Course Listings

Core Curriculum

  • HSS 1

    Freshman Seminar

    A literature course concentrating on poetry and drama. Selected texts from antiquity and the Renaissance are common to all sections, with works from other genres, periods and cultures chosen by individual instructors. The course develops aesthetic appreciation of literary texts and encourages a range of critical responses. Through close reading, and extended discussion, students learn to articulate their responses in written and spoken form.

    3 credits

  • HSS 2

    Texts and Contexts: Old Worlds and New

    A study of texts and topics from 1500 to 1800, with emphasis on literary expression and cultural context. Topics include the formation of states, exploration, the encounter with the New World, the crises in religious orthodoxy, the origins of modern science and the beginnings of political and economic individualism. This semester develops both cultural and political understanding through close reading, class discussion and careful writing.

    3 credits

  • HSS 3

    The Making of Modern Society

    A study of the key political, social and intellectual developments of modern Europe in global context. This course is organized chronologically, beginning with the Industrial and French Revolutions. Students develop an understanding of the political grammar and material bases of the present day by exploring the social origins of conservatism, liberalism, feminism, imperialism and totalitarianism. In discussions and in lectures students learn to study and to respond critically in written and spoken form to a variety of historical documents and secondary texts. Students must register for HSS3 L1 as well as one HSS3 section. All students enrolled in HSS3 must view the asynchronous HSS3 lecture in advance of their section meeting.

    3 credits

  • HSS 4

    The Modern Context: Figures and Topics

    A study of an important figure or topic from the modern period whose influence extends into contemporary culture. The figures and subjects are chosen from a broad range of disciplines (including literature, history, politics, technology and art history, among others). Through concentration on a single figure or focused topic students are encouraged to develop a deep awareness of works of great significance and to understand them in the context of modernity. Guided independent writing projects and oral presentations give students an appreciation for what constitutes research in the humanities and social sciences.

    May be repeated for Free Elective credit in the Schools of Art and Engineering. May be repeated for Elective credit in the School of Architecture, provided the minimum requirement of six elective credits in Humanities and Social Sciences is fulfilled by elective-level courses. In both cases, permission of the Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences is required.

    3 credits


  • HUM 105

    Fundamentals of Music

    A study of the elements and forms of music and consideration of how they define the stylistic characteristics of the literature of music from the late Renaissance to the present. There will be extensive use of recordings, as well as attendance at concerts and recitals.

    3 credits

  • HUM 231

    Dance in Epidemics and Pandemics: Experimental Dance from AIDS to COVID-19

    The moving body is the fundamental material and main subject of dance; the body is also fundamentally at risk to and a vector of transmissible diseases. In very different eras, two major public health crises - the AIDS epidemic, and the COVID-19 pandemic - have challenged how we relate to our own bodies, and dance has been uniquely situated to address these challenges as it works to conceive and shape the body. Some themes the course will engage include: How did the AIDS crisis cause American society to confront its understanding of sexuality (among other things), and what role did dance play in this confrontation? How has COVID highlighted existing societal inequities along racial and class lines, and how has a cultural practice like dance - that often depends on many people gathering together, and requires many financial resources - both reflected these inequities, as well as offered possibilities for change? Finally, given the ongoing nature of COVID, what can our study of the AIDS crisis teach us about the current moment, in dance and in society? In examining the intersection of dance and these public health crises, this course will consider how sexuality, race, and class converge on the body, and use methods particularly developed by and through dance scholarship to analyze these essential issues with a multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach. Finally, we will ask what dance can do as we navigate through the lasting effects of the current pandemic.

    3 credits.

  • HUM 242

    Greek Mythology

    The course will concentrate not just on the endlessly fascinating stories of the gods drawn from the classic sources, but on a critical analysis of the question: How do the gods fare throughout the course of western history? Periods to be focused on include the time of Homer, Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns; the Archaic period (the time of the Lyric poets); the high Classical period (the golden age of Greek tragedy); the late Classical and Hellenistic periods (the age of the great philosophers and their schools); the Augustan era of the Roman Empire (the time of Virgil and Ovid); and the Renaissance.

    3 credits

  • HUM 243

    The Fairy Tale

    This course introduces students to the development of fairy and folk tales through history, and across cultures and geographies. While we focus on these tales in their originary contexts, we will consider the work they perform in such diverse modern appropriations as Disney cartoons, gaming, and the men’s movement. Excerpts from the major collections of Western Europe, West Africa, the Middle East, South and East Asia will furnish our primary readings. We pay particular attention to the collected tales of the brothers Grimm, the Panchatantra, The Thousand and One Arabian Nights, The Tales of Anansi and Brer Rabbit, and Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang. Our investigation will be interdisciplinary, with our critical approach drawing from theorists such as Freud, Jung, and Frazer, and modern scholars such as Maria Tatar and Jack Zipes. Because the fairy tale is a living tradition, our course will create an edition of Heads & Tales, an anthology of your original stories and artwork.

    3 credits

  • HUM 250


    Our course will be devoted to really reading Shakespeare—understanding how the plays work, what characters say and do, the imagery and thematics of Shakespeare’s dramas, and the performance practices of the Elizabethan and Jacobean era. We will also consider the cultural milieu of the plays—the historical, political, and religious world they inhabit—in order to deepen our access to Shakespeare’s language and to hear it with both his ears and our own.

    3 credits.

  • HUM 305

    Leonardo, Scientist and Engineer

    This course uses the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci (1453–1519) to explore science, medicine, engineering and art in Renaissance Europe. We will use Leonardo's notebooks, work of his contemporaries and writing about his interests across the centuries to examine the institutions and influences that served Leonardo’s imagination, his inventiveness, and his arts. Same as SS 305

    3 credits

  • HUM 307

    Theatre Collaborative

    An examination of theatrical performance-making both theoretical and practical, students will work together to explore approaches to collaborative performance drawing on various modalities, including dance, theater, and performance art. Through both in-class exercises and critical readings, the course will explore body-based and time-based approaches to performance, including physical improvisation, dramatic writing, and process-based action. Throughout the semester, students will collaborate with each other to create group performances in relation to material covered in the course. In-class exercises will be accessible, and no previous experience in theater, performance, or dance necessary, but a willingness to engage in the practices will be required.

    3 credits

  • HUM 308

    Creative Writing

    Students will read a variety of experimental fiction and nonfiction in order to draw stylistic elements that they will include in their own writing. Additionally, students will complete a diverse range of creative writing exercises, which may lead to longer works that they have workshopped by the class. Students will leave the course with a portfolio of their own experimental writing and a deeper understanding of the relationship between form and function in literature. Readings include but are not limited to: Levels of Life (Barnes); Minor Feelings (Hong); These Possible Lives (Jaeggy); The Friend (Nunez); Department of Speculation (Offill); Grapefruit (Ono); Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (Rankine); “The Depressed Person” (Wallace).

    3 credits.

    3 credits

  • HUM 309

    Art and the Crisis of Modernity

    This course will reflect on how various artistic moments of the 20th century both expressed and shaped the world they were in. We will engage with some of the definitions critics and theorists have offered for modernity vs modernism and post-modernity vs post-modernism in culture and in art, including visual arts as well as theater, dance and performance. The course will take as focal points some of the artistic revolutions of the 20th century, particularly around the 1930s, 1960s, and 1990s, and how these revolutions were connected to radical changes in worldview. Students will gain broad familiarity with how to read avant-garde art and performance in relation to its surrounding culture, and will research artists and/or movements of their choosing for their final projects.

    3 credits.

  • HUM 311

    New Media

    This course considers what makes media "new" and why those characteristics are relevant in contemporary society. We will consider how older media have been adapted to incorporate new media technologies and strategies, how video games and the Internet have changed our expectations of media experiences, the impact of new media on artistic practice, the importance of new media in contemporary cultural economy, and related topics.

    3 credits.

  • HUM 312

    Islamic Aesthetics

    ‘Islamic’ is not a unitary concept, neither is ‘aesthetics’. In this course, we will explore the fields of knowledge created by medieval and modern deployments of the Arabic adjective ’ajib (loosely translatable as marvelous, wonderful, astonishing) to describe the nature, production, and performance of texts, objects, events, and places, and their corporeal and spatial affects. Doing so allows us to locate the place of wonder in histories of literature, engineering, and art whilst underlining the permeability between traditions and the radical potential of overcoming expectations of experience and scholarship. Objects we will attend to include the Quran, the Kaaba, luster-painted ceramics, medieval automata and later technologies of enchantment, talismans, flying carpets, and representations of Islam and Muslims in the museum and contemporary American popular culture.

    3 credits.

  • HUM 315

    Science and Contemporary Thought

    The aim of this course is to reflect on the role of science in our society, with particular emphasis on the philosophical, political and social aspects of contemporary thought. Although the importance of science in our daily life is indisputably assumed―giving rise to a sort of myth of technology―it is important to analyze its influence on other aspects of contemporary thought, as well as on the very concept of knowledge. The essence of science, in fact, lies in the desire for searching, leading to a necessarily provisional knowledge which survives as a paradigm until it is eventually contradicted by new investigations. Moreover, it is important to acquire consciousness of the political, economic, and cultural constraints acting on both the methodology and the goals of contemporary science. Nowadays these constraints cannot be ignored, but few are really prepared to reflect free from political or philosophical bias.

    3 credits

  • HUM 318

    Creative Nonfiction Writing

    This course will explore the creative possibilities of writing about reality. Students will read and produce many different genres, including the personal essay, cultural criticism, prose poetry, literary journalism, song lyrics, podcasts, even Twitter threads. By the end of this course, students should be able to write comfortably in a variety of forms, and to think critically about how each of those forms describes reality -what it includes and excludes, enables and disables. They should be able to find expressive possibilities in almost any subject, as well as to actively notice the world around them - natural, technological, social, intellectual - and then to articulate the things they notice.

    3 credits

  • HUM 323

    The Poem Itself

    The emphasis will be on close reading. From this detailed reading, questions will naturally arise about the nature of poetry itself: What distinguishes it from other verbal forms, how does it “work”, what and how does a poem “mean” (“a poem should not mean but be”), what is “difficulty,” what is “ambiguity”, what is structure, and, vitally, what is metaphor? And what do we think of Philip Larkin’s famous phrase, “One doesn’t study poets! You read them, and think: ‘That’s marvelous, how is it done, could I do it? And that’s how you learn’.” The common text is THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF MODERN POETRY, 2nd. edition, ed. Ellmann and O’Clair. I much prefer this, but if it is not available, then obtain the much larger and more expensive, THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY POETRY, vol. 1, “Modern Poetry”, and vol. 2, “Contemporary Poetry”, both ed. Ramazani, Ellmann and O’Clair.

    3 credits.

  • HUM 324

    The Polar Imagination

    This course will explore our fascination with the ends of the earth: the Arctic and the Antarctic. What is the history of our engagement with these regions long thought to be uninhabitable? What's important about the search for the Northwest Passage and the landless "North Pole," first in the age of big ice and now in the era of polar melt? At the other end of the globe, what does the vast and forbidding Antarctic continent have to tell us? What are the polar regions to us now, in times of re-escalating political tensions and rising temperatures? To give shape to these questions we will look at literary works inspired by the planet's extreme regions (for example, Mary Shelley, Coleridge, Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne and other nineteenth-century authors as well as contemporary writers), histories of famous explorations (for example, Shackleton's voyage to Antarctica), and recent scholarship on climate change and polar history. Along the way we will look at questions of conflict between the technologies of developed nations and indigenous peoples' habits of sustainability; the geopolitics of research stations; art activism; documentary filmmaking; polar tourism; and the fate of polar species in an environment whose climate is rapidly shifting. In short, the course is an advanced introduction -- no prerequisites other than the HSS core sequence -- to an interdisciplinary subject that touches upon history, science, technology, politics, literature, and art.

    3 credits

  • HUM 325

    Puppet, Automaton, Robot

    They are us, and not us: puppets, automata, and robots are toys or machines that look like us (or parts of us). From antiquity to the present, we have imagined, and then invented, organic and inorganic versions of ourselves, sometimes for entertainment, sometimes to perform essential tasks. This course will draw upon an interdisciplinary range of materials –from philosophy, the history of science, anthropology, and psychoanalysis to literature, popular culture, and art. Instead of separating the “scientific” from the “poetic,” this course will introduce and explore ways in which we can think about what we want from our “artificial life,” and how the boundaries between the living and the non-living require constant rethinking.

    3 credits

  • HUM 327

    The History of the Cinema

    The course attends to what historian Antoine de Baecque calls “cinematographic forms of history”. From the 1890s until the present day, how has the moving image evolved as both the product and the author of technological inventions, historical events, national(ist) and international(ist) imaginaries, and aesthetic interventions? The course, structured around screenings and readings in historiography, philosophy, and film theory and criticism traces three main operations across a wide swath of experimental, narrative, and documentary filmmaking: periodization (instant, interval, decade, century); illumination (light and darkness, graphesis, markings); and inscription (word, voice).

    3 credits

  • HUM 330

    Postmodernism and Technology

    This course will explore postmodern theory and practice and its relationship to the problems and solutions posed by technology in contemporary society.

