Humanities 103-104 syllabus (static version) 2020-21
Robb, Fache, Green, Tamura, Bory, Luis, Wills, Denham (chair)
Connections and Conflicts: The Body.
basic questions • learning outcomes • background • people • credits • attendance and timeliness • access and accommodation • religious observance • the honor code • how this course works • pets • when and where • grading and assessment • readings and other sources we’ll use
some basic questions that will guide us.
What is the humanities? What are The Humanities?
What is a body? The body? What are bodies? Natural or social bodies? Sexed bodies? Educating bodies? Inhabiting, embodying bodies? Differing capabilities of bodies to do or not do something? Governing bodies? Bodies as commodities?
[Categories here borrowed from Chris Shilling and Gabriella Morreale.]
Given an artifact (text, image, performance, event, artwork, …), what do we need to know to understand it? And how might we choose to act in the world based on such understanding?
some tools you will need for our course and our learning and discovering together
- your davidson.edu email
- quiet place to read and do online meetings
- for any face-to-face meetings, your commitment to adhere to Davidson’s community guidelines and uphold our shared responsibility to each other
what to do before we start
always use your davidson.edu credentials for these applications; if you have another gmail / google account, log out of that and make and use an account with your davidson email address
- slack: you have joined our course slack group (if you don’t have slack or lose it, contact Prof. Denham) you’ve been prompted to download and sign up; put the app on all your devices (laptop, desktop, phone, tablet–whatever you’ve got); set up slack your profile with your photo and a line or two about yourself
- zoom: make sure you’ve got the zoom app on all your devices; set up your zoom profile
- get hypothes.is (download here) and add it to your browser (chrome best, firefox ok)
If you have trouble doing any of these things, contact one of the fellows on the tech help team and set up a chat or meeting:
- Luna Jerjees firstname.lastname@example.org
- Natalie Zhu email@example.com
- Gabby Morreale firstname.lastname@example.org
- Srushti Vyas email@example.com
- Harrison Diggs firstname.lastname@example.org
- Simon Cheng email@example.com
- Thomas Baker firstname.lastname@example.org
some of what we will learn
Sometimes these kinds of lists are called learning outcomes.
A lot of this is very general, because it exists here to satisfy external accrediting agencies and needs to be very flexible to encompass all the specific things we will learn about together, many of which we don’t know about yet! At the same time, these skill and competencies and abilities have value and we want you to gain them, or know about them. You will all also have different results here at the end of the year, because you will have focused on different aspects from among this list, or added to it.
We hope that by the end of the year you will be well on your way toward doing all these things. You will be better able:
- to speak to the questions “What is the humanities? What are The Humanities?”; to propose some definitions about the H/humanities
to understand the value and challenges of these questions and others like them: “What is a body? The body? What are bodies? Natural or social bodies? Sexed bodies? Educating bodies? Inhabiting, embodying bodies? Differing capabilities of bodies to do or not do something? Governing bodies? Bodies as commodities? Political and politicized bodies? Imagined bodies? Liberated bodies? Interdependent bodies? Moving bodies? Becoming bodies? Absent bodies? Bodies making meaning?and more generally
- to understand and appreciate a wide array of humanistic texts, including things like music, novels, paintings, poetry, films, theater, sculptures, buildings, and digital media;
- to observe patterns and create compelling connections between seemingly disparate texts;
- to recognize and articulate observations about change through time—of social structures; cultural production; values, attitudes, or beliefs; and other examples of human creative and imaginative work;
- to read texts (of all sorts) closely and critically for analytic and rhetorical purposes;
- to make fair and effective use of the work of others;
- to draft and revise arguments;
- to draw upon multimodal and archival resources (visual, auditory, textual, digital) to serve specific rhetorical goals;
- to speak and write with precision and persuasion;
- to read more carefully and critically;
- to use our minds with discipline and creativity;
- to work both individually and collaboratively in ways that demonstrate both leadership for others in the course and service to others in the course.
background and history
The Humanities program was established in 1962 as a synthetic, interdisciplinary approach to liberal education that combined formal lectures and smaller discussion groups in a survey of key texts. For a long time, the course prioritized chronology and coverage and was designed on a kind of banking model, in which students received knowledge from professors and put it in their knowledge bank, from which they could withdraw it later, in exchange for social or intellectual value. Our current course offering, Connections and Conflicts in the Humanities I and II (HUM 103 and 104), engages critically key texts and artifacts around a specific theme—the body for 2020-21—and we hope to understand something about how to ask good questions about the body and bodies, how to discuss and deliberate and collaborate with others as we approach our questions, and how to reflect on the process of working together to understand bodies and the body. So our course may turn out to be more of a tool box than a bank, more of a set of theories we develop together than a list of things someone else said we need to know about, more a process than a product.
