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. Thiscourse 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and in lectures students learn to study and to respond critically in written and spoken form to a variety of historical documents and secondary texts.

    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.

    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 theater-making both theoretical and practical, students will work together to explore the act of play from the various perspectives of the actor, writer, director, designer, and producer. The class will explore ensemble driven devised theater-making as well as more traditional methodologies in a study of process that will culminate in group projects inspired by the myth of Icarus. Throughout the semester students will be expected to attend several performances and subsequent in-class talkback sessions with guest artists.

    3 credits

  • HUM 308

    Creative Writing

    Starting with exercises and word games ,e.g. “Exquisite Corpse”, then moving to e.g. “Exphrasis” (writing about art), Collage, Metrics, Sudden/Flash Fiction, short plays, and so on. Students develop their own interests, talents and voice. As well as writing, students are expected to read widely and attend a reading. Grade is based on class performance and portfolio of work.

    3 credits

  • HUM 309

    Art and the Crisis of Modernity

    This course will develop a parallel reflection on the world in which the art of our time expresses itself, and which art, in turn, tries to shape. In the first part, we analyze different interpretations of the crisis of modernity, which aim to offer, through different historical and philosophical approaches, other meanings of the age of ‘postmodernity’. In the second part, we initially focus on some of the artistic revolutions that took place almost simultaneously in the early twentieth century, a time of enormous tension that led to radical changes of worldviews. Thereafter, the discourse develops around some of the avant-garde movements that staged an aesthetic explosion from mid-century onward, such as abstract expressionism, minimalism or post-minimalism; a choice, however, that does not imply the possibility of defining a unique direction in the artistic experience of our time. Yet, precisely the re-definition of time that emerges in the work of some of these artists can be seen as a metaphor of the art of our time. As T.W. Adorno observes in Aesthetic Theory, it is precisely through a fragmentary and ‘not closed’ form, through a ‘synthesis of the dispersed’ which renounces the idea of consonance, that art can express the reality of our time.

    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 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 AND CONTEMPORARY POETRY, ed. Ramazani, Ellmann, O’Clair, Volume 2, CONTEMPORARY POETRY.

    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

    A history of the motion picture from its origins until now, emphasizing the evolution of the language of cinematic representation—in feature, documentary, animated and experimental filmmaking. Canonical works and the major figures of the silent and sound cinema are treated, including Griffith, Chaplin, Eisenstein, Vertov, Renoir, Welles, Deren, Hitchcock and Godard.

    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

    It is not easy to express the ‘meaning’ of art. Even less, certainly, in the era of post-modernity, when not only the splintering of perspectives prevents from seeing a single line, but the artist, along with the search for meaning, definitively renounces the idea of defining what art should be, merely expressing the ‘appearance of an instant’. Hence that fragmented nature concerning both the works and the reading of the art of our time. As Adorno writes in his Aesthetic Theory, it is precisely through a fragmentary form, through a ‘synthesis of the diffuse’ which renounces the idea of consonance, that art can express the reality of our time. Still, it is not possible to escape this need to express the inexpressible, even knowing that thought can only approach the essence of things, never achieving it. But it is precisely through this, as a negative presentation, that such an invisible essence can sometimes be understood.

    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 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.

    3 credits

  • HUM 361

    Modern Philosophy: Knowledge and the Mind

    Investigates questions revolving around mind and body, knowledge of the world and nature, self-knowledge, truth and deception, and knowledge of others, examining texts from the early modern period of the 17th century through 19th- and early 20th-century philosophical revolts against the European Enlightenment. Particular focus is given to ways of understanding the history of modern epistemology and science in relation to global and contemporary 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

  • 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 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 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)

    Only juniors and seniors in good academic standing are eligible for independent study. Independent study may be taken for a maximum of two credits per semester. The student must obtain permission of both the instructor and the dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. The major consideration in approving proposals for independent study is the educational value of the study project within the structure of degree requirements. The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences insists on very high standards as a condition for approving any independent study project.

Social Sciences

  • 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. This may, therefore, be one of the most interdisciplinary courses you will take, where you get to see how economics interacts with other social sciences.

    In this course, emphasis will be placed on theoretical development, issue discussion, and policy formulation. In the first half of the course, we will go over the development of growth theory starting from Adam Smith's capital accumulation to Romer's endogenous growth theory. We will explore how modern growth theory relates to human capital accumulation and innovation. We will hold comparisons between developed and developing countries and try to think why fast-growing economies might end up stagnating. In the second half of the course, we will look at case studies in an attempt to link the theoretical models to countries’ experiences. This part of the course will mostly be led by students, based on their research and in-class presentations.

