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.

History 2022-2023 Courses

The Atom Bombs as History, Experience, and Culture: Washington, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki

Open, Lecture—Fall | 5 credits

IIn January 2018, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists set the hands of the Doomsday Clock (yes, it’s a thing) at two minutes to midnight—the nearest it has been to catastrophe since 1953. Since then, yet another 20 seconds have been ticked off due to the multiple threats (ecological, biological, political, and, always, nuclear) that are now part of the Bulletin’s Clock calculations. Within the past two years, the world saw Donald Trump goading Kim Jong-un with tweets about the size of his nuclear “button.” In late 2019, Putin announced that Russia has developed “invincible” hypersonic nuclear missiles capable of hitting virtually anywhere on the globe. And in early 2022, North Korea has pushed ahead with hypersonic missile tests, as well. With world leaders continuing to flirt with the prospect of nuclear holocaust, an understanding of the only instance of nuclear warfare is again relevant, even crucial, to today’s world. Through a rich variety of sources (textual, visual, and cinematic), this lecture-seminar hybrid course will examine the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 from three major perspectives. First, reading scholarship and primary documents, we will look at the decision to drop the bombs, as well as the postwar claims justifying them. We will challenge the American narrative that the bombings were militarily necessary while also putting them into the historical context of World War II, specifically strategic bombing of nonmilitary targets, prospects of Japanese surrender in the final months of the conflict, and the looming Cold War with Russia. Second, we will confront the effects of the bombs on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and their populations. Technical descriptions and firsthand accounts will help us grasp the unique destructiveness of the atomic bombs on both bodies and buildings, as well as how people coped with that destructiveness. The diary of HACHIYA Michihiko, for example, will reveal a medical doctor’s observations on the breakdown of society and how ordinary Japanese dealt with the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. And, finally, the course examines the impact of the bombs on Japan’s postwar culture, including the profound sense of victimization they imparted, which has complicated Japanese narratives about World War II and inspired an abiding pacifism in Japanese society. In a different vein, serious literature written by survivors will open up the relevance of atomic narratives by exploring the social alienation endured by the italichibakusha (bomb survivors) in postwar Japan. TOMATSU Shomei’s photography of Nagasaki and its italichibakusha will provide a visual window on the bombs’ legacy, as well. And we will also examine some popular culture—the original (1954) Godzilla (Gojirō) movie and some anime or mangafor the ways the bombs were appropriated and invoked in apocalyptic imagery, imagery that expressed a distinctive understanding of the dark side of science and technology and made a lasting contribution to wider global culture. This course will consist of weekly lectures, paired with a weekly seminar meeting for close discussion of our syllabus readings. Each student, thus, must not only attend the lecture but also choose one of the three seminar section times.

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History of White Supremacy

Open, Lecture—Fall | 5 credits

The ideas of John Locke were deeply influential to the development of American politics and society. But while Locke may have helped popularize the concept of representative democracy, serving as a North Star for the framers of the U.S. Constitution, he also authored White Supremacist texts that reaffirmed a body of knowledge known today as “race science,” as well as a series of colonial laws that solidified African-American slavery in the new world that retained their power well after the American Revolution. This lecture traces key currents of race ideology and the belief in White Supremacy within the bedrock of the American political landscape. Through a study of primary source documents, guided by historians, students will be exposed to the ways in which White Supremacist thought has provided an intellectual foundation that has supported a system of white wealth, power, and privilege. Students will explore how racist ideas have shaped critical concepts related to American democracy.

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International Law

Open, Lecture—Fall | 5 credits

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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The Path to Putin

Open, Small Lecture—Fall | 5 credits

Vladimir Putin has now been the dominant figure in Russian politics for more than 20 years. He has presided over the creation of an autocratic system of government in his country that is very different from the system that the friends of democracy hoped would emerge in Russia after the collapse of Communist Party rule. He has also made Russia one of the most unpredictable and feared state actors on the international scene. This course will attempt to shed light on the Putin phenomenon by placing him, his regime, and his policies in their historical context. We will examine the political culture of the Soviet Union in its final decades and the role played in the Soviet system by the KGB, the internal security and espionage apparatus in which Putin and many of his closest associates began their careers. We will trace the demise of single-party rule and the crack-up of the Soviet empire under Mikhail Gorbachev, the final president of the USSR. We will examine the reign of Boris Yeltsin, the first president of post-Soviet Russia and the man who anointed Putin his successor in 1999. We will look at the revisionist narrative of Russian and Soviet history elaborated by Putin and other influential figures during the past quarter-century. We will examine Putin’s dealings with the “Near Abroad” (the now-independent republics that used to be components of the Soviet Union), especially Ukraine. We will look at the long history of Russia’s highly ambivalent attitudes toward the West and at various manifestations of this ambivalence in contemporary Russia. Finally, we will explore some of the rival theories recently put forward about the ultimate nature of the Putin regime, its internal dynamics, and the aims of its aggressive conduct toward its neighbors and Western rivals.

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The Making of Black America: Sports History From Jackie Robinson to Muhammad Ali

Open, Lecture—Fall | 5 credits

By the 20th century, African Americans had produced a distinctive ethos and aesthetic of pleasure—not only in music and dance but also in sports, including the Negro Leagues and boxing clubs. In Harlem, an early Black professional basketball team played its games on a dance floor. Excluded from the early white professional basketball leagues, African Americans developed their own styles and strategies in street ball. They introduced those styles to Black college leagues. As African Americans finally entered the NBA, they transformed the American game with their strategic thinking. Similar dynamics developed in Negro League baseball, football, and boxing clubs. Weekly film screenings complement the readings in this lecture.

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Histories and Politics of the Far Right

Open, Small Lecture—Spring | 5 credits

Far-right movements are on the rise in the United States and around the globe. This course explores the contemporary resurgence of far-right and right-wing authoritarian movements through a broad historical framework, including histories of colonialism and racial capitalism, transformations in the global economy, and the proliferation of paramilitary infrastructures worldwide. Lectures will focus on historical case studies from different parts of the world that illustrate the distinctive histories and ideological features of far-right and illiberal movements, including the Patriot Movement in the United States, anti-communist mercenary soldiers in Nicaragua and Rhodesia, authoritarian nostalgia in Brazil and the Phillippines, and the ascendence of Hindu nationalism in India. Readings will focus on the embedded relationship between far-right culture war mobilizations and political economy. We will look at how sexual politics, moral panics around the family, and attacks on non-normative genders and sexualities cannot be tidily separated from economic and political projects. Students will be challenged to think outside a conceptual model of mainstream versus extreme politics. Rather than representing a radical political fringe, far-right movements often mobilize around stalwart themes that organize everyday life and political institutions. The imagined "center" at the heart of mainstream politics is rarely sealed off from “extreme” elements or the use of violence. Students will consider the role of affect and emotion that undergird far-right political affiliations. How do fantasy and desire shape conceptions of safety, belonging, and national mythologies? What historical processes have contributed to the sharpening of communalism, racial resentment, and misogyny? How has economic inequality, environmental devastation, and widespread distrust around media and political institutions buoyed the growth of revanchist illiberal movements worldwide? Readings will include interdisciplinary academic scholarship, films, dystopian fiction, declassified surveillance documents, political literature, memes, and other primary sources.

