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 outcomesbackgroundpeoplecreditsattendance and timelinessaccess and accommodationreligious observance • the honor codehow this course workswhen and wheregrading and assessmentreadings and other things, including books to purchase •

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 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

  • your email
  • internet
  • quiet place to read and do online meetings

what to do before we start

always use your 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: join our course slack group here (if you don’t have slack yet you‘ll be 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
  • zoom: make sure you’ve got the zoom app on all your devices; set up your zoom profile
  • get (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:

    • 5-6 Fellows here with email addresses

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! And you will all 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.):

  • 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.

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. The current course offering, Connections and Conflicts in the Humanities I and II (HUM 103 and 104), engages critically key texts and artifacts from the Western tradition and beyond, reaching out to diverse cultures. For each year, there will be a particular theme that we will bring to bear for all the things we study. In 2018-19, the theme is revolution.

Why study the music, art, literature, philosophy, history, and sacred texts of cultures we know and inhabit as well as artifacts of cultures from distant chronological and geographical places that might be alien to our own? At Davidson, we believe that a liberal arts education requires a balance of courses from across the disciplines, including the humanities, in order for our graduates to have the greatest impact in their post-Davidson worlds. In the humanities, one can find a massive repository of ideas concerning the human experience. Some of the ideas will get expressed using words, others by using musical sounds, or dancers on a stage, or paint on a canvas, or celluloid flickers on a screen, or by objects in a space.

You will hear and see the 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.

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 office is Chambers, but most Tuesdays and Wednesdays, she’ll be in the downstairs office in the Carolina Inn.

The course includes Davidson Humanities Fellows, veteran students dedicated specifically to the course as writing tutors, discussion leaders, project organizers, tech helpers, research advisors, drivers, and activities conveners. They are all trained as writing tutors in the writing center and have a fellows room (Carolina Inn 224) as a space for working with students in the course; they can also meet at other convenient venues—in the library, over coffee at Summit, in the Union or Wall. 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, Simon Cheng, Andrew Denny, Grant Hearne, Atticus Hickman

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) ; sometimes the course will schedule meetings at other times to accomodate students in different time zones. Additional asynchrnous 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: the WRI 101 requirement and two Ways of Knowing requirements, one in historical thought and 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 (also late work)
Attendance is required and expected at all assigned course meetings and activities. At the same time, we understand that life in the pandemic is unpredictable. 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 email, DM in slack, or text. If you’re absent, we won’t ask why. 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. We trust you.
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 you work has to be late, 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 records for absences or tardiness. You manage your participation and grade yourself on your participation.


access and 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,, 704-894-2129; or Alysen Beaty, Assistant Director,, 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.  We will make it right.

religious observance
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.

and pledge

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—revolution—and specific units. Each faculty member directs one three-week unit each semester. Each unit has one key artifact (text, moment, 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? Lectures and plenary sessions 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, 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 revolution in some other context.


Reading and writing in the course follows a regular cycle. You are each randomly assigned to one of five 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 four 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 or forum 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. Sometimes we’ll ask you to respond to those posts. 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. There will often be some kind of asynchronous video framing or background lecture or presentation from the unit faculty member between Thursday and Tuesday. In your weekly required small group meeting with a fellow, one hour per week (to be scheduled; these begin second 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 lectures on Thursday afternoons to prepare you for the next week’s readings.

At the same time, across two three-week units, 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 face-to-face 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 revise each these papers again for your mid-year and final portfolio, after peer review and discussion with classmates, fellows, and faculty.

We also require that you write in two other public ways in the course: plenary session responses and cultural events commentaries. After each plenary session, you fill out a brief form that asks you for one observation (wow!) and one question (whaa…?). And you must visit at least three on-campus cultural events each semester and write and post commentaries about those. Revise one 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 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 of 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
[still under revision]:

  • weekly blog posts on the readings, normally due on Sundays
    • post on this site
    • about 12 of these per semester
  • sometimes mini-posts on the readings on Wednesdays in preparation for Thursday discussions
    • post on this site
    • 3-4 of these per semester
  • brief reactions to every plenary session and lecture
    • via a form linked from this site
    • about 12 of these per semester
  • commentaries on cultural events
    • post on this site
    • 3 per semester
  • formal papers
    • 4 total, 2 per semester
  • definitions, ongoing working definitions
    • of revolution
    • 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

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, and sometimes in plenary sessions with brief reports or presentations about discussions.

when and where

We meet

  • 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 [tbd here]

AT schedule with times and fellows [tbd here].


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 based on conversations 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 December and discuss that in a meeting with Prof. Denham. This holistic system of complete student autonomy, constant interaction, conversation, and feedback, peer review, discussion of each others work and ideas, targeted writing assignments that are revised for the portfolio, and periodic self-assessment is designed to focus attention and care on the processes of reading, discussing, and writing for each other about ideas that matter, and to get away from performative, achievement-oriented writing detached from an audience or an ongoing discourse. Success in the course depends on demonstrable commitment to the project of learning together about the ideas, texts, artifacts, and problems presented in the course and on each student’s clear improvement as a writer, discourse partner, and contributing member of our collaborative learning community. Students assign their own grades based on these values.

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, Jessee Stommel, “How To Ungrade” (11 March 2018), and “Ungrading, and FAQ” (6 Feb 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.

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.