CMRS-CEGS Research Seminars

These Seminars allow UCLA students to meet and interact with prominent authorities in Late Antique, Medieval, Renaissance, or Early Modern Studies. These classes receive funding from CMRS-CEGS to bring distinguished scholars to UCLA to participate in seminars and symposia, to present lectures, and to have informal discussions with students and faculty.

FALL 2024 – Premodern Ecologies, taught by Jamie K Kreiner (University of Georgia). This graduate seminar surveys the methods and debates for reconstructing premodern ecological systems (climate, water, soils, and typography, biotic communities) while highlighting human engagement in those ecologies. The shared readings mostly zero in on the Middle East, Mediterranean, and Europe in antiquity and the Middle Ages (with some theoretical interventions from science and technology studies that lean toward modernity), but students will have the opportunity to range further depending on their expertise and interest. Students will gain familiarity with the sources and analytical challenges in the technical literature while refining their sense of premodern perspectives on lived environments – including issues that were uncertain or debated. Students will also shift between the vantages of he longue durée, global history, and microhistory and come to appreciate the productive tension between these approaches.

SPRING 2024 – Arabic 275, “Encountering Arabic Manuscripts,” taught by Luke Yarbrough (NELC), serves as an introduction to the academic study of manuscripts in Arabic script. The emphasis of the course is on manuscripts written in the Arabic language, but it includes aspects of codicology and paleography that are pertinent to manuscript codices bearing texts written in Persian, Turkish, Urdu, and Pashto—all of which UCLA Special Collections holds—as well as other languages, such as Indonesian. Topics covered include the production and anatomy of medieval Islamic codices; the social and cultural history of reading and transmission; the production of modern critical editions; and debates around modern collecting practices.

FALL 2023 — Methodology Seminar, “Money Matters: Between Antiquity and the Enlightenment (ca. 600-1600) (English 246)” is a Fall 2023 graduate course designated as a CMRS Center for Early Global Studies Research Seminar which provides funding for guest scholars to lecture and work closely with students. Taught by Professor Debora Shuger (English) and Associate Professor Arvind Thomas (English), this Research Seminar will look at a diverse range of premodern texts concerning the emergence and expansion of economic thought/ practices and their socio-political, literary, religious, and aesthetic implications.

SPRING 2023 — History 201B, “Persecution and Defiance: Religious Minorities in the Roman World 200-700 CE,” taught by Professor Greg Woolf (History), will look at the treatment of Christians, Jews, Manichaeans, heretic and pagan minorities in the later Roman empire, roughly from the second century to the seventh CE. We will consider this through case studies and documents focused on Roman lands, but we will glance at similar phenomena in Gothic and Vandal territory, in Arabia and in the Persian Empire.This is the age of the rise of monotheisms and empires across much of western Asia and modern Europe. Most contained minority populations identified and identifying themselves in religious terms. It is an age documented through accounts of martyrdom and edicts of persecution and (occasionally) of toleration. It has been the focus of important new research by scholars such as Kate Cooper, Garth Fowden, Candida Moss, Eric Rebillard and Brent Shaw.

WINTER 2023 — English 246, “Early Modern Empire and the Cultures of Encounter,”  taught by Professor Barbara Fuchs (English and Spanish & Portuguese), is an interdisciplinary seminar considering theoretical, methodological, and disciplinary questions. We will read together a corpus of historiographic and literary texts (Columbus, More, Poma, Behn) and host visits from specialists at UCLA and beyond in a range of related disciplines (History/History of Science/History of Art). How have various fields negotiatied the specificities of the European encounter with the New Word vs. larger questions of indigeneity and sovereignty around the globe? How has recent work on empire in a global context impacted the various fields? How do scholars in these fields move between the specificities of the local and the broader theorization of culture in imperial contexts? All readings available in English.

