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HUMA core courses

Humanities students are required to take two 3-credit mandatory core seminars in their first year: HUMA 888 (Methodology) and HUMA 889 (Thematic). The specific content of these courses may vary from year to year, see below for current and past course descriptions.

HUMA 2018-2019 Courses

Fall 2018
HUMA 888: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies (3 credits)

Professor: Viviane Namaste, Simone de Beauvoir Institute
Thursdays, 18h00 - 21h00
Room H621

Brief Course Description

This course will introduce students to some of the fundamental theories, histories, methods and practices of interdisciplinary work.  By considering different models and case studies related to interdisciplinarity, students will be able to explicitly reflect on the theories and practices of interdisciplinarity that will inform their own research practices.  Course readings and assignments have been designed to help students think both conceptually and concretely about how to plan their own interdisciplinary doctoral research.

WINTER 2019 
HUMA 889: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies (3 credits)

Professor: Carolina Cambre, Department of Education
Mondays, 14h00 - 17h00

Course Description

Doing violence to those we seek to represent comes with the territory. Misrepresentation is part of telling stories about people’s lives, our own included. The issue is whether to skirt or to face head on such complicities. (Lather, P. 1999:4)

What does the word representation do? Representation is an essential part of the process by which meaning is produced and exchanged and involves the use of language, of signs and images but it is not a simple or straightforward process. This seminar considers theories of representation current across disciplines in philosophy of art, language and semiotics, anthropology, sociology, gender studies, and other fields as well as a variety of representational practices, especially the representation of collective selves and others through narratives, collections, and displays. Among topics to be confronted are the politics and poetics of representation; representation and historical memory, objectification and appropriation; postmodern and postcolonial crises of representation/representationalism, and anti-representationalism coinciding with the performative turn; contemporary experiments in representation; and misrepresentation and the unrepresentable.

Based in interdisciplinary scholarly and creative explorations, and providing students with opportunities to think through theoretical and methodological issues vital to their diverse interdisciplinary projects, this doctoral seminar will guide an inquiry into the role of representation based in image, text, sound, and performance. The course will combine seminar readings and presentations with studio experiences to critically trace past practice, present direction and trends in theories of representation.

A new paradigm attitude towards “truth” and the production of knowledge has legitimized many alternative approaches for doing research in the social sciences, humanities and fine arts. Alternative or arts-informed research metholds challenge empirical forms that reduce human experience to knowledge claims of certainty and truth, rather seeing truth and knowledge as contextual, contingent and processual. We will problematize the relationship between knowledge and power, exposing knowledge as socially constructed and creating open texts that provide spaces for knowing “otherwise.” We will ponder questions of how to judge the quality of alternative representations of research, and the ethical implications of arts based portrayals.


HUMA 887: special topic course (3 credits)

Professor: Viviane Namaste​, Simone de Beauvoir Institute
Fridays, 14h45 – 17h30

Course Description

What is meaning, and how do we make sense of it? What are the theoretical and methodological models available to understand the processes of how meaning is established, coded, interpreted, and changed? In what ways are the scholarly fields of semiotics and discourse analysis interdisciplinary, and why does this matter? How and why do students need to think about deploying, applying, or adapting different semiotic and discourse analysis approaches in their own doctoral research?

This seminar will introduce students to some of the main traditions and practices in semiotics and discourse analysis. Students will engage with metatheoretical issues (such as theoretical influences across different traditions), as well as opportunities to apply different frameworks through concrete examples (e.g., semio-­‐linguistic analysis, the circulation of visual signs, semiotic and the non-­‐verbal, political discourse analysis). Specific topics to be covered may include: Saussurean semiotics; the semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce; the notion of value and the sign as elaborated by Rossi-­‐Landi and Ponzio; systemic functional grammar; the utterance (énonciation); studies in discourse and ideology; intertextuality; francophone discourse analysis (Pêcheux, Maldidier, Robin); the archeological tradition of Michel Foucault.

The seminar has been designed to provide students with a rigorous training in these different methodological traditions, which they will then be able to enact, or adapt, in their dissertation research. Students will learn the value and necessity of conceptual clarity in this field: terms like « sign », « signal », « symbol », « signifier », « text », and « discourse » do not have the same referent, and do not mean the same thing. The course will appeal to students who embrace the challenge of deep reflection on these issues. It will also provide an occasion to engage in case studies and applications of semiotics and discourse analysis.

