First Year



Arts and Humanities 1020E is taught by Research Fellows in the School. In lecture, discussion, and workshop formats, these faculty members will aid you in completing a variety of assignments, which might include traditional academic writing, creative work, and collaborative projects.

Our central purpose in immersing students in interdisciplinary dialogue and debate early on in the Program is to encourage you and enable you to take an active role in the future of the humanities.

The course has several objectives:

  • to consider what it means to study “the Humanities” and how the Humanities needs to inform our understanding of our private and public roles. What is it to be human/inhuman, and what are our commitments as humanists?
  • to reflect on the diversity of human experience, buth current and historical, and the role of the intellectual in the world within the university and beyond it.

Prerequisite: Admission to the School for Advanced Studies in Arts and Humanities 3 hours/week, 1.0 course

Instructors for 2022/2023:

Professor Laurence de Looze (Languages and Cultures; Fall 2022) 

The “humanities” puts at the very centre of its thinking the question of human creative activity and what it means to be “human.” But what does it mean to be human (or inhuman)? Do we know what the nature of humanity is? Is there an essential core? 

For all of us, an enormous number of factors have led to our being together in the same place at the same time in this course: our personal and cultural histories, chance events, our own and others’ preferences, our conscious decisions, etc. What is more, what we think and feel as individuals is also the result of long chains of experiences – both our own direct experiences and those of our elders and ancestors and friends. We cannot really know ourselves unless we give thought to how we came to be who and where we are as well as why we have come to be in the same place at the same time. How we think and feel is conditioned by the times in which we live. Had we lived in another place or another time, we would have thought and felt very differently. Our thoughts and feelings are not necessarily better or worse than others’ have been, and it would be a grave danger for us to think that we have everything figured out. 

This term we will see an array of different cultures, both current and historical, and both in Canada and in other places. During the term, let us ask again and again “who were these people and why did they think/do as they did?” Our starting point has to be that no single “take” on the world is superior to another and no one culture holds ownership on “the truth.” 

Professor Joel Faflak (English; Winter 2023)

Hope and the Public Intellectual: How are We Inhuman?

The rise of the public intellectual is famously traced to the publication of “J’Accuse…!”, novelist Émile Zola’s open letter of January 13, 1898 in the newspaper L’Aurore in response to the Dreyfus Affair. But intellectuals have always been public figures of one kind or another, and often paid a price for being so: think of Socrates drinking the hemlock. This course asks specifically what it means to be a public intellectual in the 21st century at a time when intellectualism is increasingly undervalued, when what it means to be human is under attack, both for worse and for better. Even more specifically, the course asks you to consider your impact as intellectuals and thus to assess the intellectual value of higher education itself. What role will or can you play as a public intellectual? How broadly can we define the role of the public intellectual in an inhuman world? What is the intellectual value of the humanities? What is the necessity of intellectualism in a time of unprecedented historical and global change? How do public intellectuals provide hope, and what hope can we offer as public intellectuals?