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Academics

Inquiry and Research in the Humanities (IRHUM)

The bachelor of arts degree program in Inquiry and Research in the Humanities (IRHUM) offers undergraduates the unique opportunity to pursue an individualized program of humanistic study in preparation of an independent, mentored research project, which will form the capstone experience of their college education at the University of Chicago. IRHUM is thus not defined by a particular discipline or field, but by the techniques and practices of humanistic inquiry and research. For individual students pursuing the IRHUM major, cohesion is provided by the program of humanistic study, formal research training, and the final research project they design in consultation with the Faculty Chair of IRHUM and their faculty mentor. While the IRHUM major can stand alone, it pairs well with other majors in the Humanities Collegiate Division and beyond.

Inquiry and Research in the Humanities Program of Study

    The bachelor of arts degree program in Inquiry and Research in the Humanities (IRHUM) offers undergraduates the unique opportunity to pursue an individualized program of humanistic study in preparation of an independent, mentored research project, which will form the capstone experience of their college education at the University of Chicago. IRHUM is thus not defined by a particular discipline or field, but by the techniques and practices of humanistic inquiry and research. For individual students pursuing the IRHUM major, cohesion is provided by the program of humanistic study, formal research training, and the final research project they design in consultation with the Faculty Chair of IRHUM and their faculty mentor. While the IRHUM major can stand alone, it pairs well with other majors in the Humanities Collegiate Division and beyond.

    Admission to IRHUM is by application, in which students must clearly articulate their interest in humanistic research and describe the area of humanistic inquiry and research that they plan to pursue. Students design their own program of humanistic study in close consultation with IRHUM’s Faculty Chair and their individual faculty mentor (who will serve as the primary advisor of the student’s BA research project). Centered in the humanities, the program of study may draw on subject areas, fields, and techniques from disciplines in the social, biological, and physical sciences. While IRHUM has no formal language requirement, students researching topics in other languages and cultures are highly encouraged to demonstrate proficiency in those languages by taking higher-level courses and pursuing a Practical and Advanced Proficiency Certification. Students whose research would be enhanced by secondary sources in another language are highly recommended to take courses in reading a foreign language for research (e.g., GRMN 23333 Reading German for Research Purposes) early in their degree programs.

    A student’s program of inquiry culminates in a genuine research project, closely mentored by a faculty member from a humanistic discipline (including the humanistic social sciences). To prepare students for their capstone research project, they will be trained in techniques and practices of humanistic research and given the opportunity to engage in genuine research in the context of a collaborative project or in a directed setting. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the various initiatives underway at the University of Chicago (College Summer Institute in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Smart Scholars Program, Archaeological Field School, etc.) or with our international partners (the University of Sussex International Junior Research Associates Program, etc.).

    Noor Amin, 3rd-year, IRHUM

    • Major focus: What formalist structures render video games a more compelling alternative to reality, and how can we leverage our understanding of these elements to create a more equitable and engaging world?

    Robert Gorman, 3rd-year, IRHUM, Political Science, and Philosophy

    • Major focus: Liberty and equality in the political systems of the ancient Mediterranean world
    • Current research aims:* "Nobilitas as Populares and Elitists: Aristocratic Leadership in the Roman Republic"

    [Abstract] Although a semi-entrenched elite held senatorial positions in the Roman Republic, those politicians were always subject to public opinion. Whether in the assembly or the comitia, even the most oligarchic aristocrats required electoral success in order to attain office, and thus, social status and the continuation of their legacy. This seems to incentivize pandering to the populace; on the contrary, the families of the most popular politicians generally fell from grace, while more elitist families were more successful. To explore this puzzling phenomenon, I propose research into Roman historiographical accounts of the relationship between the elite and the lower classes, and their political and ethical thought. Comparison between the idealized and the real relationship between classes, as well as the ways it shifted over the span of the Republic, can explain political outcomes. The Roman populace should have been more favorable to progressive families, but instead, the popular politicians’ families suffered electoral losses after the demise of their greatest scions and more elitist families maintained influence in the long run. My intuition is that this is due to a fundamental distinction in popular politics: the true popularis (servant of the public) versus the closet autocrat (authoritarian leader who conceals their true intention under the pretext of the popular will). However, whatever the explanation ultimately is, it can serve as an important part of our understanding of the development of the Roman political system, as well as our understanding of the interaction between the ruling elite and the general populace across history. *Research aims developed in IRHU 20100 (SPR21)

