History

The history curriculum covers the globe. Most courses focus on particular regions or nations, but offerings also include courses that transcend geographical boundaries to examine subjects such as African diasporas, Islamic radicalism, or European influences on US intellectual history. Some courses are surveys—of colonial Latin America, for example, or Europe since World War II. Others zero in on more specific topics, such as medieval Christianity, the Cuban revolution, urban poverty and public policy in the United States, or feminist movements and theories. While history seminars center on reading and discussion, many also train students in aspects of the historian’s craft, including archival research, historiographic analysis, and oral history.

2019-2020 Courses

History

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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First-Year Studies: The Disreputable 16th Century

Open , FYS—Year

Sixteenth-century Europeans shared a variety of fundamental beliefs about the world that a secular-minded Westerner of today is likely to find “disreputable”—intellectually preposterous, morally outrageous, or both. Almost all well-educated people believed that the Earth was the unmoving center of the universe, around which the heavenly bodies revolved; that human destinies were dictated, at least to some extent, by the influence of the planets and stars; that the welfare of their communities was threatened by the maleficent activities of witches; and that rulers had a moral duty to compel their subjects to practice a particular religion. In this course, we will examine 16th-century ideas on these and other topics and see how these beliefs fit together to form a coherent picture of the world. We will also look at the writings of pioneer thinkers—Machiavelli, Montaigne, Galileo—who began the process of dismantling this world-conception and replacing it with a new one closer to our own. It is not only ideas, however, that render the 16th century “disreputable” to modern eyes. Some of history’s most notorious kings and queens ruled European states in this period—Henry VIII of England with his six wives; Mary, Queen of Scots with her three husbands; Philip II of Spain, patron of the Inquisition; Ivan the Terrible, slaughterer of his own nobility. This was also the era of the most scandalous of the popes—Alexander VI and Leo X. In the second half of the course, we will examine the careers of these powerful 16th-century men and women and of others like them. We will endeavor to make their appalling deeds humanly comprehensible, partly by considering the specific historical circumstances in which these figures acted and partly by exploring the notions of power, authority, morality, and order entertained by the Europeans of their age.

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Who Owns History? Reclaiming the Master Narrative From White Supremacy

Open , Lecture—Year

Is history solely possessed by the rich and powerful? Or did poor people ever have their say? Is history the story of a “master race” or the history of all of humanity? Do oppressed people matter? What voices count in the making of history? Who owns history? For more than a century, the master narrative of the Atlantic slave trade, American slavery, American freedom, and black Reconstruction after the Civil War was monopolized by white supremacy. The antiracist history and historians were banned not only from white colleges and universities but also from the educational establishment and academic journals. A new history is challenging the monopoly of white supremacy on the master narrative, and that new history is reclaiming the American past. This lecture introduces those new voices against the so-called master race. African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Asian Americans—as well as indigenous, immigrant and working people—are reclaiming the making of American democracy and the story of world history.

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Russia and Its Neighbors: From the Mongol Era to Lenin

Open , Lecture—Fall

This course will introduce students to the main themes of Russian history from the Middle Ages to 1917. We will begin by examining how history transformed the various Slavic tribes of the East European plain into the three distinct peoples whom we now term “Russians,” “Ukrainians,” and “Belorusians.” We will consider the medieval principality of Moscow—in which Russia’s enduring traditions of autocratic government, territorial expansionism, and xenophobia originally took shape—and trace the course of Muscovy’s protracted struggle with Poland-Lithuania for dominance in Eastern Europe. We will investigate how rulers such as Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great endeavored to meet “the challenge of the West” to marshal the resources of their huge but economically backward empire in order to compete militarily with the monarchs of more advanced European countries. We will discuss resistance to the oppressive demands of the tsarist state on the part of peasants, Cossacks, religious dissidents, and national minorities. We will consider how the tsars’ response to the Western challenge called into being a new, Europeanized elite, which in the 19th century grew restive under the tutelage of its government and was increasingly attracted to liberal and socialist ideas. In the final weeks of the semester, we will consider the revolutionary upheavals that convulsed the Russian Empire in the early years of the 20th century and created the conditions for the establishment in Russia of the world’s first socialist regime. In group conferences, students will discuss a wide range of primary sources: saints’ lives, picaresque tales, classic works of 19th-century poetry and fiction, and the writings of leading revolutionary thinkers.

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The Third Reich: Its History and Its Images

Open , Lecture—Fall

Ever since the defeat of the Third Reich, the term “Nazi” has served as a term to mark political enemies—though in the 1980s the term also acquired a more ironic edge, think of Seinfeld’s “soup Nazi.” The accusation, as well as the ascription of the moniker today, is as much grounded in historical reality as in mythmaking. But today, when real neo-Nazis are marching in the streets—for example, Charlottesville—and the “Death of Democracy” is debated, it has become paramount to understand the actual history of the Third Reich: the policies, culture, and appeal, as much as the deeds and destruction of National Socialism. This lecture begins with the crisis of Weimar democracy and ends with the aftermath of World War II and the attempts to (re)establish a democratic order in Europe. Students will be introduced to the policies of the Third Reich, both from the angle of National Socialists and from that of their victims. This history is a story of exclusion and inclusion; it is also a history of images. From the very beginning, the Third Reich used film to present itself in more or less subtle forms of propaganda. But films also played an important role in defining the Third Reich from the outside. Thus, in addition to the lectures, one weekly film screening will be held at which we will watch movies from the era produced by the Third Reich or its opponents. We will discuss these films in the context of the lectures during our group conferences.

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International Law

Open , Lecture—Fall

In a global landscape pocked by genocide, wars of choice, piracy, and international terrorism, what good is international law? Can it mean anything without a global police force and a universal judiciary? Is “might makes right” the only law that works? Or is it true that “most states comply with most of their obligations most of the time”? These essential questions frame the contemporary practice of law across borders. This lecture provides an overview of international law—its doctrine, theory, and practice. The course addresses a wide range of issues, including the bases and norms of international law, the law of war, human-rights claims, domestic implementation of international norms, treaty interpretation, and state formation/succession.

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Russia and Its Neighbors: Lenin to Putin

Open , Lecture—Spring

This course is a continuation of Russia and Its Neighbors: From the Mongol Era to Lenin but is open to students who have not taken that course. The aim of the lecture will be to provide students with the historical background required to make sense of Russia’s current predicament and the policies of its present-day leaders. We will first examine seven decades of Communist Party rule, tracing the extraordinary path that Russia took in the 20th century to become a literate, urban, industrial society. We look at such crucial episodes in Soviet history as Stalin’s war on the peasantry and his crash industrialization drive of the 1930s, the Great Purge, World War II, the Khrushchev-era cultural “Thaw,” the development of a consumer economy and embryonic civil society in the 1960s and 1970s, and Gorbachev’s failed attempt to reform the Communist system. We will also discuss the methods by which the Communist regime maintained control over the minority peoples of the USSR, and the evolution of its relationships with its East European satellites and the non-Communist world during the era of the Cold War. We will devote some attention to the causes and effects of the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990–1991 and to Russian policies toward the newly independent states that came into being as a result of the dissolution of the USSR. In the final weeks of the course, we will consider how the travails endured by the Russian people during the unhappy Yeltsin period set the stage for a resurgence of authoritarianism and national self-assertion under Putin. Group conference readings will include a variety of memoirs and literary texts that capture the experience of ordinary Russians over the course of the last 100 years.

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Postwar: Europe on the Move

Open , Lecture—Spring

When World War II ended, Europe was a continent of displaced peoples. It was a continent on the move: returning POWs, emigrating Displaced Persons, refugees, and arriving occupation soldiers. The postwar period is sometimes dubbed a history of the unwinding of populations, the return or resettlement following the logic of nation states. Yet the assumption that, once that was done and the Cold War started, populations stayed put until 1989 is misleading. Successive attempted revolutions in the East begot more political refugees. Decolonization and industrialization resulted in the immigration and recruitment of non-native European populations, as well as the return of European colonial settlers. In addition, Europeans moved to the cities, turning the continent from one in which almost half the population lived in the countryside in 1950 into a predominantly urbanized one within the span of 30 years. Political crisis abroad, Europeanization, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and globalization led to still more mobility. The so-called migration crisis of 2015 is thus but one of a series of migratory events—and by far not the largest. This lecture introduces students to the history of Europe, both Eastern and Western, since 1945. The movements of peoples and borders will provide students with insight into political, cultural, and social developments of the continent following the defeat of the Third Reich. In order to avoid an undue Euro-centrism and remain critical of the language that we use to talk and think about migration, the lectures will be twinned with a number of group conferences that are conducted jointly with Partibhan Muniandy and his class on Lexicons of (Forced-)migrations.

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Human Rights

Open , Lecture—Spring

History is replete with rabid pogroms, merciless religious wars, tragic show trials, and even genocide. For as long as people have congregated, they have defined themselves, in part, as against an other—and have persecuted that other. But history has also yielded systems of constraints. So how can we hope to achieve a meaningful understanding of the human experience without examining both the wrongs and the rights? Should the human story be left to so-called realists, who claim that power wins out over ideals every time? Or is there a logic of mutual respect that offers better solutions? This lecture examines the history of international human rights and focuses on the claims that individuals and groups make against states in which they live.

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Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders: Rethinking the Black Freedom Struggle

Open , Seminar—Year

Why do we know so little about the crowded field of women in the leadership of the black freedom struggle? When students imagine the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement, most see figures only like Martin Luther King, Jr and Thurgood Marshall; however, a new generation of historians is rethinking the freedom struggle so that students might begin to see the leadership of Gloria Richardson at the helm of the Cambridge Movement in Maryland, Ella Baker at the helm of New York’s NAACP, Diane Nash at the helm of the Freedom Rides, Septima Clark at the helm of the Citizenship Schools, Fannie Lou Hamer at the helm of the Mississippi Movement, Ericka Huggins at the helm of the Black Panther’s Oakland Community School, Amina Baraka at the helm of the African Free School and the Black Women’s United Front, and Johnnie Tillmon at the helm of the National Welfare Rights Organization. This seminar will interrogate the role of Yuri Kochiyama in the founding of the Black Panther Party and the Republic of New Africa, Denise Oliver in the development of the Young Lords Party, and Vicki Garvin in the building of the National Negro Labor Council. Those women claimed a tradition that they traced back to Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, and Claudia Jones. Historians are recovering the stories of hundreds of women writers, artists, actors, and activists in the Black Renaissance. Thus, students in this seminar will research some of those important subjects.

