Gender and Sexuality Studies

The gender and sexuality studies curriculum comprises courses in various disciplines and focuses on new scholarship on women, sex, and gender. Subjects include women’s history; feminist theory; the psychology and politics of sexuality; gender constructs in literature, visual arts, and popular culture; and the ways in which gender, race, class, and sexual identities intersect for both women and men. This curriculum is designed to help all students think critically and globally about sex-gender systems and to encourage women, in particular, to think in new ways about themselves and their work.

Undergraduates may explore women’s studies in lectures, seminars, and conference courses. Advanced students may also apply for early admission to the College’s graduate program in women’s history and, if admitted, may begin work toward the master of arts degree during their senior year. The MA program provides rigorous training in historical research and interpretation. It is designed for students pursuing careers in academe, advocacy, policymaking, and related fields.

2019-2020 Courses

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 with broader political contexts. Our resources will include anthropological texts, film, memoir, and fiction. The structure of the seminar is discussion based on readings. All students will participate in the discussions, both by speaking and by listening to each other.

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Telling Lives: Life History Through Anthropology

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

Through studying life-history narratives (one person’s life as narrated to another), autobiographical memoir, and more experimental forms in print and on screen, we will explore the diverse ways that life courses are experienced and represented. Throughout our readings, we will carefully examine the narratives themselves, paying attention to the techniques of life-history construction and familiarizing ourselves with ethical, methodological, and theoretical challenges. We will consider a number of questions about telling lives: What is the relationship between the narrator and his or her interlocutor(s)? How does a life-history approach inform debates about representation? What can the account of one person’s life tell us about the wider culture of which he or she is a part? How can individual life narratives shed light on issues such as poverty, sexuality, colonialism, disability, racism, and aging? The selected texts attend to lives in various parts of the world, including Australia, Great Britain, the Caribbean, East Africa, and the United States. Students will also analyze primary sources and create a life history as part of their work for the course.

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First-Year Studies: Histories and Theories of Photography

Open , FYS—Year

What is a photograph? This course looks at that question from many different vantage points, including photography theory, social history, art history, media theory, and material culture studies. How is a photograph both a transcription of the world—an index, decal, or one-to-one transfer of a thing—and a representation, a culturally-encoded image that tells us about how we see ourselves and others in the world? We each hold thousands of photographs on our phones, but they are digital, disembodied, and dematerialized images that are simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. What can the history of photography (from 1839 to the present) teach us about the medium’s materiality—or how photographs were to be found in albums, lavish frames, photobooks, archives, the wall in a museum, or as slides projected on a screen? What do these material histories tell us about what photography was—and now is? This course will look closely at specific themes within the history and theory of photography, including: documentary aesthetics and discourses of colonization; photography’s archival practices and forms of social control; identity politics and the photographic representation of visibility; digitization and contemporary photography; globalization, labor, and photojournalism; and the ethics and politics of the photography of war and violence. Not a comprehensive survey, this course instead looks at focused case studies structured chronologically. We will do close readings of theoretical and primary source texts and consider scholarly, literary, and aesthetic texts. The course also places strong emphasis on what it means to write about and describe photographs. Whenever possible, we will look at photographs in person. Individual conference meetings will alternate biweekly with group activities that may include field trips to New York City collections, writing workshops, and research sessions in the library.

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Histories of Modern and Contemporary Art

Open , Lecture—Year

This is a yearlong course but will be open to new enrollments in the spring.

This course is an introduction to modern and contemporary art from 1880 to the present. In the fall semester, we will explore modernist histories of art, investigating how artists responded to a world that was 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 those upheavals? How is the history of Western avant-gardist art also one of colonization and cultural appropriation? The course serves as an introduction to the historical avant-gardes in the United States, Mexico, and Europe—including Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Constructivism, Vorticism, Dada, Surrealism, Muralism, the Harlem Renaissance, and Abstract Expressionism—and to alternative modernisms that fall outside the canon, including so-called “outsider” art, queer modernisms, and modernisms in India, Japan, and Latin America. In the spring, we will explore a sea change that began in the 1960s—against a changing social, economic, and political sphere—as artists tested modernist categories of painting and sculpture; incorporated new technologies such as television and video into their art; and questioned the hierarchies of art’s production, reception, and display through protest, activism, and audience participation. We will look closely at how artists embraced radicality by protesting for civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ rights and by claiming an antiwar politics. In the last 20 years, all of this shifted with the return to traditional categories of painting and sculpture and the rise of the global art market. Although we will look at art since the 2000s, the main focus is art from 1960 to 2000, including Gutai, happenings, neoconcretism, pop art, Fluxus, minimalism, global conceptual art, site-specificity, earthworks, the Chicano Art Movement, AfriCOBRA, feminism, video art, institutional critique, installation, activist art, participatory art, relational aesthetics, craft, and new media. 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. Group conferences will closely investigate works by a single artist. Assignments will include visual analysis papers based on works in New York City collections, exams, and reading responses.

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Feminist Economics

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course has two sections; students should sign up for either the Monday/Wednesday section or the Tuesday/Thursday section. Some prior experience in economics is recommended.

