History of Consciousness

2014-15 General Catalog

415 Humanities 1
(831) 459-2757

Faculty | Course Descriptions

Program Description

History of consciousness is an interdisciplinary graduate program (including a small selection of undergraduate courses) centered in the humanities, with links to the social sciences and the arts. It is concerned with forms of expression and social action as they are manifested in specific historical, cultural, and political contexts. The program stresses flexibility and originality. Interest is focused on problems rather than disciplines. Although students are prepared to teach in particular fields, the emphasis is on questions that span a number of different approaches.

Over more than 30 years of existence, the history of consciousness graduate program has become widely recognized as a leader of interdisciplinary scholarship. Program graduates are influential scholars at prominent universities, and their dissertations have been published by important trade and academic presses. Graduates currently find academic employment in a wide range of disciplines, including literature, feminist studies, science studies, anthropology, sociology, American studies, cultural studies, ethnic studies, communications, the study of religion, and philosophy. In addition, history of consciousness graduates work as filmmakers, museum researchers, free-lance writers, postdoctoral researchers, and academic administrators.

Since the curriculum concentrates on theoretical and methodological issues and is concerned with the integration of disciplines, candidates for admission are expected to have a relatively clear idea of the project they wish to pursue. Experience of advanced work in one or more fields is preferred, but not required.

History of consciousness emphasizes a variety of topics in its seminars and research pursuits. These areas of research include studies at the intersection of race, sexuality, and gender; global capitalism and cultural processes; psychoanalytic and semiotic theories of the image; science and technology studies; theories and histories of religion; social movements; and literary studies and poetics. Seminars are regularly offered in these and other areas of ongoing faculty research.

History of consciousness has strong cooperative relations with associated faculty from other campus programs, scholars who offer seminars and participate in advising, qualifying exams, and dissertation committees. The formal list of associated faculty is a non-exhaustive indication of advising possibilities beyond the program’s core faculty. Campus research organizations, such as the UCSC Center for Cultural Studies, the Institute for Humanities Research, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, the Science and Justice Working Group, and the Chicano/Latino Research Center, also provide venues for collaborative work.

History of consciousness has developed a new vision for its graduate program involving the creation of projects (called concentrations) as part of a two-year admissions cycle.

The department admits outstanding students regardless, and students may change the foci of their study as their intellectual interests develop. Students already enrolled in other UCSC departments and all students in history of consciousness are eligible to take the graduate courses offered within a specific concentration. A given concentration topic will be in effect for two admissions cycles; after that, the focus of the concentration changes. Students may choose to participate in the concentration at any time during their first two years of coursework; colloquia and other research projects may continue to be offered in a given concentration for up to two years beyond the concentration admissions cycle.

This approach seeks to foster the problem-driven research vital to new forms of knowledge and intelligibility and to meet the challenges of imagining new modes of scholarship for the arts, social sciences, and humanities. The project concentration approach to graduate education formalizes that goal through an expanded inclusion of faculty and students from other UCSC departments engaged as a consortium in related endeavors. Each sequential concentration invites the participation of faculty from other departments.

The first concentration, beginning in 2013, is called “Crisis in the Cultures of Capitalism,” a two-year, interdisciplinary selection of courses, colloquia and study groups. “Crisis in the Cultures of Capitalism” seeks to provide a forum for the consideration of the economic, political and cultural dimensions of this global crisis. The objectives are: 1) to promote graduate student scholarship, and 2) to encourage faculty collaboration and intellectual community within this emerging area of critical inquiry. The requirements for students concentrating in the project do not differ from the regular program requirements, except in course content. Guidelines may be obtained at the department office or on the web site.


Students are required to enroll in a minimum of two courses per quarter until advancement to candidacy. Students are expected to take the Qualifying Examination during the third year, but no later than the beginning of the fourth year.

Incoming students are required to take a minimum of five history of consciousness graduate seminars during the first two years. In the first year, students are required to take the introductory seminar, course 203A, Approaches to History of Consciousness, writing intensive “B” seminar, either 203B, Approaches, or a “B” seminar following another seminar the student has taken. By the end of the first year, students are expected to complete a full seminar paper. “B” courses do not count toward the five seminars selected to fulfill the basic department requirement (under special circumstances exceptions may be approved). The remainder of the courses taken to fulfill university enrollment requirements may include not only history of consciousness seminars but also independent study with specific faculty or graduate seminars offered in other departments.

Advancement to candidacy depends on the general quality of a student’s work; demonstration of proficiency in a foreign language relevant to the student’s area of work, either by passing a written examination administered by the department or successfully completing a language course approved by the department; success in the qualifying examination; and proposal of an acceptable dissertation topic. The qualifying examination is centered on a qualifying essay that demonstrates the candidate’s ability to do extended, dissertation-level research and analysis relevant to the proposed thesis topic and dissertation plan. The examination focuses on the student’s research project and on the fields of scholarship it presupposes.

After advancement to candidacy, required by the end of the fourth year, students concentrate on dissertation writing. The current normative time to degree limit of seven years means that a student usually has at least three years after advancement to candidacy for completion of the dissertation.

Students also have the option of doing advanced work in a traditional discipline and receiving a designated emphasis of this specialization. In such cases, students must satisfy the appropriate department’s criteria (see departmental web sites for information). Students are expected to complete at least one year of supervised teaching as part of the degree requirements.


The deadline for applications to the History of Consciousness program is December 10 of each year. Admissions information and application materials are available online at graddiv.ucsc.edu. Applications are invited from students with backgrounds and interests in the humanities, arts, and social sciences and are especially encouraged from individuals with a clear idea of the project they wish to undertake. Strong preference is given to applicants working in areas for which the faculty resources in history of consciousness are appropriate and available. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are required as is a writing sample of no more than 10 pages. Admission is for the fall quarter only.

It is important to note that in light of California’s elimination of affirmative action as an admissions criterion, the History of Consciousness Department reaffirms its commitment to the principles of affirmative action. These principles mean a commitment to diversity, equal opportunity, and outreach to underrepresented communities. Further, this commitment underlines our understanding that the very fabric and quality of our scholarship depends on the representation and interplay of diverse experience and perspectives. So defined, affirmative action is reflected in every aspect of the history of consciousness program, including scholarship, teaching, admissions, hiring, and the process of departmental governance.

Designated Emphasis

To receive a designated emphasis in history of consciousness, graduate students from other departments must complete the following requirements in addition to degree requirements for the doctorate in their home department.

Guidelines and application forms are available in the History of Consciousness Department office.

The following are required for the emphasis:

  1. The student must have a faculty graduate adviser from core or affiliate faculty in history of consciousness, who serves both on the qualifying exam committee and the dissertation reading committee.

  2. The student must take four graduate courses in history of consciousness. With the approval of the history of consciousness adviser, one of the four required graduate courses may be an independent study.

To obtain the designated emphasis in History of Consciousness:

  1. The request for a designated emphasis must originate in the degree-granting department.

  2. Student should complete an application, obtain the history of consciousness adviser’s signature and submit with supporting documentation (copies of the QE and Dissertation Committee Nomination forms) to the History of Consciousness Department office.

  3. The History of Consciousness Department will notify the student and the home department of approval for the designated emphasis.

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Revised: 09/01/14