The Existential Sources of Normativity

Faculty Leader: Steven Crowell, Joseph and Joanna Nazro Mullen Professor of Philosophy
Student Participants: Matt Burch (philosophy), Aaron Hinkley (philosophy), Irene McMullin (philosophy), Matt Schunke (religious studies), Will Smith (philosophy), David Snyder (philosophy)
This seminar explored the conundrum implicit in philosophical appeals to reason - they they presuppose the very reason to which they appeal. Taking Heidegger's existential approach to human nature as the focus of this seeming tautology, the seminar asked students from Philosophy, English, and Religious Studies to consider how their own projects engage in this interpretive knot and to explore how their own research might benefit from a Heideggerian approach to the problem of reason. Conversely, Professor Crowell opened his own research in this field to the seminar for consideration and critique.

Plato's Phaedrus and Classical Hermeneutics

Faculty Leader: Harvey Yunis, Professor of Classical Studies
Student Participants: Sarah Graham (English), Brian Prince (philosophy), Hae Young Seong (religious studies), Pumsup Shim (linguistics), Molly Slattery (English), Ryan White (English)
This seminar is unique in that the first semester was devoted to analyzing one text, Plato's Phaedrus, in detail. Yet from this careful textual analysis, the seminar considered more generally the art of interpreting texts - a concern central to the textual work of all humanities disciplines. In the second semester, the seminar critiqued modern hermeneutics from the perspective acquired through the first semester's attention to ancient hermeneutics. This course's premise that the subject is of overarching concern to all humanistic study was borne out by the remarkably diverse group of students who participated, including students from Religious Studies, English, Linguistics, and Philosophy.

Toward a Hemispheric America

Faculty Leader: Caroline Field Levander, the Carlson Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English
Student Participants: Elizabeth Fenton (English), Gale Kenny (history), Cory Ledoux (English), David Messmer (English), Molly Robey (English), Benjamin Wise (history)
This seminar provided a cutting-edge immersion in the field of American studies through adopting a comparative, hemispheric approach that is gradually reorganizing the fields of literature, history, and religious studies, challenging new scholars to both broaden and deepen their analysis of the cultures of the Americas. Through emphasizing a comparativist method that remains attentive to local distinctions while bringing a hemispheric approach to bear on the nation-state, this year-long seminar sharpened the writing of the next generation of Americanist scholars and developed a model for the reorganizing of American studies in the 21st century.

Language Policies as Markers of National and Cultural Identity

Faculty Leader: Rafael Salaberry, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies
Student Participants: David Katten (linguistics), Natalya Stepanova (French studies), Martin Hilpert (linguistics), Viktoria Papp (linguistics), Vinod Lakshmipathy (philosophy)
This seminar is based on the analysis of case studies on the topic of language as a marker of national and cultural/ethnic identity, with a particular emphasis on language planning, language policies, and political debates on language use. Language planning refers to the ways in which organized communities united by religious, ethnic, political, or social factors attempt to influence language use. Concrete manifestations of such policies are obvious in the case of bilingual education, the establishment of an official national language, the control over gender-biased language, etc. Some of the topics that students investigated in the seminar include: "Framing Language Policy and Language Identity: The Case of the Saami of Northern Europe," "Language Use and Linguistic Evidence in Conflict Resolution and Interethnic Conflict," "Language as Property and Identity in Canada and France in the Context of 'Divagation'," "Language Variation and Language Prestige in Legal and Political Debates with Emphasis on Hungary," and "Bilingual and Bicultural Identities in Russian-French Writers."