Columbia's "World Humanities" Course Offerings (1)

My earliier post on Columbia may have sounded a bit critical. But that was just regarding how western bias the Core Curriculum is. Now if we look at it from the angle of having a major or minor that allows undergrad to know enough about "World Humanities," the question becomes a different one because the 4 semesters of on Western textual traditions is already quite well-covered, leaving the need to only introduce students to the 2(-3) text-based civilizations.


I looked briefly at the undergrad Major and Concentration (sounds like this is what Columbia is terming its Minor), and it does look like overall the course requirements are more prescription (more specific requirements), and more demanding in terms of language requirements. But that is for another post.


Here I want to capture the courses I find in Columbia, especially in the context of my earlier criticism of Harvard's offerings, which are:

1.Not studying canonical history texts

2. No surveys of global or regional historiographical traditions (except one optional seminar for History Majors)

3. No world-wide intellectual history survey course

4. Insufficient courses on specific non-Western authors/texts

5. Relative weakness in on South Asian tradition (vs. Harvard's other Departments)


Below are some of the courses I find in Columbia's College (undergraduate) Bulletin that speaks to the above:


HIST W2901y Historical Theories and Methods 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Designed to replace the History Lab and Historian's Craft, HIST W2901 "Historical Theories and Methods" (formerly titled "Introduction to History") offers a new approach to undergraduate introductory courses on historical practice and the history of history. The course combines an overarching lecture component consisting of one lecture per week of 75 minutes with a two-hour "laboratory" component that will meet weekly at first, then less often as the semester progresses. The course aims to introduce students to broad theoretical and historiographical themes while drawing on those themes in providing them skills in actual historical practice, in preparation for the writing of a senior thesis or extended research paper. It is required that juniors planning to write a senior thesis take this course in the spring semester in preparation for their projects. Students who plan on studying abroad during the spring term must take HIST W4900 The Historian's Craft in the fall term as a replacement. Field(s): METHODS


LACV C1020x Primary Texts of Latin American Civilization 4 pts. This course is part of the Global Core of Columbia College. It focuses on key texts from Latin America in their historical and intellectual context and seeks to understand their structure and the practical purposes they served using close reading and, when possible, translations. The course seeks to establish a counterpoint to the list of canonical texts of Contemporary Civilization. The selections are not intended to be compared directly to those in CC but to raise questions about the different contexts in which ideas are used, the critical exchanges and influences (within and beyond Latin America) that shaped ideas in the region, and the long-term intellectual, political, and cultural pursuits that have defined Latin American history. The active engagement of students toward these texts is the most important aspect of class work and assignments. Global Core.


HIST W4713x or y Orientalism and the Historiography of the Other 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014.This course will examine some of the problems inherent in Western historical writing on non-European cultures, as well as broad questions of what itmeans to write history across cultures. The course will touch on therelationship between knowledge and power, given that much of the knowledge we will be considering was produced at a time of the expansion of Western power over the rest of the world. By comparing some of the "others" which European historians constructed in the different non-western societies they depicted, and the ways other societies dealt with alterity and self, we may be able to derive a better sense of how the Western sense of self was constructed. Group(s): C Field(s): ME


HIST W4718x Theories of Islamic History 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Unlike European history, which divides into generally agreed upon eras and is structured around a clear narrative of religious and political events from Roman times down to the present, the broad sweep of Islamic and Middle Eastern history appears in quite different lights depending on who is wielding the broom. Theories of Islamic history can embody or conceal political, ethnic, or religious agendas; and no consensus has gained headway among the many writers who have given thought to the issue. The study of theories of Islamic history, therefore, provides a good opportunity for history majors to explore and critique broad conceptual approaches. A seminar devoted to such explorations should be a valuable capstone experience for studnets with a special interest in Islam and the Middle East. One or two works will be read by the entire class each week, and two students will be assigned to lead the discussions of the week's readings. Grades for the course will be based half on class participation and half on a 15-page term paper devoted to a topic approved by the instructor. Field(s): ME


