Ethnic and Diasporic Studies

Ethnic and diasporic studies as an academic discipline lie at the intersection of several increasingly powerful developments in American thought and culture. First, interdisciplinary and comparative scholarship has become so prevalent as to represent a dominant intellectual norm. Second, the use of this new scholarly methodology to meet new academic needs and illuminate new subject matter has given rise to a plethora of discourses: women’s studies; Native American studies; African American studies; gay, lesbian, and transgender studies; and global studies. Third, and perhaps most important, there has been a growing recognition, both inside and outside academia, that American reality is incorrigibly and irremediably plural and that responsible research and pedagogy must account for and accommodate this fact.

We define ethnic and diasporic studies (loosely) as the study of the dynamics of racial and ethnic groups (also loosely conceived) who have been denied, at one time or another, the full participation and the full benefits of citizenship in American society. We see these dynamics as fascinating in and among themselves but also feel that studying them illuminates the entire spectrum of humanistic inquiry and that a fruitful cross-fertilization will obtain between ethnic and diasporic studies and the College’s well-established curricula in the humanities, the arts, the sciences, and the social sciences.

Ethnic and Diasporic Studies 2022-2023 Courses

First-Year Studies: Global Kinships: An Anthropological Exploration of Connectedness

FYS—Year

A common feature of human societies is the enforcement of rules that determine social relations, particularly regarding kinship. With whom may one be sexual? Whom may a person marry? Which children are “legitimate”? To marry a close relative or someone of the same gender may be deemed unnaturally close in some societies. And marriage across great difference—such as age, race, nation, culture, or class—can also be problematic. Social rules govern the acceptance or rejection of children in particular social groups, depending on factors such as the marital status of their parents or the enactment of appropriate rituals. And configurations of gender are always key to family arrangements. Kinship has always been plastic, but the range and speed of transformations in gender and kinship are accelerating due to globalization and to new medical and digital technologies. New medical technologies create multiple routes to conceiving a child, both within and without the “mother’s” womb. New understandings of the varieties of gender and new techniques in surgery permit sex/gender confirmations and changes. Self-administered DNA tests permit individuals to learn about their geographical roots and, sometimes, to discover close blood kin whom they did not even know they had. Digital media permit searches for babies to adopt, surrogates to carry an embryo, blood kin separated through adoption, and siblings sharing the same sperm-donor father. Globalization permits the movement of new spouses, infants, genetic material, embryos, and family members. Kin who are separated by great distance easily chat with each other in virtual family conversations on Skype. In this First-Year Studies seminar, we will look at many sites of gender and kinship through a variety of conceptual approaches, including theories of race, gender, queerness, the postcolonial, and anthropological kinship studies. Our topics will include transnational adoption between Sweden and Chile, the return of adoptees from China and Korea to their countries of birth, commercial surrogacy in India, polygamy in East and West Africa, cross-class marriage in Victorian England, incest regulation cross-culturally, African migrations to Europe, and same-sex marriage. Questions to explore will include: Who are “real” kin? Why do we hear so little about birth mothers? Why were intelligence tests administered to young babies in 1930s adoption proceedings? What is the experience of families with transgender parents or children? What is the compulsion to find genetically-connected kin? How many mothers can a person have? How is marriage connected to labor migration? Why are the people who care for children in foster care called “parents”? How is kinship negotiated in interracial families? Our materials for this class include ethnographies, scholarly articles, films, memoirs, and digital media. In the fall semester, students will alternate biweekly individual conferences with biweekly small-group research and writing activities. In the spring semester, students will have biweekly conferences.

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Culture in Mind

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this psychology seminar, we will keep culture in mind as we explore the diversity of human behavior and experience across the globe. We will pay close attention to how culture influences psychological processes such as cognition, perception, and emotion, as well as people’s sense of self and their relations to their social world. Through our readings and discussions, we will ask questions like the following: How do parents in Sri Lanka raise their toddlers to adapt to local social expectations of attachment, hierarchy, and morality? How does an Inuit child come to learn the beliefs and values that structure adult social life in challenging geographic and environmental conditions? Is the experience of grief or anger universal or distinct in different societies? Do all people see color or experience time in the same ways, or does culture influence even those perceptual experiences that we often assume to be common to all people? What is it like to live across two cultural worlds or to move from one place to another, and how does the language that we speak or the communities in which we live influence the ways we think, feel, and act? Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, our course material will draw from cultural psychology, developmental psychology, human development, and psychological anthropology and will include peer-reviewed journal articles and books, as well as films that address core issues in a range of geographic and sociocultural contexts. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central topics of our course.

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Understanding Experience: Phenomenological Approaches in Anthropology

Open, Seminar—Fall

How does a chronic illness affect a person’s orientation to the everyday? What are the social and political forces that underpin life in a homeless shelter? What is the experiential world of a deaf person, a musician, a refugee, or a child at play? In an effort to answer these and like-minded questions, anthropologists in recent years have become increasingly interested in developing phenomenological accounts of particular “lifeworlds” in order to understand—and convey to others—the nuances and underpinnings of such worlds in terms that more orthodox social or symbolic analyses cannot achieve. In this context, phenomenology entails an analytic method that works to understand and describe in words phenomena as they appear to the consciousnesses of certain peoples. Phenomenology, put simply, is the study of experience. The phenomena most often in question for anthropologists include the workings of time, perception, emotions, selfhood, language, bodies, suffering, and morality as they take form in particular lives within the context of any number of social, linguistic, and political forces. In this course, we will explore phenomenological approaches in anthropology by reading and discussing some of the most significant efforts along these lines. Each student will also try her or his hand at developing a phenomenological account of a specific subjective or intersubjective lifeworld through a combination of interviewing, participant observation research, and ethnographic writing.

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On Whiteness: An Anthropological Exploration

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

Putih, Blanken, Blankes, Wazungu, Caucasian, Blanc, White, Oyibo, Onye ocha, Brancos, Blancos...all these words, in different parts of the world, have denoted particular populations as white. Who counts as white people varies, however, and has as much to do with behaviors and perceptions as with pigmentation. Settlers in overseas colonies, for example, ensured their ongoing privileged whiteness through particular behaviors, including racial segregation and the creation of leisurely pursuits and manners that mimicked the metropole. Whiteness is a complicated and messy category of particular relevance at this historical moment, and we will approach it in several ways. First, we will consider the discipline of anthropology as the source of an analytical toolkit. Having mastered that, we can conduct a more critical exploration of the discipline of anthropology and its practitioners’ work on questions of white and nonwhite. We will then turn to the examination of particular sites where whiteness has been generated and contested. These include the Dutch colonies of South Africa and Indonesia and British-occupied Kenya, followed by contemporary and more local expressions of whiteness—including white nationalism and popular culture in postwar Great Britain and shifting notions of whiteness in the United States. In all of our explorations, we will examine the constructions of whiteness as it articulates with gender, class, sexuality, and popular culture and also with broader political contexts. Our resources will include anthropological texts, film, memoir, and fiction. The structure of the seminar is discussion-based. All students will participate in the discussions, both by speaking and by listening to each other.

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Spaces of Exclusion, Places of Belonging

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

This course explores issues of identity and difference, locality and community, through a close look at the interconnections between language and place. Engaging with recent scholarly work in the fields of linguistic anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, ethnic studies, sociology, geography, architecture, and literature, we will seek to decode sociospatial arrangements to better understand structures and processes of exclusion and marginalization. At the same time, we will observe how linguistic discourse and material realities shape people’s navigations through space and how efforts at placemaking create sites of collective identity, resistance, belonging, and recognition. We will ask questions such as: How does “talk of crime” instantiate racial segregation in a Brazilian favela? How does the use of everyday words like “nice” or “modern” disguise discrimination and define the boundaries of gated communities in places like Texas and Mumbai? And how does the language of public policy police green spaces to restrict access by people who are unhoused in San Diego? What does it mean to talk of “placeless” spaces or states, such as those instantiated through technologies like social media, radio, or meditative practice? How should we understand the connections between language, identity, and place in people’s experiences of displacement, transborder identifications, or longings for homeland as they play out for Sierra Leonean Muslims in Washington, DC, Ecuadorians in Italy, or Indigenous Latin American migrants in California and Wyoming? Posed in a wide range of ethnographic contexts, our efforts to puzzle through these issues will require attention to the ways in which space and place are spoken, embodied, gendered, racialized, and (il)legalized. We will likewise attend to the politics and ethics of decolonizing scholarship on space and place and to the meanings of an engaged anthropology that leans toward social justice.

