Humanities 110

Introduction to the Humanities

Syllabus - Spring 2024

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Full Schedule

Week 1

Mon 22 Jan

In-Person lecture: 9:00-9:50am in Vollum Lecture Hall


  • Information & Resources
  • Camilla Townsend, “Introduction,” and “A Note on Terminology, Translation, and Pronunciation,” in The Fifth Sun; A New History of the Aztecs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 1-12, xi-xii.
  • Selections from The Universal History of the Things of New Spain [La historia general de las cosas de Nueva España], Book 8 = Bernadino de Sahagún, Florentine Codex. General History of the Things of New Spain, vol. 9, eds. Arthur Anderson and Charles Dibble (Santa Fe: University of Utah Press, 2012), 1-5, 41-5, 61-5, with plates 1-17, 66-71, 93-4.

Lecture: “The Many Mexicos in Historical Context.”
Christian Kroll

Wed 24 Jan


Lecture: “Mexica (Aztec) Philosophy at the Time of the Conquest.”
James Maffie (University of Maryland, guest lecturer)

Fri 26 Jan


Lecture: “Mapping the Cosmos at the Templo Mayor.”
Margot Minardi

Week 2

Mon 29 Jan


Lecture: “We Walked a Long Time to Get Here; We Have Been Here Forever."
Nathalia King

Wed 31 Jan


Lecture: “Reading Mexica Imperialism through the Codex Mendoza.”
David Garrett

Fri 2 Feb


  • Information & Resources
  • Selections from The Universal History of the Things of New Spain [La historia general de las cosas de Nueva España], Book 12 = We People Here: Nahuatl Accounts of the Conquest of Mexico, ed. and trans. James Lockhart (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 48-9, 126-163, 301, 306-7.
  • Bernal Díaz, The Conquest of New Spain [Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España], trans. J. M. Cohen  (London: Penguin, 1963), 284-307.
  • Gallery: Lienzo de Tlaxcala.

Lecture: “Telling the Story of New Spain.”
Nigel Nicholson

Week 3

Mon 5 Feb

In-Person lecture: 9:00-9:50am in Vollum Lecture Hall


Lecture: “‘She is Ours, All Ours’: The Virgin of Guadalupe as a Political Symbol.”
Jenny Sakai

Wed 7 Feb


  • Information & Resources
  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, “Loa to Narcissus,” inPoems, Protest, and a Dream, 195-239.
  • Diana Taylor, “Performance and/as History,” The Drama Review 50 (2006): 67-86.
  • Selection from “The Relacion,” in Tepoztlan: A Mexican Village (University of Chicago Press: 1973. 224-234. [This text provides a translation of the speech delivered by the actor representing El Tepozteco as part of Tepoztlan's annual fiesta. For a description of the full performance, see Taylor's article and the lecture.]

Lecture: “Dramas of Conversion: Sor Juana's Loa to the Divine Narcissus and the Reto of Tepoztlán.”
Simone Waller

Fri 9 Feb

No reading or lecture

Sat 10 Feb

Fifth paper due

Due Saturday, February 10, at 5:00 PM to your conference leader.

Week 4

Mon 12 Feb


  • Information and Resources
  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, “Reply to Sor Filotea,” in Poems, Protest, and a Dream, 1-75. 
  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Redondilla 92 (“A Philosophical Satire”); Decimas 130 and 132; Sonnet 161, in Poems, Protest, and a Dream, 148-51, 165, 179. 

Lecture: "On Knowledge and Epistemic Injustice in Sor Juana's Reply"
Ann Delehanty/Meg Scharle

Wed 14 Feb


Lecture: “Casta Paintings.”
Laura Leibman

Fri 16 Feb


Note: The lecturer recommends watching the lecture before beginning the reading.

