Core Courses

Introduction to Media provides a foundation in media history and theory. It also explores how students can use aspects of traditional humanistic approaches (e.g., close reading and visual literacy) to critically engage with texts of all kinds. Students consider how material conditions shape discourse and assess their own positions as consumers and producers of media.

History of Experiment considers major figures and experimental approaches, such as poetics, the philosophical thought experiment, and the scientific method, and challenges students to reconsider existing categories of and approaches to knowledge formation.


Other EH courses cover topics including the idea of the viral in theater, how to (de-)code drones, the role of images in Human Rights discourse, the science of creativity, media “framing” of US elections, the history of the book, and machine-made music. Many EH courses work with alternative modes of scholarship (such as digital archiving and exhibition-making with Omeka), or are “production” courses that teach skills from computing for digital humanities to cybergraphics to 3D filmmaking.

Current Courses

Spring 2018

For more information, visit the Bard Course Catalog.

ANTH 320: The Voice in the Machine (Laura Kunreuther)

Modern ideologies of voice – deployed in politics, social movements and humanitarian organizations, as well as many musical and cultural productions – tend to naturalize the relationship between voice and individuality, agency, and empowerment. The voice, it is assumed, provides unmediated and immediate access to the self and a direct way of making one’s desires and ideas known in public. But the immediacy of the voice often depends upon specific media and/or technologies that make specific voices audible, such as sound recording, amplification, broadcasting, as well as institutional divisions of labor through which voices are represented, cited, and invoked. In this course, we will explore a range of conduits of voice that re-present an original voice through technological means – radio, telephone captioning, voice recorders – and/or human means ¬– interpreters/translators, voice-over artists, spirit possession, and stenographers. Through these explorations we will trouble some of the assumptions about the directness of voice, even as we discover how the feelings and sense of immediacy is produced. Drawing inspiration from philosopher Gilbert Ryle’s notion of ‘the ghost in the machine’ to critique mind-body distinctions, the course will broadly ask students to think critically about the relationship of human self and voice to technologies and practices that animate and circulate voices. Students will be required to research a specific ‘conduit of voice’ and create both a research paper and an EH-inspired project that demonstrates their knowledge about this voice and its medium. They will be asked to contribute readings to the class related to their specific project.

ARTH 252: History of the Experiment (Gretta Tritch Roman)

The scientific method and the modern form of the scientific experiment are arguably the most powerful innovations of the modern period. Although dating back in its modern form to only the sixteenth century, the concept of the experiment as an attempt to find underlying continuities in experience has numerous origins stretching back to earliest recorded history. In turn, artistic culture both enabled the development of experimental thought and functioned as a site to test alternatives. Throughout, we will examine the concept of experiment as closely connected with how a particular era understood “experience,” and locate the epistemological problem of the experiment in a broader, extra-scientific framework. Alongside foundational scientific texts by Aristotle, Lucretius, Descartes, Leibniz, Newton, Darwin, Curie, Tesla, Einstein, Schroedinger, Pasteur, and others, we will also consider experiments in architecture and urbanism as case studies in how “experiment” and “experimentation” have been defined in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American and European contexts. As a major component of the course, we will conduct our own experiments in replicability. This course is required for those who wish to concentrate in Experimental Humanities.

ARTH 307: Contested Spaces (Olga Touloumi)

During the 19th and 20th century, streets, kitchens, schools, and ghettos were the spaces of political conflict and social transformation. Often these spaces are studied as sites of contestation, where old pedagogical, medical, institutional paradigms witness the emergence of new. This course will focus on these spaces of contestation and discuss how objects and buildings in dialogue construct new ideas about class, gender, and race. Readings by Chantal Mouffee, Hannah Arendt, Antony Vidler, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Michel Foucault will provide us with analytical tools and theoretical frameworks to address those actors excluded from history, problematizing agency and authorship in art and architecture. The class assignments include weekly responses, collaborative projects on the course website, and a final paper. The first installment of the class will be taught in collaboration with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. The course will culminate in a field trip to Detroit and a weekend conference that will bring the three classes together.

