UW-Madison Center for the Humanities

Center for the Humanities

Faculty Development Seminars
Past Faculty Development Seminars

Past Faculty Development Seminars

Beginning in 2007, Center-sponsored Faculty Development Seminars have ranged in topics, from policies for international governance to theories of visuality, from prolonged study of Ovid to the proper aims of higher education.

Fall 2016: Human Rights and Refugees: Understanding the Global Refugee/Displaced Persons Crisis through History, Politics, Law, and Literature

This faculty development seminar will consider the history, theories, and concepts that relate to the question of refugees and displaced persons as well as considering some specific cases. Our goal is to view the question of refugees through different disciplinary lenses and to consider questions that might be raised by scholars across campus.
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Spring 2016: New Materialities: Things, Objects, and Agency

This seminar will examine how thing theory has pushed the humanities and social sciences to revise some of their research agendas and analytical apparatuses. Readings and discussion will consider recent thing theory from the standpoint of a broader material turn in the humanities and social sciences, reflecting on how attention to new materialities can renew existing methodologies and empirical enquiries in humanistic disciplines.
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Fall 2015: Understanding Persecution

This seminar draws on conceptual tools and comparative analysis to develop a theoretical synthesis and framework for a systematic investigation of persecutory phenomena. The seminar will contrast very different understandings of the temporalities and forms of persecution; examine the role of popular belief in the diffusion of persecutory violence; scrutinize policy-makers’ motivations and rationales; discuss the organization of violence both spontaneous and institutionalized; and tackle the range of reactions displayed by victims and bystanders.
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Spring 2015: Global Health?  Rethinking Medical Humanities from the Periphery 

What can scholarship from the postcolonial world teach us about medical science and practices, both historically and in contemporary times? How might work from the global South transform our understanding of medical history and of more contemporary developments, such as the emergence of medical humanitarianism or the role of NGOs in health?
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Fall 2014: Representing Animals: Philosophy, History, Film

Scientific, artistic, political, and philosophical descriptions of animals have accompanied human history from its beginnings, but it is only relatively recently that these various ways of representing animals have been troubled by the question of animal representativeness; that is, the rights of animals. Animal Studies, a vibrant new field of interdisciplinary inquiry across the humanities, the sciences, and the social sciences can be said to be located at the point at which these two seemingly incompatible ways of representing animals intersect.
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Spring 2014: Machiavelli at 500

Machiavelli’s Prince was completed 500 years ago, and it – along with its author and his works – has been the subject of controversy ever since. Seminar participants will pursue three interrelated aims. First and foremost, participants will encounter Machiavelli’s life and times through his major works. Second, participants will encounter seminal works of Machiavelli scholarship from a variety of humanistic disciplines through introductory discussions by the faculty conveners. Third, participants will grapple with the questions Machiavelli himself – and his interpreters – have confronted: empire, republicanism, the limits of human agency, and the aims of literature.
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Fall 2013: Environmental Studies in the Time of the Anthropocene

This seminar has two goals. First, it will explore the vital role of the environmental humanities in reimaging the intellectual priorities of environmental studies. Second it will explore the implications of one such ascendant story, that of the Anthropocene. This seminar should appeal to a diverse range of faculty interested in exploring the dynamic interface between the environmental humanities and the social, biological and earth sciences, including faculty interested in theorizing, historicizing, representing and mobilizing the Anthropocene.
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Spring 2013: Global Pop: Music, Race, Capital, History

This faculty seminar proposes an alignment of music studies, global studies, and race studies as part of a new line of inquiry in the critical study of culture. It will place front and center this set of questions: Why did US black music become the central measure of aesthetic value at the onset of the modern, global metropolis, and in what ways did its sonic contours re-cast the aural and cultural environments of the new imperial city? How, moreover, did the musical production of race give form to modern, popular affective capacities—to the very ways in which world-metropolitan listening audiences learned to consume a racial feeling in sound? By exploring a range of interactive researches—from the phenomenology of listening to the commodification of music to the sonic transformation of the international public sphere—the seminar will seek to gain a new appreciation of the audible constitution of race and its significance in the making of modern global history.
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Fall 2012: Psychoanalysis and Culture