    Elias Jinich, 3rd-year, IRHUM

    • Major focus: The past, present, and future uses of rhetoric and oratory 
    • Current research aims:* "Political Eloquence in Crisis: From Classical Antiquity to Contemporary America"

    [Abstract] My inspiration for this research was born out of the 2016 presidential election. Like many other young people, the election was a transformative moment in my political awakening. As someone who was tuning seriously into politics for the first time, I naively assumed that any individual capable of winning election to the White House must also possess an extraordinary capacity for speaking well. I recall feeling disillusionment with democratic government and asking myself at the time if the election result meant we had entered an age where eloquence had become obsolete. Contemporary politics are historically unprecedented in that great speech-making is no longer a prerequisite nor a guarantee of political success. Specifically, verbal eloquence seems to have suffered the most significant loss or repute in the modern world. My research thus seeks to investigate whether this apparent decline in the American political oratory is due to a shift in the values and ideals of elites, or rather a bottom-up change in public tastes. Ultimately, this question has broader implications. For instance, is there still inherent value in training under the classical oratorical tradition? Or has it become fully obsolete amidst the prevalence of mass media, society’s changed definition of what constitutes eloquence, and a democratic political system that upholds egalitarianism as its ideological basis? To understand why this is the case, my research will examine the socio-political role of rhetoric and oratory in classical antiquity and contrast that with the status quo from the mid-20th century to present day. My historical survey will look at how aristocratic elites used rhetorical education as a means of widening the social gulf and in turn maintaining a monopoly over ostensibly democratic or republican political systems. From there, I will look at how contemporary elites use speech — if at all — in order to gatekeep entry from social class outsiders. This comparison will hopefully allow me to trace the relationship of rhetoric to political power, and whether the current deprived state of contemporary political oratory is a good, rather than bad sign, for our democracy. *Research aims developed in IRHU 20100 (SPR21)

    Yuxin Zhang, 4th-year, IRHUM and Visual Arts

    • Major focus: Understanding late capitalism through minimalist architecture
    • Research Scholar, 2021 College Summer Institute in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
    • Current research aims:* “#uglybuilding #beautifulbuilding: A Critical Inquiry into Architectural Taste on Instagram”

    [Abstract] "Why do you think that building is ugly, and that one is beautiful? Why is that?” In majority occasions of colloquial exchange, a persistent inquiry along this line will normally end up with your interlocutor’s frustrated utterance, “well, just because.” The matter of taste is customarily taken as a subject preference, an incommunicable intuition that does not invite much scrutiny. However, such uncritical attitude will likely be questioned by Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist whose work emphasizes the interconnection between aesthetic preference and social class formation. In his book Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, Bourdieu argues that the expression of aesthetic taste is conditioned by a variety of cultural factors, such as one’s class origin and educational background.[1] If the issue of taste is, as exemplified by Bourdieu, an abstruse social matter, then one’s expression of architectural taste— whether a building is “ugly” or “beautiful”— signifies not only an instinctive fondness, but a complex cultural phenomenon from which we may infer broader social hierarchies. Referencing Bourdieu’s social theory of taste, the proposed research will focus on one particular expression of architectural taste: Instagram posts tagged under #uglybuilding and #beautifulbuilding. Integrating architectural criticism, media studies, and social theory, I will survey the expression of architectural judgment on digital media in comparison to the conventional “high brow” architectural criticism. In exploring the similarities and discrepancies between the contemporary masses’ and the traditional elites’ comments about buildings, I aim to assess the expression of taste in digital media, and how it functions in reference to Bourdieu’s theory of taste.The significance of the proposed research will be two-fold: First, in exploring the formulation of architectural taste on Instagram, I will provide a creative evaluation of digital media’s contribution to architecture criticism, especially its relationship with canonized literature. Second, in assessing the characteristics of contemporary aesthetic expressions, I will propose a critique of Bourdieu’s theory of taste, evaluating the way our aesthetic choice may have been conditioned differently in relation to the emergence of digital media. [1] Bennett, Tony. “Introduction to the Routledge Classic Edition”, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste by Pierre Bourdieu. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis, 2013. *Research aims developed in IRHU 20100 (SPR21)

     

    “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” - Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories (1976)

    The program now known as Inquiry and Research in the Humanities (IRHUM), is a new iteration of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (ISHUM), which was founded and first chaired by Norman Maclean, known most widely for his novella A River Runs Through It. Maclean came to the University of Chicago in 1928 to pursue graduate studies in English; he was later hired as an instructor and eventually became the William Rainey Harper Professor of English. He won the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching three times during his career at the University of Chicago. The major he created was instituted from the beginning as a major in which a student could design an individual course of study which was supervised individually by a faculty member.

