2023 - 2024 What Forms The Self

2023 - 2024 What Forms The Self

The Humanities at UR 2023-24 theme: What Forms the Self?

Anticipating big things on the horizon, in 2023-24, the humanities theme is a question: a question we think gets asked all across UR’s curriculum, a question that is at the very core of what liberal arts education broadly, and the humanities specifically, mean in today’s world. The question is, at least, double. In one version, it explores the hypothesis that different forms of selfhood (or personhood, citizenship, subjectivity) exist and have existed in different historical moments and geopolitical contexts. In the other, we turn our attention to how our selves come into being: what shapes us? What sustains us? What might change us?

In addition to serving as the theme for Bridge to Success, Humanities Connect, and the Humanities Fellows Program, for 2023-24 we are publicizing a list of courses addressing the theme. Some of these are open to any student, and some are not. While we hope this list is useful to students (and advisors) in crafting plans for 2023-24, we also think it’s exciting to be able to see where this question is being asked, and we hope that seeing that gives us a new understanding of who we are, what we do, what we might yet do together.

Theme Courses for 2023-2024:

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to view a list of the theme courses for this year's theme. Courses marked “General” do not have prerequisites; other courses have some requirements. We may add to this list through early June when incoming first-year Spiders register and we will circulate a list of spring classes in the fall before the advising period.


What Forms the Self?

Thursday, August 31st, 5 p.m.

Humanities Building, Humanities Commons 220

Please join us for the opening event in this year’s Humanities theme conversations, with two opening talks by visiting scholars Solimar Otero (Indiana University) and Sophie Lewis (Independent Scholar).

Sponsored by the A&S Dean’s Office and the Thomas Museum Lecture Fund, this event is free and open to the public.


Diversifying Activism: Bed Activism by Disabled and Sick People of Color

Monday, September 18, 6:00 pm

Alice Haynes Room, Tyler Haynes Commons

will+WGSS Speaker Series, co-sponsored by the Office of Disability Services

Akemi Nishida, Associate professor in Disability & Human Development and Gender & Women’s Studies, University of Illinois Chicago

How can bed be a site for social critique, radical resistance, and another world making? Nishida describes what bed activism is and how it expands entry points to and strategies for social justice work. Social justice activism often internalizes hierarchy and normalization of what movement works should look like. Direct actions and occupation of public spaces, for instance, are often recognized as the hallmark of resistance. Nishida challenges such notion by centering wisdom emerging from bed spaces of sick and disabled people of color who often find the mainstream movements inaccessible. Instead, from their bed spaces, they challenge the hegemonic notions of who are leaders and knowledge holders for social change; and singular focus put on productivity and products of movements, instead of accessibility of their processes. In this presentation, Nishida explores what social justice work would be like, when we center our vulnerability and inherent interdependences on one another in such work.



16th Annual UR African Film Weekend

September 8th-9th, 2023

Ukrop Auditorium

Guest Presenter: Mamadou Dia
Award-winning Senegalese film director, screenwriter, and co-founder of the production company, Joyedidi.

The New Generation of African filmmakers. For some African film critics, filmmaking in Africa has evolved in four major stages: the colonial era, the Post-Independent era with the towering and pioneering figures such as Ousmane Sembène, Mel Hondo, Souleyman Cissé, the Post-colonial area with filmmakers such as Abderrahmane Sissako, Mahamat Saleh Haroun, Mweze Ngangura and Balufu Kanyinda, and the youngest generation of filmmakers who are just coming of age and who are entirely set into a futuristic mode. After a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s session of the African Film Weekend will focus on the issues raised by this newest generation of filmmakers as its members—three are women—reflect on the ways African and African Diasporan communities depict themselves in facing the challenges generated by various internal and external social, political and economic dynamics of the current and specific to the global society.

Sponsored by Languages, Literature, and Cultures with the support of the A&S Dean’s Office, International Education, and Cultural Affairs.



Forging Feeling: The Downfall of the Confederate Monument

Wednesday, October 11th, 6 p.m.

Humanities Building, Humanities Commons 220

Featuring guest speaker, Donovan Schaefer (Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania)

What is the relationship between monuments and ideology? Do monuments shape political beliefs? How are inert objects able to exert so much force? This talk explores the connection between public material culture and power by paying special attention to emotion. Comparing the treatment of Nazi monuments after the defeat of the Third Reich with commemoration of the Confederacy up to the present day reveals a new way of thinking about the intransigence of “Lost Cause” mythology.



