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. 

How Fungi Shape Our World

  • Course Level:
  • Department: Graham School
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Autumn
  • Thursdays | 9/29/22 – 11/17/22 | 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Brad Bolman

Why are our newspapers and social media feeds all of a sudden filled with stories about mushrooms and fungi? From our forests to our fridges, fungi shape our daily lives in fundamental ways, but this vibrant kingdom of life remains poorly understood. This course will introduce you to the history and cultural importance of fungi, with each week dedicated to readings and discussion around a major theme.

Course in the Novel Knowledge Series at the Graham School. Register here. 

Explorations of Mars - Novel Knowledge Series

  • Course Level:
  • Department: Graham School
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Autumn
  • Tuesdays | 9/27/22 – 11/15/22 | 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Jordan Bimm

Everyone is talking about Mars. Whether you have no prior knowledge of Mars or are someone deeply fascinated with space exploration, this course will prepare you to join and lead Mars conversations happening across society. Through non-technical readings, activities, and discussions focused on the history and culture of Mars exploration we will build an understanding of important figures, events, ideas, and trends.

Course in the Novel Knowledge Series at the Graham School. Register here. 

Big Data: Ethical and Historical Perspectives

  • Course Level:
  • Department: Graham School
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Autumn
  • Saturdays | 9/24/22 – 11/12/22 | 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • Iris Clever

We live amidst a “Big Data” revolution, a moment of exponential data accumulation and the accelerated development of technologies that process it. Recent studies in the history and sociology of science, however, question the novelty and neutrality of our Big Data Age. In this class, we will analyze how big data technologies, old and new, both revive historical prejudices like sexism and racism as well as create new opportunities for the future.

Course in the Novel Knowledge Series by the Graham School. Register here

How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Plan and Write a Book (About Fungi)

  • Course Level: Undergraduate
  • Department:
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Autumn
  • KNOW 27000 / IRHUM 27012
  • Brad Bolman

How do you move from curiosity to an academic question and research project? This course will introduce components of the humanities research process by inviting students into my own planning for an academic history of science book on mycology and fungi. We will collaboratively build our syllabus and explore how to formulate research questions, survey existing literature, use online databases, conduct archival trips, carry out embodied studies (via a foraging trip with the Illinois Mycological Society), structure a long writing project, and then, cyclically, imagine teaching a course on the history of fungi. Everyone knows writing an extended thesis or monograph is difficult; what this class presupposes is… maybe it isn’t? 

Scientific Childhood

  • Course Level: Graduate
  • Department: Comparative Human Development, Psychology, Sociology
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Autumn
  • Time TBD
  • KNOW 36069
  • Tal Arbel

The first half of the twentieth century was a period of intensified focus and progressive thinking regarding the rights, development, and well-being of children as interests of utmost importance to all society. This focus was marked, inter alia, by concerted efforts to apply the methods of modern science to the investigation of childhood, efforts that in turn forever changed the way we understand, raise, and educate children. This seminar will revisit the lives of children who had served as subjects of observation and experiment from the 1880s to the 1950s, and whose childhood experiences (their emotions, thoughts, and games; their family lives and institutional realities) had shaped the central dogmas of developmental psychology, as well as our ideas about normality. The course takes a biographical approach to the history of science, but rather than focus on the careers of scientists and doctors, delves into the stories of their objects of study, from the Bostonian first graders who answered G. Stanley Hall’s pioneering survey to the 44 “juvenile thieves” who had informed John Bowlby’s influential attachment theory.  

The Nuclear Age

  • Course Level: Graduate
  • Department: Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, History, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Autumn
  • Th 3:30-6:20 pm
  • KNOW 32200
  • Benjamin Goossen

This seminar examines the history of nuclear science, technology, and politics since World War II. The invention of atomic weapons transformed the international security landscape in the middle of the last century, yet most nuclear arms have never been deployed in conflict. This course encourages students to consider the roles of ideas, knowledge, culture, and secrecy in the development and deployment of technologies often considered as quintessentially material. It asks how nuclear science and technology both reflected and informed social landscapes, intersecting in crucial, often surprising ways with issues of gender, race, and class. What kinds of people in which places have had access to atomic knowledge, and to what ends? Who has benefitted, who has not? How have assumptions of social order or civilizational hierarchy alternately promoted and hindered the spread of nuclear know-how, technology, and ideas? Ranging across national contexts and through social layers that intersect with nuclear industries, we will consider the perspectives of victims / survivors, scientists, workers, environmentalists, miners, diplomats, and other people. We will examine how the tragedies of the Nuclear Age—including mass loss of human life, destructive uranium extraction, radioactive fallout, and industrial disasters—have been enacted and addressed, and we will situate these stories alongside discussion of proven or potential applications of nuclear knowledge and technologies for medicine, civilian power generation, international security, and even climate science. Students will encounter a multifaceted approach to the Nuclear Age, including how its promise and peril have been represented and contested, into the present time.  

