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Humanities Expanded Course Descriptions - Winter 2020

Humanities 2A. Global Humanities
Jenny Kaminer

TR 10:30-11:50A
202 Wellman Hall

CRN 60665

Course Description: 

Topic: Motherhood in Western Culture and History
How has the “good” or “bad” mother been defined in Western cultures? How has this definition evolved as a result of historical, religious, scientific, and cultural shifts? This course will explore the answers to these questions in works of both nonfiction and fiction by scholars, writers, filmmakers and mothers themselves. 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 course, our attention will turn to the contemporary experience of motherhood, as relayed in works of fiction, nonfiction, and film. 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, 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. In our reading and discussion during the second half of the course, we will continue to reflect upon how centuries-old maternal myths still influence cultural representations of motherhood.

Prerequisite: None.

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

Format: Lecture-3 hours


  • TBA

About the Instructor: Jenny Kaminer is a Professor of Russian.

HUM 4: The Wild Child ECD

Michael Ziser

TR 6:10-7:00P
Wellman 2

CRN 76440

In the modern adult world it is very easy to get through an entire day without encountering even a faint reminder of the existence of the nonhuman world.  But take a step inside the average child’s bedroom and you will find an incredible array of creatures—goldfish and teddy bears, cartoon chipmunks and puppy slippers, elephant noises and monkey business—spilling from every corner.  It is almost as if one comes of age precisely by stepping through a filter that strips one of any animal fellow travelers.  How did this happen, and what does it mean?

This course will explore how ideas about animals come to be mixed up with ideas about childhood in the modern West, as well as how adulthood comes to be something from which the animal is necessarily absent.  We will look carefully at tales of feral children, chimpanzees raised by humans, Teddy Bears, Tarzan, “wire mothers,” neotenic cartoon animals, and Nature Deficit Disorder, among other wild and wonderful things.  By the end, we will have a much deeper understanding of what our civilization has told us it means to be animal and human, child and adult.

No prerequisites: all students with an interest in animals, the environment, child development and psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and/or cultural studies are encouraged to enroll and explore.

Objectives and Goals

 This course offers a deep and varied investigation of the historical roles that animals have played in human culture from the particular perspective of childhood and child development.

Course Format

  • Lecture, film screenings, and limited in-class discussion. 

Course Materials

  • Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: A Novel (NY: Putnam’s, 2014) ISBN 978-0142180822
  • Anna Sewell, Black Beauty, ed. Kristen Guest (NY: Broadview, 2015) ISBN 978-1554812882
  • Excerpts on Canvas from novelists, poets, philosophers, historians, cultural critics, psychologists, and natural scientists.
  • Films: Project Nim, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Human Nature, The Wild Child, Tarzan the Ape Man, Milo and Otis, Lassie Come Home, Eight Below, The Plague Dogs, Babe

Means of Evaluation

  • 10 short assignments, due throughout the quarter (70-100%); optional Final Exam (30%)

About the Instructor:  Michael Ziser is an Associate Professor of English