This class examines how anthropology and speculative fiction (SF) each explore ideas about culture and society, technology, morality, and life in "other" worlds. We investigate this convergence of interest through analysis of SF in print, film, and other media. Concepts include traditional and contemporary anthropological topics, including first contact; gift exchange; gender, marriage, and kinship; law, morality, and cultural relativism; religion; race and embodiment; politics, violence, and war; medicine, healing, and consciousness; technology and environment. Thematic questions addressed in the class include: what is an alien? What is "the human"? Could SF be possible without anthropology?
The Art of the Probable" addresses the history of scientific ideas, in particular the emergence and development of mathematical probability. But it is neither meant to be a history of the exact sciences per se nor an annex to, say, the Course 6 curriculum in probability and statistics. Rather, our objective is to focus on the formal, thematic, and rhetorical features that imaginative literature shares with texts in the history of probability. These shared issues include (but are not limited to): the attempt to quantify or otherwise explain the presence of chance, risk, and contingency in everyday life; the deduction of causes for phenomena that are knowable only in their effects; and, above all, the question of what it means to think and act rationally in an uncertain world. Our course therefore aims to broaden students’ appreciation for and understanding of how literature interacts with--both reflecting upon and contributing to--the scientific understanding of the world. We are just as centrally committed to encouraging students to regard imaginative literature as a unique contribution to knowledge in its own right, and to see literary works of art as objects that demand and richly repay close critical analysis. It is our hope that the course will serve students well if they elect to pursue further work in Literature or other discipline in SHASS, and also enrich or complement their understanding of probability and statistics in other scientific and engineering subjects they elect to take.
This course serves as an introduction to the Buddhist artistic traditions of South, Southeast, and East Asia, as well as the Himalayas. It starts with the core tenets of Buddhism, Buddhist iconography, and early Buddhist art and architecture in India, then progresses to Southeast Asia. The course then focuses on Vajrayana Buddhism and its artistic traditions in the Himalayas, then examines Mahayana Buddhist art and architecture in China, Korea and Japan. Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to: identify the core beliefs of Buddhism, major Buddhist schools, and basic Buddhist iconography; identify major works of Buddhist art and Buddhist monuments from South, Southeast, and East Asia, as well as the Himalayas; identify the major developments in Buddhist doctrine and Buddhist art and architecture, as well as the relationship between the two as the religion spread throughout Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Himalayas. (Art History 406)
At the outset of the 16th century, Europeans tended to dismiss English literature as inferior to continental literary traditions; the educated Englishman was obliged to travel to the continent and speak in other languages in order to culture himself. By the end of the Renaissance, however, some of the greatest works in the English language from Shakespeare's dramas to Thomas More's Utopia had been written. In this course, the student will read and examine these works, situating them within their socio-historical and literary contexts, while attempting to determine how the art of English language and letters came into its own during this dynamic period. (English Literature 202)
In this course, the student will consider Dante's literature for its stylistic and thematic contributions to the body of Medieval and Italian literature, as well as for its inventive appraisal of Christianity. First, the student will examine the context of Dante's life and works, followed by taking a look at some of Dante's shorter works. Then, the student will devote the majority of the course to the study of Dante's masterpiece,The Divine Comedy. Upon completion of this course, students will be able to: summarize Dante's philosophy on the use of language in literature; identify Dante's attitude towards the relationship between Church and State based on readings from his essays; complete an autobiographical reading of Dante's work, with attention to the influence that specific romantic, political, and religious aspects of his life had on his texts; define important terms related to the study of Dante's work specifically, the poetic devices on which he relied most frequently; identify the structural aspects of The Divine Comedy, and in particular discuss the importance of the overarching circular structure of the text; point to the major biblical, historical, and literary allusions in The Divine Comedy and discuss the significance of these references; perform a cogent reading of the important symbols in Dante's texts (i.e. the presence of light, fire, and roses); critically discuss the key themes in Dante's writings, such as the narrator as pilgrim, divine judgment, and the physical reality of hell. (English Literature 409)
Beginning with the decline of the Roman Empire, this course discusses German, Muslim, Viking and Magyar invasions, the development of Catholicism in Western Europe and of Eastern Orthodoxy in the Byzantine Empire, the Arabic contribution to mathematics, science, and philsophy and the institutions of feudalism and manorialism. The course concludes with the economic, demographic and urban revival which began around 1000 AD.
An introduction to the cross-cultural study of bio-medical ethics. Examines moral foundations of the science and practice of western bio-medicine through case studies of abortion, contraception, cloning, organ transplantation and other issues. Evaluates challenges that new medical technologies pose to the practice and availability of medical services around the globe, and to cross-cultural ideas of kinship and personhood. Discusses critiques of the bio-medical tradition from anthropological, feminist, legal, religious, and cross-cultural theorists.