    3 credits

  • HUM 331

    Eros in Antiquity

    This course will study the theory and practice of love in the ancient world and its legacy in the modern. Working with primary textual sources, the course will consider Plato’s erotic dialogues and writings from the Neo-Platonic tradition extending up to Shelley’s poetry as well as Ovid’s Amores and the Art of Love. These major texts will be supplemented with examples of erotic poetry from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Archaic and Classical Greece, and Rome, as well as works of visual art.

    3 credits

  • HUM 332

    Lucretius, On the Nature of Things

    Stephen Greenblatt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2011 book, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, has inspired a resurgence of interest in the Roman philosopher, Lucretius, and his magnum opus, De Rerum Natura (“On the Nature of Things”). On the Nature of Things is the most ambitious philosophical poem ever written (what a delightful way to get your philosophy!) and the single best source for our knowledge of ancient Epicurean philosophy and the theory of atomism which was its most essential feature. But De Rerum is also an exquisitely beautiful work of poetic art and a gold mine of information and ideas on subjects as wide-ranging as mythology, religion, morality, science, sex, cosmology, geology, history, horticulture, agriculture, meteorology, astronomy, humanism, sociology, the senses, pleasure, and life in the late Roman Republic (1st century BCE).

    Join me in a close-reading and exploration of one of the most sublime works of philosophy ever penned. There is really nothing like it in the centuries-long global history of thinking about the origins of the universe, its nature, and the reasons for its existence. Engineers, artists, and architects will all find something of interest. For engineers, there is plenty of science, a surprising amount of which still has currency. For artists, there is an endless wealth of memorable images which have inspired creative minds for centuries. For architects, there is cosmic theory and reflections on space and time. And for everyone, there is Lucretius' incomparable poetry. As an added bonus, by chance, this very old text also happens to offer singular relevance for the present world moment: De Rerum ends with a dramatic extended description of a plague and its societal repercussions.

    The course lends itself particularly well to remote learning. It will be conducted seminar-style, featuring in-class readings and discussions of the six books of De Rerum Natura (in translation) along with selected excerpts from additional primary texts which either influenced or were influenced by Lucretius' work. Students will be expected (1) to participate fully in, and on two occasions to lead class discussions, (2) to keep a running journal, and (3) to produce one short response paper and a final 8-10 page term paper on a question that emerges from their journal.

    3 credits

  • HUM 333

    The Age of Augustus

    Augustan Rome presents the only serious ancient contender for comparison with the "Golden Age" of Periclean Athens. In all categories of art, architecture, and literature, the age of the first Roman emperor, Augustus (27 BCE-14 CE), rivals that of high Classical Greece. The course thus combines the disciplines of history the visual arts, and literature, with the heaviest emphasis on literature to arrive at a comprehensive picture of a relatively short, but disproportionately consequential moment in the history of civilization.

    3 credits

  • HUM 334

    Plato’s Republic

    A seminar devoted entirely to a close reading and critical analysis of Plato’s greatest dialogue, the Republic, and its reverberations down through the ages as a model of political theorizing, if not a template for an ideal society. As we work through the text book by book, we will create our own "Socratic dialogue," that is, a series of problems, questions, deliberations, and considerations that would run parallel to the text, with the ultimate aim of assessing what Plato means, and intends, with this enigmatic work. Comparative material in the form of historical and contemporary (to Socrates and Plato) influences, precedents, and references will be introduced where appropriate. We will then venture briefly into the analogous genre of “utopian” literature which the Republic inadvertently engendered, finishing with the most influential modern critique, that of Popper.

    3 credits

  • HUM 335

    Pythagoras: The Philosophy of Number

    This course explores the intense and extensive intellectual activity of the Pythagorean school, which extends from mathematics to philosophy, from cosmology to music, and whose legacy had a decisive influence from the Greek world to the Renaissance. For the Pythagoreans, in effect, those we now consider as separate disciplines were inseparable aspects of a unique inquiry, inspired by a mystical enthusiasm and carried out through a profound philosophical and mathematical search. In Pythagoreanism, then, sifted through Platonic philosophy, we may find the first historical antecedent of many of the components which contributed to the birth of the modern world. The course starts from such premises and explores the meaning and the implications of the mysticism of number in Pythagoreanism, with particular emphasis on its influence on mathematics, art, and philosophy. Advanced knowledge of mathematics is not expected of students taking the course.

    3 credits

  • HUM 337

    Philosophy & Contemporary Art

    In this course, we’ll explore the relation(s) between philosophy and contemporary art: what joins them, where do they diverge, and what space does each navigate, particularly in relation to the other? Or, as philosopher Alain Badiou referred to it, what is the link between them that has always been “affected by a symptom—that of an oscillation or a pulse?” We will investigate contemporaries in each discipline as well as figures who produce work in both, and consider the politics, authority, and aesthetics of different forms of thinking and making. We will ask what is art? What is philosophy? How can each discipline help us with the other–what does philosophy offer art? What does art offer philosophy? Our approach will necessarily be interdisciplinary, and we will study work from various philosophic and critical theory traditions as well literature, architecture, poetry, music, visual art, and performance. Students will be encouraged to generate their own points of inquiry in and around philosophy and contemporary art.

    3 credits

  • HUM 338

    Philosophies of Liberation

    The philosophy of liberation originates as a critique of the Eurocentric concept of modernity, considered not so much as a cultural heritage of the Enlightenment, but rather in the broader sense of domination. Such an ideology would be at the root of European colonialism and North American neo-imperialism, and at the same time of the concealing of the distinct and peculiar identity of the cultures of the Global South. According to this critical view, then, an authentic critique of modernity can only come from the liberation movements of the periphery. From there an awakening of a true ethical consciousness can come, thus reconstructing modernity’s project of human emancipation as a liberation from exploitation. Not in vain, in the cultural debate from which the philosophy of liberation originated there were a series of social and political movements focused on the liberation from the historical, political, and cultural domination that derived from Western modernity and neoliberal rationalism.

    3 credits

  • HUM 348

    Greek Tragedy

    An in-depth introduction to Greek tragedy, both as literature and performance. The methodology throughout will be close-reading, using comparative translations, with portions of the texts performed in class. The genre of tragedy will be presented against the background of its historical and cultural context, Athens of the fifth century, BCE. The most significant surviving ancient critical treatise on Greek tragedy, Aristotle’s Poetics, will be measured against the authority of surviving works. Some important secondary readings will be assigned, but the emphasis throughout will be on primary source materials.

    3 credits

  • HUM 352

    The Personal Essay

    In this course we will study and discuss essays in Philip Lopate, ed., The Art of the Personal Essay, and we will also write our own, on any topics we choose, on all manner of subjects—the daily round, pleasures and pains, taking a walk, solitude, friendship, social issues, in short, our personal responses to any number of topics and situations, enlarging ourselves in the process.

    3 credits

  • HUM 354

    Philosophy of Infrastructure

    Buried underground, concealed behind walls, there and not there: infrastructure is overlooked, made invisible, and yet everywhere defines the material basis and social promises of modern life. Infrastructures mediate our needs and desires, facilitate work and play, divide private from public space, determine what we can or cannot access, and connect our everyday actions to planetary systems and other lives across the globe. Looking at these underlying structures and technological arrangements points to the very root of philosophical inquiry, challenging us to question the things we take for granted.

    This course explores infrastructure as a way of seeing and framing philosophical questions about the built environment, capitalist growth, inequality, and climate change. We will critically investigate theorical approaches to and ordinary assumptions behind various physical and digital infrastructures as well as a broader range of things we might conceive as infrastructural, such as social programs, zoning, and urban ecologies. Course readings will explore public works and city planning; water systems and climate resilience; electrical grids, fossil fuels, and renewable energy; supply chain logistics and waste; and automation, surveillance, and cloud computing, among other topics.

    We will ask: What is infrastructure and what is its place in our cultural imagination? How have conceptions of it changed over time? What values and norms are embodied in infrastructural design and technologies? Can infrastructure be socially just or unjust? How does infrastructure constrain or open possibilities for different climate futures and alternative ways of living together? What happens when it breaks down?

    3 credits.

  • HUM 355

    Race & Gender in Literature

    In this course we will engage different contexts in which women have been and are communicating their responses to the social, political, religious, and engendered conditions of their respective nations. Our themes include the politics of canon formation, the challenges of language, “Third World” and Western feminism. Thus, we consider the larger traditions into which women’s writings have been absorbed, or which their writings resist, or change. We will explore the following questions: Can we probe the traditional value of mothers and wives with the gender roles and behavioral expectations that go with them, without banishing them from the realm of political resistance or without reifying them? What rhetorical or narrative methods are used to express gendered realities where acts of writing do not always equate with authority, truth, or stability? How are politics inscribed on the gendered and racialized body? What narrative styles are deployed to articulate gendered participation in the national fabric? While we engage primarily in literature, we will also consider music and visual art. The works we will explore include Sojourner Truth, Jamaica Kincaid, Assia Djebar, Betool Khedairi, among others.

    3 credits

  • HUM 356

    Issues in Contemporary Fiction

    Study of literary topics including particular genres, themes, sensibilities and critical approaches. The focus of this course will change in individual semesters.

    3 credits

  • HUM 358

    Studies in Cinema

    A seminar based on a special topic in the study of cinema. The seminar may be repeated for credit with the permission of the dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

    Studies in Cinema: The Couple Form (Spring 2024)
    What does it mean to inhabit the world as two? The couple—as a form, aspiration, mandate, and obstacle—has occupied writers, artists, filmmakers, and social scientists for centuries. Shaping discursive and institutional frameworks at the level of the body, the household, and the state, the couple continues to be one of the most tenacious, if contested and ever-changing, forms of loving and living. In cinema, the couple has been a central figure for narrative experiments in companionship, complicity, and enmity: the forbidden love in Douglas Sirk’s All that Heaven Allows (1955); the partners-in-crime in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967); the neighbor-lovers of a waterlogged Taiwan in Tsai Ming-liang’s The Hole (1998); the paranoid, self-isolating lovers in William Friedkin’s Bug (2006) etc.

    The course combines weekly film screenings with readings in literature, gender studies, film theory, anthropology, psychoanalysis, and philosophy, we will, first, identify and analyze the potentialities and limits of the couple form, and, second, develop analytical tools needed to understand and elucidate film form.

    Students are expected to participate fully in class and keep a running journal. Class assignments will include 2 quizzes, a short response paper, and a final 8–10-page term paper.

    3 credits

  • HUM 361

    Modern Philosophy: Knowledge and the Mind

    The modern period of philosophy in the Anglo-European world, dating from the 17th through the early 20th century, begins with radical investigations into theories of knowledge and the human mind. Epistemological questions—including where ideas come from, how cognition relates to senses and to the body, the basis for truth and scientific understanding of nature, and how we gain self-knowledge and knowledge of others—are established as the foundation of what it means to be ""modern” in a normative sense. Posing these foundational inquiries also begins to link social power to human knowledge as opposed to religious authority, and thus to the potential to apply knowledge in reshaping the earth, transforming society, and establishing forms of subjectivity rooted in the power of reason.

    This course will introduce major philosophical works in this Western philosophical tradition starting from the early modern period through various debates within and revolts against the European Enlightenment. We will focus on texts by philosophers such as René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant. Particular focus will also be given to ways of historicizing and countering the dominance of modern epistemology and science in relation to critical, contemporary, and global perspectives.

    3 credits

  • HUM 363

    Caribbean Literatures and Societies

    The Caribbean region is known for lush landscapes, pristine beaches, and iconic bits of culture such as reggae, Rastafarianism, salsa, calypso, and carnival. The beauty of these islands belies serious political and social issues of which visitors are generally unaware. However, the history and cultural practices of the region paint a different picture. In this course, we will examine how the earliest institutionalized and intertwined forms of violence and economics--including genocide of the indigenous population, slavery, the rise of the plantocracy, and the impact of globalization on the economies of the region—and their attendant/resultant forms of cultural production continue to shape present Caribbean life. We will examine the various systems of colonial and imperial power, past and ongoing, and their lasting impact in various ways across the region. Finally, we will consider the idea of the Caribbean as a haven for tourists that depends upon a sanitized representation of the region’s history of institutionalized violence and exploitation. We shall conduct our investigations through film, literature, history, sociology, and theory.

    3 credits

  • HUM 373

    Seminar in Humanities

    Seminar giving close attention to special topics in the Humanities. The seminar may be repeated for credit with the permission of the dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

    3 credits.

    Machine Philosophy
    [HUM 373-M] (Spring 2024)
    In this course we will investigate the functional utility of the concept of the machine. How has it been invoked historically in relationship to the concept of the human? What anxieties about—and desires for—humanness has it served to name? In particular, we will consider how the alienness of the machine has been embraced by Asian and Afrofuturisms in order to critique and reimagine both radicalized imaginaries of otherness and the concept of the human itself. We will also ask whether or not there are distinct qualities of machinic cognition that have transfigured the materiality of our planet and, if so, how? In other words, we will consider the machine as both reflecting the irresolution over what is distinctly human and as itself a mode of cognition that is alien to human consciousness. Some of the authors we will be consulting in our study are Gilbert Simondon, Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, CCRU, Anne Anlin Cheng, Luciana Parisi, N. Katherine Hayles, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Mel Y. Chen, Kodwo Eshun, and Jasbir Puar.