    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 of social distancing (spatial arrangements) is not new. We enlist it in our everyday lives in considering how we orient ourselves with others and how we arrange structures or features of our environment. In essence spacing helps define who we are individually and collectively. These seem second nature to us while in actuality being learned through the frames of culture and socialization. Recent events, most prominently, the Corona Virus Pandemic and Black Lives Matter 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. More fundamentally, social distancing heightens awareness of things previously considered inconsequential or perhaps ‘natural’. The current crisis helps/makes us see/makes visible what and who was not viewed as essential or important and recasts them as such. We will look at how various parts of society are already developing policies that refashion design and behavior using social behavior and technology. The fundamental concern or interest of sociology is community. How do we balance individual and group forces and desires within community. The course will utilize a sociological frame while enlisting readings from a variety of disciplines and perspectives e.g. notions of space and place from Eastern and Western traditions and cultures, from architecture, the digital world, landscaping. We will evaluate these and students will have the opportunity to offer suggestions for a specific area or venue of interest to them. Since this course is enlisting scenarios that are occurring in real time, the relevance seems apparent but the goal will be to offer a frame that persists beyond the immediate concern that perhaps precipitated renewed interest and importance in persistent questions.

    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 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

  • 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


    This course presents an overview of the principles of theeconomics of scarcity and choice; supply and demand; output and price. It utilizes marginal analysis as well as theories of the firm. It considers the market system in terms of both its virtues and vices. It focuses especially on the distribution of income and the labor market of the United States but also includes a section on the stock and bond markets. In addition, it covers the role of government in the economy.

    Summer and Fall 2021:

    Microeconomics is the study of individual economic behavior and how it leads to specific social outcomes in a capitalist economy such as relative prices and the distribution of income. This course presents an overview of the essential theoretical, historical and policy debates in the study of market processes in capitalist economies. We begin by developing fundamental economic concepts and examining some of the pertinent historical facts relating to life in capitalist economies such as wages, prices, profits, productivity and technological change. We then compare and contrast theories that purport to explain these historical trends. Course topics include: consumer behavior; supply and demand; production and the business firm; allocation of resources and business competition; the distribution of income; financial markets; global trading systems; and the relationship between markets, hierarchies and democracy. Questions that we will address include: How, exactly, do individuals and firms relate to the institutional structures in which they find themselves (the fundamental question of microeconomics vs macroeconomics)? Are there empirical regularities and patterns produced by market processes that can be explained using economic theory? Are the forces that produce these phenomena historically determined? Are social phenomena simply the sum of individuals’ choices? How are individual choices constrained by social institutions? How do legal/political institutions shape market outcomes such as prices and profit? How do competing economic theories explain these phenomena? Do market processes lead to fair and optimal outcomes? What is meant by the term ‘efficiency’? Are market processes stable? What are the benefits and costs of business competition? How should governments regulate and shape market behavior? What is the role of financial markets? Is ‘free trade’ desirable? The course is intended for students who have little or no background in economics.

    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

    Does providing social welfare benefits spoil the poor? Do Nike ads increase their shoes sales? Does having an Amazon Prime membership leads you to buy more from Amazon? Does health insurance improve people’s health? Does hiring a new professor improve the academic performance of Cooper students? Does giving aid to poor countries improve their economic performance? We can get data on all these variables and run regressions and come up with answers, but are they the right answers? Probably not. In all these questions, the direction of the causation can go both ways (For instance, with a Prime membership you are more likely to order from Amazon because it is easier, but also you probably got the Prime membership because you shop online a lot). Also in all these question, there is a potential that other factors can affect the relationship and in most cases we cannot control for all these factors. Therefore, simply running regressions does not necessarily give us the right answer. This course will help you think about how to answers these cause-and-effect questions. After taking this course, your attitude towards the world will change. You will doubt many claims that are being thrown at you by news reporters, President Trump (definitely), and even your professors! The course will teach you to think systematically about various types of cause-effect questions and use various types of datasets to try to answer them. You can apply the skills you learn in this course to questions in economics, psychology, business, politics, and even the sciences.

    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.