Survey of the social, cultural, and political development of western Europe between 500 and 1300. Topics include: the Germanic conquest of the ancient Mediterranean world; the Carolingian Renaissance; feudalism and the breakdown of political order; the crusades; the quality of religious life; the experience of women; and the emergence of a revitalized economy and culture in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
A brief history of conflicting ideas about mankind's relation to the natural environment as exemplified in works of poetry, fiction, and discursive argument from ancient times to the present. What is the overall character of the natural world? Is mankind's relation to it one of stewardship and care, or of hostility and exploitation? Readings include Aristotle, The Book of Genesis, Shakespeare, Descartes, Robinson Crusoe, Swift, Rousseau, Wordsworth, Darwin, Thoreau, Faulkner, and Lovelock's Gaia. This subject offers a broad survey of texts (both literary and philosophical) drawn from the Western tradition and selected to trace the growth of ideas about nature and the natural environment of mankind. The term nature in this context has to do with the varying ways in which the physical world has been conceived as the habitation of mankind, a source of imperatives for the collective organization and conduct of human life. In this sense, nature is less the object of complex scientific investigation than the object of individual experience and direct observation. Using the term "nature" in this sense, we can say that modern reference to "the environment" owes much to three ideas about the relation of mankind to nature. In the first of these, which harks back to ancient medical theories and notions about weather, geographical nature was seen as a neutral agency affecting or transforming agent of mankind's character and institutions. In the second, which derives from religious and classical sources in the Western tradition, the earth was designed as a fit environment for mankind or, at the least, as adequately suited for its abode, and civic or political life was taken to be consonant with the natural world. In the third, which also makes its appearance in the ancient world but becomes important only much later, nature and mankind are regarded as antagonists, and one must conquer the other or be subjugated by it.
" As we read broadly from throughout the vast chronological period that is "Homer to Dante," we will pepper our readings of individual ancient and medieval texts with broader questions like: what images, themes, and philosophical questions recur through the period; are there distinctly "classical" or "medieval" ways of depicting or addressing them; and what do terms like "Antiquity" or "the Middle Ages" even mean? (What are the Middle Ages in the "middle" of, for example?) Our texts will include adventure tales of travel and self-discovery (Homer's Odyssey and Dante's Inferno); courtroom dramas of vengeance and reconciliation (Aeschylus's Oresteia and the Icelandic NjĚÁls saga); short poems of love and transformation (Ovid's Metamorphoses and the Lais of Marie de France); and epics of war, nation-construction, and empire (Homer's Iliad, Virgil's Aeneid, and the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf)."
This subject offers a broad survey of texts (both literary and philosophical) drawn from the Western tradition and selected to trace the growth of ideas about the nature of mankind's ethical and political life in the West since the renaissance It will deal with the change in perspective imposed by scientific ideas, the general loss of a supernatural or religious perspective upon human events, and the effects for good or ill of the increasing authority of an intelligence uninformed by religion as a guide to life. The readings are roughly complementary to the readings in 21L001, and classroom discussion will stress appreciation and analysis of texts that came to represent the cultural heritage of the modern world.
This course aims to introduce students to the rich diversity of human culture from antiquity to the early 17th century. In this course, we will explore human culture in its myriad expressions, focusing on the study of literary, religious and philosophical texts as ways of narrating, symbolizing, and commenting on all aspects of human social and material life. We will work comparatively, reading texts from various cultures: Mesopotamian, Greek, Judeo-Christian, Chinese, Indian, and Muslim. Throughout the semester, we will be asking questions like: How have different cultures imagined themselves? What are the rules that they draw up for human behavior? How do they represent the role of the individual in society? How do they imagine 'universal' concepts like love, family, duty? How have their writers and artists dealt with encounters with other cultures and other civilizations?
Examines interactions across the Eurasian continent between Russians, Chinese, Mongolian nomads, and Turkic oasis dwellers during the last millennium and a half. As empires rose and fell, religions, trade, and war flowed back and forth continuously across this vast space. Britain and Russia competed for power over Eurasia in the "Great Game" of geopolitics in the nineteenth century, just as China, Russia, and others did in the twentieth century. Today, the fall of the Soviet Union and China's reforms have opened new opportunities for cultural interaction. Topics include: the religious traditions of Central Asian Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Confucianism; caravans and travelers like Marco Polo and Rabban Sauma, the first Chinese to travel to the West; and nomadic conquest and imperialist competition, past and present. Source materials include primary documents, travelogues, films, music, and museum visits.