Feminist economics arose as a critique of many of the fundamental assumptions underlying mainstream economics. For instance, feminist economics interrogates the androcentric and Eurocentric assumptions behind economics’ “homo economicus,” the supposedly autonomous individual who collects (freely available) unbiased information and makes rational decisions, self-interested in the market and altruistic in the home. Over the past 30 years, feminist economics has developed into coherent perspective in its own right. This approach acknowledges and investigates the existence of power differentials by race/ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, nation, and other variables in both the home and the market; it studies human behavior in relationship rather than as autonomous individuals; and it proposes policies to measure and to maximize the well-being of families and communities. This course will examine the underlying theoretical assumptions of this emerging paradigm and its application to questions of economic policy. Topics to be covered include: what we mean by “the economy,” which activities and transactions “count” (and “should count”) as economic, and the implications of these definitions; the role of unpaid caring labor and of publicly provided services to both individual economic success and national economic development; the persistence of both occupational segregation and wage differentials—explanations for and policies to mitigate these inequalities; the impact of domestic violence and other forms of nonmarket coercion on economic success; the conceptualization and measurement of economic development and success; and the capabilities approach and new measures of economic growth. In addition to class participation, requirements for the course will include frequent short essays on the readings and working in small groups to present those readings. In lieu of writing a conference paper, it may be possible for some students to engage in service-learning at My Sister's Place (a local domestic violence shelter) or another local feminist organization.

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Introduction to Animation Studies

Open , Lecture—Fall

Students who are interested in pursuing a film-making project for their final project have the option of registering for this class under Filmmaking and Moving Image Arts.

To animate is to bring to life, to instill movement into that which would otherwise be still. Animated films grant their viewers access to imaginary worlds that are frequently populated by anthropomorphic animals, fantastical environments, and utopian societies. But animation takes many forms. This course offers a broad survey of the global history of animation by embracing the diversity of those forms and by encouraging students to draw connections between the techniques and materials employed by animators and the political, social, and cultural functions of animated texts. Students will be introduced to a wide variety of ways in which animation has historically been created, including works made with sand, paper, puppets, pixels, clay, cels, pinscreens, garbage, and other unconventional materials. Along the way, students will familiarize themselves with key films, filmmakers, filmic technologies, and filmmaking traditions by studying animation from various eras, genres, industries, and countries. In addition to featuring numerous works from Japan and the United States, weekly screenings will incorporate animated shorts and feature films from many different regions, including Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Iran, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Russia, and Swaziland. In-class discussions and course assignments will urge students to grapple with complex questions and issues in the field of animation studies.

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First-Year Studies: Literature, Culture, and Politics in US History, 1770s–1970s

Open , FYS—Year

This is an interdisciplinary course in which we use literature and other cultural texts to illuminate a history of ideas and politics in the United States. The course is premised on a series of assumptions: First, the public words and stories that Americans choose to tell reflect ideas, concerns, presumptions, and intentions about their time period; that they do, intentionally and unintentionally, "political work" in revealing the world in the way that they shore up, modify, or work to change power structures. Second, this course assumes that you, the reader, have some sense of context for these stories (or that you will work to acquire one) and, therefore, have some sense of how the stories reflect the material world that they seek to change. Novels, stories, memoirs, and critical essays all derive from a single vantage point and, hence, need to be understood as one voice in a larger conversation coming from a particular time and a particular place. Third, these readings are largely primary sources and are always paired with a secondary source chapter, article, or introduction. This pairing presumes a desire on your part to grapple with the material of this moment yourselves, to write history as well as to read it. Themes of particular significance will include the construction of national identity, class consciousness, the experience and meaning of immigration, slavery and particularly race, and the political significance of gender and sexuality. Conference projects in the fall will focus on history and literature to 1900; in the spring, on history and literature up to just yesterday.

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Women and Gender in the Middle East

Open , Seminar—Spring

Debates over the status of Middle Eastern women have been at the center of political struggles for centuries—as well as at the heart of prevailing Western media narratives about the region—and continue to be flash points for controversy in the present day. This course will explore the origins and evolution of these debates, taking a historical and thematic approach to the lived experience of women in various Middle Eastern societies at key moments in the region’s history. Topics to be covered include: the status of women in the Qur’an and Islamic law; the Ottoman imperial harem; patriarchy and neopatriarchy; the rise of the women’s press in the Middle East; women, nationalism, and citizenship; the emergence of various forms of women’s activism and political participation; the changing nature of the Middle Eastern family; the politics of veiling; Orientalist discourse and the gendered politics of colonialism and postcolonialism; women’s performance and female celebrity; archetypes of femininity and masculinity; and women’s autobiography and fiction in the Middle East. Throughout, we will interrogate the politics of gender, the political and social forces that circumscribe Middle Eastern women’s lives, and the individuals who claim authority to speak for women. The course will also briefly examine gender and sexuality as categories for historical analysis in the modern Middle East.

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Diversity and Equity in Education: Issues of Gender, Race, and Class

Advanced , Seminar—Year

The education system is a central institution in the socialization of young people and the maintenance of the modern nation-state. Schools support meritocratic models of society by providing opportunities for social mobility. Paradoxically, schools also reproduce gender, racial, and class inequality. In this course, we will examine the roles that schools play in the transmission of culture, formation of identity, and reproduction of social structures. Paying special attention to gender and its intersection with other social categories, we will look at practices and policies that shape students’ performance as they strive for competence, achievement, and acceptance. We will also analyze the larger political and economic contexts that shape both schools and the communities in which they are situated.

