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HUM350: Humanities Research Methods

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This syllabus is subject to change at the discretion of the professor. I recommend that you bookmark this page and check back prior to each class. Many of the course readings can be found on the course Moodle page.

Week 1

The goal of the first week of class is to set the stage for the debates that follow regarding the human, the humanities, the coming of the posthuman, and the goals of analysis and research. Start reading Marge Piercy's He, She, and It and aim to complete reading the novel by October 10. Note that you can find a study guide for Piercy's He, She, and It on Moodle.

1. 8/28: TUES

Read: From Human to Posthuman

Prior to our first class, I'd like you to review this document and begin thinking about what it means to be human today (also a theme being explored in a current series of op-eds at The New York Times, which you can read HERE). Think about the import of the various images and quotes. Maybe consider how they relate to your own experiences as a humanities major and a person living today in our highly technological culture. Think about questions or issues that the images and quotes provoke in you. We'll start the semester by discussing some of our initial thoughts and beginning to orient ourselves to our course theme.


2. 8/30: THURS


Read: Dennis Weiss, Betwixt and Between Animal and Machine

We'll review our course policies, assignments, etc. Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with course documents.

Micro Essay: Your first Micro Essay is due today (on a 4x6 index card). In "Betwixt and Between" I have tried to identify some of the ways in which our thinking about being human has changed in the West over the past two thousand years. What do you think are some of the significant ways in which our thinking about being human has changed? Can you identify two or three themes that highlight changes in our thinking about being human?

Week 2

This week is devoted to developing your LinkedIn profile and thinking about the value of studying the humanities. You'll find information on both topics on our Moodle course site.

3. 9/4: TUES

What is the value of studying the humanities? What skills does one acquire by virtue of studying the humanities?

NOTE: Today's class will meet in conjunction with Dr. Erec Smith's American Philosophical Thought course. We will meet in HUM126. There will be several presentations on the value of the humanities as well as a presentation from Career Services on how they can support career searches in the Humanities. Prior to class you might review some of the documents on Moodle addressing these matters and think about the value of the humanities from your own perspective and experience.


4. 9/6: THURS

There is no class today as I am away at a conference. Use this time to begin to create your LinkedIn profile and begin working on your first writing assignment.


Week 3


We'll continue our conversation about the posthuman, continue reading Marge Piercy's novel, and begin thinking about how to analyze signs.

5. 9/11: TUES



Micro Essay: Thinking about what Davis refers to as the posthuman condition, let's see if we can draw some connections to Piercy's novel. Can you identify some posthuman elements in Piercy's narrative? 

6. 9/13: THURS


Micro Essay: On the basis of what you have read of Piercy's novel and thought about the posthuman condition, can you identify a couple of signs in the novel you might be interested in analyzing? What is it that you think makes them evocative and worth analyzing?

First short essay due: The Value of the Humanities, posted to your draft LinkedIn site by midnight Friday, September 14.


Week 4


7. 9/18: TUES


We'll work on developing some tools that will help us select a sign to analyze, while deepening our appreciation of key posthuman themes that arise in literature.


Micro Essay: Working with either "Johnny Mnemonic" or He, She, and It or both texts, select a sign that you would like to think more about and briefly demonstrate how you could apply the VOICE test to the sign.

8. 9/20: THURS



Micro Essay: Graham suggests in her essay that in thinking about the posthuman condition we need to move from a form of thinking based on purity and boundaries to one based on hybridity and complicity. What do you think she means by this?


Week 5


We'll continue to deepen our appreciation of the posthuman, adding film to our stock of texts, and develop our skills in building a field of inquiry and staging a sign.

9. 9/25: TUES



Micro Essay: Let's return to a sign you have selected from He, She, and It and have an interest in analyzing. Can you build a field of inquiry for your sign?

10. 9/27: THURS


Watch: Ghost in the Shell

Micro Essay: Let's do some brain storming regarding signs that link He, She, and It and Ghost in the Shell and that deepen our appreciation of the signs of posthumanity. Using the fusion test select a sign fusing these two texts that you think could pass the VOICE test and briefly demonstrate how it fuses these two texts. We'll then work on staging a sign in class.


Week 6


You should be making progress on completing your reading of He, She, and It and thinking about a sign you would like to analyze from the novel. You should aim to finish the reading by October 10.