    Fall 2021:

    Understanding Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crises and Change. In this course we will explore what capitalism is, how (and in what sense) capitalism works, why (and in what sense) it doesn't work, where and when it works, how it changes over time and how our policy actions influence and condition its trajectory and very existence. A key point of contention among students of economic history is the tension between: (1) the changing and varied institutions of the capitalist mode of production across time and across geographic space and; (2) the apparent repetitive patterns identified by economic historians, which suggests that there exist ‘economic laws of motion’ that are, in some sense, independent of particular policy and specific historical institutional structures. The long-term repetitive patterns include: persistent unemployment; persistent poverty and inequality both within and across national economic units; repeated cyclical patterns of booms and busts (of varying periodicities) as well as severe economic crises affecting the global capitalist world every 40-60 years; degradation of the natural environment. To frame the questions, we are compelled to use a multidisciplinary approach, making extensive use of case studies and examples from history, anthropology, and the other behavioral sciences as well as recent developments in economic theory such as "complexity theory" and nonlinear processes. The emphasis will be on understanding the relationship between social/state policies and successful national development policies—which also includes the profound question of the meaning of ‘development’. A fundamental research question might be: If the institutions that comprise the ‘Developmental State’ have been instrumental in framing, shaping (and sometimes taming) capitalism development – can social/political forces push the system toward economic transformation and technological change that is more tailored to environmental and social justice?

    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


    Fall 2021:

    A special section open to Freshmen and Sophomores, intended for students with an interest in taking intermediate and advanced courses in economics in subsequent years and eventually participating in the FED competition. Juniors and Seniors need permission from the HSS Advisor or HSS Dean. For the past decade, the US (and the global) economy has been expanding. We have experienced rising income, employment, and living standards. But ten years ago, particularly in 2008 - 2009, the situation was MUCH worse. The world economy was hit by the Great Recession, where income declined and unemployment increased sharply. Why do we experience these ups and downs in the economy? What happened in 2006 - 2008 that led to such a crisis in the world economy? How did the government respond to the crisis and was this response effective? We currently hear in the news about the very long recovery of the US economy. We hear news about the Fed manipulating interest rates and Trump calling on the Fed to reduce interest rates to zero. Why is the Fed changing interest rates? Why might the Fed bring interest rates down to zero, and what are the risks associated with this? In Macroeconomics, we explore answers to these questions and much more. We will study why the economy experiences good and bad days and what the government can do to minimize the negative effects of the bad days. We will study how interest rates are determined and how the Fed's interest rate decisions can affect the rest of the economy. We also address other interesting questions like why do 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 1 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 358

    Social History of Food

    A study of the transformations in food production and consumption, 1492 to the present. The course examines the passage of "new world" foods to the rest of the world, the rise of commercial agriculture in the colonial context, especially sugar, the rise of national cuisines, the advent of restaurant culture and the perils of fast and industrial food. There will be additional attention to both contemporary environmental issues and to identifying food trends in the last decade. 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

    Since its introduction in 1943 by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, the general theory of games has been instrumental to our understanding of various social behaviors. With key contributions of such renowned scholars as John Nash, Kenneth Arrow, Thomas Schelling and John Harsanyi, among other Nobel Laureates, game theory has quickly gained a large following among students of economics, evolutionary biology and even political science. Though at times seemingly abstract, game theory has shown us that it has practical value with applications in firm-level management and strategic decisions making in military campaigns. The course has two dimensions: the first is to explore the theoretical basis of games; the second is to consider the application of these concepts in economics and political science.

    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 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 99

    Independent Study (Social Sciences)

    Only juniors and seniors in good academic standing are eligible for independent study. Independent study may be taken for a maximum of two credits per semester. The student must obtain permission of both the instructor and the dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. The major consideration in approving proposals for independent study is the educational value of the study project within the structure of degree requirements. The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences insists on very high standards as a condition for approving any independent study project.

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.

    2 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 217

    Episodes in American Documentary Photography

    This course highlights twenty major documentary photography projects—many of which were published contemporaneously as photo books—produced over the course of sixty years (1932-1992) in the United States. All of the projects address—to a greater or lesser degree—what it means to be American, a question that has become increasingly embattled in recentyears. By examining the development and evolution of documentary photography in twentieth century America, we will consider why the genre has been so appealing and productive for photographers, how documenting the American experience has shaped said experience, and whom the documentary mode has favored and/or maligned. We will look at important historical moments and movements (the rise of progressive politics in the thirties, feminism, the Civil Rights movement, and counterculture movements) as well as important stylistic/methodological trends like New Journalism, New Documentary, and New Topographics. Students will be encouraged to understand the documentary mode historically, aesthetically, technically, and theoretically through a combination of in-class discussion and outside projects.

    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 232

    Is Painting like Poetry?