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The “Founders” and the Origins of American Politics

Open , Seminar—Year

From the establishment of the nation to the present, the “Founding Fathers” have served as a touchstone for American identity. But can we speak of an American identity? Or would it be more accurate to speak of American identities? After all, what were the common visions of such diverse figures as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin—and to what extent have their differences created multiple, and perhaps irreconcilable, American identities? Indeed, the very term “Founding Fathers” may be an evasion of the conflicts that have run through our entire history. Is the notion of the “Founding Fathers” our nation’s counterpart to the harmony of a Garden of Eden? But did the authors of Genesis have it wrong? Harmony is not incompatible with conflict but, instead, one requires the other so that the denial of one is in effect the denial of the other. This course will explore how and why Americans have put such a premium on the “Founding Fathers” as a source of political legitimacy by examining the diverse colonial roots of the political thought of the founding generation. We shall also explore the lines of continuity that link the founding generations to the influences of European thinkers such as John Locke and Adam Smith. The course will then look at the political vision of the “Founding Fathers” themselves, putting into serious question commonly held views about the ideals they embraced. Were the founders proponents of liberal individualism and democracy, as so many Americans assume? Or were they backward-looking reactionaries, seeking to hold onto a communal ideal modeled on the ancient republics of Greece and Rome? Finally, the course will analyze the political legacy of the founders during the early 19th century to the Civil War, ending with the question of how could both the Union and the Confederacy view themselves as the true inheritors of that legacy when they seemed to represent such opposed causes?

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Making Modern East Asia: Empires and Nations, 1700-2000

Open , Seminar—Year

This yearlong seminar is a sustained look at the recent history of China and Japan, the major countries within East Asia. Placed alongside each other, the often wrenching history of Japan and China over the past three centuries raise important historical themes of Asian modernity, questioning both its sources and how we define it. Often portrayed as a direct import from the West in the 19th century, we will ask whether modernity might instead be traced to legacies of Japan’s isolationist feudalism under the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867) and China’s multiethnic Manchu dynasty (1644-1911), even as we acknowledge the far-reaching impact of Euro-American imperialism. For example, did the evolving samurai culture of the Tokugawa era lay a socioeconomic foundation for Japan’s political and economic modernity in the late 19th century? And did deep changes in Qing China society destabilize the dynastic balance of power as early as the 18th century? Both China and Japan have entrenched master narratives that portray themselves as victims of the West, but we will also investigate the contours of Asian imperialism. How and why were their empires built, and how did they end? How were the nation-states we now call China and Japan formed, and how was nationalism constructed (and reconstructed) in them? What role did socioeconomic, cultural, and international crises play in fueling nationalist sentiments? How and where was radicalism (of various forms, including Maoism) incubated? The impact of war, preparing for it, waging it, and rebuilding in its wake will be a repeated theme, too. And finally, we will look at Asia’s economic dynamism, covering both Japan’s post-World War II capitalism (and its roots in the wartime imperialist project) and China’s transition to a market economy. Course readings consist of historical scholarship regularly punctuated by primary sources, documents, fiction, and some film.

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The Sixties

Open , Seminar—Year

According to our national mythology, social insurgencies of the 1960s originated in the United States and pitted radical youth against the American mainstream. The real story is much more complicated. Politically speaking, the “sixties” began in the mid-1940s and extended into the late 1970s; the ferment was by no means confined to youth; and developments within the United States reflected global patterns. Revolutionary movements and ideas reverberated from Asia and Africa to Europe and the Americas, and they mobilized people from virtually all walks of life. This course situates US movements within their global contexts and explores movements that unfolded overseas. On both fronts, we focus especially on revolutionary nationalism and its various permutations among activists grappling with issues of colonialism, class, race, gender, and sexuality. Readings include both historical documents and scholarship, and the syllabus makes ample use of music and film.

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The Emergence of the Modern Middle East

Open , Seminar—Year

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

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Ancient Albion: Art and Culture in the British Isles from Stonehenge to the Viking Invasions

Open , Seminar—Year

Given their geographical setting at the northwestern extreme of Europe, the arts and cultures of “Albion,” or Britain and Ireland, have often been described by the term “insular” in the sense of isolated, discrete, or peripheral, yet nothing could be further from the truth. No less than six Roman emperors spent time in Britain, and four came to power there. To a great extent, Irish clerics were responsible for the survival of classical learning during the Dark Ages. Indeed, throughout history, cultural developments in the British Isles were intimately related to ideas and events on the European Continent and the Mediterranean. Following this basic premise, in the fall semester the course will examine civilization in Britain and Ireland from the late Stone Age or Megalithic period, through the Bronze and Early Iron Ages, to the coming of the Celts and the Roman conquest. In the spring, we will focus on later Roman Britain, Irish monasticism, and the emergence of Anglo-Saxon culture down to the arrival of the Vikings. At every turn, we will consider interactions with the urban civilizations to the south and west—the early Aegean, Greece, Rome, and the early medieval Continent—to discover that Albion was an integral part of the political, religious, and economic forces that have shaped the art and history of Europe up to the present time.

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“Mystic Chords of Memory”: Myth, Tradition, and the Making of American Nationalism

Open , Seminar—Fall

Is history just a memory of memories? This course will explore that question by looking at how Americans have remembered and mythologized important events and individuals in the nation’s history. One of the best-known such myths is the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. On being questioned by his father about who chopped down the cherry tree, Washington confessed that he had done it, telling his father, “I cannot tell a lie.” Ironically, however, this story was itself a fabrication. We must also not forget “Honest Abe,” where the theme of “honesty” recurs. Why have such myths been so important to American national identity? For example, was Washington’s purported truthfulness a way of creating a sense of transparency and a bond of trust between the people and their democratically elected government? The course will address such questions by looking at the construction and function of tradition and myth, as well as the relationship between myth and tradition in American culture from the American Revolution to the Civil War. We will examine some of the specific myths and traditions that Americans invented, such as the mythologization of individual figures like Sojourner Truth, as well as of specific events like that of the Seneca Falls women’s rights convention. The course will pay special attention to the mythologization of the American Revolution and the myth of the self-made man, examining how figures such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln both contributed to and embodied those myths. We will consider how and why myths about those events and individuals were created and the extent to which they corresponded to social reality. We will study how those myths both unified and divided Americans, as different groups used the same myths for conflicting social purposes. And finally, we will examine what those myths revealed about how Americans defined the nation’s identity. Was the United States a nation bound by “mystic chords of memory,” as Lincoln so poetically claimed? Or were Americans ultimately a “present-minded people” defined by their rejection of the past? More precisely, did Americans view the very notion of tradition as an impediment to the unlimited possibilities for growth and the actualization of their “manifest destiny”?

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Asian Imperialisms, 1600-1953

Open , Seminar—Fall

East Asia, like much of the globe, has been powerfully shaped by the arrival, presence, and activity of imperialist power in the region. In fact, in both China and Japan, nationalism is founded on resistance to the encroachments of Western imperialism. Both nations cast themselves as victims to the rapacious West. And yet, often unnoticed by patriots and pundits, both China and Japan are deeply indebted to their own domestic imperialisms, albeit in very different ways. Relying on a wide range of course materials (historical scholarship, paintings, lithographs, photographs, literature, and relevant primary sources), this course is an intensive investigation of the contours of Asian imperialism covering the colonialism of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the aggressive Western expansion in the 19th century, and the Japanese Empire (1895-1945). We will ask what features (if any) these very different empires shared and what set them apart from each other? How and why were Asian empires built, how did they end, and what legacies did they leave? We will excavate the multi-ethnic Qing imperium for how it complicates China’s patriotic master narrative. Does Qing ethnic policy toward native Miao tribes differ from Western powers’ Civilizing Discourse? What are the legacies of Qing colonialism for China’s modern nation-state? The Qing campaigns to subjugate the Mongols in the northwest and the colonization of the untamed southwest both predated the arrival of Westerners and the Opium War (1839-42). How does that impact our understanding of the clash between China and the rapidly expanding West? We will trace earlier academic views on the classic confrontation between these two presumed entities before examining more recent revisionist formulations on the Western penetration of China. What were the processes of Western intrusion, and how did Western imperialism come to structure knowledge of China? And finally, we will turn to the Japanese Empire. What were its motivations, its main phases, and its contradictions? Should we understand it as similar to Western imperialism or, as an alternative, something unique? What are the implications of both those positions? To understand the Japanese empire in both its experiential and theoretical dimensions, we will range widely across Japan’s possessions in Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria. The questions and topics in this seminar will complicate the master narratives that prevail in both East Asia and the West, not to delegitimize or subvert Asian sovereignties but, rather, to understand the deeply embedded narratives of imperialism within those sovereign claims and to see how those narratives (and their blind spots) continue to frame and support policies and attitudes today.

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Drugs, History, and Politics in Latin America and Beyond

Open , Seminar—Fall

The “War on Drugs,” shootings in favelas, colgados in US-Mexican border states, and (in)famous drug lords (or ”narcos”) dominate contemporary images of, and conversations about, drugs in Latin America. From the narconovelas and narcocorridos to even narco-tourism, narcoviolence has created a myriad of cultural and social artifacts that cultivate both fascination and repulsion over a phenomenon that has profound economic, social, and political ramifications for the region and for the world. This course seeks to understand the multiplicity of historical causes and effects of narcoviolence in the most conspicuous cases in Latin America during the 20th century: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Central America. To do so, the course will situate the current narcoviolence within a longer history of psychoactive drugs as goods, linking producers and consumers through global capitalism since the early modern period. From coffee to cocaine, we will discuss the origins of both fascination with and prohibition of psychoactive drugs. We will examine the social, political, and economic functions of drugs in different historical contexts, their transformation from luxury to mass commodities, and even their fetishization. In addition, the course explores the economics, politics, and culture of drugs in the long era of narcoviolence and globalization. Using primary and secondary sources, history and social science perspectives, the course seeks to foster deep and serious engagement with the history of Latin America and its complex relation to psychoactive drugs.

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“History Wars”: Americans’ Battle over Their Past

Open , Seminar—Spring

Nothing more clearly demonstrates the truth of William Faulkner’s oft-quoted dictum—“The past is never dead. It’s not even past”—than recent conflicts over Confederate monuments and the Confederate flag. Yet, such conflicts over public remembrance of America’s past are not new. Nor have they been confined to the subject of the Confederacy. From the nation’s founding, Americans have argued over how they wanted their past to be remembered in everything from monuments and flags to textbooks and holidays. The course will look at these conflicts over public remembrance, beginning with the early years of the new nation and continuing to the present. Among the controversies that we will consider will be those over the Confederate flag, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Enola Gay exhibit at the Smithsonian, and the establishment of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a holiday. How do we explain the fervor of those debates? What do they tell us about their own time? What were the political and social purposes of the contestants in those conflicts? To what extent did their competing visions of the American past correspond to historical reality? What do those controversies reveal about the changes and divisions in how Americans have defined their identity? And, ultimately, what do they say about the power of the past in American culture and its relationship to American identity? Americans often like to think of themselves as a forward-looking nation untrammeled by the bonds of the past, a place where it was possible to “begin the world over again,” as Thomas Paine so eloquently put it; but were they in thrall to tradition or, to use Abraham Lincoln’s words, bound by “mystic chords of memory” more than they realize?

