Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies (LGBT) is an interdisciplinary field that engages questions extending across a number of areas of study. Sarah Lawrence College offers students the opportunity to explore a range of theories and issues concerning gender and sexuality across cultures, categories, and historical periods. This can be accomplished through seminar course work and discussion and/or individual conference research.

2020-2021 Courses

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies

The Invention of Homosexuality

Open , Seminar—Year

Different historians trace the invention of homosexuality to different historical moments from the 16th to the mid-19th centuries. The invention of heterosexuality, it would seem, followed after. Certainly the term "heterosexual" appeared only after the term “homosexual” was coined in the latter 19th century. Neither meant, at first, what they mean today. In this class, we will study the development of modern understandings of same-sex desire in relation to understandings of sex, gender, race, class, nation, nature, culture, and opposite-sex desire. We will be drawing centrally on literary works, especially novels, which have been crucial sites for the construction and dissemination of conceptions of sexuality. But we will also be reading histories, science, laws, letters, and polemics—and watching films. Although we will be considering some earlier materials, we will focus on two periods: first, from the 1880s to the 1960s; then, from the 1960s to the present. By the 1880s, almost everyone agrees, a recognizably modern understanding of homosexuality was becoming available. The sexual/cultural landscapes that subsequently developed were not radically rearranged until the 1960s, when the gay and women’s liberation movements articulated a political analysis of sexuality. Over the past 50 years, that political analysis—and the activism it continues to foster—have had profound consequences, even as earlier understandings still shape LGBT lives and cultural presences. This course will serve as an introduction to a broad range of modern literature; to fundamental works in the history of sexuality and contemporary queer studies; and to critical thinking about how we talk, read, and write about sex. Conference work may be focused on any period from the 19th century to the present.

Faculty

Sonic Experiments: Listening and Queer Worldmaking

Open , Seminar—Fall

This is a two credit non-conference seminar class.

Sound studies is a burgeoning field of research, which has attracted critical attention across multiple disciplines—music, history, cultural studies, urban studies, science and technology studies, and environmental studies. By reorienting ourselves vis-a-vis our sense of hearing, we will explore how sound offers a mode of knowing attuned to different sonic registers of the everyday. This course will offer an introduction to diverse theories and practices of sound, with special attention to critical race theory, feminism, queer and trans theory, and global studies. How do we listen to voices unheard? How do we engage experiences of pleasure, repression, rage, and isolation that lie beyond dominant language? How do marginalized groups build communities through voice, sound, performance? Throughout the semester, we will explore the works of queer, trans, and indigenous intellectuals and artists of color (Fred Moten, Wu Tseng, José Esteban Muñoz, Gloria Anzaldúa, Rebecca Belmore, Tavia Nyong’o), as well as producing our own audio pieces. No prior experience in recording and editing is required.

Faculty

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 Section 377, a colonial-era law used to criminalize homosexuality and other “unnatural” sex acts, from the Indian Penal Code 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 these hegemonic structures might be and what it might reveal. Thinking through the ways 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. Students will engage with a diverse set of cultural, political, and legal artefacts, such as the writings of “founding fathers” like Gandhi and BR 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).

Faculty

Virginia Woolf in the 20th Century

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

“On or about December 1910,” Virginia Woolf observed, “human character changed....All human relations shifted—those between masters and servants, husbands and wives, parents and children. And when human relations change, there is at the same time a change in religion, conduct, politics, and literature.” In her novels, essays, reviews, biographies, and polemics, as well as in her diaries, letters, and memoirs, Woolf charted and fostered the cultural and political forces behind those changes as they developed across the century. Over the course of that century, Woolf’s image also changed from that of the “invalid lady of Bloomsbury,” a modern, a madwoman, and perhaps a genius to that of a monster, a feminist, a socialist, a lesbian, and an icon. While focusing on the development of her writing, we will also consider her life and its interpretation, her politics and their implications, and the use of her art and image by others as points of reference for new work of their own. Her family, friends, lovers, and critics will all appear. We will also be reading her precursors, her peers, and those who—in fiction, theatre, and film—took up her work and image in the decades after her death. This course will serve as an introduction to 20th-century fiction, feminist literary study, lesbian/gay/queer studies, the study of sexuality, and the study of politics in literature. Conference projects might focus on one other writer, a range of other writers, one of these approaches to literary analysis, or another aspect of feminist or lesbian/gay/queer studies.

