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- SHUM 2750 Introduction to Humanities: Fabrication (Humans & Things)
- SHUM 4650/6650 Poetry in the Expanded Field
- SHUM 4651/6651 Curating Fashion Exhibitions
- SHUM 4652/6652 Building Religion
- SHUM 4653/6653 The World as Image: Projection Technology, Media, Representation
- SHUM 4654/6654 Race, Gender, Sexuality, and the Voice
- SHUML 4801/6810 Homer and Global Modernity
- SHUM 3303 Introduction to Syntax and Semantics
- SHUM 2280 What is Public Health?
- SHUML 4881/6881 The Politics of Movement: Bodies, Space, and Motion
Fall 2020 Course Offerings
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SHUM 2750 Introduction to Humanities: Fabrication (Humans & Things)
(also ANTHR 2150, ARKEO 2150, NES 2750)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 18 students.
This seminar offers an introduction to the humanities by exploring the historical, cultural, social and political stakes of the Society for the Humanities annual focal theme. Students will explore the theme in critical dialogue with a range of texts and media drawn from the arts, humanities, and/or humanistic social sciences. Guest speakers, including Cornell faculty and Society Fellows, will present from different disciplines and points of view. Students will make field trips to local sites relevant to the theme, and visit Cornell special collections and archives. Students enrolled in this seminar will have the opportunity to participate in additional programming related to the Society’s theme and the Humanities Scholars Program for undergraduate humanities research.
Topic for 2020-21: Humans & Things
Imagine the following: a human being is suspended in space, but with no strings, and without any other things around it—no food, no sound, no objects. This is a person with truly nothing. Would it still be human, asks archaeologist Ian Hodder? It is almost impossible for us to imagine humanity without the material world that humans fabricate and depend upon – from the plants and animals we’ve domesticated, to the other nonhuman things that go by so many names: property, commodity, gift, nature, waste, etc. It is perhaps little surprise that, at a time when the planetary consequences of excessive fabrication is becoming frighteningly apparent, humanists are looking more closely than ever at both materials and our fundamental materiality. But the relationship between humans and the things we make has a long history in humanistic inquiry.
In this course, we focus on the theme of human-thing relations to guide our introductory exploration of the humanities and its different methods, sources, and modes of argumentation. We will focus particularly (but not exclusively) on anthropology, philosophy, archaeology, social and political theory, and material culture studies. We will consider a variety of approaches that address the symbolic, social, agentive, and material dimensions of things. We will also consider how materials exert themselves in art, craft, and the novel. Scholars at the Society for the Humanities and other faculty at Cornell will be among our interlocutors. We will visit Cornell’s various collections and places of fabrication, such as the Anthropology Collections, the Johnson Museum, and the Fabrication Shops in the College of Architecture, Art & Planning. This course is open to all students curious about the complexities of human-thing relations.
SHUM 4650/6650 Poetry in the Expanded Field
(also COML 4625, ENGL 4982)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
Julie Phillips Brown
Meeting time: Tuesdays, 10:10-12:05
What does it mean to make a poem? How might the act of poetic making—poïesis—unfold on the canvas, on the letterpress bed, or within a graphics layout program like Adobe Illustrator? What choices, what innovations in form, become possible when the fabrication of poetry is an equally textual and material process? An interdisciplinary seminar and collaborative workshop, “Poetry in the Expanded Field” combines critical inquiry with sustained creative practice and experimentation. We will examine emergent practices at the intersections of drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, poetry, song, dance, performance, film, and digital technologies, while also engaging in archival research and practicing poetic composition and 2- and 3-D design in programs like Adobe Illustrator and InDesign.
Class meetings will move among different modes of instruction, including critical engagement with assigned texts; poetry workshops and visual critiques; exercises in typesetting and visual composition; practical demonstrations in digital imaging programs; and visits to the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections. Coursework will include both the writing of poems and critical essays, as well as the fabrication of poetic installations, performances, and acts in public sites on campus and beyond. Specific topics of interest include early experimental typography; graphic design; history and theory of the avant-garde; the book as sculptural medium; altered books and pages; artists’ books; chapbooks, small press publications, broadsides, ephemera, and other one-off productions; the word in drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, film, and performance; and the various political, ethical, ecological, and spiritual implications of these diverse poetic practices.