You will hear and see our course referred to as Humes, HUMS, HUM, and humanities. It is referenced online generally as #HumDavidson. We call it “Humes.” The course chair tweets @HumDavidson and occasionally posts on instagram @HumDavidson; the fellows curate the @hum_fellows account. Check them out.
The course is collaborative and team-taught, with plenary lectures by both the humanities faculty teaching the course and by other scholars and artists from Davidson and beyond. Some visiting scholars and artists will also take part in discussions and workshops.
Two Hansford M. Epes Distinguished Lecturers in the Humanities will visit with us this year: Samantha Rose Hill (for 2019-20; her visit was delayed by the pandemic) and Sarah Bellamy (for 2020-21). Hill’s work on philosopher Hannah Arendt is public-facing and politically relevant. Follow her here. Bellamy is transforming the famous Penumbra Theater in Minneapolis into the Penumbra Center for Racial Healing. See a recent essay by Bellamy here.
faculty (leading three-week units in this order; see their bios linked here)
fall: Dave Robb, Caroline Fache, Sharon Green, Yurika Tamura
spring: Alison Bory, Diego Luis, Anne Wills, Scott Denham (chair)
Refer to each professor’s home page for office hours and other information.
Our program coordinator is Meg Sawicki. Her offices are in Chambers and the Carolina Inn, but mostly she’s working online during the pandemic.
The course includes Davidson Humanities Fellows, veteran students dedicated specifically to the course as mentors, writing tutors, discussion leaders, project organizers, tech helpers, research advisors, and activities conveners. The Humanities Fellows are the backbone of the Humes community of teaching and learning in the course. The Fellows immerse themselves fully in the course, attending all the course meetings and doing all the readings alongside the students in the course.
Humes fellows for 2020-21 (see their intro videos linked here)
Natalie Zhu, Alec Stimac, Virginia Adams, Julia Bainum, Sam Van Horn, Luna Jerjees, Florence Cuomo, Rojina Kheimehdooz, Mary Shandley, Srushti Vyas, Harrison Diggs, Aliza Cantor
Sadie Murphy, Thomas Baker, Sohan Gade, Gabby Morreale, Isabel Nowak, Luke Wanden, Andrew Denny, Grant Hearne, Atticus Hickman, Luna Jerjees, Sam Van Horn
This two-semester course is open only to first-year students and meets the pandemic equivalent of three times a week for 75 minutes. Because of the pandemic the course meets as both a hybrid course for some students and an online for others, depending on students’ needs. Synchronous and face-to-face meetings are Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:50 – 11:05 am (Davidson time) ; some groups in the course will schedule meetings at other times to accommodate students in different time zones. Additional asynchronous class work yields the additional course credit. The course also meets extra periods for small group discussions known as AT and for the required preorientation. Completing both HUM 103 and 104 will earn a student three course credits, with some caveats. Successful completion of HUM 103 will bring with it two course credits, although students who withdraw from the HUM 103/104 survey after completing only HUM 103 will receive only one course credit and will satisfy no graduation requirements.
Students who complete HUM 104 will receive one course credit and satisfy these three graduation requirements: (1) the WRI 101 requirement and two Ways of Knowing requirements, (2) one in historical thought and (3) one in literary studies, creative writing, and rhetoric. Because the two semesters together constitute a single course, a grade of incomplete (I) will be given after the first semester, although students will receive notification from their instructors about their performance throughout and at the end of both semesters.
attendance and timeliness
Attendance is required and expected at all assigned course meetings and activities, including AT meetings and one-on-one writing sessions and assessment meetings. At the same time, we understand that life is unpredictable, moreso in the pandemic. We ask that you let us know if you can’t attend any synchronous sessions, small group meetings, AT meetings, or one-on-one meetings with faculty or fellows. Just a quick DM in slack or send a text, or even email. If you’re absent, we won’t ask why. We trust you. But know that synchronous meetings are in a group, and others in the group will worry if you’re away and don’t let us know.
