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      A Mellon Foundation project at the University of Chicago

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About the Center for Disciplinary Innovation

In the 2007-2008 academic year, the University of Chicago and the Franke Institute for the Humanities opened the Center for Disciplinary Innovation (CDI). The center is a direct result of work begun during the Franke Institute's three-year Mellon Project, "New Perspectives on the Disciplines: Comparative Studies in Higher Education" (2002-2006). The CDI is a place for pedagogical collaboration and innovation at the graduate level, complementing both the undergraduate Big Problems curriculum and the graduate offerings of our departments. The CDI offers team-taught courses at the graduate level with participating faculty from different disciplines. Unlike other programs in team teaching, this one constitutes the faculty participants as a fellowship, a group whose aim is to keep the larger disciplinary questions continually in focus. Two courses per quarter, or six over the year, are supported. Among the twelve participating faculty each year, up to two from other universities may be invited.

CDI Courses 2013-2014

Announcing the following new courses for the 2013-2014 roster:

Autumn 2013

  • Technologies of Visualization: Florence Then and Now offered by Lawrence Rothfield (Comparative Literature) and
    Niall Atkinson (Art History)
  • Network Aesthetics | Network Cultures offered by
    Patrick Jagoda (English) and Eivind Røssaak (National Library of Norway)
  • Avarice, After All offered by Eric Santner (Germanic Studies) and Mladen Dolar (University of Ljubljana

Winter 2014

  • Historical Semantics and Legal Interpretation: Questions and Methods offered by Jason Merchant (Linguistics) and Alison LaCroix (Law)
  • Anxiety offered by Malynne Sternstein (Slavic Languages & Literatures) and Anne Flannery (Newberry Library, Digital Initiatives)

Spring 2014

  • Network Analysis, Literary Criticism, and the Digital Humanities offered by Hoyt Long (East Asian Languages & Civilizations) and Richard Jean So (English)

Past CDI Courses

Spring 2013

  • Do Ideas Evolve? offered by James Evans (Sociology) & Jacob Foster (postdoc)
  • The Literature of Empire, 1750-1900 offered by James Chandler (English) and Jennifer Pitts (Political Science)
  • Pindar: Ritual, Poetics, Monuments offered by Richard Neer (Art History) & Boris Maslov (Comparative Literature)

Winter 2013

  • Love, Capital and Conjugality in Africa and India offered by Rochona Majumdar (South Asian Languages & Civilizations) and Jennifer Cole (Comparative Human Development)

Autumn 2012

  • Gesture, Sign and Language offered by Diane Brentari (Linguistics) and Susan Goldin-Meadow (Psychology)
  • Philosophy and the Poetics of Presence in Postwar France offered by Alison James (Romance Languages & Literatures) and Mark Payne (Classics) 

Spring 2012

  • Bilingualism: cognition, language, literature, and culture offered by Anastasia Giannakidou (Linguistics) and Na'ama Rokem (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations)
  • Civil War in Lucan and Flaubert: Literature, History, Theology offered by Michele Lowrie (Classics) and Barbara Vinken (Ludwig-Maximilians-University)
  • Postcolonial Intersections: The Middle East and South Asia offered by Leela Gandhi (English) and Lisa Wedeen (Political Science)

Winter 2012

  • 'Other-speech' and 'Visible words': Allegory, the allegorical, and allegoresis before modernity offered by Daisy Delogu (Romance Languages & Literatures) and Aden Kumler (Art History)
  • Suspended Between Worlds: Crisis, Displacement, and Disorientation Around 1948 offered by Deborah Nelson (English) and James Sparrow (History)

Autumn 2011

  • Vision and Communism offered by Robert Bird (Slavic Languages & Literatures) and Matthew Jesse Jackson (Art History)

Spring 2011

  • Climate and History offered by Dipesh Chakrabarty (South Asian Languages and Civilizations & History) and Fredrik Albritton Jonsson (History)
  • Revolutionary Culture in Eighteenth-Century France and America offered by Eric Slauter (English) and Paul Cheney (History)
  • Same-Sex Love and Desire in Indic Literatures: Problems and Approaches offered by Leela Gandhi (English) and Ruth Vanita (University of Montana)