  • Information & Resources
  • Selections from The Mexico Reader: History, Culture, Politics, ed. Gilbert M. Joseph and Timothy J. Henderson (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2002):
    • José Maria Morelos, “Sentiments of the Nation” (1813), 189-191.
    • Agustín de Iturbide, “Plan of Iguala” (1821), 192-195.
    • Editors of El Tiempo, “A Conservative Profession of Faith” (1846), 220-225.
    • Mariano Otero, “Considerations Relating to the Political and Social Situation of the Mexican Republic in the Year 1847” (1847), 226-238.   
  • Gallery: Diego Rivera, National Palace mural (c. 1929-1935).

Lecture: “Turning Points: Mexico in the Nineteenth Century.”
Margot Minardi

Week 5

Mon 19 Feb

In-Person lecture: 9:00-9:50am in Vollum Lecture Hall


Lecture: “Modernity and the Mexican Revolution.”
David Garrett

Wed 21 Feb


Lecture: “State-Sponsored Art.”
Nigel Nicholson

Thu 22 Feb

Screening: Los Olvidados (optional event)

John Sanders

6:30 PM, Vollum Lecture Hall

Fri 23 Feb


Lecture: “Dreams and Nightmares: Form and Context in Los Olvidados.”
John Sanders

Week 6

Mon 26 Feb


Lecture: “All Roads Lead to ‘Roma.’”
Libby Drumm

Wed 28 Feb


Lecture: “Testimonio and the Politics of Genre.”
Ann Delehanty

Fri 1 Mar


Lecture: “The Inconvenience of Revolution: Zapatismo, Cynicism, Dignity, and Memory.”
Christian Kroll

Week 7

Mon 4 Mar

In-Person lecture: 9:00-9:50am in Vollum Lecture Hall


Lecture: “‘True Life’: Propaganda, Leadership, and the Politics of Black Art.”
Mark Burford

Wed 6 Mar


  • Information & Resources
  • W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Propaganda of History,” in Black Reconstruction in America (New Brunswick: Transaction, 2013), 635-51.
  • Ida B. Wells, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, in Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900, 2nd ed., ed. Jacqueline Jones Royster (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016), 46-68.

Lecture: "Reconstructing History, Reconstructing Freedom: Ida B. Wells and W.E.B. Du Bois."
Paddy Riley

Fri 8 Mar


Fri 8 Mar

Sixth Paper Due

Due Friday, March 8, at 5:00 PM to your conference leader.

Sat 9 Mar

Spring Break

March 9 – March 17

Week 8

Mon 18 Mar

In-Person panel lecture: 9:00-9:50 a.m. in Vollum Lecture Hall


Lecture: “The Veil, Second Sight, and Double Consciousness,” and “Whiteness is the Ownership of the Earth forever and ever, Amen!”
Nathalia King and Jin Chang

Wed 20 Mar


Lecture: “The Pain, Pleasures, and Possibilities of Learning.”
Margot Minardi and Dustin Simpson

Fri 22 Mar


Lecture: “Who, How and Why Not? Questioning African American Spirituals.”
Mark Burford

Week 9

Mon 25 Mar

In-Person lecture: 9:00-9:50am in Vollum Lecture Hall


Lecture: “Harlem, New York: City within a City.”
Margot Minardi

Wed 27 Mar


  • Information & Resources
    • The lecturer recommends watching the lecture before beginning the reading.
  • Universal Negro Improvement Association, “Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World” (1920).
  • Marcus Garvey, “Africa for the Africans” and “Liberty Hall Emancipation Day Speech,” in The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, ed. Lewis, 17-28.
  • Claude McKay, excerpt from “Banjo,” in The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, ed. Lewis, 389-95.
  • W.E.B. Du Bois, excerpts from “Dark Princess,” in The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, ed. Lewis, 511-36.
  • Langston Hughes, “Letter from Spain,” in The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, Volume 1: The Poems 1921-40, ed. Arnold Rampersad (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri, 2001), 252-3.