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Women, Culture, and Politics in US History

Advanced , Seminar—Year

Through fiction, memoir and cultural criticism, political activism, and popular culture, American women have expressed their ideas and their desires, their values and their politics. This course will approach US history through the words and actions of all kinds of American women from the early 19th century through the late 20th century. Using both primary sources and histories narrow and broad, we will explore questions of race, class, sexuality, and gender and analyze the ways in which women have intervened and participated in the political and cultural world. This is a research seminar. Considerable attention will be paid to the development or refinement of a fluent and graceful expository writing style, well buttressed by the careful use of evidence.

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Gender, Race, and Media: Historicizing Visual Culture

Advanced , Seminar—Fall

Open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students.

What does it mean, from a historical perspective, to live in a society immersed in visual technologies? How does power figure into past and contemporary viewing practices? In this course, we will explore the field of visual culture in order to develop a critical framework through which we may understand visual perception as a set of practices that inform, and are informed by, structures of power. We will accomplish this by focusing on the rich scholarship of visual culture theory; media and communication scholarship that foregrounds gender and racial analysis; and the excellent scholarship that bridges media/visual studies and women’s history. We will work with a variety of mediums, including art, advertising, film, and digital media. Readings span the 19th century through the contemporary era. Nineteenth-century scholarship focuses on the rise of “commodity racism” and the production and circulation of imagery of the other within the context of industrialization, commercial advertising, and immigration. Twentieth-century topics include the development of modern/postmodern aesthetic and philosophical frameworks, the notion of the gaze, and the rise of a global media landscape. An examination of contemporary viewing practices will enable us to consider some of the implications of an increasingly fractured “mediascape” and hyperniche digital content.

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Who Tells Your Story? Cultural Memory and the Mediation of History

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

Open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students.

Media scholar Marita Sturken states that cultural memory “represents the many shifting histories and shared memories that exist between a sanctioned narrative of history and personal memory.” Sanctioned sites of remembrance, such as memorials and museums, indicate the extent to which cultural memory operates on regional, national, and global levels. As memorials are created to represent a specific point or event in history, they may also be understood as forms of media or technologies of cultural memory that produce meanings and contain their own revealing histories. This course examines the way in which objects of historical mediation, such as memorials, have a story to tell about the politics of remembrance and of forgetting. We explore how, through those objects, shifting histories collapse into one another and the technologies of cultural memory continue to take on renewed interest and urgency in the present. In addition to memorials, we focus on museums, documentaries, historical fiction, and the role of oral history in shaping regional and national historical narratives. We take an intersectional approach to this topic, and our time span falls roughly from the Civil War to the contemporary era—focusing primarily on the United States but also including African, European, and other forms of memorialization outside of the United States.

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Global Queer Literature: Dystopias and Hope

Open , Seminar—Fall

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, Britain, 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 these 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 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. Assignments for this course will include one presentation, two short class essays (6-8 pages), and your conference paper. Potential primary texts: Sultana’s Dream, Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain (1905); Passing, Nella Larsen (1929); Lihaaf, Ismat Chugtai (1942); Douloti the Bountiful, Mahasweta Devi (1995); The House of Hunger, Dambudzo Marechera (1978); The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi (1990); Disgrace, J. M. Coetzee (1999); Elizabeth Costello, J. M. Coetzee (2003); Bloodchild, Octavia Butler (1994); Animal’s People, Indra Sinha (2007); 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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Engendering the Body: Sex, Science, and Trans Embodiment

Open , Seminar—Spring

When the endogenous levels of testosterone circulating in the body of South African runner Caster Semenya, a cisgender woman, were deemed to be “too high” for women’s sports, media outlets erroneously labeled her a “transgender male” sprinter. The label may have been inaccurate, but it nevertheless brought into relief the command that biological “truths” about sex and gender hold in the public imagination. Moreover, the bizarreness of this error demonstrates that the gendering of bodies is a slippery and shifting social and historical product, determined not by biological knowledge alone but in tandem with matrices of race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, and nation. This course will introduce students to the burgeoning field of trans studies by interrogating links between biological data and gendered embodiment and among institutions, identification, and politics. How did the categories of trans and cis develop alongside larger technoscientific processes such as the “discovery” of sex hormones and shifting conceptualizations of sex and gender? How are trans bodies inhabited across diverging cultural contexts? Finally, what are the political stakes of organizing under a category that is both partially produced by institutions such as science, medicine, and the law and, at the same time, resistant to those institutions? Students will be exposed to theories from trans studies and to a variety of case studies—from medical anthropology, to the history of science, to cultural studies, to queer ethnography. The goal will be not only to enrich understandings of the category transgender as it plays out historically and contemporarily but also to develop a conceptual toolkit, with its basis in empirical studies, to unpack the naturalization of (racialized) sex and gender and to apprehend the production of biological facts and gendered bodies with critical acumen. As such, students may conceive of potential conference topics broadly in the history of science/medicine, feminist theory, medical anthropology, and disability studies, to name a few.

