"The world is a human world, and scientific expertise in isolation offers an essential but incomplete foundation for guiding of humanity's future. At the same time, humanistic and artistic engagement with the world that neglects its significant and ever-expanding scientific and technological dimensions likewise offers an incomplete picture."
--National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The Integration of the Humanities and Arts with Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Higher Education: Branches From the Same Tree (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2018).
Introducing new courses from the School of Humanities designed to take an integrative, multidisciplinary approach to some of the most compelling and interesting questions of our time.
BIG QUESTIONS courses are:
Fall 2019 course
HUMA 121 - Is All the World a Stage?
Alan Dugald McKillop Professor, Department of English
Professor in the Practice, Director of the Rice Theatre Program,
Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts
This course will meet on Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00 - 2:15 p.m.
The CRN for this course, which is needed when registering, is 13848.
We seem to find or make theater wherever we look: In halls and on stages, and also in Senate chambers and checkout lines, not to mention online, in the small rooms of houses, and on small screens of reality television programming. Whether streaming or tweeting, drama is there. What is drama such that it enjoys such intensity and ubiquity? Is it an overflow of energy that creates authenticity? An artificially heightened state, as in too much drama? A carefully crafted manipulation, as in political drama? A way of being in space? A cultural habit?
This course considers why theater is so central to our idioms and cultural practices even for people who have never seen, much less set foot on stage. We’ll explore the many senses of drama central to social behavior by witnessing the long transit of theater from the classical amphitheater to just about anywhere. The course will offer an introduction to the history and conventions of theatrical practice, from ancient theater to 21st-century immersive and site-specific performance, offering a lens for understanding the drama of human interaction that we witness.
Class sessions will include: Lecture/discussions about histories of theater and languages of performance; learning lab sessions that allow students to create their own personal theatrical experience with a combination of acting and directing exercises, live performance experiences, and conversations with theater professionals; and theater of the everyday exercises that invite students to look at the world from the point of view of theatrical experience. No previous theater experience or training required.
Spring 2020 courses
HUMA 122 - Who Should Vote?
W. Caleb McDaniel
Associate Professor, Department of History; Magister, Duncan College
In 2020, Americans will celebrate the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment and the sesquicentennial of the Fifteenth Amendment. Both anniversaries make it seem like the history of voting rights is a story of continually expanding suffrage. But the humanities can help students understand the more complex reality.
Contests over "Who Should Vote?" have existed since the nation's beginnings and continue today, as people argue over the prevalence of voter suppression or debate whether to lower the voting age. Studying historical contests over this "Big Question" is important because they illuminate the contingency of democracy. Democracy did not always mean the same thing to earlier Americans that it does to us. Moreover, expansions of the right to vote for some groups have often occurred hand in hand with new restrictions on voting for others. The history of suffrage is not one of unbroken progress or decline, but instead of continous protest and political struggle.
By exploring how earlier Americans fought over the answer to "Who Should Vote?", students in this class will grapple with the meaning of American democracy itself.
HUMA 120 - Where is Utopia?
Fabiola López-Durán Associate Professor, Art History; Magister, Hanszen College
Joshua Bernstein Lecturer, Painting and Drawing, Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts
Where is utopia? Thomas More’s original coinage, suggesting both “good place” and “no place,” might give little cause for hope, but that hasn’t stopped visionaries, scientists, artists and scholars from seeking it out over the years. It might be in our past, or just ahead. We might be there now, if only we knew how to look: under the pavement, we might find the beach. Or utopia might be off our planet entirely. Ideals shape societies; scientific research, architecture, city planning and cultural production all attest to the hopes and values that spawned them. But as we consider the fallout of past utopian efforts, corollary questions present themselves: Do we even want to find utopia? Does every “perfect” society imply a dystopian counterpart? Who is utopia for, and who is excluded? This course will explore utopia through the work of scientists, architects, artists and art movements. Classes will fall into three categories: lectures and reading discussions; field trips; and group art projects. These latter Learning Lab projects will encourage students to work together and apply the readings, discussions and artistic precedents towards their own visions of utopia.