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Human Rights

Open, Lecture—Spring | 5 credits

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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Gender, Education, and Opportunity in Africa

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

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

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The Emergence of the Modern Middle East

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

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

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

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 and the rise of commercialism in the Tokugawa era lay the socioeconomic foundation for Japan’s political and economic modernity in the late 19th century? And did deep changes in Qing China society destabilize the delicate 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 that we now call China and Japan formed, and how was nationalism constructed (and re-constructed) 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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Pirates, Tyrants, and Radicals: A History of Capitalism and Socialism

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

When the first self-declared socialists began to articulate their critique of a society that was rapidly industrializing and urbanizing, “capitalism” did not yet exist. Karl Marx, the leading theorist of political economy and history, would speak of “capital” and “capitalists,” but it was not until the end of the 19th century that the word “capitalism” entered the English language. As the twin concepts of socialism and capitalism evolved and their proponents sought to redefine their vision and the nature of their nemeses, those proponents launched political and economic projects that staked a claim to modernity and even the salvation of humankind. Whereas bankers, pirates, and entrepreneurs dominate historical imaginaries of capitalism, soviets, tyrants, bureaucrats, and revolutionaries dominate the history of socialism. The world of markets, exchange, and profit seems to be the purview of the history of capitalism, whereas top-down planning and egalitarian utopias fill the image of a socialist world. Although capitalism and socialism do not define the totality of economic life, they do represent two crucial inroads to understand how individuals and societies produce, consume, distribute, and also waste resources. This course will study money, markets, and exchange from a historical perspective by following their trajectories both before capitalism and socialism and within capitalist and socialist contexts in different times and places. The course aims to take students deeply into the vagaries of economic life and to historically situate economic concepts. Were societies in previous eras marked by significantly different relationships toward markets, power, and financial instruments? How can such capacious visions such as capitalism and socialism, with such variegated political iterations, be defined and understood? Who were the important actors and institutions that created these movements? What are the origins of “capitalism”? Is there a path to socialism; and, if so, what is it? This course seeks to address these questions through study of the movements, the people who created them, and the institutions that resulted from them. At the same time, it seeks what makes socialism socialist or capitalism capitalist and the extent to which these terms of analysis help or hinder our understanding of the economic and political behavior of individuals, communities, and institutions. The course is divided into two parts: The fall semester of this yearlong course will be devoted to studying historic economic concepts like money, markets, exchange, growth, and development; we will also explore the debates in the origins of capitalism and its relationship to slavery, imperialism, development, war, and welfare. The spring semester will explore the intellectual origins of socialism, as well as the different versions of “real socialism” around the world.

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The Losers: Dissent and the Legacy of Defeat In American Politics From the American Revolution to the Civil War

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

Though our nation was born in conflict and is sustained by conflict, the present always seems inevitable; surely, the United States of 2022 is but the flowering of the seeds planted so many centuries ago. To imagine that the Revolutionary War ended in failure, that the Founding Fathers were hanged, and that the names of loyalists such as Hutchinson and Arnold were as much on our lips as Washington, Adams, and Jefferson seems blasphemous. Or to imagine celebrating the loyalist William Franklin as a hero rather than his father, Benjamin, seems utterly absurd. The world just wouldn’t be what it is if, instead of calling ourselves American, we identified ourselves as Canadian. The melodic themes of liberty, dissent, and equality would seem less lyrical if Americans could no longer claim them as their own; but would our understanding of American identity be the richer if we viewed these themes as forged in conflict? To this end, the course will focus on those groups who were on the losing side of major political conflicts from the American Revolution to the Civil War; namely, the loyalists, the Anti-Federalists, the Federalists, the Whigs, and the Confederacy. The course will also consider the ultimate losers in these conflicts—those who were denied political rights altogether and, thus, even the possibility of victory. What did the treatment of these different political groups reveal about the extent of—and limits to—American acceptance of dissent? How did a culture that placed a premium on success and achievement regard loss and defeat? How was the South able to turn the defeat of the Confederacy into a badge of honor and a source of pride through the idealization of the Lost Cause? What was the long-term legacy that these losing groups left behind? When viewed from this perspective, were these groups really losers at all? After all, without the Anti-Federalists, there would have been no Bill of Rights in the Constitution. Ultimately, the course aims to cultivate a “tragic” perspective that goes beyond viewing history in terms of winners and losers, heroes and villains, and, instead, recognizes that, in the final analysis, we are all in bondage to the knowledge that we possess.

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Gaming the Past: Atlantic Revolutions

Open, Large seminar—Fall | 5 credits

It is June 1776. You are a member of the New York Provincial Congress and are about to vote on whether to authorize New York’s delegates to the Continental Congress to declare independence from Britain. If you vote in favor and the rebellion fails, you could be tried and executed for treason. If you vote against, you could be ostracized by your revolutionary neighbors or worse—tarred and feathered or violently tortured in other ways. These are some of the dilemmas that the course will ask you to face as you engage in role-play simulations of the American and French Revolutions and the ratification of the Constitution, based on the Reacting to the Past pedagogy developed by Mark Carnes at Barnard College. Students will be assigned roles representing the different contestants in these conflicts and asked to reenact the debates over them. To prepare for their roles, students will read relevant primary and secondary sources and write position papers expressing their character’s views. Students should be aware that the process of playing these historical roles and immersing themselves in an earlier time can be emotionally intense and even uncomfortable. To enter the world of the 18th century—a world where people of European descent considered themselves more civilized than others, where women were viewed as subordinate to men, and where aristocrats saw themselves as superior to ordinary people—students should be prepared to engage in and express views that are alien and, indeed, at times aversive to them. The course thus aims to show how much “the past is a foreign country,” as the writer L. P. Hartley once put it, and to cultivate a sense of historical empathy by trying to understand that foreignness on its own terms.

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Ideas of Africa, Africa Writes Back

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

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

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Palestine/Israel and the Politics of History

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to major topics and debates in the historiography of Palestine/Israel from the mid-19th century to the present. The course has two broad goals: first, to delineate significant trends and transformations that defined the political, economic, cultural, intellectual, and social history of that contested land in the modern period; and second, to explore the evolution of—and fraught political debates surrounding—varying interpretations of this history. Themes to be covered include: Ottoman Palestine in the 19th and early 20th centuries; Jewish modernity and the origins and trajectory of Zionism as an ideology and political movement; the emergence and development of Palestinian national identity and nationalism; British colonial rule and the Mandate system; the historiography of partition and its consequences; the construction of Israeli national culture and identity after 1948; the politics of memory among Israelis and Palestinians; regional war and diplomacy; the role of the United States and the global ramifications of struggle in Palestine/Israel; and various aspects of state and society within Israel, with a special focus on the diversity of its ethnic and religious composition. It bears saying that this is not a course about the “Arab-Israeli conflict” or even primarily about “conflict,” as such; rather, this course provides an integrative approach to Palestinian and Israeli history—emphasizing the construction and articulation of multiple visions for forging collective identity within Palestine/Israel, as well as strategies for establishing and asserting control over it. To this end, we will pay particular attention in this course to cultural sources—especially literature and film—as a way to capture the complexity of voices and identities that claim this land as their own.

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Globalization Past and Present: Local and Global Communities in Yonkers and Beyond

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

This course is an introduction to thinking globally and acting locally; it examines how different national, regional, and local communities see their place in the world and how events, processes, or structures that cross national and regional boundaries affect specific communities and individuals. The course examines the cultural, economic, and political origins of globalization and how globalization transforms over time. The course assumes globalization as both historical and contemporary and, thus, is divided into two parts. The first part of the course explores globalization in a long-term, historical perspective, including: ancient world precedents; 14th-century exchanges before European hegemony; the encounter and collision of Europe, Africa, and the Americas in the modern world; the Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions; the Industrial Revolution; and the Great Divergence, among others. The second part of the course explores major transnational issues today in historical perspective, including: climate change and environmentalism; social justice and human rights; movement of diseases and global health; world trade and financial inequality; migration and labor movements; and world religions and multiculturalism, among others. The course has a community work component; it asks students to interrogate the concepts, practices, processes, and events studied in class through and within their work within the Yonkers community. The course will help students situate the experience of migration, labor, finance, health, education, religion, and culture of Yonkers communities and individuals within wider and longer patterns of flows, structures, and networks between the Americas and the world.

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1970s New York City: Politics and Culture

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

“New York is the greatest city in the world—and everything is wrong with it.” This headline, which ran in January 1965 in the New York Herald Tribune, speaks to the duality that many people felt regarding New York City during the mid-20th century—a sentiment that continues today: the City can be a lovely place to experience, but it is not without its problems. And by the end of the 1960s, New York was plagued with problems. Population flight to the suburbs, and deindustrialization eviscerated tax revenues. Municipal austerity and privatization policies undercut the public programs. A city that had built a reputation on urban liberalism was now at a crossroads at the dawn of the ’70s. Perhaps most consequential, within this nexus of urban crises, was the City’s image reflected in popular culture that informed opinions of New York and exacerbated the perception of the City’s decline. This seminar explores the politics and culture of New York City during the 1970s. What do representations in popular culture, from cinema to comic books, say about the state of the City in that decade? Did those images match the reality of urban experiences at the time? What political ends did those images serve, and what consequences did they have for the future? Students will learn to outline the resonance of municipal policies, from urban renewal to the militarization of police, as they are reflected in popular culture. Historians will help guide our analysis of politics and culture; but, ultimately, students will interpret primary sources for themselves, developing a deeper understanding of this pivotal decade and how it shaped the future of New York City. In addition to in-class discussions, students will meet weekly with the instructor for individual conferences.