    Virgil's Rome
    [HUM 373-N] (Spring 2024)
    In the opening line of her recent biography of the Roman poet, Virgil, Sarah Ruden speaks of “the tenderness and majesty” of Virgil’s poetry (Vergil. The Poet’s Life, Yale University Press, 2023). (Ruden is in a position to know, since she has translated the Aeneid herself, and is the first to render the epic in metrical English.) Ruden’s formulation perfectly encapsulates the distinctive character and universal appeal of a poetic voice that has, as the cliché goes, been imitated and emulated but never equaled over the many centuries since the poet’s death in 19 BCE. For nearly two millennia, Virgil reigned virtually unchallenged as the supreme poet not just of classical antiquity, but of all time, at least in the west. During the Christian era, this “pagan” poet was not just admitted into the fold, he was fervently embraced, on the basis of having predicted the birth of Christ in one of his early works, or so it was believed. He is Dante’s guide through Hell and Purgatory in The Divine Comedy. For centuries (yes, centuries!) his works were consulted for advice or predictions of the future in a process called the sortes Vergilianae (“Virgilian lots”) [google it]. This seminar explores the poetic output of Publius Vergilius Maro (to use his full Roman name), in the context of the Augustan era in which he lived and wrote.

    Augustan Rome presents the only serious (ancient) contender for comparison with the “Golden age” of Periclean Athens. In all categories of art, architecture, and literature, the age of the first Roman emperor, Augustus (27 BCE-14 CE), rivals that of high classical Greece. The singular era Augustus shaped still resonates in our modern global world. Virgil’s poetry continually reflects and refracts the pressing issues of the day, political, social, and cultural. In a close reading of all three of Virgil’s extant works, the Eclogues, the Georgics, and the Aeneid, we shall focus on the historical content in particular, thereby allowing a picture of Augustan Rome to emerge, as seen through the eyes of its greatest poet.

  • HUM 374

    Contemporary Culture and Criticism

    A survey of the cultural climate since the 1950s, including the influence of works by such writers as Benjamin and Bakhtin and the concern with contemporary life in terms of fundamental shifts in community, representation, identity and power.

    3 credits

  • HUM 375

    Critical Theory

    This course begins with the post World War II generation of social thinkers and critics, such as Barthes, de Beauvoir, Foucault, Adorno, Horkheimer, Lacan, in the development of what later became known of as the critical theory of culture. We then proceed to more recent critics, each time taking our clues from real life examples. This course emphasizing learning how to "see" and think in "cultural practices." It offers a chance to have our understanding extended into everyday life and its ways of making us cultural beings.

    3 credits

  • HUM 377

    Translation as Practice and Paradigm

    This course is an introduction to the practice of literary translation and at the same time to translation as a way of thinking about language and the world. Our focus will be on practice, and the course will include a major workshop component. In the first half of the semester, students will present case studies of published translations; in the second half, they will pursue original translation projects. Readings will include some classics of translation theory (from Friederich Schleiermacher to Gayatri Spivak); we will also study some “extreme” cases of texts that move between languages (Patrick Chamoiseau, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Ivan Blatný). Finally, we will reflect on whether what we learn from literary translation can be meaningfully applied to questions in art or architecture.

    Knowledge of a language other than English required. Please contact the instructor if you are not sure whether you meet this requirement.

    3 credits

  • HUM 381

    Post-Colonial Studies

    This course engages with the legacy of colonialism in literature and theory. Topics include the relationship between colonizer and colonized, independence, apartheid and immigration in novels from South Asia, the Caribbean and Africa. Works by Rudyard Kipling, E.M. Forster, Aime Cesaire, Salman Rushdie, Nadine Gordimer, Jhumpa Lahiri and Zadie Smith will be addressed.

    3 credits.

  • HUM 383


    This course will examine the history, materials and structures of opera, a rich and complicated art that is both musical and theatrical. We will address such topics as the origins of opera in 17th-century Italy, the Baroque style, the art of bel canto, opera and politics, Wagner's revolutionary ideas, realism and impressionism in music, experiments in tonality, and opera in English. Several works will be considered in detail. Classes will combine lecture-discussion and screenings of performance on DVDs. An interest in music is essential, but no ability to read scores or play an instrument is required.

    3 credits

  • HUM 389

    Love in Western Art and Literature

    This course address the representation of love in Western art, with specific attention to the body, gender, and identity. The course will be grounded across two crucial poles: the so-called Greek revolution as a founding moment in the West, with its idea of Eros and the ideally beautiful body, and the rise of the individual in the Renaissance/Baroque period, with its concepts of subjectivity, self and vision (including Shakespeare's provocative formulation of "a perjured eye." Readings will include Plato's Symposium, poetry in the troubadour and Petrarchan traditions, Ficino and the Neoplatonists, Shakespeare, Keats, Shelley, Austen, Foucault, Derrida, Anne Carson and others).

    3 credits

  • HUM 391

    Philosophy of Ecology

    This course explores the development of ecology and its entanglement with philosophical questions about nature and society. How does this “subversive science,” as it’s sometimes called, challenge human-centered traditions of knowledge and dominant views of nature? In our time of planetary crisis, ecology asks us to think about the world in complex and relational ways, pointing to the radical possibilities of kinship with other species and care for the web of life that sustains us. Our course will begin by tracing ecological thinking from Linnaeus and Darwin to the foundational 20th century research that helped define ecology as a science, with the rise of plant succession studies, systems ecology, and energetics. Along the way, we will explore a multidisciplinary range of texts that help us to consider the implications of key ecological concepts and debates for critical perspectives on built and cultivated environments; class, race, and gender; and capitalist production, land use, and colonialism.

    Looking at ecological relationships that span from our surroundings in New York City to other complex systems around the world, we will discuss questions drawn from eco-philosophical movements and fields such as environmental justice, deep ecology, ecofeminism, anthropology of science, and political ecology. We will ask: How does foregrounding the interconnections between things modify our understanding of social and natural categories? What role does imagination play in scientific methods and cultural representations of science? How might ecology help us rethink economy, design, and infrastructure? How does it shape our commitments to human and non-human others in the face of climate change, habitat loss, and mass extinction? What would it mean to live within the regenerative capacity of our ecosphere?

    3 credits.

  • HUM 392


    Did human beings invent ideas of right and wrong? Are there such things as moral facts, that is, facts that dictate how we ought to live and what sorts of actions are worth pursuing? This course surveys three central traditions in ethical theory in the West as typified by the works of Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, and J. S. Mill, together with a radical critique by Friedrich Nietzsche and ending with selections from 20th-century philosophy.

    3 credits

  • HUM 393

    Environmental Ethics: Green Growth vs. Degrowth

    The call from the IPCC for “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” comes at a time when cultural production of utopias and visions of how to remake fossil fuel economies compete with dystopias, denialism, and appeals to realism that insist such change is impracticable. Countering these tendencies with imaginative possibilities requires not only literacy in climate science, but an ability to draw new constellations of ethical, political-economic, and cultural meanings from across divergent mitigation and adaptation pathways. This course asks how to collectively imagine alternative climate futures by bringing together multidisciplinary perspectives on economic growth and its dominant historical and temporal meanings. We will look critically to various philosophical debates, ethical theories, and cultural materials that shed light on the present climate crisis and place it within interrelated contexts of ecology and the biosphere, global capitalism and colonialism, sustainability and “just” transitions, contested narratives of the Anthropocene, eco-apartheid and forced human migration, geoengineering and technology, and social and environmental justice.

    3 credits.

  • HUM 394

    World Religions

    This course explores critical issues of studying religion as an academic discipline, beginning with the questions of what religion means and how the term has been defined and re-defined in the history of major theories and methods that have shaped the academic study of religion. The second part of the course will examine ancient and contemporary expressions of various religious traditions: indigenous religion, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Emphasis is on reading closely some of the foundational texts and their evolving interpretations. The last part will consider how the study of religion intersects with other dimensions of human society such as race, politics, nationalism, and violence/non-violence.

    3 credits.

  • HUM 99

    Independent Study (Humanities)

    Independent Studies are voluntary agreements between individual full-time or part-time faculty members and individual students, in which students complete a course of study and assignment. Only juniors and seniors in good academic standing (defined as having earned a minimum of 3.0 GPA overall) are eligible for Independent Study. Faculty conduct Independent Studies with students who have already completed a class or other educational/research activity under their supervision. The course of study and assignment for 1 or 2 credit Independent Study typically consist of a reading list and workload comparable to that required for a 1 or 2 credit course. Independent Studies are intensive activities. Faculty members regard them as a significant commitment. Students can only participate in one Independent Study per semester.

    If an HSS full-time or part-time faculty member is willing to supervise an Independent Study, the student should work with the faculty member to complete this form and submit the signed application to the HSS’s Dean’s Office no later than the end of the first week of semester for approval. LATE APPLICATIONS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. The work cannot begin unless the Independent Study is approved by the Dean’s Office. The major consideration in approving proposals for independent study is the educational value of the study project within the structure of degree requirements.

    To learn more, please visit HSS Independent Study Policy.

Social Sciences

  • SS 220

    Environmentalism in Urban Context: Past and Present

    Human-environment interactions are at the center of debates in multiple fields of study. With an interdisciplinary approach, this course provides students with theories and methodological tools for investigating some of the most enduring questions about the influences of climatic and environmental changes on human history and the roles of people on environmental shifts or catastrophes. By focusing on environmental issues in urban centers and their hinterlands, we will look at the interpretation of the city as a constellation of institutions and social practices that transform nature over different temporal and spatial scales. Through diverse case studies, we will evaluate urban systems with regard to water management strategies, land-use practices, and the issue of sustainability.

    3 credits

  • SS 304

    Economic Growth and Innovation

    Economic growth is the oldest sub-discipline in economics. It is technically the core of economic policy because growth makes people better off in the long run. Economic growth is closely related to various other sub-disciplines, such as economic demography, human capital, productivity and technological advances, macro-economic policy, and public policy. In addition, studying economic growth calls for a survey of both economic and general. Emphasis will be placed on theoretical development, issue discussion, and policy formulation. Those with existing knowledge of macroeconomics will be especially suited to this course. Student self-study groups will be established for the review of algebraic equations and basic concepts of macroeconomics to make sure everyone is on the same page.

    3 credits

  • SS 305

    Leonardo, Scientist and Engineer

    This course uses the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci (1453–1519) to explore science, medicine, engineering and art in Renaissance Europe. We will use Leonardo's notebooks, work of his contemporaries and writing about his interests across the centuries to examine the institutions and influences that served Leonardo’s imagination, his inventiveness, and his arts. Same as HUM 305

    3 credits

  • SS 306

    Spacing Out-Zooming In: Implications on Social Interaction and Design

    The idea and study of social distancing (spatial arrangements) is not new. We enlist it in our everyday lives as well in considering how we orient ourselves with others and how we arrange structures or features of our environment But recent events, most notably, the Corona Virus Pandemic and what has ensued over the past few years as we emerge from “crisis” has shined a light on this hidden dimension of social and structural life and made us reconsider how it has been engaged, and, going forward, how we need to refashion it so as to sustain things we want—keeping and making social connections-- and also reduce or avoid things and people we don’t -- isolation and exclusion. The crisis affords opportunities if we choose. We are moving on, but where?

    This course will consider the area of proxemics as already understood and then consider how we can employ design and behavior as a way of creating local and global connections going forward. We will look at how various parts of society are already refashioning design and behavior using social behavior, technology, and art to address places we interact in, e.g., work, health care, retail, schools, public spaces, public transit. Underlying issues reflecting social inequities and other problems that persist or have been intensified will also be explored.

    Social distancing heightens awareness of things previously considered inconsequential or perhaps ‘natural’. The current crises helps/makes us see/makes visible what and who was not viewed as essential or important and recasts them as such. We will ask: What is essential? Who is essential? Who are we individually and collectively and how can we reflect these in design and in our interactions? We will be utilizing a sociological frame, but also enlist resources from other disciplines and cultures as well—e.g., technology, architecture, landscaping, art, environmental design to offer policy and practice.

    3 credits

  • SS 308

    Public Policy in Contemporary America

    Issues such as conservation, environmental law and policy, mass transportation, transfer of development rights, incentive zoning and historic preservation, beginning with an introduction to and general analysis of the policy process.

    3 credits

  • SS 315

    International Trade and Development: The Case of China

    The emergence of China as a global economic power is one of the most significant developments of the contemporary world. The country has been on a path of gradual ‘marketization’ without wholesale assimilation to global neoliberalism. How do we understand this development trajectory in light of: (1) China’s unique past; (2) the rapid application of ‘shock therapy’ in other formerly socialist states; and (3) the global institutional order? How did China’s market liberalization compare to the economic reforms in the former Soviet Union? How should markets be created? How does China’s growth model compare to other nations in the Asia-Pacific region? To other successful wealthy nations? Is China’s economic rise sustainable? Will China be overwhelmed by its economic, social, and ecological contradictions? What are the implications of the rise of China for the rest of the world and for the global system as a whole? This course discusses the economic interactions between China and the modern world system over the last several decades and evaluates the future trends and prospects.