This course will introduce the student to the history of Europe from the medieval period to the Age of Revolutions in the eighteenth century. The student will learn about the major political, economic, and social changes that took place in Europe during this 800-year period including the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, European expansion overseas, and the French Revolution. By the end of the course, the student will understand how Europe had transformed from a fragmented and volatile network of medieval polities into a series of independent nation-states by 1800. Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to: Think critically and analytically about European history in the medieval and early modern eras; Identify and describe the religious, intellectual, social, and political components of the European Middle Ages; Identify the origins and characteristics of the Italian and Northern European Renaissance, as well as describe new developments in art, philosophy, religion, architecture, and science during the era of ĺÎĺĺĺŤrebirthĄ_ĺĺö; Identify and describe the causes and effects of the European Age of Discovery. Students will also be able to analyze the impact of overseas expansion on European monarchies, the world economy, and indigenous peoples; Describe and analyze the Protestant Reformation. Students will be able to identify the origins of the movement, the various inflections of the Reformation across Europe, and the Catholic Counter Reformation; Identify the era of religious warfare that plagued Europe after the Protestant Reformation. Students will analyze causes and effects of the religious conflicts that erupted in France, England, the Netherlands, and the Holy Roman Empire; Identify and explain why and how 'absolute' monarchs gained power in western Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Students will also be able to identify and describe why two nations - England and the Netherlands - embraced constitutionalism rather than absolutism; Assess how and why absolutism characterized the monarchies of Prussia and Austria in the 1600s. Students will also be able to identify and describe the development of Russia and the reign of Peter the Great; Identify the origins and characteristics of the Scientific Revolution, as well as describe its impact on European civilization as a whole; Identify the origins of the European Enlightenment and assess how this movement altered the social, political, and religious fabric of Europe; Identify and describe the social and economic changes that swept across Europe during the eighteenth century. Students will be able to assess the origin and impact of the 'agricultural revolution,' the marked increase in Europe's population, the development of 'cottage industries,' the rise of the Atlantic economy, and the changes in domestic and religious practices; Identify and describe the origins and impact of the French Revolution. Students will also be able to analyze the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte; Analyze and interpret primary source documents from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century, using historical research methods. (History 201)
This course explores how identities, whether of individuals or groups, are produced, maintained, and transformed. Students will be introduced to various theoretical perspectives that deal with identity formation, including constructions of "the normal." We will explore the utility of these perspectives for understanding identity components such as gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, language, social class, and bodily difference. By semester's end students will understand better how an individual can be at once cause and consequence of society, a unique agent of social action as well as a social product.
After completing basic biblical Greek, students are often eager to continue to learn and strengthen their skills of translation and interpretation. This intermediate graded reader is designed to meet those needs. The reader is “intermediate” in the sense that it presumes the user will have already learned the basics of Greek grammar and syntax and has memorized Greek vocabulary words that appear frequently in the New Testament. The reader is “graded” in the sense that it moves from simpler translation work (Galatians) towards more advanced readings from the book of James, the Septuagint, and from one of the Church Fathers. In each reading lesson, the Greek text is given, followed by supplemental notes that offer help with vocabulary, challenging word forms, and syntax. Discussion questions are also included to foster group conversation and engagement. There are many good Greek readers in existence, but this reader differs from most others in a few important ways. Most readers offer text selections from different parts of the Bible, but in this reader the user works through one entire book (Galatians). All subsequent lessons, then, build off of this interaction with Galatians through short readings that are in some way related to Galatians. The Septuagint passages in the reader offer some broader context for texts that Paul quotes explicitly from the Septuagint. The Patristic reading from John Chrysystom comes from one of his homilies on Galatians. This approach to a Greek reader allows for both variety and coherence in the learning process.
International Women's Voices has several objectives. It introduces students to a variety of works by contemporary women writers from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and North America. The emphasis is on non-western writers. The readings are chosen to encourage students to think about how each author's work reflects a distinct cultural heritage and to what extent, if any, we can identify a female voice that transcends national cultures. In lectures and readings distributed in class, students learn about the history and culture of each of the countries these authors represent. The way in which colonialism, religion, nation formation and language influence each writer is a major concern of this course. In addition, students examine the patterns of socialization of women in patriarchal cultures, and how, in the imaginary world, authors resolve or understand the relationship of the characters to love, work, identity, sex roles, marriage and politics.This class is a communication intensive course. In addition to becoming more thoughtful readers, students are expected to become a more able and more confident writers. Assignments are designed to allow for revision of each paper. The class will also offer opportunities for speaking and debating so that students can build oral presentation skills that are essential for success once they leave MIT. The class is limited to 25 students and there is substantial classroom discussion.