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Text and Context: Readings From the 20th-Century United States

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall | 3 credits

“But alas!” the aging Frederick Douglass wrote to the young activist Ida B. Wells. “Even crime has power to reproduce itself and create conditions favorable to its own existence. It sometimes seems that we are deserted by Earth and Heaven—yet we must still think, speak and work, and trust in the power of a merciful God for final deliverance.” Douglass had lived through enslavement, the Civil War, the unfinished revolution of Reconstruction, and the materialist savagery of the Gilded Age. He was writing to Wells during the 1890s, the nadir in race relations. Douglass had felt hope and felt deserted, as the years passed. This course will look hard at those who thought and worked through the prism of their historical moment, focusing on three discrete decade studies: the 1860s, the 1890s, and the 1920s. Themes will include shifting ideas about manhood and womanhood, enslavement and race, immigration, national identity, and social convention. Arguably, these were eras where repression prevailed, yet we will look at those who resisted the hard wind of culture, leaning against it despite feeling deserted, and creating space for later cultural, social and political change. Historians will inform our work, but much of it will be reading contemporaries, primary documents from the eras in question. (“Decades” will be defined loosely, with the 1860s beginning with Douglass’s narrative of enslavement in 1845.)

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The Edgy Enlightenment

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

Between the triumph of the Enlightenment in the mid-18th century and the rise of Romanticism in the 1790s lies a span of time, extending roughly from 1760 to 1800, populated by a variety of writers who foreshadowed the end of the Enlightenment without being truly “Romantic.” Many of the most exciting and influential works of literature and thought produced in the 18th century were products of this ambiguous period. For want of a better name, scholars have labeled some of these works “pre-Romantic.” It might be more useful to think of them as products of an “edgy Enlightenment”—a late, adventurous phase of the Enlightenment whose representatives had begun to question the Enlightenment’s own cherished beliefs and, in some cases, to discard them. In this course, we will read a number of the most famous texts produced by writers of the “edgy Enlightenment.” Some were originally written in French: Rousseau’s path-breaking autobiography, The Confessions; Diderot’s comic experimental novel, Jacques the Fatalist and His Master. We also will look at works by Scottish writers: Adam Ferguson’s prophetic Essay on the History of Civil Society and the racy poetry of Robert Burns. Finally, we will read a number of German classics of this period: Goethe’s pioneering novel of an actor’s personal development, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship; several plays by his close collaborator, Friedrich Schiller; short treatises by the brilliant philosopher Immanuel Kant; and selections from the writings of the renowned explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Students may undertake conference projects on a broad range of topics in European history.

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DIGGING: The Blues Ethos and Jazz Aesthetics in Black America

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

By the 20th century, African Americans produced distinctive ethos and aesthetics of pleasure in music and dance. Artists like Paul Robeson, Bessie Smith, Ma’ Rainey, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Lester Young, and Duke Ellington were paradigmatic in that cultural production. In turn, the Blues ethos and Jazz aesthetics influenced the African American imagination in social, political, economic, and cultural life. Students in this seminar are encouraged to research music, dance, art, theatre, film, sports, or architecture.

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War in the American Imagination

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

Americans often like to think of the United States as a nation founded on ideals, but the United States also was, as one historian has put it, a nation “founded in blood.” Valley Forge was once our Statue of Liberty. After all, the American Revolution was not just a struggle for the ideals of liberty and equality that Jefferson so eloquently expounded in the Declaration of Independence. It was also a war for independence from Britain; an international conflict that included France and Spain; and, let us not forget, a bitter and cruel civil war among Americans themselves. In effect, we were birthed as a nation divided. How did this legacy of bloodshed shape American identity? To what extent did Americans sacralize bloodshed and, thus, conflate it with idealism? We remember the Alamo, but can anyone recall the basis of our claim to that territory? Are we not here going further and actually equating bloodshed with idealism? To what extent did Americans see their later wars as an extension of the Revolutionary War? Was the Civil War a second American Revolution, or was the American Revolution the nation's first civil war? The course will examine these questions by looking at how Americans perceived and remembered the wars in which they fought, from the Revolution to the Vietnam War. Among the wars to be considered are the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Civil War, World War I, and World War II; the course will culminate with a role-play simulation of the debate over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In effect, the course offers an exploration into how we may “see things not as they are but as we are.”

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Gaming the Past II: The Struggle for Democracy

Open, Large seminar—Spring | 5 credits

It is 1787, and you are a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Will the proposed Constitution save the fragile new nation from falling into anarchy, or is it an instrument of tyranny that threatens to destroy the freedoms that the revolutionaries fought so hard to defend? These are some of the questions the course will ask you to confront as you engage in role-play simulations of three seminal moments in the development of democracy—going back to ancient Athens after the Peloponnesian War, then moving to the Constitutional Convention, and ending with the struggle for women’s suffrage among the Bohemians of Greenwich Village in the early 20th century. Students will be assigned roles representing the different contestants in these conflicts and asked to reenact the debates over them. To prepare for their roles, students will read relevant primary and secondary sources and write position papers expressing their character’s views. Students should be aware that the process of playing these historical roles and immersing themselves in an earlier time can be emotionally intense and even uncomfortable. To enter the world of these historical figures—a world where people of European descent considered themselves more civilized than others, where women were viewed as subordinate to men, and where aristocrats saw themselves as superior to ordinary people—students should be prepared to engage in and express views that are alien and, indeed, at times aversive to them. The course thus aims to show how much “the past is a foreign country,” as the writer L. P. Hartley once put it, and to cultivate a sense of historical empathy by trying to understand that foreignness on its own terms.

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Postrevolutionary Chinese Fiction: The Novel as History in a Neoliberal Age

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

This seminar looks to mainland and Taiwanese fiction as a window on recent Chinese history. In the 1980s, China emerged from the paroxysms of the Maoist period (1949-76) and began its transition toward a market-based economy. Accompanying this economic liberalization, many of the tight political controls on writers were (temporarily) loosened. All types of literature, but particularly fiction, boomed. China returned to its rich heritage of a book culture, with a mass book market sustained by avid consumers. And Chinese fiction has won an international audience and acclaim, culminating in 2011 with MO Yan’s Nobel Prize in literature. Since then, however, political controls by the increasingly authoritarian state have been tightened again. Literature, thus, stands at the heart of China’s postrevolutionary history. We will interrogate fictional works in postrevolutionary China for how they deal with and understand a rapidly changing society and economy. What are the legacies of decades of revolution for Chinese literature? By examining narratives that deal with the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), we will look at how writers have assessed and appropriated the Maoist period, especially the experience of intellectuals “sent down” to the countryside. How did the “nativist” fiction of the 1980s and 1990s reevaluate Chinese tradition and traditional society? Urban fiction, often decadent and gritty, will raise issues of how authors and narratives portray China’s breakneck economic development? What is the relationship between art and politics in these works? Do they tacitly support or subtly resist political authoritarianism? We will also look at Taiwanese literature from the 1960s through the 1990s, as it, too, grappled with economic development, its political basis, and social effects. Along the way, we will encounter MO Yan’s blood-drenched bandit heroes; YU Hua’s long-suffering peasant; SU Tong’s vicious sadists; disaffected urban youths in an age of sex, drugs, and rock and roll; HAN Shaogong’s novel written in the form of a dictionary; and BAI Xianyong’s homosexual young men searching for love. The majority of the course consists of fiction from mainland China and Taiwan, but we will also read some short memoir pieces by novelists and the debates in Western media about MO Yan’s 2011 Nobel Prize. There is no prerequisite knowledge of China (history or literature) required for this course.

