KNOW courses are offered by the faculty of the Institute on the Formation of Knowledge at both the graduate and the advanced undergraduate levels. 

For graduate students, we offer a number of cross-listed seminars as well as an annual core sequence in topics in the formation of knowledge (KNOW 401, 402, 403). These seminars are team-taught by faculty from different departments or schools and are open to all graduate students regardless of field of study. Graduate students who enroll in two quarters of this sequence are eligible to apply for the Dissertation Research Fellowships.

For undergraduate students, we offer courses cross-listed in departments and schools across the University, as well as unique courses taught by the Institute's Postdoctoral Scholars. To browse courses, search by department, quarter, academic year, or type in a keyword that interests you. In addition, the Institute launched the Experimental Capstone (XCAP) in 2018-19, team-taught courses for fourth-year undergraduate students interested in building upon their UChicago educational experience by adding practice, impact, and influence as important dimensions of their undergraduate work. 

Invisible Landscapes

  • Course Level: Graduate, Graduate; undergraduate with permission
  • Department: Anthropology
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Winter
  • KNOW 52621/ANTH 52621

This course is an exploration of anthropogenic landscapes, past and present, that for various reasons have been “invisible”—sometimes to long-term inhabitants, sometimes to newly arrived colonizers, sometimes to academics and other researchers, sometimes to legislators, and/or sometimes to tourists and other public audiences. Examples include, among others, ancient cities and road networks revealed beneath forest canopies in Central America and Southeast Asia; sophisticated geo-biological manipulations in the Amazon; immense hydrological systems across the semi-arid deserts of Arabia; legacies of colonization, extraction, and dispossession in the Americas; extensive underground environments; co-constructed human-animal infrastructures, and landscapes of waste, toxicity, and ruins. The class is broadly comparative, drawing on diverse case studies to address two central questions: 1) Can we think about, document, visualize, and analyze “invisible” landscapes without forcing them to conform to historically and culturally specific notions of monumentality, materiality and temporality, nature and culture, etc.? and 2) What methods (or combinations of methods) employed by archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, architects, ecologists, and other researchers can shed light on “invisible” landscapes and the people (and other beings) who inhabit(ed) them?

Race, Religion, and the Formation of the Latinx Identity (Winter 2023)

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Latin American Studies, Religious Studies
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Winter
  • Tue Thu : 11:00 AM-12:20 PM
  • KNOW 25560, CRES 25560. GNSE 25560, RLST 25560, LACS 25560
  • Raul Zegarra Medina

In this class, we will focus on the conditions of possibility, development, and problems surrounding the formation of the Latinx identity. We will pay special attention to how such an identity is expressed through and informed by religious experience, and to how religious experience is theoretically articulated in Latinx theology and religious thought. To pursue this task, we will devote the first part of the class to the examination of the conditions of possibility of latinidad by focusing on the formation of the Latinx self. What makes Latines, Latines? Is this a forcefully assigned identity or one that can be claimed and embraced with pride? Is there such a thing as a unified Latinx self or shall we favor approaches that stress hybridity or multiplicity? In the second part of the class, we will shift from self-formation to community-formation by examining the experience of mestizaje (racial mixing) and its theoretical articulation in Latinx theology. Is this concept useful to describe the Latinx experience or does it romanticize the violence of European colonialism? Lastly, we will return to the formation of Latinx identity considering the ambiguities of religious ethnic identity through the examples of tensions between Catholic and Evangelical Latinos, and those emerging from the experiences of Latinos converting to non-Christian religions. No prerequisites.

#Blessed: The Prosperity Gospel, The Bible, and Economic Ethics (Winter 2023)

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Classical Studies, Religious Studies
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Winter
  • Mon : 03:00 PM-05:50 PM
  • CLCV 25322, KNOW 25377, RLST 25377
  • William Schultz, Erin Walsh

Is wealth a sign of divine favor? What would Jesus do when it comes to money? How does the Bible inform contemporary views of charity, economic ethics, and material possessions? This class examines the multiple messages about material wealth contained within biblical literature and the diverse ways these passages have been interpreted. After a survey of shifting approaches to economic ethics among Christians over the centuries, students will turn to the phenomenon of the "Prosperity Gospel" within the modern period. The class will query the ways the Bible has been harnessed to an economic vision tied to capitalism and ostentatious displays of personal wealth. Previous knowledge of the Bible and the historical periods covered is not expected.

