Tue

31

Dec

2013

Preliminary Thoughts on "World Humanities" in Undergrad Curriculum (3)

10. Now, let's turn to what an undergrad major ("field of concentration") may look like for World Humanities. The key issue here is how what language requirements there should be - and for that I have looked at how the various Harvard Departments work them out. Details aside, there are three ways: a) specifying min. and max. number of language courses that can count towards concentration requirement (most common); b) ask for demonstration of proficiency; c) use Honors (or High Honors and Highest Honors in the case of the Classics Department) to lure students into language studies. Also of note is that if one starts out not knowing a language, the proficiency level is considered ok if a student can take courses conducted in languages, or passed a third-year ("Upper-level") language course, or be able to be placed into such "third-year" courses.

 

11. Proposed "Basic Requirement" for a degree in "World Humanities":

a) 12 half-courses, including:

I. 3 half-courses required: i. Sophomore Tutorial (or Humanities 11C); ii. Literature 103; iii. Religion 13

II. 9 half-courses as electives, of which

i. Min. of 2 language courses; up to 6 language courses can be counted towards concentration basic requirement (up to 8 for Honors)

ii. At least 1 half-course each in tradition-survey and in specific authors/works

iii. At least 1 half-course in each of the 3 broad world regions (West, East, South)

iv. At least 1 half-course in each of Literature and Religious/Intellectual areas, beyond Literature 103 and Religion 13

b) Language proficiency: (besides English)

I. End of 2nd-year proficiency in a major modern or classical language 

II. End of 1st-year proficiency in a major modern of classical language

III. The two languages selected above have to be from different broad regions (West, East, South (Southeast) Asian, Near Eastern (African))

IV. Two languages selected above have to include a classical language:

i. West: Latin, Greek

ii. Near Eastern / African: Arabic, Persian, Hebrew

iii. South (Southeast) Asian: Sanskrit, Pali, Classical Tibetan

iv. East: Literary Chinese

 

12. Honors Program: 2 more half-courses (total 14), Either

I. 2 Tutorials (half-courses) culminating in a Senior Thesis, or

II. 1 more year (2 half-courses) of language proficiency beyond basic requirement, which can be i) End of 1st-year proficiency in a 3rd language; ii) End of 2nd-year proficiency in both languages; iii) End of 3rd-year proficiency in one of the two languages selected

III. High Honors: I. and II.

 

13. Example basic requirement fulfillment - starting with no languages, and use all 6 language courses to fulfill concentration requirement:

I. 3 required half-courses: i. Sophomore Tutorial; ii. Literature 103; Religion 13

II. 6 language courses to fulfil language proficiency requirement: 1. 1-year of French; 2-years of Arabic

III. 3 Electives (examples): i. Ethical Reasoning 18 ("Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory"); ii. Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 54 ("For the Love of God and His Prophet: Religion, Literature, and the Arts in Muslim Cultures"); iii. Religion 1810 ("Reading the Qur'an")

This example shows that World Humanities as it is shaped by the student could steer and prepare way for a more specific Civilizational Studies (in this example Islamic Civilization) for a Ph.D. program. But this is different from a Islamic Civilization concentration in that it adds 1st-year French language proficiency, and an East Asian half-course, while taking away some 3 Near-Eastern specific tutorials and courses.

 

14. Example basic requirement - with one high-score AP language preparation (e.g. AP Latin), taking min. number of language courses

I. 3 required half-courses

II. 2 language half-courses to fulfil language requirement: e.g. 1-year in Japanese

III. 7 Electives: i. Japanese Literature 128a ("The World of Classical Japanese Literature"); ii. Japanese Literature 128b ("The World of Early Modern Japanese Literature"); iii. Japanese Literature 124 ("The Tale of Genji in Word and Image"); iv. English 157 ("The Classic Phase of the Novel"); v. South Asian Studies 197 ("Buddhist Literature in South Asia and Beyond"); vi. Culture & Belief 25 ("Studying Buddhism, Across Place and Time"); East Asian Studies 191 ("Zen: History, Culture and Critique")

This example is one where the student can explore a set of related interests - Japan, Novel, Buddhism without doing too much new language studies, leveraging on what has already been learnt in high school. 

 

15. There are many other variations. For example, for someone primarily interested in religions/ intellectual history, with 7 half-courses to pick from, using up one say for a literature course, the 6 half-courses can be used to study Christianity, Islamic and Buddhism. Another example is for an international student, say from Egypt who knows Arabic as native language (and English to get into Harvard), in the World Humanities undergrad major, he/she can use all 6 half-courses + 2 Honors Half-Course to study 4-year worth of Chinese (modern and Literary) to get a Honors without a Thesis.

 

16. Before closing on this analysis and proposal, to maintain US school system's preference of flexibility, it is probably best not to limit courses regarding time period.

 

17. Through this "thought experiment," it is also clear that there is very weak textual studies of canonical history texts, or historiographical tradition surveys in current undergrad curriculum (even at Harvard). Also clear that while there are attempts at World Literature, and World religious scriptures, there is no real world-wide intellectual history survey courses available at this point. Regarding courses focusing on specific authors/works, there are just so much more options for Western authors than for other traditions.

 

18. Last but not least, if there needs to be new development of required classes catered for World Humanities (13-week teaching time for a half-course; 26-week for a full course), the reading list can really use the World Canonical Text lists on this site as a starting point.