Julie Phillips Brown is a poet, critic, painter, and book artist, as well an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Military Institute. After earning her M.F.A and Ph.D. at Cornell, she served as the N.E.H. Post-Doctoral Fellow in Poetics at Emory University’s Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry. In both her creative and critical practices, she focuses on the intersections of poetry and poetics, visual art, the history of the book and book arts, digital technology, and race, gender, and sexuality. Her first collection of poems, The Adjacent Possible, won the 2019 Hopper Poetry Prize for environmental writing and will be published by Green Writers Press in 2020. Other poems and essays have appeared in Borderlands, Columbia Poetry Review, Conjunctions, Contemporary Women’s Writing, Crab Orchard Review, Denver Quarterly, interim, Jacket2, Nashville Review, Plume, Posit, Talisman, Yemassee, and elsewhere. Dr. Brown is thrilled to join her fellow Fabrication scholars at the Society for the Humanities as she undertakes her current project, “The New Sister Arts,” an examination of intermediality in bookworks by contemporary women poets. Find her at tactualpoiesis.com and @jphillipsbrown on Twitter.
SHUM 4651/6651 Curating Fashion Exhibitions
(also ARKEO 4651/6651, VISST 4651/6651
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
Meeting time: Tuesdays, 2:30-4:25
Curated fashion exhibitions are fabricated sites where research practice, creative design, storytelling, and aesthetics converge in order to convey visual and material narratives for public consumption. In this course, students will learn about curatorial practice more broadly, and the display of fashion artifacts more specifically through theory and practice. Throughout the semester, students will collaborate on the curation of a fashion exhibition. This shared project and tangible end goal will ground theoretical discussions and enable students to convey what they have learned conceptually through the process of exhibition curation and fabrication. The course will begin with theorizing curation as research practice, while considering both conceptual and aesthetic aspects of display. We will discuss the challenges inherent in fashion exhibition design, such as mannequins and the dearth of an animate body. Next, we will focus on research methods, process, and information gathering. The research process will lead into the process of critical curatorial selection, exhibit fabrication, and iterative revision in fabricating the display space. Students will consider how their exhibition contributes new knowledge to the field.
Evaluation of student learning will be based upon: (1) contributions to a collaboratively curated fashion exhibition that will be mounted on campus using the Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection and other archives and collections housed at Cornell University; (2) contributions to a digital version of the exhibition, hosted on exhibits.library.cornell.edu; (3) an approximately 1000-word review of a current fashion exhibition; and (4) annotations and written reflections on weekly class readings.
Denise Nicole Green is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, Director of the Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection, and founder of the Cornell Natural Dye Studio. Her research uses ethnography, video production, archival methods, curation, and design practice to explore important social, cultural, and political issues through fashion. As a designer, curator, ethnographer, and filmmaker, she uses fabrication in various forms to convey her research findings. She is an award-winning curator and documentary filmmaker and has shown design work in juried international exhibitions and at New York Fashion Week. Professor Green is also a faculty member in American Indian and Indigenous Studies and the Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material studies, as well as a graduate field member in the Department of Anthropology at Cornell.
SHUM 4652/6652 Building Religion
(also ASIAN 4482/6682, RELST 4652/6652, VISST 4652/6652)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
Anthony Lovenheim Irwin
How did the construction of Buddhist temples in China define what Buddhism in that country came to be? What do contemporary Muslim painters in Indonesia contribute to global understandings of Islam? What does study of nineteenth-century Shaker women’s paintings of divine visions reveal about religious change in America? Does learning skills in fabrication change how we read religious texts and histories?
This course looks at how craftspeople, artisans, architects, and artists have formed the contours of some of the dominant religions in the world today. It exercises the concept of “making and knowing” by challenging seminar members to learn and think with techniques of fabrication to inform our scholarly insights and outcomes.
Most work on “making and knowing” has been about empirical knowledge, the way that manipulation of the material world in the realms of fun and fabrication have refined methodologies germane to scientific knowledge. This course underscores the transcendent aspects of empiricism, where making is understood to point to another way of knowing—knowing what is holy, right, ethical, and fruitful. We explore: How acts of collective making define ideas of beneficence for entire communities. How through making religious objects and spaces people mark the contours of their cosmological trajectories. How making in some traditions is theorized as a mode of meditative practice as well as mechanism for social improvement. In others, making can be a mode of absolving sin, creating the heavens on earth, and communing with the divine.