    3 credits.

  • SS 318

    Seminar in Social Science

    Seminar giving close attention to special topics in the Social Sciences. Recent topics have included sustainability and the economy. The seminar may be repeated for credit with the permission of the dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

    3 credits.

    Histories of Race in Latin(x) America
    [SS 318-N] (Spring 2024)
    This course studies the histories and cultural genealogies of race and racialization in Latin America and in the Hispanic/Latinx community in the United States. Racial hierarchies helped shape asymmetrical power relations in colonial societies and postcolonial states in the Americas. However, racial and ethnic identities also informed forms of indigenous, Black, and anti-colonial resistance. Against a backdrop of discrimination and emancipatory hopes, depictions of race and racial mixing have been prominent in representations of the Latin American identity and in national ideologies of the region’s modern states. This course traces continuities and changes in colonial and modern discourses about race from Mesoamerica, the Caribbean, and South America. We will also relate these discourses to contemporary discussions about race and ethnicity in the U.S. Hispanic/Latinx community. Throughout the semester, we will study primary texts (legal documents, chronicles, essays, census records, speeches, paintings, and photographs) and selected historiographical essays.

    Anthropology of Belief
    [SS 318-O] (Spring 2024)
    Why do we believe what we believe? How do we know what we "know" is true? What is "human nature"? Anthropology of Belief explores fundamental concepts in anthropology that historically attempt to understand the behavior, traits, and patterns of human groups globally and how belief both structures and guides cultures. This course, which covers a wide variety of cultural groups across the world, grapples with these deeper questions. We examine, analyze, and discuss ethnographic texts across the subfield of sociocultural anthropology, beginning with the early work of anthropologists working under Franz Boas in New York City at the beginning of the 20th Century and continuing to contemporary work. We also look at the qualitative and immersive methodological aspects of anthropology. We think together with anthropologists, using the frameworks of social constructionism, cultural relativism, racial/ethnic analysis, conflict/warfare, kinship/descent, ritual/religion, the formation of political/economic societies, class/hierarchy, and gender/sexuality, while familiarizing ourselves with the discipline's fraught historical context.

  • SS 320

    Immigrants in Place

    In this course, students will critically interrogate majority aesthetic norms by studying a multiplicity of spaces occupied by immigrants in New York City. Students will be invited to critique the colonial heritage of spatial aesthetics in the West, placed in opposition to various immigrant experiences, considering immigration and immigrant groups in their varied historical, socio-economic, and political contexts. Students will take on individual research projects around specific New York City immigrant groups, beginning with the group’s context and ultimately observing the group’s aesthetics as projected internally and externally. Through reading, discussion, and workshops, students will become immersed in a chosen immigrant group’s spaces in New York City and will use this knowledge to challenge majority spatial aesthetic norms. While ostensibly relevant to both art and architecture students, this course has much deeper appeal across the college regardless of discipline. We are living and studying in this city of immigrants, including Cooper students, many of whom are themselves first- or second- generation. The work raises personal cultural questions such as how one’s own immigrant group perhaps influenced her/his/their path of study, how different such groups value art, architecture, and engineering, if critical perspectives on imperialism can alter the perception of one’s own work, and so on – all this lending to a richer debate over cultural norms in the West.

    3 credits

  • SS 321

    The American Presidency

    The nature and sources of the power of the American presidency, the ways in which it is wielded and the Constitutional restraints upon its exercise.

    3 credits

  • SS 323

    Politics and Collective Memory

    The political uses of collective memory can range from defining national and social identities to shaping public opinion. In exploring the interactions between memory and politics, this course will focus on the nature and forms of collective memory, its development and reconstruction and its relationship to structures of authority. Emphasis will be placed on examples from recent political history.

    3 credits

  • SS 333

    Politics of Ethnonational Conflict

    An examination of the movements for national liberation and independence that have become an increasingly important phenomenon in the second half of the 20th century. Among the movements considered are those of Algeria, Nigeria, Cyprus, Bangladesh, Northern Ireland, Quebec, Lebanon and the PLO.

    3 credits

  • SS 334


    Microeconomics is primarily the study of the determinants of prices and the distribution of income. The focus is on studying the strategic behavior of individual business firms, workers and consumers in dynamic interaction with the institutions that shape and constrain this behavior, while also being subject to change themselves through legal and political action. We will look at how certain aggregate patterns ‘emerge’ from the complicated interaction of interests while studying how societies can structure production and distribution systems toward specific goals.

    3 credits

  • SS 335

    Science and Technology in the Long 18th Century (1687-1839)

    This course will examine the changing roles of science and technology in the West during the 18th and early 19th centuries. We will use a case-study approach to consider such topics as color in theories (light and optics) and color in practice (painting, dyeing and glassmaking); geology mineralogy and the development of ceramic industries in Europe; the invention, use (and misuse) of the natural classifications; and automation and automatons: Vaucanson's duck, Jacquard's loom, Babbage's Difference Engine.

    3 credits

  • SS 337

    How to Economics?

    The aim of this course is to show you that you already use principles of economics in your everyday life. You made the decision to read this course description, why? Because the additional benefit you are getting out of reading it (which is having more information about a potential course to fill your schedule) is higher than the additional cost you incur to read this description (which is using the time to do something else). This is marginal analysis: a fundamental concept of decision making in economics. Economics is the study of decision making under scarcity, something that we all do daily because most of our resources are scarce. Thinking about the overall economy, we are the consumers, the suppliers of labor, and potentially the producers; therefore, our decisions affect the overall economy and the shocks that happen to the economy affect us as well. This course will introduce you to basic macro-and microeconomics concepts and help you think about how to use them understand the behavior of individuals, firms, and the government. with specific focus on current events.

    3 credits.

  • SS 339

    African History: History of West Africa

    This course is an introduction to some of the major themes and debates in the study of West African history. Students will gain an appreciation for the diversity, depth, and dynamism of West African history. Students are encouraged to think broadly about historical processes, lasting changes, and the movement of people and ideas across geographic and intellectual space. The course is rooted in West Africa, but it places West Africa and West Africans at the center of dynamic global movements. We will study how Africa and Africans shaped many world orders, from Islam to the Atlantic World to the Third World. This course begins with the great West African empires and continuing through the eras of slave trades, the formation and consolidation of the Islamic and Atlantic worlds, and the end of colonization. We conclude with some post-colonial questions and debates with great bearing on independent Africa. Throughout the roughly 700 years this course spans, we will ask questions about long-term processes of change. How have states and state power changed over the course of the seven hundred years or so this course covers? Equally importantly, how have people’s relationships to states changed? How did Africans build new forms of power and authority? How did they resist others? How did different dividing lines—ethnic, gender, race, and class—change over time in African social, political, and cultural life?

    3 credits

  • SS 340

    Cause and Effect

    Every day, we hear news reporters, podcast hosts, TV show hosts, and even professors talking about various issues, and along the way, they make causal claims that do not necessarily make sense. They are simply confusing correlation with causation, a common logical fallacy. Think about the following question: Does getting your master’s degree cause you to earn higher income? By how much would those two additional years in school increase your earnings? Most people would say, “Yes, of course.” Having a master's degree leads to a higher paying job. You can get data on various individuals, their educational attainments, and their earnings. You can examine the relationship between these two variables. But are you actually measuring the impact of having a master's degree on earnings? There are many other questions that you can try to think about in the same manner – questions related to individual decisions, business decisions, and government policies. In this course, we will learn how to think about these questions in a systematic way. The course will make you think critically about many claims that are being thrown at you by news reporters and even your professors. The course will also teach you how to work with various types of datasets to answer various questions in economics, psychology, business, politics, and sciences. You will learn common ways to summarize and present data and find relationships between different variables.

    3 credits.

  • SS 342

    Anthropology of Ritual

    The study of ritual takes us to the heart of anthropological approaches to experience, performance, symbolism and association. Once thought to be "vestigial" organs of archaic societies, rituals are now seen as arenas through which social change may emerge and are recognized to be present in all societies. Throughout the course we will explore varying definitions of ritual and its universal and particular aspects, while surveying ethnographic case studies from around the world.

    3 credits.

  • SS 345

    The Raymond G. Brown Seminar: Varying Topics

    A seminar in the Social Sciences on a topic central to the interests of the late Professor Raymond G. Brown.

    3 credits.

  • SS 346

    Urban Sociology: Reading the City

    Over 75 percent of Americans and 40 percent of the world's population live in urban areas. These figures are growing. Consequently, the city has become one of the most important and powerful social phenomenon of modern times. It is therefore imperative that we come to understand its influence on our lives. This course will provide a basic introduction to urban life and culture from the framework of urban sociology. Classic and modern theories of urbanization and urbanism will be examined in order to understand the historical growth, decline and renewed growth of cities, along with the lifestyles they evoke. While the main frame is a sociological one, perspectives taken from urban planners, architects, landscape architects, artists, political economists, and writers will also be incorporated as will economic and political dynamics and their role in creating and resolving problems. Most importantly, we will consider the effect that urban environments have on our social interactions and daily lives.

    3 credits

  • SS 347


    In Macroeconomics, we explore answers to questions related to the performance of the US economy. What is unemployment? How is it related to the living standard? Why is there very high inflation? We examine why the economy experiences good days and bad days and what the government can do to minimize the negative effects of the bad days. We also address other interesting questions like why we have inflation and unemployment, and whether they are actually "bad" things.

    3 credits.

  • SS 348

    Intermediate Macroeconomics

    The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the core theories of macroeconomics for both closed and open economies. We will study the determinants of aggregate economic activity, inflation, and unemployment by developing a framework that addresses these issues and assesses the impact of government policies on aggregate economic outcomes. You can think about the course as composed of three main building blocks: (i) understanding business cycle fluctuations and the design of fiscal and monetary policies; (ii) understanding the determinants of long-run economic growth; and (iii) understanding the interaction between the domestic and world economies. Theoretical analysis depends on mathematical and diagrammatic tools with applications to contemporary macroeconomic policy issues and actions. Successful completion of SS 347 is a key pre-requisite for this class.

    3 credits.

  • SS 350

    Colonial Cities

    Colonial cities were major centers of trade, commerce and manufacturing, attracting money and immigrants from across the world. By focusing on the ways in which they shaped industrialization, urbanization and culture production, we will learn about technology and modern work practices, developments in housing, infrastructure and urban planning, new ideas of political resistance and artistic expressions of discontent that originated in these cities. In doing so, we will highlight the prominent role of colonial cities in shaping modern cosmopolitan life as well as the lasting legacies of colonial rule.

    3 credits

  • SS 351

    20th Century History “What we are talking about when we talk about Fascism?”

    This is a transnational history course that seeks to sharpen our thinking about definitions and resonances of fascism; it examines the past and asks, how such investigation might help us to act in the present when we confront situations that seem to be, or are quickly termed, “fascist.” Using theoretical and historical sources, we will study the European origins of fascism beginning with the dramatic upheavals of World War I and the interwar years through World War II, the Holocaust, and its aftermath, and then turn our attention to the development of a new global authoritarian populism and right-wing nationalist xenophobic leaders and regimes in the 21rst century. We will examine historical roots and current appeal as well as efforts at resistance, in a variety of contexts from Britain, Western and Eastern Europe to Russia, India, the Middle East, and East Asia. All of our work will require close analysis of entangled categories and experiences of race, class, nation, and gender and reference to “current events" in the United States as well as globally.

    General Course description: A study of the dramatic ruptures of Europe's 20th century, haunted by imperialism, war and genocide. Topics include the First World War; modernity and modernism in interwar culture; fascism, National Socialism and the Holocaust; postwar displacements and migrations; decolonization, the cold war and the postwar economic miracle; 1968 and 1989 in both East and West; and the ongoing challenges of integration and multiculturalism.

    3 credits.

  • SS 352

    Environmental Sustainability

    This course will be a dialogue on sustainability, the concept of a society that flourishes by living within the limits of, and in harmony with, the natural environment. Taking an integrative approach to all aspects of sustainable development, the course will stress the ecological character of human life and human history, how both have been shaped by the natural environment and have shaped it in return, and how issues of environmental sustainability shape our lives and careers

    3 credits

  • SS 354

    New York, 1820-1920: An Urban and Cultural History

    A presentation of two "maps" to the city. The first is a history of the built environment, focusing on the changing systems of transportation, the development of building forms and the way the city's population and functions have been distributed in that space. The second historical map is made up from people's imaginative responses to those changes, especially as seen in literature and visual iconography. Among the areas singled out for special examination are the Bowery and the Lower East Side, Central Park and the "downtown" of amusement and vice, wherever it happened to be at the time.

    3 credits

  • SS 357

    The Archive & The City

    The Archive & The City offers students the opportunity to engage with the resources of The Cooper Union Archives as they explore the history of the institution and the city in which it lies. From its beginnings, The Cooper Union has been a civic institution as well as a college and has attracted archival material that documents the history of many social groups and institutions: from the records of The People’s Institute to those of the New York Electrical Society, the speech of Chief Red Cloud to that of Ai Wei-Wei. Students will handle documents dating back to the 1860s—materials richly intertwined with individuals and events in the wider world—and conduct in-depth investigations into their choice of topics and archival material. Though the primary material may be related directly to The Cooper Union, the questions students ask of it will lead towards broader social issues and movements.