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Perverts in Groups: Queer Social Lives

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

Contradictory assumptions about the relation of homosexuals to groups have dominated accounts of modern LGBT life. In Western Europe and the United States, from the late-19th century onward, queers have been presented as profoundly isolated persons—burdened by the conviction that they are the only ones ever to have had such feelings when they first realize their deviant desires and immediately separated by those desires from the families and cultures into which they were born. Yet, at the same time, these isolated individuals have been seen as inseparable from one another, part of a worldwide network, always able to recognize their peers by means of mysterious signs decipherable only by other group members. Homosexuals were denounced as persons who did not contribute to society; homosexuality was presented as the hedonistic choice of reckless, self-indulgent individualism over sober social good. Nevertheless, all homosexuals were implicated in a nefarious conspiracy, stealthily working through their web of connections to one another to take over the world—or the political establishment of the United States, for example, its art world, theatre, or film industries. Such contradictions could still be seen in the battles that have raged since the 1970s, when queers began seeking public recognition of their lives within existing social institutions, from the military to marriage. LGBT persons were routinely attacked as threats (whether to unit cohesion or the family) intent on destroying the groups they were working to openly join. In this class, we will use these contradictions as a framework for studying the complex social roles that queers have occupied and some of the complex social worlds they have created—at different times and places, shaped by different understandings of gender, race, class, ethnicity, and nationality—within the United States over the past century and a half. Our sources will include histories, sociological and anthropological studies, the writings of political activists, fiction, and film.

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Pretty, Witty, and Gay

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

Are you ready to review your cultural map? As Gertrude Stein once said, “Literature—creative literature—unconnected with sex is inconceivable. But not literary sex, because sex is a part of something of which the other parts are not sex at all.” More recently, Fran Leibowitz observed, “If you removed all of the homosexuals and homosexual influence from what is generally regarded as American culture, you would be pretty much left with Let’s Make a Deal.” We do not have to limit ourselves to America, however. The only question is, where to begin: in the pantheon, in prison, or “in the family”; in London, Paris, Berlin, or New York; with the “friends of Dorothy” or “the twilight women.” There are novels, plays, poems, essays, films, and critics to be read and read about, listened to or watched. There are dark hints, delicate suggestions, “positive images,” “negative images,” and sympathy-grabbing melodramas to be reviewed. There are high culture and high camp, tragedies and comedies, the good, the bad, and the awful to be enjoyed and assessed. How has modern culture thought about sexuality and art, love and literature? How might we think again? Conference work may be focused on a particular artist, set of texts, or genre or some aspect of the historical background of the materials that we will be considering.

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Doing It for the Culture: Journeys Through Revelation, Aspiration, and Soul

Open , Seminar—Year

Is it possible to teach or produce African American literature without discussing black identity, the African, or the experiences within the African diaspora? For students of literature and ethnic studies, “literature” can connote fine lines; but African American literature and those who write within it are writing within a specific history. Thus, how does the literature provide a space for sustaining the cultural traditions of African Americans, interracial relations, queer black bodies, blackness as pathology, and blackness as an Afrofuture? The class begins with Phillis Wheatley’s “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” or from the “Dark Continent,” as it was named by imperialists. Before we turn to America, we shall first turn to the African before she became African American. Throughout the semester, we will source and investigate the poetics of spirituals and visual culture that provoke the black experience in America. This course begins in the fall with a theme on “chains and freedom,” as we look to writings of the 18th- and 19th-century Afrofuturists; but the course will continue into the spring with a theme on Afrofuturism as a modern rumination of aspiration and possibility. During the spring component, we will endeavor to identify the impact of modern African American literature, visual culture, feminism, queer visibility, and class consciousness within hip hop culture. On thinking of Amy Sherald’s spectacular painting in the National Portrait Gallery, “Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama,” Sherald remarked that Mrs. Obama is painted in grayscale to represent the past, present, and future—simultaneously. We shall turn to the literature to understand more fully what that sentiment could mean for modern writers and artists who are greatly influenced by the blueprints left behind by the late and great writers and by artists who came before them.

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Slavery: A Literary History

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course aims to provide a long view of literary representations and responses to slavery and the slave trade in the Americas, from William Shakespeare to Toni Morrison. Expressing the conflicted public conscience—and perhaps the collective unconscious—of a nation, literature registers vividly the human costs (and profits) and dehumanizing consequences of a social practice whose legacy still haunts and implicates us. We will study some of the major texts that stage the central crises in human relations, social institutions, and human identity provoked by slavery, considering in particular how those texts represent the perverse dynamics and identifications of the master-slave relationship; the systematic assaults on family, identity, and community developed and practiced in slave-owning cultures; modes of resistance, survival, and subversion cultivated by slave communities and individuals in order to preserve their humanity and reclaim their liberty; and retrospective constructions of, and meditations on, slavery and its historical consequences. Since literary structure and style are not only representational but also are means of subversion, resistance, and reclamation, we will do a lot of close reading. Readings will be drawn from the works of William Shakespeare, Aimé Cesaire, Aphra Behn, Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, and Edward P. Jones. Conference work may entail more extended work in any of these writers or literary modes or other writers engaged in the representation and interrogation of slavery; may be developed around a major theme or topic; and may include background study in history, philosophy, geography, politics, or theory.

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Austen Inc.: 18th-Century Women Writers

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

Prerequisite: Completion of at least one prior course in literature

By the time of her death in 1817, Jane Austen could boast that books by women had “afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world.” A mere century and a half earlier, it was still a rarity for a woman to publish under her own name. This course traces the emergence of professional female authorship from the end of the Renaissance to the heyday of Romanticism, along the way introducing students to the most illustrious and intriguing members of Austen’s “literary corporation.” We will divide our time between authors who remain familiar today (Aphra Behn, Mary Wollstonecraft) and those who have been unjustly forgotten (Eliza Haywood, Elizabeth Inchbald). The texts we cover will be as eclectic as the authors themselves, ranging from lyric poems to Gothic novels, sex comedies to political jeremiads, fantasy literature to travel writing, slave narratives to courtship fiction. The centerpiece of the spring semester will be an extended discussion of Austen’s own work, including at least three of her novels and a selection from her outrageous juvenilia. The popular and scholarly reception of 18th-century women’s writing will also be considered.

