IHUM 54: Autumn 2003

Course Description

Your sense of self depends upon your particular experiences, and, of course, the vehicle of those experiences is your physical body. Embodiment is central to a sense of self. Experiences are particular because they are located in a specific place, a life, a history, a community, a culture. In this course we will explore this connection between self and body. Does one need to have a body to have a self? If having a body and having a self are not exactly the same thing, how are they connected? How does context affect that connection? How do differing media, changing social circumstances, and scientific transformations affect our understanding of the person, as a located and active self and body?

We will trace these questions through some classic concerns in literary, scientific, and cultural works. We will consider debates about the role of character in history, the problematic relation of the physical body to the conscious self, and the different senses of self and body encountered in different cultures. In our readings, we will map out significant shifts in the answers to these questions from antiquity through the Heian period of Japan and the English Renaissance to the modern age. By heightening our awareness of the historical and philosophical background of ideas about the individual and the body, we hope to challenge many notions commonly taken for granted.

Most if not all of the lectures in this course will be composed of two segments, the lecturer in the second half responding to the arguments of lecturer in the second half, providing a counterargument, exhibiting a different discipline’s method of analysis or invoking a different set of historical contexts. This alternation of points of view may at first seem confusing, but it is designed to put you in the position of having to work out your own conclusions in response to the readings, the lectures, your discussion with classmates and the riches of your own mind.

Course Goals

The programmatic goals of all fall IHUM courses are to hone students’ abilities 1) to read closely; 2) to think critically; 3) to recognize the possibility of different readings produced by approaching texts from different disciplinary perspectives; 4) to learn effectively from lectures; and 5) to engage in sustained intellectual discussion.

This course in particular aims to create a dialogue among texts of widely differing periods and backgrounds—a dialogue which can only happen through readers such as us. Through historical contextualization, close reading of representative passages, genre and media analysis, and group argumentation (spoken, written and electronic), we will discover what they have to say to us and what we have to say about them. The skills we practice here, though they emerge from traditions of humanistic study, are not exclusive to language and literature, but shared across the disciplines of the university.


Required Texts

Plato, Crito in The Last Dayz of Socrates, translated by Hugh Tredenneck and Harold Tarrant. London: Penguin, 2003.
Sei Shônagon, The Pillow Book, translated and edited by Ivan Morris. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.
William Shakespeare, King Richard II, Ed Frances Dolan. New York: Pelican, 2000.
Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, translated by John and Doreen Weightman. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.
Electronic Arts, The Sims. CD-ROM. Electronic Arts, 2001.

All required texts will be available in the Stanford Bookstore textbook department, except for The Sims. You should arrange to purchase the right version of The Sims for your operating system in the Bookstore’s software department, through Amazon.com or some other software outlet. Expansion packs are optional (but fun).


Three papers, increasing in length and complexity and representing respectively 15%, 25% and 30% of your final grade, will be assigned in this course. The first two papers will be written in response to a set theme; for the third, you will have a choice of topics, and the final product may (after consultation with your Teaching Fellow) take the form of a project rather than a traditional paper. You will also complete a number of short web-based assignments during the quarter on the asynchronous chat software, Panfora, accessible through the course web-site. Finally, you will be assigned to lead part of section with a group of your peers at least once during the quarter.

 Grading and Assessment

The three papers are worth a total of 70% of your grade (see above).

Alongside these assignments, 30% of your grade will depend on your participation in the course. The many hours of face-to-face and electronic interaction provided by an IHUM course can be a burden or a delight, depending on how actively and creatively you participate. By "participation;" we mean your engagement with the themes and the community that we are establishing here Attendance at lectures, sections, and other course events (e.g., on-line discussions, film screenings, project presentations) is a basic form of participation and is required of all. But it's not enough simply to show up or log in: we hope that every member of the course will contribute in his or her own way to the experience of the whole group by raising questions, offering ideas for discussion, suggesting links for posting, presenting your project or paper to the rest of us, and so on. See the Area One Section Participation Grading Guidelines below for more details.