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Specters of the Subject: Hauntologies of Ghosts, Phantasms, and Imaginings in Contemporary Life

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

“The future belongs to the ghosts,” remarked the philosopher Jacques Derrida in 1996. His interlocutor, Bernard Stiegler, phrases the main idea behind this statement: “Modern technology, contrary to appearances, increases tenfold the power of ghosts.” With the advent of the internet, various forms of social media, and the ubiquity of filmic images in our lives, Derrida’s observations have proven to be quite prophetic, such that they call for a new field of study—one that requires less an ontology of being and the real and more a “hauntology” (to invoke Derrida’s punish term) of the spectral, the virtual, the phantasmic, the imaginary, and the recurrent revenant. In this seminar, we consider ways in which the past and present are haunted by ghosts. Topics to be covered include: specters and hauntings, figures and apparitions, history and memory, trauma and political crisis, fantasy and imagination, digital interfaces, and visual and acoustical images. We will be considering a range of films and video, photography, literary texts, acoustic reverberations, internet and social media, and everyday discourses and imaginings. Through these inquiries, we will be able to further our understanding of the nature of specters and apparitions in the contemporary world in their many forms and dimensions. Students will be invited to undertake their own hauntologies and, thus, craft studies of the phenomenal force of specters, hauntings, and the apparitional in particular social or cultural contexts.

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Language, Politics, and Identity

Open, Seminar—Spring

This course will ask how words do things in the world, exploring the complex linkages of language, politics, and identity in both past and present contexts. We will pose a range of questions, such as: How does language enable powerful regimes to take force, and how do linguistic innovations constitute a creative means to challenge oppression? What role do the politics and poetics of language play in broader social movements and cultural revitalization efforts? How do particular political configurations produce language shift or constrain the possibilities for verbal expression in specific social groups? How does language take shape through specific narrative forms like testimonio, and how do such forms constitute or enable acts of political resistance? We will look at such topics in a range of ethnographic contexts, with a special focus on the Americas. Our readings will address case studies, including: the emergent Zapotec language and music revival in the highlands of Oaxaca, Mexico; the lexicon of terror that shaped the political kidnappings and murders of Argentina’s Dirty Wars; the legacies of secrecy, silence, and creative resistance among Pueblo nations in the US Southwest; the challenges and joys of bilingualism among transnational migrants; and the acts of narrative witnessing employed by a range of activists, including political prisoners, Indigenous rights leaders, and undocumented youth. Students will be invited to draw upon original linguistic research as a central part of their conference work.

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Gendering in African Postcolonies

Sophomore and Above, Large seminar—Spring

This seminar explores ways in which gender operates in myriad African contexts during colonial and postcolonial periods. We will interrogate concepts of gender and of the postcolonial, identifying the ways in which colonial relations endure beyond the period of occupation. We will begin by historically looking at local articulations of gender in Nigeria (female political power), Sudan (boy wives) and Kenya (intersexuality). Reading European colonial’s narratives about gender in African contexts will tell us much about their own gender systems and their (mis)understandings of African societies. Readings will describe contested attempts by European government officials and missionaries to abolish practices that they consisered “barbaric,” such as the use of traditional medicinal practices, “paganism,” and circumcision. As we look at the period from the end of formal colonial rule to the present, we will analyse ongoing transformations in gender systems as they articulate with global issues. Of particular interest will be the ways in which Western feminist and queer-rights discourses impinge on African systems of gender and sexuality, resulting in a new kind of colonial relationship. The class will be discussion-based. Our texts will be archival documents, ethnographies, films, historical accounts, and fiction. Our writers will include Mariama Baa, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Ifi Amadiume, Ann Stoler, Gayle Rubin, and many more.

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Culture and Mental Health

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

This interdisciplinary course in psychology and anthropology will address mental health in diverse cultural contexts, drawing upon a range of case studies to illuminate the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, course, and treatment of mental illness across the globe. We open the course by exploring questions of the classification of mental illness to address whether Western psychiatric categories apply across different local contexts. We explore the globalization of American understandings of the psyche; the exportation of Western mental disorders; and the impact of psychiatric imperialism in places like Sri Lanka, Zanzibar, Oaxaca, and Japan. Through our readings of peer-reviewed articles and current research in cultural psychology, clinical psychology, and psychological and medical anthropology, we explore conditions such as depression and anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, susto, and mal de ojo in order to understand the entanglements of psychological experience, culture, morality, sociality, and care. We explore how diagnostic processes and psychiatric care are, at times, differentially applied in the United States according to the client’s race/ethnicity, class, and gender. Finally, we explore the complexities of recovery or healing, addressing puzzles such as why certain mental disorders considered to be lifelong, chronic, and severe in some parts of the world are interpreted as temporary, fleeting, and manageable elsewhere—and how such expectations influence people’s ability to experience wellness or (re)integration into family, work, and society. Several of our authors will join us as invited guest speakers to talk about their current work. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central topics of our course.

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Histories of Modern and Contemporary Art

Open, Lecture—Year

This yearlong course is an introduction to modern and contemporary art from 1860 to the present, focusing on its histories and counter-histories, canonical narratives, and underrepresented artists. In the fall, we will explore modernism in Europe, North America, and Latin America, investigating how artists responded to a world ravaged by fascism, colonialism, and war; altered by industry, technology, and rationalized forms of labor; and tested by shifting national, ethnic, and gendered identities. What representational strategies did artists use to respond to these upheavals? How is the history of Eurocentric avant-garde art also one of colonization and cultural appropriation? The course serves as an introduction to the historical avant-gardes, including Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Constructivism, Vorticism, Dada, Surrealism, Muralism, the Harlem Renaissance, Abstract Expressionism, and Neoconcretism—as well as to alternative modernisms that fall outside the canon, including so-called “outsider” art, queer modernisms, and modernisms in India and Japan. In the spring, we will explore a sea-change that began in the 1950s as artists tested modernist categories of painting and sculpture; incorporated new technologies such as television and video into their art; and questioned patriarchal hierarchies through protest, activism, and audience participation. Our main focus will be art from 1960 to 2000, including Gutai, Happenings, Pop Art, Fluxus, Minimalism, Global Conceptual Art, Site-Specificity, Earthworks, the Chicano Arts Movement, the Black Arts Movement, Feminism, Video Art, Institutional Critique, Installation, Activist Art, Participatory Art, Relational Aesthetics, Craft, and New Media, with less attention paid to art since 2000. Throughout, we will focus on specific artworks and gain a vocabulary for close looking, while also attending to primary sources (manifestos, letters, statements, poems) and secondary, art historical and theoretical accounts. Assignments will include papers and reviews (based on works in New York City collections), weekly worksheets, peer reviews, presentations, reading responses, a contextual research essay, and a Wikipedia editing assignment. This course is a lecture-seminar hybrid. One lecture a week will be presented to introduce you to the broader movements. Weekly group conferences will look at case studies of artists responding to a dominant modernism, as well as methodological debates about decentering the canon.

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Art and Society in the Lands of Islam

Open, Lecture—Fall

This course will explore the architecture and visual arts of societies in which Islam is a strong political, cultural, or social presence. We will follow the history of some of these societies through the development of their arts and architecture, using case studies to explore their diverse artistic languages from the advent of Islam through the contemporary world. We will begin with an introduction to the history surrounding the advent of Islam and the birth of arts and architecture that respond to the needs of the new Islamic community. We will proceed to follow the developments of diverse artistic and architectural languages of expression as Islam spreads to the Mediterranean and to Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America—exploring the ways in which arts can help define and express identities for people living in multiconfessional societies. We will then draw this exploration into the present day, in which global economics, immigration, and politics draw the architecture and artistic attitudes of Islam into the global contemporary discourse. Our work will include introductions to some of the theoretical discourses that have emerged concerning cultural representation and exchange and appropriation in art and architecture. One of our allied goals will be to learn to read works of art and to understand how an artistic expression that resists representation can connect with its audience. And throughout this course, we will ask: Can there be an Islamic art?

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Arts of Spain and Latin America, 1492–1820: Imperial, Resistant, Colonial, and Transcultural Arts

Open, Lecture—Spring

This course will explore the art and architecture of Spain and Latin America as its lands emerged from colonialism to forge strong independent identities. We will focus on selected topics, including extraordinary artists such as El Greco, Velázquez, Goya, Cabrera, and Aleijadinho, as well as complex issues surrounding art and identity in contested and textured lands—in particular, Casta painting, colonialism, and arts of revolution and national identity. Students may, if they wish, extend their conference work to later artists (e.g., Diego Rivera, Frida Khalo, José Bedia, Belkis Ayón, among others).

