Humanities 110

Introduction to the Humanities

Syllabus | Spring 2023

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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: This book is in the public domain and can be accessed through 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).
  • Alain Locke, ed., Survey Graphic; Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro (Baltimore: Black Classic Books, 1980).

The following book includes required readings for some days and recommended readings for others. You may purchase it at the bookstore or access it for free as an e-book via the library website: 

  • Davíd Carrasco, The Aztecs: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011) [E-book].

Additional readings are available on e-reserves and through online galleries, 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 each required text. 


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 the course Chair, Paul Hovda, 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 spring 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. 


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, Paul Hovda. 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 Introduction and Resources entries on the lecture schedule provides 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. In Fall 2020, the Writing Center will be virtual, and offer drop-in help online from 7:00-10:00p.m. Pacific time; you can find links to the Writing Center session posted on the Drop-in Tutoring Schedule website. Extra tutoring help will be available in the weeks leading up to paper due dates. 

For additional information about support resources available to you on the Reed campus, please see Student Life’s Key Support Resources for Students.

If you have questions that aren’t answered here, please consult your conference leader or email

General questions for the semester

  • How do forced encounters of colonial Mexico and the African diaspora produce new, hybrid identities and cultures?
  • 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?


Week 1 - Origins and Foundations

  • How do different actors make use of the past to understand or interpret their own contemporary society, worldview, or culture?

Mon 23 Jan

Lecture: "Broad Perspectives on Mexico City / Tenochtitlan"
Christian Kroll, Laura Leibman, Simone Waller

Watch lectures in this order:

Christian Kroll:

Laura Leibman:

Simone Waller:

Wed 25 Jan

Lecture: “We walked a long time to get here; We have been here forever”
Nathalia King

Fri 27 Jan

Lecture: "Mexica (Aztec) Philosophy at the Time of the Conquest"
James Maffie

Week 2 - Translations and Survivals

  • What aspects of precolonial society survive in these documents? To what extent can we recognize and understand those survivals in retrospect?
  • To what extent are precolonial survivals translated or effaced by the colonial context of their creation?
  • What aspects of precolonial society resist translation, effacement, or erasure?

Mon 30 Jan

Lecture: "Mapping the Cosmos at the Templo Mayor"
Margot Minardi

Wed 1 Feb

Lecture: "Reading Mexica Imperialism through the Codex Mendoza"
David Garrett

Fri 3 Feb

Lecture: "From Invasion to Colonialism"
David Garrett

Week 3 - Hybridity and Resistance

  • What is cultural hybridity?
  • How do the religious forms of New Spain demonstrate hybridity? 
  • How do these religious forms resist hybridity?

Mon 6 Feb


Wed 8 Feb

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

Fri 10 Feb

  • Introduction and resources
  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, “Loa to Narcissus,” in Poems, Protest, and a Dream, 195-239.
  • Diana Taylor, "Performance and/as History." The Drama Review 50.1 (2006): 67-86.
  • Selection from "The Relacion" in Tepoztlan: A Mexican Village. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press: 1973. 227-234. [Note, 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

Sat 11 Feb

Fifth Paper Due

Due Saturday, February 11, at 5:00 PM to your conference leader.

View Paper Topics

Week 4 - Colonial Society: Hierarchies and Communities

  • How was New Spanish colonial society organized?
  • How did gender and racial hierarchies and identities organize colonial society?
  • How did individuals navigate and adapt to these organizations?
  • What did contemporaries think about colonial society as they imagined new social formations?

Mon 13 Feb

  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Poems, Protest, and a Dream 
    • Decimas 130, 132 (p. 165)
    • Sonnet 161 (p. 179)
    • Redondilla 92: A Philosophical Satire,” 148-151.
    • “Reply to Sor Filotea,” 1-75. 
Lecture: "Sex & Passion in the Poetry of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz"
Laura Leibman

Mon 13 Feb

Sor Juana Poetry Reading (optional event)

Laura Leibman and Conference 17

7:30 PM, Eliot chapel

Wed 15 Feb

Lecture: "Casta Paintings"
Laura Leibman

Fri 17 Feb

Note: The lecturer recommends watching the lecture before beginning the reading.
  • Introduction and 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 - Envisioning the Modern Nation

  • What is modernity? What is the nation?
  • How do different agents represent the modern nation?
  • How, structurally and ideologically, do this week’s works relate modern Mexico to its past?

