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Humanities

Hum/H 1. American History. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. Among the major events, trends, and problems of our country’s history are the American Revolution, the framing and development of the Constitution, wars, slavery and emancipation, ethnic and gender relations, immigration, urbanization, westward conquest, economic fluctuations, changes in the sizes and functions of governments, foreign relations, class conflicts, domestic violence, and social and political movements. Although no one course can treat all of these themes, each freshman American history course will deal with two or more of them. How have American historians approached them? What arguments and evidence have scholars offered for their interpretations and how can we choose between them? In a word, what can we know about our heritage?  Not offered 2017–18. 

Hum/H 2. Baseball and American Culture, 1840 to the Present. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. This course explores the history of baseball in America. It covers, among other topics, the first amateur clubs in the urban North, the professionalization and nationalization of the sport during the Civil War era, the rise of fandom, baseball’s relationship to anxieties about manhood and democracy, tensions between labor and management, the Negro Leagues, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, Nisei baseball during World War Two, Jackie Robinson and desegregation, and the Latinization of baseball. The history of baseball is, in many respect, the history of the United States writ large as well as the history of the myths that Americans tell about themselves. Not offered 2017–18.

Hum/H 5. The History of the Chinese Empire. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. This class will explore several facets of how the concept of empire and its historical formation in China was defined, portrayed, and developed over time. It offers students a chance to reflect on the interaction of event, record, and remembrance as these components combine in the creation and contestation of history. This course will particularly emphasize how the making, writing, and remembering of history responds to the advent of different regimes of legitimacy in order to give students a new perspective on the relationship between action, authorship, and interpretation in history. Instructor: Dykstra.

Hum/H 8 a. Civilization, Science, and Archaeology: Before Greece: The Origins of Civilization in Mesopotamia. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. This course will introduce students to the early development of civilization in Mesopotamia and Egypt from 4000 B.C.E. through 1000 B.C.E. Origins of agriculture and writing, the evolution of the city, and the structures of the Mesopotamian economy and social order will be discussed. Comparison with contemporary developments in Egypt during the Old and Middle Kingdoms may include a reading of Gilgamesh from 3000 B.C.E. and of the Egyptian Tale of Sinuhe. The course concludes with a discussion of life during the late Bronze Age. Focus will be on life as it was lived and experienced by many groups in pre-classical antiquity rather than on kings and dynasties. Not offered 2017–18. 

Hum/H 8 b. Civilization, Science, and Archaeology: The Development of Science from Babylon through the Renaissance. 9 units (3-0-6); second and third terms. Connections in antiquity between astrology and astronomy, early theories of light, Islamic science, new concepts of knowledge during the European Middle Ages and Renaissance, the early laboratory, the development of linear perspective, the origins of the Copernican and Keplerian systems of astronomy, and the science of Galileo. Instructor: Buchwald, J.

Hum/H 8 c. Civilization, Science, and Archaeology: The Nature of Religious Belief in Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Israel. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. The civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia gave rise to complex forms of religious practices connected to the social order, moral behavior, and the afterlife. The course examines the origins of concepts of moral death and of sin as a violation of cosmic order in antiquity, the nature of polytheism, and the manner in which monotheism arose out of it. In addition to historical analyses the course includes readings by anthropologists who have studied cult structures as well as contemporary theories by evolutionary psychologists. Not offered 2017–18. 

Hum/H 9 a. European Civilization: The Classical and Medieval Worlds. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. Will survey the evolution of Mediterranean and European civilization from antiquity through the end of the Middle Ages. It will emphasize the reading and discussion of primary sources, especially but not exclusively literary works, against the backdrop of the broad historical narrative of the periods. The readings will present students with the essential characteristics of various ancient and medieval societies and give students access to those societies’ cultural assumptions and perceptions of change. Not offered 2017–18. 

Hum/H 9 b. European Civilization: Early Modern Europe. 9 units (3-0-6); first and second terms. Will survey the evolution of European civilization from the 14th century to the early 19th century. The topics covered will depend on the individual instructor, but they will include some of the major changes that transformed Western civilization in the early modern period, such as the Renaissance, the Reformation, the rise of sovereign states and the concomitant military revolution, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, and the French and industrial revolutions. Readings will include major works from the period, as well as studies by modern historians. Instructors: Wey-Gomez, Hoffman. 

