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The Proseminar: Centerpiece of the Graduate Certificate Program

The MEMS Proseminar, a comparative and/or interdisciplinary course, brings together faculty and students from a wide array of our constituent areas. No matter which edition of the proseminar taken, students are expected to produce a 20-page term paper; reading for the course is around 150 pages per week. 

Visiting lectures, colloquiua, and conferences are often coordinated to bear upon the topic of a given term’s proseminar. The course is offered under two or more departments (appropriate to the topic and disciplinary approach) and welcomes both Certificate students and other interested students.

For Fall 2024 the MEMS Proseminar is:

MEMS 611.001 Goods in Premodern Worlds: Rethinking Thing Theory

Instructors: Brendan McMahon and George Hoffmann 

This seminar approaches early consumer societies from the vantage point of objects variously consumed, gifted, and displayed in public and private spaces, such as hats, gloves, shoes, farthingales, snuff boxes, chocolate cups, telescopes, guitars, and portraits. It is structured in two parts: the first one is composed of theoretical readings on material culture; the second, on practical examples drawn from the domains of literature and the visual arts. We will not only examine how objects and their uses were captured in fictional forms, but also how the act of representation itself helped shape novel forms of consumption and even new ways of imagining them. Students will choose an object to study early in the semester, present on it, and workshop material about it throughout the semester with the aim of producing a cohesive final essay.

Please see the links below for a taste of what MEMS Proseminars have offered in the past.