While exploring “making and knowing” as central to the construction of religious systems, we will also engage in making to see how it can enhance scholarly work. While learning the fundamentals of drawing, we will employ sketching to improve fieldwork and object-studies. We will test how storyboarding can help organize academic papers and make them clearer and more accessible. Ultimately, the course is experimental, seeing if learning the fundamentals of fabrication can inform our scholarly investigation of the practice.
Anthony Lovenheim Irwin is a scholar of Asian religions who thinks, talks, teaches, and writes about the social and ethical resonance of crafting, building, and construction. Dealing primarily with Buddhism in Thailand, his work focuses on the importance of craftspeople as central figures in the transmission and definition of religious traditions and communities. Following the craftspeople, artists, monks, nuns, and villagers he has been lucky enough to work with in northern Thailand, he pays special attention to the nonhuman and miraculous powers that participate in acts of religious building and crafting. His research has received funding from the American Council of Learned Societies, The US Fulbright Program, and the Australian National Research Council. He has taught at The University of Wisconsin-Madison, The University of Michigan, and Siena College.
SHUM 4653/6653 The World as Image: Projection Technology, Media, Representation
(also GERST 6653, PMA 4553/6553, STS 4653/6653, VISST 4653/6653)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
Jeffrey West Kirkwood
In what was arguably the first philosophy of technology, Ernst Kapp defined projection as to “throw out or forth, to place before or displace outward, to relocate something interior into the outside world.” He continued by claiming “projection and representation are not actually all that different, insofar as the inward act of representing is not independent of the object placed before the eyes of a representing subject.” The modern history of “representation,” and with it theories of subjectivity, realism, and potentiality, have been bound to projection technologies that establish a relationship between optical apparatuses and seemingly disembodied images. Linear perspective was tied to geometric projection; Kant’s transcendental subject has been connected to the magic lantern, Freud and Ferenczi’s psychoanalytic theory of projection and introjection to optics, Mercator projection to an abstract vision of space that propelled colonialism, and cinematic projection to the legal definition of race and commerce in early twentieth-century America. More recently these relationships have moved into museums and galleries through installations that interrogate or employ “projected images,” and an entire industry of future-oriented, computer-based prediction has emerged to offer a grim sense of coming changes in climate, sea-level, and economic inequality. It is these histories and futures that the course will examine. How we understand facts, counterfactuals, impossibility, futurity, and fiction is largely a function of the technological protocols through which they are constructed. The seminar returns to the histories, theories, and practices of projection to explore how projection mechanisms have come to define the relationship between concrete realities and imagined states.
Jeffrey West Kirkwood is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at Binghamton University, State University of New York, where his research concentrates on media theory, cultural techniques, and theories and histories of “the digital.” He received his PhD from Princeton University and an MA from the University of Chicago, and he has been the recipient of a number of fellowships, including a Fulbright Fellowship, a Harold W. Dodds Fellowship, and fellowships at the International Research Institute for Cultural Technologies and Media Philosophy (IKKM). In 2018 he co-edited and co-wrote the introduction to the first English translation of Ernst Kapp’s Elements of a Philosophy of Technology, and his writing has appeared in October, Grey Room, Texte zur Kunst, Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturforschung (ZMK), OSMOS, and a number of edited collections, among other places. His first book, Endless Intervals: Cinema and Psychology around 1900, is currently under review, and he is completing a second book entitled The Negative Image: A History of Impossible States.
SHUM 4654/6654 Race, Gender, Sexuality, and the Voice
(also FGSS 4654, LGBT 4654, MUSIC 4354/6354, PMA 4554/6554)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
Having a voice is often seen as a central metaphor for a person's agency. Having a voice allows a person to be heard as well as to speak. Yet, how we speak or sing, and how our voices are heard is socially constructed and varies based on many different identity factors including race, gender, and sexuality. From black opera divas and transgender jazz musicians to lesbian rock singers and cross identity voice over actors, this seminar will explore how to analyze and make meaning out of the use of voices within music and media: materially, culturally, and historically.
This seminar will look at the intersectional cultural politics of vocal production in music and media focusing on race, gender, and sexuality as the primary analytical lenses. The seminar will be an interdisciplinary exploration of Voice Studies, Transgender Studies, Gender Studies, Critical Race Theory, and Queer Theory. A series of case studies that cross time and genre, this seminar will denaturalize and historicize a thing we tend to think of as most natural: the voice. Through close listenings of a series of vocal performances, contextualized by a variety of primary and secondary sources, this seminar will challenge seminar participants to rethink politics and production of race, gender, and sexuality. The course will culminate in a substantial research paper that will challenge the students to put into practice what they’ve learned throughout the semester.