These same principles and expectations hold for assignment deadlines. Keeping everyone’s work on the same schedule makes for good discussions. Written work requiring peer review also depends on a schedule. If your work has to be late for any reason (we won’t ask why), please just be in touch beforehand or whenever possible so we won’t worry and so others in your group can plan or adjust if necessary. Thank you.
Since you grade yourselves in this course, there are no points or penalties or records for absences or tardiness. You manage your participation and grade yourself on your own engagement in the course (more on that below).
access and accommodation
In our course we are committed to equity and accessibility. We try to build the course structures using the principles of universal design for learning. We try to embrace all styles of learning and to value all kinds of learners. We welcome suggestions and ideas for how to make our course as equitable and accessible as possible.
[official college statement on accommodation]
The college welcomes requests for accommodations related to disability and will grant those that are determined to be reasonable and maintain the integrity of a program or curriculum. To make such a request or to begin a conversation about a possible request, please contact the Office of Academic Access and Disability Resources, which is located in the Center for Teaching and Learning in the E.H. Little Library: Beth Bleil, Director, email@example.com, 704-894-2129; or Alysen Beaty, Assistant Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 704-894-2939. It is best to submit accommodation requests within the drop/add period; however, requests can be made at any time in the semester. Please keep in mind that accommodations are not retroactive.
If purchasing course materials for this course (though there are almost no books to buy for our course) or for other courses is financially difficult for you, please contact me and I will help you get them. If, at any time during the semester, you find that you do not have a consistent or safe place to study or stay, or do not have access to sufficient amounts of food, please contact me and I will help identify options and support. These kinds of conversations are always held in confidence.
We send a survey in early August to check on everyone’s time zone and internet access, hardware, and work space. If you have any trouble at all accessing the course, our meetings and discussions, the readings or videos or screenings, for any reason, please let me know right away. Keep us updated on any changes to your ability to access the course materials or meetings. We will make it right.
Should there be a conflict between any class session, activity, or assignment and a religious holiday or observance important in your faith, let your teacher and fellow know in advance that you’ll be away from class or course work.
the honor code
[official Davidson College text]
Far from being a simple pen-and-ink statement, Davidson’s Honor Code is a declaration by the entire college community that the honorable course is the most just, and therefore the best.
Students benefit from a unique set of freedoms when they sign the Honor Code: from the prevalence of take-home tests and unproctored, self-scheduled final exams to campus announcements that seek to reunite found belongings and money with the people who lost them, the privileges of the Honor Code are numerous, but its true impact is much deeper.
In essence, the Honor Code grants the college community confidence in the words and actions of others in a way that permeates every aspect of campus life. Trust between students, faculty, and staff enriches the widespread collaboration that commonly occurs across disciplines and at every level of college leadership. The Honor Code deepens bonds between students and encourages a sense of personal responsibility that extends beyond the classroom and into the lives of leadership and learning that students will pursue after graduation.
The Honor Code remains one of Davidson’s most cherished traditions, with its beginnings dating to the college’s formation in 1837. A student-run honor system has existed at Davidson for more than 100 years, and the Honor Council has existed in its current form since its inception in 1959 at the behest of John Wells Kuykendall ’59, then student body president of the senior class and eventual President of Davidson College from 1984 to 1997.
The spirit of the pledge students make upon entering their first year helps engender an atmosphere of trust. Every signature helps sustain a climate of freedom and further secures the commitment to academic honesty and social responsibility that characterizes a Davidson education.
