Reflections Seminars: Winter 2020

Reflections Winter 2020 second semester courses

Encountering the Other: AI Futures (English 102 + Humanities 102 pairing)

  • Tuesday and Thursday 2:30 – 5:30
  • M. Heywood (Humanities) and R. Million (English)

O brave new world, that has such people in’t!" — William Shakespeare, The Tempest

When we leave our known world and enter the unknown, we truly seek to learn from what is new and exciting, but we also bring ourselves and our baggage (literal and metaphorical) with us. On the adventure into the “new”, we see the world and the “Other” through the lens of our own culture, history, and psychology; a type of baggage often called a worldview. How we consider the division of the world into Us and Them (often Superior and Inferior) represents a reflection of our own worldview and of ourselves. Our worldviews have been, can and will be challenged by our encounters with the “Other” — and as the past has shown, this challenge can result in attempts to construct or maintain hierarchies resulting in violence and bloodshed as we struggle against difference and what it tells us about our failings … our darkest secret selves.

In this paired 102 Humanities and English course we will explore the next phase of the human adventure: our life with artificial intelligence (AI). Will we inevitably repeat the mistakes of the past and end up in yet another clash between civilizations and species? Will humanity as we know it cease to exist, either into extinction or to be replaced by new forms and bodies, or as consciousness with no bodies at all?

We stand upon the threshold of a new technological revolution; how will we respond to the challenges before us?

English 102: Writers have been thinking about AI and the future for a very long time. In the English course, we will read literature (primarily Sci-fi, but not exclusively) and theory that will explore human hierarchies, non-human-intelligences we have already encountered (Like Nature and non-human animals to name just two), and possible futures – futures in which the human race is not necessarily at the top of the food chain. Through discussion, writing, and creative projects students will analyze texts and what they can tell us about ourselves and the “Other,” and try to envision how we might participate in a future world that we can scarcely even imagine.

Humanities 102: Thinkers have been working to ‘unmap’ our current conceptual and geographic borders, and to unseat authorities that impose control, by calling out assimilationist logics and imperialism. Through accounts and analysis of real and imaginary journeys, students will explore ideas of sameness and difference(s) as found in surprising places and ways. We will address contemporary linguistic and cultural diversity, ethnicity, and various forms of (symbolic) representation, and ask how these conditions will change in an AI-rich future. Is there a real decolonial relationship with AI possible and how do we navigate emerging human/non-human interactions in order to avoid “Othering”, starting with our relationships on this Kanien’kehá:ka territory?

The Odyssey (English 102 + Humanities 102 pairing)

  • Wednesday and Friday, 11:30 – 2:30
  • G.S. Miles (Humanities) and R. Million (English)

Imagine. The world that surrounds you is thick with war, poetry, and exploration. Kinship and comradeship, rich feasts and splendid gifts, volatile gods and terrible monsters. It is Greece emerging from its Dark Ages, a time of warrior cultures, but also of deep and variable social relationships. Dangerous, violent, and often unjust, it is a world also full of pleasures, and life to those who live it well seems immeasurably rich. Story-telling in the form of epic poetry is one of the chief tapestries in which the Greeks see themselves in this time of great risk and reward. The power of story-telling is at one of its greatest historical peaks, it shapes the beliefs, the ambitions, the dreams of other worlds, and the transformative possibilities of love for the people who listen around the fire and the feast. A great age of storytelling needs a great subject, and thus it was that in this time, a poet we call Homer, about whom almost nothing is known, would tell the tale of one of the greatest characters in all literature; Odysseus, that man of many parts, the sagacious, tenacious, and complicated man. The Bronze Age of Greece appears indistinctly to us, our modern world and technologized lives seem more than an age apart. And yet such is the power of this character and others in this story, that the age looms closer as we read on, the eons collapse, and we can come to see in Odysseus something of our own journey through our own lives.

In this course we will journey together through time — through storms, battles, feasts and heartache – all in the quest for Home, and all the multiple meanings of that simple word. Together we will discover why this story — of all stories — is the one that we remember and tell time and time again. History, myth, language, psychology, philosophy, sociology, all woven into a great tapestry that we will not just peer at but live inside for a little while. As a culminating project for the course we will perform books of The Odyssey at an actual feast, recreating the original conditions of storytelling in Ancient Greece and reinterpreting the original text. Storytelling, writing, acting, research, design … By doing the hands-on work of bringing the story to life for a modern audience we will join all those who, for almost 3000 years, have attempted to interpret and inhabit this great Epic Tale.

Reflections Winter 2020 fourth semester courses

Just Punishment?: Ethical and Theoretical Approaches to the Horror Film (English BXE + Humanities BXH)

  • Tuesday and Thursday, 11:30 -2:30
  • M. Bobiy (Humanities) + J. Shea (English)

Renowned film critic and scholar Robin Wood has called horror “the most important of all American genres and perhaps the most progressive.” In his influential An Introduction to the American Horror Film, Wood defies those critics who have either dismissed the genre altogether, or else see the ideological work it performs as merely an unquestioning celebration of brutality, misogyny, and the male gaze. Like Wood, this class is not content with the assessment that horror is just a vehicle for cheap thrills or vicarious sadism. Rather, it is founded on the premise that the genre—from art-dread to slashers—should be taken seriously. For as well as being a pulse-raiser, horror is a frank reflection of psychical and social fears and fantasies, one that daringly engages with age-old philosophical problems and current political issues. This paired Humanities and English course examines the aforementioned issues through an application of theoretical and ethical approaches.

Questions? Contact Michael Duckett, Reflections co-ordinator: by Omnivox or

Last Modified: December 4, 2019