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Summer Session I (June 22 - July 31)

HUM 002A. Representing War (4 units)
CRN 53931 | Kevin Smith | MTW 12:10-1:50P | 204 Art Building

Note: HUM 002A can be repeated one time for credit if topic differs.

Course Description: This course, Humanities 002A: Representing War, will take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding representations of 20th and 21st century warfare in a variety of artistic media – including cinema, animated film, novels and short fiction, poetry, opera, painting, photography, and performance art. The course seeks to provide students with a set of challenging but thought provoking readings that will encourage their critical thinking skills as regards the social, environmental, political, economic, and psychological consequences of modern warfare.  We will examine each assigned reading or artwork with a series of questions about how war is represented in that particular work and will aim toward an understanding of the implications of the use of various artistic techniques – for example, abstract versus realistic depictions of combat violence – and emphases on particular themes or content – for example, on the role of the mother or women in times of war as against the experiences of the male combat soldier. In addition, we will read short works of social and cultural theory that try to put war and its artistic representation in a larger historical context.

The assigned materials will cover a diverse array of historical and geographical settings in comparative perspective, addressing some of the major moments of warfare in the 20th and 21st centuries, including WWII Germany and Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and the several decades of war in Iraq from 1991 to the present. Themes and topics addressed in the readings will include the soldier/civilian distinction, the roles of women during wartime, military prostitution and “comfort women,” the environmental costs of war, GI disobedience, the economics of war, war refugees and displacement, and the debate over atomic weapons.

Grading: Short reading response papers; In-class midterm exam; Pop-quizzes; Final Paper.

Prerequisite: None.

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

Format: Lecture; Extensive Writing.

Assigned Films:

  • Isao Takahata, Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka), Japan (1998)
  • Helma Sanders-Brahms, Germany Pale Mother (Deutschland bleiche Mütter), Germany (1988)
  • David Zeiger, Sir! No Sir!, United States (2006)
  • John Adams, Doctor Atomic, United States (2011) - Performed by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chorus, and Ballet.


  • Ishikawa Tatsuzo, Soldiers Alive, translated by Zeljko Cipris  (University of Hawaii Press, 2003)
  • Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others  (Picador, 2004)
  • Sven Lindqvist, A History of Bombing, translated by Linda Haverty Rugg  (The New Press, 2003)

About the Instructor: Kevin Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature.

Summer Session II (August 3 - September 12)

HUM 002B. Just Us: Policing and Race in the Black Humanities, from Slavery to the Present (4 units)
CRN 73830 | Simon Abramowitsch | MTW 12:10-1:50P | 212 Wellman Hall

Note: HUM 002B can be repeated one time for credit if topic differs.

Course Description: Protests that began in the summer and fall of 2014 (and still continuing) over the killing of black men Michael Brown and Eric Garner by white police officers in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY have made the intersecting issues of police conduct and race relations highly visible. But the recent hashtag #BlackLivesMatter does not announce a new problem or movement—indeed, it follows a much longer history of anti-black racial discrimination by law enforcement that ranges from disrespectful misunderstanding to brutality and homicide. And current activism follows a much longer history of protest and resistance to racially discriminatory law enforcement. While #BlackLivesMatter activists insist that police behavior and the subsequent legal proceedings are racially discriminatory, others claim that race is not a factor in police work, hardly worth discussing in a 21st century, colorblind, post-racial America. Such differing perspectives about racial discrimination in law enforcement call to mind the saying, “looking for Justice? That’s what you’ll find: Just Us”: where white Americans see a properly functioning criminal “justice” system, black Americans see “Just Us”—a system in which black Americans are stopped, harassed, arrested, incarcerated, and killed by law enforcement in overwhelmingly disproportionate numbers.

There is a great deal of criminological and sociological inquiry into these issues, but this class approaches questions about policing and race (blackness in particular) in America from the perspective of the humanities and in particular what we can call the Black Humanities (African American history, culture, criticism, and the arts). We will examine 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century prose, poems, songs, films, and visual art in order to think about 1) how race shapes policing; 2) the way individuals/communities view, understand, and feel about policing; and 3) how policing has shaped American and African American history, art, and culture. Humanities inquiry is especially useful here, as we examine how the documents of human experience and culture represent the intimacies, complexities, and contradictions of perception, thought, feeling, and action. Our task in this course is to use a view from the humanities to better understand the relationship between race and policing, historically and presently. Finally, it is our task to use such knowledge to think about freedom and unfreedom, and to think about what “Justice” and “Just Us” looks like in the American future.

Course Texts/Materials:
•    Fiction/Drama: James Baldwin, Ann Petry, Richard Wright, Sonia Sanchez, Anna Deavere Smith, and Paula Woods
•    Poetry: Claude McKay, Marvin X, Amiri Baraka, Henry Dumas, Evie Shockley, Wanda Coleman, Paul Beatty, Claudia Rankine
•    Non-fiction: Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, Angela Davis, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alicia Garza, and Isabel Wilkerson
•    Scholarly texts: Kathryn Russell, Sally Hadden, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Peniel Joseph, Robin D.G. Kelley, and Michelle Alexander
•    Music: Blues, Nina Simone, Syl Johnson, Archie Shepp, Gil Scott-Heron, N.W.A., 2Pac, Cypress Hill, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Christian Scott, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Gregory Porter
•    Film (whole and clips): Django Unchained, 12 Years a Slave, Shaft, Off the Pig, Do the Right Thing, Boyz N the Hood, Training Day, and Fruitvale Station

•    Blog Posts – 25%
•    Essay 1 (Midterm) – 25%
•    Essay 2 – 25%
•    Final Collaborative Project – 25%

Prerequisite: None.

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

Format: Lecture; Extensive Writing.


  • TBA

About the Instructor: Simon Abramowitsch is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English.