Literary Criticism before Theory: Auerbach’s Mimesis

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Fundamentals: Issues and Texts, German, Medieval Studies, Russian and East European Studies
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Winter
  • Tue : 03:30 PM-06:20 PM
  • KNOW 25001,35001, GRMN 25000/35000, MDVL 25000, RLLT 25000/35000
  • Rocco Rubini

This course is an introduction to Erich Auerbach's Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, often hailed as the masterpiece of twentieth-century literary criticism, through a historical contextualization that recovers the theoretical, ethical, and existential underpinnings of so-called Romance Philology, as purveyed by Auerbach, the influential Dante scholar Karl Vossler (1872-1949), the medievalist Ernst Robert Curtius (1886-1956); and, especially, Leo Spitzer (1887-1960), the author of innumerable seminal essays in the French, Italian, and Spanish literary traditions. We will home in on these scholars' quarrelsome sodality among themselves and others (e.g., Benedetto Croce, Martin Heidegger, Arthur Lovejoy, and Georges Poulet) by reviewing some of the discipline-defining debates, such as debates about canonical authors (including, Dante, Cervantes, and Proust) and the (dis)advantages of periodization in textual interpretation (Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque). We will also take stock of this generation's shared reliance on 18th- and 19th-century sources and methodologies (Giambattista Vico and German Hermeneutics, among others) and their remarkable foreknowledge of the many turns literary analysis would take at a time when textual concerns and/or close readings gave way to a more theoretical outlook.

Visual Art and Technology: From the Historical Avant Garde to the Algorithmic Present

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Art History, Media, Art, and Design
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Winter
  • Tue Thu : 02:00 PM-03:20 PM
  • KNOW 23312/ 33312, ARTH 23312/33312, MAAD 15312
  • Talia Shabtay

This course tracks the entanglements of visual art and "technology," a term which took on an increasingly expanded set of meanings beginning in the early decades of the twentieth century. Focusing on the period between World War I and the present, we examine these expanded meanings and ask how the work of art fundamentally shifted with, extended, tested, or acted upon "technology." We consider cases from the art historical avant gardes, the impact of cybernetics and systems thinking on architecture and visual perception, midcentury collectives that sought to institutionalize collaborations between artists and engineers, as well as more subtle exchanges between art and technology brewing since the Cold War. We will conclude with a look at present-day practices that integrate visual art, design, and technology. Course readings drawn from art history and the histories of science and technology, as well as site visits to art collections and laboratories on campus, will inform our investigation. Students will gain historical insights into the relation between visual art and technology; develop analytical tools for critically engaging with the present-day interface of art, science, and engineering; and consider the implications for the futures we imagine.

Archaeogenetics and the Human Past

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Winter
  • Tue Thu : 12:30 PM-01:50 PM
  • KNOW 20005 / 30524, NEAA 20005 / 30524
  • Hannah Moots

The rapidly growing field of paleogenomics has brought together researchers from a wide variety of fields and perspectives in the social and natural sciences. This survey course is designed for students from all backgrounds interested in developing practical skills in ancient DNA methods, contextual research, analysis and interpretation. We will also focus on exploring and discussing ethics in the field and the implications of the growing interest of public audiences with ancient DNA. Throughout the course, we will also explore a variety of related topics by taking a deep dive into the archaeology context and analytical approaches of published case studies. Throughout the course, there will be a number of laboratory and computational activities to apply ancient DNA research methods. For a final project, you will explore a site, topic or study of your choosing with the tools learned in this course and evaluate the potential for ancient DNA to uncover new findings there.