HIST W4768x Writing Contemporary African History 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. An exploration of the historiography of contemporary (post-1960) Africa, this course asks what African history is, what is unique about it, and what is at stake in its production. Field(s): AFR


HIST W4803y Subaltern Studies and Beyond: History and the Archive 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. This is an advanced undergraduate seminar course that will retrace the history of the making of the Subaltern Studies problematic, considered a major intervention in both Indian nationalist history and the wider discipline of history itself, with a focus on the relationship between method, archives, and the craft of history writing. Group(s): A, CFields: *SA


HSEA W4890y Historiography of East Asia 3 pts. This course is designed primarily for majors in East Asian studies in their junior year; others may enroll with the instructor's permission. Major issues in the practice of history illustrated by critical reading of important historical works on East Asia. Group(s): A, CField(s): EA


HIST W4900x or y Historian's Craft 4 pts. Intended for history majors this course raises the issues of the theory and practice of history as a discipline. Considers different approaches to the study of history and offers an introduction to research and the use of archival collections. Special emphasis on conceptualization of research topics, situating projects historiographically, locating and assessing published and archival sources.Field(s): METHODS


HIST BC4904x or y Introduction to Historical Theory and Method 4 pts. Prerequisites: Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 15. Preregistration required. Preference to JUNIOR and SOPHOMORE Majors. Fulfills General Education Requirement (GER); Historical Studies (HIS). Confronts a set of problems and questions attached to the writing of good history by examining the theories and methods historians have devised to address these problems. Its practical focus: to prepare students to tackle the senior thesis and other major research projects. The reading matter for this course crosses cultures, time periods, and historical genres. Fulfills all concentrations within the history major. Field(s): METHODS


PHIL G4095x Medieval Hebrew Philosophical Texts 3 pts. Selected readings in major medieval Hebrew philosophic texts. Works discussed include: Maimonides' Book of Knowledge, Shemtob Falaquera's Epistle of the Debate, Gersonides' War of the Lord, Hasdai Crescas' Light of the Lord, and joseph Albo's Book of Principles. Focus will be on basic problems concerning reason and religion; ethics, politics, and law.


PHIL G4170x Medieval Philosophy 3 pts. Latin, Arabic, and Hebrew philosophy from the 4th to the 14th century, including Augustine, Alfarabi, Avicenna, Anselm, Ibn Gabirol, Averroes, Maimonides, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Crescas.


RELI V2005x Buddhism: Indo-Tibetan 3 pts. Historical introduction to Buddhist thought, scriptures, practices, and institutions. Attention given to Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantric Buddhism in India, as well as selected non-Indian forms. Recitation Section Required.


RELI V2008x Buddhism: East Asian 3 pts. Lecture and discussion. An introductory survey that studies East Asian Buddhism as an integral , living religious tradition. Emphasis on the reading of original treatises and historiographies in translation, while historical events are discussed in terms of their relevance to contemporary problems confronted by Buddhism. Global Core.


RELI V2105y Christianity 3 pts. Survey of Christianity from its beginnings through the Reformation. Based on lectures and discussions of readings in primary source translations, this course will cover prominent developments in the history of Christianity. The structure will allow students to rethink commonly held notions about the evolution of modern Christianity with the texture of historical influence.


RELI V2205y Hinduism 3 pts. The origin and development of central themes of traditional Hinduism. Emphasis on basic religious literature and relation to Indian culture. Readings include original sources in translation. Discussion Section Required. Global Core.


RELI V2405y Chinese Religious Traditions 3 pts. Development of the Three Teachings of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism: folk eclecticism; the contemporary situation in Chinese cultural areas. Readings drawn from primary texts, poetry, and popular prose. Global Core.


RELI V3205y Vedic Religion 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Introduction to the religion and culture of India during the Vedic period, ca. 1700-700 B.C. Concentrates on sacred texts from the Rig-Veda toUpanishads.