Knowledge from Narrative

Thursday, October 19th, 4:30 p.m.

Humanities Building, HUM 121

 A peculiar feature of our species is that we settle what to believe, value, and do by reasoning through narratives. A narrative is a diachronic, information-rich story that contains persons, objects, and at least one event. When we reason through narrative, the narrative guides us to draw conclusions about our world. We use narrative to settle what to do, to make predictions, to guide normative expectations, and to ground which reactive attitudes we think are appropriate in a situation. Narratives explain, justify, and provide understanding. Narratives play a ubiquitous role in human reasoning. And yet, narratives do not seem up to the task. Narratives are often unmoored representations (either because they are do not purport to refer to the actual world, or because they are grossly oversimplified, or because are known to be literally false). At first glance, reasoning through narrative does not seem like it could possibly be reasoning, much less good reasoning. 

Against this, Flowerree will argue that narratives guide our reasoning by shaping our grasp of modal space: what is possible, probable, plausible, permissible, required, relevant, desirable and good. Narratives are good guides to reasoning when they guide us to accurate judgments about modal space. Flowerree calls this the modal model of narrative. In this paper, she develops an account of how narratives function in reasoning, as well as an account of when reasoning through narrative counts as good reasoning, concluding by applying the Modal Model to two topics, political disagreement and conspiratorial thinking.

Amy Flowerree is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Texas Tech. 


The Development of Law in Early Chinese Political Philosophy

Wednesday, November 8th, 4 p.m.

WRST Living Room 108 (Lounge)

A public lecture by Dr. Eirik Harris, Department of Philosophy (Colorado State University)

This talk examines the development of the role of law in the early Chinese philosophical corpus. It argues that Confucians were not as anti-law as often portrayed, many Legalists were not primarily concerned with the power of the ruler, and neither thought of the value of law as arising from its being a command of the ruler. For the vast majority of early Chinese philosophical texts, the benefits of the law were understood as arising, in part at least, from its naturalistic sources. To the extent that laws were seen as effective, they bore a necessary relationship to a range of underlying patterns in the natural world.

Eirik Harris is the author of The Shenzi Fragments: A Philosophical Analysis and Translation (Columbia University Press, 2016) and co-editor of Adventures in Chinese Realism: Classic Philosophy Applied to Contemporary Issues (SUNY Press 2022), as well as numerous articles and chapters on the Confucian and Legalist views on the relationship between morality and politics.

Sponsored by Religious Studies



American Visions

Thursday, November 9th, 5 p.m.

Humanities Building, Humanities Commons 220

Ed Ayers, Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities at the University of Richmond, will read from his new book, American Visions: The United States 1800-1860 (W.W. Norton, 2023).

As the publisher website states, “Through decades of award-winning scholarship on the Civil War, Edward L. Ayers has himself ventured beyond the interpretative status quo to recover the range of possibilities embedded in the past as it was lived. Here he turns that distinctive historical sensibility to a period when bold visionaries and critics built vigorous traditions of dissent and innovation into the foundation of the nation. Those traditions remain alive for us today.”

Taking up this final statement, Dr. Ayers’s reading will be followed by a conversation with Humanities Coordinator Nathan Snaza about the role and importance of humanities practices in today’s world.


Data Trouble

Wednesday, November 15th, 5 p.m.

Humanities Building, Humanities Commons 220

Miriam Posner is an assistant professor at the UCLA Department of Information Studies. She’s also a digital humanities scholar with interests in labor, race, feminism, and the history and philosophy of data. Miriam has published widely on technology, data, and the humanities, including pieces in Postmodern Culture, Theory & Event, American Quarterly, The Moving Image, Logic, The Guardian, and The New Yorker.

Digital humanists often use, trade, and think about data. Many "traditional” humanists, though, bristle at the notion that their sources constitute “data.” Is this just a problem of terminology? I’ll argue in this talk that our data trouble is more substantial than we’ve acknowledged. The term "data" seems alien to the humanities not just because humanists aren’t used to computers, but because it exposes some very real differences in the way humanists and scholars from some other fields conceive of the work they do. In this talk, I’ll outline the specific points of tension between the notion of data and the ways that humanists work with sources, and I’ll explain why I think this epistemological divide actually suggests some incredibly interesting avenues of investigation.