Faculty

Queer Theory: A History

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

For students with a background in women's, gender, or LGBT studies.

Queer theory emerged in the United States, in tandem with Queer Nation, at the beginning of the 1990s as the intellectual framework for a new round in ongoing contests over understandings of sexuality and gender in Western culture. “Queer” was presented as a radical break with homosexual, as well as heterosexual, pasts. Queer theorists and activists hoped to reconstruct lesbian and gay politics, intellectual life, and culture; renegotiate differences of gender, race, and class among lesbians and gay men; and establish new ways of thinking about sexuality, new understandings of sexual dissidence, and new relations among sexual dissidents. Nevertheless, queer theory had complex sources in the intellectual and political work that had gone before. And it has had, predictably, unpredictable effects on subsequent intellectual and political projects. This class will make the history of queer theory the basis for an intensive study of contemporary intellectual and political work on sexuality and gender. We will also be addressing the fundamental questions raised by the career of queer theory about the relations between political movements and intellectual movements, the politics of intellectual life, and the politics of the academy—in the United States, in particular—over the past half-century.

Faculty

Gendering in African Postcolonies

Sophomore and above , 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.

Faculty

Histories of Modern and Contemporary Art, 1860–1955

Open , Lecture—Year

This course is an introduction to modern and contemporary art from 1860 to 1955 and the first of two sequential surveys offered this year. (Students may take either or both.) What was modernism? And how did artists respond to a world ravaged by war, fascism, and imperialism? How did they engage or escape from industrial forms of life and explore shifting national, ethnic, and gendered identities? A central topic of the course is how the history of the Western avant-garde was also the history of colonization and cultural appropriation. And even as the course serves as an introduction to canonical historical avant-gardes in the United States, Mexico, and Europe (Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Constructivism, Vorticism, Dada, Surrealism, Muralism, the Harlem Renaissance, and Abstract Expressionism), we will also explore alternative modernisms—including so-called “outsider” art, queer modernisms, and modernisms in India, Japan, and Latin America. This course is an introduction to the discipline of art history, so students will gain a vocabulary for slow looking, learn the values of different kinds of writing about art (manifestos, letters, statements, poems, and art historical and theoretical accounts), and consider art in its social and political contexts. Lectures will offer a broad overview, and 90-minute weekly group conferences will closely investigate artworks by a single, underrepresented artist. Assignments will include visual analysis essays, weekly informal worksheets, brief reading responses, short Zoom presentations, and research essays on underrepresented artists. Students will have the opportunity to work with librarians to research and write new pages on modernist artists across the globe who are not represented on Wikipedia and upload them to that site. Throughout, we will be thinking about the kinds of assumptions and value judgments that go into deciding a modernist canon and how we can create and contribute alternative histories to the discipline.

Faculty

Hormones, Food, and Sex

Open , Seminar—Spring

Hormones are released from diverse tissues, including the brain, ovaries, testes, and fatty tissues. The small molecules travel around the body via the circulatory system and can influence the activity of distant cells involved in key biological processes. In this course, we will study the principles of hormone signaling (endocrinology) by focusing on two overarching topics: (1) hormones that modulate food intake and utilization; and (2) hormones that control reproduction. We will study the hormones that control appetite, flavor, fat deposition, and weight and how hormone levels contribute to sustaining unhealthy weights in obese individuals. We will study the hormones that control many aspects of reproduction, including puberty, ovulation, sexuality, sex, pregnancy, birth, lactation, and menopause. We will consider how hormones define male and female characteristics, as well as hormone therapy for transitioning transgender individuals.

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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 of 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; the gendered and racialized impact of the Great Recession and its aftermath; and the current position of women in the US economy and polity and the possibilities for inclusive public policies concerning gender and family issues. In addition to class participation, requirements include regular, short (1-2 pp.) essays on the readings and approximately a half-dozen longer essays that synthesize class materials with the written texts.