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Queer(ing) India: Literature, Film, and Law

Open, Seminar—Fall

What is a queer perspective on culture and society? This course aims to provide an introductory survey to queer narratives and cultural production from India and the Indian diaspora as a way to think through this question. Texts will cover a large swath of time, from the early 20th century to the present, and will range across genres such as speculative feminist fiction, political and cultural manifestos, postcolonial novels, and contemporary films. In 2018, the Supreme Court of India finally struck down from the Indian Penal Code Section 377, a colonial-era law used to criminalize homosexuality and other “unnatural” sex acts, after more than a decade of legal battles. The fight for legal rights was accompanied by growing queer representation in popular culture and literature. The supposed “coming out” of queerness into Indian social and cultural life in the last 10 years, the demand to be seen and heard, has been critiqued by some as a by-product of “Westernization” or the influence of “foreign-returned” elites inspired by the Euro-American LGBTQ movement. This has brought with it the need to understand the diversity of queer India as well as the diaspora. In the case of the diaspora, we will work to de-center the Euro-American diaspora, paying attention to long histories of migration to the African continent and indentured labor in the Caribbean and the Pacific as sites for possible South-South solidarities. Taking seriously questions of race, caste, class, nationality, and gender, we will consider what a queer orientation to those hegemonic structures might be and what it might reveal. Thinking through the ways in which experiences of gender and sexuality were iterated and experienced across times and spaces will help us think through the specifics of each text (and its contexts) while also following threads and connections beyond. By considering these questions, this course hopes to think through the contradictory realities of a moment in India during which major Bollywood studios are producing gay dramas and even rom-coms, while questions of sexuality, gender, class, caste, and religious identity are being violently weaponized by mobs with seeming impunity granted by a Hindu-nationalist state. Students will engage with a diverse set of cultural, political, and legal artifacts—such as the writings of “founding fathers” like Gandhi and B. R. Ambedkar—as well as legal briefs opposing the punitive Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, which further stigmatizes non-normative gender identities by requiring transgender people to register with the government. We will read fiction, old and new, such as Untouchable (1935), The God of Small Things (1997), and A Life Apart (2016), as well as watch movies ranging from indie films like Chitrangada (2012) to Bollywood rom-coms like Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan (2020).

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Global Queer Literature: Dystopias and Hope

Open, Seminar—Spring

In this seminar, we will study queer texts and films, considering their particular articulations of queer life and its possibilities. Texts will cover a large swath of time, from the early 20th century until the present, and will range across genres such as speculative feminist fiction, first-nations narratives, postcolonial novels, and contemporary Bollywood films. We will end the course by looking at science fiction that explores life in spaces that some consider dystopian futures but are already becoming the present for many. As this arc indicates, an underlying theme of the course will be the maintaining of the creativity and vitality of everyday life while drowning in literal and discursive trash. Across the globe, queer lives have already been lived in materially and discursively toxic contexts. Engaging with text and films produced across the world—set in places such as South Africa, India, Argentina, and even galaxies yet undiscovered—we will think through the lessons that the creation of a queer life illuminate for us. Queer life within the context of this seminar refers to the multifarious ways in which marginalized and non-normative bodies and peoples create social and political lives. Carefully considering the contexts and possibilities that the characters encounter, we will explore how “queer” is a term that translates and mutates in interesting ways across time and place. In paying attention to the specificities of the texts, “queer” itself is thus a term that we will reckon with. Taking seriously questions of race, class, nationality, and gender, we will consider what a queer orientation to those hegemonic structures produces or reveals—not only in past literary texts but also as a way of imagining a hopeful future. As we encounter air and water that is more polluted, toxic even, than at any time in which homo sapiens have walked the Earth, the only response may seem to be pessimism. Rejecting pessimism, we will ask what queer futures and hope we can imagine at a moment of planetary crisis. Potential texts: Sultana’s Dream, Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain (1905); Lihaaf, Ismat Chugtai (1942); The House of Hunger, Dambudzo Marechera (1978); The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi (1990); Disgrace, J. M. Coetzee (1999); Bloodchild, Octavia Butler (1994); Animal’s People, Indra Sinha (2007); Moxyland, Lauren Beukes (2008); The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy (2017); Happy Together (film, 1997); Margarita With a Straw (film, 2014); and Pumzi (film, 2009).

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First-Year Studies in Performing Arts: A Multidisciplinary Collective/Portal in Practice and Theory

FYS—Year

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. —Arundhati Roy, The Pandemic is a Portal (April 2020)

Acclaimed feminist author, educator, and revolutionary thinker bell hooks wrote, “Art constitutes one of the rare locations where acts of transcendence can take place and have a wide-ranging transformative impact” (Art on My Mind: Visual Politics, 1999). Historian Howard Zinn echoes this, saying, “…the artist transcends the immediate. Transcends the here and now. Transcends the madness of the world. Transcends terrorism and war. The artist thinks, acts, performs music, and writes outside the framework that society has created…” (Artists in Times of War, 2003). The tumultuous period that we are currently experiencing, with unprecedented challenges in social, political, and environmental realms, sets the stage for us as artists to contribute the vital elements of human civilization that are our domain. Collective effort is at the heart of performing arts; thus, our contributions rely upon our abilities to connect and coordinate. Ultimately, the power of any collective relies upon the vibrance of each member. From Broadway, opera, and concert stages to experimental performance venues and political demonstrations, collective actions by artists have played a part in moving society forward. We will study works by visionary artists who have been inspired to venture across disciplines to grapple with the challenges of their times (including Anna Deveare Smith, Tony Kushner, Janelle Monet, Bill T. Jones, Meredith Monk) and will join forces, drawing upon the unique history of each participant to construct an expansive portal for individual and collaborative inquiry. This is a course for students with an established practice and experience in theatre, music, and/or dance who wish to continue advancing skills in their established disciplines. Students will take additional multiple components in dance, music, or theatre to comprise a Third program in one of these performing arts. Students will be guided through a selection of components in their discipline during registration and will attend discipline-specific information sessions as part of the registration process.

  • Theatre students will take two or three additional theatre components, along with biweekly Theatre Meetings and periodic Think Tank meetings, and will fulfill Tech Credit requirements. Students are welcome to audition for theatre projects each semester.
  • Music students will take three or four additional components, including individual lessons, Music Theory, Music History, Music Technology (optional), and Performance Ensemble (by audition), along with concert attendance and periodic Music Tuesday meetings. Students are welcome to join more than one performance ensemble (recommended for students who have had previous training in music, such as instrumental lessons, beginning theory, etc.).
  • Dance students will take three or four additional components, including movement practice classes and creative practice, along with periodic Dance Meetings, and will fulfill the Dance Tech Production requirements. Students are welcome to audition for dance program performances each semester.

FYS in Performing Arts is a yearlong course comprised of a weekly component class and weekly individual donning conferences. Serving as a home base for students, it will be a core class from which explorations into various disciplines arise. Class meetings will incorporate both practice-based and theoretically-based activities, experimenting with interdisciplinary possibilities through collaborative exercises, reflection, discussion, reading, and writing. Class readings will be selected texts from within theatre, music, and dance, as well as fields beyond the arts. Conferences in the spring semester may be weekly or biweekly, according to students’ needs and progress. Over the course of the year, we will conceptualize and create a collective multidisciplinary performance work to be shown informally at the end of the spring semester, with elements contributed by each member of the class/collective. Independent research inquiries will be pursued throughout the year, supported by individual conferences and periodic working groups in class, culminating in the writing, revising, and presentation of a research paper in the spring semester. The aim of this course is to support the development of skills necessary for expansive artistic collaboration and sustained academic research. Supported by the immersive opportunities of SLC’s theatre, music, and dance programs, with emphasis on live performance, students in this course will acquire new abilities and critical insights through experiential and theoretical studies. FYS in Performing Arts is intended for students who have both a strong interest in theatre, music, and/or dance and a desire to discover more about the interconnectedness of the disciplines.

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West African Dance

Component—

This yearlong course will use physical embodiment as a mode of learning about and understanding African diasporic cultures. In addition to physical practice, master classes led by artists and teachers regarded as masters in the field of African diasporic dance and music, along with supplementary study materials, will be used to explore the breadth, diversity, history, and technique of dances derivative of the Africa diaspora. Afro Haitian, West African, Orisha dances (Lucumi, Afro Cuban), and social dance are some genres that will be explored. Participation in year-end showings will provide students with the opportunity to apply studies in a performative context.

Hip-Hop

Component—

In this open-level course, teaching and facilitating the practice of hip-hop/urban dance technique and performance, the class will examine the theory, technique, and vocabulary of hip-hop dance. The course will facilitate the student’s development and ability to execute and perform hip-hop/urban dance steps.

Political Economy of Women

Open, Seminar—Year

What factors determine the status of women in different societies and communities? What role is played by women’s labor, both inside and outside the home? By cultural norms regarding sexuality and reproduction? By religious traditions? After a brief theoretical grounding, this course will address these questions by examining the economic, political, social, and cultural histories of women in the various racial/ethnic and class groupings that make up the United States. Topics to be explored include: the role of women in the Iroquois Confederation before white colonization and the factors that gave Iroquois women significant political and social power in their communities; the status of white colonist women in Puritan Massachusetts and the economic, religious, and other factors that led to the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692; the position of African American women under slavery, including the gendered and racialized divisions of labor and reproduction; the growth of competitive capitalism in the North and the development of the “cult of true womanhood” in the rising middle class; the economic and political changes that accompanied the Civil War and Reconstruction and the complex relationships between African American and white women in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements; the creation of a landless agricultural labor force and the attempts to assimilate Chicana women into the dominant culture via “Americanization” programs; the conditions that encouraged Asian women’s immigration and their economic and social positions once here; the American labor movement and the complicated role that organized labor has played in the lives of women of various racial/ethnic groups and classes; the impact of US colonial policies on Puerto Rican migration and Puerto Rican women’s economic and political status on both the Island and the mainland; the economic/political convulsions of the 20th century, from the trusts of the early 1900s to World War II, and their impact on women’s paid and unpaid labor; the impact of changes in gendered economic roles on LGBT communities; the economic and political upheavals of the 1960s that led to the so-called “second wave” of the women’s movement; and the current position of women in the US economy and polity and the possibilities for more inclusive public policies concerning gender and family issues. In addition to class participation and the conference project, requirements include regular short essays on the readings and approximately a half-dozen longer essays that synthesize class materials with the written texts.