Hum/H 9 c. European Civilization: Modern Europe. 9 units (3-0-6); first and third terms. Will introduce students to major aspects of the politics and culture of modernity that have profoundly transformed Western society and consciousness from the French Revolution to the contemporary era. A variety of historical, literary, and artistic works will be used to illuminate major social, intellectual, and cultural movements. The focus will be on significant and wide-ranging historical change (e.g., the industrial revolution, imperialism, socialism, fascism); on cultural innovation (e.g., modernism, impressionism, cubism); and on the work of significant thinkers. Instructors: Dennison, Kormos-Buchwald.

Hum/H 10. Medieval Europe: The Problem of Violence. 9 units (3-0-6); first and second terms. This course will explore how people understood violence in Europe between ca. 500 and ca. 1400 AD. It will focus on the various norms that governed the use of violence in a period when the right of free people to carry and use weapons was considered self-evident. Working through primary sources, students will explore the relationship between violence and vengeance, the law, central authority and public order, religion, emotions, public ritual, and economics. As they go along students will consider whether violence can coexist with or even promote stable, ordered societies, or whether it by definition creates disorder. Instructor: Brown.

Hum/H 15. Early Modern Environmental History. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. This course explores how people have understood and interacted with the natural world from c.1450-c1850. Focusing on Europe and the Americas, this course will cover a broad range of topics including climate change, relationships between humans and animals, pollution, deforestation, resource management, and the transition to fossil fuels. We will use both primary and secondary sources to ask how human societies adapted to a changing climate, whether pre-industrial people were “green,” and how human/environmental relationships shaped European colonial expansion. Instructor: Pluymers.

Hum/H 16. Introduction to North American Environmental History. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. This course will introduce students to topics in North American environmental history, explaining how landscapes have changed over time and how the peoples of the continent have interacted with the natural world. Beginning with Native American peoples’ uses for fire, the course will cover a wide range of topics including the introduction of non-native species, pollution, the creation of environmental regulations like the Endangered Species Act, and the origins and development of the environmental movement. Students will be expected to read and analyze both primary and secondary sources in class discussions and in writing. Instructor: Pluymers.

Hum/H/HPS 18. Introduction to the History of Science. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. Major topics include the following: What are the origins of modern Western science, when did it emerge as distinct from philosophy and other cultural and intellectual productions, and what are its distinguishing features? When and how did observation, experiment, quantification, and precision enter the practice of science? What were some of the major turning points in the history of science? What is the changing role of science and technology? Using primary and secondary sources, students will take up significant topics in the history of science, from ancient Greek science to the 20th-century revolution in physics, biology, and technology. Hum/H/HPS 10 may be taken for credit toward the additional 36-unit HSS requirement by HPS majors and minors who have already fulfilled their freshman humanities requirement and counts as a history course in satisfying the freshman humanities breadth requirement. Instructor: Feingold.

Hum/En 20. Greek Epic and Drama. 9 units (3-0-6); first and second terms. The epic poems attributed to Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, and Athenian drama of the fifth and early fourth centuries BCE have been masterpieces of the western literary tradition for thousands of years. We will study one or both epics, tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and comedies by Aristophanes. Instructor: Pigman.

Hum/En 21. The Marvelous and the Monstrous: Literature at the Boundaries of the Real. 9 units (3-0-6); second and third terms. Marvels flourish at the boundaries of literary invention, religous belief, and scientific inquiry, challenging assumptions about natural processes and expected outcomes. From Grendel, the monstrous foe of Beowulf, to Satan, Milton’s charismatic antihero, this seminar examines the uses of the marvelous in a variety of texts and genres, including Shakespearian drama, medieval romance, and early travel-writing. Readings may include Beowulf, Marie de France, Chaucer, John Mandeville, Shakespeare, Milton. Instructor: Jahner.

Hum/En 22. Inequality. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. Throughout the history of Europe, America, and beyond, poets and philosophers have asked hard questions about unequal relationships, whether between kings and subjects, gods and humans, men and women, rich and poor, or machines and people.  Our authors take no single point of view; our goal is to analyze sophisticated and often surprising arguments and to enter new cultural worlds.  Readings may include Ovid, Milton, Sei Shonagon, Machiavelli, Rousseau, and Alexievich. Instructor: Haugen.