Faculty

First-Year Studies: Introduction to Documentary Filmmaking

Open , FYS 1C—Year

Nonfiction filmmaking is a tool and practice of observation. It has a way of starting out as a quest for truth and becoming a new way to be in the world—as a witness, a scholar, and an artist. During the course, we will hone our creative practice alongside building a foundation of practical, hands-on production experience. This art form requires an ability to both co-create and lead, to build relationships and practice humility as you honor your subjects. In this introductory course, students will be exposed to a wide range of nonfiction possibilities, particularly those opened up as we "decolonize the archives." Screenings will also vary, tailored to the interests and questions that students bring to class. Each student will make several 1-2 minute, short exercises in addition to a 4-5 minute conference film. Finally, students will be asked to create a digital space where all of their work will live, learning how film is professionally distributed and innovating themselves as they lean into their own knowledge as digital natives. This course will have weekly conferences for the first six weeks; biweekly conferences thereafter.

Faculty

Introduction to Television Writing: Writing the Spec Script

Open , Seminar—Spring

The fundamental skill of television writers is the ability to craft entertaining and compelling stories for characters, worlds, and situations created by others. Though dozens of writers may work on a show over the course of its run, the “voice” of the show is unified and singular. The best way to learn to write for television—and a traditional component of your application for important career development fellowships and for your portfolio for agents, managers, show runners, and producers—is to draft a sample episode of a preexisting show, known as a spec script. Developing, pitching, writing, and rewriting stories hundreds of times extremely quickly, in collaboration, and on tight deadlines is what TV writers on staff do every day, fitting each episode seamlessly into the series as a whole in tone, concept, and execution. This workshop will introduce students to those skills by taking them, step-by-step, through writing their own spec (sample) script for a currently airing American television series. The course will take students from premise lines through the beat sheet, then outline, to writing a complete draft of a full teleplay for a currently airing show (no original pilots). The class collectively decides a handful of shows on which to work. All work will be based on that handful of shows, which will include comedies, dramas, and animated shows originating on broadcast, cable, and streaming platforms. If this course is held remotely, it will be taught live, synchronous, via Zoom or similar platform.

Faculty

Sonic Experiments: Listening and Queer Worldmaking

Open , Seminar—Fall

This is a two credit non-conference seminar class. Students in this course will have access to check out equipment through the Audio Visual department. Students will not have access to Filmmaking program equipment or spaces.

Sound studies is a burgeoning field of research, which has attracted critical attention across multiple disciplines—music, history, cultural studies, urban studies, science and technology studies, and environmental studies. By reorienting ourselves vis-a-vis our sense of hearing, we will explore how sound offers a mode of knowing attuned to different sonic registers of the everyday. This course will offer an introduction to diverse theories and practices of sound, with special attention to critical race theory, feminism, queer and trans theory, and global studies. How do we listen to voices unheard? How do we engage experiences of pleasure, repression, rage, and isolation that lie beyond dominant language? How do marginalized groups build communities through voice, sound, performance? Throughout the semester, we will explore the works of queer, trans, and indigenous intellectuals and artists of color (Fred Moten, Wu Tseng, José Esteban Muñoz, Gloria Anzaldúa, Rebecca Belmore, Tavia Nyong’o), as well as produce our own audio pieces. No prior experience in recording and editing is required.

Faculty

Advanced French: French and Francophone Women Writers From Beauvoir to Slimani

Open , Joint seminar—Fall

This course is taught in English. An additional discussion session will be organized for advanced French students.

This course will focus on French and francophone women writers from 1945 to the present. Whereas women’s writing as conventionally considered in the first half of the 20th century is singularly identified with Colette, the postwar and postcolonial eras produced an explosion of artistic expression by women across a broad range of genres. In this course, we will concentrate primarily on fiction and memoir by women writing in French from locations such as Algeria, Guadeloupe, Senegal, and Quebec, as well as France. We will examine the various ways in which women under certain conditions exemplified aesthetic and social transgression by writing at all, foregrounding the rapport between orality and textuality. The writers studied will allow us to explore how sexual and racial politics figure in language itself, often through formal innovation and experimentation. A critical component of this course will consist of selections by feminist thinkers such as Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and Monique Wittig, who interrogated the relationship between gender and genre/sex, writing and the (female) body, and language and (feminine) desire. Alongside readings, we will also screen several films by significant women filmmakers, such as Chantal Akerman, Claire Denis, Agnès Varda, and Céline Sciamma. Texts will be read in English translation, students of French will have the opportunity to read texts in the original, and we will analyze the correlation between the works’ translation history and their position in the global literary marketplace. Writers studied could include Mariama Bâ, Simone de Beauvoir, Nicole Brossard, Maryse Condé, Assia Djebar, Marguerite Duras, Annie Ernaux, Linda Lê, Lydie Salvayre, Nathalie Sarraute, and Leïla Slimani.