Lecture: "Harlem in the World: Race, Diaspora, and Black Internationalism"
Kritish Rajbhandari

Fri 29 Mar


  • Information & Resources
  • Sterling Brown, "Our Literary Audience"
  • Selections from The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, ed.Lewis
    • Countee Cullen, “Yet Do I Marvel” and “Heritage,” 244-247
    • Claude McKay, “If We Must Die,” “The White House,” and “The Harlem Dancer,” 290-291, 296
    • Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “The Weary Blues,” “Red Silk Stockings,” “Goodbye, Christ,” “Advertisement for the Waldorf-Astoria,” 257-267
    • Sterling Brown, “Southern Road,” “Odyssey of Big Boy,” and “Ma Rainey,” 227-232
    • James Weldon Johnson, “Creation,” 286-288
    • Gwendolyn Bennet, “Hatred,” 223
    • Helene Johnson (all the poems), 276-278

Lecture: “Harlem Renaissance Poetry.”
Dustin Simpson

Week 10

Mon 1 Apr


Lecture: “Flaming Youth.”
Jay Dickson

Wed 3 Apr


  • Information & Resources
  • Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, chapters 1-3 (pp.1-25).
  • Zora Neale Hurston, “What White Publishers Won’t Print,” in I Love Myself When I Am Laughing...And Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader, ed. Alice Walker (Old Westbury, N.Y.: Feminist Press, 1979), 169-173. 
  • Langston Hughes, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” in The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, ed. Lewis, 91–95.
  • George S. Schuyler, “The Negro-Art Hokum,” in The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, ed. Lewis, 96–99.

Lecture: “The Schuyler-Hughes Debate.”
Jin Chang

Fri 5 Apr


Lecture: “Hungry Listening.”
Libby Drumm

Week 11

Mon 8 Apr

In-Person lecture: 9:00-9:50am in Vollum Lecture Hall


Lecture: “From Mules to Men: Animals in Their Eyes were Watching God.”
Kritish Rajbhandari

Wed 10 Apr


Lecture: “Moving the Color Line: Jacob Lawrence’s ‘Migration Series.’”
Nathalia King

Fri 12 Apr


  • Information & Resources
  • Listening guide
  • Listening assignment. The song list is visible if you click on “Hovda Blues.”
    • W.C. Handy, “St. Louis Blues.”
    • Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, “St. Louis Blues.”
    • Ida Cox, “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues.”
    • Ida Cox, “Graveyard Dream Blues.”
    • Ma Rainey, “Runaway Blues.”
    • Blind Willie Johnson, “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.”
    • Blind Willie Johnson, Willie B. Richardson, “The Soul of a Man.”
    • Skip James, “Devil Got My Woman.”
    • Count Basie, “Boogie Woogie Blues.”
    • Sister Rosetta Tharpe, “Strange Things Happening Every Day.”
    • Chuck Berry, “Roll Over Beethoven."
    • Duke Ellington, "Happy Go Lucky Local." 
  •  Langston Hughes, “The Weary Blues,” “Jazzonia,” and “The Blues I'm Playing,” in The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, ed. Lewis, 260-1, 619-627.

Lecture: “The Many-Sided Blues.”
Paul Hovda

Sat 13 Apr

Seventh paper due

Due Saturday, April 13, at 5:00 PM to your conference leader.

Week 12

Mon 15 Apr

In-Person lecture: 9:00-9:50am in Vollum Lecture Hall


Lecture: “Master Meter: The Poetics of Ralph Ellison.”
Peter Miller

Wed 17 Apr


  • Ellison, Invisible Man, chapters 5-10 (pp.109-230).

Lecture: “Invisible Man: An Apprenticeship in Identity.”
Jin Chang

Fri 19 Apr


  • Ellison, Invisible Man, chapters 11-16 (pp.231-355).

Lecture: “Boomerangs of History: Dispossession, Hibernation and Communism (A Conversation).”
Christian Kroll and Kritish Rajbhandari

Week 13

Mon 22 Apr


  • Ellison, Invisible Man, chapters 17-22 (pp.356-478).

Lecture: “Modernity.”
Peter Steinberger

Wed 24 Apr


  • Ellison, Invisible Man, chapters 23-epilogue (pp.479-581).  

