Humanities Labs and Theme Courses


Damiano Benvegnù (French and Italian) Environmental Italy: Narratives, Landscapes, Ecologies ITA7 (First-year Seminar) Spring 2019

What can Italy teach us about our relationship with the environment? From the Middle Ages to the present, Italian landscapes have been recognized as depositories of stories: they convey narratives of environmental resistance and ecological liberation as well as embody the historical continuity between human communities and specific territories. In this first-year seminar, students will compare their own landscape experience to how Italian writers, artists, and scholars have imagined and represented real and fictional environments. For the Lab component of the course, students will thus collaborate with the non-profit land conservation organization Upper Valley Land Trust to compare what they have learnt in class about Italian Environmental Humanities with those ecological practices and narratives that surround Dartmouth and its specific territory.


William Cheng (Music) Changing the World with Music (Music 45)

Lab components for Music and Social Justice will enable the class to channel critical discourse into lively practice. Students will receive plenty of opportunities to devise activities around the respective causes they care about. Leslie Humanities Center’s generous funding will enable potential projects that include: composing and performing protest songs; traveling to local establishments (hospitals, shelters, schools, senior centers); inviting activist musicians to campus; and other concerted efforts and creative endeavors.   

Tania Convertini (French and Italian) Foreign Language Teaching Methods: Theory and Practice.

In FRIT 93 Foreign language teaching methods: theory and practice students will explore and observe the process of language learning in a series of lab-based activities. Students will conduct observations of at least one language drill and one language classrooms over the course of the term. They will also devise the appropriate rubrics of observation and discuss the outcomes of their observations making relevant connections with the scholarly readings they have done in the course. As part of their lab activity, students will interview learners and instructors about their role in the language learning process, devising appropriate questions and interpreting the responses in light of relevant critical readings.  Finally, students will create and produce a language learning resource video to share with beginning language students at Dartmouth. This lab assignment will invite students to work with an audience in mind (the language learners) synthesizing ideas, tips, and suggestions that can help learners succeed at their task.


Annabel Martin (Spanish and Portuguese) Indignant Spain: Crisis and New Social Movements Today

Indignant Spain examines the notion of "crisis" as a creative paradigm for rethinking traditional experiences of the political, social, and cultural spheres in today's Spain. The course focuses on the deep connections between democracy and alternative ways of thinking about the political participation of citizens confronting the dismantling of their social, family, and individual welfare by global and national neoliberal economic and social policies.  The course examines the economic situation that led to the 2008 global economic meltdown, the Spanish government's response to the economic crisis, and the effects it had on all areas of Spanish civic life.  The course pays special attention to the social and solidarity movements that the 15-M movement sparked in Spain and internationally in Greece and France and also as a precursor to the US Occupy movement by examining the global erosion of justice, the rise of social inequities and the lack of global responses to what are international webs of economic and social challenges.  However, the course also spends a good amount of time studying the exhilarating moment of transformation all moments of crisis offer.  In our lab students will produce a visual essay, a manifesto, a media map, and a comic. 

Petra McGillen (German Studies) Understanding German Media German 10.03: (Spring 2019 at 12):

This intermediate German language class is based on the principle of learning through practice. In a hands-on exploration of the contemporary German media scene, language learners acquire increased stylistic flexibility and the rhetorical means to communicate effectively with different audiences. Focusing on newspapers, TV/Youtube, radio/podcasts, and blogs, students compare and analyze these media, study the kind of language they produce, and practice the stylistic conventions and features of each medium in a series of experiments, some of which will be conducted with the help of a professional German journalist. Students write news reports on current events, record brief radio features about their favorite places on campus, develop scenes for a Dartmouth-themed soap opera, and practice writing op-eds on controversial campus issues. Along the way, the course increases media literacy, reviews grammar topics in detail, expands vocabulary, and strengthens listening, speaking, and writing skills.

Laura McPherson (Linguistics) and Ted Levine (Music) The Language-Music Connection

For Fall 2018, Laura McPherson and Ted Levin, professors from the Linguistics and Music departments have come together to develop “The Language-Music Connection” Humanities Lab. This course will explore the overlap between language and music, two distinctly human forms of expression. Students will get firsthand experience during a lab taught by the world-renowned Sembla balafonist Mamadou Diabaté. The Sembla are a small ethnicity from Burkina Faso, whose traditional music on the balafon encodes the sound structure of their tonal language, allowing musicians to communicate with each other and with observers without ever “uttering” a word. In this lab for “The Language-Music Connection”, students will live the themes of the course as they learn to speak, play, and understand the Sembla language mapped onto the tonal structure of the balafon.

Kristin O’Rourke and Jane Caroll (Art History) The Sartorial Body: Fashion and the Social Construction of Identity

Following a successful run in Fall 2017, Professors Jane Carroll and Kristin O’Rourke will be offering their course Fashion and Identity: The Power of Clothing once again in Summer 2018. This course sits at the intersection of historical analysis, fashion studies, material culture, and the study of politics and social issues. Through a study of both scholarly writing and object examination, this course explores the overt and subliminal messages contained within fashion and costume over time and in the present. The 18-19 run will feature a field trip to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, a possible field trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ Textile Collection, as well as a unit on contemporary political dress (male & female). The final project of virtual exhibition may include constructing and authoring a website to which all students will contribute.