Faculty

The Cultural and Political Work of Women Writers in the United States, 1790–1990

Open , Seminar—Year

“This is what I want you to do,” novelist Rebecca Harding Davis wrote in 1861. “I want you to hide your disgust, take no heed to your clean clothes, and come right down with me—here, into the thickest of the fog and mud and foul effluvia. I want you to hear this story. There is a secret down here, in this nightmare fog, that has laid dumb for centuries: I want to make it a real thing to you.” Using the literary and expository writing of US women, we will explore American stories and secrets, what these writers are working to make “a real thing to you.” Readings will include autobiography, letters, novels, stories, and cultural criticism. Rather than following just canonical literary or intellectual history, we will investigate less well-known and popular fictions alongside classics. Major themes will include questions of politics, race, class, and regional conflict; womanhood, manhood, and sexuality; American identity and nationalism; and immigration. Course work will focus on literary and print culture, but students may explore other media in conference. Particular emphasis will be placed on careful research of the historical context when analyzing primary documents from the period. A working knowledge of the political history of the time is necessary; students who need refreshing will be expected to regularly consult a textbook.

Faculty

Alternative Americas: A Cultural and Intellectual History of the United States, 1776–1976

Advanced , Seminar—Year

The story most typically told of America focuses on the path taken, the victors and the nature of their victory, the dreamers whose dreams were realized, and central figures in a largely political narrative. In this course, we will revisit the United States through the lives of those more on the margins, dreamers and doers who faced heavier odds or who dreamed of a world that never arrived. Through the words, dreams, memories, and exhortations of African Americans, workers, women, immigrants, and cultural critics of all sorts, we will revisit the story of the idea of America as it has unfolded. Readings will include primary sources from the time period, as well as historical articles and books. In the spring, we will add film. As we read and watch, we will also write, as this will be a course that emphasizes the synthesis of historical research and expository writing. A working knowledge of the political history of the time is necessary; students who need refreshing will be expected to regularly consult a textbook.

Faculty

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 Section 377, a colonial-era law used to criminalize homosexuality and other “unnatural” sex acts, from the Indian Penal Code 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 these hegemonic structures might be and what it might reveal. Thinking through the ways 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. Students will engage with a diverse set of cultural, political, and legal artefacts, such as the writings of “founding fathers” like Gandhi and BR 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).

Faculty

Japanese Literature: Translations, Adaptations, and Visual Storytelling

Open , Small Lecture—Spring

No previous background in Japanese studies, literature, art history, or film history is required for this course.

This lecture course is an introduction to Japanese literature from the 10th century to contemporary fiction, and we will explore the connections between and among literary texts, translations, and visual adaptations—paintings, hand scrolls, performing arts, film, and manga. We will read selected works of Japanese literature in English translation(s), including early Japanese tales such as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, The Tale of Genji, Life of an Amorous Woman, and modern novels and short stories by writers such as Shimazaki Toson, Hayashi Fumiko, Ota Yoko, Nakagami Kenji, and Murakami Haruki. With each text, we will examine other texts that are in conversation with these literary works and explore the content and forms of those conversations. In addition to the lectures, there will be weekly group conferences and regularly scheduled film screenings throughout the semester.