 

Appendix: Course Descriptions

 

Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 54 (formerly Culture and Belief 12). For the Love of God and His Prophet: Religion, Literature, and the Arts in Muslim Cultures
Catalog Number: 7027 
Ali S. Asani (Study of Religion; Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations) 
Half course (spring term). Tu., Th., 11:30-1, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 13, 14
The course surveys the literary and artistic dimensions of the devotional life of the world’s Muslim communities, focusing on the role of literature and the arts (poetry, music, architecture, calligraphy, etc.) as expressions of piety and socio-political critique. An important aim of the course is to explore the relationships between religion, literature, and the arts in a variety of historical and cultural contexts in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Europe, and America.
Note: Expected to be omitted in 2014–15. No prior knowledge of Islam required. Offered jointly with the Divinity School as 3627. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding or Culture and Belief, but not both. 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 Foreign Cultures or Literature and Arts C, but not both. 

 

Culture and Belief 25. Studying Buddhism, Across Place and Time
Catalog Number: 1316 
Janet Gyatso (Harvard Divinity School) 
Half course (fall term). Tu., Th., 11:30-1, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 13, 14
A critical introduction to key values, ideas, people and practices in Buddhist traditions, from the teachings of the historical Buddha through their specific developments across Asia and down to their modern reception in the Beat poets and contemporary socially engaged Buddhism. The course explores Buddhism’s distinctive understanding of human experience, its disciplinary and meditative practices, and its outstanding works of literature. It highlights the way that Buddhism shifted as it spread across Asia and adapted to new cultural contexts, a process that still continues, now across the world. This allows us to study both the historical contributions of Buddhism to the philosophies and self-cultivation traditions of Asia, and the new ways it serves as a global human heritage in the contemporary context.
Note: Offered jointly with the Divinity School as 3830. 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 Foreign Cultures.

 

Ethical Reasoning 18 (formerly Moral Reasoning 78). Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory
Catalog Number: 9742 
Michael J. Puett (East Asian Languages and Civilizations; Study of Religion) 
Half course (fall term). M., W., at 10, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 3
What is the best way to live a fuller and more ethical life? Concretely what should we do to begin to live in a more flourishing and inspiring way? Questions such as these were at the heart of philosophical debates in China. The answers that classical Chinese thinkers developed in response to these questions are among the most powerful in human history. Regardless of whether one agrees with them or not, they should be studied and taken seriously by anyone who cares about ethics, politics, and the ways to live life more fully.
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Moral Reasoning.

 

Religion 1810. Reading the Qur’an
Catalog Number: 23798 Enrollment: Limited to 20. 
R. Michael Feener 
Half course (spring term). Th., 1–3. EXAM GROUP: 15, 16
This course is dedicated to an understanding of the primary scripture of Islam in the contexts of Muslim history and the broader ’History of Religions.’ It begins with an examination of the Arabian context in which the selected Qur’an was first revealed to Muhammad and the complex process of its later of compilation. Thence we proceed on to critical analyses of the text itself as well as selected readings in Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir). Later sections of the class will address issues related to the role of the Qur’an in the cultural and political histories in diverse areas of the Muslim world. 
Note: Offered jointly with the Divinity School as 3363.
Prerequisite: No previous background in Islamic Studies or Arabic language is required for this course.

 

English 157. The Classic Phase of the Novel
Catalog Number: 4786 
Philip J. Fisher 
Half course (fall term). M., W., at 10, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 3
A set of major works of art produced at the peak of the novel’s centrality as a literary form: Sense and Sensibility, Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, Middlemarch, The Brothers Karamazov, Buddenbrooks.Society, family, generational novels and the negations of crime and adultery; consciousness and the organization of narrative experience; the novel of ideas and scientific programs; realism, naturalism, aestheticism and the interruptions of the imaginary.
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.

 

Japanese Literature 128a. The World of Classical Japanese Literature - (New Course) 
Catalog Number: 91163 
Matthew Fraleigh 
Half course (fall term). Tu., Th., 10–11:30. EXAM GROUP: 12, 13
This course will introduce students to some of the most artistically significant, historically influential and culturally celebrated works of Japanese literature from the classical period. 

Japanese Literature 128b. The World of Early Modern Japanese Literature - (New Course) 
Catalog Number: 18835 
Matthew Fraleigh 
Half course (spring term). Tu., Th., 10–11:30. EXAM GROUP: 12, 13
This class will survey some of the most celebrated works of literature from Japan’s early modern period (1600-1868).

[East Asian Studies 191. Zen: History, Culture, and Critique]
Catalog Number: 39452 
James Robson 
Half course (spring term). Tu., Th., 10–11:30.
This course is an introduction to the religious history, philosophy and practices of Zen Buddhism. Zen is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chan, which is itself a transcription of the Sanskrit worddhyâna, meaning meditation. While meditation is the backbone of the Zen tradition, we will see that Zen has a number of different faces and will examine the rich diversity of the Zen tradition as it developed in China, Korea, and Japan. 
Note: Expected to be given in 2014–15. Offered jointly with the Divinity School as 3012.

South Asian Studies 197. Buddhist Literature in South Asia and Beyond - (New Course) 
Catalog Number: 54319 
Shenghai Li 
Half course (spring term). W., 3–6. EXAM GROUP: 8, 9
Buddhist literary texts were an innovative force in the cultures of many parts of Asia. This course explores major Buddhist themes and genres in India, ranging from biographies of the Buddha, stories of his former lives, tales of magnificent exploits, to poetry and drama, and their continuing forms in other Asian literatures. While reading Asian Buddhist texts in translation, we will examine such questions as the role of language, the different functions of prose and verse, and the extent to which these texts are to be considered Buddhist.

 

 

 

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