Courses in Institute for the Humanities (Division 394)

101. First Year Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies. (3). (HU).
Section 001 Laughter, Life, and Literature.
Intellectuals from Aristotle to Woody Allen have been haunted by laughter. Although we all share in the experience it is hard to pin down just why it is we laugh and what makes something funny. "Laughter, life, and literature" is intended as an empirical approach to this problem through a selection of literature, drama, and film. We will read, view, discuss, and write about works from Aristophanes' Lysistrata, to Mel Brooks' (film) The Producers. Along the way we encounter Petronius, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Balzac, Gogol, Woody Allen, Raymond Carver and others (the bulk of which will be conveniently available in the course pack). Our focus shall be the curious process whereby the most serious material war, death, injustice, suffering is transformed into something we enjoy. With the help of Bergson, Freud, Bakhtin and other philosophers of the issue we will explore the boundaries of the comic (at which point is it NOT funny?), the social and political function of comedy in different cultural contexts, and the varieties of humor: mad, cathartic, aggressive, destructive, defensive, celebratory, etc. We confront a host of related issues such as the nature of tragic pleasure, the language and metaphors of humor, culture-specific humor, and what constitutes bad taste in distinction from personal preference. No more preparation is assumed than an eagerness to explore new material and sharpen analytical skills. Students will write two papers of moderate length and give an oral presentation in the second half of the term. (Dobrov)

104. First Year Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies. (4). (Introductory Composition).
Section 001 The California Gold Rush.
This First-Year Seminar introduces the study of U.S. history through a key nineteenth century event: the California Gold Rush. It examines the local, national, and international forces that brought North Americans, Latin Americans, Europeans, and East Asians into the Sierra Nevada foothills after 1848, and what happened when they invaded the gathering and hunting grounds of native Californians. It pays close attention to race and ethnic relations in the mines, not only between newcomers and natives but between groups of newcomers. It also attends to gender relations - to how natives and newcomers handled their assumptions about proper behavior for women and men in a situation characterized by skewed sex ratios and racial and ethnic diversity. It examines the emergence of distinct social and economic classes as the gold boom gave way to a bust, and as mining shifted from individualized to industrialized labor. It investigates these topics not only through books and articles by historians, but through materials produces at the time of the Gold Rush diaries, newspapers, censuses, maps, guidebooks. It also examines how the Gold Rush has entered collective memory - through films, songs, plays, stories, and tourism. Writing assignments and in-class presentations take the place of exams in this seminar, and cooperative learning is stressed. (Johnson)


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