This course introduces students to the major topics, problems, and methods of philosophy and surveys the writings of a number of major historical figures in the field. Several of the core areas of philosophy are explored, including metaphysics, epistemology, political philosophy, ethics, and the philosophy of religion. Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to: Identify and describe the major areas of philosophical inquiry, explain how those areas differ from and relate to one another, and place the views and arguments of major philosophical figures within those thematic categories; Use philosophical terminology correctly and consistently; Identify and describe the views of a number of major philosophers and articulate how these views are created in response to general philosophical problems or to the views of other philosophers; Explain the broad outlines of the history of philosophy as a framework that can be applied in more advanced courses; Identify strengths and weaknesses in the arguments philosophers have put forward for their views and formulate objections and counterarguments of your own invention; Apply critical thinking and reasoning skills in a wide range of career paths and courses of study. (Philosophy 101)
This course will introduce the student to United States history from the colonial period to the Civil War. The student will learn about the major political, economic, and social changes that took place in America during this 250-year period. Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to: Analyze the first encounters between the Native inhabitants of North America with Spanish, French, and English colonizers and determine the effect of European colonization on Native Americans; Describe and assess the creation of English/British America; Interpret the main social, political, and economic development of colonies in British North America, including the emergence of a slave economy; Analyze how and why an independent United States was created in 1776 by interpreting the ideological, political, and economic roots of American independence as it developed through the Seven YearsĺÎĺĺÎĺ War, the Imperial Crisis and the American Revolution; Analyze the myriad political and economic crises that plagued the Early American Republic in the 1780s and 1790s and identify and describe the expansion of slavery, partisan politics, economic innovation, westward expansion, and the outbreak of the War of 1812; Interpret the main developments of the Age of Jackson, the Indian Removal Act, the Nullification Crisis, the rise of the Whig Party, the Bank War; Interrogate the definition of 'democracy' in 1820s and 1830s America; Analyze the era of reform in antebellum America and identify and describe the emergence of new religious groups- Shakers, Mormons, evangelicals - as well as moral reformers who sought to curb alcoholism, improve the prison system, increase women's rights, end slavery, or modify the American education system; Analyze antebellum America and the emergence of sectionalism, and identify and describe how Northerners and Southerners apparently opposing viewpoints about labor systems, political economy, and race often obscured many similarities; Analyze the impact of the ideology of Manifest Destiny on the development of the American West as it affected Native Americans and white settlers; Identify and describe the West, the California Gold Rush, the Mexican War, and the contested boundary in the Pacific Northwest; Interpret how the question of slaveryĺÎĺĺÎĺs expansion affected American political parties, law, and created sectional conflict - both political and ideological - between 1820 and the 1850s; Analyze the American Civil War; identify and describe how and why the federal union that was created in 1776 collapsed in 1861; and assess the major facets of the war (including military engagements, the home fronts, Lincoln's presidency, and the question of slavery). (History 211)
This course will introduce the student to the history of the Middle East from the rise of Islam to the twenty-first century. The course will emphasize the encounters and exchanges between the Islamic world and the West. By the end of the course, the student will understand how Islam became a sophisticated and far-reaching civilization and how conflicts with the West shaped the development of the Middle East from the medieval period to the present day. Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to: identify and describe the nature of pre-Islamic society, culture, and religion. They will also be able to describe the subsequent rise of the prophet Muhammad and his monotheistic religion, Islam; identify and describe the elements of Islamic law, religious texts and practices, and belief systems; identify and describe the rise of the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties in the Middle East. Students will also be able to compare and contrast the two empires; identify and describe the emergence of the Umayyad dynasty in Spain. Students will also be able to analyze the conflicts between Muslims and Christians on the Iberian Peninsula; identify and describe the Crusades. They will be able to describe both Muslim and Christian perceptions of the holy wars; identify and describe the impact of the Mongol invasions on the Middle East; compare and contrast the Ottoman and Safavid empires; analyze the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of European imperialism/domination of the Middle East in the 1800s; identify and describe how and why European powers garnered increased spheres of influence after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the end of World War I; analyze and describe the rise of resistance and independence movements in the Middle East; identify and describe the rise of Islamic nationalism and the emergence of violent anti-Western sentiment; analyze (and synthesize) the relationship between the Middle East and the West between the 600s and the present day; analyze and interpret primary source documents that elucidate the exchanges and conflicts between the Islamic world and the West over time. (History 351)