Faculty

Gendered Histories of Sickness and Health in Africa

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

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

Faculty

Women on the Edge: Literature, Politics, and Culture in the 20th Century United States

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring | 3 credits

A friend put her arms around Edna Pontellier, feeling her shoulder blades, in Kate Chopin’s 1899 novel The Awakening. Why? To see if her wings were strong. “The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings,” she told Edna. “It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.” In this course, we will read the work of US women writers who soar “above the level plain of tradition and prejudice.” Historians will help us understand the worlds in which the writers live and, hence, the strength that they must use to offer their voices; however, we will largely focus on women writers outside of the worlds of privilege in which Edna lived. Those women will include recent immigrants like Anzia Yezierska, Harlem Renaissance writers like Nella Larsen, struggling Midwest farm women like Josephine Johnson, closeted radical women in lesbian pulps like Valerie Taylor, early Civil Rights activists like Ann Petry, and powerful cultural critics like Toni Morrison and Sandra Cisneros, among others. Taught mainly through primary sources, this course will bracket those novels and stories with scholarship in order to provide a sense of historical context.

Faculty

Propaganda and Mass Communications in Modern History

Intermediate, Large seminar—Spring | 5 credits

Prerequisite: one year of college-level course work in history and the social sciences

This seminar provides an interdisciplinary analysis of the phenomenon of propaganda and mass communications within modern society. How does propaganda “work”? How should we characterize the individuals and institutions that shape and disseminate it? What are the specific languages and visual symbols that propagandists have typically used to persuade and communicate with mass audiences? How have both “democratic” and “authoritarian” societies sought to generate consent? And how, in turn, have individuals and social groups drawn the line between what is truth and what is propaganda? Although the manipulation of information for political ends has been intrinsic to human societies across history, this course focuses on the so-called “axial age of propaganda,” beginning with World War I, which saw the emergence of tightly organized, large-scale, government-sponsored propaganda efforts across Europe and the United States. This course will utilize a variety of case studies to explore the symbolic content of specific kinds of propaganda and the institutional milieux that produce it, paying attention to propaganda that seeks both to overthrow social structures and to maintain them. We will place special emphasis on the interwar period, when—amid the onset of totalitarian regimes in Europe—the very nature of “public opinion” and mass society were hotly debated by intellectuals and interpretive experts. The course will also closely investigate the emergence of mass communications “experts” during World War II and trace their role in shaping social-science research throughout the Cold War. Finally, the course will consider the ubiquity of propaganda in contemporary society, focusing on the role of image-making professionals working in the spheres of political campaigning, advertising, and public relations.

Faculty

Understanding Experience: Phenomenological Approaches in Anthropology

Open, Seminar—Fall

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

Faculty

Gendering in African Postcolonies

Sophomore and Above, Large seminar—Spring

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

Faculty

First-Year Studies: Gods, Heroes, and Kings: Art and Myth in the Ancient World

FYS—Year

In modern terms, myth has come to be commonly understood as the antithesis of history. Whereas history is taken as a reasoned, factual account of the past and how things came to be, myth appears to operate in the realm of fiction or fantasy. Myths may have the claim of venerable tradition, but they are no longer accepted as an accurate record of events. The ancient world, however, made no such black-and-white distinctions. In antiquity, myth was accepted as early history. Its heroes were real, and their actions were thought to exemplify essential paradigms of political order and morality. Consequently, this course will apply a different approach in which myth is distinguished from history not by a truth test but, rather, by virtue of its function as a means of cultural self-representation. We shall examine the myths of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome—both in their literary form and in various media of visual art. Throughout, our goal will be to understand the potency of these narratives as vehicles of social or cultural values and as tools of power legitimizing and justifying closely entwined notions of religious and political authority. The course will close by considering how, in Late Antiquity, Christian narratives and ideologies in the literary and visual arts developed from the mythic traditions that preceded them.

Faculty

The Paths of the World: Italian Renaissance Art and the Beginning of Globalization (15th and 16th Centuries)

Open, Lecture—Fall

The Renaissance was possibly the first true global movement of ideas resonating across different continents, with exciting new paths traveled by both men and objects. At a time of new geographical discoveries and new trade routes, artistic and cultural exchanges between distant cultures were becoming increasingly frequent. This course is an exploration of Renaissance art in Italy through a selection of places (Florence, Venice, and Rome but also other minor centers) and objects analyzed in the context of the so-called “early-modern globalization.” Focusing primarily on painting and sculpture but with occasional forays into architecture, printmaking, and collecting, this course emphasizes episodes of exchange, encounter, and cross-cultural influences and looks at art objects as symptoms of cultural “cross-fertilization” that embody influences from both near and far.

 

Faculty

Theatrum Mundi: Baroque Art and the Wonders of the World

Open, Lecture—Spring

This course analyzes the artistic and architectural production from the Baroque period (c. 1590-1700) through a global perspective. At the end of the 16th century, the consolidation of international power through trade and early colonialism—along with the expansion of the Catholic missionary movement—accelerated the process of globalization already started in the previous century, with important cultural and artistic consequences. Style and content of artworks underwent important changes, as artists grappled with new ideas, forms, and meanings. This course emphasizes cross-cultural interconnections in this era, looking at dynamics of transmission and exchanges between different places—Europe, Asia, and the Americas—while still examining critical monuments and artists long considered canonical. In addition to art and architecture, we will examine natural and artificial objects that, brought to Europe from distant lands, painted an exciting picture of a world filled with countless wonders.

Faculty

The Ancient Mediterranean

Open, Seminar—Year

Although the Romans come to mind most immediately as the people who absorbed and passed on the achievements of Greek civilization to the Western world, the transmission of Greek culture to Western posterity was a far more complex process involving various other peoples. Already during the late second millennium BC, Greek culture began to interact with that of its neighbors in the Near East and Egypt to produce a common, “international,” Eastern Mediterranean cultural zone. Later, after a period of collapse and regression in the early first millennium BC, renewed contact with the East would revitalize and revolutionize Greek culture which, in due course, came to dominate the entire Mediterranean region—even among Near Eastern peoples like the Phoenicians, who had formerly been the teachers of the Greeks. But it was especially among the peoples of Italy—above all, the Etruscans and early Romans—that Greek artistic and literary culture took root. No other region was ever able to absorb Greek ideas so thoroughly and consistently while also managing to preserve a unique cultural identity. In the end, it would be the Romans rather than the Greeks themselves who would spread and administer an advanced stage of Hellenism from western Asia to Britain. The course will explore these issues for the entire year. The fall portion, The Early Greeks and Their Neighbors, will first examine the beginnings of Greek civilization in the Late Bronze Age—its relation to Minoan Crete and Egypt, as well as connections with the Hittites, Phoenicians, and Assyrians to the east. Then, we will consider the so-called “Orientalizing” process in which the Greeks adapted Phoenician and Egyptian culture to produce a distinctive new civilization in the seventh and sixth centuries BC. The spring half of the course, Ancient Italy and the Hellenization of the West, will focus on how the Greeks affected Italic peoples like the Etruscans and, above all, the Romans—who emerged as the dominant political force in Italy and then across the Mediterranean and southern Europe. The course will apply a varied approach, concentrating largely on material culture, art, and architecture but also on literary and historical data in order to achieve a larger cultural perspective.

Faculty

The Atom Bombs as History, Experience, and Culture: Washington, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki

Open, Lecture—Fall

In January 2018, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists set the hands of the Doomsday Clock (yes, it’s a thing) at two minutes to midnight—the nearest it has been to catastrophe since 1953. Since then, yet another 20 seconds have been ticked off due to the multiple threats (ecological, biological, political, and, always, nuclear) that are now part of the Bulletin’s Clock calculations. Within the past two years, the world saw Donald Trump goading Kim Jong-un with tweets about the size of his nuclear “button.” In late 2019, Putin announced that Russia has developed “invincible” hypersonic nuclear missiles capable of hitting virtually anywhere on the globe. And in early 2022, North Korea has pushed ahead with hypersonic missile tests, as well. With world leaders continuing to flirt with the prospect of nuclear holocaust, an understanding of the only instance of nuclear warfare is again relevant, even crucial, to today’s world. Through a rich variety of sources (textual, visual, and cinematic), this lecture-seminar hybrid course will examine the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in August 1945, from three major perspectives. First, reading scholarship and primary documents, we will look at the decision to drop the bombs, as well as the postwar claims justifying them. We will challenge the American narrative that the bombings were militarily necessary while also putting them into the historical context of World War II, specifically strategic bombing of nonmilitary targets, prospects of Japanese surrender in the final months of the conflict, and the looming Cold War with Russia. Second, we will confront the effects of the bombs on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and their populations. Technical descriptions and firsthand accounts will help us grasp the unique destructiveness of the atomic bombs on both bodies and buildings, as well as how people coped with that destructiveness. The diary of HACHIYA Michihiko, for example, will reveal a medical doctor’s observations on the breakdown of society and how ordinary Japanese dealt with the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. And, finally, the course examines the impact of the bombs on Japan’s postwar culture, including the profound sense of victimization they imparted, which has complicated Japanese narratives about World War II and inspired an abiding pacifism in Japanese society. In a different vein, serious literature written by survivors will open up the relevance of atomic narratives by exploring the social alienation endured by the italichibakusha (bomb survivors) in postwar Japan. TOMATSU Shomei’s photography of Nagasaki and its italichibakusha will provide a visual window on the bombs’ legacy, as well. And we will also examine some popular culture—the original (1954) Godzilla (Gojirō) movie and some anime or manga—for the ways the bombs were appropriated and invoked in apocalyptic imagery, imagery that expressed a distinctive understanding of the dark side of science and technology and made a lasting contribution to wider global culture. This course will consist of weekly lectures, paired with a weekly seminar meeting for close discussion of our syllabus readings. Each student, thus, must not only attend the lecture but also choose one of the three seminar section times.