Faculty

Studies in Ecocriticism: The Idea of Nature in the Western Tradition

Open , Small Lecture—Spring

As the capitalistic and predatory model aggressively promoted by the United States continues to reveal itself as a major threat for biodiversity and the environment in general, it is vital to explore and understand the concept of “nature” at the core of the Western tradition and how it was shaped over the course of more than 2,000 years. This course will create a series of bridges between and among the history of literature, philosophy, and science, with implications for many other disciplines. Most importantly, we will discuss the Western and Judeo-Christian concept of nature in the context of race and ethnicity in America today by confronting it with works and arguments developed by black, indigenous, Latine, and Asian American authors. Among many themes, we will study how antiquity came to develop a concept of “physis,” so different from our modern understanding of physics, but also shaped our aesthetic eye with the creation of the pastoral genre and the idea of agreeable and tamed landscapes or set a model for a utilitarian relationship to nature with Hesiod and Virgil’s agricultural treaties. We will also analyze specific places, such as the forest in medieval chivalric romances and American “wilderness” fictions, or chaotic landscapes admired and imagined by the Romantics, or the sea as depicted in Melville’s Moby Dick. The 17th-century scientific revolution and its mathematical and mechanistic approach to nature will lead us to discuss with Descartes the concept of animality in parallel with contemporary philosophers such as Deleuze and Guattari, who make use of models like the burrow or territoriality imported from the animal realm. Going into a completely different direction, we will question the characteristics of a Judeo-Christian conception of the world, organized around a remote and immaterial god, in direct opposition to a more organic understanding of nature as a “motherly” and immanent figure with all of the reservations that such a figure implies. These are some of the questions that we will explore, and the focus of our discussions will be to bring new voices in order to deconstruct the Eurocentric concept of “nature.”

Faculty

French and Francophone Women Writers From Beauvoir to Slimani

Open , Joint seminar—Fall

This course is taught in English. An additional discussion session will be organized for advanced French students.

This course will focus on French and francophone women writers from 1945 to the present. Whereas women’s writing as conventionally considered in the first half of the 20th century is singularly identified with Colette, the postwar and postcolonial eras produced an explosion of artistic expression by women across a broad range of genres. In this course, we will concentrate primarily on fiction and memoir by women writing in French from locations such as Algeria, Guadeloupe, Senegal, and Quebec, as well as France. We will examine the various ways in which women under certain conditions exemplified aesthetic and social transgression by writing at all, foregrounding the rapport between orality and textuality. The writers studied will allow us to explore how sexual and racial politics figure in language itself, often through formal innovation and experimentation. A critical component of this course will consist of selections by feminist thinkers such as Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and Monique Wittig, who interrogated the relationship between gender and genre/sex, writing and the (female) body, and language and (feminine) desire. Alongside readings, we will also screen several films by significant women filmmakers such as Chantal Akerman, Claire Denis, Agnès Varda, and Céline Sciamma. Texts will be read in English translation; students of French will have the opportunity to read texts in the original; and we will analyze the correlation between the works’ translation history and their position in the global literary marketplace. Writers studied could include Mariama Bâ, Simone de Beauvoir, Nicole Brossard, Maryse Condé, Assia Djebar, Marguerite Duras, Annie Ernaux, Linda Lê, Lydie Salvayre, Nathalie Sarraute, and Leïla Slimani.

Faculty

The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open , Seminar—Spring

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon in which people move into another nation with the intention of making a better life for themselves and/or residing there temporarily or permanently. While anchored in a multidisciplinary perspective, this seminar explores the crucial role of psychology in understanding the processes associated with our conceptualizations of immigrants and immigration. The course will begin with some theoretical perspectives on immigration, as well as a brief historical overview of some sociological and some social psychological research on immigrants. We will then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. We will explore the processes through which “illegality” is constructed by reflecting on the lives of undocumented immigrants. We will also look very closely at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and culture to see how they shape the psychological experience of immigrants. Seeking to extend our analysis to immigration’s impact on the host population, we will conclude the course by discussing several social psychological issues, such as intergroup relations, discrimination, and modes of adaptation.

Faculty

Mobilization and Social Change

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

In light of recent national—as well as international—calls for racial justice, which have propelled several movements, this course will analyze the chronology of the various theories and research in both cultural and social psychology, highlighting the need to re-examine intolerance not only in the heads of people but also in the world. Given that these biases are often defined as individual prejudice, even though their persistence is systemic, we will see how they crystallize in ways that are marked in the cultural fabric, the various artifacts, the ideological discourse, and most institutional realities that all work in synchronicity with individual biases. In this class, we will highlight various examples of historically derived ideas and cultural patterns that maintain present-day inequalities (gender, sexualities, class, persons with disabilities, and various other forms of social injustice). We will first explore the theory of minority influence, a theory that stands in contra-distinction to conformity, providing a model to develop and articulate change. With the help of cultural psychology, we will then see how injustices are anchored and objectified in our everyday world. We will analyze how our preferences and selections are maintained through the contexts of our interactions. This perspective will lead us to explore the theory of social representations, moving us away from individual tendencies to focus on changing the structures in which collectively elaborated understanding is maintained and reproduced as a system.

