History of Consciousness

2017-18 General Catalog

415 Humanities 1
(831) 459-2757

Faculty | Course Descriptions

Program Description

History of consciousness is an interdisciplinary graduate and undergraduate minor program 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.

The history of consciousness minor is available for students who wish to gain an understanding of major ideas, trends and figures in the history of knowledge using an interdisciplinary approach. Topics include: modernity; the history of philosophy; capitalism; the foundations of critical theory; the emotions; categories and concepts of difference; critical race theory; queer theory; gender and sexuality studies; visual culture; and the foundations of modern intellectual thought. Courses provide students with critical theoretical tools for understanding philosophy, history, race, sexuality, affect, politics, economics and other fields of inquiry. They offer foundational knowledge that serves undergraduates in many other majors in the social sciences, arts, and humanities.

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 who offer seminars and participate in advising, qualifying examinations, 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.

Current concentration requirements do not differ from the regular program requirements, except in course content. Concentration descriptions and guidelines may be obtained at the department office or on the website.

Minor Requirements

Students are required to take one lower-division history of consciousness course, preferably HISC 1, Introduction to the History of Consciousness (topics will vary depending on the instructor); plus five, 5-credit upper-division courses, at least one of which will normally be HISC 185, Topics in the History of Consciousness.

Students may, with permission of the instructor, petition the department to substitute a 5-credit graduate seminar for one of the required upper-division courses. In addition, students may petition to substitute an upper-division course offered by affiliated faculty in other departments.

Requirements for the Doctoral Program

The common requirements are:

  • HISC 203A, Approaches, to be taken in fall quarter of the first year;

  • HISC 240, Pedagogy of Teaching/Teaching Assistant Training, to be taken in the fall of the first year;

  • A minimum of five history of consciousness graduate seminars during the first two years;

  • A writing-intensive “B” seminar, either 203B, Approaches, or a “B” seminar following another seminar the student has taken (to be taken in the first year). “B” courses normally do not count toward the five seminars selected to fulfill the basic department requirement (exceptions may be granted);

  • HISC 291, a two-credit advising course, each quarter;

  • Three quarters of supervised teaching experience;

  • Proficiency in a language other than English (as demonstrated by an undergraduate degree in the language, taking a translation examination, completing coursework, or petitioning for exemption);

  • A qualifying examination (with written and oral components);

  • A dissertation (written in conjunction with HISC 299, Thesis Research).

Students register for a minimum of two courses (5 credits each) plus HISC 291 (2 credits) per quarter until after Advancement to Candidacy, at which time they may register for one course per quarter (normally HISC 299) plus the 2-credit HISC 291 in order to qualify for full-time enrollment. With the exception of the five required history of consciousness seminars, courses taken to fulfill the university enrollment requirements may include not only history of consciousness seminars but also independent study courses with specific faculty and graduate seminars offered in other departments.

Students are encouraged to advance to candidacy in their third year. In order to remain within normative time they must advance by the end of their fourth year in the program. In order to advance to candidacy, students must complete their coursework; demonstrate proficiency in a second language (by taking a translation examination, completing coursework, or petitioning for exemption), be in good academic standing, and complete and pass the written and oral portion of the qualifying examination.  

The qualifying examination includes a written and oral component. The written component consists of a qualifying essay (normally one to two chapters of the proposed dissertation) that demonstrates the candidate’s ability to do extended, dissertation-level research, analysis, and writing on an original topic. The written component also includes a dissertation prospectus. The oral examination focuses on the student’s qualifying essay, dissertation prospectus, and relevant fields of scholarship.

After advancement to candidacy, students concentrate on dissertation writing. The current normative time to degree limit of seven years means that a student usually has a minimum of 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 in that specialization. In such cases, students must satisfy the appropriate department’s criteria (see departmental websites for information).

More detailed information for prospective graduate students, including procedures for application and admission to graduate studies, examinations, and requirements for the doctor of philosophy degree, is available from the Division of Graduate Studies (http://graddiv.ucsc.edu) and on the department website http://histcon.ucsc.edu.


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 examination 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: 09/02/17