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History and Memory on Screen: The Third Reich in Film, From The Great Dictator to Inglorious Basterds

Open , Seminar—Spring

Movies shape the way we see the world. They also shape the way we think about history. The miniseries Holocaust of 1978 did more to sensitize not only the American but also the German public toward the mass murder of European Jews—and also popularized the term—than most books written about the Holocaust until then. Schindler’s List, 15 years later, once more confronted audiences with the very personal histories of Jewish victims during the Holocaust while, at the same time, introducing the figure of the “good German.” While films about the Third Reich and the Holocaust continue to be reliable box office hits, both as blockbusters and as art house movies— Alone in Berlin, Operation Valkyrie, The Fall, and Inglorious Basterds are just a few examples from the 2000s—attempts to visualize the Third Reich from outside already began during its existence. This course seeks to investigate the changing representations of the Third Reich. The films literally put changing views about its history on screen and shape the public’s idea about the Third Reich. Over the course of the semester, we will analyze the range of genres and approaches to the topic in their historical and national context. Most of the movies will be from the United States and Germany, with forays into Eastern European and Israeli representations of the Third Reich. This is not a film-studies course but, rather, one that explores the legacy and memory of the Third Reich through film. The movie screenings will be accompanied by weekly readings. By the end of the semester, students will have familiarized themselves with the different and historically contingent ways in which the Third Reich was—and is—viewed. Students will be introduced to using films as historical sources and to the influence of movies on public history, as well as to the legacy of the Third Reich in postwar politics. Having taken the fall 2019 lecture, The Third Reich, is helpful but not mandatory.

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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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Class, Race, Gender, Work: Readings in US Labor History

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

This course explores American labor systems and labor struggles from the colonial era to the present. Core topics include slavery and other forms of bondage, as well as wage work, the enduring legacy of settler-colonial regimes, and intersections of class, racial, and gender hierarchies. Along the way, we will focus especially on the complex relationship between oppression and collective forms of resistance, from slave revolts to political parties, from bread-and-butter unionism to revolutionary movements, and from immigrant worker centers to campaigns for gay and lesbian rights. Readings include fiction, autobiography, and scholarship ranging from classics such as W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction to recent work on labor issues and labor organizing in the 21st century.

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Liberation: Contemporary Latin America

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

After the military regimes that swept Latin America came to an end in the last quarter of the 20th century, a new era of liberation emerged. The transition to democracy, and the broad-based coalitions then formed, renewed the hopes and expectations of justice, equality, and freedom that had been shattered by torture, censorship, and state power. But the era that emerged from those transitions—one which is coming to an end—is full of contradictions. Alongside the liberations of prisoners and the press and the return to party politics came the demise of social revolution and the retreat of the left. Alongside the liberalization of markets and the so-called neoliberal reforms came innovative social policies and a multiplicity of social movements, the most salient of which are led by indigenous groups and peasant-based organizations. Similarly, the ascendancy and hegemony of liberal ideas and policies gave rise to a new left, which brought the world’s attention back to Latin America with its combination of growth and equality. This course will examine the dynamics of revolution and counterrevolution in which contemporary Latin America emerged; study the origins of neoliberalism in Latin America and its economic and political repercussion; delve into the contradictions of the democratic transitions and their legacies; and explore the new rural, labor, feminist, and indigenous movements that have challenged both neoliberalism and democracy.

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Democracy and Emotions in Postwar Germany

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

The passion of the people has been treated as both the foundation of democracy and its greatest threat. Groups of people, not least women, were denied the vote because of their supposedly too emotional nature. More recently, in light of decreasing voter turnout and frustration with the political process, politicians, pundits, and the press have made contradicting appeals to the hearts—but also the minds—of citizens across democratic societies. This seminar explores the ambivalent connection of emotions and democracy in the case of post-1945 Germany. While the focus lies on the Federal Republic, the claim of the German Democratic Republic to be a different kind of democracy is taken seriously. Both East and West tried to formulate new rules for political feelings following the rise and defeat of the Third Reich. For both states, the connection of bodies, spaces, and practices in the attempt to establish democratic sentiments will be examined. The course combines a chronological account, with a typology of different feelings and practices. The role of architecture—for example, for the connection between governing and governed—will be discussed, as will be the role of guilt and its different expressions in establishing democratic communities in East and West. By the end of the semester, students will have gained familiarity with the political history of postwar Germany and with the history of emotions.

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The Middle East and the Politics of Collective Memory: Between Trauma and Nostalgia

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

What is the relationship between history and memory? How are historical events interpreted and rendered socially meaningful? How is public knowledge about the past shaped and propagated? How and why—and in what contexts—do particular ways of seeing and remembering the past become attached to various political projects? In recent decades, historians have become increasingly interested in the unique role and power of memory in public life and have sought to understand the innumerable ways that collective memory has been constructed, experienced, used, abused, debated, and reshaped. In this course, we will explore these themes and questions by reading deeply into the rich literature on historical memory within the field of modern Middle Eastern history. Particular attention will be paid to the following topics: the role of memory in the construction of Palestinian and Israeli national identity; debates over national remembering, forgetting, and reconstruction following the Lebanese Civil War; Middle Eastern diaspora formation and exilic identity (for instance, after the Iranian Revolution of 1979); the myth of a “golden age” of Arab nationalism; Turkish nostalgia for the Ottoman imperial past; war, conflict, and trauma; Islamism and salafi interpretations of Islamic history; and the role of museums, holidays, and other commemoration practices in the construction of the national past across the region. Throughout the course, we will attend to the complex interplay between individual and collective memory (and “countermemory”), particularly as this has played out in several formulations of Middle Eastern nationalism.

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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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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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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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Public Stories, Private Lives: Theories and Methods of Oral History

Advanced , Seminar—Fall

The goal of this class is to introduce students to the best practices of oral-history interviewing, theory, and methodology. Oral-history methodology has moved from being a contested approach to studying history to becoming an integral method for learning about the past. Around the world, oral history has been used to uncover the perspectives of marginalized groups (women, ethnic minorities, workers, LGBTQI communities) and to challenge “official” historical narratives. It is now a mainstay of social history, helping researchers uncover voices that might otherwise be marginalized or ignored. In this regard, oral history has become one of the most important methods in a historian’s toolkit. Life histories enable us to focus on individual experiences and consider the historical significance of one person’s life. Long used by anthropologists and sociologists, life-history methods continue to be rediscovered by historians seeking to enrich their understandings of the past. Conducting oral-history or life-history research entails more than listening to someone talk and recording what he or she has to say. Researchers must approach their work with knowledge, rigor, respect, and compassion for their research subjects. Toward the goal of developing those skills, this class will focus on several contentious questions associated with oral history. Questions that we will ask include: Is there a feminist oral history that is different from other kinds of historical inquiry? What is the role of memory? What is the role of intersubjectivity, and how much does the researcher influence the interview process? How should researchers catalogue and make their work accessible? Are there ethical considerations to doing oral-history or life-history research, and are they different from other types of historical methodologies? How have social-media and digital technologies changed the practice of oral history, and what ethical/methodological questions do those technologies raise?

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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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The Anthropology of Images

Open , Seminar—Fall

Images wavered in the sunlit trim of appliances, something always moving, a brightness flying, so much to know in the world.—Don Delillo, Libra

A few cartoons lead to cataclysmic events in Europe; a photograph printed in a newspaper moves a solitary reader; a snapshot posted on the Internet leads to dreams of fanciful places; memories of a past year haunt us like ghosts. What each of these occurrences has in common is that they all entail the force of images in our lives, be these images visual or acoustic in nature, made by hand or machine, or circulated by word of mouth or simply imagined. In this seminar, we will consider the role that images play in the lives of people in various settings throughout the world. In delving into terrains at once actual and virtual, we will develop an understanding of how people throughout the world create, use, circulate, and perceive images and how such efforts tie into ideas and practices of sensory perception, time, memory, affect, imagination, sociality, history, politics, and personal and collective imaginings. Through these engagements, we will reflect on the fundamental human need for images, the complicated politics and ethics of images, aesthetic and cultural sensibilities, dynamics of time and memory, the intricate play between the actual and the imagined, and the circulation of digital images in an age of globalization. Readings will include a number of writings in anthropology, art history, philosophy, psychology, cultural studies, and critical theory. Images will be drawn from photographs, paintings, sculptures, drawings, films, videos, graffiti, religion, rituals, tattoos, inscriptions, novels, poems, road signs, advertisements, dreams, fantasies, phantasms, and any number of fabulations in the worlds in which we live and imagine.

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On Whiteness: An Anthropological Exploration

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

Putih, Blanken, Blankes, Wazungu, Caucasian, Blanc, White, Oyibo, Onye ocha, Brancos, Blancos...all these words, in different parts of the world, have denoted particular populations as white. Who counts as white people varies, however, and has as much to do with behaviors and perceptions as with pigmentation. Settlers in overseas colonies, for example, ensured their ongoing privileged whiteness through particular behaviors, including racial segregation and the creation of leisurely pursuits and manners that mimicked the metropole. Whiteness is a complicated and messy category of particular relevance at this historical moment, and we will approach it in several ways. First, we will consider the discipline of anthropology as the source of an analytical toolkit. Having mastered that, we can conduct a more critical exploration of the discipline of anthropology and its practitioners’ work on questions of white and nonwhite. We will then turn to the examination of particular sites where whiteness has been generated and contested. These include the Dutch colonies of South Africa and Indonesia and British-occupied Kenya, followed by contemporary and more local expressions of whiteness—including white nationalism and popular culture in postwar Great Britain and shifting notions of whiteness in the United States. In all of our explorations, we will examine the constructions of whiteness as it articulates with gender, class, sexuality, and popular culture and 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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Lift Up Your Hearts: Art and Architecture of the Baroque—Europe and Its Colonies, 1550–1700

Open , Lecture—Year

In Annibale Carracci’s painting of St. Margaret (1609), an Early Christian martyr, an altar is inscribed: Sursum Corda (Lift Up Your Hearts). This course explores what that meant in the 17th century—for the arts to be a vehicle of uplift and salvation, a challenge to the supremacy of nature, an analysis of history, and a site of contention, paradox, and pride for artists and architects. Using PowerPoint presentations, class discussion, and papers focusing on works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the course will cover the art of 16th-century Italy—as that art frames the questions that painters, sculptors, and architects pursued throughout Europe in the 17th century, commonly called the Age of the Baroque. Included will be studies of major movements in religion, politics, and society (Catholic reform and the founding of the Jesuits Order, the evolution of academic art, the creation of papal Rome, the importance of private patronage); issues in aesthetics and art theory (the transformation of classical models, theories of the reception of nature, the links to poetry, and the dynamics of style); the emergence of the varying national traditions (the sweet style and Bel Composto in Italy, Calvinist naturalism and the power of light in The Netherlands, and high classicism and Bon Gout in France). Focus will also be on careers of artists like Titian and the erotics of the brush; Michelangelo and transcendent form; Caravaggio and naturalism as the death of painting; Artemisia Gentileschi, biography and exemplum; Bernini and the beautiful whole; Rubens and the multiple ways of transforming; Rembrandt and the rough style; Vermeer and the discipline and technique of light; and Poussin and the modes of expression, among others. Group conferences in the first semester will focus on the art of Michelangelo as practice and problem and theories of the Baroque; in second semester, theories and problems in 17th-century architecture.