Each Davidson student is honor bound to refrain from stealing, lying about College business, and cheating on academic work. Stealing is the intentional taking of any property without right or permission. Lying is intentional misrepresentation of any form. Cheating is any practice, method, or assistance, whether explicitly forbidden or unmentioned, that involves any degree of dishonesty, fraud, or deceit. Cheating includes plagiarism, which is representing another’s ideas or words as one’s own. Additional guidelines for each class may be determined by its professor; each Davidson student is responsible for knowing and adhering to them. Each student is responsible for learning and observing appropriate documentation of another’s work. Each Davidson student is honor bound to report immediately all violations of the Honor Code of which the student has first-hand knowledge; failure to do so is itself a violation of the Honor Code. All students, faculty, and other employees of Davidson College are responsible for familiarity with and support of the Honor Code. Any student, faculty member, administrative officer, employee, or guest of the College may charge a student with a violation of the Honor Code. Charges are presented to the Dean of Students and at the Dean’s discretion must be signed. If the Dean determines that further proceedings are warranted by the Honor Council, he or she will prepare a formal charge. Hearings, administrative conferences and other proceedings regarding alleged violations of the Honor Code shall be conducted pursuant to the Code of Disciplinary Procedures.
On my honor I have neither given nor received unauthorized information regarding this work, I have followed and will continue to observe all regulations regarding it, and I am unaware of any violation of the Honor Code by others.
More detail on the honor code is here.
how this course works in the pandemic
We have designed this humanities course around a broad theme—the body—and specific units. Each faculty member directs one three-week unit each semester. Each unit has a key artifact or small group of artifacts (text, idea, concept, moment, performance, event, idea) at its center, around which we have gathered supplementary texts, ideas, and concepts to help answer the key question: what do I need to know to understand this artifact or artifacts? Lectures and plenary sessions (live and recorded) serve to provide context, history, and background for the key artifact and supplementary texts. The pre-orientation Sapere Aude and other lectures by visitors, external performances, gallery visits, virtual study trips, supplement the course as a whole, sometimes in ways very specifically relevant to the unit, but more generally as an example of the theme of the body and questions about it in some other context. We explore these questions together in our discussions in faculty-led sections, in AT meetings, and in one-on-one conversations.
Everything we do in Humes needs to be
- scheduled ahead of time
- safe and responsible, as guided by the values we hold, together, at Davidson College during the pandemic.
While as of 18 August 2020 faculty have decided that all course teaching is online, it may be possible for some students to arrange for proximate face-to-face discussions in small groups. Detailed guidelines on how Humes students may choose to do that are here.
If your pet enters the camera frame during class, we will pause our discussion for a pet introduction and admiration by all. Pet should say a few words to the class if they would like. All pets are welcome: dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, birds, snakes, iguanas, horses, whatever — are all welcome. If the pet has already been introduced in one of our course slack threads, anyone who can introduce the pet on behalf of that pet’s person gets virtual hugs from all. Or free coffee when that’s able to take place again. (Many thanks to Caroline Koons for this suggestion.)
Reading and writing in the course follows a regular cycle. You are each randomly assigned to one of six discussion sections with one of the faculty members; you switch discussion sections after two units, with students from one section randomly assigned across the other five sections for the rest of the semester. Fellows rotate among sections every three weeks. All faculty are of course eager to talk with anyone in the course at any time during office hours or over (virtual) lunch or (virtual) coffee, regardless which section you happen to be in at a given moment. Each three-week unit requires substantial reading (viewing, listening). You write and discuss the readings with each other, guided by faculty and the fellows. You write about the readings each week, normally in a substantial written blog post, often due on Sunday evenings. All those posts are public to the class in your section slack channel, but not beyond people in our course. Instructors, fellows, and students all read those for your section (and in other sections if you’d like) before class on Tuesday. Additionally you write annotations to texts (with the program hypothes.is), also public to course members but no one else. Sometimes we’ll ask you to respond to those posts or annotations. This online writing and discussion work prepares us for substantive discussion in class on Tuesdays. Sometimes we may ask you to post again—a smaller assignment—by Wednesday evening, in preparation for class discussion on Thursday morning. Finally, we ask that you keep copious reading notes in your red notebooks. These are for you and we hope you will fill the book over the year with your notes and sketches and ideas and questions. If you’d like, you can make some of those notes public in your portfolios, by include some photos of your notebook pages. (I review these kinds of writing below.) There will often be some kind of asynchronous video framing or background lecture or presentation from the unit faculty member between Thursday and Tuesday or Thursday or Tuesday. In your weekly required small group meeting with a fellow (called AT), one hour per week, you focus on more specific aspects of the readings and discussion, plan your writing, perhaps focus on smaller group assignments. Some AT sessions will take place online, some face-to-face under the college’s safety guidelines. So, with in each unit: substantial reading, viewing, listening and writing between Fridays and Mondays, discussion Tuesdays, reflective writing, re-reading or modest reading Wednesdays, discussion Thursday mornings, and asynchronous lectures or group work on (what would have been) Thursday afternoons to prepare you for the next week’s readings.
