Fall 2020


Moodle sites: Section 01  |  Section 02  |  Section 03  |  Section 04


Megan L. Howes (Section 01)
Hannah E. Hunter-Parker (Section 01)
Tariq Jaffer (Section 02)
George Qiao (Section 03)
Monica M. Ringer (Section 04)


This course offers a sustained encounter with premodern worldviews, lifeways, and models of being human--that is to say, with the vast majority of human experience in recorded history. In this course we will consider a wide variety of premodern literatures and cultures, focusing on a broad range of works from western antiquity and medieval history to American, African, Chinese, Indian, Eurasian, and Islamic societies.

Part of the explicit aim of our endeavors is to destabilize the centrality of western patterns of historical and intellectual development by offering robust alternatives to it. We will explore various kinds of beginnings, such as arts and technologies, languages, ideas, literatures, cities, and civilizations. For fall 2020, the course theme is “Worlds and World-Making.” We will study cosmologies and cosmogonies, both scientific and mythic; and we will explore theories that explain the beginnings of human beings and key inventions and innovations across multiple histories and literatures.

The course has two weekly meetings: one plenary session (lecture) and one small-group discussion section. The two components are aimed at different yet essential skills: the art of attention to lectures and effective spoken and written communication in small-group meetings. The course is taught by a cluster of faculty from across disciplines and thereby offers an interdisciplinary introduction to liberal arts studies and to the essential tools for exploring the cultural and literary legacies of our diverse fields of study.

The reading for this class will be available online and through the Moodle website. Tuesday's meetings will include all four sections (c. 60 students) in an online format with all four participating faculty. We will ask you to listen to a lecture asynchronously in advance of Tuesday's meeting, which will be dedicated to the weekly material related to one individual faculty member's expertise. Thursday's meetings will be in individual discussion sections (15 students) with one designated faculty member who will remain constant throughout the semester. Thursday's meetings will consist entirely of discussion of the weekly material. All sections will be conducted online. 

Fall semester. Professor Ringer, Associate Professor Jaffer and Assistant Professors Qiao and Hunter-Parker.


Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing, Online Only, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021