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2015-2016 Kaplan Scholars Courses

Fall 2015

The Measure of All Things: Numbers, Space, and the Humanities

Professors: Wendy N. Espeland (Sociology), Jules Law (English), and Claudia E. Swan (Art History)

In the popular view, the sciences are the domain of "quantitative" reasoning and the humanities are the realm of "qualitative" thought. Yet numbers and space have from time immemorial played an inescapable and essential role in the arts and in humanistic thinking. In forms as elevated as art and philosophy, and as prosaic as accounting and standardized tests, we know and express ourselves through numbers. In this course we will investigate the human fascination with making, using, and contemplating numbers, and together we will consider the unexpected role of art, literature, and social thought in the "measure" we make of our world.

Our materials will be as varied and as fascinating as the arts of measurement themselves: novels, paintings, plays, philosophical texts, film, historiography, sociology, and political science. Some questions we will ponder: How does measurement structure and condition our experience of the world, of artworks, and of human relations? Is artistic beauty mathematically derived? Are values necessarily quantifiable? How do passions and the market interact? This course brings together a wide range of fascinating materials central to the humanities and offers a new perspective on the ways in which those experiences are structured and evaluated. The course will also include field trips to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Field Museum of Natural History

Winter 2016

Genocide and Renewal: Native Peoples of the Americas

Professors: Forrest Hylton (History), Laura León Llerena (Spanish & Portuguese), and Mary Weismantel (Anthropology)

In this class, we will use Native American history to explore some big questions:  What is genocide, and did one happen in the Americas in 1492 and thereafter?  What enduring truths can be found in the landscape of the Americas, and what are the scholarly methods that can help us learn to read them?  How do myth, literature, and art help a people recover from devastating trauma, violence, and loss?  What does it mean to be an American today, and how is that identity shaped by Native Americans, past and present?