Hum/En 23. Literature and Medicine. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. The relationship between patients and doctors, the ill and the well, involves a constant exchange of stories.  In this course we will look more closely at the relationship between medicine and narrative through a selection of fiction, essays and poems that investigate the interplay between doubt and diagnosis, the idea of the case study, the problem of medical responsibility, and the language of pain and illness.  Authors covered may include Sontag, Mantel, Conan Doyle, Freud, Woolf, Dickinson, Ishiguro and Shelley. Instructor: Gilmore.

Hum/En 24. The Scientific Imagination in English Literature. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. This course considers three periods of major scientific development—the Renaissance, the nineteenth century, and the modern period— to explore the influence new ideas, discoveries, and theories had on the imagination of English writers.  We will look at the early modern interplay between magic and science, Romantic and Victorian debates about evolution, and the twentieth-century advent of modern physics as we confront consistent tropes like the mad scientist, the scientist-hero, and the problem of uncertainty. Authors covered may include Shakespeare, Marlowe, Bacon, Shelley, Darwin, Conan Doyle, Stevenson, Auden, McEwan, and Stoppard. Not offered 2017–18.

Hum/En 25. The Rhetoric of Superiority. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. What role does rhetoric play in distinguishing the excellent from the ordinary and inferior? This course will explore the meaning of superiority across Medieval and Renaissance literature, asking not only how the idea of superiority is constructed within certain texts (what is the difference between satanic pride and divine excellence in Milton’s Paradise Lost?), but also why these texts have been deemed superior literary specimens (why is Shakespeare recognized for his literary genius?). In the process, we will reflect on the stakes of improving our own writing. Readings include: Boethius, Chaucer, Machiavelli, Milton, Shakespeare. Not offered 2017–18.

Hum/En 26. Encountering Difference in Medieval Literature. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. Encountering those who are different from us can be both exciting and challenging, obliging us to reevaluate the boundaries that separate ourselves from others. In this course, we will consider how religious, ethnic, cultural and other categories have been used to differentiate between self and other, the relationship between violence and difference, and the role that language itself plays in constructing narratives of difference. Readings may include Chaucer, The Travels of Ibn Battutah, The Book of Margery Kempe, medieval popular romances, eyewitness accounts of the Crusades, and the writings of early explorers. Instructor: Klement.

Hum/En 30. Imagining Early America. 9 units (3-0-6); first and second terms. Writers and artists regularly return to America’s past for insight into its present. This course explores topics such as gender politics, race relations, settler colonialism, and democracy by pairing modern and contemporary texts about American history with primary sources from the past. Texts may include work by Hawthorne, Poe, Styron, Butler, Pynchon, Morrison, and Disney’s Pocahontas. Instructor: Hunter.

Hum/En 35. Major British Authors. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. This course will introduce students to one or more of the genres of English literature, including poetry, drama, and prose fiction, by studying major authors from different periods. Sometimes the course will cover a wide range of authors, while at others it will concentrate on a few. Authors might include Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Austen, George Eliot, or Joyce. Not offered 2017–18. 

Hum/En 36. American Literature and Culture. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. Studies of American aesthetics, genres, and ideas from the birth of the nation to the present. Students will be introduced to the techniques of formal analysis. We will consider what constitutes evidence in relation to texts and how to develop a persuasive interpretation. Topics may include Nature’s Nation, slavery and its aftermath, individualism and the marketplace, the “New Woman,” and the relation between word and image. Not offered 2017–18. 

Hum/En 37. Modern European Literature. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. An introduction to literary analysis through a sustained exploration of the rise and aftermath of modernism. What was the modernist revolt of the early 20th century, how did it challenge literary tradition and existing social forms, and to what extent have we inherited a world remade by modernism? While the course will focus on British and Continental literature, writers from other parts of the world whose work closely engages the European tradition may also be considered.Authors may include Flaubert, James, Conrad, Joyce, Woolf, Kafka, Borges, Yeats, and Eliot. Not offered 2017–18.

