Six Must-Take Humanities Classes Spring Quarter

Whether you’re a physics major who needs to fulfil a couple of WAYS requirements, or a sociology and anthropology double major looking for an inspiring course, the Sphere has you covered. Our writers have gathered six of the most fascinating and unusual courses on offer Spring quarter.

CHINA 183: The Chinese Empire from the Mongol Invasion to the Boxer Uprising (FEMGEN 193, HISTORY 193)

China is on the verge of surpassing America economically and there is a strong threat of a fresh cold war emerging between the two states. In other words, it has never been more important to have a strong grasp of Chinese history. And who better to provide this education than the delightful Professor Sommer? This course is an ideal introduction to Chinese history while keeping an eye on China’s modernity.

Units: 3-5

Reading: Light


Times: Mon, Wed 12:30-2:20

ENGLISH 144: Major Modernists: Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield, T. S. Eliot

Literary modernism emerged from a period of great social change. Increasing industrialization and the atrocities of both World Wars cast technological progress as an instrument of capitalism, which alienated the individual. In the age of social media and neoliberalism, it is worthwhile to look back at how writers responded to the great challenges of modernity. As one of the more difficult (but also rewarding) periods of English literature, Alice Staveley’s class is the ideal environment to get exposure to some of the 20th century’s most iconic and pioneering authors.

Units: 5

Reading: light


Times: Tues, Thurs 12-1.20

History 161: The Politics of Sex: Work, Family, and Citizenship in Modern American Women’s History (AMSTUD 161, CSRE 162, FEMGEN 161, HISTORY 61)

In the current political atmosphere, learning women’s history remains as important as ever. This course examines the changes in gender and sexuality from the end of the 19th century to today, focusing on the questions of women’s labor, women’s role in the family, women’s citizenship (and lack thereof), and the relationship of womanhood to race and class. With Professor Freedman’s depth of historical knowledge and personal experiences with second-wave feminist movements, this class is perfect for anyone interested in understanding our current political discourse about gender and sexality.

Units: 3-5

Readings: Medium


Times: Mon, Wed 1:30-2:50

GERMAN 248: Vox Populi: Populism and its Origins (GERMAN 348, HISTORY 238K, HISTORY 338K)

In our hysterical times, it is too easy to forget that populism has a long and meandering history. And this is precisely what Professor Christian Guelen, visiting from the University of Koblenz, Germany, seeks to do in this course. Employing a diverse set of lenses – from the social sciences to arts to history – this course questions what populism means, and whether the current right-wing nationalist wave is historically unprecedented or, in fact, quite typical. Professor Guelen is crafting the syllabus based on student interests, so turn up as soon as possible!

Units: 1-5

Reading: Heavy

Ways: None

Times: Tues, Thurs 10:30-11:50

JEWISHST 125: Modern Jewish Mystics: Devotion in a Secular Age (RELIGST 165)

The relationship between religion and socialism has a long and nuanced history. And yet there exists a tendency on the Left to offhandedly dismiss religion as an institution of social control (“No Gods. No Masters.”), in other words, to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The powerful synthesis of religion and leftism is evident in Christian liberation theology, Dhammic socialism and Yiddish socialism alongside many other movements. Moreover, the left has too often ignored how religion has responded to contact with modernism, a response which has frequently come in the form of mysticism. This class is a wonderful introduction to both mysticism and the religion/people/culture that gave us Emma Goldman, Avraam Benaroya, and Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Units: 4

Ways: A-II

Reading load: medium

Times: Tues, Thurs 1:30-2:50

PHIL 13: Humanities Core: Great Books, Big Ideas — Europe, Modern (DLCL 13, FRENCH 13, HISTORY 239C, HUMCORE 13)

The recent right-wing populist wave seemed to shake the foundations of the liberal world order to its very core. It is therefore more important than ever to understand the pivotal ideas and texts that shaped the Western political order. Professors Edelstein and Satz provide a wonderful overview of the Western canon’s most influential modern thinkers, not neglecting to mention the experiences of decolonization and totalitarianism in the 20th century.

Units: 3-4

Reading: light


Times: Tues, Thurs 12-1:20


Sphere Writers 


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