Instructor: Sugiyama M
Application of evolutionary thinking to the origins and function of literature.
This is a Science Group satisfying course designed for humanities majors, presenting “science in words” instead of numbers, and emphasizing hypothesis formulation, prediction testing, and evidentiary standards. It uses a biology-based approach to understand the behavior of storytelling, examining forager oral tradition using biological theory (natural selection) and research on human biology (i.e., cognition, life history). The course applies evolutionary theory and related fields—e.g., hominid evolution, hunter-gatherer studies, cognitive and developmental psychology—to the question of when and why storytelling developed. In so doing, it introduces students to the foundations of evolutionary anthropology and the process of scientific reasoning.
The chief aim is to give students an understanding of the socio-ecological context in which storytelling emerged, the role it played in ancestral environments, and the evolved cognitive capacities that make it possible. To this end, the course examines evolutionary theory, human life history, and the evolution of the human mind, with an emphasis on the relationship between prolonged childhood and social learning in humans. Next, key cognitive capacities involved in narrative production (e.g., theory of mind, language, pretense, mental time travel) are examined in the context of social learning. This lays the groundwork for testing the hypothesis that oral tradition is an important means of information transmission in forager societies. This is done by identifying recurrent problems of forager life (e.g., cooperation, mating, warfare, famine, animal hazards, wayfinding, childcare) and the knowledge sets integral to solving them, which provides a list of content themes predicted to be present in forager oral tradition. A cross-cultural sample of forager folktales is then examined against this list for content relevant to coping with the problems embodied by these themes.
With its emphasis on the transmission of forager knowledge and values via oral tradition, the course also meets the International Cultures requirement by describing and analyzing multiple non-western worldviews. Course reading consists of scientific articles, a science textbook, and a cross-cultural sample of forager folktales.
Multicultural, International Cultures (IC) courses study world cultures in critical perspective. They either treat an international culture in view of the issues raised in AC and IP courses (i.e., race and ethnicity, pluralism and mono-culturalism, prejudice and tolerance) or they analyze worldviews that differ substantially from those that prevail in the present-day United States.
Global Perspectives courses study world cultures in critical perspective, or analyze worldviews that differ substantially from those that prevail in the present-day United States.
The interdisciplinary minor in Writing, Public Speaking, and Critical Reasoning offers students a coherent program of courses that strengthen students' abilities to write well, to speak effectively in public, and to think critically. This minor is built on courses in English, Writing, and Philosophy and is taught by professors from English, Philosophy, and the Honors College.
Writing, Public Speaking, and Critical Reasoning Certificate courses strengthen students' abilities to write well, to speak effectively in public, and to think critically. This certificate program is built on courses in English, Writing, and Philosophy and is taught by professors from English, Philosophy, and the Honors College.