ARTH 337: Pop Art (Alex Kitnick)

This course looks at Pop Art as a series of exchanges between the fine arts and mass culture; it also examines Pop as a way of responding to the increased dominance of global capital in the postwar period. The course progresses through a number of case studies, beginning with the emergence of Pop Art in England in the late 1950s. It will continue by examining Pop movements throughout the US, Germany, and South America in the 1960s. In addition to painting and sculpture, the course will examine Pop through a wide variety of media, including movies, music, and books. Artists covered in the course include EvelyneAxell, Richard Hamilton, CildoMeireles, Gerhard Richter, and Andy Warhol. Students will turn in one-page reading responses each week. Two longer papers are also required: the first, an expanded version of a response paper, is due at the midterm. The final research essay will be due at the end of the semester.

CMSC 141: Object Oriented Programming (Kerri-Ann Norton)

This course introduces students to the methodologies of object-oriented design and programming, which are used throughout the Computer Science curriculum. Students will learn how to move from informal problem statement, through increasingly precise problem specifications, to design and implementation of a solution for problems drawn from areas such as graphics, animation, simulation. Good programming and documentation habits are emphasized.

FILM 167: Survey of Electronic Art (Edward Halter)

This course is designed to introduce you to various elements of video production with an emphasis on video art and experimentation. The class culminates with the completion of a single channel video piece by each student. To facilitate this final project, there will be a number of camera and editing assignments that are designed to familiarize you with digital video technology while investigating various aesthetic and theoretical concepts. Class sessions will consist of technology demonstrations, screenings, critiques and discussions. Technology training will include: cameras, Adobe Premiere, studio lighting and lighting for green screen, key effects, microphones and more. No prerequisites, permission from instructor. This production class fulfills a moderation requirement.

FILM 225: 3D Animation (Ben Coonley)

In this course, students are introduced to processes for creating moving image artworks using 3D animation software and its ancillary technologies. Topics include: the basics of 3D modeling and animation, 3D scanning, and creative use of other technologies that allow artists to combine real and virtual spaces. Weekly readings reflect on the psychological, cultural, and aesthetic impacts of the increasingly prevalent use of computer-generated imagery in contemporary media. Students are not assumed to have any previous experience with 3D animation. This production class fulfills a moderation requirement.

HIST 3145: Jamestown (Christian Crouch)

Jamestown: the first permanent English locality in the Western Hemisphere is a settler colonial story from hell. Cannibalism, starvation, constant war with First Nations, Atlantic slavery, and eco-terrorism-Jamestown had it all. Although this story has long been overshadowed by Plymouth and ‘Thanksgiving,’ Jamestown was the actual model on which all future English colonial ventures were based. The first half of this research seminar investigates historiographical trends centered on Jamestown’s changing place in American narratives, including the “myth of Pocahontas.” Students will learn strategies used to retrieve and reconstruct different historical voices, especially those of enslaved and indigenous peoples, in order to add them to more familiar historical actors and events. We will also address the problems and possibilities of using transnational, global, and multi-disciplinary approaches to local history. Students will then turn to investigate early Virginia primary sources (oral, visual, textual, archaeological), available through the media portal Virtual Jamestown and will use these to write a research paper. Drafts will be collectively workshopped in the final weeks of term to allow for best practices in writing. This course fulfills the History Major Conference-Research/American Studies Junior Seminar requirements.

HR 323: Race and the Pastoral (Ann Seaton)

We will begin by exploring what is meant by the literary and cultural category of the ‘pastoral.’ Is it a mode, a genre, an affect, or something else? The same critical investigation applies to the category of ‘race.’ The seminar will consider what ‘race’ and ‘the pastoral’ might have to do with one another. The first half of the class traces the pastoral from Ancient Greece to the Renaissance. These canonically pastoral bodies, landscapes, and (often same-sex) desires are our pastoral “primal scenes,” to be returned to, reshaped, and internalized. Soon, though, the pastoral emerges in relation to more explicit difference–in early modern travel narratives, Montaigne, and the utopian-pastoral of Bacon’s “New Atlantis.” In the second part of the class, we consider the American pastoral (Emerson, Thoreau, Hudson River School paintings), and19th century landscape theories about gardens and liberal arts colleges. Students will also research local histories and issues related to the Hudson Valley landscape. Readings include texts by Theocritus, Moschus, Bion, Longus, Milton, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Hakluyt, Mandeville, Francis Bacon, Kant, Burke, Hegel, Emerson, Thoreau, Heidegger, Derrida, Benjamin, Sontag, Edith Wharton, Frederick Olmsted, Adrian Piper, and Mike Davis. Students will also read Simon Schama’s Landscape and Memory, Nancy Duncan’s Landscapes of Privilege: The Aesthetics of an American Surburb, and Cheryl Miller’s “Whiteness as Property.” The course will culminate in an experimental mini-conference on “Race and the Pastoral” this spring that may include text, video, and performance.