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Documentary Filmmaking: The Personal Is Political II

Open, Seminar—Spring

In this documentary course, students will locate themselves in larger movements for change in order to produce a three-to-five minute film. The projects may be grounded in portraiture, historically informed, and even the experimental and will exist through a lens of social change and personal experience. Students will work in teams to produce their films, building trust among each other as collaborators and practicing filmmaking as essentially interdependent creative work. Students will be required to make their work public and create social-engagement strategies for their final films. Given these unprecedented times—as we are presented with new opportunities to shift our understanding of self, community, and the roles that we can play in pursuing a just future—this course is for those who are committed to using filmmaking as a tool for change. This semester-long collaboration is equal parts media creation and an understanding of the power of artists in movements for justice.

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Documentary Filmmaking: The Personal Is Political I

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this documentary course, students will locate themselves in larger movements for change in order to produce a three-to-five minute film. The projects may be grounded in portraiture, historically informed, and even the experimental and will exist through a lens of social change and personal experience. Students will work in teams to produce their films, building trust among each other as collaborators and practicing filmmaking as essentially interdependent creative work. Students will be required to make their work public and create social-engagement strategies for their final films. Given these unprecedented times—as we are presented with new opportunities to shift our understanding of self, community, and the roles that we can play in pursuing a just future—this course is for those who are committed to using filmmaking as a tool for change. This semester-long collaboration is equal parts media creation, screenings, and an understanding of the power of artists in movements for justice.

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Writing Fantasy Scripts

Open, Seminar—Fall

This class will involve learning how to write the fantasy genre for film and TV, as well as learning the necessary components of a strong script for both short-form and feature scripts. The class will cover the essential elements of a well-written fantasy script. In addition, we’ll explore how to create scripts that mix genres and use fantasy elements, which many popular films and TV shows do. After learning about the format for short- and web-series scripts, students will have the option of pitching and developing ideas in either the genre or subgenre of fantasy. They will then learn how to further develop the plot, characters, theme, style, and tone of their scripts through discussion, exercises, and outlines. We will workshop the scripts with readings in class, which will be followed by notes given by myself and fellow students. Students will revise their scripts and finish the class with a completed and polished draft of their short- or web-series scripts. This class is designed to help both beginning and experienced screenwriters understand how to create strong fantasy elements in their scripts while finding his or her voice as a screenwriter. Having the fantasy genre and effective techniques of visual storytelling as the main focuses of this class will particularly support these goals and will also inspire students to delve into their imaginations to create distinctive and well-structured fantasy scripts or scripts where fantasy is a subgenre, such as comedy, drama, horror, etc.

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Readings in Intermediate Greek

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Qualified students will read selected passages of Homer and Herodotus in Greek. The class will meet twice each week.

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Gender, Education, and Opportunity in Africa

Open, Seminar—Year

This class is focused on the study of how class, gender, ethnicity, race, and religion influence differential access to education for African children and adults. During the term, we will study several contentious debates related to education in Africa; namely, the impact of colonialism and religion on the development of African education, the role of gender and social class in excluding children from school, tensions between traditional education and formal schooling, and the classroom experiences of African children. Our studies will be focused around three major themes: social constructions of gender, discourses related to education and development, and the impact of educational opportunity on African peoples’ lives. A basic concept undergirding our discussions will be the assumption that gender, as a category, is socially constructed and, therefore, operates in different ways depending on the society in question. Because this is primarily a history class, we will interrogate both how constructions of gender have changed over time and how notions of gender have been affected by outside influences (e.g., religious, political, economic). Through the use of primary documents, historical texts, life histories, novels, and policy reports, we will also discuss methodologies for researching the educational experiences of African women and girls. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will also take the opportunity to investigate how infectious disease affects access to education, as well as the economic benefits that are believed to be derived from formal schooling.

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The Emergence of the Modern Middle East

Open, Seminar—Year

This course provides a broad introduction to the political, social, cultural, and intellectual history of the Middle East from the late 18th century to the present. After a brief conceptual overview, the course draws upon a wide array of primary and secondary sources to illuminate the manifold transformations and processes that have contributed over time to shaping what has meant to be “modern” in this remarkably diverse and dynamic region. Particular attention will be paid to the following themes: the question of modernization and reform within the Ottoman and Qajar empires; the experience of different forms of European imperialism in the Middle East; the integration of the Middle East into the world economy; World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; state-building in both colonial and postcolonial contexts; transformations in religious thought; changing family norms and gender roles and the genesis of Middle Eastern women’s movements; nationalism; class politics, social movements, and revolution; Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict; post-World War II geopolitics and the Cold War in the Middle East; Nasserism and pan-Arabism; the role of US power in the Middle East; the origins and spread of political Islam; the political economy of oil; globalization and neoliberalism; and the impact of various new cultural forms and media on the formation of identities across the region.

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Ideas of Africa, Africa Writes Back

Open, Seminar—Fall

The continent of Africa has variously been described as the “birthplace of humanity,” the “Motherland,” a country, a continent, “Mother Africa,” and a “heart of darkness.” All of these descriptions reflect representations of Africa, but how accurately do they reflect reality? The goal of this class is to study the intellectual history of what we know—or think we know—about modern Africa. Why is it that some of the most prominent images of Africa today are either negative (e.g., Africa as a diseased, hungry, war-ravaged continent) or romanticized (e.g., Africa as a mother figure, birthplace of civilization, or a lush nature preserve)? A central theme of our discussions will be that ideas have a history that is as powerful as radioactive isotopes. In other words, ideas maintain a shelf life even when their origins have long become obscured. Unfortunately, this has profound implications for Africa’s place in a modern, globalized world, where image can be as important as reality. Through the use of historical documents, novels, political biographies, philosophical treatises, travel narratives, current news sources, and blogs, we will study how the image of Africa has changed over time. We will trace the “heart of darkness” narrative and analyze why it has become such an enduring trope of modern Africa. Ultimately, our purpose will be to interrogate various descriptions of Africa over time and analyze where they originated from, why they exist, and whether they are accurate.

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The City of Yonkers: Histories of Change, Continuity, and Community

Open, Seminar—Fall

Yonkers, the fourth-largest city in New York State, is known as the “Queen City of the Hudson.” Over the course of its history, Yonkers has also been known as “The City of Gracious Living” and, more recently, “Westchester’s Hippest City.” During the 20th century, the city weathered social, economic, political, and cultural movements that mirrored national developments. A stronghold for industry, factories within Yonkers were vital to World War I and World War II production. In the wake of the world wars, the city became a site of mass deindustrialization, as companies looked westward and to the Caribbean for more cost-effective options. Following this economic wane, public housing became the centerpiece of a US Supreme Court case that linked desegregation to education and community. After a nearly 30-year battle, the case forever changed the landscape and composition of the city. The aftershocks of that monumental legislation have reverberated well into the 21st century, as Yonkers experiences a revitalization of its waterfront and downtown area. At the core of each of the transitions are communities and organizations that responded using a variety of tactics. This course studies the local history of Yonkers and its role within state and national narratives. Through readings, music, film, and course work, we will consider how history relied on the actions of individuals, as well as community groups. Moreover, we will analyze their role in dismantling or upholding systems of inequality. In order to do this, we will focus on conceptions of citizenship and examine the entwined relationships of the people, places, and ideas that have shaped the city. This semester-long class will enable students to develop an understanding of how race, class, gender, and community shaped the changes that the city experienced over the last century to provide an interdisciplinary discourse on how Yonkers continues to thrive and survive.

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Latinx Public Humanities and Museum Studies

Open, Seminar—Spring

In this course, students will build a foundation for studying and engaging in museum studies in conversation with Latinx studies. The goal of this course is to offer students multiple perspectives that would aid their understanding and practice of Latinx public humanities through an antiracist framework. The course provides students with history and theories in museum and Latinx studies and then an opportunity for engaging in a hands-on research project that leads to the “Making Home” Latinx Public Humanities initiative between Sarah Lawrence College and the Hudson River Museum. Students will conduct field and archival research; conduct oral-history interviews; and collaborate with community organizations, leaders, and residents to co-curate an exhibit, podcasts, and teaching resources that will be part of a “Making Home” Latinx Public Humanities project. Each year will have a different praxis focus according to the initiative’s timeline. This year, the course focuses on identifying and centering local histories and legacies of Latinx organizations, leaders, residents, and centers in Westchester County.

