2022 Summer Humanities Courses

Courses meet each day (Monday–Friday) for live, virtual classroom discussion led by Stanford graduate student teaching assistants. A live class period will be held at both 8:00–9:30am and 4:00–5:30pm PDT, and participants will attend just one of the available meeting times.

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 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. In this course, we explore some of the theories, psychology, and suggested key historical instances of evil to better understand the sources and responses to the idea of evil. We draw on TED Talks, stories, reports, future challenges, and students' discussions to build a greater understanding.

Writing for Film and Television

Are you interested in cinematic storytelling? This course will introduce the next generation of storytellers to the craft writing of teleplays and film manuscripts. Students will study scripts of notable contemporary episodes and movies. For their creative project, students will choose between writing their own original pilot episode, or drafting a full film outline with a written Act I.

Design Your Life with Philosophy

How should you respond to existential anxiety, peer pressure, or crisis? Will a religious, scientific, or artistic life make you feel more at home in the universe? Should you choose a career that helps the most people, one that makes the most money, or one that’s the most fun? What’s so important about being your authentic self if it means being an outcast? Is it possible to be authentic on social media? In this course, students will design their own “life philosophy,” drawing inspiration in views of the good life put forward by history’s great philosophers, exploring how their theories are reflected in pop culture and the world around us. We will also engage with cutting-edge developments in the philosophy of identity, thinking about what our race, gender, or sexuality tell us about who we are. By the end of the course, students will be able to articulate their own life philosophy and use it to inform life’s big decisions in high school, college, and beyond.

World Building: Fantasy, Science Fiction and the Supernatural

In this course, we will transport ourselves into the many alternate worlds of speculative fiction. From imagined geographies and cosmologies to robot uprisings and alien invasions, we will investigate how stories often reimagine our world by conjuring entirely new ones. Drawing on foundational and twenty-first-century speculative fiction and film, we will take up questions such as how sci-fi addresses the ethics of scientific research and what stories with non-human characters reveal about the human experience. Class activities include analyzing a range of examples and common tropes, discussing narrative and visual theories, and trying your hand at world building through creative writing and visual storytelling.

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.

Gender and Queerness

This course is an exploration of what “gender” and “queerness” mean in a global context. What does it mean to be “queer” in the USA as opposed to, say, in Vietnam or Japan? To what extent are the expression and practice of gender and sexual identity facilitated in different global contexts? How do different global cultural understandings of gender and sexuality, particularly from the non-West, help us to explore what it means to be “queer”? Students will explore why it is important to pay attention to the language used to define and identify individuals with regard to their sexual and gender identities. Why are acts of the “performance” of gender and sexuality important in creating, sustaining, and protecting diverse sexual and gender identities across the world?

This course will explore these questions and topics by engaging with content related to these issues from literature, film, documentary, oral histories, podcasts, art, fashion, and social media. Students will work on cross-cultural and cross-media projects in which they will explore the spectrum of gender and what it means to be queer. Participants in this course commit to upholding a safe space where all identities are celebrated.

Legal Studies: the U.S. Supreme Court Docket

The power of the American Judiciary -- particularly the power of the U.S. Supreme Court -- is exercised not through policy changes or statements on broad principles, but through decisions about concrete cases involving real-world people and entities. Thus, the study of law is richest when it, too, contemplates the law through the pin-hole of a concrete, real case. Likewise, this course will focus on a single currently unresolved case from the live 2021-2022 docket of the Supreme Court of the United States. Our primary course materials will come from the court's docket, including party briefs, amicus briefs, and the Joint Appendix of facts. On the basis of what we find there, we will explore our case and the controversy it represents, digging into both the factual and legal background. Ultimately, each student will take a position on how best to resolve the case we study. We will conclude with in-class mock oral argumentation; all course assignments are steps that prepare students for that final, major assignment.

Legal Studies: Critical Thinking Tools

Critical thinking and argumentation are skills that will make you stand out in college and the competitive job market. Students will sharpen and test their critical thinking skills through lively debates, role-playing, negotiations, and group work. You will have your day in ‘court’ as an attorney or witness in a mock trial, awaiting the judge’s verdict. Through lessons from Stanford University’s law, business and education experts, students will identify flaws in critical thinking, learn to analyze a complex set of facts, weigh evidence, anticipate the other side’s argument, and deliver a better argument. 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, everybody will benefit from it. Students will work collaboratively in an inclusive learning environment, supporting diverse viewpoints.