HR 359: Human Rights & Bosnian War (Thomas Keenan, Gilles Peress)

The breakup of Yugoslavia and in particular the war in Bosnia between 1991-95 is something like the birthplace of contemporary human rights discourse and practice. 100,000 people died, in what courts later judged to be a genocide, and phrases like ‘ethnic cleansing,’ ‘humanitarian intervention,’ and “international criminal justice’ entered our lexicon. It was a human, ethical, and political catastrophe — and it was the site of many remarkable activist, legal, civic and journalistic innovations. Much of the debate about what to do in Bosnia revolved around the interpretation of the region’s ancient and recent history, and often that recourse to history functioned as a manner of turning a blind eye toward terrible violence. How can we come face to face with history in an honest way, not as alibi or excuse but as the condition within which we take positions andact in the world? This research workshop, linked to the production of a book, will explore the concepts and narratives, the languages, in which the conflict was played out, through close and intensive work with documents, historical accounts, political analyses and images from the war.

IDEA 215: Of Utopias (Kevin Duong, Olga Touloumi)

This class explores the theory and practice of utopia from an interdisciplinary perspective. Utopias have always been imagined through a variety of mediums like the manifesto, the blueprint, and visual and performing arts. The course investigates the manifold scales of utopian articulation and realization, from tiny communities to project designing the entire globe. Combining the history of political thought and architectural history, the class will use the concept of utopia to map out the ways that men and women have sought to transform the spatial, psychic, and social landscapes they inhabited. What can we learn from the utopian imperative? What is the shape of utopia? How should we understand the relationship between thought and practice, hope and disappointment, idealism and realism? Projects presented range from early industrial colonies, socialist utopias, Christian communities, and anarchist utopias to settlement housing, shopping malls, and factories. The projects will be discussed in conjunction with major texts by Sir Thomas More, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Karl Marx, Robert Owen, Louis Marin, to name a few. Apart from regular writing assignments, students will engage with creative designs, building toward a final exhibition of design projects for future utopias. The course will include a field trip to Shaker’s Village.

LIT 243: Literature in the Digital Age (Maria Cecire)

The proliferation of digital information and communications technologies over the past half-century has transformed and continues to transform how literary works are composed, produced, circulated, read, and interpreted. What new forms and practices of reading and writing have emerged in this late age of typography? What is the nature, extent, and significance of these changes? This course re-assesses questions and themes long central to the study of literature including: archiving, authorship, canon formation, circulation, materiality, narrative, poetics, and readership, among others. The course aims to understand our present moment in historical context by pairing contemporary works with texts from and about other shifts in media from the ancient world to the modern era. Readings include Augustine, Borges, Eisenstein, Flusser, Hayles, Jenkins, and Plato, as well as works of HTML/hypertext fiction, Twitter literature, online poetry, fan fiction, and so on. Coursework will include online and off-line activities in addition to traditional papers. Recommended for current and potential Experimental Humanities concentrators.

LIT 263: What is a Character? (Noor Desai)

We are often drawn to characters more than anything else in our encounters with books, plays, or movies. This happens despite our knowing that characters remain exactly what their name implies: trapped by printed letters, scriptedness, or the limits of a screen. Characters are always mediated, but they can also show us how concepts like humanity and personhood depend on and contend with the media humans use to share ideas. In this course, we will study the history of characters in western fiction to learn how archetypes, racial and gendered stereotypes, historical or geographical settings, and the capabilities of different media technologies shape our encounters with them. We will also explore different ways of “reading” characters by thinking about how computer algorithms might understand something as supposedly complex as an individual’s personality. Primary texts will include Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, and Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, and short stories by Toni Morrison, Kate Chopin, and others. We will also consider films, television shows, and video games. Students will have the opportunity become characters in class debates, discuss fan fiction, and experiment with how to translate characters between media as we engage in analytical, theoretical, and creative work throughout the term.