Mon 20 Feb

Lecture: "Modernity and the Mexican Revolution"
David Garrett

Mon 20 Feb

Q&A Session (optional event)

Margot Minardi and David Garrett

5:40 PM, Vollum 116

Tue 21 Feb

Los Olvidados screening (optional event)

John Sanders

6:30 PM, Vollum lecture hall

Wed 22 Feb

Note: The lecturer recommends watching parts 1 and 2 of the lecture, before watching Los Olvidados. 
Lecture: "Dreams and Nightmares: Form and Context in Los Olvidados"
John Sanders

Fri 24 Feb

Lecture: "State-Sponsored Art"
Nigel Nicholson

Week 6 - Negotiating National Culture

  • Who speaks for the modern nation, and how?
  • Who is the national audience, and how can it be addressed?

Mon 27 Feb

Lecture: “Frida Kahlo and Maria Izquierdo: Visualizing Post-Revolutionary Femininities”
Alberto McKelligan-Hernandez (PSU)

Wed 1 Mar

Lecture: "Testimonio and the Politics of Genre"
Ann Delehanty

Fri 3 Mar

Christian Kroll

Week 7 - Modern Social Analysis: Double Consciousness and the Color Line

  • What are double consciousness and the color line? How can these concepts be used to understand early twentieth-century America?
  • According to Du Bois, how do blackness and whiteness construct one another?
  • What problems did black intellectuals identify in early twentieth-century America? How did new scientific approaches to social analysis inform their attempts to write about and address these problems?

Mon 6 Mar

  • Introduction and resources
  • 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.
  • Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk, Chapter 2
Lecture: "Strange Fruit"
Pancho Savery

Wed 8 Mar

Lecture: See below
Nathalia King, Jin Chang, Pancho Savery

"The Veil, Second Sight and Double Consciousness" - Nathalia King

"Whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen!" - Jin Chang

"Double Consciousness" - Pancho Savery

Fri 10 Mar

Lecture: "The Pain, Pleasures, and Possibilities of Learning"
Margot Minardi, Dustin Simpson, and Meg Scharle & Sonia Sabnis

Fri 10 Mar

Sixth Paper Due

Due Friday, March 10, at 5:00 PM to your conference leader.

View Paper Topics

Sat 11 Mar

Spring Break

March 11 – March 19

Week 8 - Modern Media: The Black Press

  • How did black activists, authors, and artists use mass printed media to address social problems and advance social agendas?
  • What complications or conflicts arose when black activists, authors, and artists sought to mobilize new movements through the press?

Mon 20 Mar

Lecture: "Racial Uplift, Print Culture, and the Audience Problem"
David Garrett

Wed 22 Mar

  • Introduction and resources
  • James Weldon Johnson, “The Making of Harlem,” in Survey Graphic, 635-639.
  • Survey Graphic
    • Cover;
    • Table of contents and "The Gist of It" (p. 627);
    • Locke, "Harlem" pp. 629-30;
    • Locke, "Enter the New Negro pp. 631-34;
    • Reiss, "Harlem Types" pp. 651-54
    • Locke, "The Art of the Ancestors" p. 673.
  • In The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, ed. Lewis: Du Bois, "Criteria of Negro Art" p. 100-105
Paul Hovda

Fri 24 Mar

  • FIRE!!: Devoted to the Young Negro Artist (1926) in Negro Periodicals in the United States (Westport, CT: Negro Universities Press, 1970) 
    • Focus on the following sections: Richard Bruce Nugent, “Smoke, Lilies And Jade  A Novel, Part I” p.33-39, Zora Neale Hurston, “Sweat” p.40-45
Lecture: "Flaming Youth"
Jay Dickson

Week 9 - Modern Society: Creating Community, Contesting Public Space

  • How did urban space and migration create the opportunity for new social and political groups to emerge?
  • How did urban space reproduce or create new hierarchies and systems of exploitation?
  • How did urban space and migration occasion new articulations and visualizations of a national or Pan-African identity?