    3 credits.

  • SS 358

    Social History of Food

    Though the overall structure of this course remains roughly chronological -- from the moment of Columbian contact (1492) to the present -- individual classes are devoted to the cuisine of particular cities that claim distinctive cuisines and that celebrate their historical character.

    By looking at places such as Kyoto, Goa, Charleston, Lyon, San Francisco and so forth it will be possible to identify the social and cultural processes as well as the cultural and economic conditions that have shaped our contemporary food conditions and preoccupations. We will use recent scholarly articles, food blogs, and tourist videos to determine how history shapes our experience of food. Most of the writing required will be brief critical essays on sources about the food culture of these cities that students find for themselves.

    3 credits

  • SS 360

    American Intellectual History

    A study of major works in intellectual and literary history written from 1780 to the present, focusing on changing notions of the self, character and community and the ways these concepts have gained intellectual and literary expression in the United States.

    3 credits

  • SS 361

    Urban Archaeology

    New York City will serve as our model for exploring how the history of urban land use is illuminated through archaeology, and what archaeological excavation in an urban context entails. In class lectures and field trips, we will look at the geography and physical history of the city as preserved both in documents and in the archaeological remains of sites and artifacts characteristic of its successive culture periods from the prehistoric era to the early 20th century.

    3 credits

  • SS 362

    The History of Poverty

    In 1948, the newly-formed World Bank declared anyone with a per capita annual income below $100 as “poor,” and as if by fiat, over three-quarters of humanity became “impoverished” in an instant. But poverty has existed for centuries. The reason this declaration was remarkable was because this was the first time a global “minimum standard” for wealth had been established, which inevitably ranked nations on a scale ranging from less to more developed. This global problem of poverty called for new and innovative global solutions, and was the moment of the birth of "International Development”—the idea that “developed” nations ought to have a vested interest in the reduction of global poverty and in the economic development of other nations. The reality of this global project, however, has been markedly different from this promise. International Development, supercharged by the Cold War, became a weapon for toppling regimes, making covert war, and cornering new markets. It propped up military dictatorships in Asia, Africa and Latin America, armed religious extremists in Central Asia and the Middle East, created oligarchies, and compelled poor, often newly-independent nations, to exploit their natural resources in order to benefit private global firms. Using readings drawn from history, economics, political science and development studies, this elective course looks at the history of the modern period when humanity has tried to fix the problem of poverty, to understand what has worked and what hasn’t, and why.

    3 credits

  • SS 369

    Cognitive Pyschology: Conversations on Consciousness and Attention

    Consciousness is often called the main mystery in cognitive science. At the same time conscious experience seems to be trivial, we don't see changes in our awareness until we make a mistake in a simple cognitive task or someone tells us that we missed something salient. Consciousness studies is a multidisciplinary field in science that includes approaches and methods from neuroscience and physics, philosophy and anthropology, artificial intelligence and linguistics. We will try to learn more about the contribution of all these sciences, all aimed at answering one question: "What does it mean to have consciousness?" Some representative questions we will be discussing are: What is the function of consciousness? How intelligent is the unconscious? What is the relationship between consciousness and attention? Can a machine ever be conscious? Is consciousness fundamental in the universe (as Eastern philosophies argue) or did it emerge as matter became ever more complex (as Western science insists)? Is there a stream of consciousness or is this just an illusion? What could happen if we didn't have consciousness? The course brings together modern and historical ideas to give a perspective on how the problem of consciousness could be addressed. Each topic presents a question that we will try to answer, each topic includes reading part, demonstration of effects and experiments and a small written review task.

    3 credits

  • SS 371

    "Am I That Name?” Topics in Gender and Sexuality

    This course offers an introduction to the fields of inquiry that have come to be known as women’s, gender, and/or queer studies, and to the feminist theory that informs those studies. Students will engage in an interdisciplinary examination of the ways in which gender (that is, feminity and masculinity) has been constructed by visual media, literature, political theory, and social, political, and economic institutions; the historical bases for these constructions; and the activism that challenges some of these gender constructs. We will pay particular attention to the interlocking of gender with other forms of hierarchy, including race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality. We will read current scholarship in works of literature, film, history, social science, and theory, but above all, we will work our way through some of the “canonical” texts which inform that current scholarship, theory, and indeed popular culture (and our own ideas about women and men, gender and sexuality)

    3 credits

  • SS 372

    Global Issues

    This course will examine current issues of global significance and their implications for policy and decision-making. Among the trends we will consider are the tensions between resource competition and authority; the emergence of a global economy; the environment and sustainable development; demographic change; and the emergence of new security issues, including societal and environmental stress.

    3 credits.

  • SS 374

    Contemporary Social Psychology

    Utilizing a variety of social psychological perspectives, general issues such as human nature, socialization, attitude formation and change, verbal and non-verbal language, interpersonal behavior and the art of persuasion will be explored with interest in cross-cultural comparisons. The core questions we will explore include: What does it mean to be human? How is the self defined and determined? What impact do social groups, culture and the (built) environment have on the development of the self and on our everyday behavior?

    3 credits

  • SS 378

    Time, Travel and Communication in Early Modern Europe

    Time, Travel and Communication in Early Modern Europe explores technologies available in a time period that extends approximately from the Age of Exploration through the French Revolution (about 1500-1800). Interpretation of its themes--time, travel, communication--will be broad, and include close considerations of design technologies and material culture. In addition to readings (both primary and secondary) and discussions (in-class and online), and a few hands-on projects, successful students will learn to research and analyze artifacts that are relevant to the course themes. Together we will plan a journey that focuses our investigations on hows and wheres of travel in the early modern period, what travelers might bring with them, what they find along the way and what they do when they get where they're going. Think Assassin's Creed. Minus the assassin (probably) and blood and gore (if I can help it). And based on the history skills you have and learn in class.

    3 credits.

  • SS 382

    Game Theory

    Game Theory can apply in life, business, and beyond. This course presents the study of strategic & interactive decision-making processes among rational parties so as to extract the maximum payoff. Using matrices and simple mathematical formulations, students will be introduced to various models, and in particular to the prisoner’s dilemma, sequential games, and Pareto optimal solutions.

    3 credits

  • SS 384

    Anthropology and the Other

    This course provides an introduction to concepts in social-cultural anthropology. Students will rethink such concepts as culture, race, ethnicity, nationalism, transnationalism, gentrification, power and memory. We will use these concepts to address the questions of human universals and the origins of cultural differences. At the bases of these inquiries will be the question of the "Other." Who are the "Others" in culture or society?

    3 credits

  • SS 388

    Comparative Cities

    Cities are a defining feature of humankind as they are the centers of global trade, governance, information, the arts…but are also where people experience life. This course explores various urban organization in the United States, the “First World” and the “Third World” such as New York, Paris, Nanjing (near Shanghai), any town America, Jerusalem… and how they affect immigration, education, cultural experiences and the standard of living. Students are encouraged to contribute their own perspectives.

    3 credits

  • SS 390

    The Rise of the Modern City in the European Middle Ages

    Explores how early medieval landscapes with castles and small villages became wider communities—the first modern cities. Focuses on the major debates of the Middle Ages: the tensions between country and city life; the role of the church; Scholasticism; the debate between reason and faith; the role of the French cathedral in medieval life; the lay reaction to ecclesiastical control and the rise of communal Italian cities such as Florence, Venice and Siena centered around the civic palace; and the early requirements for city beautification. We will “visit” (virtually) the first hospital, universities and prototypical housing. Everyday life will be illustrated from the material remains of art and architecture through a cross section of different social environments.

    3 credits

  • SS 391

    Introduction to Mind and Brain

    The goal of this is to introduce the student to the basic principles of psychology, to guide the student through the brain and to provide a basic understanding of the relationship between the brain and mind addressing issues of consciousness. The first third of the course will examine the brain and underlying theories in psychology. The majority of the course will be focused on the relationship between the brain and consciousness including self-awareness, theory of mind, deception, abstract reasoning, art, music, spatial abilities and language. Steeped in recent findings in both psychology and neuroscience, the goal of this class will be to provide a modern foundation in the mind and the brain.

    3 credits.

  • SS 394

    American Radicalism

    This course will examine cultural radicalism in American thought from the Young Americans of the 1910s and the New York Intellectuals of the 1930s to the Beat poets of the 1950s and the Neo-Conservatives of the 1970s. Through figures such as Randolph Bourne, John Dewey, Meyer Schapiro, Lewis Mumford, C. Wright Mills and Dorothy Day, we will trace the rise and fall of the American avant-garde, the quest for an indigenous theory of culture, the social sources of counterculture, and the shifting meanings of the concepts “mass culture,” “consumer culture,” “kitsch,” and highbrow/middlebrow/lowbrow. Among the questions we will address are: Can one be a political radical and a cultural conservative? A political conservative and a cultural radical?

    Fall 2022 American Radicalism: Theory & Praxis. This course will serve as a think tank and workshop. Together, we will ask a number of theoretical questions about historical periods understood as “American,” such as revolution, abolition, reconstruction, prohibition, and racial/gender/sexual integration. We will ask questions like: What is American radicalism? What do we mean when we say those terms together, one after the other? What directions does the phrase move in throughout the history of “America,” whatever that might be? If radicalism is a product of American social and political culture, which is a composition of European political philosophy, then what if we said radical Americanism? What does that mean? Is it different? By surveying “American” history’s cultural and political artifacts, we will mine them for critical information about so-called “radical” positions as they transit through time. Included in the course readings will be revolutionary pamphlets, prohibition propaganda slogans, abolition postcards, cultural and artistic performances alongside black studies texts from W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, Saidiya Hartman, Sylvia Wynter, Christina Sharpe, Omise’eke Tinsley, C. Riley Snorton, Hortense Spillers, and more. The hope of this course is to use these investigations to interface more critically with our own non-academic practices. The expectation is that we will bring the things that we think about outside of the classroom—our art and technical practices, social life, and more—to bear on what we will study together. What do these concepts have to do with what we already do? We will use the city as a laboratory for our study when we can. The classroom is our space and time to compare notes. Writing assignments in the course will respond to guided questions to ask throughout as we practice and think about our study outside of the classroom. Throughout the course, our most important question will be: How do we do differently in the wake of a study on American radicalism?

    3 credits

  • SS 99

    Independent Study (Social Sciences)

    Independent Studies are voluntary agreements between individual full-time or part-time faculty members and individual students, in which students complete a course of study and assignment. Only juniors and seniors in good academic standing (defined as having earned a minimum of 3.0 GPA overall) are eligible for Independent Study. Faculty conduct Independent Studies with students who have already completed a class or other educational/research activity under their supervision. The course of study and assignment for 1 or 2 credit Independent Study typically consist of a reading list and workload comparable to that required for a 1 or 2 credit course. Independent Studies are intensive activities. Faculty members regard them as a significant commitment. Students can only participate in one Independent Study per semester.

    If an HSS full-time or part-time faculty member is willing to supervise an Independent Study, the student should work with the faculty member to complete this form and submit the signed application to the HSS’s Dean’s Office no later than the end of the first week of semester for approval. LATE APPLICATIONS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. The work cannot begin unless the Independent Study is approved by the Dean’s Office. The major consideration in approving proposals for independent study is the educational value of the study project within the structure of degree requirements.

    To learn more, please visit HSS Independent Study Policy.

History and Theory of Art, Core

  • HTA 101, 102

    Modern to Contemporary: An Introduction to Art History

    This two-semester art history core course, developed as part of the Foundation year for students in the School of Art but open to all students, is organized around a set of themes running through the history of modernity from the 18th century to the present. Within specific themes, significant works, figures and movements in art/design will be presented chronologically. Students will be able to identify and critically evaluate significant works, figures and movements in art/design in the modern period; be able to describe the main social and political contexts for the changes in art/design over the last two hundred years; and engage, in writing and class discussion, with theoretical perspectives on art/design production. The course will involve museum visits. Grading will be based on class participation, papers, and exams.

    3 credits each semester

History and Theory of Art, Electives

  • HTA 209

    Medieval Art and Architecture

    Investigates the art, architecture and archaeology of medieval Europe from Constantine (fourth century) to approximately 1450, a period when different cultures clashed and mixed together to shape the eclectic Western medieval world that rose from Roman imperial ruins and ideals. This course will follow a chronological sequence, but use recent data from medieval excavations to challenge traditional art historical statements. Early Christian, Byzantine, Barbarian, Islamic, Romanesque and Gothic periods are examined.

    2 credits

  • HTA 211

    The Renaissance in Italy

    An investigation of the art produced during the 15th and 16th centuries in Italy, where a revival of classical learning led to an unprecedented artistic flowering. In painting, the course deals with the period from Fra Angelico to Titian; in architecture, from Brunelleschi to Palladio; and in sculpture, from Ghiberti to Michelangelo and Benvenuto Cellini. The course will touch on such themes as the classical ideal, town planning, country villas, fresco painting, patronage, the development of perspective, and the rise of the portrait.