    Inspired by the famous dictum, “ut pictura poesis” (literally, ‘as painting, poetry,’ or more loosely, ‘poetry is like painting’), from Horace’s Art of Poetry, the course examines the interconnections between literature and the visual arts, whether as rivals or as allies, from antiquity through the present. A diverse group of topics will be considered, within a specific historical time frame and context, with the goal of seeking a common ground for a discourse with which to evaluate the nature, significance, and aesthetic parameters of each of the two modes of expression in the shared enterprise of the representation of reality and/or the world of ideas.

    2 credits

  • HTA 240

    Asian Contemporary Art

    Fall 2019 Chinese Art. Over the past three decades, modern and contemporary art scenes have spanned the globe from the western world to China and thus had a great impact on the development of Chinese contemporary art. A greater number of Chinese artists have emerged and addressed in their works the issues of modernity and contemporaneity in China in terms of political tensions, cultural conflicts, globalization, changing social and family conditions, as well as gender issues within their own cultural context. Topics of the course will cover political Pop, installation art, New Literati Paintings, experimental ink paintings, conceptual art, performance art and feminist art. We will attempt to investigate the phenomena of social-political transition in contemporary China as the background of its contemporary art, the impact of western ideas on the Chinese contemporary art world and their various interpretations, as well as the struggle to maintain tradition and cultural identity. Meanwhile, we have to take into account the disparate historical development and political background of different locations in the contemporary Chinese world, namely Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and also touch upon areas of diaspora Chinese artists. Against this background we will reflect on the subtle variations in the representation of images concerning art and visual culture in different sites of Chineseness. This course will be composed of slide lectures, films, possible museum/gallery visits and talks by a visiting artist.

    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 270

    The Art of Greece and Rome

    An introduction to the sculpture, painting, and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome with attention to the impact of the classical imagination on the art of succeeding ages.

    Fall 2021:

    This course is an introduction to the ancient Greeks and Romans by way of their material culture. In antiquity – as in the present day – people used stuff. Some of this stuff, such as drinking cups or coins, were part of one’s everyday experience. Other items, such as weapons or temples, only played a role on special occasions. By studying the stuff that people left behind, we are able to understand various aspects of their lives, from what they ate and drank to how they believed the universe worked. This course focuses on the art and architecture of the Greeks and Romans, from the Bronze Age to Late Antiquity, and on how we can use these objects and monuments to ask and answer questions about the past.

    2 credits.

  • HTA 273

    History of Photography

    Writing by the critics, historians and photographers that have influenced creation and reception of photography throughout its history. Issues include definitions and redefinitions of art, documentary debates and revisionist canons and histories. For Spring 2021 the topic will be: Histories of Photography in Africa, from the Colonial to the Contemporary.

    2 credits

  • HTA 275

    Twentieth-Century Art History

    Considers the flourishing "isms" of the 20th century, as well as historical events, intellectual currents and conflicting aesthetic views.

    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 raise 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

  • HTA 283

    The "Genius" of the Baroque

    This course examines the genius of European Baroque art as distilled in the work of its greatest exemplars. We will also address the ideology of the counter-reformation church, the emergence of Protestant capitalism and a pluralist, bourgeois society in the north, patronage and social identity, propaganda, religious faith, skepticism, sexual identity and the family, all focused through the position of the artist in society. In no other period were body and spirit, sensual and sublime, so closely intermeshed. Art history resides precisely in the relation between our present interest in these artists and the past conditions in which they worked.

    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

    This course will re-examine the genre of portraiture beginning in the mid-19th century when photography enters discourse as an alternate medium to painting and sculpture. Starting with Nadar’s studio practice we will trace new subjects that emerge during modernity. Likewise, we will investigate marginalized subjects that are newly represented during the 20th century in the works by James Van der Zee, Dorethea Lange, Gordon Parks and the social documentary movement. Contemporary figures in both photography and painting such as Andy Warhol, Alice Neel, Robert Mapplethorpe and Cindy Sherman will be examined. The course will question the reemergence of painting in contemporary practices by figures such as Kehinde Wiley, Martin Wong, Jordan Casteel and Kerry James Marshall. We will conduct a case study of the recent acclaimed exhibition “Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today” at the Wallach Gallery.

    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.