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Architectures of the Future: 1850 to the Present

Open , Seminar—Year

Visionaries and builders; users and functions; thoughts, practices, and theories of architecture from the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution to today...all claim in one way or another to rethink the past, realize the present, and, most importantly, create the future. Through PowerPoint presentations, readings, and discussion, this course gives a challenging, inclusive, and nuanced understanding of buildings and monuments. We will learn to read architecture in depth with architects, critics, historians, and philosophers; to analyze the concept of form and its urban, sociopolitical, and epistemological implications; and to see how architecture gives shape and meaning to its context, sense to our spatial and historical experience, and image to philosophies of human collective action. We will analyze major movements (arts and crafts, technological sublime and Brooklyn Bridge, art nouveau, Bauhaus, modernism and nachine villas, archigram and walking cities, postmodernism and DisneyWorld, deconstruction, new pragmatism, figural, digital, sustainable) and figures (William Ruskin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, Sam Mockbee, Zaha Hadid, Jean Gang, and BIG—Bjarke Ingels, not "the Notorious"). Readings will be drawn from history, philosophy, literature (realist, sci-fi, and visionary), Edmund Burke, William Blake, William Morris, Buckminster Fuller, Heidegger, Foucault, Benjamin, and others. Monuments include the Eiffel Tower, the Houses of Parliament, the Einstein Tower, the World’s Fairs of 1925 and 1939, the Bauhaus building, Fallingwater, the Seagram’s building, New York monuments at Ground Zero and in Lower Manhattan, the Irish Hunger monument, among many other structures. Projects, papers, an architectural notebook dedicated to class notes, readings, drawings, musings, etc. will be required, along with a conference project in the history, theory, philosophy, and sociopolitical context—including women as users, patrons, and makers of art and architecture. Well-formulated design projects are a possibility. This course shares connections with visual arts, film, and a broad range of subjects in the humanities and social sciences.

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Ancient Albion: Art and Culture in the British Isles From Stonehenge to the Viking Invasions

Open , Seminar—Year

Given their geographical setting at the northwestern extreme of Europe, the arts and cultures of “Albion,” or Britain and Ireland, have often been described by the term “insular” in the sense of isolated, discrete, or peripheral—yet nothing could be further from the truth. No less than six Roman emperors spent time in Britain, and four came to power there. To a great extent, Irish clerics were responsible for the survival of classical learning during the Dark Ages. Indeed, throughout history, cultural developments in the British Isles were intimately related to ideas and events on the European Continent and the Mediterranean. Following this basic premise, in the fall semester the course will examine civilization in Britain and Ireland from the late Stone Age or Megalithic period, through the Bronze and Early Iron Ages, to the coming of the Celts and the Roman conquest. In the spring, we will focus on later Roman Britain, Irish monasticism, and the emergence of Anglo-Saxon culture down to the arrival of the Vikings. At every turn, we will consider interactions with the urban civilizations to the south and west—the early Aegean, Greece, Rome, and the early medieval Continent—to discover that Albion was an integral part of the political, religious, and economic forces that shaped the art and history of Europe up to the present time.

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Romanesque and Gothic: Art and Architecture at the Birth of Europe

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course explores the powerful architecture, sculpture, and painting traditions that lie at the heart of the creation of Europe and the idea of the West. We will use a number of strategies to explore how monumental architecture and expressive narrative painting and sculpture were engaged in the formation of a common European identity and uncover, as well, the architectural vestiges of diverse groups and cultures that challenge that uniform vision. These are arts that chronicle deep social struggles between classes, intense devotion through pilgrimage, and the rise of cities and universities that could both advocate genocide and nurture enormous creativity, in styles both flamboyant and austere, growing from places as diverse as rural monasteries to Gothic cathedrals. The course will explore those aspects of expressive visual language that link the buildings to social history, the history of ideas, and political ideology.

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The City in Antiquity

Open , Seminar—Fall

The course will examine the origins and development of urban architecture and city planning in the ancient Near East, Egypt, and the Greek and Roman world. We will consider the built environment as a practical response to the requirements of social, economic, and political organization, as well as to religious belief. We will begin by examining the factors behind the earliest urban developments among the settled communities of the Near East and Egypt, culminating in the great cities of Mesopotamia and the Nile Valley. We will then shift to urban development in the Greek world, starting with the Bronze Age Aegean and then the subsequent emergence of the polis in response to the urban cultures of Egypt and the Near East. We will conclude by examining the urban elaborations of Classical and Hellenistic Greece and the Greek impact on the cultures of ancient Italy.

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Archaeology and the Bible

Open , Seminar—Spring

With the advent of early archaeological excavation in the Near East, biblical studies entered upon a new modern phase in which the criticism of scriptural revelation was no longer simply a matter of faith or theology. With the new discoveries at Nimrud just before the middle of the 19th century, the Assyrians and the other great powers of ancient Mesopotamia mentioned in Old Testament narratives suddenly became a visible reality, demonstrating that biblical narratives could now be evaluated or corroborated empirically against hard, material evidence. In due course, pioneering archaeologists also turned their attention to the Holy Land to pursue this new agenda. Since then, the convergence of archaeology and modern professional criticism of the Old Testament has increasingly enabled us to reconstruct the reality behind the biblical narratives. The course will explore this process, focusing primarily on the material culture of the ancient Levant—beginning in the Bronze Age with the Canaanites, the emergence and subsequent development of the Iron Age Israelite kingdom, its destruction, the Babylonian Captivity, the eventual return of the Jews under Persian rule, and the re-emergence from Hellenistic Greek domination of a Judaean kingdom under the Hasmoneans. Although focused largely on archaeological or material remains, the course will also make ample use of biblical and historical texts or sources to investigate the intersection of archaeology, culture, and religion.

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Making Modern East Asia: Empires and Nations, 1700-2000

Open , Seminar—Year

This yearlong seminar is a sustained look at the recent history of China and Japan, the major countries within East Asia. Placed alongside each other, the often wrenching history of Japan and China over the past three centuries raises important historical themes of Asian modernity, questioning both its sources and how we define it. Often portrayed as a direct import from the West in the 19th century, we will ask whether modernity might instead be traced to legacies of Japan’s isolationist feudalism under the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867) and China’s multiethnic Manchu dynasty (1644-1911) even as we acknowledge the far-reaching impact of Euro-American imperialism. For example, did the evolving samurai culture of the Tokugawa era lay a socioeconomic foundation for Japan’s political and economic modernity in the late 19th century? And did deep changes in Qing China society destabilize the dynastic balance of power as early as the 18th century? Both China and Japan have entrenched master narratives that portray themselves as victims of the West, but we will also investigate the contours of Asian imperialism. How and why were their empires built, and how did they end? How were the nation-states we now call China and Japan formed. and how was nationalism constructed (and reconstructed) in them? What role did socioeconomic, cultural, and international crises play in fueling nationalist sentiments? How and where was radicalism (of various forms, including Maoism) incubated? The impact of war, preparing for it, waging it, and rebuilding in its wake will be a repeated theme, too. And finally, we will look at Asia’s economic dynamism, covering both Japan’s post-World War II capitalism (and its roots in the wartime imperialist project) and China’s transition to a market economy. Course readings consist of historical scholarship regularly punctuated by primary sources, documents, fiction, and some film.

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Asian Imperialisms, 1600-1953

Open , Seminar—Fall

East Asia, like much of the globe, has been powerfully shaped by the arrival, presence, and activity of imperialist power in the region. In fact, in both China and Japan, nationalism is founded on resistance to the encroachments of Western imperialism. Both nations cast themselves as victims to the rapacious West. And yet, often unnoticed by patriots and pundits, both China and Japan are deeply indebted to their own domestic imperialisms, albeit in very different ways. Relying on a wide range of course materials (historical scholarship, paintings, lithographs, photographs, literature, and relevant primary sources), this course is an intensive investigation of the contours of Asian imperialism, covering the colonialism of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the aggressive Western expansion in the 19th century, and the Japanese Empire (1895-1945). We will ask what features (if any) these very different empires shared and what set them apart from each other? How and why were Asian empires built, how did they end, and what legacies did they leave? We will excavate the multi-ethnic Qing imperium for how it complicates China’s patriotic master narrative. Does Qing ethnic policy toward native Miao tribes differ from Western powers’ Civilizing Discourse? What are the legacies of Qing colonialism for China’s modern nation-state? The Qing campaigns to subjugate the Mongols in the northwest and the colonization of the untamed southwest both predated the arrival of Westerners and the Opium War (1839-42). How does that impact our understanding of the clash between China and the rapidly expanding West? We will trace earlier academic views on the classic confrontation between these two presumed entities before examining more recent revisionist formulations on the Western penetration of China. What were the processes of Western intrusion, and how did Western imperialism come to structure knowledge of China? And finally, we will turn to the Japanese Empire. What were its motivations, its main phases, and its contradictions? Should we understand it as similar to Western imperialism or, as an alternative, something unique? What are the implications of both those positions? To understand the Japanese empire in both its experiential and theoretical dimensions, we will range widely across Japan’s possessions in Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria. The questions and topics in this seminar will complicate the master narratives that prevail in both East Asia and the West, not to delegitimize or subvert Asian sovereignties but, rather, to understand the deeply embedded narratives of imperialism within those sovereign claims and to see how those narratives (and their blind spots) continue to frame and support policies and attitudes today.

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Writing India: Transnational Narratives

Open , Seminar—Fall

The global visibility of South Asian writers has changed the face of contemporary English literature. Many writers from the Indian subcontinent continue to narrate tumultuous events surrounding the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan at the end of British colonial rule. Their writings narrate legacies and utopian imaginings of the past in light of current images that range from dystopian visions to optimistic aspirations. The seminar addresses themes of identity, fragmentation, hybridity, memory, and alienation. These themes link South Asian literary production to postcolonial writing from varied cultures of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Accounts of South Asian communal violence (Hindu and Muslim fundamentalisms, caste and class conflicts) reflect intersectional issues and global urgencies. The cultural space of India has been repeatedly transformed and redeployed according to varied cultural projects, political interests, and economic agendas. After briefly considering representations of India in ancient chronicles of Chinese, Greek, and Persian travelers, we explore modern constructions of India in excerpts from writers of the British Raj. Our major focus is on India as remembered and imagined in selected works of writers, including Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy. Film narratives are included. We apply interdisciplinary critical inquiry as we pursue a literature that shifts increasingly from narrating the nation to narrating its diasporic fragments in transnational contexts.

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Images of India: Text/Photo/Film

Open , Seminar—Spring

This seminar addresses colonial and postcolonial representations of India. For centuries, India has been imagined and imaged through the lens of orientalism. In recent decades, writers and visual artists from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have been actively engaged in reinterpreting the British colonial impact on South Asia. Their work presents sensibilities of the colonized in counternarration to images previously established during the British Raj. Highlighting previously unexposed impressions, such works inevitably supplement, usually challenge, and frequently undermine traditional accounts underwritten by imperialist interests. Colonial and orientalist discourses depicted peoples of the Indian subcontinent both in terms of degradation and in terms of a romance of empire, thereby rationalizing various economic, political, and psychological agendas. The external invention and deployment of the term “Indian” is emblematic of the epoch, with colonial designation presuming to reframe indigenous identity. Postcolonial writers and artists are now renegotiating identities. What does it mean to be seen as an Indian? What historical claims are implicit in allegories of ethnicity, linguistic region, and nation? How do such claims inform events taking place today, given the resurgence of Hindu fundamentalism? For this seminar on the semiotics and politics of culture, sources include works by influential South Asian writers, photographers, and filmmakers.