Faculty

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 and the rise of commercialism in the Tokugawa era lay the socioeconomic foundation for Japan’s political and economic modernity in the late 19th century? And did deep changes in Qing China society destabilize the delicate 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 that we now call China and Japan formed, and how was nationalism constructed (and re-constructed) 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.

Faculty

Reading China’s Revolutions Through Literature and Memoir

Open, Seminar—Fall

Some of the most revealing and groundbreaking prose written in 20th-century China is to be found in neither history nor politics but in fiction and memoir. The premise of this course is that literature offers an important glimpse into the individual, social, and cultural consequences of China’s revolutions. More specifically, the course will look at the literature produced following the 1911 revolution and May Fourth Movement, the 1949 Communist Revolution, the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and the post-Mao era (1976-2000). Our reading will involve methods of both literary analysis and historical criticism. Topics to be explored include: the ways in which early writers viewed the problems of traditional literature, the proper form and function of revolution, and the role of literature in bringing about social change. We will also look at the ways in which some writers (among them Lu Xun and Ding Ling) created new narrative techniques to embody their vision of social realism and in which others adopted Western literary techniques to convey their self-image as “modern” or “international” writers.

Faculty

Postrevolutionary Chinese Fiction: The Novel as History in a Neoliberal Age

Open, Seminar—Spring

This seminar looks to mainland and Taiwanese fiction as a window on recent Chinese history. In the 1980s, China emerged from the paroxysms of the Maoist period (1949-76) and began its transition toward a market-based economy. Accompanying this economic liberalization, many of the tight political controls on writers were (temporarily) loosened. All types of literature, but particularly fiction, boomed. China returned to its rich heritage of a book culture, with a mass book market sustained by avid consumers. And Chinese fiction has won an international audience and acclaim, culminating in 2011 with MO Yan’s Nobel Prize in literature. Since then, however, political controls by the increasingly authoritarian state have been tightened again. Literature, thus, stands at the heart of China’s postrevolutionary history. We will interrogate fictional works in postrevolutionary China for how they deal with and understand a rapidly changing society and economy. What are the legacies of decades of revolution for Chinese literature? By examining narratives that deal with the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), we will look at how writers have assessed and appropriated the Maoist period, especially the experience of intellectuals “sent down” to the countryside. How did the “nativist” fiction of the 1980s and 1990s reevaluate Chinese tradition and traditional society? Urban fiction, often decadent and gritty, will raise issues of how authors and narratives portray China’s breakneck economic development? What is the relationship between art and politics in these works? Do they tacitly support or subtly resist political authoritarianism? We will also look at Taiwanese literature from the 1960s through the 1990s, as it, too, grappled with economic development, its political basis, and social effects. Along the way, we will encounter MO Yan’s blood-drenched bandit heroes; YU Hua’s long-suffering peasant; SU Tong’s vicious sadists; disaffected urban youths in an age of sex, drugs, and rock and roll; HAN Shaogong’s novel written in the form of a dictionary; and BAI Xianyong’s homosexual young men searching for love. The majority of the course consists of fiction from mainland China and Taiwan, but we will also read some short memoir pieces by novelists and the debates in Western media about MO Yan’s 2011 Nobel Prize. There is no prerequisite knowledge of China (history or literature) required for this course.

Faculty

Viruses and Pandemics

Open, Seminar—Fall

Ebola, smallpox, influenza, rabies...these and other viruses are the smallest lifeforms on Earth, yet they are one of the most powerful and devastating biological forces ever unleashed. Throughout human history, virally-caused pandemics have periodically ravaged human populations—altering the social fabric, confounding political and medical responses, and revealing the fragility of the human species. Examples range from the Antonine Plague, which killed five-million people during the time of the Roman empire, to the 15-million deaths during the Cocoliztli epidemic of the 1600s in Mexico and Central America, to the Spanish flu pandemic of the early 20th century that claimed an estimated 50- to 100-million victims. The current COVID-19 pandemic has reminded the world of the dominance of viruses and exposed the challenges of confronting these microscopic pathogens on a global scale. This course will examine the biology and behavior of viruses, the role of such pathogens in inducing different pandemics throughout the course of history, and the means by which they can rapidly spread through a population. We will explore how vaccines, quarantines, and other medical, social and political responses work to mitigate and eventually overcome viral outbreaks, as well as how we track down and study pathogenic viruses. During the course, we will consider the representation of viruses through readings drawn from texts such as Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone, John Barry’s The Great Influenza, and C. J. Peters’ Virus Hunter.

Faculty

Elemental Epics: Stories of Love, War, Madness, and Murder From the Periodic Table of the Elements

Open, Lecture—Fall

The periodic table displays the chemical elements according to the structure of their atoms and, consequently, their chemical properties. The periodic table also represents a treasure trove of fascinating stories that span both natural and human history. Many of the elements on the table have influenced key historical events and shaped individual lives. In this course, we will tour the periodic table and learn how the stories of the discovery and investigation of the elements fuse science with human drama—from murders to cures for deadly diseases and from new technologies to the fall of civilizations.

Faculty

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

FYS—Year

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

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

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

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

Faculty

Econometric Analysis: Structural Explorations in the Social Sciences

Open, Lecture—Year

This course is designed for all students interested in the social sciences who wish to understand the methodology and techniques involved in the estimation of structural relationships between variables. The course is intended for students who wish to be able to carry out empirical work in their particular field, both at Sarah Lawrence College and beyond, and critically engage empirical work done by academic or professional social scientists. The practical, hands-on approach taken in this course will be useful to those students who wish to do future conference projects in the social (or natural) sciences with significant empirical content. The course will also be invaluable for students who are seeking internships, planning to enter the job market, or desiring to pursue graduate education in the social sciences and public policy. After taking this course, students will be able to analyze questions such as the following: What is the relationship between slavery and the development of capitalist industrialization in the United States? What effects do race, gender, and educational attainment have in the determination of wages? How does the female literacy rate affect the child mortality rate? How can one model the effect of economic growth on carbon-dioxide emissions? What is the relationship among sociopolitical instability, inequality, and economic growth? How do geographic location and state spending affect average public-school teacher salaries? How do socioeconomic factors determine the crime rate in the United States? During the course of the year, we will study all of these questions. In the first semester, we will cover the theoretical and applied statistical principles that underlie Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression techniques. We will begin with the assumptions needed to obtain the Best Linear Unbiased Estimates of a regression equation, also known as the “BLUE” conditions. Particular emphasis will be placed on the assumptions regarding the distribution of a model’s error term and other BLUE conditions. We will also cover hypothesis testing, sample selection, and the critical role of the t- and F-statistic in determining the statistical significance of an econometric model and its associated slope or “β” parameters. Further, we will address the three main problems associated with the violation of a particular BLUE assumption: multicollinearity, serial correlation, and heteroscedasticity. We will learn how to identify, address, and remedy each of these problems. In addition, we will take a similar approach to understanding and correcting model specification errors. The spring semester class will build on the fall class by introducing students to advanced topics in econometrics. We will study difference-in-difference estimators, autoregressive dependent lag (ARDL) models, co-integration, and error correction models involving nonstationary time series. We will investigate simultaneous equations systems, vector error correction (VEC), and vector autoregressive (VAR) models. The final part of the seminar will involve the study of panel data, as well as logit/probit models. As with the fall class, the spring class will also be very “hands-on,” in that students will get ample exposure to concrete issues while also being encouraged to consider basic methodological questions (e.g., the debates between John Maynard Keynes and Jan Tinbergen) regarding the power and limitations of econometric analysis. The spring semester is particularly relevant to students who wish to pursue graduate studies in a social-science discipline, although it will be equally relevant for those seeking other types of graduate degrees that involve knowledge of intermediate-level quantitative analysis.