Devin Singh (Religion) God and Money

Professor Devin Singh’s course titled God and Money, introduces students to the problems and concerns of the study of religion by examining the interaction between economic and religious discourse and practice. The course explores money as a social phenomenon, a way human communities construct meaning and relationships, deal with power and obligation, and communicate what matters to them. Students will be broken up into smaller cohorts, each facilitated by a teaching fellow, which will meet to discuss the readings and lectures and apply them to case studies, and provide reflections and responses based on these conversations. The goal is to address matters such as business and financial ethics, responsible citizenship as earners and consumers, and the possibility of constructing more just and life giving economic systems.

Roberta Stewart (Classics) War Stories

(COLT 64.03/CLST 11.11, fall 2018) introduces students broadly to world literature about war and allows them to consider the ability of language to make sense of human experience, particularly the extreme realities of war.

The Humanities Lab proposal focuses on the final project of the course: the interview by each student of a veteran who is a Dartmouth alum of WW2, Korea, Vietnam, or First Gulf War era. Students will work collaboratively to develop interview questions and will conduct fieldwork, i.e. interviewing service members from various eras and branches. Their research will trace the continuum of military service and the campus experience of it, in the transition from conscription to voluntary service in the professional army. The class will prepare a class website to document their work for a larger public, and individual students will participate in a proposed symposium on Dartmouth's history with the military, as part of Dartmouth's 250th anniversary celebration. The Lab will showcase the important contribution of Humanities-based research to discussions about real-world issues (military service, military/civilian divide, and the perceived invisibility of veterans).

Michelle Warren (Comparative Literature) Race in the Middle Ages

In her course “Race in the Middle Ages”, professor Michelle Warren will integrate Digital Humanities methods into the interpretive process of Comparative Literature. The lab component of this course will involve large-scale text analysis applied to texts studied in the course, comparison and assessment of digital humanities projects related to themes and texts in the course, and finally, research on course themes in social media, learning methods of ethical approaches to public/private archives such as Twitter.


2018-19 Revolution

Lisa Baldez (Latin America, Latino and Caribbean Studies)  Protest and Revolution in Latin America

Randall Balmer (Religion) Revolution in the Sixties

Robert Baum (Religion and Anthropology) Religion and Imperialism
Virginia Behan (Studio Art) Revolution: Photography, Activism, and the Individual Voice
Noelia Cirnigliaro (Spanish and Portuguese) Rovoltosos/as. Forms of Rebellion and Revolution in Imperial Spain and Spanish America


James Dorsey (Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Program) Social Revolutions East and West: Japan and the United States in the 1960s

Marcelo Gleiser (Physics and Astromony) Revolutions in Physiscs: Physics through the Ages

Sam Moody Vasquez (English)  Maroons to Marley: Jamaica's Role in Worldwide Revolutions from Slavery to the Present Day

2019-20 Equality

Donna Coch (Education) Disability in Children's Literature 

In this course, we will explore how disability is represented in contemporary children’s literature for middle-grade readers. Using educational, medical, and social lenses, we will critically consider the portrayal of students with various disabilities and others in their lives (teachers, parents, siblings, peers) in select children’s books, and discuss and determine how such books might be used for teaching and learning. Reading is one essential way that students learn about the world. Can children’s books be used to learn and teach about disability? Are students with disabilities represented accurately in children’s books? Are they portrayed as having equal educational opportunities?

Katherine Lin (Sociology) Gender, Work, and Family

This course examines the mechanisms underpinning trends in gender (in)equality both within paid labor, as well as in the home. We approach the problem of gender inequality through several lenses: 1) We apply knowledge from gender theories that understands gender as a power structure rather than individual identity, 2) We examine variation in gender inequality across other dimensions of inequality, such as race, class, and immigration status, and 3) We continually question to what extent mechanisms that previously supported progress towards gender equality are more or less effective in this modern day and age, and in what institutional and social context such mechanisms are or are not effective.

David Punkett (Philosophy) Equality, Justice, and Democracy

The contemporary social/political world is one of growing inequality in many ways, both domestically and internationally. The goal of this course is to help students think through some of the foundational ethical and political issues about equality that matter in reckoning with growing inequality.

Michele Tine (Education)  The Impact of Poverty on Education
Rising income inequality is undermining the ability of public K-12 schools to meet a foundational goal: to provide children from impoverished areas the opportunity to succeed. This course focuses on the forces that have translated the growing income gap into a growing education gap. We will examine primary research from various fields that details how poverty affects developing children, families, neighborhoods, and schools in ways that go on to affect educational outcomes.  We will also consider how interventions strategically targeted at these contexts can improve the educational success of children growing up in poverty.



