Core Courses

IS101 Greek Civilization: Plato’s Republic and Its Interlocutors

AY/BA1/Bard1 Core Course

Coordinator: Michael Weinman

Credits: 14 ECTS, 8 U.S. credits

Our core curriculum begins with a semester-long investigation of Plato’s Republic in its cultural, political, and intellectual context. This text—in conversation with what we here figure as its “interlocutors,” the main works and movements with which it is in conversation—offers a unique point of entry into the epochal literary, philosophical, cultural and political achievements of fifth and fourth century Athens, viewed in its relation to what came before it and what has followed in its wake right down to today. Republic depicts and draws us into a conversation about the kinds of values (ethical, political, aesthetic, religious, epistemic, and literary) at the heart both of our approach to education and, simply, of human life. Rather than a series of separate treatises, the Republic treats these values as the subject of a single conversation that transcends disciplinary boundaries as we have come to conceive them. And while it may be said to contain a “social contract” theory, a theory of psychology, a theory of demonstration, a theology, a critique of mimetic art, a theory of education, or a typology of political regimes, it is reducible to none of these, nor is this list exhaustive. Simply, this text, perhaps in a manner unlike any other written before or after, sets the agenda for just about any set of research questions that one might which to pursue today.

In this course we shall be particularly attentive to the dialogic character of Plato’s writing. Just as Socrates appears in conversation with his interlocutors, the Republic itself seems to be in conversation with other authors, works, genres and kinds of thought in the Greek tradition. Reading Plato’s work alongside Homer’s Iliad, Hesiod’s Works and Days, Euripides’sBacchae, Parmenides’s poem, Aristophanes’s Clouds, Herodotus’ Histories and Thucydides’ (so-called) History of the Peloponnesian War, and a selection from Euclid’s Elements, together with a lecture and seminar on the Parthenon and a visit to both the Pergamon and the Trojan collection at the Neues Museum, we will strive to better appreciate and evaluate the argument and drama of the Republic. As we read the Republic and attend to the conversations it has with its interlocutors, we aim to become informed and engaging interlocutors for Plato and for one another.

 

IS223 Origins of Political Economy: Property

BA2 Core Course

Coordinator: Catherine Toal

Credits: 14 ECTS, 8 U.S. credits

The definition, justification and critique of “property” stand at the heart of the inquiries that found the modern disciplines of economics and social theory.  Whether involved in the defense of ‘sovereign’ political power as a means of securing the communal stability necessary to individual survival, or envisaged as itself the basis of a polity, the ownership of property is considered an inescapable cornerstone (or ineluctable problem) of Western forms of social organization. However, the consequences, meanings, and future potential of property relations remain controversial.  What are the psychological effects, or the implications for consciousness, of the legal and economic possession (or loss) of an object or resource?  How is the “human” measured, defined, and recognized through property? Can we be sure that we know what the legal demarcation of ownership rights allows or excludes?  The course provides an introduction to the main lines of development of modern political economy from Hobbes and Locke to Marx and Simmel. It also explores the attacks on the institution of private property articulated at its inception as a central principle of liberalism—by Rousseau and Proudhon—and the imbrication of property with theories of sentiment and the origin of wealth in the British “moral sense” tradition, as well as its role in German idealist conceptions of social totality. Throughout, we consult the commentaries of literature and other kinds of writing on the discourse of political economy: the ways in which texts by Austen, Constant, Balzac, Melville, and Maupassant, among others, complicate and explode the assumptions of economic and philosophical theories.  We also address extreme, significant instances of property ownership or aspiration - most importantly, that of slavery: its preservation in nineteenth-century America, and its effective prolongation in contemporary regimes of punishment and global economic zoning. Additionally, the course considers the connection between “property” and more intimate or individual desires, such as the yearning for precious or historically-sedimented objects in the passion for collecting, or the annexation of others to the self in relations of jealousy. It explores anthropological accounts of alternative modes of distributing natural and social resources to that proposed by Western liberalism, and asks whether—and how—it is possible to absorb, experience and contribute to the world other than through the category of “property.”