At the same time, across two units, over four to six weeks, you write a specific scholarly writing assignment project for assessment (a “paper”), three of those due in October, December, and February, and a final research paper due in April. These assignments focus on specific skills necessary for your intellectual and scholarly life at Davidson, for example: close reading, working through difficult texts, discerning arguments, comparing arguments, managing scope, describing claims, assessing claims, making claims, demonstrating accurate and fair use of the work of others.
paper 1 – close reading of a difficult passage
about 1000 words, 3-4 pages (not including cover page,
due in October
paper 2 – presenting a scholarly conversation
about 1000 words, 3-4 pages
due in December
paper 3 – making a claim; entering the conversation
about 1000 words, 3-4 pages
due in February
paper 4 – full research paper; doing all these things
about 2500 words, 9-10 pages
due in April
You work on your drafts with the fellows in their roles as trained writing tutors; there are two or three required half-hour tutorial meetings with fellows for each of those four papers. Both drafts and revisions of these papers are assessed by your teachers in required one-on-one zoom meetings during the first few days after the due date. These required assessment meetings take the place of written feedback and grades. You will receive a specific prompt for each of these papers, normally at least a couple weeks before the due date, depending on the scope of the assignment. You will also will continue to revise each these papers again for your mid-year and final portfolio, after peer review and discussion with classmates, fellows, and faculty. All your drafts and revised papers and final versions of your papers are public to all of us in the course. Those live in folders in our google drive papers folder here.
We also require that you write in two other public ways in the course: plenary session responses and cultural events commentaries. After some plenary sessions, you make a brief post in slack (or maybe we’ll do an anonymous form?) that asks you for one observation (wow!) and one question (whaa…?). And you must visit at least three cultural events each semester — on campus or off — and write and post commentaries about those. Revise one or two of those commentaries from each semester for your portfolio.
Finally, we expect you to use the red notebook for your own writing about the course readings, lectures, ideas, and discussions; also outlining, sketching, doodling. . . (Of course you can also use a keyboard, if that’s what helps you take the best notes. But research shows that student note-taking is better when hand-written, while typing for tests produces better results.) We will ask you, if you’d like, to put images of some of your pages into your slack discussions throughout the year and also to put some images of a few of your best pages in the definitions sections, or elsewhere, in your portfolio.
Your portfolio will contain revised selections of your best work, the research paper, working definitions of revolution and of the humanities, a creative essay (“something new”) based on something in the course, a non-textual piece (video, podcast, images, record of a dance or performance, …) based on something in the course.
So, assignments you turn in over the whole year look something like this
[always under revision based on your work and feedback]:
- weekly posts or annotations on the readings, normally due on Sundays
- post on the slack channel or in hypothes.is, either to the whole group or to your section, depending on the assignment
- about a dozen of these per semester
- sometimes mini-posts or annotations on the readings on Wednesdays in preparation for Thursday discussions
- post on the slack channel or in hypothes.is, depending on the assignment
- several of these per semester
- brief reactions and questions to most plenary sessions and lectures
- we’ll do this on slack as necessary or in zoom chat
- commentaries on cultural events
- post on the slack channel, either to the whole group or to your section, depending on the assignment
- 3 (minimum) per semester, more welcome!
- formal papers
- 4 total, 2 per semester
- definitions, ongoing working definitions
- of the body
- of the humanities (and the Humanities)
- in your portfolio
- a creative or reflective essay; something new
- in your portfolio
- a non-textual something
- in your portfolio
- a collaborative something
- in your portfolio
Other required work in the course consists of active engagement in the our discussions about the course material. This happens in sections led by faculty, in small discussions known as ATs led by fellows, in follow-up comments in slack and hypolthes.is annotations, in the slack #ofinterest channel, and sometimes in plenary sessions with brief reports or presentations about discussions.
when and where
- Tuesday mornings 9:50 – 11: 05
- Thursday mornings 9:50 – 11: 05
- at other times to be scheduled with your section professor as needed for access and equity because of time zone
- one hour a week required with a fellows in smaller groups (ATs) for more discussion and work on writing, occasionally that discussion happens in the library
- a one-on-one meeting with a fellow in the writing center during the draft stage of each paper; those are scheduled by you here;
- at occasional live or asynchronous performances, exhibitions, shows, films, readings, and lectures;
- in office hours and for required assessment meetings with professors;
- optionally, at the drop-in Humes Lunch, a weekly casual lunch with faculty and fellows on Tuesdays from around noon till about 1:00.