Faculty

Political Economy of Women

Open, Seminar—Year

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

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History of Political Economy and Economic History

Open, Seminar—Year

In this yearlong seminar, the fall semester will be devoted to the study of the theoretical debates on the history of economic and legal thought. It will be shown that the study of economics is incomplete without an understanding of the relationship of the economy to law and politics. These theoretical debates will be linked to transformations in capitalism in a number of different geographic contexts, especially the United States, Europe, and Africa. The dominant approach in contemporary economics is the neoclassical school. This course will introduce students to the origins, foundational tools and questions, and analytical constructs at the heart of both neoclassical and other schools of thought in economics. In the fall, the first part of the course will deal with what is called classical political economy (primarily Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx). Next, given that property, contracts, and torts are at the core of markets, the course will integrate the path-breaking insights from the linked American Legal Realist and Original Institutional Economics traditions to understand the legal institutional foundations of markets. The final part of the course will deal with the perspectives of some of the major founders of the neoclassical school (Léon Walras, William Stanley Jevons, and John Bates Clark) and their debates with institutional economists during the interwar period. Finally, the contemporary New Institutional Economics framework, with its foundations in neoclassical economics, will be compared with the insights of the original institutional economists and legal realists. The spring semester will be devoted to the study of two major topics: business history (including the study of colonialism, race, and slavery) and monetary history. The goal of the spring semester is to enable students to reflect on the applicability (or otherwise) of the theoretical perspectives discussed in the fall.

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Workshop on Sustainability Solutions at Sarah Lawrence College

Sophomore and Above, Large seminar—Year

As we want to engage in individual and collective efforts toward sustainable and climate-change mitigating solutions, this workshop offers students the opportunity to explore the multiple ways in which “sustainability” can be fostered and developed at an institution like Sarah Lawrence College. Meeting once a week, students will work in small groups on a variety of projects and produce research and educational material that can lead to concrete and actionable proposals for the College and our community to consider. Students will determine their own areas of interest and research, from energy and water usage monitoring to composting solutions, recycling/reusing and consumer sobriety, landscaping choices, pollinators and natural diversity, food growing, natural and human history of the land, and/or community collaborations, to name a few. As part of their project effort, students will engage with college administrators who are actively working toward sustainable solutions, as well as with student, staff and faculty groups such as the Warren Green vegetable garden, the Sarah Lawrence Interdisciplinary Collective on the Environment (SLICE), and the Sustainability Committee. We will also explore the possibility of writing grants in coordination with other actors at the college. This workshop will meet for 1.5 hours once a week; it is offered as pass/fail, based on both attendance and a group project that will mostly be developed during our meeting time. All skills and areas of expertise are welcome, from environmental science to writing and visual and studio arts, but any interest in issues of sustainability and a strong sense of dedication will suffice!

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History and Aesthetics of Film

Open, Lecture—Year

This class will provide both a detailed survey of the history of moving-image art and an introduction to key aesthetic and theoretical concepts in the study of film. We will study the major elements of film form—editing, cinematography, sound, mise-en-scène—as phenomena emerging from specific historical contexts and chart their development both over time and also as they travel around the world. While the emphasis of the earlier part of the course will be on film’s European and American origins, we will approach film as a truly global phenomenon with considerable attention devoted to East and South Asian, African, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cinemas. While the basic structure of the course will be chronological, we will develop the vocabulary and viewing skills necessary to identify and analyze the key components of film texts as we proceed; for example, our examination of editing will be situated within our discussion of 1920s American and Soviet cinema, while possible uses and aesthetic implications of sound will be examined alongside a number of diverse early experiments with sound. Other key moments to be studied will include the development of “classical” Hollywood cinema (and challenges to it), the emergence of new national art cinemas in the post-World War II era, the radical cinema of the 1960s and ’70s, and developments in film aesthetics since the introduction of digital filmmaking techniques in the 1990s. Key theoretical approaches in film studies will also be situated in their historical context, including early debates around film’s status as art from the 1910s and ’20s, inquiries into the relationship between photography and reality from the post-World War II period, and different critical approaches to the analysis of the ideological implications of film and its relationship to the spectator.

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The Working Girl Around the World

Open, Lecture—Spring

Since the Lumière brothers filmed their female employees leaving the factory in 1895, the "working girl" has become a fixture of global cinema. This lecture course approaches this archetypal modern character as a foundational figure for film history and an important vernacular link for national film industries competing with Hollywood. We begin by asking: What is a working girl? How has the category changed over the course of the 20th century, as the category has circulated around the globe? And how, despite its fraught ideological construction, can we turn the category into a tool for intersectional feminist film history? With these questions in mind, we launch our investigation in the United States and Europe—and then move onto the Soviet Union, Japan, China, India, South Korea, Mexico, Senegal, and Cameroon—by reading classic film theory, short fiction, and local histories of film culture and gendered labor alongside films about shopgirls, dancing girls, telephone girls, factory girls, office girls, laundresses, and maids. Topics to be discussed include working girls as moviegoers, cultural imperialism and vernacular modernism, migration and mass reproduction, sex work, workplace romance, and contradictions of capital and care. In this class, students will conduct comparative, multimedia analyses of film texts and read global film history through the globalization of modern gendered labor.

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Space, Place, and Uneven Development: Building the Countermap of New York City

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

The 1981 collection, This Bridge Called My Back (edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua), is a landmark text in women’s political and organizing literature. Forty years later, the text understandably no longer sits comfortably alongside our more contemporary critiques of gender and class. Despite its limits, and what no longer ages well, Audre Lorde’s essay, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House, still resonates. We find the adage in our texts to one another, in our organizing materials, and in our own writing. For geographers, generally, and mappers, specifically, we encounter Lorde’s provocation every time we decide to map. The history of cartography is inexplicably linked to the history of imperialism and colonialism. Maps built the master’s house. And yet, despite this, countermaps of our experiences have also emerged to tell our stories of resistance. What do we make of this? Are they, too, tools that eventually undermine our efforts to carve out a different way of being and doing? Or are they truly radical bulwarks against racial capitalism? Whereas the Critical Cartography course in the fall focused on geography literature as it relates to GIS, this course discusses the politics of placemaking and, therefore, necessarily combines feminist, urban, and economic geography literatures. Here, we will situate what we already technically and critically know about spatial practices into the much broader context of placemaking in the unequal city. Our focus is New York, but our lens is varied. Student conference projects will focus on identifying particular vectors of inequality in New York, illustrating the spatial aspects of social, environmental, economic, or any other issue of the student’s choosing. This course will also be an opportunity for students to explore alternative, qualitative mapping practices.

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Intermediate German

Intermediate, Small seminar—Year

This course places strong emphasis on expanding vocabulary and thoroughly reviewing grammar, as well as on developing oral and written expression. The aim of the course is to give students more fluency and to prepare them for a possible junior year in Germany. Readings in the fall will consist of short stories, fairy tales, and a graphic novel called Heimat​ (Home). In the spring semester, we will focus on 20th-century stories, historical essays, and some films in order to learn about the major phases of German history and culture between 1871 and today. All materials are linguistically accessible and promote an understanding of the culture’s fundamental values and way of looking at the world. A solid grammar review, based on the book German Grammar in Review, will help students further improve their speaking and writing skills. Regular conferences with Ms. Mizelle will supplement class work, help improve fluency and pronunciation, and emphasize conversational conventions for expressing opinions and leading discussions.

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Advanced German: Postwar German Literature and Film

Advanced, Small Lecture—Fall

Find the full description for this course under Literature.

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Advanced German: Home, Exile, and Emigration in German Literature

Advanced, Small Lecture—Spring

Find the full description for this course under Literature.

