Results for: 2019-20 Spring
KNOW 40310: Technology and Aesthetics
The idea of technological "progress" is a contested one, but it cannot be denied that innovation, at the very least, is a continuous process. Technological innovations regularly enable new mediums, new styles, new genres, and new subject matter as they offer us new ways to record the world, express ourselves, and tell stories. And because art is one of the fundamental lenses through which we see the world, the advent of new artistic and literary forms constantly offers us new ways to know. Each transformation in both creation and reception, however, raises anew fundamental theoretical questions: what is the difference between an objective record of the world and an artistic rendition of it? After touching briefly on the revolution brought about by Gutenberg's invention of the printing press, this class will span the 19th through the 21st centuries to explore how technological innovation has led to new literary and aesthetic forms. Though the primary focus will be on literary texts, the course is intended as an interdisciplinary one, incorporating visual art and media. Class sessions will include visits to the Rare Book Collection, local art museums, and, potentially, Chicago-area theatre performances. For their final projects, students will be able to choose between a research paper or a creative project that engages with the questions and concerns of the course.
KNOW 26230: Death Panels: Exploring Dying and Death Through Comics
What do comics add to the discourse on dying and death? What insights do comics provide about the experience of dying, death, caregiving, grieving, and memorialization? Can comics help us better understand our own wishes about the end of life? This is an interactive course designed to introduce students to the field of graphic medicine and explore how comics can be used as a mode of scholarly investigation into issues related to dying, death, and the end of life. The framework for this course intends to balance readings and discussion with creative drawing and comics-making assignments. The work will provoke personal inquiry and self-reflection and promote understanding of a range of topics relating to the end of life, including examining how we die, defining death, euthanasia, rituals around dying and death, and grieving. The readings will primarily be drawn from a wide variety of graphic memoirs and comics, but will be supplemented with materials from a variety of multimedia sources including the biomedical literature, philosophy, cinema, podcasts, and the visual arts. Guest participants in the course may include a funeral director, chaplain, hospice and palliative care specialists, cartoonists, and authors. The course will be taught by a nurse cartoonist and a physician, both of whom are active in the graphic medicine community and scholars of the health humanities.
KNOW 26220: Buddhism and Modernity: East and West
In the height of nineteenth-century triumph of progress, rationalism, and disenchantment with religion, many European and American intellectuals found inspiration in Buddhism as a spirituality fit for modern times, and expressed it in philosophy, literature, and even opera. On the other side, in Asian societies struggling with colonization, many intellectuals condemned Buddhism as a remnant of premodern superstition, while others hailed it as an essential element for the construction of modern identity and of the superiority of the "spiritual East" against the "materialist West." These debates and images still determine the way in which Buddhism is globally represented today. In this course, we will discuss Buddhism and modernity using examples from various geographical and historical contexts, ranging from Nietzsche, to the American Beat generation, and to contemporary issues of nationalism and violence in South Asia. We will place the careful examination of these topics within the discussion of broader issues, such as the place of religion in modernity, cultural difference and appropriation, and the intersection of religion, gender, and race.
KNOW 20035/30035: Babylonian Knowledge: The Mesopotamian Way of Thought
This course has two goals. The first is an interior goal, to introduce students to the major categories of knowledge created and employed in ancient Assyria and Babylonia, as the Mesopotamian "core curriculum." This was the corpus of material that had to be mastered by scribes of the Neo-Sumerian and Neo-Assyrian periods, including proverbs, lists, omens, geographies, medicine, magic, law, mathematics, history, royal wisdom, and accounting. The second goal is "exterior": to examine the epistemological precepts on which knowledge was constructed. What was held to be knowable? What methods and techniques were used to identify and justify knowledge as valid or authentic? What roles did copying, editing, authorship, and literacy play in the production of knowledge texts? How the organization and preservation of texts create canons and curricula? No prior knowledge of Mesopotamian history or literature is required. Students are asked to think with the primary texts, not to demonstrate mastery of them.
KNOW 40311: The Invention of Hunger
Hunger is often thought of as an unchanging biological fact, but what it means to be hungry has changed profoundly over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From the pleasure of sweets to the trauma of famine, hunger has influenced some of the most important economic, political, and cultural developments of the modern age. Drawing from a variety of scholarly disciplines, as well as primary readings including novels, scientific texts, and journalism, we will explore how experiences and understandings of hunger were intertwined with race, class, and gender, and played a pivotal role in the development of the slave trade, colonialism, and humanitarian ethics. We will situate famines, hunger strikes, eating disorders, and other ways of thinking about food in their historical and cultural contexts. We will end the course by examining how this history has influenced how we understand the culture and economics of food in our own society. For each class period, students will write a 1-2 page reflection on one or several of the week's readings that they will circulate to the entire class at least 24 hours before seminar. There will be a 15-20 page final paper on the theme of hunger, broadly defined. This paper will incorporate outside secondary works related to students' specific research interests.
