Contrarian Course: Fall 2021 Edition

Browsing through Stanford’s course catalog can be a bleak experience, and the University does little to guide students in choosing interesting courses outside of their major. To help you, we’ve combed through the Fall Course Catalog for you! We have selected current and past classes Review the members especially enjoyed taking. These classes have unique political and philosophical perspectives and we think you will find them refreshing, especially on a campus where a lot of speeches have become orthodox and boring. We hope you use the recommendations to create a well-rounded intellectual experience.


THINK, PWR and Introsems

GERMAN 57N: Nietzsche and the quest for meaning, Professor Matthew Smith. 3 units. Wednesday and Friday 9:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

CS major Mimi St Johns ’24 recommends this introsem as an excellent introduction to the philosophy of the German philosophers Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Kant. She also notes that “You also learn a bit about German history in the 1800s and about Wagner. It is a good introduction to applied philosophical concepts for first year students. We know introsem requests have passed, but we recommend shopping in class regardless – seats may still open.


HISTORY 212D: Dante’s World: A Medieval and Renaissance Journey, Professor Christophe Bacich. 5 units. Completes WAY-A-II / WAY-SI. Tuesdays from 9.45 a.m. to 12.45 p.m.

Perhaps the greatest work of Italian literature, that of Dante Alighieri The Divine Comedy deserves its epic reputation. Using Dante as a guide, Professor Bacich’s course travels through Dante’s time and world, then a set of maritime republics. For anyone interested in studying the European Middle Ages and the history and politics of the Catholic Church, this course is a must.

STORY 252: Originalism and the American Constitution: History and Interpretation, Professor Jonathan Gienapp, 5 Units. Completes WAY-A-II / WAY-SI. Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

It’s rare to find a humanities course at Stanford as rigorous and thrilling as Professor Gienapp’s Originalism and the US Constitution. History 252 was without a doubt my favorite class at Stanford. Professor Gienapp provides a balanced environment to discuss how originalism entered mainstream jurisprudence. The topic is particularly relevant to current events, given that the self-proclaimed originals are in the majority in the Supreme Court. The students in the class are also of high caliber – the split is typically 1/3 law students, 1/3 doctorate, and 1/3 undergraduate – and the discussion is at a much higher level. than most philosophy and history courses at Stanford. –Quinn Barry, ’21, former Review EIC:

STORY 254E: The Rise of American Democracy, Professor Gienapp. 5 units. Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

We highly recommend this course, also taught by Professor Gienapp. The early years of American democracy are given far too little time in most American high schools. As stated in the course description, “Before and during the American Revolution, few of those who lived in what has become the United States claimed to live in a democracy. Half a century later, most have taken this reality as an article of faith. In an age when Americans debate the meaning of democracy, this course will allow you to delve into a multitude of primary sources of American history.

Core of the humanities

HUMCORE 111: Texts that have changed the world since the ancient Middle East, Professor Charlotte Fonrobert and Dr Vered Shemtov. 3-5 units. Completes WAY-A-II / WAY-ER. Monday 11:30 am – 1:00 pm / Wednesday 11:30 am – 1:00 pm.

HUMCORE 112: Great books, great ideas from ancient Greece and Rome, Professor Christopher Krebs. 3 units. Completes WAY-A-II. Monday 11:30 am – 1:00 pm / Wednesday 11:30 am – 1:00 pm.

HUMCORE 113: Finding the Way (Dao) in East Asia, Professor Ronald Egan. 3 units. Completes WAY-A-II. Monday 11:30 am – 1:00 pm / Wednesday 11:30 am – 1:00 pm.

The Humanities Core (HumCore) is an excellent and in-depth introduction to many of the world’s greatest texts, in the Western tradition and beyond. The entire HumCore program is a great introduction to fundamental Western literature accessible to both humanities and STEM majors.

Cola Buskirk ’22, who completed HumCore 112, writes that the course is “accessible to all students, regardless of their specialty” and that “HUMCORE offers an interesting and in-depth introduction to many of the greatest texts in Western canon, both in their own time and in that they relate to a contemporary audience. Professor Krebs’ balance of lectures and discussions encourages the growth of students as thinkers, writers, and lecturers.

PHIL 80: Spirit, matter and sense, Professor Jared Warren and Dr Antonia Peacocke. 5 units. Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Professor Warren covers a lot of ground in ten weeks: Phil 80 includes material covering the basics of metaphysics, personal identity and the nature of belief. But the breadth of the material, in addition to the regular writing required (five articles will be written during the term), is what makes the course so popular. Eva Davis ’22 highly recommended Phil 80 for being the rare course that “genuinely critiques your writing and helps you improve your thinking.”

PHIL 100: The History of Ancient Greek Philosophy, Professor Christopher Bobonich. 4 units. Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Harvard College’s original admission requirements were that students could write in both Ancient Greek and Latin (it was relaxed to Latin in 1886, sealing America’s decline). While a classical teaching has been supplanted by the SAT, Greek philosophy remains the foundation of Western thought. Professor Bobonich’s course covers Plato, Aristotle, as well as the various Hellenistic schools such as the Epicureans and Stoics.

POLISCI 235: Chinese political thought: 1895-2021, Professor Dongxian Jiang. 3-5 units. Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.15 p.m. to 4.45 p.m.

Relations between the United States and China are a popular topic these days, but not enough American policymakers have studied Chinese intellectual history through the prism of its own thinkers. This course examines whether the Chinese model of government is a legitimate alternative to liberal democracy, as well as how Chinese thinkers have viewed the West in the context of their own country’s historical development.

Many of the US foreign policy mistakes can be traced back to times when we did not understand local cultures and societies as deeply as we could have, and understanding how China’s history has shaped its modern evolution will be essential for them. future American decision-makers. –Neelay Trivedi, ’23


The Review has also compiled a list of courses offered by Hoover Fellows, with five additional course recommendations. We recommend that you take the opportunity to learn from Hoover Fellows whose research ranges from economic policy to international affairs.

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