SHUM 2750 Introduction to Humanities
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 2020-2021: Humans and 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 3750 Humanities Scholars Research Methods
Spring. 4 credits. Limited to 25 students.
HSP Elective Courses
Explore the slate of 2020-21 courses (using the SHUM prefix) that are crosslisted with the Humanities Scholars Program. Humanities Scholars must complete two electives before graduation. This list will be updated continually.