Fall 2015


English: Seminar in Medieval Literature: Nature and Representation (350:625)   Prof. Larry Scanlon  Thursdays, 4:30-7:30 PM

Nature may well be the oldest philosophical term in Western thought. (Pre-Socratic treatises were routinely entitled περι φυσεί—”On Nature”.) Raymond Williams famously remarked that “Nature is perhaps the most complex word in the language.” Few would dispute that ancient and medieval notions of physis and natura have had a profound influence on subsequent Western culture. This course will test a more specific and contentious hypothesis: that these pre-modern notions continue to haunt current critical discourse, especially in the turn away from linguistic models in much current critical theory. The course will also use the traditions of natura in a more pragmatic, pedagogical way, as a useful vantange point from which to survey a variety of distinct trends in current critical theory, including posthumanism, speculative materialism, ecocriticism, ecofeminism, and actor network theory. About a third of the course will be devoted to medieval treatments of nature. The balance of our time will be devoted to theory, with occasional consideration of late-twentieth century literary texts, mostly short poems. In addition to the theoretical texts themselves, students can expect to come away from the course with a concise understanding of medieval notions of nature and the relation of those notions to such poetic modes as allegory and beast fable; with acquaintance of a variety of strategies for reading and interpreting theoretical texts; and with some practical knowledge of the ways of constructing a theoretically informed literary project.


Alain de Lille, The Complaint of Nature
Geoffrey Chaucer, Parliament of Fowls
__________. Nun’s Priest’s Tale
John Lydgate, The Churl and the Bird
John Scotus Erigena, On The Division of Nature
Plato, The Laws (excerpts)
John Skelton, Speak, Parrot
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica (excerpts)

Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway
Timothy Clark, ed., Deconstruction in the Anthropocene
Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology
Iain Hamilton Grant, Philosophies of Nature after Schelling
Elizabeth Grosz, Becoming Undone
N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman
Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social
Cary Wolfe, What is Posthumanism?
Slavoj Žižek, Absolute Recoil

Oscar Zeta Acosta, Revolt of the Cockroach People
Elizabeth Bishop, North and South—A Cold Spring
Ted Hughes, Crow
Philip Levine, News of The World

History: Colloquium in Global History: Christian-Muslim Encounters (510:541)   Prof. Steve Reinert   Tuesdays, 4:30-7:30 PM
Course meets at 31 Mine Street, Raritan Review conference room

The encounters between “Christianity” and “Islam” — broadly defined — are a seminal, diachronic theme of the global and comparative history of the Mediterranean through inner Asian world from the rise of Islam in the seventh century A.D., through the dawn of the modern period in the fifteenth/sixteenth centuries A.D.  The aim of this colloquium is to establish a paradigm for comprehending and exploring such encounters, and to apply this paradigm in a series of comparative contexts throughout the aforementioned chronological trajectory.  Key dimensions of exploratory paradigm will include theological encounter, non-theological human encounter (e.g., trade, diplomacy, warfare, experience of incorporated populations), and cross-frontier acculturation through borrowings and mimesis.  Comparative contexts will be established according to student interest, but will assuredly include Byzantium, the Umayyad & early Abbasid Caliphates, the early medieval West, Iberia & Sicily in the central middle ages, the Frankish Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the early Ottoman Balkans.

Jewish Studies: Jewish History I (563:501)   Prof. Yadin   MW 1:10-2:30 PM