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2013

Preliminary Thoughts on "World Humanities" in Undergrad Curriculum (2)

4. After laying out the basics of "World Humanities" as a field of study, let me try to delineate what such a field as a minor, or "secondary field" will look like in Harvard's undergrad curriculum. The assumption here is that Harvard's General Education requirement is already well-thought out, but there are students, say a) those who study Social Science (e.g. Economics or Government), or History, or specific language/civilizational studies who want broader view to complement their concentration (major), or b) science or engineering students who are interested in becoming well-educated in the world-level "liberal arts."

 

5. At Harvard, the undergrad curriculum standard is 4-year, 2 semesters. Each semester a student is supposed to take 4 classes (called "half-course") on average, thus an undergraduate needs to get a Bachelor degree with 32 "half-courses." Out of these 32:

- 9-11 required courses: 1 is required Expository Writing; 8 courses each in a different general groups of disciplines (see here); foreign language requirement - at least 1st-year equivalent, so could be 2 courses for those without any prior language certifications other than English 

- Field of concentration (essentially the major): typically 10-13 half courses for basic requirement

- All others are elective: could be from ~8 to 13 half courses, students can typically use this for: a) Honors program in concentration (typically a thesis or 2-4 more half courses); b) Doing a secondary field (typically 5-6 half courses); c) getting a Language citations (4 language or in-language literature half courses, reaching 3rd-year level or beyond); d) probably doing more in their major, or going abroad, taking classes out of sheer interest, etc.

 

6. For example, for the concentration with the most students, Economics (see here),  basic requirement is 11 half-courses, honors is 15 half-courses. For someone interested in World Humanities, most likely the language requirement is already met, so for electives there will be 8 (=32-15- 9) courses left for electives. Usually there could be double-counting in terms of requirements (e.g. an intro Econ class can also satisfy one of the 8 Gen Ed areas), so if well-planned there would be something more like 10 courses as electives available. So for "World Humanities" as a sub-field, it makes sense to require 6 half-courses.

 

7. What could a "secondary field" requirement looks like? Below are my proposal:

a) Sophomore Tutorial (1 half-course) - typically required by various Humanities fields of concentration like Literature, Religion, Philosophy, etc. The content could lay out the basis of the field plus some well-selected and guided readings. Maybe something that is augmented from Literature 97 ("Sophomore Tutorial") or Humanities 11C ("The Art of Reading").

b) World-comparative survey (1 half-course) - either Literature 103 ("Writing Across Cultures: Literatures of the World (up to 1750)" taught by Stephen Owen, a famous Chinese literature scholar btw) or Religion 13 ("Scriptures and Classics").

c) Electives (4 half-courses):

i)  At least 1 half-course each in tradition-survey and in specific authors/works

ii) At least 1 half-course in 2 of the 3 broad world regions (West, East, South)

iii) At least 1 half-course in each of Language/Literature and Religious/Intellectual areas.

iv) Could include up to two half-courses in a major modern or classical language

 

8. Example courses chosen (without language)

i) Tutorial (Humanities 11c); ii) Literature 103; iii) Religion 13; iv) History 1300 ("Western Intellectual History: Greco-Roman Antiquity"); v) Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 30 ("Love in a Dead Language: Classical Indian Literature and Its Theorists"); vi) Japanese Literature 124 ("The Tale of Genji in Word and Image")

[This satisfies also Gen Ed requirement of Aesthetic & Interpretive Understanding; and Ethical Reasoning]

 

9. Example courses chosen (with language):

i) Tutorial (Humanities 11c); ii) Literature 103; iii) Sanskrit 101a; iv) Sanskrit 101b (both are "Elementary Sanskrit"); v) Philosophy 129 ("Kant's Critique of Pure Reason"); vi) Islamic Civlizations 145a ("Introduction to Islamic Philosophy and Theology: The Formative and Classical Periods (8th to 15th centuries)")

[This satisfies also Gen Ed requirement of Aesthetic & Interpretive Understanding; and Foreign Language Requirement]

 

Appendix: Course Descriptions

 

Humanities 11c. Frameworks: The Art of Reading - (New Course) 
Catalog Number: 84969 Enrollment: Limited to 30. 
Homi K. Bhabha (English) and Peter Sacks (English) 
Half course (spring term). W., 3–5, and weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 8, 9
This course introduces "reading" as a wide-ranging practice of interpretation, applicable to social phenomena and historical narratives as well as to literary texts. Participants in this introduction to the humanities will examine a range of texts, from poems and political journalism to graphic novels and blogs, both to practice close and subtle reading and to see how these texts seek to establish rules for their own interpretation. Rather than look at a particular artistic tradition or literary history, we will develop a set of "all-terrain" interpretive skills that can be deployed on a range of intellectual and cultural objects.
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding.

 

*Literature 97. Tutorial — Sophomore Year
Catalog Number: 4595 
Sandra Naddaff and members of the Committee and Tutorial Board 
Half course (spring term). Hours to be arranged.
Successful completion of Literature 97 is required of all concentrators in their sophomore year.