This faculty seminar is imagined as a survey of the engagement between psychoanalytic theory and the field of humanities broadly conceived. Starting with the basic assumptions of psychoanalysis regarding the unconscious, repression, trauma and sexuality, we will trace the development of these concepts and their influence on a variety of disciplines: anthropology, social theory, political philosophy, literary studies, etc.
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Spring 2012: Slavery and Emancipation in the United States

To study slavery and emancipation is to engage critical questions about modernity that stretch well beyond the borders of history as a discipline. The seminar will range across fields, contrasting how scholars from various quarters of the humanities approach these problems. For example, historians and literary scholars will be able to reflect on their divergent approaches to fugitive-slave narratives, texts from which historians either seek validation or which they attempt to validate, but which literary scholars insist must be understood in terms of genre and convention; meanwhile, political theorists and philosophers will be able to situate discussions of “freedom” and “rights” within a key crucible of their modern evolution.and more public conversation during the following academic year (2012-13), which will be the 150th anniversary of the formal, national emancipation that began during the Civil War.
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Fall 2011: LGBTQ Studies

What is LGBTQ studies, and what can it offer the humanities today? Scholars across the humanities now widely recognize that gender, sexuality, and even concepts of “queer” have been fundamental organizing principles in many cultural contexts: every humanities discipline now produces scholars whose primary expertise reflects an LGBTQ studies lens; many college and graduate courses contain at least a nod to the relevance and multiplicity of systems for regulating and enacting gender and sexuality. In ways unimaginable just a decade ago, it is now possible and useful to ask how the mainstreaming of LGBTQ topics has affected LGBTQ studies, and vice versa. What logics guide the ever-lengthening acronym such that Gay and Lesbian Studies now may include Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, and Intersexuality Studies? Does LGBTQ Studies imply the same rubric, or a different rubric, than gender studies and sexuality studies? How have other vital areas of inquiry such as critical race studies, subaltern studies, transnational and migration studies, gender studies, and body studies challenged lesbian and gay studies and vice versa?
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Spring 2011: Humanitas - Humanism - Humanity

The goal of this seminar is twofold. On the one hand, we want to identify the position that humanitas/humanity has held in cultures of the past in order to find out whether there is a core value that remains constant throughout all the Protean changes of this concept. Was ‘dignity’ always Dignity? Was ‘human’ always Human? On the other hand, we want to investigate the multiple forms this concept has taken on in different discourses such as literature, politics, philosophy, anthropology, and the arts. That is, how has humanitas been emplotted, sculpted, painted, acted out, defined?
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Fall 2010: American Studies

Unlike most of our peer institutions, the University of Wisconsin does not have an institutionalized program in American studies. For the past several years, under the loose rubric of the “American Studies Collective,” there have been various endeavors to bring together a group of faculty and graduate students on campus who are interested in American studies. As is often true on our large and diverse campus, however, events typically draw a somewhat different crowd each time, depending on topic and the vagaries of individuals’ schedules. In addition, American studies is a broad and complex field, the boundaries of which are continually in debate and flux. Our hope for this seminar, then, is to create a more sustained conversation among a mixed group of faculty, some of whom would be new to American studies and others who have considerable expertise in this interdisciplinary field. By having the space and time to discuss keywords in American studies, we hope to consolidate a core community and generate energy for future possible efforts in American studies, such as team teaching, curricular development, a Mellon workshop, or an MIU initiative.
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Spring 2010: Higher Education - Aims and Justice

The central focus of this seminar is on what the proper aims of higher education ought to be. Whereas many of our students, and a significant part of the public, see the aims largely in terms of contributing to individual and societal economic goals, professors and administrators often see the aims in richer terms. But we rarely discuss those aims, and still more rarely do we subject them to critical scrutiny or try to work out to what extent our practices are actually guided by them. This seminar is an opportunity to reflect both on what we think the aims should be, and on whether the practices of the university actually contribute to those goals. What is a liberal education? Is it restricted to introducing students to the life of the mind, or does it also involve shaping their character? If so, is this unacceptably paternalistic? Why, if at all, should a liberal education be a required part of the most reliable path of entry into elites?
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Fall 2009: Representing Culture in an Age of Networks