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Gendered Histories of Sickness and Health in Africa

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

How does an individual’s gender expression determine how s/he/they receive health care in Africa? In what ways does gender influence who provides health care, the kind of care that they offer, or the social determinants of peoples’ health? In the 19th, 20th and early-21st centuries, African citizens, refugees, and internally displaced persons have had to cope with a range of health care challenges. These include: high levels of disability as a result of car accidents and work-related injuries; disruptions to health care services and food provision stemming from war or political unrest; lack of supplies and access to quality care, resulting from neoliberal economic policies; and, most recently, the challenges of food insecurity due to seasonal locust infestations. These concerns paint a bleak picture of the status of health and health care provision in Africa. Epidemics like ebola and cholera complicate conditions for people seeking to improve the quality of their health. In addition, pandemics like HIV/AIDS and now COVID-19 have transformed demographics and gender relations in both predictable and unexpected ways. Despite these challenges, millions of African men, women, and children find ways to survive and respond creatively in order to address their needs for health and wellbeing. This class is organized around the understanding that the idea of “good health” is a useful critical lens through which to analyze gender-related questions. How do women, men, and LGBTQ+ individuals organize, navigate, and seek care in order to attain good health? What historical, political, and economic factors influence the provision of quality health care? How have African citizens, governments, faith communities, activists, and indigenous healers responded to the challenges associated with disease and the goal of maintaining good health? Because the African continent is massive and every country is complex and diverse, this class will use case studies from countries like Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and Kenya to answer these questions. In addition, students will be able to choose other African countries to study in depth in order to gain as broad a picture as possible of this complex and important topic. While we will primarily focus our inquiries by using historical works, we will actively monitor innovations in African countries resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal of developing a deeper understanding of what it takes to maintain a sense of “good health” in Africa.

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Beginning Latin

Open, Seminar—Year

This course provides an intensive introduction to Latin grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, with a view toward reading the language as soon as possible. Close reading of Vergil’s Aeneid in English will accompany intensive language study in the fall. By midsemester, students will be translating authentic excerpts of Latin poetry and prose. During the spring semester, while continuing to develop and refine their knowledge of Latin grammar and vocabulary, students will read selections from Vergil’s Aeneid in Latin.

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First-Year Studies: Reality Check: Homer, Herodotus, and the Invention of History

FYS—Year

Reality is currently under siege. Millions of people today believe, to their core, things that are demonstrably not true. Are we “each entitled to our own reality,” as some would argue? The ancient Greeks thought otherwise. Some 2,500 years ago, the Greeks began to distinguish muthos (origin of the English word “myth”)—an unverified, unverifiable story—from historiē (origin of the English word “history”), an inquiry into the facts for the purpose of making a rational assessment. Simultaneously, the Ancient Greeks began to reject tyranny and introduce democratic political ideals and institutions. Tyrants, however, require obedient subjects unwilling or unable to fact-check even their most preposterous lies. Today’s autocrats and would-be autocrats bombard us with fictions, even contradictory fictions, so as to eradicate the very concept of objective fact. As individuals, we are losing the ability to assess facts on their merits. We’re losing the ability to learn not only from history but even from our own experience. Succumbing to authoritative speakers, many of us prefer virtue-signaling to real-world problem solving. We’re abandoning verbal persuasion in favor of violence and intimidation. Can democratic ideals and institutions survive if we can no longer distinguish myth from history, fiction from fact? What is the value of evidence-based, logical reasoning? How can we learn from fiction without being deceived by it? Reading and discussing Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey (c. 8th cent. BCE) and Herodotus’s Histories (c. 440s, 430s BCE), we will examine these and other questions that are as vital to human survival and success today as they were centuries ago. This course is designed for students who welcome open-minded critical inquiry and are eager to read texts that are challenging both intellectually and emotionally. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences. In the spring, we will meet weekly or every other week, depending on students’ needs and the progress of their conference projects.

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First-Year Studies: Literature Is Not a Luxury: African American Women’s Writing

FYS—Year

“For women, then, poetry is not a luxury,” Audre Lorde writes. “It is a vital necessity of our existence.” Poetry, Lorde continues, helps to bring about an understanding of what is, as well as to imagine what might be. This understanding of literature as shedding new light on existence and as sketching new possibilities held a profound political importance for the tradition of Black women’s writing, in which literature was called upon to demonstrate the worthiness of Emancipation as well as of civil rights. This seminar seeks to study that tradition, its political importance, and its artistic achievements by studying the long history of Black women’s writing in America across a variety of forms and genres. Over the course of the first semester, we will focus especially on the gendered and sexual conditions of slavery by authors who experienced it and by modern writers imagining it—reading works by authors such as Phyllis Wheatley, Harriet Jacobs, Toni Morrison, Natasha Trethewey, and more. Over the course of the second semester, we will turn to the post-Emancipation era, focusing especially on the evolving meanings of gender and sexuality amidst Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, and the contemporary—reading authors such as Ida B. Wells, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorraine Hansberry, and more. Along the way, we will do short creative and critical assignments to better acquaint ourselves with the methods of research, of thought, and more. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences. In the spring, we will meet weekly or every other week, depending on students’ needs and the progress of their conference projects.

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Documentation and Transformation: Mapping Travel in Contemporary Literature

Open, Seminar—Year

Fernando Pessoa wrote, “Life is what we make of it. Travel is the traveler. What we see isn’t what we see but what we are.” This intriguing insight into the nature of travel offers the starting point for an exploration of a diverse selection of contemporary literature. We will also make our own forays into travel writing with weekly field notebook exercises and creative nonfiction essays about place, movement, journey. As a part of conference work, students will work in small groups on individual or collaborative projects. Major topics of the course include ethnography, tourism, psychogeography, postcolonial histories, translation, migration, exile, memory. Authors may include: Christa Wolf, Helene Cixous, Jamaica Kincaid, Michael Ondaatje, Amitav Ghosh, W. G. Sebald, Orhan Pamuk, Bhanu Kapil, Ocean Vuong, Cristina Rivera Garza, Yoko Tawaka, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Ayad Akhtar, Robert Macfarlane, and others.

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Tradition and Transformation: 17th-Century British Literature

Open, Seminar—Year

In the 17th century in England, the great ordering coherences of medieval and earlier Renaissance thinking seemed to disintegrate under the warring impulses of individualism and authority, empiricism and faith, revolutionary transformation and reinforcement of tradition. Yet, even as monarchy and the established church were challenged and torn apart, the 17th century produced an extraordinary flowering of drama, poetry, and prose that expressed the contradictory energies of the period. We will study English writing of the 17th century in a roughly chronological sequence. The first semester will explore the aesthetics and ideology of the Stuart courts and the robust and bawdy urban century of London through a reading of masques and plays by Jonson and Shakespeare and their contemporaries; dramatic experiments in “metaphysical” and moral verse by Donne, Jonson, Herbert, and other poets; various developments in scientific, philosophical, and meditative prose by Bacon, Burton, and Browne; and the early poetry of Milton. The second semester will be devoted to major writers during the periods of the English Revolution and the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy. Our primary attention will be on the radical politics and the visionary poetics of Milton, particularly Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes; but we will also study the work of the cavalier and libertine court poets, as well as Andrew Marvell, Katherine Phillips, Aphra Behn, and John Dryden. John Bunyan’s spiritual allegory Pilgrim’s Progress and Behn’s colonial romance novel, Oroonoko, will provide a retrospect of the imagined and the social worlds that we have traversed and a prospect of the worlds to come.

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Art of Indetermination: Eastern Praxis in Dialogue With Feminist and Postcolonial Thought

Sophomore and Above, Large seminar—Year

This cultural-studies course offers the opportunity to study the nature of aesthetic experience within an Eastern philosophical framework. In particular, feminist, queer, and postcolonial thinkers offer prescient points of cultural translation for Taoist and Buddhist practices in the contemporary context—which this course posits is a world shaped by globalization, social movements, visual culture, and digital media. We will read selections of key works within contemporary critical theory, while assembling individual archives of sound, image, and text to explore in writing and conversation. Students are invited to inhabit the figure of the cultural critic in experimental ways by engaging diverse modes of Eastern and Western praxes. The format of this course balances short lectures, seminar-style discussions, small-group projects, and individual portfolios of writing and/or multisensorial media production.

