Advising Appointment Update

In alignment with the campus directives regarding the precautions surrounding COVID-19, the Languages and Literatures academic advising offices are now physically closed.  Our Advisors remain available and will be offering academic advising appointments to students through zoom, phone call, or email.  Once you have scheduled your appointment in the online appointment system, your advisor will reach out to you via email with instructions on how to connect with them using zoom, phone call, or email. Resource FAQ for Students

HUM 002A. "Motherhood in Western Culture and History" (4 units)
CRN 27383 | Jenny Kaminer | TR 4:40-6:00P | 202 Wellman

Note: HUM 2A can be repeated one time for credit if topic differs.

Course Description: How has the “good” or “bad” mother been defined in Western cultures? How has this definition evolved as a result of historical, philosophical, and cultural shifts? Is a bond between mother and child biologically predetermined or culturally dictated? Is the maternal instinct myth or reality? This course will explore the answers to these questions in works of fiction and nonfiction by scholars, philosophers, novelists, poets, and artists. We will chart the development of Western maternal mythology and discuss how it continues to inform our perceptions of motherhood in the contemporary era.

During the first half of the course, readings will center on the history of motherhood in the West, from the era B.C. to the twenty-first century. In the second half of the term, our attention will turn to the contemporary experience of motherhood, as relayed in works of fiction, nonfiction, and film. In particular, we will focus on potential conflicts between maternity and sexuality and maternity and creativity, and how these conflicts are explored in the writings of mothers themselves. Then, using Russia as an example, we will consider the relationship between motherhood and the state. We will analyze how the maternal figure — which occupied a unique and hallowed position in Russian culture — was co-opted by the Soviet government. Next, we will examine one of the most enduring maternal myths, that of Medea (the paradigmatic ‘bad’ mother). How does contemporary society continue to imagine the malevolent mother? Finally, we will briefly consider how technological advances may impact the future of maternity. During our reading during the second half of the course, we will continue to reflect upon how centuries-old maternal myths still influence cultural representations of motherhood.

Grading - Midterm exam, final paper, and final exam.

Prerequisite: None.

GE credit (Old): Arts & Humanities.
GE credit (New): Arts & Humanities, World Cultures and Writing Experience.

Format: Lecture - 3 hours; Writing.


  • Shari Thurer, Myths of Motherhood: How Culture Reinvents the Good Mother  (Penguin Books, 1995)

About the Instructor: Prof. Jenny Kaminer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of German and Russian.

HUM 002B. "The Cultural History of the Blues" (4 units)
CRN 27384 | Julia Simon | MWF 12:10-1:00P | 202 Wellman

Note: HUM 2B can be repeated one time for credit if topic differs.

Course Description: The blues is a uniquely American musical genre. The history of the blues echoes the African-American experience, from the Delta to the industrialized north, from Mississippi to Chicago, Memphis, and beyond.  This course will combine cultural history with music appreciation to explore the history of the blues, looking at such figures as Son House, Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King.  We will learn about the historical context that gave birth to the blues as well as learn about the musical structure of the blues, touching on chord progressions, bass lines and rhythms.  Finally, we will examine the impact of the blues on other genres, such as rock, R&B, jazz and rap.

Work for the course will consist of readings focused on the history of the blues and listening to music.  Students will write four reaction papers, complete an analytical assignment on lyrics and take quizzes, mid-term and final exams.

Prerequisite: None.

GE credit (Old): Arts & Humanities.
GE credit (New): American Culture, Arts & Humanities and Writing Experience.

Format: Lecture - 3 hours; Writing.


  • None

About the Instructor: Prof. Julia Simon is a Professor in the Department of French and Italian and is also Chair of the Department.

HUM 013. "Witches: Myth and Historical Reality" (4 units)
CRN 42678 | Elisabeth Krimmer | TR 10:30-11:50A | 3 Kleiber

Course Description: This course focuses on four aspects of witches/witchcraft in order to examine the historical construction of the witch in the context of the social realities of the women and men labeled as witches. The four areas covered are: European pagan religions and the spread of Christianity; the “Burning Times” in early modern Europe, with an emphasis on the German situation; 17th-century New England and the Salem witch trials; and fairytales. The goal of the course is to sensitize students to the ways in which our perception of reality is a product of social construction.

Readings are drawn from documentary records of the witch persecutions and witch trials, literary representation, scholarly analyses of witch-related phenomena, and essays examining witches, witchcraft, and the witch persecutions from a contemporary feminist perspective. The lectures will be supplemented by visual material (movie clips, slides) drawn from art history, early modern witch literature, popular culture, and documentary sources.

Prerequisite: None.

GE credit (Old): Arts & Humanities, Domestic Diversity and Writing Experience.
GE credit (New): Arts & Humanities, World Cultures and Writing Experience.

Format: Lecture - 3 hours; Writing.


  • Arthur Miller, The Crucible  (Penguin Classics, 2003)

About the Instructor: Prof. Elisabeth Krimmer is a Professor in the Department of German and Russian and is also Chair of the Department.