LIT 320: Text/Contexts in English Lit (Marisa Libbon)

Why are some texts deemed canonical and others not? How and when does this process occur and under what (or whose) auspices? In the case of early English texts, did their contemporary readers hold them in the high regard we do? Or in branding these texts unquestionable literary and cultural masterpieces are we ignoring their meanings and uses to earlier readers and times? Could better or different choices have been made about our literary inheritance? These questions will guide our work as we take a fresh and multifaceted look at what we have been told are the “must reads” of early English literature, including the Old English epic Beowulf, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. We will devote extensive time to each of these texts as close and critical readers of literature, but we will also examine them within their original historical, cultural, and manuscript contexts, and trace their movements from their original composition through time to determine how, when, and why they became for us essential touchstones of the past and signifiers of good taste and modern high culture. To get a sense of the rich textual field from which our canonical texts have been plucked, we will also read a variety of texts from Anglo-Saxon and medieval England that were clearly popular in their own time, but have since fallen out of fashion and into obscurity: why are these alternative texts not part of our canon?

MATH 105: Time, Space and Infinity: Mathematical Perspectives on Philosophical Paradoxes (Steven Simon)

If time is composed of moments with zero duration, is change an illusion? Beginning with Zeno’s ancient paradoxes, fundamental problems on the nature of time and space – and intimately related ones regarding infinity – have bedeviled thinkers through the contemporary period. This course will provide a beginner-friendly tour of some of mathematics’ most profound discoveries (irrational numbers, limits, uncountability) and the concerns (e.g., how can there be the “same” amount of whole numbers as there are fractions, yet “fewer” fractions than real numbers?) which arise in answering such intractable questions. Other than a working knowledge of basic algebra, the class requires only a willingness to explore new ideas and construct convincing arguments.

MUS 236: Music, Sexuality and Gender (Maria Sonevytsky)

This course surveys musicological approaches to the study of sexuality and gender, asking how music informs and reflects cultural constructions of femininity and masculinity. Taking wide-ranging examples that include opera, popular music, folk and indigenous musics, we will investigate how modern gendered subjectivities are negotiated through musical practices such as composition, performance and consumption. Class readings will include musicological, anthropological, feminist, Marxist and queer theory approaches. Students will practice writing skills in a variety of formal and informal formats, culminating in an in-class presentation based on original research.

PHIL 254: Popular Sovereignty in Theory and Practice (Thomas Bartscherer)

The principle of popular sovereignty posits that legitimate political authority rests with the people, the very people who are subject to that same authority. It is the principle underlying the idea of a government that would be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” In this course, we employ a diversity of materials and methods to interrogate this principle, examining its origins in antiquity; the philosophical arguments, both ancient and modern, that have been advanced for and against it as a governing ideal; and the relationship between this principle and the practice of representational democracy in a constitutional republic such as the United Sates. Questions we shall address include: what constitutes “a people,” in what sense can it be regarded as sovereign, and how is inclusion within, or exclusion from, this group determined? In what sense has rule by the people been regarded as legitimate or good? In what sense and to what degree do institutions of representation such as legislatures embody the ideal of popular sovereignty? How is the will of the people conceptualized and expressed? What is the relationship, if any, between “public opinion” and popular sovereignty? The course will encompass both theoretical analysis and empirical research, aiming to bring diverse modes of investigation into conversation. Readings will range from canonical texts of ancient and modern philosophy (e.g. Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, the Federalists, Tocqueville) to contemporary works in history, theory, and political science (e.g., Morgan, Key, Skinner, Young, Mehta, Page & Shapiro, Igo). Several guest lecturers will visit the class over the course of the semester.