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Metaphysical Poetry

Open, Seminar—Fall

The best lyric poets of 17th-century England have been loosely characterized as “metaphysical poets” because of their “wit”; their intellectual range, rigor, and inventiveness; the versatility and trickery of their poetic strategies; and their remarkable fusion of thought and passion. Masters of paradox, these poets stage and analyze their expressive intensities with technical precision. They eroticize religious devotion and sanctify bodily desire with fearless and searching bravado. They stretch their linguistic tightropes across a historical arena of tremendous political and religious turmoil, in response to which they forge what some critics consider to be early evidences of the ironic self-consciousness of modernity, poetic dramatizations of the Cartesian ego. We will test these claims, as well as the sufficiency of the category “metaphysical,” against the evidence of the poems themselves. We will closely read significant poems of Donne, Jonson, Herbert, Phillips, Herrick, Vaughan, Crashaw, Milton, Marvell, and Behn. We will attend primarily to how they work as poems, looking at argument, structure, diction, syntax, tone, image, and figure. We will also consider their religious, cultural, and psychological implications. Students will prepare three papers based on class readings. Conference work is recommended in correlative topics: the English Bible, Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Shakespearean and Jacobean drama, or influences on and comparisons to Romantic or Modern English poetry.

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Movement and Migration: Modern Caribbean Women’s Writing

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

Though discussions of immigration in the United States have recently focused on the transnational movement of people from Central and South America, this country, in general, and the Eastern Seaboard, in particular, have long been porous to the movement of Black people from the Caribbean. From the 16th-century importation of Africans enslaved in Barbados to the Carolinas, through the immigration of African Americans to Haiti after Haitian Independence, up to the contemporary seasonal migration of Jamaican farmworkers to Upstate New York, Black people have long moved between the United States and the Caribbean. How might we understand the gendered, racial, and classed dimensions of migration differently if we focused on the recent history of Caribbean arts and letters? This course seeks to answer this question by studying anglophonic 20th- and 21st-century Caribbean women’s writing on migration between the metropole (be it New York City, London, or elsewhere) and the Caribbean. Reading across forms (novels, poetry, and so on) and genres (historical fiction, epics, etc.), we will attend to the writings of authors such as Edwidge Danticat, Jamaica Kincaid, Dionne Brand, M. Nourbese Philip, and more. Along the way, we’ll read recent works of theory and scholarship to advance our understanding of the texts and the subjects. In so doing, we will seek to understand how modern Caribbean women’s writing continues to influence Black studies and Black thought across the globe. Short assignments may include close readings, historical papers, and more.

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Blood, Tears, and Laughter: Politics and Poetics of Stuart Drama

Open, Seminar—Spring

To act: a political commitment or a theatrical gesture? In 17th-century England, as now, distinctions between political and theatrical spheres were hard to draw. Early in the century, Shakespeare and his contemporary playwrights created a self-reflexive, experimental, ironic, taboo-breaking style of dramaturgy and poetic language to trace the psychology and resilience of characters and communities who could no longer act on the basis of old verities to hold their inner and outer worlds together. When parliamentary forces gained control of London in the early stages of the mid-century Civil War (1642-49), they closed the theatres as centers of both decadence and dissidence. But they also staged the most spectacular and consequential theatrical event of the century in the trial and public execution of Charles I (1649), a king who had believed that he ruled by divine right and who had, himself, used theatre—in the genre of the court masque—to press his claim. In 1660, Charles II restored the Stuart line to the throne of England and brought a different kind of theatre with him. Witty, urbane, continentally inflected, it participated in the new conservative and skeptical settlement of political and religious power by representing and stabilizing the values shared by the ruling class. Then there is Milton, who wrote dramas in both the early and the late periods of Stuart drama and provided radical critiques of their subjects, their structures, and their politics. This course will offer a close reading of diverse dramatic texts of the Stuart periods and discover, thereby, a great deal about the culture and politics of the early modern period in England. Conference work is recommended in correlative topics: further readings of the selected playwrights, Greek and Roman drama, the English Bible, poetry of the period, influences and adaptations in more recent literature.

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Black Trans Studies

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

The publication of the first issue of Trans Studies Quarterly in 2014 both announced a field and institutionalized already existing knowledge production. In the years since, trans studies, in general, and Black trans studies, in particular, have continued to expand, yielding new ways of thinking about identity, state violence, and the political production of life, among other things. This course seeks to acquaint students with recent developments in Black trans studies. We begin with writing about early American history to study the ways in which the understandings of gender by enslaved Africans differed from European colonial genders. We continue through the 19th century to read narratives of slavery alongside recent scholarship on such narratives in Black trans studies. And, finally, we turn to the 20th and 21st centuries, focusing on artistic production by Black trans authors in mediums such as film, visual art, and literature. On top of our central focus on the relationship between race and gender, we will pay special attention to resistance, incarceration, and visibility—engaging with cultural producers such as Janet Mock, Tourmaline, Rivers Solomon, CeCe Macdonald, Danez Smith, and more. Along the way, short critical assignments will help us to engage more closely and more deeply with research methods, cultural criticism, and individual cultural works.

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First-Year Studies in Performing Arts: A Multidisciplinary Collective/Portal in Practice and Theory

FYS—Year

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. —Arundhati Roy, The Pandemic is a Portal (April 2020)

Acclaimed feminist author, educator, and revolutionary thinker, bell hooks wrote, “Art constitutes one of the rare locations where acts of transcendence can take place and have a wide-ranging transformative impact” (from Art on My Mind: Visual Politics, 1999). Historian Howard Zinn echoes this, saying, “…the artist transcends the immediate. Transcends the here and now. Transcends the madness of the world. Transcends terrorism and war. The artist thinks, acts, performs music, and writes outside the framework that society has created…” (from Artists in Times of War, 2003). The tumultuous period that we are currently experiencing—with unprecedented challenges in social, political, and environmental realms—sets the stage for us as artists to contribute the vital elements of human civilization that are our domain. Collective effort is at the heart of performing arts; thus, our contributions rely upon our abilities to connect and coordinate. Ultimately, the power of any collective relies upon the vibrance of each member. From Broadway, opera, and concert stages to experimental performance venues and political demonstrations, collective actions by artists have played a part in moving society forward. We will study works by visionary artists who have been inspired to venture across disciplines to grapple with the challenges of their times (including Anna Deveare Smith, Tony Kushner, Janelle Monet, Bill T. Jones, Meredith Monk) and will join forces, drawing upon the unique history of each participant to construct an expansive portal for individual and collaborative inquiry. This is a course for students with an established practice and experience in theatre, music, and/or dance who wish to continue advancing skills in their established disciplines. Students will take additional multiple components in dance, music, or theatre to comprise a Third program in one of these performing arts. Students will be guided through a selection of components in their discipline during registration and will attend discipline-specific information sessions as part of the registration process.

  • Theatre students will take two or three additional theatre components, along with biweekly Theatre Meetings and periodic Think Tank meetings, and will fulfill Tech Credit requirements. Students are welcome to audition for theatre projects each semester.
  • Music students will take three or four additional components, including individual lessons, Music Theory, Music History, Music Technology (optional), and Performance Ensemble (by audition), along with concert attendance and periodic Music Tuesday meetings. Students are welcome to join more than one performance ensemble (recommended for students who have had previous training in music, such as instrumental lessons, beginning theory).
  • Dance students will take three or four additional components, including movement practice classes and creative practice, along with periodic Dance Meetings, and will fulfill the Dance Tech Production requirements. Students are welcome to audition for dance program performances each semester;

FYS in Performing Arts is a yearlong course comprised of a weekly component class and weekly individual donning conferences. Serving as a home base for students, it will be a core class from which explorations into various disciplines arise. Class meetings will incorporate both practice-based and theoretically-based activities, experimenting with interdisciplinary possibilities through collaborative exercises, reflection, discussion, reading, and writing. Class readings will be selected texts from within theatre, music, and dance, as well as fields beyond the arts. Conferences in the spring semester may be weekly or biweekly, according to students’ needs and progress. Over the course of the year, we will conceptualize and create a collective multidisciplinary performance work to be shown informally at the end of the spring semester, with elements contributed by each member of the class/collective. Independent research inquiries will be pursued throughout the year, supported by individual conferences and periodic working groups in class, culminating in the writing, revising, and presentation of a research paper in the spring semester. The aim of this course is to support the development of skills necessary for expansive artistic collaboration and sustained academic research. Supported by the immersive opportunities of SLC’s theatre, music, and dance programs, with emphasis on live performance, students in this course will acquire new abilities and critical insights through experiential and theoretical studies. FYS in Performing Arts is intended for students who have both a strong interest in theatre, music, and/or dance, as well as a desire to discover more about the interconnectedness of the disciplines.

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Jewish Philosophers: From Spinoza to Arendt

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

Hannah Arendt famously wrote that 19th-century Jews stood “between pariah and parvenu,” a formulation that embodies the complex relationship between Jews and the modern world. With the rise of the new science in the 17th century, Enlightenment beliefs and practices in the 18th century, and the emancipation of Jewish communities in the 19th century, the role played by Jewish philosophers—in advancing these processes, as well as struggling to locate themselves within them—became increasingly prominent. Tracing the history of Jewish thinkers from the 17th to the 20th centuries, we will consider how they grappled with their cultural heritage in a climate of enlightenment and emancipation on the one hand and anti-Semitism, persecution, and pogroms on the other. Central themes include the role of the sacred in the modern world, alienation and exclusion, national consciousness and utopianism, memory, and cultural despair. While most of our sources are philosophical (Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Maimon, Marx, Freud, Benjamin, Arendt), we’ll read historical documents, theological treatises, novels, poems, and correspondences, as well.