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Readings in Intermediate Greek

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

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

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Intermediate Greek: Poetry and Prose

Intermediate, Small seminar—Spring

In this course, students of Ancient Greek will choose two texts, one by a prose author and one by a poet, for close reading over the semester. Examples of texts might be: Herodotus’ Histories and the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, or the poems of Sappho and Plato’s Symposium. Our goal will be to investigate poetic and prosaic literary constructs, review grammar, and to read different types of Ancient Greek texts.

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Beginning Italian: Viaggio in Italia

Open, Seminar—Year

This course, for students with no previous knowledge of Italian, aims at giving the student a complete foundation in the Italian language with particular attention to oral and written communication and all aspects of Italian culture. The course will be conducted in Italian after the first month and will involve the study of all basic structures of the language—phonological, grammatical, and syntactical—with practice in conversation, reading, composition, and translation. In addition to material covering basic Italian grammar, students will be exposed to fiction, poetry, songs, articles, recipe books, and films. Group conferences (held once a week) aim at enriching the students’ knowledge of Italian culture and developing their ability to communicate. This will be achieved by readings that deal with current events and topics relative to today’s Italian culture. Activities in pairs or groups, along with short written assignments, will be part of the group conference. In addition to class and group conferences, the course has a conversation component in regular workshops with the language assistant. Conversation classes are held twice a week (in small groups) and will center on the concept of viaggio in Italia: a journey through the regions of Italy through cuisine, cinema, art, opera, and dialects. The Italian program organizes trips to the Metropolitan Opera and relevant exhibits in New York City, as well as offering the possibility of experiencing Italian cuisine firsthand as a group. The course is for a full year, by the end of which students will attain a basic competence in all aspects of the language.

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Intermediate Italian: Modern Italian Culture and Literature

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

This 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 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, during which 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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Beginning Latin

Open, Seminar—Year

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

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First-Year Studies: The Invention of Homosexuality

FYS—Year

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

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

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

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

FYS—Year

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

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First-Year Studies: Text and Theatre

FYS—Year

This course explores the relation between the play as written text and the play as a staged event. More than any other literary form, drama depends upon a specific place and time—a theatre and its audience—for its realization. The words of a play are the fossils of a cultural experience; they provide the decipherable means by which we can reconstruct approximations of the living past. With this goal in mind, we will read and examine texts from Ancient Greece to contemporary New York (with many stops in between) in an attempt to understand the range of dramatic possibility and the human challenge of making theatre. This course will have weekly conferences for the first six weeks and biweekly conferences thereafter.

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Reading High Romanticism: Blake to Keats

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

This lecture focuses on the interpretation and appreciation of the most influential lyric poems written in English in the tumultuous decades between the French Revolution and the Reform Act of 1832. Over the course of two generations, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats invented a new kind of autobiographical poem that largely internalized the myths that they had inherited from literary and religious traditions. The poet’s inward, subjective experience became the inescapable subject of the poem—a legacy that continues to this day. We will be exploring ways in which the English Romantic poets responded to the political impasse of their historical moment and created poems out of their arguments with themselves, as well as their arguments with one another. Our preeminent goal will be to understand each poem’s unique contribution to the language.

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Postwar German Literature and Film

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

In this course, we will study short stories about the war by Heinrich Böll; plays about a German soldier coming home from the war and having no home anymore (by Wolfgang Borchert); Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit; Max Frisch’s parable about antisemitism; Peter Weiss’ play about the Auschwitz trials in Germany; Schlink’s famous and problematic novel, The Reader; Eugen Ruge’s In Times of Fading Light, a family novel covering East German history; Judith Herman’s (post)feminist stories; creative nonfiction by Anna Funders, about a young girl who wanted to get across the Berlin Wall; Sebald’s haunting novel, Austerlitz, about a man dealing with the trauma of his Kindertransport; and Belonging, the graphic novel by Nora Krug about a German woman who is exploring her family’s history. The list of films includes Murderer Among Us, Germany Pale Mother, The Lives of Others, and the comedy Good-bye Lenin. Thematically, all these texts and movies are tied by one common theme: the question of how German writers and filmmakers were dealing with the legacy of National Socialism and Stalinism in East Germany.

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Plundered: Tales of Extractivism and Resistance

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

First, it was gold. Then, it was silver, sugar, oil...bananas, avocados. Taking as its point of departure Eduardo Galeano’s foundational study, The Open Veins of Latin America, this course will explore the centuries-long history of plunder—and resistance—in Abya Yala through fiction and nonfiction, feature films, and documentaries. We will look at some of the most pressing environmental and social-justice issues in the region—including deforestation, industrial pollution, and access to water—with an eye toward the relationship between activism and artistic expression. Our contextualized readings and viewings will include public statements and creative works from land defenders; Pablo Neruda’s condemnation of neoimperialism in his poem, The United Fruit Company; Samanta Schweblin’s gothic novel about the horrors of agrochemicals; a narrative film set against the successful uprising against water privatization in Bolivia; and frontline journalism. This course will focus on the lands colonized by Spain and Portugal and the intersecting forms of neocolonial violence to which they continue to be subjected but will not lose sight of the resonances between these histories and those that took, and are taking, place across the continent. This interactive small lecture will fully participate in the collaborative interludes and other programs of the Sarah Lawrence Interdisciplinary Collaborative on the Environment (SLICE) Mellon course cluster.

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Home, Exile, and Emigration in German Literature

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

Human history has always been characterized by the forced or voluntary migration of groups of people or individuals. In this small lecture, we will analyze stories, novels, and some theoretical texts about the dialectical relationship between the concepts of “home” and “exile.” While our principal focus will lie on the interpretation of German literary texts from the 18th century until today, this lecture will begin with selected stories from the Old Testament (Pentateuch) in order to illustrate what, perhaps, can be called “the archetypal dimension of exile”; i.e., the fact that “being in exile”—no longer “at home”—seems to be the existential and psychological norm and not the exception of our human existence. This lecture is not a historical overview of literary representations of “home” and “exile”; rather, we will explore (through some “case studies”) the various meanings that writers such as Goethe, Hesse, E. T. A Hoffmann, Sigmund Freud, Anna Seghers, Sebald, and other contemporary German writers have attributed to the relationship of being “in exile” and being “at home.” Theoretical essays by Edward Said, Julia Kristeva, and others will provide us with some critical vocabulary to speak and write about this topic.

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Literature in Translation: 20th-Century Italian Literature and Culture

Open, Seminar—Fall

The course will explore 20th-century Italian literature, focusing on important intellectuals, works, and movements that helped shape it and their connection with the arts, cinema, and society at large. Italy had become a unified nation by 1860, and its literature addressed issues such as (national and personal) identity, tradition, innovation and modernity, the role of literature and of the writer, and the changing role of women in Italian society. We will explore the interrelation between Italian literature and crucial historical events—such as the Great War, the rise and fall of fascism, World War II, the Resistance, the birth of the Republic, the postwar economic boom, the students’ and women’s movements of the 1960s and ’70s, the terrorism of the “Anni di Piombo”—until the recent contribution of migration literature to the Italian literary canon. Among the authors and intellectuals, we will explore Sibilla Aleramo for her literary treatment of the issue of female emancipation at the beginning of the century; Luigi Pirandello and his work as a novelist and playwright; Gabriele D’Annunzio as a poet, playwright, and novelist but also a war hero and politician; F. T. Marinetti, whose futurist manifestos and literary works reflected his desire to renew Italian art, literature, and culture in general; B. Mussolini’s fascist regime, its dictates, and their influence on propaganda literature and cinema; Ignazio Silone’s novels on the fascist era; Roberto Rossellini’s neorealist cinema; Italo Calvino’s, Beppe Fenoglio’s, and Elio Vittorini’s literature of the Resistance; Primo Levi’s depiction of The Holocaust; and women writers such as Anna Banti, Natalia Ginzburg, Elsa Morante, and Dacia Maraini. Readings will be supplemented by secondary source material that will help outline the social, historical, and political context in which these authors lived and wrote, as well as provide a relevant critical framework for the study of their works. On occasion, we will watch films that are relevant to the topics and period in question. No previous knowledge of Italian is required. Students proficient in Italian may opt to read sources in the original language and write their conference projects in Italian. Conference topics may include the study of a particular author, literary text, or topic relevant to the course and that might be of interest to the student.