WINTER 2023 — Political Science 218, “Historicity. Re-reading Michel Foucault” taught by Giulia Sissa (Political Science, Comparative Literature, and Classics), considers the most historical works of Michel Foucault, with a focus on the History of Sexuality (1976 – 1984). The reception of Foucault’s thought, especially among younger scholars in the United States, tends to prioritize  the normative notion of “biopolitics”. The writings of Roberto Esposito and Giorgio Agamben have strongly encouraged this trend. The class will reexamine Foucault’s very idea that knowledge must be situated historically. In the Archaeology of Knowledge (1969), we learn that neither social determinations nor intellectual history can offer viable models of understanding this fundamental historicity. But what is exactly the method we are invited to experiment with, by reading the multiple “Histories” Foucault himself has written? How does his last History, that of Sexuality, allow us to rethink such challenging questions as the relations of ancients, pre-moderns and moderns, the value of trans-cultural notions, the priority of philosophy in the discursive practices of a culture, the authority of visual and literary fiction, the significance of an “apparatus”, of an “experience”, of a form of “isomorphism”, of “subjection / subjectivation”? And, finally, in light of Foucault’s complex — and changing — way of thinking historically, what is the true relevance of power in his account of discursive practices?  A deep engagement with the texts will also open up critical questions about the contemporary emergence of novel lines of thought in the historical study of sexuality, such as: the queer reconsideration of genders; the senses, sensuality, and the phenomenological language of the “lived body”, understood as transformative embodiment.

FALL 2022 — Methodology Seminar, Philosophy 206, “Picturing Knowledge in Historical Perspective” will be taught by Professors Brian P. Copenhaver (Philosophy) and Calvin Normore (Philosophy). Whether thought is best understood  by analogy with language, with pictorial representation or with both is an issue at least as old as Plato’s Cratylus and as contemporary as 2020 revision of the article on Mental Representation in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. This interdisciplinary seminar will attempt to trace from late antiquity into the 17th century some of the ways in which pictures were used as tools to create and express knowledge claims and also some of the theoretical issues surrounding those uses. Beginning with an outline of the issues and a discussion of the structure and limits  of pictorial representation, we will turn to the use of diagrams in late antiquity, to the role of icons in Byzantine thought and to discussions of picturing in Latin Medieval traditions. We will then turn to the dramatic changes in the nature and use of pictorial representation from the fifteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries ending with a discussion of Descartes’ use of pictures and diagrams. The seminar  will meet weekly for two hours in a hybrid format and there will be an optional third hour scheduled at participants convenience for preparatory and followup meetings. The instructors of record will begin and end the series of classes but most of the  classes will be given by experts in the particular subjects being discussed.

SPRING 2022 — Iranian 250, “Persian Literature in English Translation: Global and Interdisciplinary Perspectives,” taught by Associate Professor Domenico Ingenitio (NELC), offers a survey of medieval and early modern Persian literature in English translation. The seminar fosters interdisciplinary conversations among graduate students from a plurality of departments and programs, including Islamic Studies, Gender Studies, History, Art History, Global Medieval and Renaissance Studies, English, and Comparative Literature. All sessions will be held in English, and students with no prior knowledge of Persian are welcome to enroll. Twice a month, international scholars will deliver lectures focusing on their current research trajectories. Key topics: epics and ethnic identity, philosophical poetics and occasion, mysticism and performative queerness, Judeo-Islamic literary intersections, ideals of beauty and lyric performance, literary modernity from Ottoman Turkey to Moghul India, German romantic and modernist appropriations of the Persian poetic canon, etc.

WINTER 2022 — Classics 250, “EROS. AMOR. The erotic cultures of the early global world” taught by Professor Giulia Sissa (Political Science and Classics). In all societies and cultures, the erotic experience is complex. It is shaped by norms, habits, emotions and manners of living the body. Such an experience crosses a variety of discourses and domains of knowledge. We will look at this phenomenon, the erotic, as a matter of desire, pleasure, bodies, institutions. We will go beyond the sexual acts, beyond the controversial notion of “sexuality”, beyond sex as merely a matter of power, and will bring to the fore what was truly relevant in the cultures on the ancient world: sensuality. Guest speakers: Romain Brethes (Sciences Politiques, Paris) and Pierre Destrée (Université de Louvain).