    Early on, as General Studies in the Humanities (GSHUM), the program naturally came to attract students whose interests fell outside of the terms in which the other academic departments of the University operated in that era. These included the study of film, and of theater and performing arts—both areas of study which GSHum professors and students in fact introduced to the University. Chairpersons starting from the 1970s include Janel Mueller, Herman SinaikoDavid Bevington, and Malynne Sternstein. At around the turn of the last decade, GSHum was renamed ISHum in order to emphasize what is unique about the program: the expectation that students would synthesize their own understandings from their experience of a set of academic disciplines that do not necessarily think about one another.

    IRHUM builds on this rich tradition while responding to an increasing demand for formal research training and experience in the humanities. Reimagined by Professor Christopher J. Wild, Collegiate Master of the Humanities and Professor of Germanic Studies, and Dr. Nichole J. Fazio, Executive Director of the College Center for Research and Fellowships (CCRF), IRHUM seeks to advance the humanities by equipping early-career scholars with the tools and training necessary for their individual success and as future advocates for the intrinsic value of humanistic inquiry. Benjamin Morgan, Associate Professor of English, has been appointed as the inaugural faculty chair of IRHUM.

    Program Requirements

    • Six Courses in the self-designed program of humanistic study, developed in consultation with the Faculty Chair of IRHUM and a faculty mentor.
    • Academic and Professional Writing (ENGL 13000) , recommended in the Winter or Spring Quarters of Year 2, or in the Autumn Quarter of Year 3.
    • Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design (IRHU 20100) , recommended in the Spring Quarter of Year 2 or Autumn Quarter of Year 3. This seminar will introduce majors to the basic tenets of humanistic inquiry, including the formulation and testing of research questions and lines of inquiry, and expose students to best practices in research design. In partnership with the University Library, this course will train students in information literacy and introduce them to best practices in research design (feasibility, assessment of primary and secondary source material, collation of resources), as well as expose them to research ethics and the principles of culturally sensitive research practices. The course will also include training in data use and management, and introduce students to research tools and technology available to them through the University Library system, as well as other on- and off-campus resources.
    • Two Research Seminars in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. This requirement may be fulfilled with Independent Study or Reading and Research courses.
    • Applied Mentored Research Experience, undertaken in the context of a collaborative, faculty- or discipline-expert mentored project. This experience will not necessarily correlate to the students’ own research project but instead expose them to the work of knowledge production as “apprentices” to experts in a humanistic field. This could include opportunities within a structured research experience with College partners (Smart Museum of Art, Oriental Institute Museum, archaeological fieldwork, the University of Sussex International Junior Research Associates Program, etc.) or a research assistantship for a faculty member. Majors will receive a stipend and, therefore, no course credit for this requirement. A mentored research experience in the biological, physical, or social sciences may count toward this requirement by petition.
    • Research Proposal Colloquium (IRHU 29600) in the Spring Quarter of Year 3. Upon approval of their research proposal, students will receive the necessary financial support to pursue their research project over the summer between Years 3 and 4. Stipends cover living costs and may support travel and other necessary expenses in support of their research project. The College Summer Institute in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is aimed toward rising seniors and provides, thus, the ideal setting for IRHUM majors working on their research project.
    • BA Thesis Writing Colloquium (IRHU 29800) in the Autumn Quarter of Year 4. Students are expected to complete their thesis by the end of the Autumn Quarter.
    • In the Winter and Spring Quarters of Year 4, majors are expected to present their capstone research project to a wider audience by giving an academic talk at a conference, presenting a poster session, etc., for which IRHUM will provide the necessary financial support, as needed.
    • Majors are strongly encouraged to consider the curricular offerings of the Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse, as well as the resources and training offered through the College Center for Research and Fellowships.

    Note: Students double-majoring can double-count up to three of the six courses in the self-designed program of humanistic study between the two majors and write only a single BA thesis (counting for both majors). IRHU 29600 Research Proposal Colloquium and IRHU 29800 BA BA Thesis Writing Colloquium cannot be  replaced by similar courses or seminars from other majors.