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open , Lecture—Fall

Prerequisite: basic high-school algebra and geometry.

Correlation, regression, statistical significance, and margin of error...you’ve heard these terms and other statistical phrases bantered about before, and you’ve seen them interspersed in news reports and research articles. But what do they mean? And why are they so important? Serving as an introduction to the concepts, techniques, and reasoning central to the understanding of data, this lecture course focuses on the fundamental methods of statistical analysis used to gain insight into diverse areas of human interest. The use, misuse, and abuse of statistics will be the central focus of the course, and specific topics of exploration will be drawn from experimental design theory, sampling theory, data analysis, and statistical inference. Applications will be considered in current events, business, psychology, politics, medicine, and other areas of the natural and social sciences. Statistical (spreadsheet) software will be introduced and used extensively in this course, but no prior experience with the technology is assumed. Conference work, conducted in workshop mode, will serve to reinforce student understanding of the course material. This lecture is recommended for anybody wishing to be a better-informed consumer of data and strongly recommended for those planning to pursue graduate work and/or research in the natural sciences or social sciences.

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The Philosophy of Music

Open , Lecture—Spring

This course may also be taken as a semester-long component.

Music is central to most of our lives. How can we understand the experience of music? What does music express? If it expresses emotions, how do those emotions relate to the emotions we experience in everyday life? Can music without words express emotions with as much clarity as music with words? As a background to these questions, we will also be looking at issues concerning the nature and experience of art of general; and we will examine the views of writers such as Plato, Kant, Schopenhauer, Dewey, and Adorno and compare how they understand the role of art in society and in our own experience. The musical repertory will include medieval and Renaissance music, music by Bach, songs by Schubert, and examples from the symphonic repertory by composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky. We will study those works using the techniques of formal analysis that are generally used in music-history classes but also attempt to draw out the many contextual threads: How are they embedded in a culture, and how do they reflect the temperament and orientation of the composers? While most of our musical examples will be from the classical repertory, other styles will also occasionally be relevant. The goals of the class will be to understand how musical and philosophical thought can illuminate each other and to deepen our awareness of the range and power of music. No prior knowledge of music theory or history is required; we will introduce and define the terms we need as the class proceeds.

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Introduction to Social Theory: Philosophical Tools for Critical Social Analysis

Open , Lecture—Year

How can social order be explained in modern societies that are too large, fluid, and complex to rely on tradition or self-conscious political regulation alone? Social theory is a distinctly modern tradition of discourse centered on answering this question and focused on a series of theorists and texts whose works gave rise to the modern social sciences, overlap with some of the most influential modern philosophy, and provide powerful tools for critical understanding of contemporary social life. The theorists whose works form the backbone of this course explore the sources of social order in structures, many of which work “behind the backs” of the awareness and intentions of those whose interaction they integrate and regulate. The market economy, the legal and administrative state, the firm and the professions, highly differentiated political and civil cultures, racial and gender order, a variety of disciplinary techniques inscribed in diverse mundane practices—one by one, these theorists labored to unmask the often-hidden sources of social order in the modern world. Moreover, this understanding of social order has evolved side-by-side with evaluations that run the gamut, from those that view Western modernity as achieving the apex of human freedom and individuality to those that see it as insinuating a uniquely thorough and invidious system of domination. This class will introduce many of the foundational texts and authors in social theory, the social sciences, and social philosophy—including Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault, and Jürgen Habermas. In this way, we will also cover various schools of social explanation, including: Marxism, structuralism, poststructuralism, and (in group conferences) critical race theory, postcolonial studies, and feminism. The thread connecting these disparate authors and approaches will be the issue of the worth or legitimacy of Western modernity, the historical process that produced capitalism, representative democracy, religious pluralism, the modern sciences, ethical individualism, secularism, fascism, communism, new forms of racism and sexism, and many “new social movements.” Which of the institutions and practices that structured the process of modernization are worth defending or reforming? Which should be rejected outright? Or should we reject them all and embrace a new, postmodern social epoch? In addressing these issues, we will grapple both with classical texts and with the contemporary implications of different approaches to social analysis.

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Democracy, Diversity, and (In)equality