Stephan Pennington is an Associate Professor of Music at Tufts University. His research interests are concerned with the musical performances of identity and he has presented on a wide range of topics from on the rumba craze in 1930s Germany to appropriation as an historical process. He has published in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Ethnomusicology Forum, and Women & Music. He is currently working on two book projects, one on transgender vocality and the second on the persistence of enlightenment white supremacy in current musicological culture.
SHUML 4801/6810 Homer and Global Modernity
(also CLASS 4801/6801, COML 4801/6801)
Fall. 4 credits.
This 4000 level course examines the rich reception history of the Odyssey and the Iliad in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Students will develop a grasp of how Homer has been important for writers seeking to define and diagnose what is particular about modernity, as well as in projects of responding to the Western tradition and its notions of the ‘classic’. This course starts by considering various definitions of ‘global modernity’ and what is at stake in the conjunction of ‘global’ with the writing of history and literature. We look at two novels (Rushdie, Ali) to think about how literary form is a significant way of reflecting on global literary production and how non-Eurocentric historiographies might formulate ‘modernity’. Having set out some of foundational concerns, the course then makes three major turns.
The first turn is in weeks two to four, in which students are asked think around the theorization and perils of ‘world literature’, how notions of ‘the classic’ are made and contested, and how translation does or does not work to put cultural particularity into motion. I ask students to do close readings of Odyssey 9 as a hook into understanding why post-colonial literary ‘writings back’ to the canon and philosophical responses are organized around Homer.
The course makes a second turn towards thinking about form and medium explicitly, via the iconicity of Homer. We think about ‘iconicity’ in terms of visual art and film, grappling with how modern receptions can move very far away from the archaic poems and yet still remain in urgent relation to Homer as a figure. Bringing students attention to how Paul Chan and Cy Twombly have responded to the Homeric poems therefore builds on the notion of ‘iconicity’ and also asks them to engage with the consequences of shifting Homer from text to sculpture, screen, and canvas. We track the outer limits of iconic Homer in the writings of Theodor Adorno and Simone Weil, for whom Homer has become a critical metaphor for modernity, albeit a powerful one.
The third and final turn in the trajectory of this course picks up the narration of the minority subject. We spend time thinking through how the epic poems deal with dehumanization in the construction of Others through epistemic and literal violence. We consider how certain episodes from Iliad 24 (Achilles’ degradation of Homer’s corpse) and Odyssey 22 (Odysseus’ execution of the slavewomen) bring into view problems that are still urgent today around torture and slavery and how we might read hegemonic narratives critically. We therefore also take up modern writer who have used exploited gaps in the outer layers of epic storytelling (Teo) as much as gaps in historical archive (Dove) as opportunities for what Saidiya Hartman has called ‘critical fabulation’. In considering the ‘other side of narrative’, the course concludes with Toni Morrison’s Home (a novel that articulates questions of belonging and dislocation) and Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman: the Odyssey of Indenture raising the idea that ‘odyssey’ has become a modern narrative form that investigates domination critically and with care for historical suffering.
Mathura Umachandran is a classicist by training. Her work is committed to tracing the development of the methods and ideological forms of Classics in the post war Humanities and, thus, how Classics operates in contemporary culture in collaboration with systems of power. She wrote her dissertation in the department of Classics at Princeton University (2018) and comes to the Society for the Humanities after a post-doctoral position on the Anachronism and Antiquity project at the University of Oxford (2018–2019) and a Visiting Fellowship at the Institute of Classical Studies, London (2019–2020). She has recently co-edited a special issue on ‘Anachronism’ in Classical Receptions Journal (2020), in addition to articles on Iris Murdoch’s reception of Aeschylus, the conceptual history of ‘World Literature’, and public facing essays that addressed Classics as a racialized form of knowledge-making. At Cornell, Mathura will be working on her first book, ‘Critical Mythologies: Classical Reception and the Frankfurt School’, which explores how the first generation of Critical Theorists made turns to Greco-Roman myth, seeking intellectual resources beyond enlightened reason. ‘Critical Mythologies’ examines how Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse not only exploded the cultural value of antiquity itself by revising the concept of ‘myth’ in various ways, but also how they deployed specific narratives (the usual philosophical suspects Oedipus and Odysseus, as well as the less obvious candidates Narcissus and Orpheus) as openings for theorizing new political horizons of knowledge-making about the subject and her relations with the world.