Reimagining Community in Cinema

The University of Richmond 2023-2024 Tucker Boatwright Festival of Literature and Arts is hosted by the Film Studies interdisciplinary program. “Reimagining Community in Cinema” explores the diverse ways in which community is historically imagined and reimagined in documentary and fiction film from the silent era to the digital age. Through events such as symposia, masterclasses, film screenings and conversations with filmmakers, the festival honors in particular the contributions of historically marginalized communities.

For a complete schedule and up-to-date information see: https://as.richmond.edu/tucker-boatwright/2023-2024/index.html


Careful Worldmaking: A WGSS Symposium

January 25-26, 2024

University of Richmond, Time TBD, Humanities Commons, 220

The WGSS program invites its faculty and staff, current and alumni majors and minors, and everyone in the UR community who cares about the program to gather for an evening and a day to consider what “careful worldmaking” means in the fields of women, gender, and sexuality studies, and specifically what it means, or might mean, at the University of Richmond. The symposium invites us to consider how our histories and our dreams for feminist, queer, and decolonial futures inform our everyday practices together on campus, and in our lives beyond.

Thursday: Presentations by former Stephanie Bennett-Smith Chair Ladelle McWhorter, and newly appointed Chair Julietta Singh, followed by a reception.

Friday: Presentations by special guests Naisargi Davé (University of Toronto), Melody Jue (University of California- Santa Barbara), and Jennifer Christine Nash (Duke University).


A Multiversal Rally: On Neurodivergence and Poetics

February 7-9, 2024

University of Richmond, Humanities Building, Time TBD

Chris Martin writes in May Tomorrow Be Awake: On Poetry, Autism, and Our Neurodivergent Future (HarperOne, 2022): “I believe autistic attention is a form of love… What if we let our poetic, autistic resistance to neurotypical ‘minding’ serve as an opening toward the loving, liberatory worlds we deserve?” Taking up this axiom (autistic attention is love) and this question, “A Multiversal Rally” stages the relations between attention, poetics, and love through multisensory experiences.

This event is a three-day cluster of readings, performances, conversations, interventions, and workshops featuring Chris Martin, Adam Wolfond, Estée Klar, and JJJJJerome Ellis. A program will be available closer to the event.

Chris Martin is the author of May Tomorrow Be Awake as well as four volumes of poetry, most recently Things to Do in Hell (Coffee House Press, 2020). He is the connective hub at Unrestricted Interest (devoted to “neurodivergent listening, learning, and languaging”) and the editor of the new “Multiverse” poetry series with Milkweed Editions. Chris lives in Minneapolis.

Adam Wolfond is the youngest poet ever to appear in the American Academy of Poets “poem-a-day” series. Author of two chapbooks for Unrestricted Editions and The Wanting Way (2023), the second book published in Milkweed’s Multiverse series, Adam is a nonspeaking autistic poet who collaborates with his mother, Estée Klar, a visual artist and academic. Together they organize Dis/assembly, a Canadian arts space/project driven by “inventing with neurodiversity.” They are based in Toronto, CA. You can find a recent poem of Adam’s in the New York Times Magazine.

JJJJJerome Ellis is a Norfolk, VA based “blk disabled animal, artist, and proud stutterer.” His work moves across sound, ritual, visualities, and printed words, creating both solo and as part of collectives (most importantly the duo James and Jerome). His book Aster of Ceremonies is forthcoming in the Multiverse series this fall.

This event is co-sponsored by the English Department Writers Series and Lecture Series.