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

Modern democracy, as defended by its most progressive advocates, promised to resurrect an ancient form of popular self-rule on a newly inclusive and egalitarian foundation. At certain points in recent history, it has seemed credible to believe that the “moral arc of the universe bends toward justice”—i.e., that the long-term trend of modern political life moved in the direction of democratic polities that treated all members with equal concern and respect; realized genuine fair equality of opportunity for all; limited social inequality so as to render it compatible with political equality; and repaired historical injustices like those rooted in race, gender, sexuality, and class. Since the beginning of the current century, however, this claim has appeared far less credible. Instead, modern politics appears increasingly less equal, inclusive, just, and democratic. On the one hand, democratic societies have become increasingly unequal as a result of globalization, changes in the nature and remuneration of work, new policies and technology, and new political conditions. On the other, the hitherto dominant (understood variously in racial, ethnic, national, gender, and/or religious terms) appear increasingly unwilling to surrender their privileges in the name of social justice, diversity, or inclusion—even while democratic societies are increasingly diverse as a result of immigration and demographic shifts and their citizens less willing to “forget” their many differences to melt into a dominant national culture. These two trends are far from unrelated: The failure to preserve fair distributions of income, wealth and opportunity contribute to the rise of nationalism and reactionary populism, while the fracturing of common civic identities undermines the resources of commonality and solidarity needed to resist the concentration of wealth and power in ever-smaller elite circles. These developments raise some basic questions: Is 21st-century democracy increasingly an instrument of unjust politics, impotent in the face of the social changes that globalization and galloping technological change produce, and perhaps simply doomed? Or might it be possible to reform democracy to render it compatible with conditions of deep diversity while also making it capable of securing the requisite degrees of political and social equality? This course will explore these questions in a number of ways. We will study exemplary historical statements of the ideal of democracy, drawing on traditional works in political philosophy. We will also draw on contemporary work in sociology, anthropology, cultural and legal studies, and political science to examine the nature of social and cultural diversity—including religion, class, gender, sexuality, and race. We will draw on a similar range of disciplines to seek to comprehend the causes and consequence of the widening inequality characteristic of almost all economically advanced democratic societies. Finally, we will explore works that bring these themes together by examining current scholars efforts to (re-)articulate the ideal and practice of democracy in light of increased diversity and inequality.

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Challenges to Development: Child and Adolescent Psychopathology

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Spring

We live in a society that often seems preoccupied with labeling people and their characteristics as “normal” or “abnormal.” This course covers some of the material usually found in “abnormal psychology” courses by addressing the multiple factors that play a role in shaping a child’s development, particularly as those factors may result in what we think of as psychopathology. Starting with a consideration of what the terms “normality” and “pathology” may refer to in our culture, we will read about and discuss a variety of situations that illustrate different interactions of inborn, environmental, and experiential influences on developing lives. For example, we will read theory and case material addressing congenital conditions such as deafness and life events such as acute trauma and abuse, as well as the range of less clear-cut circumstances and complex interactions of variables that have an impact on growth and adaptation in childhood and adolescence. We will try, however, to bring both critical lenses and a range of individual perspectives to bear on our discussion of readings drawn from clinical and developmental psychology, memoir, and research studies. In this process, we will examine a number of the current conversations and controversies about assessment, diagnostic/labeling, early intervention, use of psychoactive medications, and treatment modalities. Students will be required to engage in fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or elsewhere and may choose whether to focus conference projects on aspects of that experience.

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Intersectionality Research Seminar

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Students who have studied race/ethnicity, gender, or sexuality in at least one other class would be best prepared to take this class.

This class is a hands-on introduction to conducting qualitative and quantitative psychological research on the intersection of race/ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. Although research is an indispensable part of scientific endeavors, the conduct of research itself is part scientific ritual and part art form. In this class, we will learn both the science and the art of conducting ethical research with diverse participants. What is the connection of race, sexuality, and gender within an American multicultural and multiethnic society? Is there a coherent, distinct, and continuous self existing within our postmodern, paradigmatic, etc. contexts? How is the sexual/racial/gendered implicated in the creation of this self-identity? Is there principled dynamic or developmental change in our concepts of self, whether as human beings, sexual beings, and/or racial/ethnic beings? This class explores the analysis of race, ethnicity, and sexualities within psychology and the broader social sciences; how those constructs implicitly and explicitly inform psychological inquiry; and the effects of those constructs on the “psychology” of the individual in context. This class regularly moves beyond psychology to take a broader, social-science perspective on the issue of intersectionality.

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“Sex Is Not a Natural Act”: Social Science Explorations of Human Sexuality

Open , Lecture—Spring

A background in social sciences is recommended.

When is sex NOT a natural act? Every time a human engages in sexual activity. In sex, what is done by whom, with whom, where, when, why, and with what has very little to do with biology. Human sexuality poses a significant challenge in theory. The study of its disparate elements (biological, social, and individual/psychological) is inherently an interdisciplinary undertaking: From anthropologists to zoologists, all add something to our understanding of sexual behaviors and meanings. In this class, we will study sexualities in social contexts across the lifespan, from infancy to old age. Within each period, we will examine biological, social, and psychological factors that inform the experience of sexuality for individuals. We will also examine broader aspects of sexuality, including sexual health and sexual abuse. Conference projects may range from empirical research to a bibliographic research project. Service learning may also be supported in this class.

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Changing Places: Sociospatial Dimensions of Urbanization

Open , Seminar—Year

The concept of space will provide the thematic underpinning and serve as the point of departure for this course on cities and urbanization. Space can be viewed in relation to the (human) body, social relations and social structures, and the physical environment. In this seminar, we will examine the material (social, political, and economic) and metaphorical (symbolic and representational) dimensions of spatial configurations in urban settings. In our analysis, we will address the historical and shifting connotations of urban space and urban life. Moving beyond the historical aspects of urbanization and transformations therein, we will turn our attention to the (re)theorization of the very notion of spatial relations itself. Here, emphasis will be placed on representational practices and processes whereby social “space” is created, gendered, re-visioned. “Space” will no longer be seen simply as physical space but also in terms of the construction of meanings that affect our use of, and relation to, both physical and social settings. While economic factors will continue to be implicated and invoked in our analysis, we will move beyond the economic to extra-economic categories and constructs such as notions of power, culture, and sexuality. The focus will also shift, as the year proceeds, from macroanalyses to include an examination of everyday life. Through our exploration of these issues, we will attempt to gauge the practices and processes whereby social space is gendered, privatized, and sexualized and distinctions are established between “inside” and “outside” domains and between public and private realms. Particular attention will be paid to attempts by scholars and activists to open up space both theoretically and concretely. The theoretical/conceptual questions raised lend themselves to an analysis of any city; so while many of our readings will be New York City and US-based, the course will have relevance to cities globally. Students should feel free to extend the analysis to other places that are of interest to them. This applies particularly to conference work.

