Professors share insight into Yale College’s newly-introduced courses
Professors spoke to the News about the courses they are teaching for the first time this semester, sharing information on their passions and hopes for the term.
Zoe Berg, Photo Editor
Every year, the University offers nearly 2,000 courses — many of which are being offered to students for the first time. A number of professors teaching new courses spoke to the News about their classes, as well as their goals and expectations for the semester.
One of these new classes includes “Early Modern Media,” an undergraduate seminar co-taught by art history professor Marisa Bass and John Durham Peters, professor of English and film and media studies. This art history course focuses on the broader range of media that were central to debates about faith, politics and the natural world during the 17th century.
“‘Early Modern Media’ is an experiment in bridging the history of art and media theory, and in thinking about what it means for 17th century Dutch art and culture to be ‘modern’,” Bass said. “We wanted to bring the essential practices of close reading and close looking to bear on a wide and unexpected range of material: from prints to cannons, ships to scripture, landscape paintings to studies of the cosmos. We are also encouraging students to explore creative approaches to historical writing, in line with the seminar’s exploratory spirit.”
Durham Peters added that media forms are often considered to be uniquely modern phenomena, such as audiovisual or digital creatures powered by electricity and rare earth metals — but that media has actually existed for far longer.
“In fact, all cultures have had means by which to order their space and time and to build relations with others and with nature,” Durham Peters wrote in an email. “This class allows us to focus on one place and time of remarkable media invention, one whose media were both ingenious and beautiful, and one whose dilemmas foreshadow our own in uncanny ways.”
Another new Yale College course is “Adapting to the Stage,” a theater studies course taught by professor Sophie Schweiger that focuses on teaching students how to adapt a written script to the stage.
The course investigates the relationship between dramatic literature and its performance, in the context of German theater from 1750 to the present day.
“We are working towards new ways of engaging with canonical texts, and we are also looking to read outside the (male, white, heteronormative) canons of our field,” Schweiger wrote in an email. “Moreover, our approach is intermedial; that means that we’re operating somewhere in between literature and theater studies, as we investigate, for instance, processes of inter- and transmedial quotation.”
Professor of political science Charles McClean is also teaching a new class entitled “Japanese Politics and Society” that surveys a variety of issues and policy challenges in Japan.
According to McClean, the course seeks to explain public policy outcomes in Japan related to gender equality, nuclear energy, territorial disputes, population aging and immigration, among others.
“In the process, we will learn the important actors in Japanese politics; the positions that different actors take with respect to various policies, as well as the sources of these policy preferences, and how political institutions block or enhance the representation of these actors’ interests,” McClean wrote in an email.
Another new course, “Laboring through the Middle Ages,” is being specially-offered through the Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning’s Associates in Teaching program, which allows professors and graduate students to co-teach and design courses for Yale College.
The course is being co-taught by English professor Emily Thornbury and English graduate student Seamus Dwyer GRD ’23.
“In talking about our own research, we realized that ideas about work and workers were central to so much medieval literature and art, and that notions about medieval work had a major effect on modern theories of labor too — perhaps especially during the nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution,” Thornbury said.
She explained that the COVID-19 pandemic had an unpredictable effect on modern work and professional life and that this serves as an opportune time to reflect back on the 14th century to examine the effects of the Bubonic Plague.
“[The Bubonic Plague] led to massive changes in the way medieval Europeans thought about work and society — changes that are very much a concern of many medieval texts, both well-known and less so,” Thornbury said. “It seemed to us that students right now would have a unique perspective from which to think about this literature, born of their own personal experiences of a pandemic and labor crisis.”
Students turned in their finalized course schedules at the end of add/drop period on Wednesday.