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First-Year Studies: Urban Health in a Multicultural Context

FYS—Year

This FYS/community-partnership course will focus on the health of humans living within physical, social, and psychological urban spaces. We will use a constructivist, multidisciplinary, multilevel lens to examine the interrelationship between humans and the natural and built environment, to explore the impact of social-group (ethnic, racial, sexuality/gender) membership on person/environment interactions, and to explore an overview of theoretical and research issues in the psychological study of health and illness across the lifespan. We will examine theoretical perspectives in the psychology of health, health cognition, illness prevention, stress, and coping with illness. And we will highlight research, methods, and applied issues. This class is appropriate for those interested in a variety of health careers or for anyone interested in city life. The community-partnership/service-learning component is an important part of this class; for one morning or afternoon per week, students will work in local community agencies to promote health-adaptive, person-environment interactions within our community. Students will have an individual conference every other week and a group conference on alternating weeks. In the group conferences, we will discuss the nature of academic work in general and practice research, reading, writing, and editing skills.

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International Perspectives on Psychology

Open, Lecture—Fall

What does psychology look like outside of the United States? How does psychology operate across multiple cultures? In this course, we will attempt to answer these questions as we explore multiple international perspectives of psychology. First, we will begin with an examination of the history of psychology as a field. Next, we will grapple with arguments for and against international psychology. Our course will explore the development of psychology in multiple parts of the world. Our readings will focus on tracing the roots of specific schools of psychology, such as liberation psychology and South African psychology, and examining case studies in India, Aotearoa/New Zealand, the former Soviet Union, and El Salvador. Readings may include perspectives from theorists such as Martin-Baro (liberation psychology), Sunil Bhatia (decolonizing psychology), Frantz Fanon (postcolonial theory and psychology), and Lev Vygotsky (cultural-historical psychology). Lastly, we will explore the role of international organizations and mental health, such as the WHO and the UN. In conference work, students will be encouraged to explore international perspectives of psychology beyond the examples discussed in class. This course is open to students interested in psychology, mental health, international relations, politics, regional studies, and anthropology.

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Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

Remember, remember always, that all of us…are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.—Franklin D. Roosevelt

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon where people move into another nation with the intention of making a better life for themselves and/or residing there. This seminar explores the processes shaping our conceptualizations of immigration and immigrants. The course has a social-psychological emphasis, with social psychology being the latest in the social sciences to contribute to the immigration debates. Beyond that, the course is also anchored in a multidisciplinary perspective to assure the broadest possible exploration of this complex topic.

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Culture in Mind

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this psychology seminar, we will keep culture in mind as we explore the diversity of human behavior and experience across the globe. We will pay close attention to how culture influences psychological processes such as cognition, perception, and emotion, as well as people’s sense of self and their relation to their social world. Through our readings and discussions, we will ask questions like the following: How do parents in Sri Lanka raise their toddlers to adapt to local social expectations of attachment, hierarchy, and morality? How does an Inuit child come to learn the beliefs and values that structure adult social life in challenging geographic and environmental conditions? Is the experience of grief or anger universal or distinct in different societies? Do all people see color or experience time in the same ways, or does culture influence even those perceptual experiences that we often assume to be common to all people? What is it like to live across two cultural worlds or to move from one place to another, and how does the language we speak or the communities within which we live influence the ways we think, feel, and act? Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, our course material will draw from cultural psychology, developmental psychology, human development, and psychological anthropology and will include peer-reviewed journal articles and books, as well as films that address core issues in a range of geographic and sociocultural contexts. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central topics of our course.

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The Power and Meanings of Play in Children’s Lives

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Play provides us with an amazing and informative lens for observing the development and complex inner lives of young children. Yet, play is being threatened by increasing amounts of time spent on technology and a growing societal focus on scheduled activities and academic goals. This course will offer an introduction to the many fascinating aspects of play, including the importance of unstructured free play, how play shapes the brain, sensory processing and self-regulation in play, outdoor play, cultural contexts of play, and humor development in play. Through readings, video illustrations, and discussion of student fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center, we will explore the many ways in which play contributes to the complex social, cognitive, emotional, and imaginative lives of children. This course will provide a foundation for the spring course, Early Intervention Approaches for Young Children and Families.

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Doing Research With Young People: Research, Policy, and Activism

Open, Seminar—Spring

How is research conducted with young people? What are the ethical dilemmas when working with children, adolescents, and young adults? Instead of focusing on traditional research methods on subjects, this course will explore the possibilities of conducting research with, or alongside, young people. This is an interdisciplinary course, and our readings will be pulled from a variety of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, history, anthropology, education, criminal justice, and critical childhood studies. First, we will examine the sociohistorical context of children, adolescents, and youth. Next, we will investigate the rights of young people and the policies that designate them as protected populations. This course will survey a number of different research methods with youth participants, including but not limited to interviews, mapping, narrative analysis, youth participatory action research, and visual and performative research. We will apply a critical eye to a number of case studies of young people dismantling systemic oppression and working toward racial, immigration, and environmental justice. Students will develop their own conference project, focusing on how to conduct research with young people.

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Culture and Mental Health

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

This interdisciplinary course in psychology and anthropology will address mental health in diverse cultural contexts, drawing upon a range of case studies to illuminate the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, course, and treatment of mental illness across the globe. We open the course by exploring questions of the classification of mental illness to address whether Western psychiatric categories apply across different local contexts. We explore the globalization of American understandings of the psyche; the exportation of Western mental disorders; and the impact of psychiatric imperialism in places like Sri Lanka, Zanzibar, Oaxaca, and Japan. Through our readings of peer-reviewed articles and current research in cultural psychology, clinical psychology, and psychological and medical anthropology, we will explore conditions such as depression and anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, susto, and mal de ojo in order to understand the entanglements of psychological experience, culture, morality, sociality, and care. We explore how diagnostic processes and psychiatric care are, at times, differentially applied in the United States according to the client’s race/ethnicity, class, and gender. Finally, we explore the complexities of recovery or healing, addressing puzzles such as why certain mental disorders considered to be lifelong, chronic, and severe in some parts of the world are interpreted as temporary, fleeting, and manageable elsewhere—and how such expectations influence people’s ability to experience wellness or (re)integration into family, work, and society. Several of our authors will join us as invited guest speakers to talk about their current work. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central topics of our course.

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Migration, Mobility, and Modernization: Exploring Received Narratives in American Jewish History

Open, Seminar—Spring

What is “Jewish” about American Jewish history? Does a single “American Jewish history” even exist? What does “Jewishness” mean, and does it differ from “Judaism”? How do we reconcile history and memory? This course invites us to think critically about American Jewish history beginning in the colonial period when Jews first settled on American shores, thereafter, and continuing into the present. These questions will allow us to explore how Jews developed a diverse and fluid array of social, cultural, political, and religious practices as they encountered new social structures, ideologies, and cultures throughout what became the United States. Our discussions will center Jewish communal formation and evolution in response to the changing conditions of the United States over time, as we trace how these innovations contributed to the diversity of Jewishnesses that we recognize today. We will examine Jewish immigration to the United States, a complex and multifaceted process that encompasses immigrants’ decisions to leave their homes, journey across land and sea, arrive in a new country, build new lives, and grapple with the question of naturalization and negotiating multiple types of borders throughout. Additionally, we will consider how gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and disability shaped American Jews’ self-understandings, relationships to the places where they settled, and interactions with the people and governmental institutions that they encountered along the way. In our classroom community, we will deepen our conceptions of American Jewish history by analyzing texts featuring both storied figures and marginalized voices, as we learn to apply different theoretical approaches and examine how historical narratives evolved and coalesced. Students will analyze primary sources, write creative pieces unpacking historical events, and produce a research paper on a topic of their choice. The readings chosen for this course are not meant to be exhaustive but, rather, to strengthen students’ understanding of American Jewish history, provide a range of theoretical approaches to enhance their analytical toolboxes, and illuminate the construction and perpetuation—and, when relevant, associated agendas—of American Jewish historical narratives.

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Sociology of the Body, Disability, Illness, and Health

Open, Seminar—Year

In this yearlong seminar, we will examine bodies: how disability and illness shape life experience; the ways in which the body is surveilled by government and other institutions, including the medical profession; and the individual development of social identity. The course explores several themes, including the politics of reproduction, agency and labor, bodies in transition, stigmatization, and resisting bodies. Substantive topics include the experience of pregnancy, gender development in childhood, the development of sexual identity, the onset of severe mental illness, the isolating experience of physical decline, and the politics of death and dying. For their conference work, students are invited to select one bodily experience, disability, or illness to explore in depth. The first semester will be devoted to background reading and the development of a research question. This will lay the groundwork for second-semester data collection and analysis.