IS311 Berlin: Experiment in Modernity

Bard in Berlin

Instructor: Florian Becker

Credits: 16 ECTS, 8 U.S. credits

More than any other city, Berlin has been a source and a theater for the forces shaping Western modernity. Its importance and its by turns glorious and catastrophic role in European culture and history have their origins in its peculiar development. Built on a swamp, in a poor duchy surrounded by more powerful states, it was remade during the Enlightenment as a center not only of military discipline and administrative control but also of learning and innovation. Increasingly characterized in the later nineteenth century by almost uncontrolled growth, it rose to the status of capital of the German Empire and became a center of science and technology. With rapid industrialization came sharp social polarization and bitter political conflict, but also the birth of aesthetic modernism and avant-garde culture. After the clamor for imperial power and colonial expansion culminated in the cataclysm of World War I, Berlin witnessed the unprecedented artistic rebirth of the Weimar Republic. During the Nazi dictatorship the city became the point of origin of political terror, war and genocide. Still reduced to little more than “a pile of rubble near Potsdam” (Bertolt Brecht), Berlin found itself on the frontline of the Cold War and remained forcibly divided for more than four decades between two radically different political and economic systems. Through a combination of historical sources, literature, philosophy, and a wide range of artifacts—from paintings to photographs to film, archival and contemporary—we shall seek to understand Berlin’s significance and its current position at the heart of Europe. And we will speculate about its possible futures as a place of gathering and experiment for a population from across the world. The fall section of the course focuses on Berlin's history up to World War I. 

 

IS301 Bildung

BA4/PY Core Course

Instructor: Matthias Hurst

Credits: 8 ECTS, 4 U.S. credits

This seminar is dedicated to an exploration of the ideals that guide our pursuit of knowledge and understanding and of this process of learning and studying that is supposed to reconcile the needs of the individual with the demands of the world; the focus will be on Bildung, a concept that has played a key role in German thought from the 18th century until today and became the cornerstone of German academia as well as the central aspect of an influential literary genre, the Bildungsroman. The term Bildung has no equivalent in English, but possible translations are “education,”, “formation,” “self-cultivation,” or “culture”; it describes not only a process of education, but also its result as a state of maturity and cultural refinement, “the true end of Man”, “the highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and consistent whole.” (Wilhelm von Humboldt)

As a concept of ideal education and self-cultivation, one fuelled by the principles of European Enlightenment, Bildung aims at encompassing understanding, knowledge, reflexivity, aesthetic consciousness and competence for social judgment and political action; it is dealing with issues of liberation and emancipation in both individual and social perspective. Thus it is obvious that such a concept has a lot of different connotations and dimensions, not only pedagogical, but philosophical, psychological, political and cultural.

The aim of the class is to build up a critical understanding of the ideals and implications of Bildung by studying some of the classical texts that helped articulate and establish it (Humboldt, Fichte, Schiller) and by discussing examples of the Bildungsroman from its beginning (Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister‘ Apprenticeship, 1795) to later variations (Musil’s The Confusions of Young Törless, 1906, and Hesse’s Demian, 1919). The novels describe and analyze in an artistic way the possibilities and problems of education and formation and the clash between the individual and society, between formal education and living experience.

We will also take a look at the development of the concept of Bildung in the 20th century, the transformation of its ideals (in response to the crucial cultural changes through modernity) and the problems related to what seems to be the disappearance of Bildung and the rise ofHalbbildung (half-cultivation), or Bildungsmisere (crisis or plight of education). Is the classical German concept of Bildung still valid? What kind of Bildung do we need today?

The course consists of seminar discussions, student presentations and film screenings.

 

IS123 Research Seminar

BA4/PY Core

Instructor: James Harker

Credits: 8 ECTS, 4 U.S. credits

This seminar will serve as a thesis-writing workshop. In the first part of the course, sessions will be devoted to the practicalities of planning a project, conducting research, outlining, and writing. During this portion, we will also hear from faculty members about how they develop large research projects. In the second part of the course, each student will have the opportunity to present an early version of his or her thesis, with the goal of supportive feedback. 

Concentration Seminars

PT226 Autonomy and Alienation

Ethics and Politics Concentration Seminar

Instructor: Katalin Makkai

Credits: 8 ECTS, 4 U.S. credits

Dominant strains within the modern western tradition have placed the ideal of autonomy at the heart of thinking about moral, social, and political life. At its most abstract, the notion of autonomy is the notion of self-rule (“auto”: self; “nomos”: law): being governed by forces (e.g. desires, reasons or laws) that are not externally imposed upon oneself but that somehow come from or express one’s true or authentic self. The antithesis of autonomy is hence a kind of alienation from oneself. This term, we explore a range of conceptions of autonomy and alienation, drawing from Sophocles, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Simone de Beauvoir. We examine how the conditions of legitimate authority have been analyzed in terms of the value of autonomy, investigate the underlying ideas of the nature of the self that give substance to the value of autonomy, and consider the roles accorded to others in the individual’s realization—or recovery—of autonomy.


AR225 What is (modern) Art?

