French novelist Émile Zola famously conceived of the novel as a laboratory: a space to experiment with characters, treated as human subjects, and discover truths about humanity and society. This course takes seriously the idea that the novel constitutes a kind of laboratory that enables us to apprehend things about humankind that cannot be understood save through the experience of reading fiction. The novel allows us to know what we cannot know, to experience what we haven’t experienced, and in so doing, sheds light on parts of ourselves that we might otherwise want to leave hidden and unexamined: the inhumanity that is just as much a part of our humanity as the humane. Where the social sciences and hard sciences produce empirical data, the novel produces experience and holds open a space of possibility between the world as it is and the world as it might be. By reading a broad range of novels from the past century, you will hone your critical analytical and interpretative skills as a reader and come away with a better understanding of the (in)humanity behind the mass production, mass consumption, mass war, and mass death that led to the twentieth century shattering what humanity had been and making us what we are today.... Read more about Novel Thought: Being (In)Human (Gen Ed 1182)
How can we understand the appeal of psychotherapy, widely recognized as the preferred antidote to human unhappiness and misery, and what does it offer that friends, family, self-help, and psychopharmacological remedies do not?
What does psychotherapy offer our distressed selves that friends, family, self-help, and psychopharmacological remedies do not? The demand for therapy is currently at an all-time high, bolstering its century-long hegemony as the preferred antidote to human unhappiness and misery, even as it is under sustained attack from critics characterizing it as self-indulgent as well as from platforms that would replace human therapists with chatbots, analysts with algorithms.... Read more about Psychotherapy and the Modern Self (Gen Ed 1179)
We all need to eat and drink each day to nourish our bodies. Yet how often do you pause to think deeply about why you eat what you eat? Your food habits are likely influenced by family traditions, but also by a range of other factors like income, age, ethnicity, religion, politics, and the environment. What does the food we eat tell us about ourselves—as individuals, communities and countries—and how has humanity’s relationship with food changed over time?... Read more about Mexico and the Making of Global Cuisine (Gen Ed 1178)
How is verbal art -- from story-telling to poetry and from hip hop to church song -- created from linguistic and musical form, and how does its performance mediate social relations as well as construct cultural meanings that are central to our lives?
Clearly, ideas about what language is and what it does shape scientific inquiry well beyond the discipline of linguistics. Language serves not only as a primary medium for formulating and communicating scientific ideas, but also, and very often, as a paradigm for generating these scientific ideas. Where do these ideas about language—whether they be intuitions, assumptions, popular beliefs, rumors, trends, or theoretical models—come from?... Read more about Language in Culture and Society (Gen Ed 1177)
Stress is a universal human experience. What is stress and why do we experience it? How does stress influence our emotions and the way we think and behave? What are common causes of stress in our modern world? What are the consequences of stress for our health and well-being? Why are some people more vulnerable to developing stress-related illnesses than others? And perhaps most importantly – what are the most effective strategies for coping with stress?
What makes a human? A baby develops from a single cell during the nine months of gestation, but the process that begins so simply has complications that stretch beyond the womb into questions of human identity and individuality.... Read more about The First Nine Months (Gen Ed 1084)
Human induced climate change has the potential to alter the function of natural ecosystems and the lives of people on a global scale. The prospect lies not in the distant future but is imminent. Our choice is either to act immediately to change the nature of our global energy system (abandon our dependence on fossil fuels) or accept the consequences (included among which are increased incidence of violent storms, fires, floods and droughts, changes in the spatial distribution and properties of critical ecosystems, and rising sea level).... Read more about The Challenge of Human Induced Climate Change: Transitioning to a Post Fossil Fuel Future (Gen Ed 1137)
What is the role that religion plays in the political life of Middle Eastern Muslim-majority societies today, and how does our understanding of that compare with conventional wisdom, including what we are often exposed to in the news media?
Today’s news headlines consistently point to the role that religion plays in the political life of Middle Eastern societies. But do these headlines tell the whole story? This course will challenge simplistic explanations of the dominant role of Islam in Middle Eastern politics by putting it in historical perspective.... Read more about Islam and Politics in the Modern Middle East (Gen Ed 1123)
Should we pursue happiness, and if so, what is the best way to do it? This course will critically assess the answers to these questions given by thinkers from a wide variety of different places, cultures, and times, including Stoicism, Epicureanism, Buddhism, Daoism, and contemporary philosophy, psychology, and economics.... Read more about Happiness (Gen Ed 1025)
Geniuses are said to possess it. Self-help books offer to teach it. Both the arts and the sciences celebrate it. It sits at the heart of some of our oldest myths and is the subject of up-to-the-minute neuroscientific research. Some say it comes in momentary flashes; others call it a way of life. Some identify it as the key to deep fulfillment; others claim that it entails intense suffering. Many agree that it sets us apart as a species—but does it? What is creativity?... Read more about Creativity (Gen Ed 1067)
Facing the edifice of preexisting knowledge, how are breakthrough scientific discoveries made that contradict the existing canon? Twelve great experiments that have transformed our understanding of nature will guide us, first through immersion in the scholarship and popular beliefs of the time. Next, how did the discoverer prepare? What were the motivations, prior experiences, and training that led to the threshold of a fruitful advance?... Read more about Experiments that Changed Our World (Gen Ed 1037)
In this hybrid lecture/production course, students will tune into the aesthetic, social, and political frequencies of video through individual and collaborative study, creation, and performance.... Read more about Video Commune (Gen Ed 1072)