Skip to main content


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 selected past course descriptions.

Humanities 2021-2022 Courses

Fall 2021

HUMA 888: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I (3 Credits)


Professor: Dr. VK Preston, Department of History

Course Description
This course brings interdisciplinary conversations on embodiment, cultural production, and methods into shared focus. It takes up questions on embodiment traversing disciplines in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

This course’s aim is to support graduate-level research projects and shape interdisciplinary conversation, promoting reflection on the scope and outcome of methods. In keeping with this goal, this term’s readings support conversations on practice and perception.

We’ll investigate key texts on technique and methodology, addressing frameworks of appropriation, the body, decolonization, gesture, the senses, and media. The course emphasizes intersectional and social dimensions of experience; it traces interdisciplinary discourse traversing queer and critical race studies, ageing, dis/ability, gender, and feminist research.

The aim of the course is to explore arguments regarding the concept of embodiment in writing on kinesthetics, theories of capital, illness, movement, ontology, and resistance.

Coursework includes attending to movement-based practice and tasks’ imbrication in art and everyday life. It draws in particular from dance, performance, and movement studies as well as research on historical trauma and the body that addresses both theory and practice.

Winter 2022

HUMA 889: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II (3 credits)

Photography Within the Humanities: Persistent Concepts and Current Perspectives – Theory into Method

Professor: Dr. Martha Langford, Department of Art History

Course Description

Both learned and popular interest in photography is based on its powers of description, evidentiary authority, indexicality, and contextual unfolding, essentially on its truth-value, which is not taken lightly as an optional feature, but as a fact of photographic technology and the prime motivation for its everyday use (Elkins; Freund; Kelsey and Stimson; Krauss; Maynard; Walton). This widespread belief is expressed and reinforced each time a scientific notation or a snapshot is posted on the net (Freedberg; Sheehan; Tucker). Play-acting, propaganda, all manner of fictions and deceptions notwithstanding, a photograph is neither the perfume of the real, nor its prismatic distortion, but its visible and legible trace – some version of the truth (Barthes; Cadava; Damisch; Didi-Huberman; Lambert).

Photographic theory has clung to this article of faith, which was only strengthened by the early scandals of illusion, distortion, and crude propaganda (Adatto; Bear 2015; Goffman; Jaubert; Kaplan 2008; Payne). From the 1960s onward, photography was neither window, nor “illustration” (Kaufmann); the medium was “at the dock” (Solomon-Godeau), charged with mass-manipulation and violence (Sontag 1973; Tagg 1988; Virilio). As a visual construction, the image was slippery, changing meaning, depending on its use or context of circulation (Biber; Bolton; Phu and Brower; Paquet 2011, 2014). Feminism, Marxism, postcolonialism, and poststucturalism battered photographic authority (Baudrillard; Bright; Buchloh and Wilkie; Burgin 1982, 1986, 1996; Butler; Debord; Edwards, S.; Grundberg; Kuhn; Mitchell; Phillips; Pinney 2003, 2011; Rossler; Sekula, 1981, 1984, 1986; Spence; Tagg, 2009; Williams). Such sustained critical assaults should have weakened photography’s claims on reality and knowledge production. The digital revolution should have finished it off (Barboza; Druckrey; Mitchell 1992; Ritchin 2009). Nothing of the sort has occurred.

Photography shrugs, secure in its inheritance of nineteenth-century Realism, firmly established as a tool for observation and provider of proofs (Bajac; Bean; Breitbach; Maresca 1996, 2014; Mitchell 2005, 2006; Moschovi, et al; Morris). Archival practice and theory – research and research-creation – make a place for the photograph in historical narratives and states of consciousness (About and Chéroux; Brown; Crary 1999, 2000; Derrida 1995, 2010; Kelsey; Kessler and Locks; Roelstraete, Roth; Schwartz and Cook; Schaffner and Winzen Tuer; Wakimoto, Bruce, and Partridge). Theorists debate whether faith in photography builds democracies or nurtures passivity (Azoulay; Hariman and Lucaites; Zelizer 1998; see also Hüphauf); at least one semiotician sees a collective will to credulity (Lambert). “Belief in the veracity of visual signifiers” and “doubt” over what they convey are reception’s new normal (Jones (2012, xviii). Citizen-photographers become unimpeachable witnesses (Andén- Papadopoulos and Pantti). Indigenous artists enact their territorial repossession through photography and performance (Langford 2014; Taunton 2017). Snapshots upend the authority of observer ethnographies (Farrell Racette 2009, 2011). Affect theory empowers reception of even the most coerced photographic performances with new authorities (Bassnett; Brown and Phu; Gregg and Seigworth; Olin; Phu and Steer; Sedgwick; Stewart). A medium supposedly stripped of its truth-claims by influential critiques of representation continues to run at full throttle, generating real-life imagistic experience with persuasive claims to knowledge – a remarkable epistemological turn.

This course derives from photography studies but is intended to serve a much broader range of research questions within the humanities. For just as scholarship needs to situate itself, knowledgeably and reflexively (Haraway), its uses of photography need to be located on the very wide epistemological spectrum that the medium presents. Just as words matter, photographs matter, and not only for what they show, but for what they do.


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

Back to top Back to top

© Concordia University