New Courses by Graduate Students

Courses taught by graduate students offer new options for the undergraduate curriculum each year while giving graduate students in the humanities the opportunity to teach. Awarded students receive a standard stipend to develop and teach new public humanities courses.

Fall 2018-Spring 2019

ENGL/HURC 299 - Literature & Public Humanities: History and Meaning [Fall 2018]
Evan Choate
On 15 August 2017, Houston Mayor Sylvestor Turner expressed his "hope," in response to growing concerns about public monuments to the Confederacy, that the city could "in a very positive and constructive way move forward and not glorify anything that's been in our past." A nuanced understanding of how historical meaning works is increasingly vital as we face an alarming revival of white nationalism and other seemingly anachronistic extremists. In this course, students learn to apply critical humanistic methods to issues of public importance, especially in the Houston area. Participants study necessary applications of humanistic inquiry to civic life and contribute to this work themselves.

HIST 208  - Race and Medicine in American History [Spring 2019]
Instructor(s): Sean Morey Smith
This course explores how medical theories have been used to support racial inequalities in American history from the beginning of European settlement until today. It will trace how Western ideas about bodies contributed to the construction of racial categories between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries and stress the ways that medicine and related sciences continue to reinforce racial categorizations through today. After introducing traditional Western medical ideas about health and bodies, the course will begin with the emergence of the concept of race as the product of those traditional ideas with new geographical circumstances as Europeans explored and settled in the Americas. It will then highlight how medical interpretations of the population collapse of Native Americans and perceived immunity of Africans to tropical diseases contributed to the development of racialized slavery and lent theoretical support for Indian dispossession and "manifest destiny." The course will next explore the effect of racial theories on the development of the modern medical profession, including tenets such as germ theory, medical experimentation on African Americans (both enslaved and free), and the disqualification of American medicine's continuing reliance on race as a category of analysis and diagnosis and the search for racial genetics.

Fall 2017-Spring 2018

ENGL/HURC 299 - Literature & Public Humanities: SURREAL HOUSTON 1917-2017 [Fall 2017]
Michael Miller
It is slightly surreal that Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2016 was “surreal.” Following three significant world events—two of which were terrorist attacks, the other the U.S. election in November––Merriam-Webster noted a significant spike in the number of users seeking an official definition for the word. While the adjective “surreal” derives from Surrealism—an avant-garde movement founded by André Breton in the mid-1920s that emerged out of Dada––it is clear from Merriam-Webster’s surge in “surreal” searches that the term still possesses an explanatory power that persists across time and cultures. This course asks: how and why is “surreal’s” definition broad enough to describe avant-garde paintings and films from the 1920s, terrorist attacks, the effect of Houston’s lack of zoning laws, and a large number of television shows housed on the Adult Swim network? What accounts for “surreal’s” contemporary appeal?

ENGL/HURC 245 - Invalid Women: Writing and Resisting Representations of Women’s Illness [Fall 2017]
Instructor(s): Rachel Bracken
Western biomedicine has historically been dominated by male theorists and practitioners. How, then, has U.S. biomedical culture accounted for women’s bodies, women’s health, and women’s illness? Looking to literary and cultural representations of “hysteria” and women’s mental health, beauty standards, sexuality, domestic abuse and sexual violence, reproductive health, and chronic illness, this course identifies persistent stereotypes of women as sickly, frail, or “crazy,” as well as the ways in which women authors have resisted these stereotypes in their own writing about women’s bodies, health, and sexuality. The novels, short stories, poems, memoirs, and films we will encounter over the course of the semester expose an obsessive medicalization of women’s bodies and a simultaneous, paradoxical neglect of women’s health.

Fall 2016-Spring 2017

ENGL/HURC 245 - Gender, Medicine, Technology [Spring 2017]
Alanna Beroiza
What is gender? And, what does it have to do with medicine and technology? This course offers an introduction to the concept of gender at the intersection of medicine and technology in the 20th and 21st centuries. We will begin our study by asking when and how human bodies, sexual behaviors, and personal identities became subjects of medical interest in the modern Western world. The course covers pre-Enlightenment studies of sexual anatomies, behaviors, and pleasures; 19th and 20th century medical research on sexual "degeneracies" and "disorders"; the discourses and practices of cybernetics, endocrinology, and plastic surgery from the 19th and 20th centuries; and analyses of contemporary culture informed by our knowledge of gender as a product of medical diagnosis and biotechnology.

ENGL/HURC 299 - Curating Heritage [Spring 2017]
Instructor(s): Lindsey N. Chappell
In this course, we will investigate how heritage objects—and their arrangement and display as public narratives—can produce a collective sense of identity and belonging. We will engage with questions such as: How is cultural identity policed, by whom, and to what ends (historically and in the present)? How can objects become sacred or dangerous? How can they contain cultural identity and history? What are the logics, forms, and objectives that structure exhibition? How are cultural heritages constructed and deconstructed through the curation and exhibition of objects? Through a combination of museum visits, literature, and theory in each unit, we’ll analyze how institutions curate cultural heritage through the exhibition of antique objects. At the end of the course, we will think about the ethics and rhetoric of arrangement, possession, and exhibition theoretically and practically to produce our own virtual heritage exhibits.

Fall 2015-Spring 2016

HURC 213 - The Doctor is On:  Portrayals of Medical Professionals in Television, Fiction and Film [Spring 2016]
Instructor(s): Ben Kozicki, Graduate Student in English
Fictionalized characters such as House, Marcus Welby, Doc Martin, and Hawkeye Pierce reinforce stereotypes as much as they challenge assumptions and (re)define cultural attitudes toward doctors (and the medical profession in general). This course examines the portrayal of healthcare professionals in television, fiction and film to discuss philosophical and ethical questions as well as the modern medical apparatus from biological and social systems perspectives.

ENGL/HURC 299 - (Dis)Locating Art: Literature, Art, Music, and the Making of Communities [Spring 2016]
Meina Yates-Richard
Where is art located? Is a documentary film short about Beyoncé screened at Discovery Green “art?” Does it become art if screened at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston? This course seeks to answer these questions through an investigation of multiple spaces of artistic creation and reception in the greater Houston area. We will consider visual, literary, and performative art forms such as music and dance, and inquire into the effects of their social locations.