Chad Ellas (Art History) UnMaking History: Contemporary Art in the Middle East

This course focuses on recent works by artists and filmmakers from nations as diverse as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Morocco, Syria, and the UAE. Offered in Fall 2017, Professor Chad Elias’ course aims to examine how contemporary artists use photographs and other archival documents to deepen and complicate our understanding of the Middle East’s tumultuous history, both as a once-important part of the Ottoman Empire and as a region that has never really recovered from colonial partitioning. The students will have the opportunity to engage with a digital photography lab that will allow them to contribute to the development of the Arab Image Foundation’s (AIF) online platform. Working in consultation with members of the Foundation, including its founder, the Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari, students will be asked to construct websites that can organize and display digitized images from the collection. The aim is to generate critical contemporary challenges surrounding digital preservation, and provide the skills and a framework to critically assess the cultural implications of digital art collecting, display, and circulation.

Nicol Camerlenghi (Art History) Castles, Cloisters and Cathedrals

In Summer 2017, Professor Nicola Camerlenghi will once again be offering his course Castles, Cloisters and Cathedrals, where students are offered hands-on experience with medieval architecture. Students will be asked to layout an actual Gothic Chapel using string and chalk, as would have been done at the onset of construction during the Middle Ages. They will use medieval instruments such as a swing of an arc, or a geometric ratio to generate the actual measurements of the building, with the goal to help them understand the advantages (and disadvantages) of having strict geometric rules inform the layout of medieval buildings. To promote engagement, they will also be asked to generate a question about medieval architecture that intrigues them and to propose a hands-on-manner of resolving or addressing it. This course is a “laboratory of ideas” in which students are asked to reevaluate their assessment of pressing problems as their knowledge about a particular subject expands.

Christie Harner (English) Victorian Literature and Culture

English Professor Christie Harner will be teaching a course exploring Victorian Literature and Culture from 1860-1901, this upcoming Fall. The course aims to open a dialogue with students about the cultural exchange between evolutionary science, socialist politics, and art production in the mid-to-late Victorian period. It involves an experiential element in the Book Arts, where the students will have the opportunity to create letterpress postcards on a nineteenth century press after an in-class discussion about Morris’ printing work and its political stakes. In addition to this, the students will work on Victorian and 21st century biological prints, and use different medium for pattern making. The goal is to encourage students to forge critical links between Morris’ artistic practice and politics and current debates about digital design and eco-criticism.

Theodore Levin and Ulrike Wegst (Music) The Art, Science and Symbolism of Musical Instruments

Music Professors Ted Levin and Ulrike Wegst will be co-teaching a CoCo course titled “Making Music: The Art, Science, and Symbolism of Musical Instruments” during winter 2018, which will feature a weekly laboratory. The course is designed as a hands-on experience in which students working in groups build and assemble simple musical instruments with the aim of understanding how materials, technologies, craftsmanship, and cultural knowledge interact in the conception, design, and production of diverse instruments around the world. Throughout the course, music and engineering concepts will be presented at a level accessible to all students. Merging the methodologies of engineering and materials science with the approaches of arts and humanities, the course explores from an interdisciplinary perspective the social meanings and powers ascribed to musical instruments, and the way that instruments have come to function as potent symbols of personal, cultural, and political identity.

Kristin O’Rourke and Jane Caroll (Art History) The Sartorial Body: Fashion and the Social Construction of Identity

Lynn Patyk (Russian) Dostoevsky and the Problem of Evil

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novels unblinkingly portray the social, political, and interpersonal evil in the Russian society of his day and in the modern world more generally. The dialogic nature of his novels makes it so the readers are expected to distinguish morally between two often equally compelling positions. Professor Lynn Patyk’s Spring 2018 course aims to explore some of the themes and ideas put forth by Dostoevsky using a Literary Moral Cognition Lab. The labs will use articles by Joshua Greene and his colleagues, who use behavioral and functional neuroimaging to study moral reasoning and decision making, and compare their methods and results with Dostoevsky’s.

Alfia Rakova (Russian) Intermediate Russian

This language course, offered by Professor Alfia Rakova Fall 2017 onward, aims to introduce students to Russian cultural traditions and some specifically Russian attitudes in an exploration of problems of cross-cultural communication and miscommunication. The course offers students an opportunity to read Russian fairytales and engage with them through various labs. They will be asked to retell the story in Russian using Voice Thread where they will be asked to exercise their creative muscles using different colors, voices, and tones to recreate the characters. Furthermore, for first-hand experience with the colors and designs of Russian fairytale, the students will paint Russian nesting dolls, matryoshka. Finally, the students will present their work and explain their creative process for both elements. This course will provide students not only with the experiential learning of the language and culture but also with the invaluable skills of creating/painting something that is authentic in a culture other than their own.

Nancy Canepa (French and Italian) Once Upon a Time in Italy

This course is a study of the rich and precocious Italian fairy-tale tradition, from the Renaissance to present times, and of the ways in which its forms and contents have evolved. Professor Nancy Canepa hopes to address the questions concerning canon formation; the role of “marvelous” genres such as fairy tale in socialization and the expression of national identity; and the appropriation of fairy-tale subjects and motifs by contemporary popular culture. On a track parallel to their study of the Italian fairy tales, students will use their new storehouse of narrative “raw materials” to think creatively about narrative, to inspire playful narrative creativity in others, and, ultimately, to create their own personal fairy-tale narratives in the form of material books.