    Summary of Requirements

    Six courses of self-designed study

    600

    ENGL 13000

    Academic and Professional Writing (The Little Red Schoolhouse)

    100

    IRHU 20100

    Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design

    100

    Two Humanistic Research Seminars

    200

    Applied Mentored Research Experience

    000

    IRHU 29600

    Research Proposal Colloquium

    100

    IRHU 29800

    BA Thesis Writing Colloquium

    100

    Total Units

    1200

    The final BA research project, usually taking the form of a written thesis, is carefully scaffolded. Students design their research project in consultation with their faculty mentor during the course of IRHU 29600Research Proposal Colloquium in the Spring Quarter of Year 3. Upon approval of their research proposal, students receive full financial support to conduct their research over the summer between their junior and senior years. IRHU 29800 BA Thesis Writing Colloquium in the Autumn Quarter of Year 4 provides a structured and collaborative setting, in which students can complete their project in a timely and closely mentored manner.

    This schedule is designed to avoid the usual Spring Quarter crunch of BA thesis writing and to make it easier for students to use their research thesis as a writing sample for fellowship or graduate school applications. The intentional design of the BA thesis (or, research capstone) experience ensures that students are fully equipped and able to put into practice the principles of academic research design. This elevates the value of the research thesis as a training experience, as well as a measurable academic output. Additionally, the enhanced structure of the thesis experience provides students with the opportunity to translate a portion of their project into a refined research and writing sample for the purposes of graduate school and/or any postgraduate experience that expects advanced research training (e.g., national fellowships like Fulbright, etc.). IRHUM also aims to train students in the dissemination of their research through written and oral communication to both expert and non-expert audiences. The final two quarters of Year 4 are reserved for attending undergraduate research conferences and symposia, writing up their research for publication, or preparing other forms of dissemination.

    While the potential for developing individual BA programs in Inquiry and Research in the Humanities is as great as the combined ingenuity, imagination, and interest of each student in consultation with the student's advisors, we have identified a few sample program plans below:

    Studying Chicago's Cityscape

    ARTH 24190

    Imagining Chicago's Common Buildings

    100

    ARTH 24191

    City Imagined, City Observed

    100

    ENST 22300

    South Side Ecologies

    100

    GEOG 23500

    Urban Geography

    100

    PBPL 28501

    Process and Policy in State and City Government

    100

    TAPS 24500

    Chicago Theater: Budgets and Buildings

    100

    ENGL 13000

    Academic and Professional Writing (The Little Red Schoolhouse)

    100

    IRHU 20100

    Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design

    100

    Two Humanistic Research Seminars

    200

    Applied Mentored Research Experience

    000

    IRHU 29600

    Research Proposal Colloquium

    100

    IRHU 29800

    BA Thesis Writing Colloquium

    100

    Total Units

    1200

    Understanding Climate Change through Literature and Art

    ENGL 12520

    Climate Change in Literature, Art, and Film

    100

    ENST 28728

    Climate Change and Society: Human Impacts, Adaptation, and Policy Solutions

    100

    GEOS 24220

    Climate Foundations

    100

    GEOS 24705

    Energy: Science, Technology, and Human Usage

    100

    PBPL 24756

    Exploring the Resilient City

    100

    PHSC 13400

    Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast

    100

    ENGL 13000

    Academic and Professional Writing (The Little Red Schoolhouse)

    100

    IRHU 20100

    Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design

    100

    Two Humanistic Research Seminars

    200

    Applied Mentored Research Experience

    000

    IRHU 29600

    Research Proposal Colloquium

    100

    IRHU 29800

    BA Thesis Writing Colloquium

    100

    Total Units

    1200

    The History of Print

    ARTH 18700

    The Arts of Arabic and Persian Manuscripts

    100

    CLCV 21500

    Medieval Book: History, Typology, Function

    100

    ENGL 45433

    Book History: Methods, Practices, and Issues

    100

    GRMN 22312

    Reforming Religious Media: Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation

    100

    HIST 12203

    Italian Renaissance: Petrarch, Machiavelli, and the Wars of Popes and Kings

    100

    HIST 25425

    Censorship, Info Control, & Revolutions in Info Technology from the Printing Press to the Internet

    100

    ENGL 13000

    Academic and Professional Writing (The Little Red Schoolhouse)

    100

    IRHU 20100

    Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design

    100

    Two Humanistic Research Seminars

    200

    Applied Mentored Research Experience

    000

    IRHU 29600

    Research Proposal Colloquium

    100

    IRHU 29800

    BA Thesis Writing Colloquium

    100

    Total Units

    1200

    ​​​​​​​

    •  

    Required Courses for IRHUM Majors

    IRHUM majors can choose course offerings from across the College that fit into their program of study, provided they are approved by the IRHUM Faculty Chair and the student's faculty mentor. Methodology courses from other programs and departments may—upon petition—count toward the requirements of the IRHUM major. In addition to the three courses below, IRHUM students are required to take two IRHUM research seminars. These vary year to year.

