Academics

2020–21 Stuart Tave Fellowship Courses

The Stuart Tave Teaching Fellowships are so named to honor Professor Emeritus Stuart Tave and his influence as an educator. The fellowships were established to provide exceptional graduate students with the opportunity to teach a course of their own design related to their research and appealing to undergraduates across the College.

We are pleased to announce the 2020-21 Stuart Tave Teaching Fellowship courses:

  • CLCV XXXXX Is Rhetoric A Good Thing? The Debate Between Rhetoric and Philosophy
    • Rosalie Stoner, Spring 2021 TBD
  • CMST 28008 Sound and Scandal: How Media Make Believe
    • Amy Skjerseth, Spring 2021 T/Th 2:40-4:00PM, screenings Mondays 10:20-1:30PM
  • LING 26540 Language & Technology
    • Tran Truong, Winter 2021, M/W 4:10-5:30PM
  • PHIL 28011 Gut Feelings and Fake News
    • Molly Brown, Spring 2021, T/Th 1:00-2:20PM

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

This course will introduce undergraduates to the Greco-Roman sources of a key tension that has shaped contemporary humanities: the debate between philosophy and rhetoric, between ideals of truth and powers of persuasion. Beginning with an in-depth examination of Plato’s scathing attack on rhetoric in the Gorgias, a deeply ambiguous text in which Socrates’ championing of philosophy actually seems to fail, we will examine Plato’s rehabilitation of rhetoric in the Phaedrus as a means of leading souls towards truth, Cicero’s attempt to combine rhetoric and philosophy in Book III of his dialogue On the Orator, and Quintilian’s effort to inspire moral commitment in the readers of his rhetorical treatise On the Education of the Orator.  In the latter part of the course, we will encounter new voices entering the debate and adding their own unique concerns: Augustine’s conflicted feelings towards his rhetorical education in the Confessions, Isotta Nogarola’s spirited entrance into a tradition of rhetorical and philosophical debate defined and dominated by men, and Petrus Ramus’ attack on the unity of rhetoric and morality that dramatically altered the shape of humanistic studies.  We will conclude the course with Danielle Allen’s chapter “Rhetoric, a Good Thing” in Talking to Strangers, which engages in this debate via Aristotle and frames rhetoric as a useful tool for forging civic bonds in troubled political times.

View syllabus [provisional]

Why has lip syncing caused so many scandals and successes across media, from Milli Vanilli to Beyoncé? This course examines how sound synchronization binds voices to notions of identity and authenticity. Primarily focusing on popular media, we will diagnose how vocal appropriation and synthesis have been used from The Jazz Singer to today’s frighteningly authentic deepfakes and vocaloids. We may think we know lip sync and voice synthesis when we see and hear them, but close looking and listening reveal deeper issues of technological construction and vocal stereotypes. For example, Singin’ in the Rain dramatizes film’s transition to sound as technicians struggled to match the “right” voice to the “right” body: a beautiful woman with an ugly voice lip syncs to the lovely voice of a woman who Hollywood deems unsuitable to appear onscreen.

From drag to dubbing, this course investigates how sound synchronization creates alternate identities and realities. We will consider lip syncing as a platform for new acts of authorship and citation in music videos, TV, animation, and more. Looking back to Hollywood and Bollywood and forward to TikTok and The Masked Singer, we will explore how lip sync’s eye-to-sound connections cue up states of credibility and belief. Questions of talent, star power, and credibility also confront performances of gender and sexuality, from RuPaul’s “lip sync for your life” to playback singers in Indian cinema: for example, Lata Mangeshkar supplied Bollywood stars’ voices for five decades, so that numerous women “sang” with the industry’s ideal female vocal sound. No matter the motive, vocal manipulation can never be taken at face value, especially in an age when contortions between sounds and their sources can be passed off as truth.

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Notable proponents of generative linguistics have argued, not uncontroversially, that the ability to acquire language is the defining characteristic of the human species. Yet the human is not only Homo orator, but also Homo faber: we are further distinguished from non-human animals by our tool use and the complex technologies that have thence emerged. In this course, we will discuss the relationship between language and technology-and between linguistic change and technological innovation. We will take as a point of departure the history of writing, before moving on to important case studies at the language-technology interface, including the typewriter and cochlear implant. In the latter half of the course, we will shift our focus to computer-mediated communication, with an eye on how technology is simultaneously positioned as a force that creates and forecloses certain possibilities for linguistic expression and metalinguistic reflection.

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Psychological research has long suggested that as rational agents we are essentially reliant upon intuition, heuristics, and, as it were, gut feelings. This same research also suggests that, on the one hand, beliefs formed by way of these largely unconscious processes are vulnerable to bias and error while, on the other hand, we are liable to be overconfident in their reliability. What to do?

In this course, we will examine the psychological bases of knowledge and inquire into their wider epistemological significance. Our guiding aim is to understand some of the ways in which our reliance on gut feelings shapes our attitudes toward “fake news”—or deliberate misinformation and manipulation—in its many guises. Three questions will guide our investigation. First, how should insights about the rationality (or lack thereof) of gut feelings inform the way we think about fundamental issues in epistemology? We will consider, for example, justification, the nature of evidence, the reliability of testimony, and intellectual virtues and vices. Second, do some of the reasoning biases typically deemed irrational have some practical and epistemic value? Moreover, might such behaviors sometimes be rational? Third, insofar as our gut feelings do produce irrational behavior, what lessons should we draw about our own thinking and the ways in which we evaluate and engage in discourse? What normative principles might we adopt that both (a) give due place to our deep dependence upon gut feelings and (b) help mitigate their potentially pernicious effects? 

View syllabus [provisional]