Theme Courses for 2023-2024


AFST 201: Rumors of War Seminar, Jillean McCommons (General)
AMST 391: Drugs in America, Laura Browder
ANTH 379: Global Perspectives on Boundaries, Walls and Border Security, Margaret Dorsey
ANTH 379: Exhibitions and Digital Archives: Anthropology and Art, Margaret Dorsey
BIO 312: Developmental Biology, Isaac Skromme 
FREN 305: Writing in French through Culture and Literature, Sara Pappas 
FREN 431: What are the Liberal Arts for?, Lidia Radi 
FYS: Geek Chic, Greg Cavenaugh (General)
FYS: Heroes and Villains, Stephen Brauer/ Casey Ireland (General)
FYS: Race and Immigration in Europe, Michelle Kahn (General)
FYS: Race and Law, Kathleen Skerrett (General)
FYS: Hollywood and the Asian American Imagination, Jessica Chan (General)
HIST 216: American Culture, 1945-2000, Nicole Sackley (General)
HIST 299: Jews in the US, Eric Yellin (General)
IDST 397: Humanities Fellows Seminar: What Forms the Self? Nathan Snaza
ITAL 323: The Literature of Exile, Lidia Radi
LAIS 383: Space/Body in Colonial Spanish American, Jannette Amaral-Rodríguez
LAWE 648 01: Race and the Constitution, Marissa Jackson
LAWE 699 06: State Power: Theory and Practice, Marissa Jackson
MKT 424: Consumer Behavior, Sara Hanson 
PHIL 272: Modern European Philosophy, Will Reckner (General)
PHIL 352: Kant, Phenomenology, and Existentialism, Will Reckner
PHIL 382: Agency: Puzzles and Problems, Nancy Schauber
RELG 205: Body/Sex in World Religious Literatures, Jane Geaney (General)
REL 303: Women, Gender, Sexuality, and Islam, Mimi Hanaoka
RELG 355: Psychology of Religion: Shame, Love, and Hate, Jane Geaney 
SOC 257: Sociology of Hip Hop, Matthew Oware (General)
SOC 279: Governing Health, Medicine, and the Body, Ryan Steel (General)
SOC 321: Masculinities, Matthew Oware
WGSS 200: Introduction to WGSS, Kathleen Skerrett (General)
WGSS 379: Writing Earth, Julietta Singh


FALL 2023

AFST101: Introduction to Africana Studies, Deborwah Faulk (General)
AFST201: The Rumors of War Seminar, Jillean McCommons (General)
ANTH340: Borders and Migration, Margaret Dorsey 
DANC248: Movement and Improvisation, Alicia Díaz (General)
ENGL 233 Contemporary Native American Literatures, Monika Siebert (General)
ENGL 236: Global Women Writers, Julietta Singh (General)
ENGL 304: Shakespeare Then and Now: Genre, Gender, Identities, Anthony Russell
ENGL 325: Age of the American Renaissance, Kevin Pelletier
ENGL 330: Topics in Victorian Literature (on Victorian Monsters), Libby Gruner
ENGL 367: Indigenous Film in North America, Monika Siebert
ENGL 400: Disconnection and the Contemporary Novel, Thomas Manganaro
FYS: Beyond Civilization: An Adventure of Heart and Mind, Roger Mancastroppa (General)
FYS: Monumental Change, Nicole Maurantonio (Endeavor)
FYS: Storytelling and Identity, Terry Dolson (Endeavor)
HIST 216: American Culture, 1945-2000, Nicole Sackley (General)
HIST 323: Gender and Sexuality in Europe, Michelle Kahn
LAIS 497: Latinxs in Film & Television, Laura Hernández
LLC 135: All About America, Leslie Bohon (Gen)
LLC 322: Intro to 20th and 21st Century Russian Literature, Yvonne Howell (Gen)
LLC 360: Representing the Holocaust, Kathrin Bower (General)
MUS 114: Popular Music of the 1970s and 1980s, Joanna Love (General)
PHIL 101: Introduction to Philosophical Problems and Arguments, Will Reckner (General)
PLSC 311: Classical Political Thought, Kevin Cherry (Gen)
RHCS 412: Rhetoric of Religion, Greg Cavenaugh
SDLC 105: Introduction to Self-Directed Language Learning, Michael Marsh-Soloway (Also: SDLC I [110], II [111], III [112], and IV [113])
SOC 101: Introduction to Sociology, Chris Mowery, Bedelia Richards, Ryan Steel, Matthew
Oware (General)
SOC 279: Sociology of Black Families, Deborwah Faulk (General)
SOC 305: Conformity, Deviance, and Institutional Control, Ryan Steel
WGSS 200: Intro to WGSS, Dorothy Holland (General)
WGSS 400/379*: Becoming Subjects. Nathan Snaza (*General)


Bridge to Success Program (for incoming first-year students; applications due in early May)
The Black Vernacular Tradition, Bertram Ashe 
 Narratives of Personal Development, Nathan Snaza
Hip hop and Black Culture, Matthew Oware