Faculty

Children and Families

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

This course focuses on the development of the child within the context of family, school, and community in the United States and globally. We will examine the interplay of culture, social structure, and individual-level variation in effecting the life course of children. We will also study the development of families from spousal pair bonding through child raising and the interaction between adult children and parents. Our approach will be to explore the connections across multiple levels of organization, from the biological to individual to sociocultural and structural; our readings will range from classic and contemporary literatures in anthropology, developmental and family psychology, sociology, and public health. This is a good course for students interested in graduate study in a variety of social science and health fields.

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Emerging Adulthood

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

We have time, energy, questions, and few responsibilities. We want to push the envelope, resist compromise, lead revolutions, and turn the world upside down. Because we do not yet know quite how to be, we have not settled and will not let the dust settle around us. —Karlin & Borofsky, 2003

Many traditional psychological theories of development posit a brief transition from adolescence to adulthood. However, many people moving into their 20s experience anything but a brief transition to “feeling like an adult,” pondering questions such as: How many SLC alums can live in a Brooklyn sublet? What will I do when I finish the Peace Corps next year? In this course, we will explore the psychological literature concerning emerging adulthood, the period from the late teens through the 20s. We will examine this period of life from a unified biopsychosocial and intersectional perspective.

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Health in a Multicultural Context

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

A background in social sciences or education is recommended.

This course offers, within a cultural context, an overview of theoretical and research issues in the psychological study of health and illness. We will examine theoretical perspectives in the psychology of health, health cognition, illness prevention, stress, and coping with illness and will highlight research, methods, and applied issues. We will also explore the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic within the frame of these theoretical perspectives. This class is appropriate for those interested in a variety of health careers. Conference work may range from empirical research to bibliographic research in this area. Community partnership/service-learning work may be an option in this class.

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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 either “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 in what is often thought 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 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 that process, we will examine a number of the current conversations and controversies about assessment, diagnosis/labeling, early intervention, use of psychoactive medications, and treatment modalities. Students will be encouraged to engage in fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or elsewhere, although conference work need not draw on that experience.

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Contextualizing Communications: The Poetics of Seeing

Open , Seminar—Spring

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 make meaning from such a vantage point. While this course takes a broadly construed sociology of culture as its point of departure, it understands sociology as what a British sociologist called a “parasitical” discipline that frequently disrupts and violates disciplinary borders and boundaries. The 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 those 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 critique, the production of nationalism(s), and identities; censorship, post-coloniality, 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 relations between objectivity and subjectivity, fiction, biography and fact, 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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First-Year Studies: Theatre in Action, The ’60s Thru Tomorrow

Open , FYS—Year

This course examines the greater role of theatre in our culture, particularly as to how theatre responds to the events and movements that shape our lives—even as they occur. We will look at how theatre frames political discourse, as well as its distinct role as a means of social activism in this country over the past 50 years. Students will read and discuss a variety of plays, with an emphasis on looking at the context in which those plays were written and why they still resonate today. Discussions will range from influential works and innovations of mid-20th-century theatre artists (like Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett, political theatre groups like The Living Theatre and El Teatro Campo of the 1960s, agitprop theatre events of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights eras, ACT Up in the 1980s AIDS Crisis) to the form-bending techniques of contemporary theatre makers and artists (like Anna Deavere Smith, Young Jean Lee, Jackie Sibbles Drury, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Annie Baker, Tony Kushner, Dominque Morriseau, Quiara Alegria Hudes) and queer, female, and trans playwrights in the collection of plays, The Kilroys List, among many others. Students will read aloud from plays in class, study documentaries, and see productions and showings in New York City over the course of the year. Guest artists will join designated classes. Students will meet with the teacher to devise conference projects to serve their distinct interests. Projects might range from original plays written in the style of the events of the period and plays that we study or rehearsed or staged scenes from published plays to designing dramaturgical presentations, among other options. In addition to conference projects each semester, students are regularly required to submit critical essays and participate fully in the discussion. Theatre in Action will alternate individual conferences with small-group meetings/conferences to include screenings, field trips, performances, and workshops. Students enrolled in the FYS in Theatre have the option, but are not required, to take one extra component in the theatre, dance, or music programs as part of their Theatre Third. All students enrolled in the FYS in Theatre join the theatre program community, attend theatre meetings, and complete technical-support hours (tech credits).