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Contextualizing Communications: The Poetics of Seeing

Open, Seminar—Fall

Seeing is not a natural process or an individual activity; rather, it is embedded in social forces and imbued with historically and spatially constructed meanings. This seminar is designed to interrogate how we communicate and to make meaning from such a vantage point. While the course takes a broadly construed sociology of culture as its point of departure, it also understands sociology as what a British sociologist called a “parasitical” discipline that frequently disrupts and violates disciplinary borders and boundaries. This course will follow in that vein. Our initial readings—which will include Raymond Williams, Edward Said, Aime Cesaire, and John Berger—will set the conceptual framework for what follows. We will draw upon literature, film and music, (auto)biography, letters, diaries, oral histories, and archival and legal texts emanating from different parts of the globe, with an emphasis on cultural productions about and from the Global South and/or diasporic communities. Our analyses will be framed in terms of a number of themes and questions, relating these to the contexts within which the works were produced. We will start with an overview of historical and methodological questions; examine colonial texts and their critiques, the production of nationalism(s) and identities, censorship, postcoloniality and the violence of “home,” and conclude with transformative visions. It is hoped that this perusal of a diversity of genres and voices will enable us to rethink the relationship of objectivity and subjectivity, fiction, biography and fact, and political and social censorships to which their producers subscribe or against which they struggle, as well as struggles over voice and in the remaking of space. Our goal is to problematize naturalistic “ways of seeing” (a term borrowed from John Berger) and, thus, show how seeing (through sonic, cinematic, and literary constructions) is both an ideologically regimented activity and a creative form of emancipatory action. Rather than seeing our readings as the expression of individual genius, we will engage with them as a way to become astute readers of the material poetics of social life.

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Technology and Social Identity

Open, Seminar—Spring

In this course, we will explore the nature of agency—or the motivation behind and responsibility for action—and the role of technology in shaping personal social identity. We begin by discussing how to treat nonhumans as actors in their own right before exploring key concepts that include Donna Haraway’s cyborg and Bruno Latour’s hybrid agent—concepts that allow us to consider how humans utilize nonhumans in their environment (assistive technologies for people with disabilities, animals, clothing, etc.) to enact social identity and become inseparable from them. This lays a foundation for us to explore how social identities like race, gender, ability, and socioeconomic status are made and unmade in interactions with technology. We will consider how identities are shaped by institutions, embodied in individuals, and conceived as lifelong projects. In past conference projects, students have explored deaf identity and cochlear implants, responsible pet ownership and leashes, bicycles in urban space, and hacking culture on video-game servers.

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Readings in Latin American Literature

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

This course is meant for students who have a solid command of Spanish and are capable of conducting language work at an advanced level. The main purpose of the class is to develop and consolidate a reading capacity that will allow the in-depth study of literary texts in the original language and from all over the Spanish-speaking world. An important segment of the seminar will be devoted to the examination of the most relevant works inscribed in the tradition of so-called “magical realism,” exploring its roots in Africa and the Indigenous cultures of Latin America. This includes fiction by Rosario Castellanos, María Luisa Bombal, Gabriel García Márquez, Cristina Peri Rossi, Alejo Carpentier, and Lydia Cabrera, among others. We will then proceed to examine the connections between the fantastic as a genre and the complexities of politics, both historically and in the most recent literary manifestations. In the course of study, we will also cover fundamental moments of the Latin American poetic tradition from its origins to the present day. Women writers will be one of the main areas of literary analysis, as their productions have resulted in a radical reversal of the canon—as is also the case with LBGTQ+ and Afro-Caribbean authors.

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First-Year Studies in Performing Arts: A Multidisciplinary Collective/Portal in Practice and Theory

FYS—Year

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. —Arundhati Roy, The Pandemic is a Portal (April 2020)

Acclaimed feminist author, educator, and revolutionary thinker, bell hooks wrote, “Art constitutes one of the rare locations where acts of transcendence can take place and have a wide-ranging transformative impact” (from Art on My Mind: Visual Politics, 1999). Historian Howard Zinn echoes this, saying, “…the artist transcends the immediate. Transcends the here and now. Transcends the madness of the world. Transcends terrorism and war. The artist thinks, acts, performs music, and writes outside the framework that society has created…” (from Artists in Times of War, 2003). The tumultuous period that we are currently experiencing, with unprecedented challenges in social, political, and environmental realms, sets the stage for us as artists to contribute the vital elements of human civilization that are our domain. Collective effort is at the heart of performing arts; thus, our contributions rely upon our abilities to connect and coordinate. Ultimately, the power of any collective relies upon the vibrance of each member. From Broadway, opera, and concert stages to experimental performance venues and political demonstrations, collective actions by artists have played a part in moving society forward. We will study works by visionary artists who have been inspired to venture across disciplines to grapple with the challenges of their times (including Anna Deveare Smith, Tony Kushner, Janelle Monet, Bill T. Jones, Meredith Monk) and will join forces, drawing upon the unique history of each participant to construct an expansive portal for individual and collaborative inquiry. This is a course for students with an established practice and experience in theatre, music, and/or dance who wish to continue advancing skills in their established disciplines. Students will take additional multiple components in dance, music, or theatre to comprise a Third program in one of these performing arts. Students will be guided through a selection of components in their discipline during registration and will attend discipline-specific information sessions as part of the registration process.

  • Theatre students will take two or three additional theatre components, along with biweekly Theatre Meetings and periodic Think Tank meetings, and will fulfill Tech Credit requirements. Students are welcome to audition for theatre projects each semester.
  • Music students will take three or four additional components, including individual lessons, Music Theory, Music History, Music Technology (optional), and Performance Ensemble (by audition), along with concert attendance and periodic Music Tuesday meetings. Students are welcome to join more than one performance ensemble (recommended for students who have had previous training in music, such as instrumental lessons, beginning theory, etc.).
  • Dance students will take three or four additional components, including movement practice classes and creative practice, along with periodic Dance Meetings, and will fulfill the Dance Tech Production requirements. Students are welcome to audition for dance program performances each semester.

FYS in Performing Arts is a yearlong course comprised of a weekly component class and weekly individual donning conferences. Serving as a home base for students, it will be a core class from which explorations into various disciplines arise. Class meetings will incorporate both practice-based and theoretically-based activities, experimenting with interdisciplinary possibilities through collaborative exercises, reflection, discussion, reading, and writing. Class readings will be selected texts from within theatre, music, and dance, as well as fields beyond the arts. Conferences in the spring semester may be weekly or biweekly, according to students’ needs and progress. Over the course of the year, we will conceptualize and create a collective multidisciplinary performance work to be shown informally at the end of the spring semester, with elements contributed by each member of the class/collective. Independent research inquiries will be pursued throughout the year, supported by individual conferences and periodic working groups in class, culminating in the writing, revising, and presentation of a research paper in the spring semester. The aim of this course is to support the development of skills necessary for expansive artistic collaboration and sustained academic research. Supported by the immersive opportunities of SLC’s theatre, music, and dance programs, with emphasis on live performance, students in this course will acquire new abilities and critical insights through experiential and theoretical studies. FYS in Performing Arts is intended for students who have both a strong interest in theatre, music, and/or dance and a desire to discover more about the interconnectedness of the disciplines.

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First-Year Studies: Fiction Workshop: Writing and the American Racial Imaginary

FYS—Year

In what ways have American writers and artists rendered the felt experience of race and racial inequality? How might we understand race and racism not only as social forces but also as imaginative ones? And how might we productively grapple, contend, and engage with our own positions as artists and citizens within these historical and imaginative legacies? In other words, how might we fruitfully think about what Claudia Rankine and Beth Loffreda have recently called—in their anthology of the same name—“the racial imaginary”? Over the course of this yearlong creative writing workshop, students will be asked to explore the American racial imaginary by examining writing in a variety of genres and disciplines—from short stories to personal essays and poetry, as well as academic criticism and historical scholarship—in the interest of producing and workshopping their own original writings. Students will have biweekly individual conferences with the instructor and biweekly group conferences devoted to workshopping, watching films, or attending lectures through the Writing Colloquium or the MFA program’s series of guest lectures.

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Wrongfully Accused

Open, Seminar—Year

Long-form investigative journalism has opened many doors, perhaps most literally in America’s penal system where journalists have regularly revealed—and freed—the wrongfully convicted. This class will set out to expose the innocence (or confirm the guilt) of a man or woman convicted of a controversial murder or other serious felony. Working collectively and using all of the tools and traditions of investigative journalism, the class will attempt to pull out all known and unknown threads of the story to reveal the truth. Was our subject wrongfully accused? Or are his or her claims of innocence an attempt to game the system? The class will interview police, prosecutors, and witnesses, as well as friends and family of the victim and of the accused. The case file will be examined in depth. A long-form investigative piece will be produced, complete with multimedia accompaniment.

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