Fall 2019


Moodle sites: Course  |  Section 01  |  Section 03  |  Section 04


Lisa M. Ballou (Sections 01, 03 and 04)
Maria R. Heim (Section 01)
Ingrid L. Nelson (Section 03)
George Qiao (Section 04)


This course offers a sustained encounter with premodern worldviews, lifeways, and models of being human--that is to say, with the vast majority of human experience in recorded history. In this course we will consider a wide variety of premodern literatures and cultures, focusing on a broad range of works from western antiquity and medieval history to American, African, Chinese, Indian, Eurasian, and Islamic societies.

Part of the explicit aim of our endeavors is to destabilize the centrality of western patterns of historical and intellectual development by offering robust alternatives to it. We will explore various kinds of beginnings, such as arts and technologies, languages, ideas, literatures, cities, and civilizations. For fall 2019, the course theme is “Worlds and World-Making.” We will study cosmologies and cosmogonies, both scientific and mythic; and we will explore theories that explain the beginnings of human beings and key inventions and innovations across multiple histories and literatures.

The course has two weekly meetings: one plenary session (lecture) and one small-group discussion section. The two components are aimed at different yet essential skills: the art of attention to lectures and effective spoken and written communication in small-group meetings. The course is taught by a cluster of faculty from across disciplines and thereby offers an interdisciplinary introduction to liberal arts studies and to the essential tools for exploring the cultural and literary legacies of our diverse fields of study.

Fall semester. Professor Maria Heim, Associate Professors Jaffer and Nelson, Assistant Professor Qiao.


Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021