KNOW courses are offered by the faculty of the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge at both the graduate and the advanced undergraduate levels.
For graduate students, we offer a number of cross-listed seminars as well as an annual core sequence in topics in the formation of knowledge (KNOW 401, 402, 403). These seminars are team-taught by faculty from different departments or schools and are open to all graduate students regardless of field of study. Graduate students who enroll in two quarters of this sequence are eligible to apply for the Dissertation Research Fellowships.
For undergraduate students, we offer courses cross-listed in departments and schools across the University, as well as unique courses taught by the Stevanovich Institute's Postdoctoral Scholars. To browse courses, search by department, quarter, academic year, or type in a keyword that interests you. In addition, the Stevanovich Institute launched the Experimental Capstone (XCAP) in 2018-19, team-taught courses for fourth-year undergraduate students interested in building upon their UChicago educational experience by adding practice, impact, and influence as important dimensions of their undergraduate work.
KNOW 22709: Introduction to Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics
In this class we examine some of the conceptual problems associated with quantum mechanics. We will critically discuss some common interpretations of quantum mechanics, such as the Copenhagen interpretation, the many-worlds interpretation and Bohmian mechanics. We will also examine some implications of results in the foundations of quantum theory concerning non-locality, contextuality and realism.
Prerequisites: Prior knowledge of quantum mechanics is not required since we begin with an introduction to the formalism. Only familiarity with high school geometry is presupposed but expect to be introduced to other mathematical tools as needed.
KNOW 25308 / 40202: History & Anthropology of Medicine & the Life Sciences
In this course we will examine the ways in which different groups of people--in different times and places--have understood the nature of life and living things, bodies and bodily processes, and health and disease, among other notions. We will address these issues principally, though not exclusively, through the lens of the changing sets of methods and practices commonly recognizable as science and medicine. We will also pay close attention to the methods through which scholars in history and anthropology have written about these topics, and how current scientific and medical practices affect historical and anthropological studies of science and medicine.
KNOW 12203: The Italian Renaissance: Dante, Machiavelli, and the Wars of Popes and Kings
This course will consider Florence, Rome, and the Italian city-states in the age of plagues and cathedrals, Dante and Machiavelli, Medici and Borgia (1250–1600), with a focus on literature, philosophy, primary sources, the revival of antiquity, and the papacy's entanglement with pan-European politics. We will examine humanism, patronage, politics, corruption, assassination, feuds, art, music, magic, censorship, education, science, heresy, and the roots of the Reformation. Writing assignments focus on higher-level writing skills, with a creative writing component linked to our in-class live-action-role-played (LARP) reenactment of a Renaissance papal election. This is a Department of History Gateway course.
Prerequisites: Graduate students by consent only; register for the course as HIST 90000 (sect 53) Reading and Research: History.
Course Description Notes: History Gateways are introductory courses meant to appeal to first- through third-year students who may not have done previous course work on the topic of the course; topics cover the globe and span the ages.
KNOW 18400: Science, Culture, and Society in Western Civilization II: “Renaissance to Enlightenment”
This lecture-discussion course examines the development science and scientific philosophy from the mid-fifteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries. The considerations begin with the recovery of an ancient knowledge in the works of Leonardo, Vesalius, Harvey, and Copernicus. Thereafter the course will focus on Enlightenment science, as represented by Galileo, Descartes, Newton, and Hume. The course will culminate with the work of Darwin, who utilized traditional concepts to inaugurate modern science. For each class, the instructor will provide a short introductory lecture on the texts, and then open discussion to pursue with students the unexpected accomplishments of the authors under scrutiny.
KNOW 31408: Colloquium: Introduction to Science Studies
This course explores the interdisciplinary study of science as an enterprise. During the twentieth century, sociologists, historians, philosophers, and anthropologists all raised interesting and consequential questions about the sciences. Taken together their various approaches came to constitute a field, "science studies." The course provides an introduction to this field. Students will not only investigate how the field coalesced and why, but will also apply science-studies perspectives in a fieldwork project focused on a science or science-policy setting. Among the topics we may examine are the sociology of scientific knowledge and its applications, actor-network theories of science, constructivism and the history of science, images of normal and revolutionary science, accounts of research in the commercial university, and the examined links between science and policy.
KNOW 15620: Imagining Pagans in the Middle Ages
This undergraduate course investigates what became of classical paganism during the Christian Middle Ages. How did medieval writers portray Greek and Roman practices of worship and its pantheon of gods? For medieval literate culture, classical myths were both an index of historical difference – 'we no longer believe what they believed' – and an ongoing source of poetic, narrative, and symbolic potency. Through the close-reading of a variety of source texts, the course examines what classical myths and pagan belief means to late-medieval poets and thinkers. In particular, we’ll look to how ‘imagining pagans’ incited the medieval historical imagination; inspired cosmological or proto-scientific thought experiments; disrupted orthodox theology; and finally, worked to establish fiction as a domain of literature. The poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer will be at the heart of the class, but we will also read widely across medieval culture. No previous experience with Middle English is necessary.
KNOW 40309: Miracles, Marvels, and Mystics: Unknowing in Medieval England
In this seminar we will explore how premodern literary texts imagined experiences of ‘unknowing’: narrating scenes of astonishment, misapprehension, and disbelief. Our primary readings will draw on a rich tradition of vernacular writing in medieval England. We will read across that tradition’s genres, as writers experimented with ways to represent the wondrous, the occluded, the incomprehensible, and the horrific in a variety of forms, among them spectacular miracle plays, prose exercises in mystical negation, and the poetry of dreamworlds and alchemical secrecy.
KNOW 40206: Assaulting the Paradigm: Franz Boas and His Contemporaries
How do ideas succeed? What challenges do those who voice new ideas face as they try to gain adherents, and how do they rise to influence against the odds? This course examines how the unexpected, the unconventional, and the radically original can dethrone accepted truths. We will investigate this question through a case study of the anthropologist Franz Boas and his contemporaries, who assaulted the paradigm of race at the turn of the twentieth century. In addition to reading Boas, we will study the works of John Dewey, W. E. B. Du Bois, Sigmund Freud, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Margaret Mead, and Thorstein Veblen. By tracing the mutual influence between Boas and thinkers in fields from psychology to philosophy, we can examine how knowledge is contested and propagated—including the challenges those who frame ideas face as they break away from the pack, the role of social networks in the success of concepts that go “against the grain” of conventional wisdom, and the special agency of multidisciplinary collaboration in the periods of ferment produced when authority is tested and new ideas are demanded.
KNOW 40205: Ecological Thinking
What is the environment, anyway? Is it a collection of resources? An entity in need of protection? An autonomous state of being? In this course, we will engage with writers and thinkers who have grappled with what it means to think ecologically. We will examine how environmental concerns have reached across borders to shape law, culture, and theories of knowledge on a global scale. Course themes will include environmental justice, the energy humanities, postcolonial environmentalisms, ecocriticism, ecofeminism, queer ecologies, and critical life studies. Readings will include works by Rachel Carson, William Cronon, Lawrence Buell, Helena Maria Viramontes, Christopher Stone, Rob Nixon, Tamara Giles-Vernick, Timothy Morton, and others.
KNOW 27017: Passing
In this course, we examine how people move within and between categories of identity, with particular attention to boundary crossings of race and gender in U.S. law and literature from the nineteenth century to the present. Law provides a venue and a language through which forces of authority police categories of identity that, at Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado observe, “society invents, manipulates, or retires when convenient.” Readings will include theoretical texts as well as court rulings, cultural ephemera, and literary texts.