Fertile Bodies: Reproduction from Antiquity to the Enlightenment

Spring 2020 Course Syllabus

The ancient Greeks imagined a woman’s body ruled by her uterus, while medieval Christians believed in a womb touched by God. Renaissance anatomists hoped to uncover the ‘secrets’ of human generation through dissection, while nascent European states wrote new laws to encourage procreation and manage ‘illegitimate’ offspring. Woman with opened uterus From ancient Greece to enlightenment France, a woman’s womb served as a site for the production of medical knowledge, the focus of religious practice, and the articulation of state power. In this course students traced the evolution of medical and cultural theories about women’s reproductive bodies from ca. 450 BCE to 1700, linking these theories to the development of structures of power, notions of difference, and concepts of purity that proved foundational to ‘western’ culture. Students read selections from Hippocrates’ Diseases of Women 1, Galen’s On the Usefulness of the Parts of the Body, Augustine’s Confessions, The Trotula, Aristotle’s Masterpiece, and William Harvey’s Disputations Touching the Generation of Animals.

A History of Words: Technologies of Communication from Cuneiform to Coding

Visit the Spring 2021 course website to read student work created using the digital tools taught over the course of the semester. You can also view the syllabus and course assignments with tutorials on digital tools here.

Cuneiform tablet This digital humanities course, developed with a David A. Gardner ‘69 Magic Grant from the Humanities Council at Princeton University, combines a history of communication technologies with hands-on exploration of the communication technologies reshaping the discipline of history. Using GitHub, Jekyll, Markdown, and a variety of “digital tools” introduced throughout the semester, students select a primary source from Princeton University’s Special Collections which they then research and present to readers in a final website that they build themselves.