Origins: Order vs. Chaos

The Fall of 2017 will be full of many interesting events and courses surrounding our annual humanities theme of Origins!

This year the STS Department is very excited about it’s specific offerings including:

  • ST132 Origins: Order v. Chaos (for 50+ students, 1 CR, S/U) and
  • ST232 Seminar on Origins (for 18 students, 3 CR, regular grading)

Why should you be interested in taking these courses?

ST132 involves public lectures by visiting scholars and Colby faculty representing many disciplines, with focused discussion and required short weekly student reflection papers posted on the course weblog. Tuesday evenings 7:00-8:15 pm, 1 Credit Hour, Non-graded. Facilitators: Jim Fleming (STS) and Gianluca Rizzo (French and Italian).

ST232 involves readings, seminar discussions and presentations, a required poster (to be presented as the final event in ST132), co-registration in ST132, and a final research paper. Tuesdays, 1:00-3:45 pm, 3 Credit Hours, Graded. This course serves as an STS elective for the major and minor. A full set of readings will be prepared and the evening speakers (see list below) will be invited to suggest readings, in many cases excerpts from their own writings. Schedules permitting, the speakers will be invited to participate in the afternoon seminar discussions. Instructor: Jim Fleming (STS).

Origins are at the very center of the academic landscape: a set of principles, a body of texts, an ancestral language, or a group of objects from which fields of inquiry develop and grow. This linked lecture series — (ST132) and seminar (ST132) — on Origins will allow students from across the College to develop new perspectives on their own fields and compare methodological foundations across the disciplines. The theme will foster inquiry into a wide variety of subjects, including, but not limited to philosophy, science studies, linguistics, mathematical modeling, and history. While broad in its conception, the lecture series (offered for 1 credit S/U) and the seminar (offered for 3 credits, regular grading) will encourage detailed and critical reflection on the social, historical, political, and cultural contexts that inform our understanding of who we are as humans, where we come from, and where we think we might be going — the trajectories we choose to follow in an increasingly interconnected global landscape.

At the origins of human cognition is a desire to impose an order over the chaotic manifestations of reality. The whole of our knowledge consists of collecting differences that can help us distinguish between objects, and attempt to organize them into coherent systems. Our lecture series will focus on this particular aspect of the Humanities Theme, placing the struggle between order and chaos at the heart of our desire for knowledge, investigating how it unfolds in different historical and disciplinary contexts.

Tentative Schedule for the Semester

Sept. 12. Jim Fleming (STS) and Gianluca Rizzo (French and Italian)  on the literary origins of originsEtymology, Epistemology, Literature.

Sept. 19. Dale Kocevski (Astronomy, Colby), to speak about the origins of the universe and black holes.

Sept. 26. David Bercovici (Yale University), geologist, author of The Origins of Everything (Yale University Press) invited to speak about the origins of continents.

Oct. 3. Aaron Hanlon (English, Colby), to speak about the origins of the London Royal Society and the role that poetry and literature played in it gaining legitimacy.

Oct. 10. 4:00 Museum visit to discuss origins in art and art history.

Oct. 17. Fall Break.

Oct. 24. Vittorio Loreto (Università La Sapienza, Roma), to speak about mathematical models capable of predicting the pattern with which innovation arises.

Oct. 31. Stefano Colangelo (Università di Bologna), to speak about the Emilio Villa, poet and literary critic, and his ideas on primordial art and the origin of language.

Nov. 7. Arnout Van Demeer (History, Colby) migrations in world history.

Nov. 14. Janet Browne (History of Science, Harvard University), Origin of Species and its consequences.

Nov. 21. Chris Gavaler, author of On the Origins of Superheroes: From the Big Bang to Action Comics No.1 to speak about identity.

Nov. 28. Elena Aronova (U.C. Santa Barbara, History) to speak about “universal histories of humankind,” with a concluding focus on UNESCO in the 1940s and 1950s.

Dec. 5. Research Posters by ST232 students.

Dec. 15. ST 232 Research Papers due.


All events are open to the public, and if you’re interested in learning more about the theme or courses offered email Jim Fleming (