Science, Culture, and Society in Western Civilization II: Renaissance to Enlightenment

  • Course Level: Undergraduate
  • Department: History, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Winter
  • Mon Wed : 01:30 PM-02:50 PM
  • KNOW 18400 / HIPS 18400 / HIST 17410
  • Robert Richards

This lecture-discussion course examines the development science and scientific philosophy from the mid-fifteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries. The considerations begin with the recovery of an ancient knowledge in the works of Leonardo, Vesalius, Harvey, and Copernicus. Thereafter the course will focus on Enlightenment science, as represented by Galileo, Descartes, Newton, and Hume. The course will culminate with the work of Darwin, who utilized traditional concepts to inaugurate modern science. For each class, the instructor will provide a short introductory lecture on the texts, and then open discussion to pursue with students the unexpected accomplishments of the authors under scrutiny.

Science, Governance, and the Crisis of Liberalism

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate, Graduate; undergraduate with permission
  • Department: Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, History, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Winter
  • Mon : 01:30 PM-04:20 PM
  • KNOW 32204/ CHSS 32504 / HIPS 22204 /HIST 28308/38308
  • Isabel Gabel

In the era of "post-truth" it has become common to link a crisis of scientific authority with a crisis of liberalism. Democracies around the world are under threat, this reasoning goes, in part because of an attack on scientific truth. But what does liberalism - as political culture and as a form of governance - need (or want) from science? Depending where you look, the answer might appear to be facts, truth, a model 'public sphere,' an ethic of objectivity, tactics for managing risk and uncertainty, or technologies of population management (to name a few). In addition to exploring the complex historical relationship between science and liberalism in the modern era, this course will critically assess how the history of science and the history of political thought have theorized truth and governance. We will examine what models of "coproduction" and "social construction" - nearly ubiquitous in the historiography of modern science - fail to capture about the histories of science and state power. We will also think about how political and intellectual historians' theories of truth and mendacity in politics might be enriched by more attention to scientific knowledge in both its technical and epistemological forms. This course focuses on 19th- and 20th-century Europe and the United States in global perspective, and readings will draw from political theory, history, economic thought, the natural and human sciences, and critical theory. Advanced undergraduates are very welcome with instructor's permission. This course fulfills the elective requirement for the MAPSS concentration on the Formation of Knowledge https://ifk.uchicago.edu/mapss/.

Capturing the Stars: Exhibiting the History of Women at Yerkes Observatory in early twentieth- century America

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, Gender and Sexuality Studies, History, Astrology
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Winter
  • Tue : 09:30 AM-12:20 PM
  • KNOW 32203 / CHSS 32503 / HIST 27802/37802 / ASTR 18950 / GNSE 22510/32510
  • Kristine Palmieri

“Capturing the Stars,” the exhibit, that will illuminate the history of women at Yerkes Observatory and demonstrate how their labor contributed to the advancement of astronomy and astrophysics in Fall 2023. In this experimental and hands-on course, students will actively participate in the creation of this physical exhibit for the Special Collections Research Center and its digital counterpart. Students will begin by learning about the history of women in science, the social, economic, and cultural history of early twentieth-century America, as well as the history of astronomy and astrophysics. They will then develop skills in historical research, exhibition development, community outreach, and science communication while working on final projects to be featured in the exhibit. No prior historical, scientific, or museum experience is required for this course. Students will learn how to conduct historical research and how to communicate with a public audience by contributing to the production of a physical exhibit on the history of women at Yerkes Observatory with an ambitious digital footprint. This highly experimental class will move beyond the confines of a traditional history seminar by involving students in the development and execution of an exhibit on the history of women at Yerkes Observatory. This course fulfills the elective requirement for the MAPSS concentration on the Formation of Knowledge https://ifk.uchicago.edu/mapss

Research in Archives: Human Bodies in History

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Gender and Sexuality Studies, History, IRHUM
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Winter
  • Wed : 09:30 AM-12:20 PM
  • Wed : 09:30 AM-12:20 PM
  • Jordan Bimm, Iris Clever

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).