Course Offerings

CAS Seminars (2016 - 2018)


This is a sampling of recent seminars in the program. Except where noted, the seminars do not assume any specific course or background on the student’s part.

Language and Reality in 20th-Century Science and Literature
FYSEM-UA 210  Ulfers. 4 points.
Posits a common ground between the two cultures of science and the humanities and proposes a correlation between postclassical science (e.g., quantum theory) and “postmodern” literature and philosophy. Examines Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle” and the “undecidability” of deconstruc- tive theory. The discussion of these notions and their implications in literary works focuses on their effect on classical logic, the referential function of language, and the traditional goal of a complete explanation/description of reality.

Literary Theory and Its Applications
FYSEM-UA 355 Maynard. 4 points.
Students read a selection of critical essays, mainly from the latter half of the 20th century, to learn to consider different approaches to literature. Their final project discusses a work of literature using one or more of the conceptual approaches they have studied. Emphasis is placed on learning how to analyze theoretical problems and improvise in applying them to new situations. Recommended for students interested in any area of the humanities.

The Writer in New York
FYSEM-UA 367  Passaro. 4 points.
We approach the city as a kind of super-literary event, a vivid aesthetic and social organism that enlarges and tunes the artistic imagination and the writer’s crucial powers of observation. We read primary sources and secondary commentary to examine how a number of writers have negotiated— and how the city has powerfully influenced—the fragile construction of their literary art and their personal identities. Readings from Whitman to James, from Crane to Millay to Fitzgerald, from the Beats to the Downtown writers to recent web postings.

Welcome to College: The Novel
FYSEM-UA 371  Sternhell. 4 points.
Starting college can be exhilarating—and terrifying. A chance for intellectual enlightenment—or intense loneliness. We read a selection of college novels from different historical periods, ranging from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise to Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons. We discuss these novels from a variety of perspectives: literary, historical, and journalistic. In addition to presenting reports on the readings, students write about their own experiences as first-year students at NYU in several genres, including fiction and nonfiction.

Wiseguys, Spies, and Private Eyes: Heroes and Villains in American Culture, Film, and Literature

FYSEM-UA 449  Friedfeld. 4 points.
Explores the ways in which specific American archetypes and themes are perceived and articu-lated—from the rugged Old West individualist, to the persevering underdog who becomes a boxing champ, to the evolving perceptions of government, to the Cold War-era uncertainty that spawned a generation of literary and celluloid superspies. Examines representations of heroes and villains in modern American popular culture and how great films and novels in three particular genres—detec- tive, gangster, spy—influenced our understanding of these archetypes. Features Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Mario Puzo’s (and Francis Ford Coppola’s) The Godfather, James Bond, and Batman.

What is College For?
FYSEM-UA 474 Jordan. 4 points.
Why did you decide to attend college? To broaden your intellectual horizons and become open-minded? To gain specialized knowledge in a specific subject? To achieve a financially rewarding career? To satisfy your parents? At the beginning of the twenty-first century, current models and practices of higher education are receiving increased scrutiny. Topics for discussion: Does higher education need to redefine its academic mission? Should everyone attend college? What is the impact of new technologies? How can students, professors, and administrators all contribute to creating a successful college environment?

Gender, Sexuality, and the Law
FYSEM-UA 480  Fischel. 4 points.
In the family, the impact of sex/gender law is felt in marriage, divorce, and family planning. In the workplace, the Civil Rights Act and its progeny have broadened opportunities for women, but not unequivocally. Similarly, Title IX has contained discriminatory practices in education, but courts have checked its substantive reach. Criminal law treats crimes associated with sexuality, rape, domestic abuse, and prostitution in unique and perhaps troubling ways. Finally, in all these spheres, gender identity and sexual orientation have a complicated relationship to sex. Analyzes contemporary doctrinal, judicial, and legislative developments.