RELI V3314y Qu'ran in Comparative Perspective 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. This course develops an understanding of the Qu'ran's form, style, and content through a close reading of comparable religious texts. Major topics include the Qu'ranic theory of prophecy, its treatment of the biblical tradition (both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament), and its perspective on the pre-Islamic pagan religion.


RELI V3410y Daoism 3 pts. Philosophical ideas found in the Daode jing, Zhuangzi, hagiographies and myths of gods, goddesses and immortals, psycho-physical practices, celestial bureaucracy, and ritual of individual and communal salvation. Issues involved in the study of Daoism, such as the problematic distinction between "elite" and "folk" traditions, and the interactions between Daoism and Buddhism.


RELI V3515x Readings in Kabbalah 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. This course will serve to provide a wide but detailed exploration of Jewish Mysticism, raising questions about its connection to other Jewish traditions, the kind of symbolism and hermeneutics at stake, and the conception of God, man and world we are dealing with, amongst other major ideas.



RELI V3535x or y Introduction to Rabbinic Literature 3 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Examines the differences between Halakha (the legal portion of the Talmud) and Aggadah (the more legal portion) with respect to both content and form. Special emphasis on selections from the Talmud and Midrash that reflect the intrinsic nature of these two basic genres of rabbinic literature.


RELI W4011y The Lotus Sutra in East Asian Buddhism 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Prerequisites: Open to students who have taken one previous ocurse in either Buddhism, Chinese religions, or a history course on China or East Asian. The course examines some central Mahayana Buddhist beliefs and practices through an in-depth study of the Lotus sutra. Schools (Tiantai/Tendai, Nichiren) and cultic practices such as sutra-chanting, meditation, confessional rites, and Guanyin worship based on the scripture. East Asian art and literature inspired by it.


RELI W4205y Love, Translated: Hindu Bhakti 4 pts. Hindu poetry of radical religious participation-bhakti-in translation, both Sanskrit (the Bhagavad Gita) and vernacular. How does such poetry/song translate across linguistic divisions within India and into English? Knowledge of Indian languages is welcome but not required. Multiple translations of a single text or poet bring to light the choices translators have made.


RELI W4330x Seminar on Classical Sufi Texts 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Prerequisites: Instructor's permission. Close study of pivotal texts from the classical periods of Islamic mysticism, including works by Hallaj, Attar, Rumi, In Arabi, and others (all texts in English translation).


RELI W4503x Readings from the Sephardic Diaspora 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Prerequisites: instructor's permission Close readings of some canonical 15th- and 16th-century works (in translation) from the Sephardic diaspora that touch on theology, philosophy, ethics and mysticism.

RELI W4507x Readings in Hasidism 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. Prerequisites: At least one previous course on Judaism or familiarity from elsewhere with the normative, traditional Judaism. An exploration of Hasidism, the pietist and mystical movement that arose in eastern Europe at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Hasidism stands as perhaps the most influential and significant movement within modern Judaism.

RELI W4508y Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah 4 pts.Not offered in 2013-2014. The purpose of this seminar is to study the interactions between two major intellectual trends in Jewish History, the philosophical and the mystical ones. Focusing on the medieval period but not only, we will discuss their interactions, polemics and influences. We will compare Philosophy and Kabbalah in light of their understanding of divine representation and in light of their respective Theology and conception of God.


I have pasted some course descriptions for History; Comparative Literrature and Society; Philosophy; and Religion courses. Mostly courses selected with some explicit mentions of reading of primary texts. Several observations:

1) Quite a lot on Jewish tradition, possibly related to the presence of big Jewish communities in New York City, where Columbia is.

2) On historiography, the 4713 - 4890 above is quite nice, especially impressed is HSEA W4890y on East Asia. There is half a semester in the introductory class on history of history also - but not more than that unfortunately.

3) The study of religions is quite explicitly traditional text-based, and also has some interesting courses focusing on particularly Asian religious texts like Lotus Sutra, Vedic texts. The inclusion of coverage of classic Sufi texts, Daoism, Hindu Bhakti are all "nice touches" in the curriculum.


Next we will be looking at the courses offered by MESSAS and East Asian Department.

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