English R1B

Reading and Composition: The Crisis in Humanities

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
12 Spring 2019 Viragh, Atti
MWF 2-3 211 Dwinelle

Book List

Karinthy, Frigyes: Journey Around My Skull; Snow, C.P.: The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution


Note the changes in instructor, topic, book list, and course description of this section of English R1B (as of Nov. 27).

"It started as a budget issue," a provost said recently, explaining his college's decision to eliminate History, French, German, and other humanities departments. But the sense of "crisis" resulting from a perceived divergence in values, beliefs, and commitments between humanistic "disciplines" and what once was called "natural philosophy" (science) has been centuries in the making. In this class, we will survey a number of moments in the historical development of this crisis, with a special focus on the opposition between physiological and "introspective" psychology. We will read an autobiography that describes, with poetry, humor, and excruciating medical detail, an author's daily life with a swelling brain tumor, his questions about its meaning and nature, and even the risky brain surgery he undergoes while conscious. We will also range more broadly in poetry, stories, and essays, from William Blake's shudder at "dark Satanic Mills," to Karl Marx's early exploration of "alienation," the "Literature and Science" debate between Matthew Arnold and T.H. Huxley, the "new psychology" arising in the late-Victorian period, the "two cultures" described by C.P. Snow, our new technologies of gene editing and artificial intelligence, and what has been called a "crisis in humanities" in education today. Our guiding question: how much should models of empirical research, and indeed the scientific "method" itself, frame our broader approach to values, ethics, responsibilities, truth, and political action in the world of human experience?

This writing-intensive class builds on the skills developed in R1A. It is designed to extend your knowledge of the arts of reading and writing, while introducing the fundamentals of researching, evaluating, and working with secondary sources. In addition to weekly discussion posts, two essays will be required, in draft and revision, followed by a final research paper.

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