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Introduction to Economic Theory and Policy

Open , Lecture—Year

This yearlong lecture will, broadly speaking, cover introductory microeconomics and macroeconomics from a wide range of theoretical perspectives, including neoclassical, post-Keynesian, Marxian, feminist, and institutional political economy perspectives. The objective of the course is to enable students to understand the more “technical aspects” of economics (e.g., usage of supply/demand analysis within and outside neoclassical economics), as well as some economic history and the history of economic thought. The theoretical issues will be applied to contemporary policy debates, such as the Green New Deal, inequality, health care, and international trade.

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Introduction to Property: Cultural and Environmental Dimensions

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

Course background in the social sciences, arts or humanities will be useful.

Few issues are more contentious in the environmental arena than those surrounding struggles over rights to private, as well as common, property resources. What is property, and how is it made? How are property rights performed, publicized, and enforced? Debates over the “commons” implicate ideas of citizenship, community, the public good, justice, and governance. Controversies over public space, community gardens, genetic recombinant research and rights to the genome, blood supplies and public health, and North-South disputes over rights to biodiversity, as well as debates over landscapes in the Middle East, are part of this contested terrain. This course introduces ideas, practices, and cultures of property (private, public, and collective); debates, claims, arguments over the commons; and the environmental and social consequences of different property regimes. What will be the fate of urban coastal cities and property rights in the Anthropocene? At the end of this course, students should possess clear understandings of the cases covered in class, including key ideas about property, its arguments, tensions, and pivotal keywords. These conceptions and understandings will be obtained through writing, critical thinking, and seminar discussions and should be useful both inside and outside the classroom.

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Intermediate French I (Section I): French Identities

Open , Seminar—Year

Course conducted in French. Admission by placement test (to be taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester) or completion of Beginning French. The Intermediate I and II French courses are specially designed to help prepare students for studying in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College the following year. 

This course will offer a systematic review of French grammar and is designed to strengthen and deepen students’ mastery of grammatical structures and vocabulary. Students will also learn to begin to use linguistic concepts as tools for developing their analytic writing. More than other countries, France’s identity was shaped by centuries of what is now perceived by the French as a historically coherent past. In this course, we will explore the complexities of today’s French identity or, rather, identities, following the most contemporary controversies that have shaken French society in the past 20 years while, at the same time, exploring historical influences and cultural paradigms at play in these débats franco-français. Thus, in addition to newspapers, online resources, recent movies, and songs, we will also study masterpieces of the past in literature and in the arts. Topics discussed will include, among others, school and laïcité, cuisine and traditions, immigration and urban ghettos, women and feminism in France, France’s relation to nature and the environment, the heritage of French Enlightenment (les Lumières), devoir de mémoire, and the relation of France with dark episodes of its history (slavery, Régime de Vichy and Nazi occupation, Algerian war). Authors studied will include Marie de France, Montaigne, Voltaire, Hugo, Flaubert, Proust, Colette, Duras, Césaire, Djebar, Chamoiseau, and Bouraoui. In addition to conferences, a weekly conversation session with a French language assistant(e) is required. Attendance at the weekly French lunch table and French film screenings are both highly encouraged.

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Food, Agriculture, Environment, and Development

Open , Lecture—Year

Where does the food we eat come from? Why do some people have enough food to eat and others do not? Are there too many people for the world to feed? Who controls the world’s food? Will global food prices continue their recent rapid rise? If so, what will be the consequences? What are the environmental impacts of our food production systems? How do answers to these questions differ by place or by the person asking the question? How have the answers changed over time? This course will explore the following fundamental issue: the relationship between development and the environment, focusing in particular on agriculture and the production and consumption of food. The questions above often hinge on the contentious debate concerning population, natural resources, and the environment. Thus, we will begin by critically assessing the fundamental ideological positions and philosophical paradigms of “modernization,” as well as the critical counterpoints, that lie at the heart of this debate. Within this context of competing sets of philosophical assumptions concerning the population-resource debate, we will investigate the concept of “poverty” and the making of the “Third World,” access to food, hunger, grain production and food aid, agricultural productivity (the green and gene revolutions), biofuels, the role of transnational corporations (TNCs), the international division of labor, migration, globalization and global commodity chains, and the different strategies adopted by nation-states to “develop” natural resources and agricultural production. Through a historical investigation of environmental change and the biogeography of plant domestication and dispersal, we will look at the creation of indigenous, subsistence, peasant, plantation, collective, and commercial forms of agriculture. We will analyze the physical environment and ecology that help shape, but rarely determine, the organization of resource use and agriculture. Rather, through the dialectical rise of various political-economic systems—such as feudalism, slavery, mercantilism, colonialism, capitalism, and socialism—we will study how humans have transformed the world’s environments. We will follow with studies of specific issues: technological change in food production; commercialization and industrialization of agriculture and the decline of the family farm; food and public health, culture, and family; land grabbing and food security; the role of markets and transnational corporations in transforming the environment; and the global environmental changes stemming from modern agriculture, dams, deforestation, grassland destruction, desertification, biodiversity loss, and the interrelationship with climate change. Case studies of particular regions and issues will be drawn from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the United States. The final part of the course examines the restructuring of the global economy and its relation to emergent international laws and institutions regulating trade, the environment, agriculture, resource extraction treaties, the changing role of the state, and competing conceptualizations of territoriality and control. We will end with discussions of emergent local, regional, and transnational coalitions for food self-reliance and food sovereignty, alternative and community supported agriculture, community-based resource management systems, sustainable development, and grassroots movements for social and environmental justice. Films, multimedia materials, and distinguished guest lectures will be interspersed throughout the course. One farm/factory field trip is possible in each semester, if funding permits. The lecture participants may also take a leading role in a campus-wide event on “food and hunger,” tentatively planned for the spring. Please mark your calendars when the dates are announced, as attendance for all of the above is required. Attendance and participation are also required at special guest lectures and film viewings in the Social Science Colloquium Series, approximately once per month. The Web Board is an important part of the course. Regular postings of short essays will be made there, as well as followup commentaries with your colleagues. There will be in-class essays, a midterm quiz, and a final exam each semester. Group conferences will focus on in-depth analyses of certain course topics and will include debates and small group discussions. You will prepare a poster project each semester on a topic of your choice, related to the course; the poster will be presented at the end of each semester in group conference, as well as at a potential public session.

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The Geography of Contemporary China: A Political Ecology of Reform, Global Integration, and Rise to Superpower

Open , Seminar—Fall

Some experience in the social sciences is desirable but not required. Advanced first-year students are welcome to interview.

Despite widespread daily reporting on China’s rise to superpower status—and both its challenge to and necessary partnership with the United States—what do we really know about the country? In this seminar, we will explore China’s evolving place in the world through political-economic integration and globalization processes. Throughout the seminar, we will compare China with other areas of the world within the context of the broader theoretical and thematic questions mentioned below in detail. We will consistently focus our efforts on reframing debates, both academic and in mass media, to enable new insights and analyses not only concerning China but also in terms of the major global questions—in theory, policy, and practice—of this particular historical moment. We will begin with an overview of contemporary China, discussing the unique aspects of China’s modern history, and the changes and continuities from one era to the next. We will explore Revolutionary China and the subsequent socialist period to ground the seminar’s focus: post-1978 reform and transformation to the present day. Rooted in the questions of agrarian change and rural development, we will also study seismic shifts in urban and industrial form and China’s emergence as a global superpower on its way to becoming the world’s largest economy. We will analyze the complex intertwining of the environmental, political-economic, and sociocultural aspects of these processes, as we interpret the geography of contemporary China. Using a variety of theoretical perspectives, we will analyze a series of contemporary global debates: Is there a fundamental conflict between the environment and rapid development? What is the role of the peasantry in the modern world? What is the impact of different forms of state power and practice? How does globalization shape China’s regional transformation? And, on the other hand, how does China’s global integration impact development in every other country and region of the world? Modern China provides immense opportunities for exploring key theoretical and substantive questions of our time. A product first and foremost of its own complex history, other nation-states and international actors and institutions—such as the World Bank, transnational corporations, and civil society—have also heavily influenced China. The “China model” of rapid growth is widely debated in terms of its efficacy as a development pathway and, yet, defies simple understandings and labels. Termed everything from neoliberalism, to market socialism, to authoritarian Keynesian capitalism, China is a model full of paradoxes and contradictions. Not least of these is the country's impact on global climate change. Other challenges include changing gender relations, rapid urbanization, and massive internal migration. In China today, contentious debates continue on land reform, the pros and cons of global market integration, the role of popular culture and the arts in society, how to define ethical behavior, the roots of China’s social movements—from Tian’anmen to current widespread social unrest and discontent among workers, peasants, students, and intellectuals—and the meaning and potential resolution of minority conflicts in China’s hinterlands. Land and resource grabs in China and abroad are central to China’s rapid growth and role as an industrial platform for the world, but the resulting social inequality and environmental degradation challenge the legitimacy of China’s leadership like never before. As China borders many of the most volatile places in the contemporary world and increasingly projects its power to the far corners of the planet, we will conclude our seminar with a discussion of global security issues, geopolitics, and potential scenarios for China’s future. Weekly selected readings, films, mass media, and books will be used to inform debate and discussion. A structured conference project will integrate closely with one of the diverse topics of the seminar.

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Introduction to Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Some experience in the social sciences is desirable but not required.

In this intermediate seminar, we will begin by examining competing paradigms and approaches to understanding “development” and the “Third World.” We will set the stage by answering the question: What did the world look like 500 years ago? The purpose of this part of the course is to acquaint us with and to analyze the historical origins and evolution of a world political-economy, of which the "Third World" is an intrinsic component. We will thus study the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the rise of merchant and finance capital, and the colonization of the world by European powers. We will analyze case studies of colonial "development" to understand the evolving meaning of the term. The case studies will also help us assess the varied legacies of colonialism apparent in the emergence of new nations through the fitful and uneven process of decolonization that followed. The next part of the course will look at the United Nations and the role some of its associated institutions have played in the post-World War II global political-economy, one marked by persistent and intensifying socioeconomic inequalities as well as frequent outbreaks of political violence across the globe. By examining the development institutions that have emerged and evolved since 1945, we will attempt to unravel the paradoxes of development in different eras. We will deconstruct the measures of development through a thematic exploration of population, resource use, poverty, access to food, the environment, agricultural productivity, urbanization, industrialization, and different development strategies adopted by Third World nation-states. We will then examine globalization and its relation to emergent international institutions and their policies; for example, the IMF, World Bank, AIIB, and WTO. We will then turn to contemporary development debates and controversies that increasingly find space in the headlines—widespread land grabbing by sovereign wealth funds, China, and hedge funds; the “global food crisis”; and the perils of climate change, as well as the potential of “a new green deal.” Throughout the course, our investigations of international institutions, transnational corporations, the role of the state, and civil society will provide the backdrop for the final focus of the class—the emergence of regional coalitions for self-reliance, environmental and social justice, and sustainable development. Our analysis of development in practice will draw upon case studies from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and the United States. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage substantive research project. Project presentations will incorporate a range of formats, from traditional papers to multimedia visual productions. Where possible and feasible, students will be encouraged to do primary research over spring break.

