Fellows | 16 September 2021

Announcing Three New Public Humanities GSIs Teaching a Course on Imagination


The Humanities Institute is pleased to announce three new Graduate Student Instructors who will teach undergraduate seminars exploring THI’s 2021-2022 theme: Imagination. The course is part of The Humanities Institute’s annual Questions That Matter series and is funded through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Expanding Humanities Impact and Publics project.  It will be taught in Spring 2022 at three different UCSC residential colleges.  Previous THI Graduate Student Instructors have taught seminars at Cowell, Stevenson, Porter, and Oakes, and have developed undergraduate courses on Data and Democracy, Futures, and Memory.

THI’s 2021-2022 Public Humanities GSIs are:

–  Philip Groth (Philosophy)

–  Theresa Hice-Fromille (Sociology)

–  Alexandra Macheski (History of Art and Visual Culture)

These Graduate Student Instructors have been selected to develop and teach the new THI course with support from faculty mentors, Benjamin Breen (History), Nathaniel Deutsch (History), and Hande Tuna (Philosophy). In their individual seminars, the GSIs will engage with some of the following questions and issues related to the annual theme of Imagination:

— How have ways of thinking about imagination changed over time, and how have they shaped our present society? For instance, we understand imagination as something both foundational to human nature and something that can be technologically augmented, but how has this tension played out over time and how does it appear in our current moment? 

— We have a sense that imagination can be expanded, such as by reading novels, watching movies, talking to strangers, learning a new language, or even, as some say, taking chemical stimulants. If imagining is something that we can improve upon, or get better at, what kind of a capacity is it, and what particular benefits do these different modes offer?

— At other times, imagination can be understood as limiting, or at least feeling this way. If we lack first-hand experience related to what we’re trying to imagine, we might experience difficulties in imagining what it means to see red, hear the ocean, taste durian fruit, be an immigrant, be a child bride, and so on. What do these potential limitations tell us about imagination as a capacity? On a related note, imagining has sometimes been contrasted with believing. It seems like we can imagine at will but we cannot believe at will, but, with these limitations in mind, is this always the case? 

— What other kinds of capacities is imagination tied to? Do perception, cognition, and desire require imagination? Does imagination always involve images or do we imagine in propositions? When we imagine “red,” for example, do we visualize red apples or red shoes in our minds or just the word “red”? Are non-human animals capable of imagining? Is imagination culturally specific? Does our culture shape our imagination? Or by imagining differently, boldly, can we also transform our culture? 

Please join us in congratulating our 2021-2022 THI Graduate Student Instructors as they explore these ideas and more!