    2 credits

  • HTA 212

    Introduction to African American Art

    This lecture course is an introduction to the work of African American artists from the colonial era to contemporary times. While examining the African underpinnings in the production of visual art from artists of African descent since the colonial era, the work of African American artists will also be examined within the over-all context of American art production. Students will explore major art movements, such as the New Negro Movement/Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement, as well as study the impact of political movements on artists and their work, including the Feminist Movement, and #BlackLivesMatter on works of art. The intersection of class, gender, sexuality in addition to the assertion as well as disruption of African diasporic identities will be explored. This course will examine artworks of various forms including but not limited to photography, installation, and new media.

    2 credits

  • HTA 213

    Oral Art History

    The spoken word has always been a crucial component of artistic practice, transmission of memory, and production of knowledge about artists and art objects. Because of its nature, however, orality tends to be overlooked in art historical accounts. During the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the new millennium, artists have explored speech more and more systematically by turning to artist talks, pedagogy, participatory art as a major component of their work. Concurrently, art critics and historians have focused their attention to the non-written communication not only methodologically by utilizing interviews and other forms of conversations, but also historically by reconsidering the importance of orality and its erasure for our understanding of the past.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 214

    Art, Activism, Alternatives: United States Art in the 1970s

    This seminar explores the history of art in the 1970s by looking at the various activist coalitions, alternative spaces, loft theaters, magazines, and other artist-run organizations that emerged across the United States, in cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Amid the decade’s political and economic crises, artists founded these platforms in order to enable collaboration, confront a lack of representation in museums and commercial galleries, and connect their individual practices to broader social objectives, including women’s liberation, Black nationalism, the Chicano movement, and post-Stonewall LGBTQ activism. Through case studies of specific organizations and the artists associated with them, we will ask how the decade’s principal aesthetic strategies—site specificity, institutional critique, body art, performance, object theater, video, conceptual photography, and craft—became rooted in both local struggles and national politics. Case studies will include 112 Greene Street, A.I.R., Africobra, the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition, the Floating Museum, Hallwalls, Heresies, Just Above Midtown, the Plaster Foundation, and Womanhouse. In parallel with weekly readings and seminar discussions, students will spend the semester preparing a research paper on a relevant topic of their choosing.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 215

    Nonconforming before Genderqueer

    In their 2018 article, “Trans, Time, and History,” scholars Leah Devun and Zeb Tortorici investigate the possibilities of using transgender as a lens to write history, what they call “trans before trans.” Taking their inquiry as a starting point for our class, this course will investigate how art and literature have been used to imagine alternatives to the gender binary, focusing on the period between 1750 and 1950 in Europe and America. We will examine many different depictions of androgyny, examining its various functions as a spiritual ideal, as a critique of the gender binary, and as a way to express homoerotic desire. After briefly considering how the androgyne—a nonbinary gender—was imagined in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, we will examine writing by the eighteenth-century Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg and the long influence of his thinking on how Europeans and Americans understood the idea of an androgyne. Our inquiry encompasses study of Black trans history in the fugitive slave narrative of Harriet Jacobs and in the androgynous sculptures of Harlem Renaissance artist Richmond Barthé. We will also study the lives and work of gender-nonconforming artists such as writer Rachilde and photographer Claude Cahun.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 217

    American Stories: Reconsidering Documentary Photography

    This course will consider selected moments in the history of American documentary photography, beginning with social documentary at the turn of the twentieth century through expanded documentary in the twenty-first century. Probing the American tradition of truth-telling, we will track the shifting artistic debates surrounding the relationship of photographic representation to social justice. How did specific projects shape the collective imagination about the American mythos of liberty, equality, and justice for all? How did alternative approaches generate different images of American democracy, its citizens and its outsiders? Finally, how have recent documentary-based practices reproduced the historical as contemporary? We will look at Lewis Hine and the Photo League (the Feature Group’s Harlem Document); the Farm Security Administration, Toyo Miyatake’s and Dorothea Lange’s censored photographs; Robert Frank’s The Americans and Roy DeCarava’s The Sweet Flypaper of Life; Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand, and Gordon Parks; and finally Sally Mann, Carrie Mae Weems, An-My Lê, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and Dawoud Bey.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 220

    Japanese Art

    An introduction to the art of Edo period Japan (1603-1867), covering painting, printmaking, and the allied arts.

    2 credits

  • HTA 221

    Buddhist Art: Origins to Modernity

    As a part of the ongoing discourse on the tripartite interrelation among art, religion and modernity, this class investigates "Buddhist art,” the visual culture of one the world religions, rooted in the premodern societies of India, Central, South East and East Asia and Tibet, from which its distinctive material forms, visual principles and ritual practices developed. More recently, the presence of Asian Buddhist material/visual cultures has asserted itself anew through transnational exchanges and confrontations, particularly between Asia and the modern and contemporary West. This course attempts to historicize this phenomenon by taking a macro approach to Buddhist art (without sacrificing specifics related to individual cases) by investigating two possible constituents of modern/contemporary Buddhist art: its core historical principles carried over from its origins, which have been considered “timeless,” and its uniquely “timely” complication of or deviation from its original systems.

    We will spend half of the course studying some original principles of historical Buddhist art in areas such as visuality, representation, copy, agency, function and performativity, while quickly tracing the geo-historical spread of the religion throughout Asia over a period of more than 2,400 years. In this section, we will visit selected works and sites that represent some typologies of premodern Buddhist art, such as relics, icons, mandala, pagoda, gardens and “Zen art,” and examine them in “context,” i.e., concerning their relations to the ritualistic/symbolic practices and fundamental philosophy of the religion. The latter half of the class will explore the issue of collisions in modernity between two claims: an insistence on the immutability and authenticity of persistent premodern systems of Buddhist art and experimentations reflecting the ever changing globalizing identities of the religion and regions in Asia, corresponding to recent social, political and cultural landscapes, including museum displays, temple politics, Orientalizing commodification and appropriation by avant-garde artists.

    2 credits

  • HTA 231

    History of Industrial Design

    In tracing the history of industrial design from its emergence at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to the present, this course will examine not only aesthetics (of furniture and the decorative arts, typography, advertising, machinery, toys, etc.) but also the social and political forces that have shaped the many styles. Throughout, we will also demonstrate how movements in industrial design relate to parallel developments in the history of painting, sculpture, and architecture.

    2 credits

  • HTA 240

    Asian Contemporary Art

    In this course, students will build a foundation in critical theory revolving around issues of race, nationality, sexuality and gender as they relate to the formation of an artist’s identity, and how that identity in turn is reflected in the artist’s output. Attention will be paid to Asian contemporary artists working outside of their own cultures and to Asian-American artists, in an attempt to analyze the role of the Asian diaspora and its connection to contemporary art production in Asia proper. Special focus will be paid to the contemporary art of India, China, Korea and Japan, although other nations and regions will also be discussed.

    2 credits

  • HTA 261

    Art and Social Practice

    This course focuses on socially-engaged and relational artworks and initiatives in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa from the 1960s to the present. By studying the development of participatory practices outside of the institutional networks and market structures of the Euro-Atlantic art world, we will examine the shifting boundaries between art and activism, investigate the politics of the art world, and address how activated spectators, collectives and collaborative projects shaped cultural production and social life locally and in a global context.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 263

    African Art

    An introduction to the stylistic, conceptual, functional and historical aspects of sub-Saharan African sculpture and architecture, the place of these arts in the traditional context of black African life and their relationship to the worldview of the African.

    2 credits

  • HTA 264

    Contemporary Artists of the Black Atlantic (1960’s-Present)

    This course explores the contemporary work of artists of African descent based in Africa, Europe and the Americas from the Black Power Movement in the United States and the Independence era of Africa to the present day. This course will probe the assertion of “black Atlantic identities” and will include photography, installation art, as well as internet based work.

    2 credits

  • HTA 265

    Money in Antiquity

    In this course we shall investigate the ancient world through one of its most fundamental institutions: money. We will learn about different types of ancient money, including coinage, bullion, grain and credit, the various coins used by the Greeks and Romans (as well as other groups, such as ancient Mesopotamians, Persians, Indians and Jews), and about the different methods used to study them. The seminar takes an interdisciplinary approach to major topics in the history of money, including the origins of coinage, monetization, imitations and forgeries, debasement, trade, and the politics of issuing coins. We shall think about economics and social history, as well as the role played by coins in archaeology, and the complex ethical (and legal) issues surrounding the modern practice of coin collecting.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 270

    The Art of Greece and Rome

    This course is an introduction to the ancient Greeks and Romans by way of their art. In the ancient world, art (and architecture) always served a purpose. Although we cannot always divine that purpose, its mere existence permits us to use ancient art as a means of exploring the lives, experiences and ideas of the Greeks and Romans. In this course we shall examine the purposes of Greek and Roman art, starting with the Bronze Age and continuing until the reign of Constantine. We will focus on the interplay between purpose and form, and on how we can use objects to ask questions about the past.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 271

    The Hellenistic Age: Art & Society in an Ancient Multicultural World

    Following the campaigns of Alexander, the Greeks spread across the Middle East as far as Egypt, Central Asia and India, where they encountered many cultures vastly different from their own. The result was the creation of a diverse, multicultural world, connected by shared elements such as the use of the Greek language, but in which every individual region and society was unique. This diversity is especially evident in the art produced in this period, where we see the Greek obsession with human form, preferably nude, mixing with older artistic traditions in Egypt and Mesopotamia that relied on hierarchy and repetition to perform their functions. In Italy the Romans adopted aspects of Greek art as a means of disrupting their rather stodgy political ideology, with mixed results, whereas in India Greek motifs, popular for reasons as yet unknown, were pressed into the service of Buddhism.

    We will focus especially on themes of interaction – how do old and new artistic traditions combine? – and identity – what did these combinations mean to the people who made and used them? – as well as on the roles of power and resistance.

    2 credits

  • HTA 273

    History of Photography

    Our study of the history of photography will reckon with technological innovations embedded in the medium. The always changing materiality of image cultures shape our experiences and understanding of photography. We will study photography from the mid-19th century to the present through the social and economic conditions that define the processes of making images with such devices as the camera obscura, to Kodak’s Brownie; analogue large format to Polaroid land cameras; 35mm point and shoots to camera phones; body cameras on police to the servers that store their data. Together we will investigate how photography, through these shifting modes of recording and distributing images, collaborates with other mediums and practices such as performance art, political organizing, and poetry.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 275

    Twentieth-Century Art History

    20th Century American Art: Institutional Critique

    This course presents the topic of institutional critique within the context of American Art in the 20th century. With leading figures like Hans Haacke in the 1960s targeting the funding to museums and galleries to Mining the Museum by Fred Wilson, to Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez-Peña's Couple in the Cage (1993), students will look at the political, social, and cultural aspects of Institutional Critique through key artists and writings. Emerging also during the civil rights movement, gay rights movement, and feminist movements, these movement will help students understand how recent calls for decolonization of art institutions also continue this lineage. Looking at museums, biennials, exhibitions, and other art institutions, we will think about the political and economic power of these and how they shape value and history within the context of art.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 278

    Modernism in Latin America

    This course examines the emergence and development of Latin American modernisms in their so-called first and second waves. The first one, which unfolded from the 1920s to the 1940s in Brazil, Mexico and Cuba, witnessed the artists’ combination of imported European avant-garde tendencies—such as post-impressionism and Cubism—with local motifs to produce an art that could reflect a national identity. The second wave pertains to the post World War II rise of abstract tendencies in South America, specifically, concrete abstraction in Argentina and Brazil, and op and kinetic art in Venezuela. Artistic modernisms in the region will be studied in connection with the political and cultural context in Latin American countries, specifically, the process of nation-state building, the rise of populist ideologies, and the incidence of developmentalism in the Southern Cone during the 1950s and 1960s. We will analyze a range of artists, such as Tarsila do Amaral, Candido Portinari, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Frida Kahlo, Wifredo Lam, Mario Carreño, Pedro Figari, group MADÍ, Lygia Clark, Helio Oiticica, Carlos Cruz-Diez and Jesús Rafael Soto. Topics might include: the strategies of modernity in Latin America, the new concept of “inverted utopia,” the role of the avant-garde group manifestos, the post-colonial, and the meaning of abstraction within a turbulent political milieu. We discuss crucial concepts that define cultural modernism in Latin America — among them, identity, indigenismo, costumbrismo, transculturation, syncretism, hybridization, and race politics.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 280

    International Futurism

    Futurism (1909-1944) was the first avant-garde movement to emerge from the peripheries of modernity. Founded by Italian and Egyptian artists, Futurism embraced a problematic ideology. Yet the movement has functioned ever since as a strategic model for several groups of artists fighting against dynamics of exclusion. The first part of the course focuses on Futurism and its international network. The second part discusses more recent artistic movements from Russia, Argentina, Japan, Italy, and the US, which have adopted Futurism’s guerrilla-like methods to strike an attack on the hegemonic center.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 281

    Ancient Mediterranean World

    This course is intended to address selected topics concerning the reciprocal relationships among the fascinating and diverse civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean littoral and their neighbors to the East. The primary focus this semester will be on the Bronze Age-- the “Age of Heroes,” to the beginning of the Classical era, and the setting of the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey--with special emphasis on the interrelationships between Egypt, the Near East and the Greek Aegean during the time period ca. 3000 – 1100 B. C. We will look at the art, architecture, archaeology and a sampling of the literature of the periods and places under consideration.