FALL 2021 — Methodology Seminar, Professor Matthew Fisher (Department of English) taught the LAMAR Seminar English 257, “Digital/Medieval: Resistant Archives” focusing on the theoretical and practical complexities of contemporary archives, digitization and archival preservation practice, and medieval documents and books. Working hands-on with UCLA’s collections, and also hands-on with some of the interoperable data available from various digital projects from around the world (including but not limited to IIIF, the Digital mappa project, the Mapping Manuscript Migration project, and others), the seminar offered students an opportunity to both encounter the practical difficulties of archival and digital work on medieval books/texts, and also to situate those difficulties in theoretical discussions about archives, manuscripts, and book history more generally. Visiting speakers made presentations to the class.

SPRING 2021 — Professor Kristopher Kersey (Art History) taught “Recycling, Fragmentation, and Decay in Premodern Japan” (ART HIS 202). This seminar addressed several intersecting artistic strategies and sensibilities in Japan, ca. 1000-1650 CE: the reuse and recycling of elements of the past; the attendant aesthetics of the fragment, either through processes of purposive or accidental destruction; and the aesthetics of decay, to include a preference for things that are
weathered, patinated, and imperfect.

FALL 2020 — Methodology Seminar, Professor Sarah Beckmann (Department of Classics) taught the CMRS LAMAR Seminar, Classics 250, “The Late Antique World: Transitions and Transformations between Classical and Medieval.” The seminar was interdisciplinary and focused on late antiquity as a historical period and scholarly construct.  Using primary evidence (art, artifact, literature), modern scholarship, and varied methodological approaches, this course examined the origins and consequences of late antique transformations in the Mediterranean world, ca. 3rd – 7th c. CE. To synthesize, and problematize, how late antique phenomena respond and react to the classical, and prefigure and provoke the medieval, the class considered late antique texts and material culture in dialogue with earlier and later historical witnesses.Each seminar meeting focused on a particular late antique theme or problem. Topoi include but were not limited to: the decline of the Roman Empire; the division of East and West; the rise of the Christian church; paideia and the persistence of Greco-Roman intellectual traditions; the advent of new late antique aesthetics; and demographic change precipitated by the arrival of social minorities and ethnic and cultural outsiders in Roman institutions and territories. The course was taught in English with a selection of texts available in the primary language. C. Michael Chin (UC Davis), Susanna Elm (UC Berkeley), and Rita Copeland (University of Pennsylvania) made presentations to the class.

FALL 2019 — Methodology Seminar, Professor Barbara Fuchs taught the CMRS LAMAR Seminar, English 246, titled “Early Modern Empire and the Cultures of Encounter.” This interdisciplinary seminar considered theoretical, methodological, and disciplinary questions. The class read together a corpus of historiographic and literary texts (Columbus, More, Ercilla, Garcilaso de la Vega, Poma, Behn) and also hosted visits from specialists at UCLA and beyond in a range of related disciplines (History/History of Science/History of Art/ Classics). How have various fields negotiated the specificities of the European encounter with the New Word vs. larger questions of indigeneity and sovereignty around the globe? How has recent work on empire in a global context impacted the various fields? How do scholars in these fields move between the specificities of the local and the broader theorization of culture in imperial contexts? All readings were in English.

FALL 2018 — Methodology Seminar, The designated course was Comparative Literature 220, Medieval Studies “Theory, History, and Literature” taught by Professor Zrinka Stahuljak. The special focus of this seminar was the notion of literature as historical archive. History, anthropology, and the arts (visual, musical, performing) are the fields of choice. Organized in modules such as “History and Literature,” “History, Religion, and Literature,” “Culture and Literature,” “Anthropology and Literature,” “Text and Image,” “Music and Literature,” “Performance, Performativity, and Literature,” each session provided a choice of influential texts from theory and historiography of the field and a reading of a medieval text. Aimed as a methodology seminar, this class drew on a wide array of theory and historiography of fields. Taught in English with a choice of bilingual texts, visiting speakers included Ryan Szpiech (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), Margaret Kim (National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan), Jennifer Bain (Dalhousie University), and Noah Guynn (UC Davis).