    IRHU 20100. Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design. 100 Units.

    This seminar will introduce IRHUM and other humanities majors to the basic tenets of humanistic inquiry, including the formulation and testing of research questions and lines of inquiry, and expose students to best practices in research design. In partnership with the University Libraries, this course will train students in information literacy, introduce them to best practices in research design (feasibility, assessment of primary and secondary source material, collation of resources), as well as expose them to research ethics and the principles of culturally sensitive research practices. The course will also include training in data use and management and introduce students to research tools and technology available to them through the University Library system, as well as other on- and off-campus resources.  

    Instructor(s): N. Fazio     Terms Offered: Winter (annually)

    IRHU 29600. Research Proposal Colloquium. 100 Units.

    Building on the research skills majors have learned in Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design [IRHU 20100], the two Research Seminars, and the mandatory Applied Mentored Research Experience, the Research Proposal Colloquium helps majors identify a relevant research topic/questions, design a feasible research project, establish a research timeline and formulate a clear and compelling proposal. The collaborative setting of the Research Proposal Colloquium complements the individual mentoring provided by the Faculty Advisor and the IRHUM Co-Chair. Upon approval of their research proposal by their Faculty Advisor, the IRHUM Faculty Chair, and Co-Chair, students are eligible to receive full financial support to conduct a portion of their research over the summer between their junior and senior years, as merited.   

    Instructor(s): N. Fazio     Terms Offered: Spring (annually)
    Note(s): All IRHUM majors are required to take the Research Proposal Colloquium in the Spring Quarter of their third year.

    IRHU 29800. BA Thesis Writing Colloquium. 100 Units.

    Building on the Research Proposal Colloquium and the research undertaken over the summer, the BA Thesis Writing Colloquium provides a structured and collaborative setting, in which IRHUM majors receive instruction on effectively writing about their findings, workshop their efforts with their peers, and, ultimately, complete their mentored research project in a timely and productive manner. Like the Research Proposal Colloquium, the BA Thesis Writing Colloquium complements the individual mentoring provided by the Faculty Advisor and IRHU Co-Chair. Furthermore, IRHUM majors will receive support translating their research experience and output into competitive applications for graduate programs, research grants, and national fellowships.    

    Instructor(s): TBD     Terms Offered: Autumn (annually)
    Note(s): All IRHUM majors are required to take the Thesis Writing Colloquium in the Autumn Quarter of their fourth year.

    WNTR Quarter 2022

    Archival Methods: Slavery and Gender in the Americas: IRHU 27008/1 [23293]

    This seminar offers an in-depth introduction to archival research methodologies with a focus on gender and slavery in the Americas. Students will apply their knowledge by working in historical and contemporary archives via two trips to special collections: one to view archival texts from the period and another to find an archival object of the student's choosing that will provide the topic of their final research paper. (1650-1830, 1830-1940, Literary/Critical Theory) Instructor: Dr. Sara Johnson

    Normal People: IRHU 27009/1 [21469]

    Worrying about what's normal and what's not is an endemic feature of both our popular and scientific cultures. Is my intelligence above average? What about my height? Should I be feeling this way? Is there a pill for that? People seem to have always been concerned with fitting in, but the way of describing the general run of practices and conditions as "normal" is a rather recent phenomenon; testament to the vast influence of the modern human sciences on how we understand ourselves and others. This research seminar will offer a broad historical overview of the ways that group behaviors and individual traits - bodily, moral, intellectual - were methodically described and measured in the past 200 years. We will become acquainted with the work of sociologists and anthropologists, psychiatrists and psychologists, polling experts and child development specialists, and ask about the kinds of people their efforts brought into being, from sexual perverts to the chronically depressed. The course will focus on the scientific theories and techniques used to distinguish the normal from the pathological, together with the new social institutions that translated this knowledge into forms of control. We will read Émile Durkheim on suicide rates and Cesare Lombroso on born criminals; learn about IQ tests and developmental milestones; and consider whether, with the advent of personalized medicine and self-data, we have indeed reached the "end of average." Instructor: Dr. Tal Arbel

    Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design: IRHU 20100/1 [54033]

    Offered annually, this seminar introduces undergraduates to the basic tenets of humanistic inquiry, including the formulation of research questions, problems, and lines of inquiry, and expose students to best practices in research design. This course will train students in information literacy, introduce them to key concepts in research design (feasibility, assessment of primary and secondary source material, management of resources, etc.), as well as expose them to research ethics and the principles of culturally sensitive research practices. Students will craft a comprehensive research proposal, including a formal literature review, in support of current or future research endeavors, such as the BA thesis. In partnership with the University Library, this course will also introduce students to research tools and technology available to them through the University Library system, as well as expose them to archival collections and other on- and off-campus resources. This course is open to all undergraduates; it is a required core course for IRHUM majors. Instructor: Dr. Nichole Fazio 

