Spring 2018 Topic Courses

CLA391H5: Topics in Roman History & Culture (A. Bendlin)

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in CE 79 and destruction of the Roman town of Pompeii (as well as of its neighbor, Herculaneum) provides a unique opportunity, now that archaeologists have recovered a great amount of data from these two towns, to study the everyday life of their inhabitants. This course will attempt to rediscover the experiences of the freeborn (male and female), freed persons, and slaves. We will discuss the demography of these Roman towns and their public infrastructure; the interior design of Roman houses, their art treasures, and the housing needs of the poor; the inhabitants’ participation in local politics (and the impact the imperial regime in Rome had on their lives); the townspeople’s leisure activities; their finances and the economy of Pompeii; and last but not least their religious beliefs. Pompeii can serve as a historical laboratory that allows classicists to venture beyond traditional historical inquiries, which all too often focus exclusively on the capital Rome and political history. 

CLA395H5: Topics in Classics: Ancient Piracy - Shiver Me Timbers! Pirates and Theft in the Ancient World (C.Fulton)

While our modern perception of pirates has been shaped by the Golden Age of piracy in the New World, and most notably by the portrayal of pirates in Hollywood, is there a comparable definition of piracy in antiquity? How did piracy influence ancient economic and cultural practices? This course explores piracy in the ancient Mediterranean alongside questions of ownership, replication, and theft. We will discuss the socio-economic roles of pirates, political responses to piracy, acquisition of booty from military conquests, and practices of replication in art and literature. Using material and literary evidence for pirates, raiders, traders, and merchants, we will address the formation of collective group identities and their economic role. Finally, we will discuss popular portrayals of pirates from cinema as well as definitions of piracy, copyright, and the ownership of materials within our modern society. 

HIS395H5: Topics in History: TBA

Description coming soon.

HIS495H5: Advanced Topics in European History: Medieval Towns (M. Cowan)

This seminar considers the ideals and realities of urban life in medieval Europe. Among the topics to be covered are government, guilds, social conflict, religion, civic identity, migration, and mortality. Students will read primary sources from medieval towns (in translation) alongside good secondary sources by leading historians, and they will have the choice of either writing a research essay or completing another kind of historical project (such as creating a time-traveller's guide to a medieval town, or drawing a plausible town plan, or writing a report on how lessons from medieval towns can help solve urban problems today, or making a seal and charter for a fictional town).

RLG330H5: Topics in Judaism: Becoming a People of the Book (J. Vroom)

By the time of the Rabbinic period, the Torah/Pentateuch was considered to be sacred scripture and the foundational basis for belief and practice throughout the Jewish world. But how and when did the Torah achieve this authoritative status? How does a piece of literature come to be viewed as sacred, biblical, or part of a canon of scripture? In other words, how did the Bible become the Bible? In this course, we will explore the historical and literary dimensions of this question as it relates to the Torah. We will trace the development of the earliest literary layers of the Torah in their ancient Near Eastern context, continuing to its formation and completion in the Second Temple period, and its rise in status to authoritative scripture by the early Rabbinic period.

RLG360H5: Topics in South Asian Religions: Debates in Ancient Indian History and Religion (L. Obrock)

This course focuses on debates in Ancient Indian history and religion from the Vedic Period to the Gupta Empire (ca 1000 BCE to 500 CE). The readings and discussion will develop a sensitivity to historiographical and theoretical problems in the study of ancient South Asia through a careful investigation of historical continuity and disjunction in the history of religious practices and ideas, the emergence of political forms (especially the "state"), and the relationship between discursive production and power.  It will be of interest to students of religion, history, literature, and archaeology of premodern India.

RLG401H5: Advanced Topics in Religion and the Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts: Teaching Religion and Modern Literature (K. Derry)

In this course we will examine multiple ways in which it is possible to think about connections between religion and modern literature. We will do this by considering how one might go about teaching such connections. In this regard, students will have the opportunity to take ownership of their learning by working in groups to design a 200-level course on the topic of “Religion and Modern Literature,” centred around a single literary text of their choosing. 

RLG411H5: Advanced Topics in Religion, Media, and Culture: TBA

Description coming soon.

RLG460H5: Advanced Topics in South Adian Religions: Renunciation and Erotica in Sanskrit Poetry (A. Rao)

Of the aspects of courtly life treated in early Sanskrit poetry, none was more central than erotic love, with depictions of courtship in dramas, independent verses, and epic poems closely mirroring the categories and technical language of the early science of erotica. This course examines the paradoxical relationship of the erotic in Sanskrit poetry with its opposite—renunciation and the technologies of asceticism involving a rejection of sexuality. While the treatment of these themes reflects a deeper civilizational history emblematized by the figure of Śiva, the erotic ascetic, Sanskrit courtly poetry allows us to examine problems peculiar to courtly life and kingship. Did the aestheticization of power in Sanskrit poetry conflict with transcendental ideals? How was the legitimacy of pleasure seen as both autonomous from and concurrent with other legitimate human ends? We will read all works in translation, and no familiarity with Sanskrit is presumed.

WGS337H5: Special Topics in Women and Gender Studies: Cultures of Race and Surveillance (N. Charles)

From geopolitics and technoscience, to selfies, prisons, and biosecurity, this course conceptualizes cultures of race and surveillance within critical transnational feminist frameworks and Black studies scholarship.