Spring 2024 

Undergraduate Courses

French and Italian

FRENCH 391: French for Reading Knowledge (3 credits), Spring 2024
TuTh 1:00PM – 2:15PM
Professor Anne Vila (

The goal of this course is to give students with no previous knowledge of French the ability to read texts that are necessary or useful for their research. The fundamental elements of French grammar are given over the course of the semester.  Basic exercises focus on translation from French to English.  A good deal of memorization will be required, but students will generally not be expected to reproduce forms in French, just to recognize them.  French pronunciation will NOT be studied extensively, and students will NOT learn to speak French or to understand spoken French, just to read texts written in French.

No previous knowledge of French is required; those who have studied some French but cannot yet read texts in their field of research are welcome to take the course.  French 391 can be taken by graduate students in many departments as a means of fulfilling a foreign language reading requirement (please consult your department regarding its particular policies). Undergraduates with sophomore standing are also eligible to take this course, which is appropriate if they plan to go on to graduate school in a field other than French. [Please note: this course does NOT count for credit toward the French major or the undergraduate certificate in French.]


Philosophy 454: Philosophy of Immanuel Kant (3 credits)
MWF 1:20-2:10 pm
Professor James Messina (
4275 Helen C. White Hall

Initially attracting little notice, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason exploded like a bombshell on the philosophical landscape. This work led Moses Mendelssohn to describe Kant as “all-destroying.” He wasn’t exaggerating. The Critique of Pure Reason, along with the two other Critiques that Kant published shortly thereafter, dealt a devastating blow to traditional “dogmatic” philosophy, whose proponents thought, among other things, that it was possible to provide proofs of the immortality of the soul, the existence of God, and the reality of human freedom. In place of these (now quaint-sounding) pretensions, Kant offered a revolutionary critique of traditional metaphysical, epistemological, and methodological views. In this class, we will focus especially on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, but we may also delve into ideas from his second and third Critiques, which deal, respectively, with morality, and with aesthetic and teleological judgment. If you are finally ready to wake from your dogmatic slumber, this is the class for you!

Philosophy 432: History of Modern Philosophy (3-4 credits)
MWF 11:00-11:50
James Messina (
594 Van Hise Hall

We will be reading selections from the works of a number of 17th and 18th century philosophers: Rene Descartes, Princess Elisabeth, Nicolas Malebranche, Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Lady Masham, Isaac Newton, John Locke, George Berkeley, Lady Mary Shepherd, Emilie du Châtelet, and David Hume. These thinkers explore, among other things, knowledge and its limits; matter, space, and time; the mind and its relationship to the body; causation; substance; free will and free action; the existence and nature of God; the perfection/imperfection of the world and humans; and the prospect of an afterlife.  They develop their views in dialogue with one another, and with an eye towards science (whose foundations and implications they probe) as well as religion. Though their philosophical views often diverge widely from one another and sometimes from common sense, they helped to shape philosophy as it is practiced today.


History of Science 323: The Scientific Revolution (3 credits)
T 12:05–12:55
W 1:20–3:15
Florence Hsia (
Robin Rider (
378 Van Hise Hall

This course explores Renaissance and revolution in European science, beginning in 1543 with the heliocentric astronomy of Nicolaus Copernicus and ending with Isaac Newton’s death in 1727. It pays particular attention to issues of tradition and novelty in natural knowledge, institutional settings for scientific activity, the multifaceted relationship between science and religion, the role of science in European exploration and expansion, public perceptions of science and its practitioners, science and print culture, and scientific writing and communication.

Wednesday class sessions will focus on team-based projects that develop historical skills in analyzing unique materials from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries held in Special Collections (Memorial Library).

Graduate students should also enroll in History of Science 623.

History of Science 623: Studies in Early Modern Science (1 credit)
W 3:30–4:25 PM
Florence Hsia (
Robin Rider (
2611 Mosse Humanities Building

Students taking this course will gain familiarity with some major trends in recent literature on history of early modern science, understand significant concepts and interventions raised, and develop their own perspectives on relevant interpretative and methodological issues. This course counts towards the 50% graduate coursework requirement.

Normally students should co-enroll in History of Science/History 323 (Scientific Revolution). In lieu of the graded assignments for HS/Hist 323, you should complete 15–20 pages of prose writing in connection with this course. This can take the form of a research paper, based on primary sources; a critical discussion of some historiographical issue in the secondary literature; two or more book reviews (situate the book with respect to existing scholarship and critique the author’s use of source material); or a bibliographic survey in preparation for a prelim field.

History 212/Religious Studies 212: History of Western Christianity to 1750 (4 credits)
TR 8:00-9:15 AM
Lee Palmer Wandel
1217 Mosse Humanities Building

A survey of Christianity from being a small, persecuted sect in the Roman Empire to becoming the dominant religion of Western Europe, penetrating into the lives of Europeans, fissuring into multiple churches, and spreading across the globe. Attention is given to doctrine, ritual, worship, architecture, images, and music.

Art History

Art History 576/876 Proseminar: Theater and Religion in Chinese Art (3 credits)
T 5:00-7:30 PM
Yuhang Li (
L166 Conrad E. Elvehjem Building

Theater and religions are inseparable throughout Chinese History. Theatrical performance is often used as a type of offering in ritual practices by different religions; streets, rivers, or open grounds in front of temples are built into temporary spaces for theatrical performances as part of religious and non-religious festivals and ceremonies; religious drama is also an effective medium for transmitting doctrines and spreading cults. The temporary spectacles were further materialized through a wide range of art objects such as murals, sculptures, scroll paintings, prints, ceramics, architectural deco, furniture, garments, tapestries, etc. This course examines the intersection of performance, religion and different types of “spectacles” constructed by artworks. In particular, this course addresses how theatricality, religiosity and spectacle-making projects combined as a powerful method to facilitate the construction of political site, collective and individual salvation in early modern China.


Graduate Courses

French and Italian

FRENCH 948: Le corps, l’esprit, et le moi de Descartes à Laclos / Body, Mind, and Self from Descartes to Laclos (3 credits)
Tu 4:00PM – 6:00PM
Professor Anne Vila (

This seminar is designed to examine a basic question: what did the human body mean and do in French literature and intellectual culture in the 17th and 18th centuries? That is, how did this period’s literature reflect or respond to evolving philosophical models of the body, the mind-body relation, and the self? How were various literary genres deployed to stage or narrate the body as a feeling, suffering, or desiring/ desired entity? Finally, how did this period’s literature reflect or respond to contemporary debates regarding the physical determinism (or indeterminism) of gender, class, race, and alterity?

Graduate students from outside of the French MA/Ph.D. program are welcome to take this seminar if they have advanced reading knowledge and aural comprehension of French.


835  Advanced History of Philosophy (3 credits)
Topic: Leibniz
W 1:15 PM – 3:15 PM
Professor Steven Nadler (
5193 Helen C. White Hall

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was the great polymath of the seventeenth century. In philosophy alone, his writings extended broadly across numerous areas: metaphysics, physics (natural philosophy), logic, language, epistemology, philosophical theology, and philosophy of mind. In this seminar, we will focus on Leibniz’s metaphysics and its development from the 1670s, when he was in Paris, to the end of his career (he died in 1716). Topics to be covered include the nature, extension and reality of substance(s); the relationship between his metaphysical views and both his theories about logic and language and his physics; his efforts to reconcile determinism and freedom; and his various theodicean attempts to address the problem of evil.