HSP Core Courses

SHUM 2750 Introduction to Humanities

SHUM 2750 Introduction to Humanities (two sections)
Spring. 4 credits. Limited to 15 students per section. Online.

These seminars offer an introduction to the humanities through the exploration of various historical, cultural, social and political topics. Students will engage with a range of texts and media drawn from the arts, humanities, and/or humanistic social sciences. Guest speakers, including Cornell faculty and Society for the Humanities Fellows, will present from different disciplines and points of view. Students will consider local sites including Cornell special collections and archives. Students enrolled in these seminars will have the opportunity to participate in additional programming related to the Society’s theme and the Humanities Scholars Program for undergraduate humanities research.

Introduction to Humanities: Black Melodrama

SHUM 2750/PMA 2750/ASRC 2750

Kristen Wright

Melodrama emerged in 18th century France as a way to teach moral lessons in the wake of religion’s loosening grip on public life. It first emerged in the US context on the stages of the mid-19th century, before migrating to film and television in the 20th and 21st centuries. And for Black writers, melodrama has been a vehicle through which to offer moral commentary on the outrages of slavery, lynching, all the way to contemporary discussion of the barriers that Black women face in the workplace.

In this course, students will examine the intersections of Black experience and melodrama as genre. The course will begin with a theoretical overview of melodrama, framed by the work of Peter Brooks and Susan Gilman, who coined the term “American Race Melodrama.”

After establishing these theoretical foundations, students will read important 19th century anti-slavery melodramas like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Escape, and The Octoroon. As we approach the 20th century, we will read the anti-lynching melodramas of Georgia Douglas Johnson and Angelina Weld Grimké. We will then continue by reading the work of contemporary Black playwrights who “queer” the melodrama, including Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’ adaptation of The Octoroon, titled An Octoroon. And finally, we end with an examination of reality TV and contemporary melodramas starring Black women like Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder.

Ultimately, by examining a wide range of melodramatic texts, films, and TV shows spanning the 19th century to the present day, students will learn how questions of race and difference have informed melodramatic expression across centuries and media.

Introduction to Humanities: Science in Human Culture

SHUM 2750/STS 2750

Ellen Abrams

In 1959, British chemist-turned-novelist C. P. Snow described a split between two cultures. On one side were scientists who knew nothing about literature, and on the other side were humanists who could not explain the basic laws of physics. In effect, Snow laid the groundwork for a debate that pitted one side against the other. Historians have since problematized this dualism, allowing an approach to the history of science that considers the production of knowledge as one among many products of culture.

This course introduces students to some of the key methods and ideas in the history of science and science and technology studies (STS) that have allowed for humanistic inquiry into the production of scientific knowledge. In the first half of the course, students will explore key themes in the cultural study of science, from Marxism and feminism to embodied and material practices. Coursework will include reading canonical texts as well as more recent scholarly interventions, participating in Zoom discussions, contributing to discussion boards, and writing one secondary source review essay.

The second half of the course will focus on the production of science in the United States, and students will conduct original research in a scientific archive at Cornell (digitized for remote access). Students may choose to work in the collections of the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source, the Cornell Kitchen, the Lab of Ornithology, or the Department of Mathematics. Other projects may be possible with instructor approval. Students will be guided through the research process, from proposals and preliminary findings to bibliographies and peer reviews.

SHUM 3750 Humanities Scholars Research Methods

SHUM 3750 Humanities Scholars Research Methods 
Spring. 4 credits. Limited to 20 students. Online.
Durba Ghosh

Also ANTHR 3950, ASIAN 3347, NES 3750

This course is a seminar studying the practice, theory, and methodology of humanities research, critical analysis, and communication through writing and oral presentation.  The goal of the seminar is to teach and refine research methods (library research, note taking, organizing material, bibliographies, citation methods, proposals, outlines, etc.) as well as to guide students through the initial stages of a research project of your own design.

We will be studying the work and impact of humanists, who we define very broadly as scholars of literature, history, theory, art, visual studies, film, anthropology, gender and sexuality studies, who are posing big questions about the human condition. By reading and analyzing the scholarship of humanists – critiquing them, engaging their ideas, and perhaps even being inspired by them – we will try to imagine how we might craft our own method and voice as we pose big questions for the humanities.  I hope that you see this course as a journey that helps you to consider how you might do a research project.

This course is open to all students interested in writing a longer research paper, whether for a semester or academic year, and to anyone interested in a major or minor in the humanities. Enrollment preference will be given to students in the Humanities Scholars Program. You do not need to apply to the program in order to sign up for this course, and taking this course does not represent a commitment to write a thesis.  If you are considering the Humanities Scholars Program and are also hoping to go abroad for your junior year, then we encourage you to take this course as a sophomore. 

SHUM 4750 Senior Seminar

Planned for Fall 2021. Description forthcoming.

HSP Elective Courses

Explore the slate of 2020-21 courses (using the SHUM prefix) that are cross-listed with the Humanities Scholars Program. Humanities Scholars must complete two electives before graduation. This list will be updated continually.