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Beginning Greek

Open , Seminar—Year

This course provides an intensive introduction to Ancient Greek grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, with the aim of reading the language as soon as possible. By mid-semester in the fall, students will be reading authentic excerpts of Ancient Greek poetry and prose. Students will also read and discuss selected works of Plato, Aristophanes, Thucydides, and Ps.-Xenophon in English. During the spring semester, while continuing to refine their grammar and reading skills, students will read extended selections of Plato’s Apology in the original Greek.

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Intermediate Italian: Modern Italian Culture and Literature

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

This intermediate-level course aims at improving and perfecting the students’ speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, as well as their knowledge of Italy’s contemporary culture and literature. In order to acquire the necessary knowledge of Italian grammar, idiomatic expressions, and vocabulary, a review of all grammar will be carried out throughout the year. As an introduction to modern Italian culture and literature, students will be introduced to a selection of short stories, poems, and passages from novels, as well as specific newspaper articles, music, and films in the original language. Some of the literary works will include selections from Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, Natalia Ginzburg, Gianni Rodari, Marcello D’Orta, Clara Sereni, Dino Buzzati, Stefano Benni, Antonio Tabucchi, Alberto Moravia, Achille Campanile, and Elena Ferrante. In order to address the students’ writing skills, written compositions will also be required as an integral part of the course. All material is accessible on MySLC. Conferences are held on a biweekly basis; topics might include the study of a particular author, literary text, film, or any other aspect of Italian society and culture that might be of interest to the student. Conversation classes (in small groups) will be held twice a week with the language assistant; students will have the opportunity to reinforce what they have learned in class and hone their ability to communicate in Italian. When appropriate, students will be directed to specific internship opportunities in the New York City area, centered on Italian language and culture.

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Advanced Italian: Fascism, World War II, and the Resistance in 20th-Century Italian Narrative and Cinema

Advanced , Seminar—Year

This course is intended for advanced students of Italian who want to better their comprehension, as well as their oral and written skills, in the language and their knowledge of Italian literature. This will be achieved by reading literary works and watching films in the original language, producing written compositions, and also through in-class discussion of the material. The course examines the manner in which crucial historical events that occurred during the 20th century—specifically the rise and fall of fascism, World War II, and the Resistance—were represented within Italian literature and cinema of the time, as well as throughout the decades following the end of the war (up to the 1970s). Literary texts will include those authored by Ignazio Silone, Vasco Pratolini, Italo Calvino, Mario Carli, Renata Viganò, Carlo Cassola, Beppe Fenoglio, Elio Vittorini, Alberto Moravia, and Carlo Mazzantini. Films will include fascist propaganda and documentaries (from the Istituto Luce’s archives), as well as films by Roberto Rossellini (his fascist-era War trilogy, as well as his neorealist films), Vittorio De Sica, Luigi Comencini, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, Bernardo Bertolucci, Giuliano Montaldo, Ettore Scola, Luchino Visconti, Liliana Cavani, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Federico Fellini. Conference topics might include the study of a particular author, literary text, or film that might be of interest to the student. When appropriate, students will be directed to specific internship opportunities in the New York area centered on Italian language and culture. Literary texts will be on reserve in the library or available for purchase; critical material will be available through MySLC. Conversation classes (in small groups) will be held twice a week with the language assistant; students will have the opportunity to reinforce what they have learned in class and hone their ability to communicate in Italian.

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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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First-Year Studies: German Cultural Studies From 1871–Present

Open , FYS—Year

In this course, students will learn about the major cultural and historical developments in Germany since the late 19th century through an in-depth analysis of many masterpieces of modern German literature (novels, stories, plays), philosophy, psychoanalysis, and film. Germany has seen five different political systems since its modern inception as a nation state in 1871: an aristocracy ruled by the German emperor; the Weimar Republic; the Nazi dictatorship; a divided Germany with a socialist government in the East; and the creation of a reunified Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990. While this is not a history course, students will be required to accompany their analyses of literary, cinematic, and intellectual works with a reading of a history book about modern Germany. In the fall semester, we will cover the period between 1871 and 1945; in the spring semester, the emphasis will be on the period between 1945 and today. Among the writers, intellectuals, and filmmakers whose works we will study in the first semester are Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, C. G. Jung, Remarque, Bertolt Brecht, Irmgard Keun, Leni Riefenstahl, and Martin Heidegger; in the spring semester, Wolfgang Staudte, Heinrich Böll, Alfred Andersch, Anna Seghers, Wolfgang Borchert, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, Bernhard Schlink, Judith Hermann, W. G. Sebald, Günther Grass, Helga Sanders-Brahms, and F. Henckel von Donnersmarck. The course will combine one-on-one conference work with group activities and exercises designed to help students make the transition from high school to college life, learn the ins and outs of Sarah Lawrence College, prepare students to succeed academically, and foster a sense of community spirit among our FYS class.

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First-Year Studies: The Perils of Passion: Ancient Greek History for Today’s Troubled Times

Open , FYS—Year

Are we unwittingly reliving the past? Authoritarianism, magical thinking, and tribalism are beginning to characterize the 21st century as they characterized archaic Greece. Over centuries, however, the ancient Greeks experienced a movement in the opposite direction: They began to prioritize reality, condemn tyranny, and experiment with broader forms of political participation. In the fifth century BCE, the ancient Greeks devised, simultaneously, the concepts of history and democracy. As the Athenians were experimenting with the world’s first-ever democratic political institutions, the historians Herodotus and Thucydides distinguished history from myth and offered examples of behaviors to emulate or to avoid. These early historians can help us today to analyze facts, identify causes and consequences, and avoid the pitfalls of the past. Students will read (in English translation) Herodotus’s Histories and Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War, as well as selected works by Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristotle, and Ps.-Xenophon. Students will meet with the instructor individually for a half-hour conference once every two weeks. On the alternate weeks, when individual conferences do not meet, the entire class will meet for a group conference.

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Chaucer and Literary London

Open , Lecture—Fall

Geoffrey Chaucer is well-known today as the “Father of English Poetry” for his innovative use of Middle English in verse. During his lifetime, however, his reputation was political and social and his presence, local and international. Chaucer’s career as a London civil servant and diplomat was paramount to his poetic vocation. In the House of Fame, he even mocks himself for sitting at his desk after work to compose poetry each day. This course will investigate Chaucer’s works in a biographical and insular context, reading his poetry in relation to his 14th-century urban milieu and to significant late medieval events such as the Black Plague and the Great Rising of 1381. We will study not only the dream vision poems, Troilus and Criseyde and the Canterbury Tales, but also the works of other so-called Ricardian Poets of Chaucer’s age to explore more broadly the thematic preoccupations of London writers. Such topics include authority through authorship, dreams and the imagination, sexuality and the tradition of antifeminism, as well as hierarchies of power and the changing class structure. Examining these topics through a range of critical lenses, we will see how Chaucer and his friends dramatized controversial conversations of the time through the vernacular tongue—not only staking a new claim for English literariness but also making those conversations available to us as modern readers.

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History Plays

Open , Seminar—Year

Some of the greatest dramatic literature is set in an era preceding its composition. This is always true of a form of dramatic literature that we usually call by a different name (Plato’s dialogues); but it is also true of some of the most celebrated drama, plays we identify with the core of the Western theatrical tradition (for example, much of Greek tragedy), and it is very famously true of some of the greatest work by Shakespeare, Schiller, and Corneille. Some of the best contemporary playwrights also set some of their work in the past: Tom Stoppard’s Travesties, Arcadia, The Invention of Love, and The Coast of Utopia are all, in one or another sense, history plays. Setting a play in the past can create and exploit dramatic irony (the audience knows the history to come, the protagonists usually cannot), but there is no single reason for setting a play in the past. For some playwrights, history provided the grandest kind of spectacle, a site of splendid and terrible (hence, dramatic) events. Their treatment of the past may not depict it as radically discontinuous with the present or necessarily different in kind. Other playwrights may make the past setting little more than an allegory of the present; Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra (1898) seems to be a celebration of Victorian liberal imperialism. The playwright may set work in the past as part of an urgent analysis of the origins of his own situation: Michael Frayn’s best play, Benefactors, was written in 1984 but set in the late 1960s and attempts to locate the causes of the then-recent collapse of political liberalism, seeking in history an answer that could be found only there. But another of Frayn’s plays with a historical setting, Copenhagen, does not necessarily focus on something irretrievably past; its interests may rather be concentrated on a living problem of undiminished urgency. Peter Weiss’s Marat/ Sade, arguably the most successful work of 1960s political theatre, was a history play focused on what then seemed the explicit and unbreakable link between late 18th-century politics and the politics of the present. A recent play by Alan Bennett, The History Boys, seeks to illuminate something about the political present by examining a changing fashion in the teaching of history. In this course, we will read a number of works of dramatic literature—all of them, in one sense or another, history plays written for various purposes and of generally very high quality. We may or may not discover anything common to all history plays, but we will read some good books.

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Romanticism and Its Consequences in English-Language Poetry

Open , Seminar—Year

The first half of this course will explore the work of the most influential poets writing in English in the time between the French Revolution and the American Civil War. One of the goals of the course is to demonstrate the ways in which modern poetry originated in this period. In the wake of the French Revolution, Blake and Wordsworth, among others, invented a new kind of poetry that largely internalized the myths that they had inherited from literary and religious traditions. The poet’s inner life became the inescapable subject of the poem. In the second half of the course, we will trace the impact of 19th-century Romanticism on subsequent generations of poets writing in English, with particular attention to the first half of the 20th century. Our preeminent goal will be to appreciate each poet’s—indeed, each poem’s—unique contribution to the language. Our understanding of literary and historical trends will emerge from the close, imaginative reading of texts. Authors will include: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, Whitman, Dickinson, Tennyson, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Hardy, Frost, Stevens, Yeats, and T. S. Eliot.

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Conscience of the Nations: Classics of African Literature

Open , Seminar—Fall

One way to think of literature is as the conscience of a people, reflecting on their origins, their values, their losses, and their possibilities. This course will study major representative texts in which sub-Saharan African writers have taken up the challenge of cultural formation and criticism. Part of what gives the best writing of modern Africa its aesthetic power is the political urgency of its task: The past still bears on the present, the future is yet to be written, and what writers have to say matters enough for their work to be considered dangerous. Political issues and aesthetic issues are, thus, inseparable in their work. Creative tensions in the writing between indigenous languages and European languages, between traditional forms of orature and story-telling and self-consciously “literary” forms, register all the pressures and conflicts of late colonial and postcolonial history. To discern the traditionalist sources of modern African writing, we will first read examples from epic, folk tales, and other forms of orature. Major fiction will be selected from the work of Tutuola, Achebe, Beti, Sembene, Ba, Head, Ngugi, La Guma, Dangaremgba, and Sarowiwa; drama from the work of Soyinka and Aidoo; poetry from the work of Senghor, Rabearivelo, Okigbo, Okot p’Bitek, Brutus, Mapanje, and others. Conference work may include further, deeper work on the writings, writers, and genres that we study together in class; aspects of literary theory, particularly aspects of postcolonial and womanist theory relevant to readings of African literature; or readings of more recent writers out of Africa whose work draws on and develops the “classical” works that will be the foundation of our work together.