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Travel and Tourism: Economies of Pleasure, Profit, and Power

Advanced , Seminar—Year

This course takes a long view of travel, seeing travel as a “contact zone,” a contradictory site of learning, exchange as well as exploitation. Among the questions the course will address are the following: What are the reasons for travel historically and in the modern world? What factors draw individuals to travel singly and as members of collectivities? What sites draw the traveler and/or the tourist? What is the relationship between the (visited) site and the sight of the visitor? How is meaning produced of particular sites? How do those meanings differ, depending on the positionality of the traveler? How and why do particular sites encourage visitors? What is the relationship between the visitor and the local inhabitant? Can one be a traveler in one’s own home (site)? What is the relationship between travel and tourism, pleasure and power in/through travel? How are race, gender, and class articulated in and through travel? These and other questions will be addressed through a careful scrutiny of commercial (visual and written) writings on travel and tourism; diaries, journals, and memoirs by travelers; and films and scholarly writings on travel and tourism. Our emphasis will be on an examination of travel and tourism in a historical context. In particular, we will focus on the commodification of travel as an acquisition of social (and economic) currency and as a source/site of power. We will study different forms of travel that have recently emerged, such as environmental tourism, heritage (historical) tourism, sex tourism, as well as cyber travel. Throughout, the relation between material and physical bodies will remain a central focus of the course. Conference possibilities include analyses of your own travel experiences, examination of travel writings pertaining to specific places, or theoretical perspectives on travel and/or tourism. Fieldwork locally is yet another possibility for conference work.

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Media Burn: Moving Image Installation in Practice

Open , Seminar—Year

This yearlong production seminar investigates histories, strategies, and concepts related to the production and exhibition of moving-image installation. Over the year, students will investigate the histories of moving-image installation and create their own works of time-based art. We will look at artworks that use moving images, space, sound, loops, performance, site-specificity, chance operations, multiple channels, and games as tools for communicating ideas. In the fall semester, our work will be inspired by close readings of specific seminal artworks in installation from the late 1960s to the present, including pieces that utilize feedback loops, multiple projections, home movies, and new technologies. Students will learn craft and concept simultaneously through collaborative and individual production. Spring semester, we will engage with our own concepts and ideas of how time-based installation can be activated. Site-specificity, social practice, and interdisciplinary projects are introduced, and students are encouraged to connect their conference in this class to collaborations in theatre, dance, sculpture, painting, and academics. Conference works involve research, craft, and rigorous conceptual and technical practice and are presented in exhibitions at the end of each semester. A component of the class will take place outside the classroom at museums, galleries, nonprofits, performance spaces, and historic sites in and around New York City. (The title of this class, Media Burn, comes from the 1975 performance by the San Francisco-based art collective Ant Farm, https://www.eai.org/titles/media-burn)

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The Ideas of Photography

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course is a hybrid. Each week, for the first 10 weeks of the semester, a different photographic idea or genre will be traced from its earliest iterations to its present form by means of slide lectures and readings. And each week, students will respond with their own photographic work inspired by the visual presentations and readings. Topics may include personal dressup/narrative, the directorial mode in photography, contemporary art-influenced fashion photography, new strategies in documentary practice, abstraction, the typology, the photograph in color, and narrative photography. In the final weeks of the semester, the emphasis will shift as students work on a subject and in a form that coincides with the ideas they most urgently wish to express. No previous experience in photography is necessary nor is any specialized equipment. A desire to explore and to create a personally meaningful body of work are the only prerequisites.

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The New Narrative Photography

Open , Seminar—Spring

A photograph alone, without caption, is like a simple utterance. “Ooh!” or “aah!” or “huh?” are responses to it. But when pictures are presented in groups with an accompanying text—and perhaps in conjunction with political or poetic conceptual strategies—any statement at all becomes possible. Then, photographs begin to function as a sentence, a paragraph, or an even larger discourse. Whether working in fiction or nonfiction, artists such as Alan Sekula, Robert Frank, Susan Meiselas, Taryn Simon, Jim Goldberg, Roni Horn, and others have transformed the reach of the photograph. Without formal agreement to do so, they have created a new medium, which might be entitled: The New Narrative Photography. In this course, students will study the work of these artists and others and will create their own bodies of work. If you have a story to tell or a statement to make, this course is open to you. No previous photographic experience is necessary nor is any special equipment. The opportunity to work in a new medium is rare. This course aims to create the forum and the conditions necessary for all to do so in a critical and supportive workshop environment.

