New Initiatives in Collaborative Teaching.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In “From Black Bile to Digital Depression: Melancholy in Theory, Art, and Media,” students explored the many perspectives from which the melancholic (or “depressive”) has been approached, and how the experience of melancholy influences the way one perceives the world and one’s relation to it.


The course was co-taught by Professor Thomas Trezise, Chair of the Department of French and Italian, and graduate student Chad Córdova.

“Depression is, in some ways, as little understood today as it was in Hippocrates’s day,” said Córdova. “Since it is so hard to pin down, melancholy is an object of a variety of discourses in the West that exceed the medical or psychiatric.”

The interdisciplinary nature of melancholy attracted students from a variety of majors, including: comparative literature, Woodrow Wilson School, chemistry, physics, art history, religion, philosophy, French and Italian, and history.

The students were encouraged to bring to bear their diverse backgrounds on the course material. “Given the various majors represented, the discussions were always rich,” said Córdova. “We got to see come to fruition a wide variety of analytic essays and also creative projects, as some students opted to make videos or write songs or stories in lieu of final essays.”

The course was taught as part of the Collaborative Teaching Initiative, which aims to foster graduate students’ professional experience through the design and co-teaching of an innovative undergraduate course under the guidance of a senior faculty member.

Córdova and Trezise, his thesis advisor in the Department of French and Italian, share many interests, ranging from psychoanalysis and philosophy to critical theory and Sartre, all of which made it into the course.

“It is very rare to get to explore a topic that is not the immediate topic of one’s current project with one’s advisor, and with such a small group of advanced students,” said Córdova. “Teaching alongside Professor Trezise was in many ways a sort of practicum in how to lead an intensive undergraduate seminar, and if daunting at times, it boosted my teaching confidence by the end.”

“The Collaborative Teaching Initiative affords an extraordinary opportunity for faculty and advanced graduate students to work together as colleagues,” said Trezise. “In this instance, too, the robustly interdisciplinary ambitions of the seminar brought together a terrific group of students, some of the brightest and most engaging I’ve ever worked with at Princeton. It has been a very rewarding experience.”

“From Black Bile to Digital Depression” was offered in fall 2017. You can view the department’s spring 2018 offerings here.