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Performance Art

Open , Seminar—Spring

Since the early 20th century, artists have explored performance art as a radical means of expression. In both form and function, performance art pushes the boundaries of contemporary art. Through this form of expression, artists have produced powerful works about the body and the politics of gender, sexuality, and race. This course surveys performance art as a porous, transdisciplinary medium open to students from all disciplines, including painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, video, filmmaking, theatre, dance, music, creative writing, and digital art. Students will learn about the history of performance art and explore some of the concepts and aesthetic strategies used to create works of performance. Drawing on historical and critical texts, artists’ writings, video screenings, and slide lectures, students will use a series of simple prompts to help shape their own performances. Artists and art movements surveyed in this class include Dada, Happenings, Fluxus, Viennese Actionism, Gutai Group, Act-Up, Joseph Beuys, Judson Church, Ana Mendieta, Gina Pane, Helio Oiticica, Jack Smith, Leigh Bowery, Rachel Rosenthal, Jo Spence, Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, Bas Jan Ader, Terry Adkins and the Lone Wolf Recital Corps, Carolee Schneemann, Martha Wilson, Adrian Piper, Martha Rosler, Lorraine O’Grady, Joan Jonas, Karen Finley, Janine Antoni, Patty Chang, Papo Colo, Paul McCarthy, Matthew Barney, Ron Athey, Orlan, Guillermo Gomez Pena, Narcissister, Annie Sprinkle, Vaginal Davis, Kris Grey, Carlos Martiel, Autumn Knight, Amanda Alfieri, Hennessey Youngman, Savannah Knoop, Shaun Leonardo, Francis Alys, Andrea Fraser, Tania Bruguera, Zhang Huan, Regina Jose Galindo, Aki Sasamoto, Pope.L, and many more.

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Practices, Techniques, and Strategies in Photography

Open , Seminar—Year

$200–$400 materials expense per semester

The course offers a trio of necessary skills to build a photographic practice, including critical theory, art histories, and technique. Students will learn analog and digital, from photographic capture to scanning and printing. Through a series of assignments and lectures, students will consider the overarching concepts that inform their work. Dynamic themes include working within and against a field of influence, the roll of documentary and conceptual approaches to photography, subjectivity versus structural systems of production, and photography as event and narrative. Our time will be divided between group critiques and lectures. In the spirit of experimentation and play, drawing from research, and the everyday, students will test their theories in practice. Students will develop a cohesive and original body of photographs and develop a generative practice based on a process of making, thinking, and remaking. Final work will be compiled into an artist-made, print-on-demand book.

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Fiction Workshop: The Kids Are All Right

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 the sheer bigness of first experiences without pandering? The texts to which we will return in this course will vary across disciplines 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. This workshop will be grounded in empathy; and all critiques, discussions, and feedback will reflect that ethos. Readings for workshop and conference will include: Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert, Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid, and “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” by ZZ Packer, among others.

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Poetry Workshop: Wearing a Mask: Persona Poems

Open , Seminar—Spring

When I state myself, as the representative of the verse, it does not mean me, but a supposed person.—Emily Dickinson, in a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

For centuries, poets have spoken in the voices of other people. From the early Greeks to Shakespeare, to Walt Whitman, to Emily Dickinson, to Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, Robert Hayden, Lucille Clifton, Louise Gluck, Patricia Smith, Nick Flynn, Jorie Graham, Tyehimba Jess, etc. What is made possible when one speaks in the voice of a character that is not oneself? What is possible speaking through a character in an ancient story or myth? What is made possible when one gives voice to a character nothing like oneself? Who dares to speak in the voice of a flower? Of a bee? Of a storm? Of a star? What if one gives voice to the fragments of voices within one’s consciousness? In this class, we will read poems where the poet has spoken in a different tongue, or worn the mask of someone else, or of something else. Each participant will be expected to deeply read assigned collections each week, to meet with another student in a weekly poetry date, and to bring in one new persona poem each week. I hope we will find that outside the limits of the personal story is a cosmos of possibilities for empathy, revision, wonder, instruction, and finding another way in: slant.

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