In Search of Lost Time
FYSEM-UA 503  Clements. 4 points.
We will read Proust (in translation) as he should be read: hedonistically—with respect and admiration but also with delectation. A prodigious novel of more than 4,000 pages, In Search of Lost Time is still unparalleled in how it combines finesse and wit with raw emotion, self-examination with social history, profound psychological acuity with a dazzling portrait of the French beau monde at the outset of modernity, and how it merges an audacious explosion of literary form with explorations of memory, desire, attachment, deception, lust, jealousy, ambition, and disappointment. We move at a brisk pace through the entire work (reading assignments average 350 pages per week).

Facing Fascism: The Spanish Civil War and U.S. Culture
FYSEM-UA 539  Prerequisites: AP credit in Spanish, or in U.S. or world history. Fernández. 4 points.
The West is in the grip of the Great Depression, and liberal democracy is in crisis. On the rise: a spectrum of ideologies ranging from anarchism to fascism. July 1936: a right-wing military coup attempts to overthrow a democratically elected left-wing coalition government, and all eyes turn toward Spain. We conduct research in NYU’s Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA), a vast collection of materials that chronicles the lives of the 2,800 Americans who, between 1936 and 1939, volun- teered to fight fascism in Spain. We explore the place occupied by Spain and the Spanish Civil War in American culture from the 1930s forward and how journalists, writers, artists, and citizens reacted to the war in Spain.


This is a sampling of recent seminars in the program. Except where noted, the seminars do not assume any specific course or background on the student’s part.

The History of Disbelief
AHSEM-UA 113  Stephens. 4 points.
Takes up an extended history of atheism and doubt (in the context of a history of religion). Moves from Greece, to the Hebrews and Rome, to India and Baghdad, and then back to Europe during the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the romantic period. Time is spent in England and America in the 19th century, when disbelief was being tied to radical politics, before moving on to the connection between disbe- lief and realism, modernism and postmodernism.

Metapatterns from Quarks to Culture
AHSEM-UA 154  Identical to ENVST-UA 254; counts toward the major in environmental studies. Volk. 4 points.
Metapatterns are structural/functional patterns in systems, which occur across the levels of the universe as it built in a series of steps of “combigenesis” (about 12 main-path steps, including the emergence of atoms, simplest cells, animal societies, agriculture, the state). We explore themes such as binaries, borders, centers, alphabetic holarchies, complexity theory, networks, and positive and negative feed- backs. Topics for student projects may include the environment, music, language, biological or cultural evolution, or levels in politics.

The NYU Mediation Lab
AHSEM-UA 176  Identical to ENGL-UA 252; fulfills the pre-1800 requirement for the English major. Siskin. 4 points.
In your other classes this fall, you’ll learn what’s already in CAS majors. Our goal in this lab is to figure out what’s not in them—yet. MIT has its famous Media Lab to ask “the questions not yet asked–questions whose answers could radically improve the way people live, learn, work, and play.” At NYU, we go beyond the “media” to “mediations” of every kind—to every strategy for turning the present into a better future.

Narrating Poverty in Brazilian Literature and Film
AHSEM-UA 186  Identical to PORT-UA 704. Conducted in English. Peixoto. 4 points.
Films include Barren Lives, The Scavengers, The Hour of the Star, Pixote, Bus 174, City of God, Babilônia 2000, and Black Orpheus. Topics: the nature of representation and the investments of author and reader in images of deprivation; connections of poverty with violence, stigmatization, and citizen- ship rights; and the ethical responsibilities of the artist, reader, and spectator.

Making History: Culture and Politics in the Caribbean
AHSEM-UA 204  Identical to SPAN-UA 551 and HIST-UA 760. Fischer. 4 points.
Key moments of Caribbean history: “Discovery;” slavery and the struggles against it; colonialism and independence movements; U.S. occupations; dictatorships and revolutions; the Caribbean diaspora; and the transformation of the Caribbean islands into so many tourist destinations. Focuses on the Spanish-speaking islands (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic) without neglecting the French- and English-speaking Caribbean or questions that concern the Caribbean as a as a whole.