 

Literature 103. Writing Across Cultures: Literatures of the World (to 1750)
Catalog Number: 9074 
Stephen Owen 
Half course (fall term). M., W., at 11. EXAM GROUP: 4
An overview of world literatures from the earliest texts to the Enlightenment, treating multi-ethnic classical literatures, the formation of ethnic vernacular literatures, and zones in which literary cultures met. Will examine how cultural identity has been constructed in literature.
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding or the Core area requirement for Literature and Arts A. This course fulfills the requirement that one of the eight General Education courses also engage substantially with Study of the Past.

 

Religion 13. Scriptures and Classics - (New Course) 
Catalog Number: 54506 
William Albert Graham 
Half course (fall term). Tu., Th., at 9-10 and an hour to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 11
An introduction to the history of religion through selective reading in significant, iconic texts from diverse religious and cultural traditions. Considers important themes (e.g., suffering, death, love, community, transcendence) as well as problems of method and definition as they present themselves in the sources considered. Readings from texts such as the Upanisads, Bhagavad Gita, Dhammapada, Lotus Sutra, Analects, Chuang Tzu, Gilgamesh, Black Elk Speaks, Aeneid, Torah, Talmud, New Testament, and Qur’an.
Note: Offered jointly with the Divinity School as 3225.

 

History 1300. Western Intellectual History: Greco-Roman Antiquity
Catalog Number: 6308 
James Hankins 
Half course (fall term). M., W., at 11, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 4
A survey of major themes in the intellectual history of the Greek and Roman World, with special attention to metaphysics, psychology, ethics and the philosophic life. Readings in the Presocratics, Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Epictetus, Cicero, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Plotinus, Augustine, and Boethius.
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Ethical Reasoning. This course fulfills the requirement that one of the eight General Education courses also engage substantially with Study of the Past. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Historical Study B or Moral Reasoning, but not both.

 

Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 30. Love In A Dead Language: Classical Indian Literature and Its Theorists
Catalog Number: 6240 
Parimal G. Patil (Study of Religion; South Asian Studies) 
Half course (spring term). M., W., at 11, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 4
An exploration of love in five genres of classical South Asian literature–epic history, story literature, plays, poetic miniatures, and court poetry. We will pay particular attention to the nature of literary genres and practices and how they were theorized by South Asian intellectuals. Especially relevant are theories of poetic language, aestheticized emotion (especially love), and literary ornamentation.
Note: This course fulfills the requirement that one of the eight General Education courses also engage substantially with Study of the Past. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Literature and Arts A.

 

Japanese Literature 124. The Tale of Genji in Word and Image 
Catalog Number: 2181 
Melissa M. McCormick 
Half course (spring term). W., 1–3.
Introduces students to The Tale of Genji, often called the world’s first novel, authored by the court lady Murasaki Shikibu around the year 1000 CE. In addition to a close reading of the tale, topics for examination include Japanese court culture, women’s writing, and the tale’s afterlife in painting, prints, drama, manga, and film.

 

Sanskrit 101a. Elementary Sanskrit
Catalog Number: 8140 
Alex Watson 
Half course (fall term). M., W., F., at 12; F., at 11; F., at 1. EXAM GROUP: 5
Introduction to Classical Sanskrit, the translocal language of intellectual life in South Asia for much of the last two millennia. This course provides the essential grammar and reading proficiency necessary to take up the language’s many rich literary traditions: scripture (Upaniṣad), epic (Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata), poetry, Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, etc. After completing the textbook, we will read a narrative (Hitopadeśa) drawn from one of the most popular literary works in the pre-modern world. 

Sanskrit 101b. Elementary Sanskrit
Catalog Number: 6892 
Alex Watson 
Half course (spring term). M., W., F., at 12. EXAM GROUP: 5
Continuation of Sanskrit 101a.

Philosophy 129. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
Catalog Number: 0614 
Matthew Boyle 
Half course (spring term). M., W., (F.), at 11.
A careful reading of the work that is the cornerstone of Kant’s critical system, his first Critique, aiming at a general understanding of the problems that Kant seeks to address and the significance of his doctrine of "transcendental idealism." Topics to include: the role of mind in the constitution of experience; the nature of space and time; the relation between self-knowledge and knowledge of objects; causation; freedom of the will; the relation between appearance and reality; the status of metaphysics.

[Islamic Civilizations 145a. Introduction to Islamic Philosophy and Theology: The Formative and Classical Periods (8th to 15th centuries)]
Catalog Number: 0292 
Khaled El-Rouayheb 
Half course (fall term). Th., 3-5, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 17, 18
An introductory survey of the development of Islamic theology and philosophy. We will examine and discuss some of the central problems that were much debated through the centuries, such as: the relationship between philosophy and faith; whether humans possess free will; how to understand apparently anthropomorphic expressions in Scripture; whether acts are good because God commands them or God commands them because they are good; and proofs for the existence of God.
Note: Expected to be given in 2014–15. Offered alternate years with Islamic Civilizations 145b. Though the two courses can be taken in either order, 145a covers the 8th-15th centuries and 145b covers the 16th-20th centuries. Offered jointly with the Divinity School as 3602.

 

 

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