    AUT Quarter 2021

    The End of Certainty? Chaos, Complexity, and Human Life: IRHU 27005/1 [85209]

    What is uncertainty? Is it a temporary state of affairs, a situation to be resolved with more data, or is it permanent feature of our world? This course examines how uncertainty, once understood as the absence of knowledge, has become an object of knowledge in its own right. We will pay particular attention to the fields of chaos theory and complexity science, which emerged in the late twentieth century from physics and mathematics but have since become widely applied sciences, making their way into fields as diverse as molecular biology and economic theory. Together we will follow the path of 'complexity' in its many forms, reading texts by geneticists, physicists, climate scientists, philosophers, economists and many others. By the end of the course we will have developed a shared archive of uncertainty, and gained a better understanding of how uncertainty underpins what we do, in fact, know. This course is collaborative, interdisciplinary and historical, and welcomes all interested students, including those with backgrounds in history, philosophy, biological sciences, environmental studies, mathematics, and economics. Instructor: Dr. Isabel Gabel

    Research in Archives: Human Bodies in History: IRHU 27006/1 [85224]

    How have we come to know and experience our bodies? This undergraduate seminar develops humanities research skills necessary to study the body in history. Spanning early modern cultural practices to modern medicine, science, and technology, this course explores how ideas and practices concerning the body have changed over time and how the body itself is shaped by culture and society. A major focus will be learning how to conduct different forms of historical research to produce cutting-edge humanities scholarship about the human body. Readings will introduce key themes and recent scholarship including work on disability, reproduction, race, gender, ethics, extreme environments, and identity. This dynamic research group will grapple with issues at the heart of our corporeal existence by combining perspectives from the history of science, medicine, and technology, cultural history, anthropology, and science and technology studies (STS). Instructors: Dr. Iris Clever and Dr. Jordan Bimm

    SPR Quarter 2021

    Compiling and Mediating Environmental History: IRHU 27002/1 [54362] 

    How do audiovisual media archives inform both the research and presentation of environmental history? Social media posts, fiction film, photographs from geological surveys, and urban field recordings all index historical environmental conditions. Artists and scholars enlist such archives to reanimate lost and changed landscapes for contemporary audiences, raising historiographical questions about how research excavates, extracts, and assembles both image and sound. This course looks at a series of documentary films and online media projects that enlist media to narrate histories of socio-ecological interaction. These projects explore site-specific environmental crises as they were deliberately or inadvertently recorded by media, including the toxic legacies of U.S. Imperialism, the extraction economy of South African apartheid, or how Hollywood films unconsciously document the long-term impacts of climate change. Students will analyze these media objects alongside readings in media historiographical theory, environmental history, and documentary theory. The goal of this engagement is to guide students toward a final project that employs both research and creative practice to compile a report about an environmental historical case study that utilizes a media archive to make the argument. This course shows how humanistic inquiry into documentary media and the material conditions of media production can inform the assembly and presentation of environmental historical knowledge. Instructor: Dr. Thomas Pringle

    Violence and the State: IRHU 27003/1 [54106] 

    Violence in modern states is at once exceptional and ever-present, thought of as aberration even as it is routinely employed. Focusing primarily on modern Europe and its colonial empires, this seminar will explore this contradiction in theory and practice. We will consider violence at the intersection of race, gender, and class. We will learn how various modern thinkers including Tocqueville, Weber, and Sorel theorized the place of violence in liberal society. We will read writers and activists like Frantz Fanon, Mohandas Gandhi, and Assia Djebar to understand the role of violence in empire and decolonization. Finally, we will connect this history to the present day by considering how it relates to police violence in the contemporary world. Instructor: Dr. Yan Slobodkin

    Introduction to Humanistic Inquiry and Research Design: IRHU 20100/1 [54033]

    Offered annually, this seminar introduces undergraduates to the basic tenets of humanistic inquiry, including the formulation of research questions, problems, and lines of inquiry, and expose students to best practices in research design. This course will train students in information literacy, introduce them to key concepts in research design (feasibility, assessment of primary and secondary source material, management of resources, etc.), as well as expose them to research ethics and the principles of culturally sensitive research practices. Students will craft a comprehensive research proposal, including a formal literature review, in support of current or future research endeavors, such as the BA thesis. In partnership with the University Library, this course will also introduce students to research tools and technology available to them through the University Library system, as well as expose them to archival collections and other on- and off-campus resources. This course is open to all undergraduates; it is a required core course for IRHUM majors. Instructor: Dr. Nichole Fazio 