REL 211: Buddhism and New Media (Dominique Townsend)

Today, many Buddhist teachers and institutions use digital technologies to reach huge followings and to disseminate Buddhist texts, practical and ethical instructions, and iconic Buddhist imagery to students across the globe. How have digital technologies reshaped how Buddhist teachers instruct students and attract new disciples? How do social media platforms shape Buddhist teacher’s messages, and how do they allow for an unprecedented global reach? What are the social and political risks and benefits of digital expressions of Buddhism? Students will analyze the history and use of Buddhist text and images and investigate the use of new media by Buddhist teachers and groups to reach large and distant audiences. Recent developments in new media will be considered in a broad cultural and historical context that takes into account the diversity of Buddhist practices and pedagogies. Prerequisite: at least one previous Buddhist Studies course.

REL 237: Contemporary Islam (Matthew Lynch)

This course examines how Muslims have shaped and reacted to contemporary, global human experience. Various modalities of Muslim life will be explored, from intellectual and political reactions to modernity, war, and empire to aesthetic production in the fields of literature, film, and music. Students will be asked to interrogate the poly-form ways that traditional practices of or related to Islam have confronted or accommodated contemporary trends around the issues of justice, gender, freedom, and equality. The class will make large use of a variety of media, including film and music, as source materials for learning, and students will be asked to develop their own multimedia projects to respond creatively about Islam and Muslim practice within the increasingly networked global sphere.

THTR 247: Chance in Performance (Annie Dorsen)

The notion of ‘chance’ has been used to describe a wide range of artistic practices, including the readymade, collage, participatory work, indeterminacy in composition and/or performance, and more. This course will cover the major historical, theoretical and practical issues surrounding its use in artistic production, and survey its significance in performance. We will explore distinct and overlapping movements in which chance has figured, beginning with Dada and Duchamp, and including Cage/Cunningham, Fluxus artists, Nature Theatre of Oklahoma and Eve Sussman. Students will create projects using, or responding to, the techniques studied.

WRIT 244: Imagining Human Consciousness (Benjamin Hale)

Philosopher Thomas Nagel asked, “What is it like to be a bat?” Ultimately, he determined the question unanswerable: A bat’s experience of the world is so alien to our own that it remains inaccessible to human cognitive empathy. That’s arguable. But it is true at least that a bat’s experience—or that of any other nonhuman consciousness—is not inaccessible to human imagination. In this course we will read and discuss a wide variety of texts, approaching the subject of nonhuman consciousness through literature, philosophy, and science. We will read works that attempt to understand the experiences of apes, panthers, rats, ticks, elephants, octopuses, lobsters, cows, bats, monsters, puppets, computers, and eventually, zombies. Course reading may include Descartes, Kafka, Rilke, Jakob von Uexküll, Patricia Highsmith, John Gardner’s Grendel, J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine, Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think, David Foster Wallace, Temple Grandin, Frans de Waal, Jane Goodall, Thomas Nagel, John Searle, Susan Datich, E. O. Wilson, Giorgio Agamben, and Bennett Sims’s A Questionable Shape, among others, in addition to a viewing of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, and possibly other films. This is also a craft class, as each student will produce a substantial project over the semester. The assignments will be open-ended, open to both creative and analytical works; a major component of the class will be incorporating these ideas into our own writing. This course is part of the Thinking Animals Initiative, an interdivisional collaboration among students and faculty to further the understanding of animals and human-animal relationships.

WRIT 332: Advanced Contemporary Poetics (Dawn Lundy Martin)

This course will be a course in interdisciplinary making/creating and innovative reading. We will investigate the evolving fields of poetry and poetics through a critical and creative lens with a particular eye turned toward poetries, practices, and theories as they are enacted and put forth by writers of color. In this class, we will think and work across genres (poetry, prose), mediums (page, canvas, digital, film, or theatrical space), and disciplines (writing, literary criticism, visual arts, drama choreography, history, etc.), and collapse the walls between presenter and audience, creator and critic, as we work individually and collaboratively toward new modes of making/creating. Writers and readings include Myung Mi Kim, Simone White, Sontag’s Reborn, Douglas Kearney, Hoa Nguyen, John Cage, Ellen Gallagher (visual artist), and Adrienne Kennedy (playwright).

View a list of previous courses cross-listed with EH. For more information, visit the Bard Course Catalog.

Spring 2018