Grading Guidelines

The Area One requirement is designed to foster rigorous inquiry and critical thinking, and to promote effective written argumentation. The following standards for judging written work apply to all Area One courses:

A range: This paper is outstanding in form and content. The thesis is clear and insightful; it expands in a new way on ideas presented in the course. The evidence presented in support of the argument is carefully chosen and deftly handled. The argument is not only unified and coherent, but also complex and nuanced.

B range: This paper's thesis is clear; the argument is coherent and presents evidence in support of its points. The argument shows comprehension of the material and manifests critical thinking about the issues raised in the course. The paper is reasonably well written and proofread. The argument, while coherent, does not have the complexity, the insight, or the integrated structure of an A range paper.
C range: This paper has some but not all of the basic components of an argumentative essay (i.e., thesis, evidence, coherent structure): for example, it may offer a thesis of some kind, but it presents no evidence to support this thesis; or it may present an incoherent thesis; or it may simply repeat points made in class without an overall argument. Such a paper is usually poorly organized, written and proofread.

A paper will fall below a "C" if it lacks more than one of the basic components of an argumentative essay.

Section Participation: Area One courses are mandated to encourage vigorous intellectual exchange, the expression of various viewpoints, and the ability to speak effectively and cogently. Participation in discussion will be evaluated on the following guidelines, which stress the quality rather than the mere quantity of contributions to discussion.

A range: The student is fully engaged and highly motivated. This student is well prepared, having read the assigned texts, and has thought carefully about the texts’ relation to issues raised in lecture and section. This student's ideas and questions are productive (either constructive or critical); they stimulate class discussions. This student listens and responds to the contributions of other students.

B range: The student attends class regularly, is well prepared for discussion, and participates consistently. This student contributes productively to the discussion by sharing thoughts and questions that demonstrate familiarity with the material. This student refers to the materials discussed in lecture and shows interest in other students' contributions.

C range: The student meets the basic requirements of section participation: preparedness and regular attendance. This student participates rarely in class discussion. This student may offer a few interesting or insightful ideas from time to time, but these ideas do not connect well to the general discussion: they do not help to build a coherent and productive discussion. (Failure to fulfill satisfactorily any of these criteria will result in a grade of "D" or below.)

Course Policies

Attendance at lectures and sections is required. It is not enough to follow the course website or to borrow someone’s notes: even the lectures are live sessions of interchange where your presence is desired. Talk with your teaching fellow individually about excused absences from lecture or seminar. Papers are expected by the deadlines, and late papers will be marked down 1/3 grade for each day of tardiness. If extenuating circumstances arise, talk to your TF at least one week before the due date about the possibility of an extension. Revisions of papers for regrading will not be accepted.

Provost’s Statement concerning Students with Disabilities

Students who have a disability which may necessitate an academic accommodation or the use of auxiliary aids and services in a class must initiate the request with the Disability Resource Center (DRC). The DRC will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend appropriate accommodations, and prepare a verification letter dated in the current academic term in which the request is being made. Please contact the DRC as soon as possible; timely notice is needed to arrange for appropriate accommodations (phone 723-1066; TDD 725-1067).

The Stanford Honor Code

The Honor Code is an agreement that binds us all as members of this intellectual community. Violating the Honor Code is a serious offense, even when the violation is unintentional. The text of the Honor Code is available at: www.stanford.edu/dept/vpsa/judicialaffairs/honor_code.htm. You are responsible for understanding the University rules regarding academic integrity; you should familiarize yourself with the code if you have not already done so. In brief, conduct prohibited by the Honor Code includes all forms of academic dishonesty, among them copying from another’s exam, unpermitted collaboration and representing as one’s own work the work of another. If you have any questions about these matters, see your teaching fellow during office hours.