Winter 2011

  • Literature, History, and Science: 1750-1900 offered by Alison Winter (History) and James Chandler (English Language and Literature)
  • Seeing Madness: Mental Illness and Visual Culture offered by Françoise Meltzer (Romance Languages & Literatures) and W.J.T. Mitchell (English and Art History)

Autumn 2010

  • Improvisation as a Way of Life offered by Arnold Davidson (Philosophy & Comparative Literature) and George Lewis (Columbia University)

Spring 2010

  • Cultural Consequences of Colonization offered by Salikoko Mufwene (Linguistics) and Dain Borges (History)
  • Seeing / Writing the Everyday in 20th-Century France offered by Alison James (Romance Languages & Literatures) and Jennifer Wild (Cinema & Media Studies)
  • Perception and Understanding of Multimedia offered by Berthold Hoeckner (Music) and Howard Nusbaum (Psychology)

Winter 2010

  • Growth and institutions in the Economy of the ancient World offered by Alain Bresson (Classics) and François Velde (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)
  • Arabesque Narrative: A Hybrid Form of the Imaginary offered by David Wellbery (Germanic Studies) and Ralph Ubl  (Visual Arts & Social Thought)
  • Perception and Understanding of Multimedia offered by Berthold Hoeckner (Music) and Howard Nusbaum (Psychology)

Autumn 2009

  • Race, Media, and Visual Culture offered by W.J.T. Mitchell (English & Art History) and Darby English (Art History)
  • Perception and Understanding of Multimedia offered by Berthold Hoeckner (Music) and Howard Nusbaum (Psychology)

Spring 2009

  • The Noise of the Imperial City offered by Lars-Christian Koch (Cologne University, Ethnomusicology) and Philip Bohlman (Music)
  • Poems and Songs offered by Travis Jackson (Music) and Robert von Hallberg (Comparative Literature)
  • Translating Theory offered by Robert Bird (Slavic Languages & Literatures) and Loren Kruger (Comparative Literature)

Winter 2009

  • Composing Humans, 1760-1840 offered by James Chandler (English) and Martha Feldman (Music)
  • Digitally Assisted Text Analysis offered by Helma Dik (Classics) and Martin Mueller (Northwestern University, English & Classics)

Autumn 2008

  • Love's Books, Love's Looks: Textual and Visual Perspectives on the Roman de la Rose offered by Daisy Delogu (Romance Languages & Literatures) and Aden Kumler (Art History)

About the Consortium of Centers for Disciplinary Innovation

In the 2006-2007 academic year, under the leadership of James Chandler, the Center for Disciplinary Innovation at the University of Chicago served as the leading force in the formation of a consortium of centers for disciplinary innovation, a partnership with humanities centers at Columbia, Cambridge, and Berkeley. Each humanities center has received support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The purpose of this consortium is to address collectively a problem that we take to be of great significance for higher education in the coming decades: how should universities of the twenty-first century ought best to respond to the challenge of disciplinary change in the humanities and social sciences (and beyond)? The consortium is especially well-positioned to try to make some headway with the large questions of disciplinary innovation in our time.

The Berkeley program focuses on disciplinary innovation in the undergraduate curriculum, by way of a new program tracing thematic “threads” that wind through multiple disciplines. The workshops provide occasions for discussion and planning that would not only serve the immediate needs of undergraduate education at Berkeley but also deepen faculty interest in the larger questions at stake in the consortium project as a whole. The Columbia program is centered on a series of departmental retreats that encourage reflection on the state of disciplines in these departments and the possibilities for new structures and linkages. The (eventual) goal behind these retreats is to help faculty gain a better and more self-conscious sense of their own contributions not merely to their subjects but also to their disciplines. The retreats thus help shape their thinking towards joining our efforts to create innovative courses for both graduate and undergraduate education in the not too distant future. The Cambridge and Chicago CDIs both focus on graduate education in the context of a series of research-oriented programs aimed precisely at the topics encompassed by “disciplinary innovation.” At Cambridge these programs are comprised under the three-year project on “Cultural Transmission, Disciplinary Change, and the Future University.” At Chicago, they were launched five years ago with “New Perspectives on the Disciplines: Comparative Studies in Higher Education.” The main components of the project differ in detail from center to center, but the aim is the same: to reflect and compare, and to embed disciplinary change within the wider landscape of the university at all levels by means of the Humanities Centers at each institution.

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