Mon 27 Mar

Lecture: "Harlem, New York: City within a City"
Margot Minardi

Wed 29 Mar

Lecture: "The World in Harlem, Harlem in the World"
Radhika Natarajan

Fri 31 Mar

Nathalia King

Week 10 - Coming of Age in the Novel Part I: Maturation of a Movement

  • How do novels written at mid-century look back on earlier literary and social movements, problems, or ideas?
  • What is the motif of “coming of age,” and how can it be applied to black literary, social, and political traditions embodied in this novel?

Mon 3 Apr

  • Introduction and resources
  • Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Chapters 1-3, p. 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. 
  • In The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, ed. Lewis: 
    • Langston Hughes, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” 91–95.
    • George S. Schuyler, “The Negro-Art Hokum,” 96–99.
Lecture: "The Schuyler-Hughes Debate"
Jin Chang

Wed 5 Apr

Lecture: “Hungry Listening”
Elizabeth Drumm

Fri 7 Apr

Lecture: "From Mules to Men, Animals in Their Eyes Were Watching God"
Kritish Rajbhandari

Week 11 - Music and Poetry: Modern Forms of the Black Diaspora

  • What aspects of modern American musical traditions originate in the West African diaspora?
  • How was this diasporic musical tradition employed in twentieth- century America?
  • What is literary modernism?
  • How did writers reconcile the general features of modernism with their particular identities as black writers in twentieth-century America?
  • How does musical form relate to cultural or political content? How does poetic form relation to cultural or political content?
  • How does music or poetry’s ability to create community and disseminate movements differ from that of the essay or short story? What other functions may music or poetry serve?

Mon 10 Apr

Mark Burford

Wed 12 Apr

  • Introduction and resources
  • In The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, ed. Lewis:
    • Langston Hughes, "The Weary Blues" and "Jazzonia" (pp. 260-261)
    • Langston Hughes, "The Blues I'm Playing" (pp. 619-627)
  • Listening guide
  • Listening assignment. All recordings, in order, can be found here (Click on "Hovda Blues" to see the song list). 
    • 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" 
Paul Hovda

Fri 14 Apr

  • Introduction and resources
  • In The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, ed. Lewis:
    • Countee Cullen "Yet Do I Marvel," p. 244
    • Helene Johnson "Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem," p.277 
    • Claude McKay "If We Must Die," p.290
    • James Weldon Johnson "The Creation" (from his book God's Trombones), p. 286
    • Langston Hughes, "Ruby Brown" and "Red Silk Stockings," p. 264
    • Sterling Brown, "Ma Rainey," p. 232
    • Gwendolyn Bennett, "Hatred," p. 223

Lecture: "Harlem Renaissance Poetry"
Dustin Simpson

Sat 15 Apr

Seventh Paper Due

Due Saturday, April 15, at 5:00 PM to your conference leader.

View Paper Topics

Week 12 - Coming of Age in the Novel Part II: Maturation of a Movement

  • How do novels written at mid-century look back on earlier literary and social movements, problems, or ideas?
  • What is the motif of “coming of age,” and how can it be applied to black literary, social, and political traditions embodied in this novel?

Mon 17 Apr

Lecture: "Is You Got the Dog?"
Pancho Savery

Wed 19 Apr

Lecture: "Invisible Man: An Apprenticeship in Identity"
Jin Chang

Fri 21 Apr

Lecture: "Boomerangs of History: Dispossession, Hibernation and Communism (a conversation)"
Christian Kroll and Kritish Rajbhandari

Week 13

Mon 24 Apr

Lecture: "Running and Dodging the Forces of History"
Ann Delehanty

Wed 26 Apr

Pancho Savery

Paul Hovda

Lecture: TBA
Pancho Savery, Paul Hovda

Fri 28 Apr

  • No reading assignment
Lecture: No lecture

Week 15

Tue 9 May

Final exam

Tuesday, May 9, 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Exam Instructions
Exam Website