Humanities on Demand: A New Approach to Course Design
Most humanities faculty members unilaterally determine the themes, authors, books, blogs, and other materials to appear in an undergraduate level syllabus. Conversely, within most humanities classrooms, the same faculty members apply a more student-centered approach, where students are viewed not as passive receptacles of instructional data but as active contributors. We can think of no sound pedagogical reason for summarily rejecting student input at the course-building phase. Consequently, we propose the construction of a cutting-edge website that will provide students with the opportunity to suggest material for our pilot course, Humanities on Demand: Narratives Gone Viral. Approximately six months before this course opens for enrollment, undergraduate students – whether they plan on enrolling in the course or not – will be invited to visit the Humanities on Demand website and suggest course content befitting the class subject.
In the pilot course, two primary instructors will interrogate narrative’s innumerable modes – literary, religious, historical, musical, political, mechanical, and digital – and, in so doing, introduce students to critical methods humanists employ to analyze them. Throughout the semester, project collaborators will be invited to provide targeted presentations. Some of the questions to be asked include: What does it mean when something “goes viral”? Why do some narratives rapidly reach a high level of distribution in society and culture, and not others? What are the typical properties of these viral narratives? Do our stories conform to a few underlying fundamental structures or represent an irreducible plurality? How do different means of transmission shape the way we tell stories, their content and meaning?
In order to make this an integrated exploration of narrative, we will ask students to upload narratives that they find meaningful, amusing, perplexing, and/or interesting. Online submissions, if chosen, will be combined with already established course materials.
The project has been convened by a diverse group of people, including:
Jakob Norberg, Assistant Professor of German Studies
Five American Council of Learned Society (ACLS) New Faculty Fellows working at Duke this year:
- Michael P. Ryan, German Studies and the Program in Literature
- Cavan Concannon, Religion and Classical Studies
- Tomas Matza, Cultural Anthropology and Slavic and Eurasian Studies
- Alexander Schulman, Political Science
- Shannon Withycombe, History
- Andrew Stershic, graduate student, Civil Engineering
- Benedikt Bscher, undergraduate student, Economics