2018 TASP Programs

2018 TASP Programs

“No one had wanted me to truly think before, and TASP came not politely asking, but demanding that I read and analyze, present my view and then defend it.”
– Meredith Durkin, student

“TASP has changed the way I look at history, society, and even myself.”
– Sasha-Mae Eccleston, student

The 2018 brochure contains more details about TASP.

Cornell I Program
Pleasure and Danger: Bodies in History, Science, Literature, and Philosophy
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
June 24 – August 4, 2018

Faculty: Masha Raskolnikov, Cornell University, and Kim Evans, State University of New York at Cortland

Factotum: TBD

Nothing seems more natural to us than our own flesh and blood. We experience our bodies as if they are simply “here,” so much a part of who we are that we take them for granted. Yet what we call the body is in fact a historical object. This seminar traces the social and cultural construction of corporeality from Plato to the present day.

How have we come to know the body as possessing attributes called “gender,” “sexuality,” and “race”? Why have some bodies in history been seen as monstrous, perverted, and unholy? What makes bodies pleasurable and dangerous? We will ask these questions and many others while examining a broad range of evidence from the ancient era to the present day, including philosophy, science, literature, painting, photography, and film.

Our survey of the body’s history will include a consideration of the nineteenth-century “medicalization” of the body, philosophies of the body, the ways in which the body has been a problem for Western thought, and how the body can stand in for both the most “real” and the most utterly phantasmic.

Cornell II Program
Facing Fictions
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
June 24 – August 4, 2018

Faculty: Blakey Vermeule, Stanford University, and William Flesch, Brandeis University

Factotum: TBD

The fundamental questions we’ll be asking are about truth and meaning in fiction, questions that turn out to be central to human culture. What is truth? Most philosophers would agree on this minimal criterion: if a sentence is true, there’s something that makes it true. But what makes something true in fiction? Not some fact about the world, but some fact about our socially-derived right to come to more or less definite conclusions about what happens in fictional worlds, conclusions which seem to require a strong focus on what meanings we want to commit ourselves to.  Our mutually agreed upon sense of rights such as this has an origin in human evolution—in what’s come to be called “the evolution of cooperation”—and so in our evolved psychology as organisms who cooperate in unprecedented ways. People have evolved to give each other such rights—rights to mutual interpretation—and therefore to give each other a right to demand social justice, and to define what that demand means. So literature speaks to a lot of surprisingly fundamental issues in raising the questions: What is meaning in fiction? and: How are truth and meaning related to each other there?

We won’t so much be trying to answer these questions once and for all as trying to make them exciting and real. The questions matter more than their answers, but possible answers are always interesting in the ways they add nuance to our understanding of the questions they address. In pursuing these questions, we will explore a variety of texts and interdisciplinary approaches, including plays, novels, and poems, as well as important philosophical essays and studies from behavioral economics and game theory.


Maryland Program
Protest Poetics: Art and Performance in Freedom Movements
University of Maryland, College Park
June 24 – August 4, 2018

Faculty: Jakeya Caruthers, Stanford University, and Isaiah Wooden, American University

Factotum: TBD

Social justice is an art form. Throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, artists and activists have recognized how our aesthetic drives–those that inform our relationship to art, beauty, and the richness of experience–are often inseparable from our moral, ethical, and intellectual drives toward justice. Indeed, as history has demonstrated, art is rarely simply a satellite strategy of social movements. Rather, “politics” animate performance and visual art as much as aesthetics inform the actions, words, and events we associate with movement-building and resistance. Too, we find that, beyond the explicit, “formal” business of art and protest, the imagery and icons that populate our everyday lives are also deeply infused with symbolic meaning and practical consequence, and for that reason, are often ripe and constant tools (and objects) of artful dissent.

In this course, then, we will discuss political art that appears in both formal and informal sites of practice. In addition to close study of the form and content of these works, we will also place the art and happenings in historical and theoretical context. In our exploration of these pieces, we will address critical questions about humanity, citizenship, the body, race, gender, feeling, and the simultaneous treachery and power of the visual. With works that include the visual and performance art of black struggle, the protest work of AIDS activism, anti-war art, and even more recent movements protesting racial violence, gentrification, and the prison-industrial complex, we will investigate the fault lines of art and efficacy in the context of political change.

Michigan Program
Just Comics
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
June 24 – August 4, 2018

Faculty: Ali Shapiro and Gina Brandolino, University of Michigan

Factotum: TBD

Just comics? Just kidding! This course is premised on the idea that comics are not just comics, but a sophisticated and nuanced form of storytelling, capable of conveying characters, actions, and ideas in ways that words or pictures cannot accomplish alone. Comics also raise great questions about justice, pushing us to redefine “good guys” and “bad guys,” explore marginalized perspectives, and interrogate our expectations of what people, places, and things “should” look like. Indeed, comics are not only fun, but also just as worthy of careful attention and analysis as are the literary “classics” we typically think of as appropriate reading for school.

In our course readings, we’ll meet shadow heroes, prowl around dystopian London with a masked man, lurk in Chicago’s alley’s with a little girl werewolf, follow an immigrant family to a strange land, and more. We’ll visit Ann Arbor’s local comic book store and a local museum. We’ll write in response to what we read and we’ll use drawing as a tool of critical, creative thinking. You’ll have a chance to draw on (and about!) your own interests and experiences, including your experiences in TASP. Drawing skills not required; willingness to draw anyway, a must.