To register for this course, please contact the PhD in Humanities Programme: Please note that this course is for students at the doctoral level. Please note as well that, in the event the course is filled to capacity, a waiting list will be established.

FALL 2019 
HUMA 888: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies (3 credits)
Utopia as Method and Desire

Professor: Beverley Best, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
Thursdays, 6pm - 9pm, H1120

Course Description

If we lasted forever
Everything would change.
But since we don't
Many things stay the same.
                 —Bertold Brecht

To paraphrase a sentiment that has been attributed to both Slavoj Zizek and Fredric Jameson, it is currently easier to imagine the end of the world than the transition to a different possible one. A chorus of commentators, both popular and academic, have observed that the production of utopian texts—political, philosophical, artistic—began to decelerate in the late 1970s and has continued its diminished output to the present. Does the contracting of the capacity for utopian thought and experiment reflect a diminishing of what Fredric Jameson refers to as ‘the desire called utopia,’ or vice versa? In either case, in what seems fair to describe as the disastrous times of the early 21st century, the diminishing of utopia as either capacity or inclination appears untimely, at least.

In Utopia as Method, Ruth Levitas argues that “the core of utopia is the desire for being otherwise, individually and collectively, subjectively and objectively. Its expressions explore and bring to debate the potential contents and contexts of human flourishing. It is thus better understood as a method than a goal …” (Levitas 2013: xi). Levitas’ proposition will guide our approach to the many questions that will arise in this course: How do we conceptualize utopia—as speculation, critique, cognitive horizon, collective desire, revolutionary demand, history of the present, archaeology of the future? Alternatively, how do we “do” utopia—as social struggle, policy initiative, technological invention, pedagogy, critique? Do we paint it, narrate it, map it, historicize it, perform it, denounce it as ideology, or just run for the hills at its mention? Is it content or form? Is it literary, visual, theoretical or algorithmic?

In this course, we will take a maximalist approach to the study of utopia. All disciplinary approaches and theoretical orientations are potentially on the table (art, film and literary theory; sociology; psychoanalysis; feminist, queer and gender studies, political theory; critical theory; critical race studies; cultural studies; philosophy; social movements; and so on) and cross-disciplinary conversation and problematizing are encouraged for their generative possibilities. Our collective investigation will unfurl around various kinds of texts, produced in different historical periods (from the 18th century to the present, and not in chronological order). The comportment of our study is exploratory and non-specialized. As the saying goes, we are going to throw a lot at the wall and see what sticks.


In addition to the two core Humanities courses, students take a selection of elective coursework usually distributed as 3-credit courses in their three fields. These elective courses normally consist of a combination of 3-credit directed study tutorials and regularly scheduled graduate courses offered by other departments that are relevant to the student's program of study. Please note that the selection of courses is determined in consultation with the student’s advisory committee, in accordance with the needs of the student’s program of study and available faculty resources. The number of elective courses a student is required to take is dependant on their curriculum stream:

Curriculum stream 2017 and after: 4 courses (12 credits)

Curriculum stream pre-2017: 6 courses (18 credits)

Electives chosen from regularly scheduled graduate courses

Humanities students may take graduate courses offered by departments at Concordia that are relevant to the student's program of study. A course description and a completed and signed  Humanities Graduate Course Registration form is required for each regularly scheduled graduate course registration. With the approval of the advisor in the field, Humanities students may also register, through CREPUQ, for a graduate course offered by another Quebec university.

To identify relevant graduate courses to fulfill the 18 credits of elective courses, students are encouraged to consult with their advisors and browse the graduate course offerings on the websites of the departments relevant to their fields of study (or find that information from the respective graduate program assistants). Another resource is the Graduate Open Courses listing compiled by the School of Graduate Studies.

Electives as directed study tutorials

Directed study tutorials provide Humanities PhD students with the opportunity to pursue advanced and focused work with individual faculty members in the three fields that constitute the student’s program of study. Tutorials can be taken with the advisor in the field or another faculty member, but each tutorial is subject to the approval of the student’s advisor in that field. Tutorials involve regular meetings and on-going assignments, in addition to at least one major final paper or project. A tutorial course description and bibliography as well as a completed and signed Humanities Directed Study Tutorial form is required for each directed study tutorial registration.

HUMA special topics courses

Humanities students may also take special topic courses offered by the Humanities program when relevant to the student's program of study.

Past HUMA core courses

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