    WNTR Quarter 2020

    Race in Science and Medicine from 1800 to the Present: IRHU 27000/1 [35241]

    This interdisciplinary course will explore the ways in which scientists have studied and theorized race from the 18th century onward. We will start with Linnaeus's racial classification and the 18th and 19th century anthropological study of skulls and bones, move to the 20th century study of genetic human variation, and end with the use of racial categories in biomedical research today. How have practices and theories of studying human diversity changed and persisted over time? The course will highlight the problematic and contentious nature of these studies by analyzing their colonial contexts, the UNESCO critiques after World War II, and current-day comments on race and science in newspaper articles and podcasts (transcripts available on course website). Together, we will reflect on how historical knowledge can assist in tackling complex issues surrounding race, science, and bias in societies today and in the past. As a final assignment, students will, in groups, develop a podcast episode on a topic relevant to the course in groups.

    The Human Body in Extremes: IRHU 27001/1 [35248]

    What can the human body endure? This interdisciplinary research seminar focuses on the interplay between bodies and extreme environments. Each week we will "visit" a different hazardous context or locale and consider the challenges it poses to human culture and survival. Environments to be covered include outer space, deep seas, polar regions, radiation zones, mountain summits, underground mines, and disaster areas. With tools from environmental history, the history of medicine, the history of technology, medical anthropology, and sociology, we will consider how ideas of the body and how ideas of the environment change over time, and how producing knowledge about the limits of the body helps to define what people consider "normal." Each seminar will pair short readings drawn from secondary sources with original research tasks in diverse historical archives. Students in the course will develop greater familiarity with humanistic research methods, as well as learn how to apply scientific and biomedical ideas of the body to participate effectively in current debates shaping where people live, work, or simply visit. Instructor: Dr. Jordan Bimm

    Since IRHUM is an interdisciplinary major whose field of study encompasses all the offerings in the various departments and programs of the University (particularly in the Humanities Division), all faculty members of these varied departments and programs are functionally related to IRHUM. IRHUM students may approach any University of Chicago faculty member who works in the student's field of interest with a request to serve as faculty adviser for the BA paper. Similarly, IRHUM students may take courses with any faculty member from any department of the University. However, there are also a select number of IRHUM faculty and board members dedicated to actively supporting its majors.

    IRHUM Advisors and Mentors: 

    • Jessica Baker, Assistant Professor, Department of Music
    • Allyson Ettinger, Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics
    • Nichole Fazio, Executive Director, College Center for Research and Fellowships; Associate Dean of Students, the College
    • Allyson Nadia Field, Associate Professor, Department of Cinema and Media Studies
    • Timothy M. Harrison, Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Assistant Professor, Renaissance and Early Modern English Literature, Department of English
    • Ghenwa Hayek, Associate Professor of Modern Arabic Literature, NELC
    • Patrick Jagoda, Professor, Department of English Language and Literature
    • Sarah Johnson, Assistant Professor, Department of English Language and Literature
    • Katherine Kearns, Assistant Professor, Department of Classics
    • Sharese King, Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics
    • Issa Lampe, Director, Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry; Deputy Director for Academic and Curatorial Affairs, Smart Museum
    • Ellen MacKay, Chair of TAPPS, Associate Professor, Department of English Language and Literature
    • Josephine McDonagh, Professor, Department of English Language and Literature
    • Benjamin Morgan, IRHUM Faculty Chair; Associate Professor, Department of English Language and Literature
    • William Nickell, Associate Professor and Chair of the Slavic Department
    • Hervé Reculeau, Associate Professor of Assyriology, NELC
    • Victoria Saramago, Assistant Professor, Romance Languages and Literatures
    • Sabina Shaikh, Director, Program on the Global Environment; Senior Lecturer, Environmental and Urban Studies
    • Eric Slauter, Deputy Dean of Humanities; Interim Director of the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture; Associate Professor of English and the College
    • Stephanie Soileau, Assistant Professor of Practice in the Arts, Department of English Language and Literature
    • Rebecca Starkey, Head of Research and Instruction Services, University of Chicago Library
    • Megan Sullivan, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History
    • Nora Titone, Resident Dramaturg, Court Theatre
    • Christopher Wild, Professor, Germanic Studies; Master of the Humanities Collegiate Division; Deputy Dean of the Humanities
    • Tyler Williams, Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, South Asian Languages and Civilizations
    • Catherine Uecker, Head of Research and Instruction, Special Collections Reader Services, University of Chicago Library
    • Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer, Professor, Department of Classics; Director, Stevanovich Center for the Formation of Knowledge

    Advising: Close contact with the faculty and staff relevant to the student's career in IRHUM—including the student's College adviser, the IRHUM Faculty Chair, and the student’s faculty mentor—is essential in a program that involves so much individual initiative and experimentation. Students are encouraged to seek their advice whenever they have an intellectual or practical concern about progress in the major.