    2 credits.

    2 credits

  • HTA 285

    Single-Work Seminar

    A seminar devoted entirely to a single monument or work of art that had a particularly profound and wide resonance in the socio-political, economic, and cultural milieu in which it was created and whose range of influence extended well beyond its historical time frame. The focused nature of the course material allows for both a breadth and a depth of analysis to a greater degree than is possible in other elective art history courses. Past topics have included Duccio's "Maesta."

    2 credits.

  • HTA 296

    The Portrait: Re-examining Portraiture and the New Subject

    How do we picture ourselves and others? Do portraits construct, convey, conceal or mortify their subjects? This course explores histories of portraiture in Western and non-Western art across diverse artistic media probing questions about the relationship of art, memory and the politics of representation. By examining a diverse range of artworks from antique sculptures through Renaissance paintings, African memorial portrait masks, documentary photographs and films to early 21st century videos, we will address the development of portraiture as a genre, examine conventions of mimetic representation and discourses of identity formation. Artists to be discussed include, among many others, Chantal Akerman, Shirley Clarke, Jacques-Louis David, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Francisco de Goya, Frans Hals, Frida Kahlo, Joshua Reynolds, Malick Sidibé, Catherine Opie, Wolfgang Tillmans, James Van der Zee, and Andy Warhol.

    2 credits

  • HTA 297

    History of Printmaking

    Explores the history of printmaking and its various processes from the 15th century to the present with an eye to the unique contribution of this graphic art to the history of visual language in both popular and fine art. While major printmakers (e.g., Durer, Rembrandt, Daumier, the Nabis, the German Expressionists, Jasper Johns) will be addressed, attention will also be given to the practical and popular use of prints through the centuries.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 298

    History of Graphic Design

    A study of important avant-garde and graphic design movements starting with the Industrial Revolution through the 20th century including: Futurism, Dada, Constructivism, De Stijl, the influence of the Bauhaus and the New Typography, the rise of the modern movement in America, pre and post-war design in Switzerland and Italy, the International Typographic Style, the New York School, corporate identity, postmodernism and more. We’ll examine the evolving design styles and the role of the pioneer designer in society, with an emphasis on notable works, subjects and themes; and their cultural, political and social connections. Course includes slide lectures, readings, discussions, looking at original materials (posters, advertisements, booklets, etc.), individual research assignments and written essays.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 299

    Ceramics Within and Beyond Categories

    Ceramics, or fired clay, in its intrinsically multifaceted and global nature, resists a straightforward categorization, such as “crafts.” It signifies a medium-defined genre of visual art, that of material culture as well as socio-political practices which have been prized around the world throughout human history. Due to the absence of a core mega-narrative and central theories, investigating ceramics across the globe can be flexible and exploratory, dealing with various identities and cross culturally-connected and disconnected diverse lineages within its world history. This course will experiment with one scenario of the world history of the medium by unpacking ceramics as thing (material, technologies and objects), value (symbols, identities, aesthetics and concepts) and ritual (display, performance, community and daily life) through time and space. The class will proceed in two parts: reviewing selected historical episodes telling stories of contacts and exchanges; and introducing some major critical discourses and issues over the multivalent status of ceramics in relation to modern/contemporary art and society. As a point of entry to history, our global, chronological mapping will start with East Asia, one of the hubs of world ceramic cultures, examining its prehistoric and later enshrinement of the medium, and moving through the Ages of Exploration, Empires and colonial/postcolonial periods in Europe, Africa, Middle East. We will then return to an Asia in contact and conflict with 20th and 21st century Euro-America, where some artists/designers exploring ceramics’ new potential as a distinctive material/medium have emerged as cultural celebrities.

    2 credits

  • HTA 300

    Single-Artist Seminar

    A course devoted entirely to the life and work of one important artist, selected anew from across the spectrum of world art each time it is offered. The seminar is designed to allow for an in-depth experience in the discipline of Art History that extends well beyond what is possible in period survey courses.

    2 credits

  • HTA 303

    Global Renaissance

    This course seeks to reframe the Renaissance in a global context by analyzing the migration of visual culture via conditions of reception and cross-cultural contact. In doing so, it revisits the euro-centric humanist model of the Renaissance and seeks instead to offer a new paradigm based on an analysis of global exchange. Themes covered include art, empire and propaganda, colonial identities, hybridity, rituals of devotion and the translation of sacred space. In addition to an understanding of post-colonial theory, and the cultural mediation of images, the course considers hybrid objects in the words of Homi Bhabha as not having a single fixed meaning, but as incorporating “slippages,” that are part of the conditions of colonialism. It also offers up a critique of any analysis based on a simplistic framework of cultural parallelism, and seeks to present hybrids as having multiple and at times contradictory meanings evolving from cross-cultural exchange. In addition to lectures and readings, students will participate in one museum field trip. Attendance on this field trip is mandatory. Although the format of this class is a lecture, student participation in weekly discussions is encouraged and expected.

    2 credits

  • HTA 305


    Performativity is the capacity of speech, utterance, gesture, and language to impact or create the world. In this course, students will explore the relevance of speech acts to social norms and identity, as well as creative forms of self- and collective fashioning and redress. This course moves from debates around the performative—the study of words which do things—to accounts of gender, race, and sexuality which emphasize their constructedness and thus, their alterability. This course also prioritizes performance art as one among many answers to the problem of embodiment and experiment. Together, we will explore key texts and performances within the field of performance studies to address the generative exchange between art and critical theory. Key words or sites include the relationship of speech to deed; discourse to materiality; inscription to violence; and embodiment to history. Students will have the possibility of exploring their own performance practice in a final project.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 306

    Ephemeral Art

    This course will examine the notion of the ephemeral, in other words, objects and materials of short duration, and how they raise questions of time, materiality, and matter that relate to changing political, social, and cultural contexts. Art historians have long focused their attention on the singular masterpiece and their attendant notions of enduring value, aesthetic perfection, and the ideal. Yet recent scholarship in fields such as media studies have demonstrated that the ephemeral and obsolescence or the outdated have played an equal role in our understanding of the work of art and its materials. What if a work of art was meant to last for just 15 minutes? What would it mean to make a work of art that lasted the span of a snapchat? We will explore the notion of the ephemeral through a series of readings organized around conceptual terms such as dust, the archive, the monumental, celebrity, and happenings. Theoretical readings and class discussions will be anchored in the study of works of art ranging from paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, film, and performance art, from antiquity to the present. These discussions will be supplemented by visits to museum collections and conservation labs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Morgan Library and Museum, and other institutions in the New York area. The aim of the course is to demonstrate that artworks are not only the object of an artist’s intentionality, but subject to changing cultural perceptions of time.

    2 credits

  • HTA 307

    Love and Loss: Framing Memory in American Portraiture, 1680—1919

    Art’s power to address the fragility of life and resilience of the human spirit is a pressing topic in this time of national grief. The “sentimental” and memorial function of American portraiture, from the colonial era through World War I, is the primary concern of this course. Historically, portraiture served as a way to document the lives of Americans—fleeting before the advent of modern medicine. The dominant form of painting, portraits were commissioned to express not only the sitters’ social position, but also the yearning to capture likenesses of loved ones who might die young—and to keep those who did imaginatively among the circle of the living. To grieve deeply, you need to have loved deeply, and tokens of romantic and familial love reveal that sometimes the boundaries of conduct were not as narrow as we might believe! We will explore courtship, marriage, gender roles, sexual orientation, childrearing, class, race, religion, ethnicity, and especially grief and mourning. Our interdisciplinary class discussions will be organized chrono-thematically, as the values and beliefs portraits express illuminate and are illuminated by social and historical context. Together the works will create a vivid portrait of a country bound by kinship and community ties, yet torn by conflicts that still fray the fabric of society today. “Love & Loss” will expand our understanding of the richness and complexity of art’s role in American private life and will consider the artistry of well-known and underappreciated artists. The artworks will include a wide range of mediums, mix “folk” art with the more realistic “correct” kind that has dominated museums for much of their history, and integrate into the “canon” works by women and minorities, and deaf itinerant portraitists who made their voices heard through art. We will end the term with a discussion about how earlier expressions of remembrance resonate with current forms of visual culture that frame memory.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 308

    Women's Art and Feminisms

    This course focuses on women and art; and intends to propose a reconstruction of some little known but major women’s contributions to art, to history, and/or to the women’s liberation movements. Organized by medium, as well as chronologically, this course proposes to identify major modes of expressions used by women historically (and until today), and discusses them in their cultural, technological, theoretical, and socio-historical contexts of origin (including feminisms).

    The course starts with deconstructing historical representations or misrepresentations of women in visual arts, and discusses them alongside the visibility of art by women artists or lack thereof in history. The recent efforts by the art market and institutions, lately including more women’s art in exhibitions and collections, will be discussed, and questioned. Because the artworks of individuals who self-identify as women are often found in non-traditional media for the fine arts, our case studies bring us to consider works in the form of: public speaking, publishing, poster-making, and other agit-prop such as: tee-shirts, buttons, stickers, etc., as well as performance art, public action, and video art. Then, because women artists often worked collectively and collaboratively, a special attention is given to works by collectives such as: New York Radical Women, Redstockings, Les Insoumuses, Salsa Soul Sisters, Guerrilla Girls, Grand Fury, WAC, and more recently: Black Lives Matter, #MeToo movements internationally.

    While learning about women in visual arts, we also discuss how their practice engages or not with trends identified as part of the development of feminism. Concepts such as “First Wave,” “Second Wave,” “Radical Feminism,” “Anti-Feminism,” “White Feminism,” “Black Feminism,” “Womanism,” “Post-Feminism,” and “Neo-Feminism” are also clarified and allow to approach the intersectionality of feminisms with race and BIPOC, as well as LGBTQ communities historically. Then the more recent discussions regarding non-binary gender identities are evaluated as a challenge as well as an opportunity for feminism.

    2 credits

  • HTA 312

    Art Beyond Sight

    This course develops from recent developments in museum education regarding the inclusion of a larger diversity of audience, namely visitors with disabilities. While this course will focus on the visual arts and its access to the visual impaired, it will also address various current initiatives beyond vision. Students will become familiar with the canonical and often rare literature on the subjects, including references in: access to art, museum education, blindness, sensorial perception, etc. Students become aware and evaluate the relevance and challenges presented by verbal description, conversation, sensory experiences, and creative practice as educational tools for in those programs. Along with the course, students will have the opportunity to meet professionals in the field of museum education as well as participants in museum programs for visually impaired visitor. They will also be given opportunities to work on tangible projects that could improve access to art. Then, one of the goals for this course is to give students firsthand opportunities to contribute to bridging the existing gaps between visual arts and the visually impaired audience.

    2 credits

  • HTA 313

    Seminar in Art History

    A seminar based on a special topic in the study of Art History. The seminar may be repeated for credit with the permission of the dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

    2 credits.

    Art of Colonial South Asia
    [HTA 313-L1] (Spring 2024)
    This seminar aims to teach students how to look at, think about, and engage critically with the visual culture of British India. Together, we will examine the repercussions of the Anglo-Indian colonial encounter on the disciplines of painting, decorative arts, photography, and architecture. We shall not only study the objects themselves, but interrogate the cultural, political, and intellectual circumstances under which they were produced, circulated, collected, and displayed. Finally, we will explore the legacy of the British empire today—its influence on contemporary art, the politics and practices of museum displays, repatriation debates, and beyond. The course will involve visits to museums around the city. For the final project, students will conceptualize their own exhibitions, selecting eight artifacts that present a broad view of the art of colonial South Asia.

    Artists' Writing
    [HTA 313-M1] (Spring 2024)
    This course is an introduction to artists’ writing from the postwar period to today, either as an integral or a complementary part of their practice. In this course, artists’ writings will be discussed in relationship to the visual works. The content is roughly organized chronologically and according to various literary genres: biography, autobiography, homage, interview, poetry, fiction, auto-fiction, as well as opinion or position pieces and theoretical essays. An alphabetic indicative selection of authors discussed in this course includes Vito Acconci, Louise Bourgeois, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Liam Gillick, Philip Guston, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Allan Kaprow, Robert Morris, Yoko Ono, Nan June Paik, Lorraine O’Grady, Faith Ringgold, Martha Rosler, Carolee Schneemann, Hito Steyerl, KimSu Theiler, Lucia Vernarelli, as well as a number of artists’ Manifesti authored collectively. This selection particularly focuses on representing the significant but often underrepresented field of writings by women artists. As the assigned texts are in English, issues of translation as well as writing in English as a second language will be addressed; students are also encouraged to discuss writings in other languages than English for their assignments. In addition to studying artists’ texts, students will produce a significant amount of writing for this course (some of which will happen during class time) as well as be required to work closely with the Center for Writing and Learning.