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Odyssey/Hamlet/Ulysses

Open , Seminar—Spring

James Joyce’s Ulysses, one of the most important novels of literary modernism, tracks its two major characters, hour by hour, through the streets of Dublin, Ireland, on a single day, June 16, 1904. Never have the life of a modern city and the interior lives of its inhabitants been so densely and sensitively chronicled. But the text is not only grounded in the “real life” of turn-of-the-century Dublin; it is also deeply grounded in literary landscapes, characters, and plots that stretch back to Shakespeare—and beyond Shakespeare to Homer. This class offers the chance for close study of three great texts that are deeply implicated in one another: Homer’s Odyssey, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Joyce’s Ulysses. The themes of circular journeying, fate, identity, parent-child relations, and indebtedness—and “the feminine mystique” that we trace in the Odyssey and Hamlet—will prepare us for a careful and joyful reading of Joyce’s exuberant human comedy in Ulysses. Conference work may entail more extended work in these major authors or other authors and texts roughly contemporary with them or subsequently responding to them, whose work extends and complicates the intertextual webs we will be weaving in class.

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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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The Occupation and Its Aftermath in French Literature and Film

Open , Joint seminar—Spring

This course will explore the fraught relationship between representation and memory by focusing on French literature and film produced during and following World War II. After the fall of France in 1940, the country was divided into two parts: one half under German occupation; the other half ruled by a collaborationist regime headquartered in Vichy. Every aspect of life, including cultural and artistic production, was subject to authoritarian control. Means of political expression and dissemination came up against laws instituting surveillance, censorship, rationing, roundups, and deportations to internment and concentration camps. We will focus on the unique position of writers and filmmakers as witnesses to, and interpreters of, national humiliation, personal catastrophe, and collective shock. Artists, under both the occupation and the Vichy government, were forced to choose whether to speak out, join the resistance, collaborate, or keep silent. During the decades that followed liberation, writers proved integral to the (re)appraisals of France’s conduct during the war. The first half of this course will be devoted to texts and films produced from 1940-1945, while the second half will address postwar efforts to reconcile, contextualize, and, in some cases, justify a political and historical narrative that framed France as both heroic and resistant to Nazi oppression. Interspersed with primary texts and films will be secondary materials drawn from testimony, trauma theory, and memory studies. Texts will be read in English translation; students of French will have the opportunity to read texts in the original. Among the authors to be studied are Sartre, Duras, Beauvoir, Camus, Vercors, Némirovsky, Semprun, Céline, Modiano, Perec, and Salvayre. Filmmakers could include Truffaut, Malle, Lelouch, Melville, Chabrol, Carné, and Ophüls.

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Eight American Poets: Whitman to Ashbery

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

American poetry has multiple origins and a vast array of modes and variations. In this course, we will focus our attention on the trajectories of eight major American poetic careers. We will begin with Emerson, Whitman, and Dickinson—fountainheads of the visionary strain in American poetic tradition—before turning to a handful of their most prominent 20th-century heirs: Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, T. S. Eliot, Hart Crane, and Elizabeth Bishop. Some of the poems that we will be reading are accessible on a superficial level and present challenges to interpretation only on closer inspection; other poems—most notably, the poems of Dickinson, Stevens, Eliot, and Crane—present significant challenges at the most basic level of interpretation. The major prerequisite for this course is, therefore, a willingness to grapple with literary difficulty—with passages of poetry that are, at times, wholly baffling or highly resistant to paraphrase. We will seek to paraphrase them anyway—or account, as best we can, for the meanings that they create out of the meanings that they evade. Our central task will be to appreciate and articulate the unique strengths of each of the poems (and poets) that we encounter through close, imaginative reading and informed speculation.

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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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Strange Universes: An Introduction to Non-Euclidean Geometry

Open , Seminar—Fall

If you draw two straight lines on a piece of paper, it’s not difficult to keep them from crossing. Imagine, however, that the lines extend in both directions off the page and without end. Do these hypothetical lines cross? Surprisingly, this mundane question goes to the heart of our modern conception of space. Your experience might suggest that the lines will cross unless they head off the edge of the page at exactly the same angle. In that case we call the lines parallel; and this is the answer Euclid asserts with his fifth (or “parallel”) postulate of the “Elements.” Roughly 2,000 years later, mathematicians came to the shocking realization that lines need not obey the parallel postulate. The resulting non-Euclidean geometries were so unexpected to the mathematicians who first conceived of them that one, János Bolyai, remarked, “Out of nothing I have created a strange new universe.” This course will explore the alternatives to Euclidean geometry that first appeared in the 19th century. These include hyperbolic, spherical, and projective geometry, as well as more idiosyncratic geometries that we will devise together. Our exploration of these strange universes will be aided by visualizations that include drawing, computer-graphics animation, and video-game technology. Throughout, we will discuss the impact of the non-Euclidean revolution on astronomy, philosophy, and culture.

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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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First-Year Studies: The Origins of Philosophy

Open , FYS—Year

What is being? What is time? What is knowledge? What is the best kind of government, and what is the happiest kind of life? Should we fear death? More than 2,500 years ago in Ancient Greece, a tradition of asking this sort of questions developed under the name “philosophy” (Greek for “love of wisdom”). In this course, we will read the earliest surviving texts of the philosophical tradition—from the first philosopher, Thales, to the great Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle—as well as interpretations and critiques of them by thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Throughout the course, we will discuss the relations (and the tensions) between philosophy and science, religion, art, and politics. Students will have an individual conference every other week and group conference on alternating weeks. In the group conferences, we will discuss the nature of academic work in general and practice research, reading, writing, and editing skills.

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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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“I Think, Therefore I Am:” The Meditations of René Descartes

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

While specific background knowledge is not expected, a previous course or conference in philosophy is required.

This course will consist of a close reading of René Descartes’ masterwork: Meditations on First Philosophy (1641). One of the founding texts of modern philosophy, this book introduces the core problems that continue to preoccupy all subsequent philosophy: the psychophysical problem (i.e., What is the relationship between consciousness and the body, and how does the one “act upon” the other?); the problem of knowledge (i.e., Is knowledge grounded in reason or in the senses? And is there any way to conclusively distinguish between dream, or fantasy, and reality?); the problem of other minds (How can I know that another consciousness exists, if I can only ever access it through my consciousness?). Conference work may focus on Descartes, on one of the above-mentioned problems, or on a closely related philosopher of the student’s choice.

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Moonshots in Contemporary American Politics

Open , Seminar—Fall

While this course is open, prior background in American politics and history is preferable.

While recently it may feel like American government never accomplishes much at all, particularly at the federal level, sweeping change does happen—either seemingly at once or over a period of time. This course will look at a range of circumstances when advocates across the political spectrum have pushed ambitious agendas over the last few decades and at various levels of government. We will attempt to draw some conclusions about the factors that might make ambitious agendas succeed, including querying whether those factors are distinct in meaningful ways from the factors that make less ambitious agendas succeed. The course will also attempt to explore differences and similarities in the ways that conservatives and liberals have approached pursuing such agendas. The class will begin with an overview of some theoretical literature about agenda-setting in politics and the role of advocacy work and will continue with applied case studies.

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Chaos or Calm: The 2020 Elections

Open , Seminar—Spring

In the midst of a seemingly polarized and anxious American polity, the 2020 election cycle will be a referendum on both President Trump and the 116th Congress. This course will attempt to contextualize the current state of social and political affairs in the United States and examine why so many Americans feel disillusioned about the economic and political scene. Many believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction. They see an economy that is not improving, a social and political world that is deeply divided and full of anger, and endless fighting about numerous topics, including gun control, immigration, the environment, and global engagement. These concerns will all have a potent impact on the outcome of the 2020 elections. This course will examine these current sentiments as the backdrop for understanding the 2020 electoral cycle. We will focus on what political science can tell us about electoral politics, with the electoral process itself being one of the most fundamental aspects of American democracy: allowing citizens to choose their representatives, from local county boards to the occupant of the White House. Accordingly, we will examine present and past research on numerous questions relating to elections, such as: Who votes and participates, how, and why? How does income, religion, race, and geographic region play into electoral behavior? What about institutions—such as electoral rules, various debates and the Electoral College? What about the role of mass media and social media platforms? What about the art of persuasion; that is, do campaigns matter or is it simply the economy? These are a sampling the puzzles that we will tackle. And while the course will certainly spend a considerable amount of time looking at the presidency, we will also focus on congressional races and local races, as well.

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The American Welfare State

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

This course will assess the historical and political trajectory of the American welfare state. Students will learn about the US policy response to economic inequality and poverty via redistributive policies and evaluate different theories about why the response has been so weak. In addition, the course will explore the role of mulitiple actors and factors that have shaped this policy area, with particular attention to public opinion, interest groups, race relations, social movements, and the state. Race, immigration, and gender will also be important axes of analysis, as they have been intimately linked with the development of the welfare state and its evolution, as well as evolving understandings of race, immigration, family, and work. Finally, the course will allow for broader based discussions on the US welfare system in relation to US ideals and in relation to the welfare systems of other countries. Overall, students will gain an understanding of the scope, form, and function of social welfare provision in the United States into the contemporary period.

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The Politics of “Illegality,” Surveillance, and Protest

Advanced , Seminar—Fall

Over the past few years, newspapers, television, Facebook and Twitter have disseminated images of unauthorized immigrants and their allies taking to the streets to protest punitive immigration policies. The aerial shot of downtown Los Angeles on March 25, 2006, with more than 500,000 immigrants and allies wearing white t-shirts, was only one in a series of images that captured the 2006-2007 demonstrations in big cities where they were expected, like Chicago and New York, but also in smaller towns and cities in Nebraska, Colorado, Indiana, and elsewhere. More recently, images of unauthorized youth facing off with police and immigration officials have become more commonplace, the newest of these images being a young woman in Los Angeles sitting atop a ladder surrounded by police awaiting her fate. These images speak to us of a movement for immigrant rights that calls us to engage with questions of immigration enforcement, “illegality,” and citizenship. In this course, we will explore the historical, legal, and cultural construction of “illegality.” Rather than a strictly legal category, “illegality” has been constructed over time through policy and discourse. As such, we will ground our investigation of the present in an investigation of the past. Students will assess the evolution of immigration-control practices and of the construction of “illegality,” from the US focus on policing the Chinese through the buildup of the US-Mexico border and into the present. Our study of contemporary debates will center on the shifts in immigration control and the actions of key elite and grass-roots actors in attempting to shape this politics of enforcement. Students will use the theoretical tools provided by studies of immigration enforcement, social movements, and the politics of membership and belonging to assess immigration politics over time and to offer ways forward in the contemporary moment.