11. 10/2 TUES



  • Analyze Anything Chapter 4 (we'll concentrate on sections 1 - 7, though section 8 presents some useful tools for generating ideas)

  • Sign-Signal-Significance

  • You should continue reading He, She, and It

Micro Essay​: Working with a sign from He, She, and It you're thinking about analyzing or one we've discussed in class, practice applying the model of "sign-signal-significance" your sign, generating two or three illustrations of how you might develop a sign-signal-significance interpretation.


12. 10/4: THURS


Read: Marge Piercy: He, She, and It

First Essay Proposal: Working with the sign you have decided to analyze from He, She, and It, stage your sign following the model discussed in Chapter 3, writing a good solid introduction to your eventual Piercy essay, using the models presented in Chapter 3 as your guide. Your introduction should be typed, double-spaced, and should follow the conventions of academic prose.


Week 7


This week you should plan on finishing reading He, She, and It. We'll talk about writing essays using the model provided by Analyze Anything and look at a specific example of mine that began with the author's approach.

13. 10/9: TUES



  • Analyze Anything Chapter 5, Sections 1 - 10 (note that the authors develop two examples of building an essay, "The Feat of Bigfoot" in section 5 and "The Last Duchess" in sections 6 - 10)

  • Building Your Essay

  • Finish reading He, She, and It

Micro Essay: Use the "idea-illustration-interpretation" model to draft one complete section of your essay, following the model on pages 126 - 27.

14.10/11: THURS


  • Analyze Anything: Chapter 5, Sections 11 - 17


In today's selection from Analyze Anything the authors present several models for writing an essay, including (1) the five ideas about meaning essay, (2) the umbrella approach, and (2) the big frame approach. I used the author's "big frame" approach for writing my essay on Piercy: Persons and a Metaphysics of the Navel

Micro Essay:​ There is no micro essay due today. Post to our team drive a draft of your Piercy essay that combines your staging and two idea-illustration-interpretations of your sign.

Week 8


After a well deserved break, we'll turn to the craft of research and begin thinking about developing a research project that explores some aspect of the human and the posthuman, the humanities and posthumanities, humanism and posthumanism.

15. 10/16: TUES


Fall Break



16.10/18: THURS

We'll focus on learning how to develop focused topics and significant questions that might be the basis of a research project.


Micro Essay: There is no micro essay for today. Continue to refine and edit your paper and engage in peer review with your partner.

DUE by midnight, Friday, October 19: Midterm essay on Marge Piercy’s He, She, and It. See instructions on Moodle for posting your essay electronically.

Week 9


17. 10/23: TUES


Donna Haraway's "A Cyborg Manifesto" is probably the most influential essay written on cyborgs and the posthuman and is probably the most referenced essay on the posthuman. It combines science fiction, feminism, science studies, and critical theory. It's a tough read but given how influential it has been in the humanities, we should give it a go.


You might also be interested in reading "You Are Cyborg" from Wired Magazine.

Micro Essay: Let's do some brainstorming regarding posthuman problems. What question or questions do you think motivated Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto"? See if you can identify a question or problem that might have motivated her research and eventual publication of this manifesto. Can you identify a question or questions it motivates you to ask and that might begin to suggest a direction for your research proposal?

18.10/25: THURS



Micro Essay: Following the guidelines laid out in chapter 6 for engaging with sources, write an annotated bibliographic citation for Haraway's "A Cyborg Manifesto" that looks for either creative agreement or creative disagreement. Type this up rather than writing it on an index card.


Week 10

19. 10/30: TUES

Read: Kate Soper, Of OncoMice and Female Men

You might also be interested in Kate Soper's essay "The Humanism in Posthumanism"

Micro Essay: Soper's main claim in this essay (her thesis, if you will, or the conclusion to her argument) is that we ought to reject Haraway's cyborg ontology. Let's see if we can identify some of the reasons she presents in support of her argument, reconstructing her argument by identifying its key premises. What reasons does Soper cite for leading us to think that we ought to reject Haraway's cyborg ontology? Complete THIS DOCUMENT.

20. 11/1: THURS


Due: A hard copy of your Annotated Bibliography is due in class today and should include a minimum of three annotated citations.

Week 11


21. 11/6: TUES

Read: Nick Bostrom, In Defense of Posthuman Dignity

You might also be interested in: Nick Bostrom, "Why I Want to be a Posthuman When I Grow Up"

Micro Essay: Let's see if we can reconstruct Bostrom's core argument. We might take his research question to be "should we attempt to use technology to make ourselves “more than human”?" What is his essay's thesis (the conclusion to his core argument)? What are the premises to his core argument?