Lecture: “Running and Dodging the Forces of History.”
Ann Delehanty

Fri 26 Apr


Tue 7 May

Final exam

Tuesday, May 7, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Exam Instructions
Exam Website

Course Logistics


  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Poems, Protest, and a Dream: Selected Writings, trans. Margaret Sayers Peden (New York: Penguin Books, 1997).
  • W.E.B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). Note: parts of this book are in the public domain, and are accessible via Project Gutenberg here.
  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (New York: Vintage International, 1995).
  • Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (New York: Harper Perennial, 2006).
  • David Levering Lewis, ed., The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader (New York: Penguin, 1995).
  • Jose Emilio Pacheco, Battles in the Desert, trans. Katherine Silver (New York: New Directions, 2021)

Additional assigned texts are available on e-reserves accessible via links embedded in the syllabus below. You will need your Reed username and password to access these texts. Please bring a copy of the day’s reading assignment to class each day. The library has on reserve a limited number of the required books.

On most Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays of the semester, a lecture is assigned. On the Mondays, a lot of these are in-person (weeks 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12), and for these lectures we will meet in Vollum Lecture Hall at 9:00 am. Please be on time; the moments when we all gather together as a unified class are important. In-person lecture days are flagged on the syllabus. The other lectures will be posted so they can be accessed online; you can review these when it is most convenient to do so, but, obviously, do so before your conference meeting. Some of these lectures have been reused from last year, but, of course, only when still relevant. Lectures are regularly updated.

Humanities 110 is a yearlong course, and students are expected to remain in the same conference throughout the year. In cases of absolutely unresolvable schedule conflicts, students may petition for a change of conference time. Petitions (in the form of an email) should be addressed to Nathalia King, including an explanation of the conflict and why it cannot be resolved. Students granted a change of conference time will be assigned to new sections based on available slots and the student’s schedule; requests to move into a particular conference generally cannot be honored.

Three course-wide papers will be assigned in the fall semester, due at the times designated on the syllabus. Individual conference leaders may assign additional writing. If the due date for an assignment conflicts with a religious holiday or obligation that you wish to observe, please consult with your conference leader. Over the course of the semester, students are also required to submit at least three conference discussion questions, in writing, to their conference leader. Due dates for these questions are determined by individual conference leaders.

If you have a documented disability requiring accommodations, please contact Disability Support Services. Notifications of accommodations on exams, papers, other writing assignments, or conferences should be directed to your conference leader. Notifications of accommodations regarding lectures can be directed to the chair of the course, Nigel Nicholson. You are advised to consult with your conference leader about how your accommodations might apply to specific assignments or circumstances in this course. 

Your conference leader is your first line of support for any questions you have about the course. Please also be sure to explore the Hum 110 website for additional information. The Course Resources entries provide brief introductions to upcoming readings and suggestions for how to approach them. The Writing in Hum 110 page provides tips on the writing process. 

The Writing Center is a particularly valuable resource for Hum 110 students working on papers. You can get help with all stages of the writing process from peer tutors at the Writing Center. Links to the Writing Center session are posted on the Drop-in hours for the Writing Center this semester are posted here. Extra hours in weeks when papers are due are also offered. In addition, students are eligible for one free hour of Hum. tutoring every week. For additional information about support resources available to you on the Reed campus, please see Student Life’s Key Support Resources for StudentsIf you have questions that aren’t answered here, please consult your conference leader or email

General questions for semester

  • How is humanity defined? How are these definitions implicated in different social orders and movements?
  • How do forced encounters of colonial Mexico and the African diaspora produce new, hybrid identities and cultures? What continuities and differences are there in these formations?
  • How do colonized and formerly enslaved peoples retain their cultural heritage and communal identities when under pressure to assimilate or to adopt a dominant culture? What new cultural forms are created from these contacts and adaptations?
  • What kinds of questions and conflicts arise from forced encounters between hybrid cultures? How have various thinkers and practitioners across time responded to these questions?
  • How do the different narrative mediums (e.g. maps, architectural assemblages, catalogs, encyclopedias, novels, films, sonnets, murals, salon paintings, etc.) facilitate or promote particular understandings of their world?
  • How and why do artworks gain authority? What is or should be their relation to politics?