Life Forms: Literary and Biological Perspectives

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FIG 25
Theresa Kelley
Life Forms
Lecture 3, 8:00–9:15 MW
Bodies, Disease, and Healers: An Introduction to the History of Medicine
Lecture 1, 9:55–10:45 MW; Discussion 303, 9:55–10:45 R
Principles of Biological Anthropology
Lecture 1, 1:20–2:10 MW; Discussion 302, 9:55–10:45 T

Near the end of the eighteenth century, as revolutions and claims about human rights were repeated in colonial America and Britain, the Caribbean and elsewhere, the concerns reflected in the topic of this course began to take shape, in documents, images, in the very heart of debates of the time. What does it mean to be human, who is inhuman or nonhuman, what forces are arrayed against humanity, what is the nature of monstrosity and how do otherworldly, ghostly presences haunt human life? What obligations do we have, do characters and poets have, to other creatures?

The literary texts selected for this course, all written from the last years of the eighteenth century to the end of the nineteenth, work out their own, distinctive presentation of these questions. The course website will offer you vignettes of images and texts that reflect the larger historical pressures that the authors of these works understood and then shaped to their own fictional and creative concerns. Our focus in English 167: “Life Forms” will be on the analytic skills you will need to read and write critically. In this course, you’ll develop those skills by reading literature, but the same skills will serve you well throughout your undergraduate and post-graduate careers, even if you don’t go on to study literature more intensively (although I hope you will). The other courses in this FIG will contribute to our analyses by providing both historical and scientific insight into our understanding of “life forms.”

History of Science 212: “Bodies, Disease, and Healers: An Introduction to the History of Medicine” — A survey of different conceptions of how the body as a site of sickness has been understood from Antiquity to contemporary medicine. Includes consideration of the origins and evolution of public health, the changing social role of healers, and the emergence of the modern “standardized” body in health and illness.

Anthropology 105: “Principles of Biological Anthropology” — Examines the genetic basis of morphological, physiological, and behavioral variations within and between human populations, and their origins and evolution.