22.11/8: THURS

Read: The Craft of Research, Chapter 9 and 10

Recommended Reading: Chapter 11

Due: Drawing on your research question, identify a tentative conclusion you are working towards and then develop an argument that provides support for that conclusion. Keep in mind the discussion of "making good arguments," "making claims," and "assembling reasons and evidence" from The Craft of Research, all of which is very good advice for constructing arguments. Type up your argument and bring a hardcopy to class and post a copy to our Team Drive in the appropriate folder. 


Week 12

23. 11/13: TUES

24.11/15: THURS


Week 13


25.11/20: TUES

Read: Francis Fukuyama, "Biotechnology and the Threat of a Posthuman Future"

You might also be interested in Steven Best, "Technoculture, Posthumanism, and the End of “Reality”​

Micro Essay: As Booth et. al. point out, when reading an academic essay, readers first look for the core argument: the core concluding claim and its support. Let's see if we can reconstruct Fukuyama's core argument. What do you think is the conclusion to his core argument (we can understand this also as the thesis of this essay)? Briefly, what claims and evidence does he present in support of this main conclusion?

26.11/22: THURS

Thanksgiving Break



Week 14


27. 11/27: TUES

Read: The Craft of Research: chapters 12 and 13

Due: Developing a Response

Your research proposal should indicate how your research participates in an ongoing conversation in which your readers are invested. As Booth points out, you can do this by anticipating, acknowledging, and responding to questions, objections, and alternatives that your readers are likely to raise along the way (this is the subject matter of chapter 10). In this next component of your research proposal portfolio, I’d like you to “question your argument as your readers will.” Drawing on inspiration from chapter 10, especially section 10.5 on the vocabulary of acknowledgment and response, craft a one-page (approximately 300 word) response to your core argument that demonstrates how your argument and research proposal participates in an ongoing conversation and acknowledges questions, objections, or alternatives. Post this response to the “Research Response Assignment” folder on our Team Drive.

28.11/29: THURS

Craft of Research: Chapters 14 and 16

Due: Writing an Introduction

For this writing assignment, you should sketch a working introduction for your research proposal, following the recommendations in Chapter 12, section 12.1.1 of The Craft of Research, "Sketch a Working Introduction." As Booth points out, most writers need a working introduction to start on the right track. A working sketch of an introduction, they suggest, is composed of four elements (pages 177 - 78). For this writing assignment and component of your research portfolio, write a working sketch of your proposal's introduction. Your sketch should be approximately 250 - 300 words. Post it to the appropriate folder on our Team Drive prior to class. 

Week 15


29. 12/4: TUES

Read: The Craft of Research, Chapter 17

Due: Writing an Abstract

At the end of chapter 13, Booth includes a "Quick Tip" on Writing Abstracts. Many research projects require an abstract. Several of the essays we have read in this part of the course have included abstracts. You might return to those essays and review their abstracts. You can learn more about writing abstracts HERE. For this final component of your research portfolio, you should write an abstract for your research proposal, adopting model #2 "Context + Problem + Launching Point." Your abstract should be approximately 150 - 250 words. Post it to the appropriate folder on our Team Drive Prior to class. 


30. 12/6: THURS

No class today. Continue to work on your research proposal. I will be available should you have any questions or would like my input. I recommend that you reserve some office time with me if you know you'd like to meet.


Week 16


31. 12/11: TUES

No class today. Continue to work on your research proposal. I will be available should you have any questions or would like my input. I recommend that you reserve some office time with me if you know you'd like to meet.

FRIDAY, December 14

Your final research portfolio is due Friday, December 14 by 11:00 AM. A hardcopy of your portfolio is due in my office (HUM 154) by that date and time. No late portfolios will be accepted, and no electronic portfolios will be accepted. Note that I have extended this date from the original due date of Dec. 13. You don’t need a cover page or folder for your work. Simply collect all the parts of your portfolio and staple them together.


Your portfolio consists of the following elements:


• Annotated Bibliography

• Core Claim and Argument

• Developing a Response

• Sketch of an Introduction

• Abstract

• The Proposal Itself


The first five parts of your portfolio were worth a total of 100 points. The Research Proposal itself is worth 100 points.

12/13 - 12/18: Finals

Commencement: 12/19

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