Early Cultures Courses 2018-19
Upper Division and Graduate Seminars


Comparative Literature
Jane Newman
CL210 / H270: Seminar title: “Reading Vico”
Wednesdays, 1.30 - 4.20 / HIB 137
Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) is best known for his Principles of [the] New Science…Concerning the Common Nature of the Nations (1725 /1744), in which he develops an anti-progressivist theory of history based on the permanent tug-of-war between human civilization and its barbarisms that he claims orders human history. It is for this reason – and alongside his oft-stated antipathy to Descartes – that Vico can be understood as the ‘father’ of a kind of anti-Enlightenment cultural anthropology, with his work becoming the object of fascination for an entire generation (or two) of some of the most famous thinkers of the early to mid-twentieth century, including Croce, Gramsci, and Lukacs, Horkheimer and Adorno, Collingwood and Joyce, Arendt, Bultmann, Löwith, Auerbach, and Said, all of whom grappled with the consequences of humanity’s expression of its darker sides in their own times. In this course, we will study several of Vico’s often cited, but seldom read texts with and against readings of his corpus by some of these thinkers.

Rachel O’Toole
History 250A & Anthropology 289
Colonialism in Latin America - Fall 2018
This course explores how colonial authorities and their supposed subjects simultaneously engaged and destabilized racial, economic, and sexual logics fundamental to the colonial Iberian empires. We will explore postcolonial, subaltern, and indigenous theories of colonization in Latin America and by Latin Americans.

Renee Raphael
History 112D: Rise of Science
Modern science had its origins in Europe from 1500 to 1800.  This class examines the contributions of important figures like Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, as well as new ways of doing science, from botanical expeditions to experimental academies.  We also consider ways of studying the natural world not considered “science” to us but practiced in the period, including magic, alchemy, and astrology.


Visual Studies
Lyle Massey
VS 295 The Body in Early Modern Visual Culture

Early modern art is defined by humanist preoccupations with the body’s microcosmic significance, sacrality, sinfulness, and social identity. This seminar will explore conceptions of the body through the natural philosophy and visual culture of the early modern period, exploring Renaissance imaging conventions associated with, among other things, human anatomy in normative and non-normative terms, radical empathy and identification triggered by sculpture and painting, embodied visions and visionary experiences in witchcraft literature, representation of the senses, caricature and class, arousal and sexuality. Readings will include works by Carolyn Bynum, Stuart Clark, and Tom Laqueur, as well as a number of primary sources.

Renee Raphael
History 135: Christianity and Science
This course addresses a central theme of the Western intellectual tradition, the desire to reconcile rational philosophy with religious and biblical authority.  While most popular presentations of the relationship between science and religion rely on simplistic models of conflict (the secular nature of modern science and its repeated conflicts with religion) or cooperation/co-existence (science and religion each have clearly defined domains), we hope to explore a wider variety of relationships. Moving beyond claims of superiority or mutual isolation, we will consider the complicated negotiation of boundaries and proper authority between science and religion. We will focus on two defining moments in the history of science and Western Christianity: the condemnation of Galileo by the Catholic Church and the development and reception of Darwin's theory of evolution. Topics include transformations in conceptions of reason, science, biblical interpretation, and divine intervention.

Renee Raphael
History 200: History and Theory (History of Archives)
This course offers an introduction to a new and burgeoning subfield of historical scholarship: the history of archives.  Rather than seeing archives as neutral and unproblematic sources of historical facts, scholars in this subfield have made the archive itself the subject of enquiry.  They pose questions about the selection, arrangement, preservation, and retention of archival materials, questions that provide insight both into the societies and institutions that created surviving archival collections and into the conclusions contemporary scholars can draw from them.  Readings will include theoretical explorations of the nature of archives and specific case studies drawn primarily from the global early modern world that engage with a wider set of issues, including gender, the colonial/ post-colonial archive, and the history of knowledge.


Elizabeth Allen
E210 Ways of Death
This course will explore literature of crossing from life to death (and back). From privileged visits to the underworld in Homer and Virgil to King Arthur, once and future king, to the "wormy circumstance" of John Keats's "Pot of Basil"; from the medieval Orpheus who brings his dead wife home to George Saunders's Lincoln at the Bardo and Ali Smith's Artful, this course will explore the permeable membrane between the living and the dead, and the crafts that arise from and carry us through these realms. Western attitudes toward death have shifted over time, and literature registers this history; yet literature also resists customary and habitual frameworks, rendering death mobile, sensory, live; not just an impasse but a spatial and bodily experience. Indeed, arguably, the living travel in the world of the dead, with bodies buried beneath our feet and cultures buried beneath our architecture. The fact of death haunts the living, and although our emphasis will be on the possibility of travel in the world of the dead, we will also explore some ghosts, perhaps in William Shakespeare's Hamlet and in Toni Morrison's Beloved.The course aims to gather insight from both historical and philosophical accounts, including works such as Philippe Ariès's The Hour of Our Death, Jacques Derrida's Aporias, Frank Kermode's Sense of an Ending, Allen Kellehear's A Social History of Dying, Jacques Choron's Death and Western Thought, and others.