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First-Year Studies: The Buddhist Philosophy of Emptiness

Open , FYS—Year

The concept of a “thing”—an entity that exists in and of itself, separate from all other things—is nothing but a useful fiction: In the real world, there actually are no “things” that meet that description. This, in a nutshell, is the startling proposition advanced by the Buddhist doctrine of śunyatā, or “emptiness,” as the Sanskrit term is usually translated. Often misconstrued by critics as a form of nihilism (“nothing exists”), idealism (“all that exists are mental phenomena”), or scepticism (“we can never know what really exists”), the emptiness doctrine is better interpreted as a radical critique of the fundamental conceptual categories that we habitually use to talk about and make sense of the world. This FYS course has several aims. In general, it is designed to help students develop the kind of research, writing, and critical thinking skills that are needed for academic success in college and in whatever career paths they may pursue thereafter. More specifically, the course aims to impart a clear, accurate understanding of the “emptiness” doctrine as it developed in the context of Buddhist intellectual history and found expression in various genres of classical Buddhist literature. Another aim of the course is to explore ways in which the emptiness doctrine, if taken seriously as a critique of the mechanisms and inherent limitations of human knowledge, may be fruitfully brought to bear in a number of different disciplines, academic and otherwise. In the fall semester, the class will read and discuss a number of Buddhist texts—primary sources in English translation from the original Sanskrit or Chinese—that advocate the philosophy of emptiness, as well as some secondary scholarship on the subject. Students will also be given a series of homework assignments that target basic academic skills in the humanities and social sciences (e.g., how to do bibliographic research and evaluate the reliability of sources, how to annotate scholarly writing, etc.). Individual conference meetings with the instructor in the fall will be devoted to learning and improving those skills. In the spring semester, the class will read and discuss a number of scholarly works written in English that deal with Western (non-Buddhist) traditions of historiography, literary theory, and scientific inquiry. The readings are designed to introduce students to some of the main intellectual trends in the humanities, social sciences, and “hard” sciences that they are likely to encounter in other college courses. At the same time, the class will learn how to use the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness as an analytical tool to critique the conceptual models employed in the various academic disciplines treated in the readings. For individual conference work in the spring, each student will be required to use that tool to analyze the fundamental nomenclature—the way of dividing up the world into “things”—employed by some particular field of human endeavor, which may be an academic, artistic, or athletic discipline or any other endeavor (e.g., political or economic) in which the student is especially interested. At the end of the semester, each student will have half of a class meeting to introduce his or her particular field of inquiry to everyone else. Students will select some representative readings that the class will do in advance, lead a discussion of those readings, and present their own critical analysis of the nomenclature used in the field in question. All students will have an individual conference meeting with the instructor on a weekly basis for the first six weeks of the course; thereafter, conferences may be held on a biweekly basis, depending on student progress.

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The Buddhist Tradition in India, Tibet, and Southeast Asia

Open , Lecture—Fall

This intoductory course treats the evolution of Buddhism in India, from the origins of the religion as a group of “world-renouncing” ascetics through the development of large, state-supported monastic communities and the emergence of the major reform movements known as Mahāyāna and Tantra. The course also focuses on the Buddhism of two regions of the world—Southeast Asia and the Tibetan plateau—where the respective traditions have been most self-consciously concerned with maintaining precedents inherited from India. Equal attention is paid to: (1) matters of philosophy and doctrine, (2) religious rites and practices, and (3) social and institutional arrangements. The lectures are accompanied by copious audio-visual materials. For students who wish to continue studying the development of the Buddhist tradition in other parts of the world, a companion lecture course, entitled The Buddhist Tradition in East Asia, is offered in the spring semester.

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The Emergence of Christianity

Open , Seminar—Year

There is perhaps no one who has not heard of the name of a seemingly obscure carpenter's son executed by the Romans around 33 CE. Why? The religion we call Christianity shaped the Western World for at least 1,500 years. In this course, we will study the origins of this tradition. As we study the origins of this movement, we will explore Judaism in the strange and fertile Second Temple period (515 BCE -70 CE). We will encounter the learned societies of holy men like the Pharisees and the Qumran sectarians, as well as the freedom fighter/terrorists called the Zealots. Our main source will be the New Testament of the Christian Bible, though these will be supplemented by other primary materials. Excerpts from the Dead Sea Scrolls and rabbinic literature, as well as other Hellenistic texts from this period, provide the cultural backdrop in which Christianity has its roots. We will learn about the spread of the new movement of “Christians,” as it was called by its detractors in Antioch. How did this movement, which began among the Jews of the Eastern Mediterranean, come to be wholly associated with Gentiles by the end of the second century. Who became Christian? Why were they hated so much by the greater Greco-Roman society? What did they believe? How did they behave? What are the origins of “Christian anti-semitism”? What kind of social world, with its senses of hierarchy and gender relations, did these people envision for themselves?

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Readings in the Hebrew Bible: The Wisdom Tradition

Open , Seminar—Fall

The question of theodicy is most acute in times of social and political crisis. Theodicy refers to the problem of evil in the context of a religion whose foundation is the monotheistic belief in a good and benevolent God. The Bible, in the Book of Deuteronomy, promises Israel that adherence to the Torah will lead to a good life. This belief system was severely challenged by the loss of the land of Israel in the Babylonian invasion of 587 BCE. The destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians and the subsequent exile of the Israelites engendered a rich and complex body of literature. Jewish scribes wrote books of wisdom intended to guide Israel into uncharted waters that their God had presumably taken them. To this end, we will read books like Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Ben-Sira with a view to understanding how those works addressed theological issues of their day.

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Introduction to Ancient Greek Religion and Society

Open , Seminar—Spring

Few people dispute the enormous impact that the Ancient Greeks have had on Western Culture—and even on the modern world in general. This seminar will introduce the interested student to this culture mainly through reading salient primary texts in English translation. Our interest will range broadly. Along with some background reading, we will be discussing mythology (Hesiod), epic hymns and poetry (Homer), history (Herodotus), politics, religion, and philosophy. By the end of the seminar, students should have a basic understanding of the cultural contribution of the Ancient Greeks, as well as a basic timeline of their history through the Hellenistic age.

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Jewish Autobiography

Open , Seminar—Spring

Autobiography is among the most contentious literary/historical genres, compromised by the fallibility of memory and the human tendency towards self-fashioning yet unique in its insights into history as a lived experience. This course employs personal narratives as windows onto the Jewish transition to modernity. We begin with narratives by “traditional” Jewish men and women, including the mystic Hayyim Vital and the successful businesswoman Gluckel of Hameln. We then proceed to the wrenching accounts of early detractors from tradition—like Solomon Maimon, Ezekiel Kotik, and Pauline Wengeroff—and writings by Jewish leaders of modern political movements such as Zionism, Jewish socialism, communism, orthodoxy, and ultra-orthodoxy. We conclude with individual perspectives on the Holocaust through the eyes of victims, bystanders, and perpetrators; insights into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from each side; and American Jewish feminist, queer, and transgender self-narratives.

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The Holocaust

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

The Holocaust raises fundamental questions about the nature of our civilization. How was it that a policy of genocide could be planned, initiated, and carried out against Jews, Roma (Gypsies), leftists, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other groups by Germany, a country that had produced many of the greatest thinkers and artists the world has seen? In this course, we will attempt to explain how these events took place, beginning with the evolution of anti-Semitic ideology and violence. At the same time, we will look at how victims, especially Jews, chose to live out their last years and respond through art, diary-writing, spiritual practices, physical resistance, evasion, and more. Finally, we will attempt to come to grips with the crucial but neglected phenomenon of bystanders—non-Jews who stood by while their neighbors were methodically annihilated. We shall inevitably be compelled to make moral judgments; but these judgments will be of value only if they are based on an understanding of the various actors’ perspectives during this dark chapter of European history.

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Beginning Russian

Open , Seminar—Year

At the end of this course, students will know the fundamentals of Russian grammar and will be able to use those fundamentals to read, write, and, above all, speak Russian on an elementary level. Successful language learning involves both creativity and a certain amount of rote learning—memorization gives the student the basis to then extrapolate, improvise, and have fun with the language—and this course will lay equal emphasis on both. Our four hours of class each week will be spent actively using what we know in pair and group activities, dialogues, discussions, etc. Twice-weekly written homework, serving both to reinforce old and introduce new material, will be required. At the end of each semester, we will formalize the principle of rigorous but creative communication that underlies all of our work through small-group video projects. Students are also required to attend weekly meetings with the Russian assistant; attendance at Russian Table is strongly encouraged.

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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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First-Year Studies: Necessary Hero

Open , FYS—Year

Imagine a hero who grows up in the Appalachian Mountains and receives a scholarship to a private school in Malibu Beach, or a hero who is a Mexican immigrant and lives near the Oakland shipyards. Imagine a child from Norway whose family immigrates to North Dakota in the 1870s, or a teenager who develops solar technology for her village in India. What about their characters will begin to distinguish each as a hero? What flaws or beliefs? What innovative actions will their circumstances, culture, gender, or time in history necessitate? The only requirement for each student’s hero(es) is that he, she, or they are human and living on Earth. Over this yearlong course, each writer will develop a sustained hero’s tale that will require the accurate imagination of place, time, character, and actions in response to each hero’s challenges and obstacles. Writers will research, as well as reflect on, heroic models from antiquity to the present day. Because this is a FYS course, we will incorporate exercises and lessons related to the basic elements of fiction, point of view, structure, character, setting, and dialogue. We will read and analyze model stories that reflect those aspects of craft and depict different kinds of heroes. We will also read contextual texts such as Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, as well as a short digest of historical events called A Little History of the World. In addition to meeting in our biweekly class seminars, I will meet with each of you individually in biweekly conferences. In alternate weeks, we will meet in small focus groups.

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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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Writing Our Moment

Open , Seminar—Spring

It would be safe to say that journalism and nonfiction writing are currently undergoing a transformation. Our most storied publications are in a state of crisis. Big-city newspapers are failing by the day. Magazines are imperiled. Book publishers face encroaching competition from handheld electronic devices and online search engines that do not recognize copyright laws. What is an ambitious, intuitive writer to do going forward? Quite simply, harness all of the strengths of the storytelling past to a new world of few space restrictions, more flexible tones, and the ready presence of video, audio, and animation—which can either enrich or encroach upon text—and comprehend the role of writer in such a way as to include and exploit new media. We will examine the relationship between literary nonfiction, which has always been cinematic in focus and flexible in tone, and the once and future practice of journalism. Masters of 20th-century nonfiction such as V. S. Naipaul, Truman Capote, Joseph Mitchell, and Roger Angell—steeped as they are in the journalistic practice of their time—can serve as guideposts to our uncertain future. We will examine, through reading and writing, the ways in which the formulas of journalism are transformed into literature. We will emphasize the importance of factuality and fact-checking and explore adapting modern storytelling to video, photography, and sound. As the semester progresses, literary nonfiction will be both discovered and reinvented to fit our new world.

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