SHUM 3303 Introduction to Syntax and Semantics
(also LING 3303)
Fall. 4 credits.
Jon Ander Mendia
Tuesdays/Thursdays 11:40am - 12:55pm
This course explores both syntax (how words and phrases are combined into sentences) and semantics (how the meanings of words, phrases, and sentences are interpreted). The course aims to give students to the ability to address questions regarding syntactic and semantic properties of languages in a rigorous and informed fashion. Topics covered include phrase structure, grammatical relations, transformations, semantic composition, modification, quantification, and the syntax/semantics interface. Emphasis throughout the course is placed on forming and testing hypotheses.
Jon Ander Mendia is a formal semanticist interested in the interaction between semantics and its syntactic and pragmatic interfaces. Currently he is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University, in the Department of Linguistics. He graduated from UMass in 2017, after which he spent two years as a post-doctoral researcher at Henrich-Heine University, in Düsseldorf.
Mendia's research focuses on (i) how semantic composition is constrained by the syntactic structure of sentences, and (ii) how the output of the semantic computation is affected by the context of utterance. In the past he has mainly explored these questions by looking at quantification and plurality related phenomena. Topics that I have worked on include numerals, comparatives, superlatives and other degree expressions, genericity and kind predication, focus association and ignorance implicatures.
SHUM 2280 What is Public Health?
(also AMST 2280, STS 2280)
Fall. 3 credits.
Mondays/Wednesdays 8:40am - 9:55am
How have different dimensions of our lives become matters of public health? Focusing on modern America, this course explores how public health has been bound up with histories of the state, the economy, and inequality. Most broadly, we will ask what is defined as a public health problem and why. The class examines early attempts to control infectious disease, the expansion of public health in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and new dimensions of public health in the post-war period. In the final portion, the class will explore recently recognized threats to the public’s health. Throughout, we will pay attention to the practices of public health that have fostered or challenged hierarchies of race, gender, class, and ability.
Hannah Leblanc is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society for the Humanities and the Department of Science & Technology Studies. She received her PhD in History from Stanford University, with a concentration in History of Science and a PhD minor in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her current book project, Nutrition for National Defense, examines US government-sponsored nutrition science projects in World War II and the Cold War. Drawing on extensive archival research, it tells the story of how home economists, doctors, food technologists, military strategists, and corporate researchers linked the emerging science of nutrition to the needs of a country at war. The research and technologies produced by these experts seeped into an immense array of government and industrial projects, touching everything from Cheetos, to the federal poverty line, to international development programs. Her second project examines the invention of disposable food packaging and the waste infrastructure needed to make it viable.
SHUML 4881/6881 The Politics of Movement: Bodies, Space, and Motion
(also PMA 4821/6821)
Fall. 4 credits.
Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz
Mondays/Wednesdays 7:30-8:45 pm
This class interrogates new theoretical understandings about space and how bodies marked by various types of difference (race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, fatness, ability, and socioeconomic class) interact and move in it. We will uncover the visual, linguistic, and performative representations and social structures used in deciding which bodies are allowed to create and use spaces, and to what ends. We will ask questions that examine how people make claims to space. What kind of space does a performance engender? How do racialized and gendered spaces alter where performances can happen? This course is part-seminar and part-practicum. We will investigate theories that shape and contest our understanding of space, the body, and motion, and engage these themes by creating mini-performances. Previous performance experience is not necessary.
Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society for the Humanities and the Department of Performing and Media Arts. His current book project Choreotopias: Performance, State Violence, and The Near Past uncovers experimental dance and video art in twentieth-century Mexico, and how these aesthetic forms are mediated by gender, class, and race in the face of abusive power. As a Fellow, he will be expanding the theoretical framework in his book by exploring the relationship between truth, lies, and performance. Assessing how “truth” is produced, deployed, and mediated, he will deliberate not only if and how performance activates and represents truth-telling differently from print, televisual, and digital media, but also how the logics of racialization and gender are tied to who can use performance to make truth claims. Juan Manuel will be teaching seminars about the politics of movement and the fabrication of truth.