Art and Aesthetics Concentration Seminar

Instructor: Aya Soika

Credits: 8 ECTS, 4 U.S. credits

This class discusses the changing significance of art in the nineteenth and twentieth century. In addition to acquainting students with new modes of pictorial representation and the re-definition of artistic practices, one of its goals is to introduce students to the historical conditions and problems connected with the advent of modernism in the visual arts. Definitions of what constitutes the “modern” or “avant-garde” status of works of art are manifold. Primary sources, such as contemporary reviews, artists’ letters and manifestos shed light on the intentions, rhetoric and public reception of radical artistic projects at the emergence of modernism. Later art-historical interpretations - ranging from formalist approaches to investigations into the social and political conditions of modern life – help to establish conceptual frameworks within which individual works can be placed and understood. Visits to Berlin’s major collections of modern art are an integral part of the course syllabus.

LT245 Writing the Self: Autobiography and/as Fiction? (Laura Scuriatti)

Literature and Rhetoric Concentration Seminar

Instructor: Laura Scuriatti

Credits: 8 ECTS, 4 U.S. credits

What do we read when we read autobiographies, and why would we want to read them? The course focuses on the literary genre of the autobiography, exploring the way in which the self is constructed in literature and narrative form, asking questions about the relationship between truth and fiction in narrative, reflecting on problems specific to the genre, such as the working of memory and the tension between invention and disclosure. Starting from early examples of self-narrative, students will examine canonical texts, such as Saint-Augustine's Confessions, Dante's Vita Nuova and Divine Comedy, Rousseau's Confessions, Montaigne's Essays, Wordsworth’s Prelude, and modernist and contemporary autobiographies--including texts in which the boundary between autobiography and fiction is hard to draw--and will also reflect on the relationship between the texts and the historical moment in which they were produced.

Electives

RE/HI104 Co-existence or Clash of Civilizations: Christians and Muslims in the
Mediterranean

Instructor: Marcela Perett

Concentration: Ethics and Politics

Credits: 8 ECTS, 4 U.S. credits

This course introduces students to the foundations of Christianity and Islam, with an emphasis on their mutual dialogue, coexistence and competition. Reflecting on Samuel Huntington’s thesis about the inevitable “clash of civilizations,” the class examines the interaction between Christians and Muslims in the period from the sixth century to the fourteenth century, between the rise of Islam and the last of the Crusades in the Middle East. Although issues of religion will be addressed, we will focus on cultural, intellectual, literary, political, economic, and military encounters and exchange. Special attention will be given to Iberia and the central Mediterranean, but the wider Mediterranean and beyond will be considered. The course is designed around primary sources (presented in translation), which we will strive to understand and interpret in their proper historical and cultural contexts.

 

PL253 Kant’s Critical Philosophy – upper level course

Instructor: Katalin Makkai

Concentration: Ethics and Politics

Credits: 8 ECTS, 4 U.S. credits

This elective focuses on the study of texts central to Kant’s so-called “critical philosophy”, which he claimed to work a “Copernican revolution” upon the philosophical tradition, including his own earlier thinking. To gain a sense of what Kant is responding to, we start with a brief and selective look at writings of Descartes and Hume. Our reading of Kant begins with his “theoretical” philosophy, containing his central contributions to metaphysics and epistemology (Critique of Pure Reason), turns to his ethics (Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals), and closes with his accounts of the beautiful and the sublime (“Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” in Critique of Judgment). Our aims are to get a good grasp of the drift of Kant’s thought, and to see how it is meant to hold together as a system, with the final work bridging the first two and serving as a “keystone” of the larger edifice. If time permits, we will also think about how and why it remains live today; a small amount of secondary literature will be assigned for these purposes.

 

PS110 Introduction to Human Rights

Instructor: Kerry Bystrom

Concentration: Ethics and Politics

Credits: 8 ECTS, 4 U.S. credits

The contemporary moment has been described as both “the Age of Human Rights” and “the Age of Human Rights Abuse” (J. Slaughter). This course addresses this paradox by providing an overview of the current field of human rights. We will treat human rights both as a legal regime and as a political and cultural discourse, and study the historical origins and philosophical underpinnings of human rights, their codification in the 20th century through the United Nations and allied institutions such as the International Criminal Court, their guiding narratives and images, the forms of activism and advocacy they inspire, and diverse critiques. Special attention will be paid to a series of case studies around the topics of genocide, humanitarian intervention, and transitional justice. Throughout the semester, we will address tricky but urgent questions about the meaning of rights; the category of the human; values such as truth, justice and dignity; visions of the ideal society and how to get there; and the possibility of ethical engagement with others.  Texts will include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other core documents, Lynn Hunt’s The Invention of Human Rights, theoretical essays by scholars including Hannah Arendt, Thomas Keenan, and Makau Mutua, personal testimonies, novels and films like Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz, and contemporary reportage. Assignments will consist of essays, reflections, a group project, and a final examination.

