Challenges of Modernity: Istanbul (CORE 152) Professor David McCabe
The challenges of modernity are often seen in terms of a set of sharp contrasts: West versus East, equality versus hierarchy, secularism versus religion, and so on. While these dichotomies can sometimes be helpful, they are overly tidy and potentially misleading. This section of Core 152 explores the challenges of modernity by concentrating on the city of Istanbul, a city that straddles Europe and Asia and is today the object of a self-conscious attempt to modernize (economically, politically, culturally) without diluting its distinct identity and traditions. It thus offers an especially interesting prism through which to explore the familiar tensions that mark modernity. Turkey's relation with Islam also offers an opportunity to think through the relation between norms of liberal democracy and claims for religious distinctiveness, an especially important question today.
Existentialism (PHIL 216) Professor David Dudrick
Who am I? How should I live? For what may I hope? In this course, we will confront these fundamental questions in our investigation of the philosophical movement known as existentialism. Existentialism came of age in 1940s Paris with the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus, but its roots extend at least to Pascal, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard in the 17th through 19th centuries. While they insist on rigor, these authors are no friends of abstraction: for them, philosophy must reflect our actual, concrete, everyday lives. As a result, they make use of literary forms uncommon in philosophy, including plays, novels, and short stories. Whatever means they employ, however, their goal is always to challenge readers to confront these questions for themselves, a challenge that we will seek to meet – individually and collectively – in this course.
Over the winter break, we will travel as a group to Paris, France, in an effort to better understand existentialism concretely. Doing so will take us to Lycée Henri IV and the École Normale Supérieure, where Sartre studied philosophy, and to the Cimetière de Montparnasse, where Sartre and Beauvoir were laid to rest. We’ll consider on the importance of the experience of the French Resistance to existentialism and visit sites celebrating its fallen heroes. We’ll think through existentialist themes in works housed at the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay. And we’ll journal our reflections while sitting in the cafés where so much existentialist work was produced.
Upon returning from Paris, we’ll use the spring semester to broaden and deepen our understanding of existentialism by considering its relevance in contemporary life. We’ll examine current work being done in philosophy, read recent novels, and see films new and old that explore and/ or challenge the assumptions of existentialist thought. Students will pursue projects that they will present to their peers in a salon.
Temples, Caves, and Stupas: The Art & Architecture of India before 1300 Professor Padma Kaimal
- Art & Art History
Humans fill our world with visual signs that carry meaning. Some may be instantly legible, some are deliberately disguised (think of viagra ads), and some are unintentionally obscure because they function at a cultural or chronological distance. This course teaches methods for crossing those distances by becoming visually literate in South Asian contexts. As an SRS, this course will let students cross cultural distances in actuality during January, exploring the sculptures, rock-cut caves, and Hindu temples at Mahabalipuram in Tamilnadu and Bhubaneshwar in Odisha (Orissa), and nearby the Buddhist stupa, rock-cut edicts from the 4th century BCE, and a temple dedicated to yogini goddesses.
Focus in the Fall will be on South Asia’s sacred architecture from the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim traditions from prehistoric times to 1300, and also its sculpture which has taken the human body as its primary expressive vehicle. The objects and readings and discussion topics in this course explore lively current debates about primitivism, religious conflict, gender, power, colonialism, and stereotypes. Indian art history has been a site of radical critique for the past two decades. Class conversations and individual research topics will lend themselves to cultural critique, compassion, and self-reflection. Experiencing those together will help us forge community together.
Crete: Imaginary Pasts (CLAS) Professor Naomi Rood
This course focuses on the Greek island of Crete to consider how the construction of identity depends on an imaginary past. One needs to know one’s past, to some extent, in order to understand one’s present. But the past is always mediated through memory, narrative, and images – and thus becomes at least in part imaginary. Both a person and a people necessarily construct for themselves such a past. In this course, we will look at how ancient Greece, in its growing pan-Hellenic identity, posited for itself an even more ancient past located on the island of Crete. The myths and stories sited on Crete (e.g. the births of Zeus and Hera, the stories of Daedalus and Icarus, Pasiphae and the Minotaur, Theseus and Ariadne) ponder the nature of the divine, the polity, creativity, and eros – topics crucial to the fashioning of a self. While the course will focus on this imaginary past place, a goal of the course is to form an awareness of how we also – individually and communally and politically – construct necessary imaginary pasts. Course readings include selections from Hesiod’s Theogony, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Xenophon’s Symposium, Plato’s Laws, Euripides’ Hippolytus, Euripides’ Bacchae, Diodorus Siculus’s Library, and Plutarch’s Lives. We will also look at ancient and modern imagery. In January, we will visit Crete to gather a sense of its varied geography and landscape – coastline and interior, mountains and gorges – that allowed for its varied stories. In addition to visiting the ancient palace sites, we will also consider the later history of Crete – its Roman, Arab, Venetian, Ottoman, and modern pasts.