The schedule lists the up-to-date details about all class meetings and readings.
Hybrid discussion section meetings are held in these rooms, normally Tuesday and Thursday mornings; though each faculty member will let section members know where things are happening.
Online discussions section meetings are normally held in the faculty member’s zoom room, though sometimes fellows will host.
Sections and meeting spaces posted in slack.
AT schedule with times and fellows posted in slack.
grading and assessment
We practice what is sometimes known as ungrading or liberatory assessment in this course. Students assign their own grades. Students in the course receive lots of feedback and criticism on writing and on their portfolios and also carry out self-assessments as a practice of ungrading. Grades in the course come only at the end of the year, in May, and are assigned by the student, though informed by conversations in person and on the page with the course director, Prof. Denham. Students assign themselves 3 letter grades (all the same grade), one each for the three requirements satisfied by the course: (1) the writing requirement and the ways of knowing requirements in both (2) literature, creative writing, and rhetoric and (3) in historical thought. Students also provide a practice self-assessment letter about their work so far in the course in October, December, and February or March, and discuss those notes with Prof. Denham. This holistic system of complete student autonomy, constant interaction, conversation, and feedback, peer review, discussion of each other’s work and ideas, targeted writing assignments that are revised for the portfolio, and periodic self-assessment focuses attention and care on the processes of reading, discussing, and writing for each other about ideas that matter, and helps us to get away from performative, achievement-oriented writing detached from an audience or an ongoing discourse. Your success in the course depends on your own demonstrable commitment to the project of learning together about the ideas, texts, artifacts, and problems presented in the course and on your clear improvement as a writer, discourse partner, creative practitioner, and contributing member of our collaborative learning community. Students assign their own year-end course grades based on these values. As course director, Prof. Denham reserves the right to raise any of your grades, but not to lower them. There is no hidden agenda. You have the power here.
If there is a motto for ungrading, it comes from one of Jesse Stommel’s students, who said his course was “an easy A,” but “one of the hardest he’d ever taken.”
On practices of ungrading and liberatory pedagogy, see, for example, Jesse Stommel, “How To Ungrade” (11 March 2018), and “Ungrading, and FAQ” (6 Feb 2020) and his ungrading genealogy “What if we Didn’t Grade? A Bibliography” (03 March 2020), ; sj Miller, “Liberating Grades/Liberatory Assessment,” International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 1 (2) (Summer 2008), 160-171; Vicki Reitenauer, “A Practice Of Freedom”: Self-Grading For Liberatory Learning,” RADICAL TEACHER 107 (Winter 2017): 60-63.
Like Stommel, some of my own first encounters with what I now see as liberatory practices come from Peter Elbow, whose work I read in a course on teaching college writing at the Harvard Danforth Center for Teaching and Learning in 1987. Some other teachers and scholars who have influenced my thinking on liberatory, critical pedagogy are Paulo Freire, bell hooks, Henry Giroux, Antonia Darder, and Kevin Gannon.
My commitment to portfolios as the best way for you to show what you’ve learned and made and thought is also rooted in the work of these teachers and scholars.
I reserve the right to raise but not to lower your grades because some research indicates that students’ ideas about rigor or achievement or learning are influenced by socialized practices of exclusion or marginalization, and thus some students who in some ways may occupy marginalized positions tend to be harder on themselves than do other students in non-marginalized positions, and thus to give themselves lower grades than they should.
readings, texts, books
There are many and varied readings and artifacts in the course. We supply most of those for you at no cost as pdfs or ebooks. There are no books for purchase at this time.
Other texts, artifacts, images, videos, etc. will be linked from the schedule or under the resources tab and are generally accessible only to course participants.