We Other Victorians

  • Course Level: Graduate
  • Department: Comparative Literature, English, History, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine, Law, Letters, and Society
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Autumn
  • T 3:30-6:20
  • KNOW 32201
  • Kristine Palmieri

This course examines the construction of otherness, difference, and belonging in England during the long Nineteenth Century from a historical perspective. Each week students will study a different “other” by drawing on a variety of primary sources, including novels, autobiographies, government reports, legal documents, private correspondence, newspapers, and scientific publications. Special attention will be paid to how and why emerging social sciences such as anthropology, sociology, and psychology both contributed to and were themselves informed by, (1) broader discussions about cultural ethnicity, biological race, national identity, and modern society; as well as (2) changing conceptions of class, gender, race, religion, and illness. By working historically, students in this course will also develop a conceptual framework for studying otherness that transcends geographic and temporal boundaries. Final papers can consequently analyze others and otherness in any place at any time. (Students with linguistic competencies beyond English are strongly encouraged to use these skills!) Students will learn about the socio-political, cultural, legal, scientific, and ideological construction of otherness in Victorian Britain while also developing a conceptual framework for studying otherness that transcends geographic and temporal boundaries. This course relies almost entirely on primary sources and is designed to help students develop the skills needed to complete an original research project independently. 

Technologies of the Body

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Biological Sciences, Health and Society, History, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine, Philosophy, Sociology
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Autumn
  • Technologies of the Body
  • KNOW 36080
  • Melanie Jeske

From models and measures to imaging technologies and genomic sequencing, technologies have profoundly shaped how we know and understand human bodies, health, and disease. Drawing on foundational and contemporary science and technology studies scholarship, this class will interrogate technologies of the body: how they are made, the ways in which they have changed understandings of the human condition, their impact on individual and collective identities, and the interests and values built into their very design. Course readings will examine how technologies render bodies knowable and also construct them in particular ways. We will also focus on how technologies incorporate, and reinforce, ideas about human difference. Students will conduct an independent, quarter-long research project analyzing a biomedical technology of their choice. By the end of this course, students will be able to identify and explain the social, political and economic factors that shape the design and production of biomedical technologies, as well as the impact of these technologies on biomedicine and the social world more broadly.  This course provides students with an opportunity to conduct a quarter-long research project, using a biomedical technology as a case study. Students will be introduced to foundational and cutting-edge scholarship in science and technology studies, and will use this scholarship to conduct their independent research.  

Explorations of Mars

  • Course Level: Graduate; undergraduate with permission
  • Department: Environmental and Urban Studies, History, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Autumn
  • T/Th 12:30-1:50 pm
  • KNOW 36070 / HIST 35200 / ENST 26070 / HIPS 26070
  • Jordan Bimm

Mars is more than a physical object located millions of miles from Earth. Through centuries of knowledge-making people have made the “Red Planet” into a place that looms large in cultural and scientific imagination. Mars is now the primary target for human exploration and colonization in the Solar System. How did this happen? What does this mean? What do we know about Mars, and what’s at stake when we make knowledge about it? Combining perspectives from the social sciences and humanities, this course investigates how knowledge about Mars is created and communicated in not only science and technology fields but across public culture. A major focus will be learning how Mars has been embedded within diverse social and political projects here on Earth. Through reading-inspired group discussions and instructor-led experiential research projects, the course will move from the earliest visual observations of Mars to recent robotic missions on the planet’s surface. In doing so, this seminar will critically grapple with evolving human efforts to make Mars usable. No prior knowledge of Mars is required. This course fulfills the elective requirement for a new MAPSS concentration on the Formation of Knowledge 

Abstraction

  • Course Level: Undergraduate, Graduate; undergraduate with permission
  • Department: Art History
  • Year: 2022-23
  • Term: Autumn
  • ARTH 2/36609, KNOW 2/36609

This seminar considers the abstract art that defined much of Western art in the course of the 20th century and into the 21st. Guided by two overarching questions — “Why Abstraction?” and “Beyond Abstraction?” — the class will explore different models for understanding non-figurative painting, sculpture, and other media such as textiles and television. These include the concept of utopia, phenomenology, decoration, the ready-made, appropriation, iconographies of form and materials, and reproductive media. Artists discussed include Hilma af Klint, Josef and Anni Albers, Mark Bradford, Lucio Fontana, Sam Gilliam, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd, Wassily Kandinsky, Yves Klein, El Lissitzky, Piet Mondrian, Blinky Palermo, Jackson Pollock, Gerhard Richter, Hans Richter, Aaron Siskind, Sophie Taeuber, among others. There will be regular visits to local collections. Students working on monochrome art will have the opportunity to contribute their research and writing to a fall 2022 Smart Museum exhibition’s web-based audio app and to a research symposium and possible publication.