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First-Year Studies: Ecopoetry: Poetry in Relation to the Living World

Open , FYS—Year

Poetry is the human song called out: in joy, in love, in fear, in wonder, in prayer, in rebuke, in war, in peace, in story, and in vision. The human poem collects us together, individuates us, and consoles us. We read poems at funerals, at weddings, graduations...they accompany us through the gates of our lives, in public, or in private...shared through a book, a computer, a letter, a song. Now we find ourselves at the brink of an unstoppable ecological disaster. A change of consciousness is necessary. How can poetry accomplish this? For a long time, we have not noticed how our civilizations and technologies have affected the rest of the living world. This course will ask questions: Who do we think we are? Who taught us that? Who are we in relation to the other animals? To trees and plants? To insects? To stars? How have our human myths informed those relationships? How are those myths evident in our human world today? What is poetry? What is ecopoetry? How can poetry instruct? How can poetry document? How can poetry re-vision? Prophesy? Protest? Preserve? Imagine? In our time together, you will read poetry written by published poets. You will write your own poems, one each week, and share them with each other. You will keep observation journals, meet with another person in our class each week in a poetry date, and meet with me in individual and small-group conferences. We will proceed as curious learners and writers. Through our close study, each of you (in conference work and together) will learn about a very specific aspect of the natural world that interests you (an animal, a forest, a coral reef, etc.) and then teach the rest of us in class what you have learned. We will learn how to write poems about these subjects so that the poem itself becomes an experience we have never had before. And we might slowly move away from the human as the center of the poem and welcome the rest of the living world in. We will know more at the end of this class about the other animals and plants and insects and rivers and oceans. If our hearts break with this deepening relationship, we might also discover a great joy and a new responsibility. We will want to share what we have learned and written with the wider community. We will find ways to do that. I can assure you, we will be changed. Students will have an individual conference every other week and a half-group conference on alternating weeks.

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First-Year Studies: Writing and the Racial Imaginary

Open , 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, as writers and readers, 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 writing. 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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Nonfiction Workshop: To Tell the Truth

Open , Seminar—Year

This yearlong class will explore the mysteries of reading and writing what has been called “nonfiction,” focusing particularly on questions around what has been called lying and what has been called telling the truth. Was Toni Morrison right when she said our minds have an “antipathy to fraud”? Does lying have a syntax? What are the cultural contexts, nourishments, and manipulations that may affect what happens between a writer or reader and a drafted or published sentence? Is it possible to identify a lie in print? When you write, is it possible to lie less? Is it possible to “tell the truth”? In conference, we’ll discuss drafts of student work; in class, in light of the questions above and as a way of guiding our own makings, we’ll discuss readings that may include the work of June Jordan, Graham Fuller, Teju Cole, Wallace Stegner, Dionne Brand, William F. Buckley, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, and Bertolt Brecht—with the work of James Baldwin throughout. You’ll be expected to attend class, respond to assigned and suggested readings, and participate in discussions. By the end of the first semester, you’ll have written at least five pages exposing a lie in print and have given a brief presentation on your process; by the end, you’ll have produced 20 pages of publishable nonfiction in whatever form you choose. The only prerequisites are a passion for reading that equals your passion for writing and a willingness to undertake whatever might be necessary to read and write better on our last day of class than on our first.

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Our World, Other Worlds

Open , Seminar—Year

This is a writing course that explores the use of episodes in a world made of words. We read short stories, parts of novels, poems, newspaper articles, and essays from many times and worlds and occasionally watch episodes and films. We also do exercises designed to help practice character drawing, dialogue, pacing, composition, editing, and world building. Still, much of the work of the class involves writing episodes of a long work that becomes our conference work and can be completed in one or two semesters. These works are discussed in small groups, whose members become experts on each others’ creations. Many of the works take place in an imaginary world, some are memoirs, others go back and forth between worlds. The course is open but involves a willingness to enter sympathetically into someone else's work over time and to be an informed reader for that person. It also involves the ability to work on a piece of writing for at least a semester.

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Poetry: What Holds the Unsayable

Open , Seminar—Spring

Poems are not merely feelings, the poet Ranier Maria Rilke has written, but experiences. What is the difference between a feeling and an experience? How can a poem become an experience? How can a poem, originating from the personal, transcend the personal? How can writing the poem transform the writer? Every poem holds the unsayable. How does a poem do that? How can we attempt to do that—using words? If you are interested in these questions, take this course. It is open to experienced writers, as well as to absolute beginners. If you are interested in these questions, you are welcome. This is a reading/writing course. We will spend time every week reading poems that have already been published (by dead poets and living poets) to see how they were made: music, syntax, line, sound, and image. We might spend time generating new work in class through exercises and experiments. And we will spend time looking closely at one another’s work, encouraging each other to take risks and move even closer to the mystery of the poem. Each writer in the class will meet with another class member once a week on a “poetry date.” Each writer will be responsible for reading the assigned work and for bringing to class one written offering each week. We will work hard, learn a great deal about poetry and about our own poems, and have a wonderful time.

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The Kids Are All Right: Fiction Workshop

Open , Seminar—Fall

This workshop will focus on developing and sharpening stories with adolescent protagonists. The course will strive to answer the questions: How does one write teenage characters with an authentic voice? How do we channel the angst of our youth to craft honest, true-to-life narratives? And how can we capture on the page, without pandering, the sheer bigness of first experiences? The texts to which we will return in this course will range from young adult fiction, to literary fiction, to film in order for us to better understand the nature of stories about young people and the ways in which they manifest themselves based on era, medium, and intended audience. The workshop will be grounded in empathy—and all critiques, discussions, and feedback will reflect that ethos. Readings for workshop and conference will include: The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo; Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz; Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin; Long Division, by Kiese Laymon; The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily Danforth; The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton; Darius the Great Is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram; and Annie John, by Jamaica Kincaid, among others.

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