 

PL207 Hegel: Contemporary Actualizations

Instructor: Frank Ruda

Concentration: Ethics and Politics

Credits: 8 ECTS, 4 U.S. credits

The course will take its departure from a very simple observation: what aligns the two main branches of philosophy today (‘analytic’ and ‘continental’)—which otherwise do not appear to have much in common—is an invocation of Hegel. Their shared reliance on this source raises a crucial question: which Hegel is the crucial Hegel for whom (and why)? We will begin by discussing a variety of contemporary interpretations of Hegel’s philosophy (from Brandom to Žižek), before turning to Hegel’s two major works: his Phenomenology of Spirit and his Science of Logic. We explore the systematic tensions within these works, tensions that have given rise to the diversity of recent readings of Hegel. 

 

AH/LT261 Museums, collections and literature

Instructor: Laura Scuriatti

Concentration: Art and Aesthetics; Literature and Rhetoric

Credits: 8 ECTS, 4 U.S. credits

From the Studioli and Wunderkammern of the Renaissance to modern museums, via the universal exhibitions, our culture has been fascinated with selecting objects, artefacts and sometimes even people, in order to exhibit them, communicate and preserve something about itself or what it construed as its other, as well as about what it considers to be the order of the world.

The course will investigate the role, function and impact of the culture of collecting and exhibiting in Europe in its historical development by asking questions concerning the status of exhibits, the political meaning of museums, the difference between museums and collections, as well as about the way in which museums and collections have interacted with the organization of knowledge into disciplines.

As part of the course, students will visit Berlin museums, and reflect on the project of the Museumsinsel, which continues to cast its shadows into contemporary Berlin politics and cultural life.

 

Th233 Studio Theater– upper level course

Instructor: David Levine

Concentration: Art and Aesthetics

Credits: 8 ECTS, 4 U.S. credits

Studio Theater is a course, which will examine the possibilities of theater-making that challenges both the artist and the spectator's relationship to the theatrical space. Using our art studios as performance workshops, the participants will have the chance to stage, direct, and perform in both original and published work, and to examine how the perception and experience of theatrical space alters both performance and spectatorship. Studio work will be supplemented by visits to theaters, performance art events, and artist talks. Enrollment is unlimited.

 

LT241 Realism and the Novel– upper level course

Instructor: James Harker

Concentration: Literature and Rhetoric

Credits: 8 ECTS, 4 U.S. credits

The idea that a novel should be “realistic” is mainstay of casual criticism. But where does this expectation come from? In this course, we will look at how “realism” develops in the nineteenth century, using English, French, and American novels as case studies. We will ask, what does it mean for a novel to be “realistic” and what are the formal features by which we can identify it? But just as importantly, what greater purposes does realism serve?  To this end, this course will combine questions of literary form with questions about the cultural, social and even political position of literature. Novelists will include George Eliot, Balzac, and Edith Wharton. Meanwhile, we will read critical works by Watt, Lukács, Adorno, Brecht, Barthes, Auerbach, and others.  At the end of the course, we will turn to contemporary literary practices that make use of or distort the tenets of literary realism.

 

Language Courses

GM101 German Beginner A1

GM151 German Beginner A2

GM201 German Intermediate B1

FR101 French Beginner A1

FR251 French Intermediate B2

SP101 Spanish Beginner A1

 

All language courses address the development of skills in reading and listening comprehension, conversation and writing within the context of the European Framework of Languages from level A1 through C2.

Beginner German, French, Spanish A1
Emphasis on familiar vocabulary building, listening comprehension and speaking with gradual introduction to grammar and writing skills.
D. Deichfuß, E. Gerelyes, D. Perucha

Beginner German, French, Spanish A2
Continued emphasis on listening comprehension and routine communication. Students read and write short, simple texts.
D. Deichfuß, E. Gerelyes, D. Perucha

Intermediate German, French, Spanish B1
Emphasis on communication skills including comprehension of standard speech and descriptive reading passages, topical conversation and simple, descriptive composition.
D. Deichfuß, E. Gerelyes, D. Perucha

Intermediate German, French, Spanish B2
Continued emphasis on communication skills including comprehension of extended speeches and lectures, reading of newspapers and general periodicals, spontaneous conversational interaction with native speakers and writing clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects.
D. Deichfuß, E. Gerelyes, D. Perucha

Advanced German Language, French, Spanish C1
Development of listening and reading comprehension levels to include extended speech and some literary texts. Emphasis on conversational and writing skills to express ideas and opinions and present detailed descriptions expressing points of view.
D. Deichfuß, E. Gerelyes, D. Perucha

Advanced German Language, French, Spanish C2
Development of comprehension skills to allow for understanding of all forms of spoken language and written texts. Emphasis on communication skills for the fluent expression of ideas and argument both orally and in written form.
D. Deichfuß, E. Gerelyes, D. Perucha

Typically three levels of language instruction are offered: beginning, intermediate and advanced. Placement tests determine each student’s enrollment level.