2023 Summer Humanities Courses

Courses meet each weekday (Monday–Friday) from 9:00am to 11:30am PST for faculty-led sessions that include lecture, small group discussions, and individual work.

Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes: Humanities Courses

We offer more humanities courses through Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes. These courses are highlighted below. Please note: Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes is another program that requires a different application from Stanford Summer Humanities Institute. You can use the same application account to begin and submit applications for both programs.

The deadline to apply for Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes courses is March 15, 2023.


The Nature of Evil

'Evil' is a powerful term that has been applied to everything from windstorms to serial killers to the unreflective actions of bureaucratic systems. Here we explore some of the theories, psychology, and key historical instances of evil to better understand the sources and responses to the idea of evil. We draw on TED talks, stories, reports, articles, future challenges, and students' discussions to build a greater understanding of this diverse and challenging concept. Students will follow nuanced logical arguments, explore both complex psychological cases and convoluted organizational structures, write several short evaluative reflections on the course themes, and give a comparative analysis group presentation. By the end of the course, students have traced key definitions of, and approaches to 'evil'.

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and the Supernatural

In this course, we will transport ourselves into the many alternate worlds of speculative fiction. From futuristic landscapes and magical beings to ghostly visitations, we will investigate how stories often reimagine our world by conjuring entirely new ones. Drawing on foundational as well as twenty-first-century speculative fiction and film, we will take up questions such as how sci-fi addresses the boundaries of the known world and what other-than-human characters can help us envision. Class activities will include exploring a range of examples and common tropes, discussing narrative and visual theories, and experimenting with creative writing and visual storytelling.

U.S. Foreign Policy: A Force for Good?

Ever since World War II, the United States has led efforts to promote democratic ideals. This course will analyze what we mean when we say “foreign policy”, discuss the key drivers of U.S. foreign policy, as well as the constraints. Through group discussions, small group activities, in-class readings, and a class debate on a student-selected case study, students will be introduced to a framework for analyzing foreign policy. The content will be informed by short readings, video content, and short lectures. Activities, discussions and assignments prepare students for a final short essay assignment where students demonstrate their analysis and skills acquired during the course.

Sociology of Inequality

Social justice is often marked as the goal to be achieved by those aiming to reform society to be more equitable and egalitarian. Legal reform is often promoted as the tool for such reform. However, there is a plethora of research by social scientists demonstrating that the legal system favors the status quo and can hardly be relied on as a tool of radical change. In fact, because the law seems objective, it can often be used as a potent social tool to promote the interests of the powerful at the expense of the powerless while appearing neutral.

In this course, we will analyze a few notable examples of such usage of the law: We will examine how redlining and mass incarceration have resulted in the current rates of racial inequality; and how the corporate veil led to significant economic growth, often at the expense of those at the bottom of the social-economic ladder. Finally, we will discuss one of the most successful cases of legal reform examining what can be learned from it when it comes to other forms of social inequality. During the course, students will gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of social structures and their often-invisible impact on our lives.

Legal Studies: Critical Thinking Tools

Critical thinking and argumentation are skills that will make you stand out in college and the competitive job market. Through lessons from Stanford University’s law, business and education experts, you will identify flaws in your critical thinking, learn to analyze a complex set of facts, weigh evidence, anticipate the other side’s points, and deliver a better argument. You will sharpen your argumentative skills through lively debates, role-playing and group work. Finally, you will have your day in ‘court’ as an attorney or witness in a mock trial, awaiting the judge’s verdict. This course will dive into human rights issues of global interest, and students will develop a network of like-minded peers. While this course is valuable for future attorneys, everyone will benefit from it. Students will work collaboratively in an inclusive learning environment, supporting diverse viewpoints.

Media and Politics

How does the media function? How does it construct social and political phenomena? How do historical factors influence the media’s place in politics and society? In this course, we will focus on the influence of the media on interpreting events and shaping popular culture. Projects and class work will include structured debates, a simulation of social media engagement as a contributor and a spectator, and a final presentation. We will discuss the role of social media in news conduction and interpretation—from Facebook and Instagram, to Twitter and Snapchat. Students should be prepared to approach the subject with respect for varying viewpoints, analyzing how media interfaces with politics in a diverse and inclusive learning community.