    For Fall '21 the Artist will be Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. This course examines the work and legacy of Korean American artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Cha’s work spans across writing, performance, video, installation, and more. Often dealing with themes of memory, diaspora, language, and gender, Cha’s contributions to the visual art field have been less recognized than her best-known work, the experimental book Dictée. This course engages the artist’s archive to explore her distinctive intermedia oeuvre, reading under-studied visual and performance works against Cha’s reception history to ask why and how her legacy has been shaped and/or foreclosed by the disciplinary demands of art history, literary studies, and Asian American studies. Each week, selected works will be considered in conversation with primary and secondary texts. In particular, we will seek to understand how Cha’s work can be read in the context of its making, the Bay Area in the 1960s and 1970s, where the Asian American movement was just one among many powerful social movements. Students will gain skills in close visual analysis, research, and writing. Content warning: Cha died young in an incident of racialized and gendered violence in New York City. This course emphatically resists spectacularizing this incident or allowing it to overshadow Cha’s vibrant life and work. Students will have the option to not be present for in-class discussions of potentially triggering topics, or to participate through alternative methods agreed upon in collaboration with the instructor.

    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 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.

    Fall 2021:

    HTA 313 Q Seminar: Modernism, Colonialism, Internationalism. This course situates modernist painting within a global context. We will begin by considering how the major artistic tendencies of the first half of the twentieth century, among them cubism, abstraction, concretism, realism, and surrealism, developed amidst the circulation of peoples, objects, and concepts under colonialism. Then, we will trace how these tendencies developed differently in Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the United States, connecting the work of individual painters to the larger themes of the postwar era: the aftermaths of Auschwitz and Hiroshima; the decolonization of the global south; the formation of international institutions; the spread of commercial culture; and the ideological divisions of the Cold War. 2 credits

    HTA 313 S Seminar: When North Is South: Latin American Art Today. This course will consider the history of modern and contemporary art in “Latin America.” Informed by postcolonial discourses, the course will examine the complex cultural specificities dissolved by the umbrella category of Latin American art. We will use a comparative framework to evaluate selected constellations in art from Mexico, Central America, and South America. The classes will be organized around 3 conceptual nodes. The first will focus on the often turbulent exchanges between Anglo America and Latin America, probing different artistic responses to the double legacy of colonialism and modernism in the 1920s and 1930s. The second will track distinctions between radical art practices in Latin America from the 1960s through the 1980s and neo-avant-garde centers in Europe and North America. The third will consider the global turn in contemporary art, connecting recent artistic responses to the crises ushered by globalization. 2 credits

    HTA 313 F1/FA 393A I Sculpture: Arte Povera. As an art history and studio class hybrid, Sculpture: Arte Povera merges the pedagogy of both with the hope to expand ways of thinking and talking about sculpture while making it. Arte Povera serves as a case study and an entry point to anchor the discussion historically and methodologically. Emerged in 1960s Italy to protest American imperialism, technocracy, and consumerism, Arte Povera has resounded globally for its focus of non-traditional, organic materials, process, and performativity. The course will raise questions on materials and their temporality, ethics, politics, and cultural specificity. All students will do both studio and art history work. Students taking the class for HTA credits will produce more written work, and students registered for studio credits will produce more sculptural work. 3 credits

  • HTA 314

    Art Exchange Across National Boundaries

    The course focuses on the exportation and promotion of contemporary art across national boundaries, from the mid-20th century to the present. Exhibitions, publications, and artists’ global mobility can function as vehicles of cultural dialogue and mutual understanding, but also as means of propaganda or cultural imperialism. We will study the exportation of art as a translation process and we will raise questions about the transformative effect of this process on both ends of the dialogue.

    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 317

    Art and Architecture of Ancient Peru

    Introduction to the ancient cultures of Peru from about 3000 B.C.E. to the Spanish conquest, as seen in architecture, stone sculpture, ceramics, metalwork and textiles.

    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 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 334

    Art and Architecture of Islamic India

    A chronological study from the 16th century to the 19th century of the development of the art and architecture of the Mughals; and an examination of the Arab, Persian, Indian and European influences that shaped that culture.

    2 credits

  • HTA 335

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

    From the temples of the land of Sumer to the tower of Babylon, this course provides an overview of the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and Iran, as well as surrounding regions, from the Neolithic period to the 1st millennium B.C.E. --- some 10,000 years. We will study the architecture and artifacts excavated at major sites in the fertile crescent including Jericho, Uruk, Ur, Nineveh and many others. In addition, we will discuss major landmarks in the history of civilization such as the development of agriculture, the beginning of urban settlement, the invention of writing, and the discovery of metallurgy, and their impact on the manufacture of art and artifacts and their iconography.

    For Spring 2021: 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)

    Only juniors and seniors in good academic standing are eligible for independent study. Independent study may be taken for a maximum of two credits per semester. The student must obtain permission of both the instructor and the dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. The major consideration in approving proposals for independent study is the educational value of the study project within the structure of degree requirements. The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences insists on very high standards as a condition for approving any independent study project.

  • 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.