    Performance and Property
    [HTA 313-N1] (Spring 2024)
    Examining key texts from critical race theory to contract law, feminist approaches to reproduction to decolonial critiques of the museum, this course develops multiple overlapping challenges to property and situates them within histories of performed and embodied art. We will study the racial, sexual, and colonial politics of performance, considering in particular questions of subjection and objecthood; repetition and deviation; ritual and documentation; and preservation and decay. Together, we will ask: Can we use performance art to explore, contest, and renegotiate property? What is property’s relationship to labor, occupation, law, and natural right, and how might performance rework those fundamental logics? What alternative methodologies and practices for the transmission and maintenance of cultural material does performance introduce in order to resist rendering expression and/or artwork into property? Students will develop a series of writing projects over the course of the semester and acquire a critical vocabulary to approach and write with performance art across culture and time.

  • HTA 314

    Art Exchange Across National Boundaries

    The course focuses on the cultural and political geography of artistic production from the mid-20th century to the present. We will engage with artworks, exhibitions, and publications as vehicles of cultural dialogue and tools of political propaganda and cultural imperialism. By studying the geopolitical trajectories of artistic practices and institutional networks, we will ask questions about why and how images and objects travel, and ponder the exchange of art and ideas in the field of global art and culture.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 315

    Renaissance Art in Northern Europe: 1350-1550

    This course will provide a detailed introduction to sculpture, painting, and architecture in Bohemia, France, Germany, and the Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands) between 1350 and 1550. Art and architecture will be analyzed in relation to devotional practices, political policies, and social life. Students will be able to relate the individual works to patronage conditions and to pertinent social, religious, political, and philosophical movements through major artists, such as the Limbourg Brothers, Claus Sluter, Jan van Eyck, Roger van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Albrecht Dürer, and Hans Baldung the Grien. The cross-cultural exchange that occurred between Italy and lands north of the Alps during the Renaissance will be examined. Artworks reflecting globalization introduced via the commencement of the Portuguese slave trade in the 1480s, as well as trade between northern Europe and the Far East will also be analyzed in this course.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 316

    Monuments, Artist Interventions and the Struggle for Memory

    On August 12, 2017 white supremacist and Neo-Nazi groups converged on Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the city’s planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. In the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, citizens in Durham, North Carolina took matters into their own hands, felling a Confederate soldier monument. This course considers the contentious debates involved in erecting and removing such artworks. We will ask: What visual strategies have artists used to commemorate controversial histories in the 20th-century Americas? How have subsequent generations questioned, reimagined, and subverted these strategies? The course centers on debates over racial justice and monuments to the US Civil War and slavery, but will also consider memorials to other violent histories across the Americas. Students will gain an understanding of public sculpture since the late 19th century, while also exploring embodied and ephemeral practices such as parades, reenactments, performance, and graffiti.

    2 credits

  • HTA 319

    Reading Surfaces: painting techniques over time

    The course will consider the histories of artists’ materials, tools and techniques as they play out on the surfaces of primarily Western paintings c.1300-1800. Close and long looks will be given to paintings inside local museum collections. These sensory experiences will provide a tactile overview of past strategies to represent aspects of the world in two dimensions, from light to dark grounds, from direct to indirect application of color, and from egg to oil. Mechanisms by which paintings deteriorate, and the methods used to stall or quiet that deterioration, to restore the image, will also be observed and discussed. We will begin with 14th century Italian paintings and move forward in time with alternating focus on paintings from northern and southern Europe, and with connections and contrasts drawn to contemporary Ethiopian, Persian, and Latin American paintings. The relative sparseness of research focused on non-Western painting traditions will be critically engaged. Attention will be given to how technique can interact with content, how duration of gaze can manipulate perception, how mutability persists within every apparently static physical object, and how past methods of making can inspire those of today.

    2 credits

  • HTA 320

    Porcelain and the Politics of Chinoiserie

    This course explores Europe's obsession with porcelain and the ""Chinese taste"" in the eighteenth century and its complex afterlives today. The class will delve into the problematics of Chinoiserie, a vague stylistic term used to describe a “neutral, harmless” style of decoration shaped by European fantasies of ""the East."" Fueled by the early arrival of Chinese porcelain in the sixteenth century, Chinoiserie was by the eighteenth century rampant in the art, architecture, and decorative arts of Europe. Far from being neutral, this style was polemical from the outset.

    The class will focus primarily in the eighteenth century, as we look at historical examples of porcelain, luxury, and commerce, reading these against the grain with the aid of theoretical writings. Analyzing the stylistic, historical and ideological dimensions of Chinoiserie, we will consider how this term can be reframed in order to construct a critical framework that takes into account issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class.

    2 credits

  • HTA 322

    Global Mediterranean Culture (391 – 1492)

    The focus of this course will be the Mediterranean Sea, between the late antique and modern period (ca. 391 and 1492), in a number of its distinctive manifestations, political, religious, social, cultural, and economic. Once upon a time, the Mediterranean Sea was possessively defined as the mare nostrum (our sea), and claimed by the Roman Empire or some other superpower. As a result, the Mediterranean, since then, has been viewed almost exclusively with a Euro centricity, founded on colonialism and exploitation.

    Current historiography, the social sciences, has broken away from that single local, and ultimately incomplete narrative for the Mediterranean. The primary goal for this course is to provide a “wider and more humane history” that is more inclusive of “invisible people and cultures” and provides alternate narratives to the ones currently in the history books. The conception of the ‘Great Sea’ as a boundary-less space allows us to address the many lacunae in its history that are now being acknowledged.

    2 credits

  • HTA 324

    Museum as Frame: Art in New York

    Through class meetings and museum visits we will investigate the idea of the museum, its history, cultural significance, meaning and societal influence. In particular, we will consider how the museum experience affects the attitudes and assumptions of museum visitors. We will explore the intellectual under-pinnings of the modern museum since the Enlightenment, with special attention to issues of nationalism and eurocentrism; the complexities of museum sponsorship (public, private, and corporate), and how they shape cultural presentation; and the emergence, since the 1960s, of community-oriented museums alongside the growing importance in society of multi-culturalism and ethnic identity. We will also consider standard art-historical issues of style and society as they relate to the various artworks we see.

    2 credits

  • HTA 325

    Native American Art

    This course presents a broad overview of the visual arts of Native America in their historical and contemporary contexts. For the majority of the lectures, we will proceed geographically, examining artworks produced by peoples of the Southwest (Anasazi, Mimbres, Hohokam, Pueblo, Navajo, Apache), East (Archaic, Woodland, Mississippian, Chitimacha, Seminole, Miccosukee, Cherokee), West (Mandan, Cheyenne, Crow, Kiowa, Metis), Far West (Chumash, Pomo, Wiyot, Washoe), North (Beothuk, Innu, Cree, Dene, Inuit), and Northwest Coast (Proto-Salish, Makeh, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Kwakwaka’wakw).

    During our last lecture, we will look to art produced after 1900, when a pan-Indian identity began to develop, resulting in works that are not always easily categorized by specific tribal communities or geographic areas. The works that we will consider over the course of the semester span a wide spectrum of media: pottery, basketry, textiles, architecture, sculpture, painting, performance, installation, photography, etc. We will grapple with complex questions regarding whether or not all of the objects under review should be deemed “art” in the Euro-American sense of the term, which in many cases has been retroactively accorded these objects. We will also be attendant to the effects that new economies, markets, materials, technologies, and patronage have had upon the circulation of these works, as well as the production/reception of newer works.

    2 credits

  • HTA 327

    Masquerade as Critique

    Critique is most often figured as an act that reveals a reality that was previously hidden, as though one were pulling back a curtain or lifting a veil. But, as the critic Craig Owens points out, “in a culture in which visibility is always on the side of the male, invisibility on the side of the female…are not the activities of unveiling, stripping, laying bare…unmistakably male prerogatives”? This seminar develops an alternate genealogy of critique informed by feminist and queer of color perspectives. It eschews the modernist drive toward transparency, instead examining masquerade, mimicry, code-switching, duplicity, fugitivity, disidentification, and appropriation. These are tactics of resistance and survival that are often developed from the margins, and have historically been favored by women, queers, and people of color. There are those who dismiss these modes of engagement as unreliable, risky, or complicit. But by the same token, they are tactical, malleable, and shape-shifting—traits that make them resilient, adaptable to changing circumstances, and resistant to recuperation. This course traverses the twentieth century, pairing key texts by theorists ranging from W.E.B. Du Bois and Judith Butler to Fred Moten and Paul Preciado with case studies drawn from art, performance, and film, including the work of Claude Cahun, Jack Smith, the Karrabing Film Collective, Adrian Piper, David Hammons, Lorna Simpson, Jennie Livingston, and others. We will explore questions such as: What is critique? How can visibility and invisibility be used strategically? What are the politics of cultural ownership and appropriation? How has the circulation of images on social media simultaneously changed the game, and made these questions more urgent than ever? Museum fieldwork and a visiting artist lecture expand our inquiry into the present moment, and creative final projects invite you to build on course themes through research and visual expression. Together, we will develop a toolkit of modes of resistance and critique that think beyond the timeworn imperative to render the invisible visible.

    2 credits

  • HTA 328

    Dada and Surrealism

    Since their appearance early in the 20th century, Dada and Surrealism have had a profound and lasting influence on the arts. This course explores the art and ideas of these two movements within the social, political, intellectual and art historical context of the years 1914–1947.

    2 credits

  • HTA 333

    Islamic Art and Architecture

    A chronological study of Islamic art and architecture, including an introduction to Islamic aesthetics, history and philosophy. The course will examine samples from religious and literary texts, architectural monuments, painting, ceramics, metal works and calligraphy from Spain, North Africa, the Levant, Iraq, Central Asia and India.

    2 credits

  • HTA 335

    Art and Architecture of the Ancient Near East: Persia from Prehistory to the Sasanian Empire

    This class is an introduction to the art and archaeology of ancient Persia. The Iranian plateau produced a series of powerful kingdoms and empires that dominated the Near East and surrounding areas and created a cultural legacy that persists to the present day. Yet it is best known from accounts and texts written by its enemies, including the Assyrians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs. In this class we shall explore ancient Persia on its own terms through direct engagement with the material culture produced by the people living there over a period of several millennia, from prehistory to the fall of the Sasanian Empire. In doing so we shall address such topics as identity, migration and imperialism through the study of reliefs, seals, coins, architecture, pottery and statuary. We shall also consider how ancient Greek and modern European views of Persia have affected our understanding of its art and history. This course is designed for students without prior experience in ancient art or archaeology.

    2 credits

  • HTA 342

    Exhibition as Medium

    This course explores key moments in the history and theory of art exhibitions, from the experimental shows organized by Futurist and Dada artists in the early twentieth century to the present. Rather than focusing on the objects on display, as in an art history survey, we will discuss how the mode of display, the venue, the language, and other curatorial choices help shape the experience of an art exhibition. We will also explore the economy, politics, geography, and institutional framework of art shows as an integral part in the construction of meaning. Special emphasis will be placed on artists who, starting in the 1960s, have used exhibitions as their medium.

    2 credits

  • HTA 343

    Expanded Curatorial Practice

    The recent “decolonial” and “global” turn in museums and curatorial practice often ignores the fact that art history provides the disciplinary foundation for the museum as a colonial institution. What would it mean to curate against Euro-American narratives of art history? How do you curate artists and exhibition histories that aren’t found in institutional archives? How does curatorial practice offer alternate art historical evidence? This course thinks through such questions by engaging with theories and activist practices of decolonization, postcolonial theory, Black studies and Asian studies to move towards other epistemologies and methods of curatorial practice. It will foreground minoritized artists and transnational exhibition histories across Western Europe and North America, and the global South, while considering alternate epistemologies, aesthetics and collections beyond the hold of both art history and the museum. We will study texts, artists, artifacts, art objects, embodied practices, museum collections, exhibition histories, and modes of display and their relationship to questions of history, temporality, translation, untranslatability, spectatorship, provenance, stewardship and the life of objects.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 99

    Independent Study (History and Theory of Art)

    Independent Studies are voluntary agreements between individual full-time or part-time faculty members and individual students, in which students complete a course of study and assignment. Only juniors and seniors in good academic standing (defined as having earned a minimum of 3.0 GPA overall) are eligible for Independent Study. Faculty conduct Independent Studies with students who have already completed a class or other educational/research activity under their supervision. The course of study and assignment for 1 or 2 credit Independent Study typically consist of a reading list and workload comparable to that required for a 1 or 2 credit course. Independent Studies are intensive activities. Faculty members regard them as a significant commitment. Students can only participate in one Independent Study per semester.

    If an HSS full-time or part-time faculty member is willing to supervise an Independent Study, the student should work with the faculty member to complete this form and submit the signed application to the HSS’s Dean’s Office no later than the end of the first week of semester for approval. LATE APPLICATIONS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. The work cannot begin unless the Independent Study is approved by the Dean’s Office. The major consideration in approving proposals for independent study is the educational value of the study project within the structure of degree requirements.

    To learn more, please visit HSS Independent Study Policy.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.