership over the ancient Greek past in eighth- through tenth-century Iraq. Between Christians and Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs, who could rightfully claim to possess the legacies of the likes of Aristotle and Galen? Dr. Connelly received his PhD in Classical Philology from Harvard University in 2016 and has previously served as an American Council of Learned Societies Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ohio State University.
The Crisis of Europe
AHSEM-UA 258 (class # 22898)
Instructor: Hadas Aron
Wednesday, 2:00-4:30 p.m.
In the past decade the countries of Europe, and the European Union as an organization, have been facing multiple challenges. The 2008 financial crisis hit several countries and generated a crisis in the shared Eurozone; Euroscepticism has given rise to populist movements throughout the continent; waves of migration were met with struggle and backlash; Western European countries have been threatened by terror; Russia is increasingly aggressive; and recently the US is increasingly indifferent and even hostile toward its European allies. In this course we will attempt to evaluate the following questions: Do these challenges amount to a crisis? Is the integrity of the EU in danger? What can be done to face these multiple challenges? The course explores the dimensions of the European crisis: sovereignty, democracy, economy, security, and culture. We will explore these questions in the EU, in its relationships, and in key individual cases such as Britain, Germany, Greece, Poland, and Hungary. Cross-listed with the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies as EURO-UA 983.002.
Hadas Aron is a faculty fellow at the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies at NYU. After working for several years as a radio broadcaster, she completed her PhD at Columbia University, and was a Post-Doctoral fellow at the School of Political Science in Tel Aviv University. Her research and teaching focus on populism, nationalism, international security, and social and ethnic cleavages. Her regional concentration is on Eastern Europe, the United States and Israel. In addition to her scholarship, she participates in policy debates in her blog, as well as other publications such as Duck of Minerva, the LSE USA blog, and Newsweek.
Metapatterns and Big History
AHSEM-UA 259 (class # 22899)
Instructor: Tyler Volk
Wednesday, 4:55-7:35 p.m.
In the instructor’s book Metapatterns Across Space, Time, and Mind, metapatterns are defined as functional patterns or principles common across a variety of “things” and have consequence in both biology and culture. About Big History, Lowell Gustafston, president of the International Big History Association (IBHA), says, “One of the great human achievements has been the development of an evidence based account of the entire known past that has moved through stages from the Big Bang until today.” The instructor’s recent book, Quarks to Culture: How We Came to Be, develops a new big history of stages as a series of fundamental levels from physics and chemistry to biological evolution, and also to the exciting new field of cultural evolution. In this course, students will have an opportunity to work with the instructor and conduct original research that seeks to apply metapatterns to Big History and the fundamental levels developed in Quarks to Culture. Specifically, metapatterns include binaries, borders, layers, alphabet-like systems, arrows in time, and breaks and cycles in time. Students will develop findings, based on these works and their individual interests and major. Topics can include the nature of physical laws, patterns of life from physical trees to evolutionary trees, animal societies, language, music, symbols, architecture, mental phenomena (i.e., the time-patterns of thoughts), politics, philosophy, and a wide spectrum of environmental issues. For a sense of the material, see the instructor’s book Metapatterns Across Space, Time, and Mind; the instructor’s papers about metapatterns available from this website (http://metapatterns.wikidot.com/members:tylervolk; for example, Volk and Bloom (2007)); the instructor’s trio of YouTube videos on metapatterns (search “professortylevolk” and “metapatterns”); the review of Q2C by a board member of the IBHA in Science (http://blogs.sciencemag.org/books/2018/01/16/quarks-to-culture/); and web material about the IBHA. Cross-listed with the Department of Environmental Studies as ENVST-UA 300.
Tyler Volk is Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at NYU and a recipient of the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He is the author of books and papers that point to common functional principles across different scales. Several relevant papers can be accessed at http://metapatterns.wikidot.com/members:tylervolk. Volk conducts research on the global carbon cycle and Earth’s future.