    Grading: All courses in the major must be taken for a quality grade, including ENGL 13000.

    Honors: To be eligible for honors, a student must maintain an overall GPA of 3.25 or higher and a GPA in the major of 3.5 or higher. Honors are reserved for the student whose BA project shows exceptional intellectual merit in the judgment of the faculty mentor, the IRHUM Faculty Chair, and the Master of the Humanities Collegiate Division.

     

    Key Campus Partners: IRHUM students will undertake two formal research experiences designed to further their engagement in the practice of humanistic inquiry: an applied mentored research project with a faculty member or through one of the programs supported through the College, and a BA thesis. To this end, IRHUM students will be supported by the College Center for Research and Fellowships (CCRF) in the identification of suitable opportunities and support presenting their research in various campus, national and international contexts. The University of Chicago Library plays a vital role in supporting IRHUM students through both formal training on specific research tools and supporting BA thesis research. The Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse is vital to IRHUM students expected to advance the public dissemination of their work. Additional support units include the UChicago Writing Program and the University of Chicago Language Center. Finally, the IRHUM major enjoys a rich partnership with the Stevanovich Institute for Knowledge Formation (SIFK) whose post-doctoral fellows offer IRHUM Research Seminars on a regular basis.

    Direct links to relevant resources for IRHUM majors:

    Research Support: 

    College Center for Research and Fellowships (CCRF):

    University of Chicago Library resources: 

    National Fellowships: 

    Interested students should apply for admission into the IRHUM program as soon as possible upon completion of general education requirements (typically by the end of the second year and, except in extraordinary circumstances, no later than the end of Autumn Quarter of the third year). Transfer students in particular are urged to apply at the earliest point that they can. An application is initiated by consulting with the IRHUM Faculty Chair and/or Co-Chair, to discuss the feasibility of designing and implementing the planned study and research program. After consultation, students who wish to pursue an application to the IRHUM program must submit a recent course transcript (with a minimum B average in preceding course work) and a two-part written proposal according to the following guidelines. Applications must be written in error-free, succinct, and well-crafted language in order to receive full consideration.

    Motivation Statement: The first part of the proposal consists of a 750-word motivation statement, explaining the student’s intellectual motivation and academic preparation for embarking on an individualized program of humanistic inquiry, and describing in broad outlines the research interest(s), as well as the program of study to pursue those interests. Students are encouraged to briefly describe questions and/or specific topics they may explore in a BA thesis, as well as the names of up to three potential faculty members with a rationale for their choices. This will further clarify the student's intentions for the IRHUM major and its culminating research experience for the review committee. 

    Course Prospectus: The second part of the proposal consists of a list of courses that comprise a potential program of study described in the motivation statement. This list may include courses the student has already taken as well as courses the student intends to take. While a list of proposed courses is a required part of the application, it is understood that these will undergo modification contingent on the availability of courses from year to year. Please note: this is a proposal and the committee appreciates that it will likely change over the course of the major. That said, any major changes to the course prospectus must be discussed with and approved by the IRHUM Co-Chair and then forwarded to the student’s College adviser.

    After the application materials have been reviewed by the IRHUM Faculty Chair and Co-Chair, a twenty-minute interview will be scheduled with the IRHUM Faculty Chair and Co-Chair. The IRHUM Faculty Chair will inform the student via email of the result of the application.

    • Autumn Quarter Application DEADLINE: November 15, 2021 
    • Winter Quarter Application DEADLINE: February 21, 2022 
    • Spring Quarter Application DEADLINE: April 18, 2022 

    APPLY NOW!

Inquiry and Research in the Humanities in the College Catalog

IRHUM Contacts

    Associate Professor, English

    • Email: bjmorgan@uchicago.edu
    • Office Hours: Office hours by appointment via email
    • Morgan CV
    • Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley, 2010
    • Teaching at UChicago since 2010

    Dr. Nichole J. Fazio