Past Courses

These classes are no longer offered through the Constellations program, but are still taught by their home departments.

Planetary humanities

Planetary Humanities: English 153: Literature and the Environment

We live on Earth, but do we know exactly what the Earth is? Is it a mere planet wandering in a cold universe? The quasi-living ecosphere some thinkers call “Gaia”? Or a sort of “spaceship” that geoengineers can enhance and pilot?

The goal of this course is to reveal that planet Earth is both a global ecosystem in which nature and technologies are entangled and a cosmological entity belonging to our solar system. Planetary Humanities, taught by Prof. Frédéric Neyrat, will enable students to think together these two aspects of Earth: a/the global feature that is at the core of crucial phenomena like climate change, financial crisis, and transnational migrations, and b/the cosmological aspect that has been at play since the Copernican revolution and its displacement of the Earth from the center of the cosmos.

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What do bodies tell us?

Bodies & Society: Classics 351: Gender and Sexuality in the Classical World

How does the body determine identity? How are bodies gendered? How do different disciplines address the problem of gender?

Led by Professor Laura McClure, the Bodies & Society Constellation invited students to investigate the various ways in which “body image” has been formed, reinforced, and represented across time and through various media. The core humanities course for this Constellation focused on Greek and Roman conceptions of women and genders found in literary texts, historical documents, and material culture. Contemporary sociological, anthropological, and feminist theories provided a framework for understanding these representations. In comparing past concepts of sexuality and the body alongside modern notions of gender and identity, students learned how ideas surrounding the body have changed and persevered across societies and time periods. By bringing multiple approaches into dialogue with one another, the constellation not only framed contemporary debates about gender and sexuality but also informed students’ sense of themselves as individuals in society.

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Fascism: Then & Now: History 366

How did Fascism emerge? Did it ever go away?

These fundamental questions are addressed by Professor Giuliana Chamedes this Constellations course.

This class investigates the unsettling history of European and American Fascist movements in the twentieth century. Taking a comparative approach, it analyzes how Fascist movements developed on both sides of the Atlantic after World War I. Key topics include the long shadow of European imperialism when it comes to both racism and militarism; the fragility of democracy after 1918; why and how Fascism and Nazism garnered popular, transnational appeal; and the emergence of anti-Fascist social movements in both Europe and the United States. We will also look at why both Fascism and anti-Fascism are still with us today, even as we avoid simple historical analogies that draw direct lines between past and present. Through careful scrutiny of a range of texts, songs, and films, the course will challenge students to see the past in new ways. Along the way, students will engage directly with European and American scholars of Fascism and anti-Fascism, and become makers of their own history, as they develop their own projects related to these themes.  Because this is a Constellations class, students will have the choice to opt into more one-on-one assistance with their assignments than they would with other classes. By the course’s end, students will have been given the tools they need to become strong writers, critical thinkers, savvy researchers, and well-equipped commentators on our historical present.

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What is an animal?

Animal Studies: English 376: Literature and Animal Studies

What is an animal? How should animals be treated?

These critical questions are addressed in English 376, the heart of the Animal Studies Constellation. Prof. Ortiz-Robles guides students on an exploration of literature—as well as other cultural representations, such as zoos, Broadway musicals, television shows, and animal films—to help them better understand the animal-human relationship.

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Health & Inequality: Communication Arts 317: Rhetoric and Health

What does health mean?

This question animates Professor Jenell Johnson’s  class Health & Inequality Constellation. Students in this class investigate how meanings of health circulate broadly through cultures, help construct these meanings in creative ways, and to understand how these meanings impact people differently in different social positions, at different times, and in different locations. Ultimately, students will learn what health means—as opposed to what it is—and why this difference matters.

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Criminal Justice in America: Legal Studies 131

What are the fundamental features of criminal justice in the United States?

This question drives Prof. Ralph Grunewald’s course, Legal Studies 131: Criminal Justice in America, an introduction into the criminal justice system in the United States. Through an interdisciplinary prism, the course addresses social and legal implications of the various stages a typical case moves through, beginning with issues of policing, like the requirements for searches and seizures, to the moment when an individual reenters society after a prison sentence. Throughout the course, themes like factual vs. legal truth, public safety vs. individual rights, and differing conceptions of justice are exposed and discussed. Students will learn to think critically about law as a system and how tightly interwoven legal doctrine and people’s convictions about justice are. Students will develop competencies that prepare them for future critical legal studies—especially from a humanistic perspective.

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