KNOW 26020: Habits of a Free Mind: Psychology for Democracy
Are we capable of engaging across lines of difference without feeling traumatized and without dehumanizing? How can we navigate “cancel culture” in which a misinterpreted word, heterodox views, or guilt-by-association can result in ostracization on college campuses, mobbing on social media, and retractions and redactions of published works? Visiting Lecturer, Pamela Paresky, primary researcher and in-house editor of the New York Times bestseller, The Coddling of the American Mind, leads this interdisciplinary, experiential, and unconventional shared inquiry. In addition to reading chapters from that book, texts include Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder, and a variety of short readings in philosophy, poetry, social science, theatre, and historical and contemporary essays. You will begin by identifying why being a free thinker matters to you. Then, through in-class exercises, experiential assignments, and an emphasis on playfulness, you will spend the quarter developing and practicing mental and interpersonal habits designed to increase your capacity to tolerate discomfort, expand your facility with free speech, civil dialogue, and productive disagreement, and strengthen your ability to make a difference in an area that matters to you.
At its core, this course is about what it means to be human.
KNOW 30926: Wonder, Wonders, and Knowing
“In wonder is the beginning of philosophy,” wrote Aristotle; Descartes also thought that those deficient in wonder were also deficient in knowledge. But the relationship between wonder and inquiry has always been an ambivalent one: too much wonder stupefies rather than stimulates investigation, according to Descartes; Aristotle explicitly excluded wonders as objects of inquiry from natural philosophy. Since the sixteenth century, scientists and scholars have both cultivated and repudiated the passion of wonder. On the one hand, marvels (or even just anomalies) threaten to subvert the human and natural orders; on the other, the wonder they ignite fuels inquiry into their causes. Wonder is also a passion tinged with the numinous, and miracles have long stood for the inexplicable in religious contexts. This seminar will explore the long, vexed relationship between wonder, knowledge, and belief in the history of philosophy, science, and religion.
Prerequisites: Reading knowledge of at least one language besides English, some background in intellectual history.
KNOW 40308: Political Theologies of Slavery and Freedom in the Atlantic World
This seminar examines the interdisciplinary form of knowledge known as “political theology” in the context of Atlantic slavery. The course will trace two major developments. First, we will explore how Christian metaphysics facilitated colonialism and slavery, focusing on the emergence of race as a theological (rather than a biological) concept and on the self-fulfilling providentialism that structured fantasies of Euro-Christian world dominance. Second, we will explore how indigenous and African cosmologies and Christianities informed enslaved resistance and abolitionism. Our readings will range from works of political theology (Augustine, Calvin, Hobbes) to early American writings (Las Casas, Ligon, Jefferson) to Black Atlantic anti-slavery texts (Wheatley, Walker, Turner). We’ll consider the explorer George Best’s rewriting of the biblical Curse of Ham, Francis Bacon’s claim that Europe’s superior technology evidenced its Chosen status, and the ideology of “hereditary heathenism” that forestalled early efforts to convert slaves to Christianity. Likewise, we’ll consider the role of obeah in Anglo-Caribbean insurrections and vodou in the Haitian Revolution, the competing attitudes toward Christian slave revolt found in fiction by Douglass and Stowe, and the continued contestation of what W. E. B. Du Bois called “the new religion of whiteness.” Secondary authors may include Charles Taylor, Talal Asad, Max Weber, Colin Kidd, Rebecca Goetz, Jared Hickman, Katharine Gerbner, Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, and J. Kameron Carter.
KNOW 40307: Seeing and Knowing
The concept of visuality attends to the ways in which things become seeable, knowable, and governable. Scholars who study optical instruments, architecture, cinema, and media have done much to show us how visual technologies change our ways of seeing. Others in the history of science study how practices of observation transform our understanding of nature—and ourselves.
This comparative course analyzes regimes of visuality in different cultural and historical contexts. After a short introduction on the philosophy of visual experience and psychology of visual perception, we will investigate a series of configurations of seeing and knowing. These sites range from the history of disability to contemporary climate science, and students will be asked to contribute visual topics from their own research or disciplines for collective exploration in our seminar. Through comparative study, we will work to develop new categories or relationships for linking perception and knowledge.
KNOW 53003: Explanation
This course surveys recent work on explanation across philosophical disciplines. Beginning with classic accounts of scientific explanation we will proceed to consider recent work on mechanical explanation, mathematical explanation, causal explanation (particularly in the physical and social sciences), the relation between explanation and understanding, and metaphysical explanation (particularly the idea of explanation as ground). (II)