This seminar has two goals. Our first aim will be to introduce network theory from the sciences and social sciences to scholars across humanities disciplines. Our second goal will be to think about how to represent the experience of networked cultures. A flurry of recent films—including Babel, Syriana, Traffic, and The Constant Gardener — all take up the challenge of crafting narratives to represent experiences shaped by transnational trade. We propose to organize this seminar around the most complex and sophisticated representation of networks that we know: HBO’s series The Wire (2002-7). A highly plotted police drama set in Baltimore, the series is fascinating for the ways that it tells a story that integrates a number of overlapping networks.
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Spring 2009: Digital Humanities

Digital humanities is an emerging area that draws on such fields as media studies, humanities computing, and new media arts. It brings together scholars working on, with, or through digital technology, whether it be studying computers' impact on society, inventing electronic research tools, creating multimedia work, or incorporating online activities into teaching and learning. The National Endowment for the Humanities recently upgraded their Digital Humanities Initiative into a standing Digital Humanities Office, thus signaling this area's importance to 21st-century humanities. This seminar focuses on enhancing and developing digital humanities across the UW-Madison campus.
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Fall 2008: Visuality

This seminar investigates visuality’s remarkable presence in contemporary culture and the academy, its sustained involvement in the long arc of modernity, and its emergent futurity. The work of the seminar emphasizes the modes of visuality which have shaped much of what we take today to be new or unprecedented in visual culture: its unsettling of disciplinary boundaries, its role in debates about the categories of the human and the non human and now the posthuman, its presence in global inquiry and histories, its vexed relation to truth claims and the role of other kinds of sensory knowledge. Much of visual thinking in modernity has turned on its relation to actuality, whether visual media produce simulacra of the world as, for example, aids to scientific presentation and investigation, the rise of photography from the so-called nature prints of the early nineteenth century, and so on. The readings for the seminar emphasize a skeptical reading of visuality’s relation to the “real” and a wide ranging investigation of the stakes of the visual in contemporary and emergent cultural life.
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Spring 2008: Migration and Diaspora

The seminar will explore current theory and its implications for understanding aesthetic practice in the exploding field of migration and diaspora studies. The most recent phase of globalization-enhanced by the new technologies of communication, information, and warfare-has intensified the global movements of people, goods, ideas, cultural practices, and money to epic proportions. What is often called "the new migration"-the massive transcontinental movement of peoples in the post-World War II era-has been the subject of extensive theorization and scholarship. This emphasis on recent migration on a global scale has also reinvigorated the study of migration in earlier historical periods, with many arguing that human mobility, civilizational clashes and intermixing, and global cultural flows have been endemic to the human species since the beginning. What is developing, in my view, is a new paradigm for reading human cultures and civilizations, one that supplants the older model of cultural and civilizational exceptionalism with a framework that emphasizes networks and relationality, bringing into the foreground interculturalism, borders and borderlands, and hybridic formations even as these occur in situations of great inequality, violence, and conquest.
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Fall 2007: International Governance

"International governance" is an area of research that has drawn major interest in the last decade from scholars in numerous humanistic and social science disciplines. The growing dangers attributed to unfettered competition among states in a world of proliferating weapons, rapid environmental degradation, and widening economic inequality have pushed diverse observers to contemplate alternatives to Westphalian presumptions about state sovereignty. The nation-state, in this sense, has lost some of its historical legitimacy. Numerous groups and institutions have coalesced in recent years to offer new approaches to governance on a transnational scale. Our seminar will not seek to build expertise about particular proposals for international governance, nor will it offer any proposals of its own. Instead, we will seek to interrogate the core conceptual issues behind the movement toward international governance.
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Spring 2007: Ovidianism - The Metamorphosis of Ovid

How was this most protean of poets appropriated and transformed by different writers, artists and thinkers in different ages? What are the reasons for his enduring appeal now? Ovid is among the most influential of Roman poets, if not the most influential today. He had a major impact upon European intellectual history, literature, and art. The seminar will engage in a two-way process: the exploration of the influence his writings had upon later eras will shed fresh light on the original texts. The investigation moreover of why certain of his works were in vogue at various periods while others were excluded or marginalized, will tell us much about changing literary, social and political climates. But we will not deal only with Ovid’s works but with the poet himself as a figure of political exile around whom various myths accrued; hence we will be studying the phenomenon of ‘Ovidianism’.
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