Hum/En 38. Telling Time in American Modernism. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. This course will explore modernist literature’s relationship to time. We will identify the methods that modernist narratives use to characterize the experience of lived time, or temporality, such as stream of consciousness, non-linear storytelling, and narrative omissions. We will ask: what challenges does temporal experience pose to clock time and, more broadly, historical time? The course will emphasize the influence of new technologies on modernist representations of time and space, including rural and urban space, and modernism’s engagement with changing attitudes regarding race, gender and sexuality. Students will learn about key movements within American modernism, including the Harlem Renaissance, and may opt to analyze modernist literature’s relationships to other genres, including music and visual culture. Authors studied will include: Gertrude Stein, Jean Toomer, Nella Larsen, and William Faulkner. Instructor: Sherazi.

Hum/Pl 40. Right and Wrong. 9 units (3-0-6); winter term. This course addresses questions such as: Where do our moral ideas come from? What justifies them? How should they guide our conduct, as individuals and as a society? What kind of person should one aspire to be? Topics the course may deal with include meta-ethical issues (e.g., What makes an action right or wrong? When is one morally responsible for one’s actions? How should society be organized?) and normative questions (e.g., Is eating meat morally acceptable? What should we tolerate and why? What are society’s obligations toward the poor?). In addition, the psychological and neural substrates of moral judgment and decision making may be explored. The course draws on a variety of sources, including selections from the great works of moral and political philosophy (e.g., Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, Hobbes’s Leviathan, Kant’s Groundings for a Metaphysics of Morals, and Rawls’s A Theory of Justice), contemporary discussions of particular moral issues, and the science of moral thought. Instructor: Quartz. 

Hum/Pl 41. Knowledge and Reality. 9 units (3-0-6); first, second and third terms. The theme of this course is the scope and limitations of rational belief and knowledge. Students will examine the nature of reality, the nature of the self, the nature of knowledge, and how we learn about the natural world. Students will be introduced to these issues through selections from some of the world’s greatest philosophical works, including Descartes’s Meditations, Pascal’s Pensées, Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Berkeley’s Principles of Human Knowledge, and Kant’s Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics.  A variety of more contemporary readings will also be assigned. Instructors: Babic, Hitchcock, Eberhardt.

Hum/Pl 42. Philosophy and Gender. 9 units (3-0-6); first term. This course discusses the metaphysics of gender and explores some of its social and political dimensions.  The main intellectual approach is that of analytic philosophy, but source materials from other philosophical traditions and intellectual disciplines will be examined.  The first part of the course examines various philosophical answers to the question: What makes someone a woman or a man (or both or neither)?  The second part illustrates why the metaphysics matters: views about the nature of gender not only affect individuals’ own senses of identity, but also have ramifications for politics, anthropology, history, psychology, and the arts. Instructor: Cowie.

Hum/F 50. Introduction to Film Studies. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. This course examines film as a technology, entertainment medium, and commercial art with an emphasis on American and European contexts. Students will acquire the basic vocabulary and techniques of film analysis, with an emphasis on style and structure, and develop an understanding of the historical development of film as both an art form and an industry from 1895 through the twentieth century. Topics covered may include the early cinema of illusion, the actuality film, German expressionism, the Hollywood star system, Italian neo-realism, the French New Wave, and Dogme 95. Instructor: Jurca.

Hum 75. Selected Topics in Humanities. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. See registrar’s announcement for details. Instructors: Staff, visitors.

Hum 80. Frontiers in the Humanities. 1 unit (1-0-0); third term. Weekly seminar by a member of the Caltech humanities faculty or a visitor to discuss a topic of his or her current research at an introductory level. The course can be used to learn more about different areas of study within the humanities. For those interested in (or who become interested) in pursuing a second option in the humanities, the course will introduce students to the kinds of research carried out by members of the humanities faculty and help them find faculty advisors.  Instructors: Brown/Dykstra.

Hum 105 ab. Topics in French Culture and Literature. 9 units (3-0-6); second term. For course description, see L 105 ab.

Hum 114 abc. Spanish and Latin American Literature. 9 units (3-0-6); first, second, third terms. For course description, see L 114 abc.

Hum 119. Selected Topics in Humanities. 9 units (3-0-6); offered by announcement. Instructors: Staff, visitors. 

L/Hum 152 ab. French Literature in Translation: Classical and Modern. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. For course description, see Languages.

L/Hum 162. Spanish and Latin American Literature in Translation. 9 units (3-0-6); For course description, see Languages.

Hum 174. Advanced Chinese II: Topics in Chinese Literature. 9 units (3-0-6); third term. For course description, see L 174.