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Imagining Imperialism

Open, Seminar—Fall

Traditional imperialism is generally understood to be the policy of extending a state’s authority by territorial acquisition. Neoimperialism is generally understood to be the establishment of economic and political hegemony over other states. Because 19th-century European imperialism was remarkably dynamic and expanded over much of the globe—by 1914, the only truly sovereign states not controlled by Europeans or their descendants were Japan, what were then called Abyssinia and Siam, and Afghanistan—we tend to see imperialism through the prism of race. But this can be a distorting prism, because imperialism is almost as old as politics. The first Sumerian cities were part of imperial arrangements. And, over the millennia, imperialism has been almost indifferent to race (in our sense of the word) as often as it has been racially-charged. So, while we will look at some of the ways in which imperialism maps onto modern conceptions of race and racism, we will also examine older imperial ventures and arguments. The indictments of and apologies for imperialism are richly contradictory, Imperialism has been understood as the cause of war and as the only possible escape from war, as the instrument of civilization and as the devastating exposure of the moral claims of the “civilized,” as the hidden economic base of wealthy societies and as an economically irrational and self-destructive course that brings down wealthy societies. The clash of rival imperialisms is often seen as the great and terrible drama of the last century, and the new century has been touted as inaugurating a burst of self-conscious imperialism by the United States—which had long understood itself as a vigorously anti-imperial power while being seen by many as the most successful imperial power of modern history. In this course, we shall look at some of the literature, history, and theories of imperialism. Readings may include, among others, Thucydides, Xenophon, Virgil, Gibbon, Marx, Conrad, Kipling, Schumpeter, Joseph Roth, Orwell, and Shaw. We shall also look at contemporary theorists and use some secondary sources.

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Gothic Decay: The Literature and Science of Soils, Swamps, and Forests

Open, Joint seminar—Spring

Western literature and culture deeply influence how our country negatively perceives transitional spaces, such as the spaces between cultivated land and forest or between water and land. The need for control pushes us to reshape or eliminate marshes, swamps, thickets, and other forms of overgrowth. Similarly, we feel uncomfortable considering the soils in which we bury our dead—or we ignore them completely. Yet, a closer examination of the biology of decay reveals cycles of life that follow death, with growth, reproduction, and nutrient exchange accompanying decay at every turn. We will read excerpts of literary works that have shaped our cultural perception of decay and of these transitional states and spaces, including works by Sophocles, Mary Shelley, Alice Walker, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and others. We will also explore the ecosystems themselves through lab experiments and trips to local parks and field stations (Center for the Urban River at Beczak, Untermeyer Gardens). This joint course will evaluate the divide between culture and science and explore how cultural representations may evolve with an adequate framing of scientific research and findings. This course fully participates in the collaborative interludes in the Sarah Lawrence Interdisciplinary Collaborative on the Environment (SLICE) Mellon course cluster.

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Tradition and Transformation: 17th-Century British Literature

Open, Seminar—Spring

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

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Novelists and Sociologists

Open, Seminar—Spring

One group of 19th-century realist novels, also some later novels with apparently comparable ambitions, are sometimes imagined to have been, in part, responses to things that seemed unprecedented; e.g., an acceleration of historical velocity, the diffusion of new forms of economic life, the rise of new classes and pressures on older elites, increasing urbanization, and the apparently sudden and disorienting arrival of something denoted by a word that dated from the beginning of the 19th century—modernity. The ambitions of these novels included description and assessment (in the title of one of them) of “the way we live now.” In roughly the same period, a new science—sociology— appeared, comparably ambitious and also attempting the description and analysis of new forms of social order and social change. Since some of the novelists and sociologists appear to have been engaged in a comparable project, it may be rewarding to read them together—which is what we’ll do in this class. Our syllabus will probably include Balzac’s Old Goriot, Stendhal’s The Red and the Black, Dickens’ Bleak House, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Marx’s and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, some of Simmel’s essays and some of Weber’s, and W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk. Whether or not it proves particularly profitable to read these writers in the same course, we’ll certainly read some good books.

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

FYS—Year

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

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

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

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

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First-Year Studies: Literature and Philosophy: Enthusiasm, Fanaticism, Superstition

FYS—Year

We live at a time when fanaticism, religious and otherwise, has become a subject of great concern. This is not a new problem: Western literature and philosophy have been concerned with fanaticism since the beginning, and we cannot understand the way the problem of fanaticism appears to us now without going back to the earlier discussions and transformations of that question. The reading list, which may be modified, is Euripides, Bacchae; Plato, Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedrus, Lucretius, On the Nature of Things; St. Paul, Epistle to the Romans; Montaigne, “On Presumption”; Shaftesbury, Characteristics; Swift, Gulliver’s Travels; Hume, “The Natural History of Religion,” “Of Superstition and Enthusiasm,” “Of Parties,” History of England, Vol. 5, an excerpt on the New Model Army; Kant, Dreams of a Spirit-Seer; Lessing, Nathan the Wise; Bentham, “Anarchistical Fallacies”; Orwell, Animal Farm, 1984. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences with some opportunities for small-group meetings; in the spring, we will normally meet every other week.

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Jewish Philosophers: From Spinoza to Arendt

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

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

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The Philosophy of Sex and Love

Open, Seminar—Year

One of the fundamental transformations to occur in society and culture over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries is the understanding of sex and love and the relation—or nonrelation—between them. Among the many catalysts for this change, we may count changing perceptions of sexual difference, gender, sexuality, gender identity, and gender roles; an increasing range of possibilities for reproduction or nonreproduction; and the problematization of the nuclear, monogamous, heterosexual family structure. This yearlong seminar will engage in the philosophical examination of these topics. While we will read some ancient philosophy, including Plato’s Symposium and some late-modern texts by the Marquis de Sade and the Baron von Sacher-Masoch (the authors who gave their names to Sadism and to Masochism, respectively), most of our readings will be from 20th- and 21st-century sources, including Sigmund Freud, Claude Levi-Strauss, Georges Bataille, Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva, Audre Lorde, Lee Edelman, Paul Preciado, Maggie Nelson, and Luce Irigaray. Students will be required to not read Fifty Shades of Grey.

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The Philosophy of Karl Marx

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

This class is an investigation of the philosophy of Karl Marx. While interpreters primarily read Marx as an economist, historian, political theorist, or sociologist, we will read him foremost as a philosopher—examining the philosophical ideas animating his critical project. Of course, Marx famously wrote, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” To consider Marx as a philosopher, first of all, requires that we see his thinking as responding to traditional philosophical ideas (for instance, those of Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel) but, at the same time, expanding our understanding of what philosophy is or should be. Traditionally, the practice of philosophy consists of examining the ideas that organize the world we inhabit; but, for Marx, these ideas are necessarily rooted in material realities and must be examined in the light of an empirical study of those realities. The contradictions that fuel Marx’s critical assessment of his time are not merely within or between theories but are contradictions between these theories and actual social reality. If Marx may be considered a philosopher, it is because he broadens what it means to be a philosopher—not merely compelling us to reflect but to act. To appreciate Marx’s philosophical contribution, we will investigate the concepts he develops in analyzing the fraught condition of modern social life: alienation, class, historical materialism, human essence, ideology, and labor. Beginning with the letter Marx wrote to Arnold Ruge that has since been titled “For A Ruthless Critique Of Everything Existing,” we will read pieces that cover all periods in Marx’s development, including Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, The German Ideology, Manifesto of the Communist Party, and, of course, Capital. Throughout our investigation of his work, we will be guided by the question: How does capitalist society diminish the possibility of human fulfillment?

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Astronomy

Open, Lecture—Year

On the first night, we will look up and see the stars. By the last, we will know what makes them “shine,” how they came to be, and their ultimate fates. In between, we will survey the universe and humankind’s investigations of it—from ancient navigation to modern cosmology. In addition to the stars themselves, we will learn about solar-system objects such as planets, asteroids, moons, and comets; the comparative astronomy of different eras and cultures; the properties, lifetimes, and deaths of galaxies, quasars, and black holes; and theories and evidence concerning the origin, evolution, and fate of the universe. In addition to readings and examination of multimedia material, students will conduct astronomical observation and experiments—at first with an astrolabe, then a simple telescope, and finally with the most powerful telescopes on and around the Earth. Emphasis will be placed on modes of scientific communication, so that each student will participate in debates, present posters, write papers, and participate in the peer-review process. In addition, students will experience famous astronomical debates through role-play. Since science is a collaborative process, group work—both small and large—will be a central feature of this course.

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First-Year Studies: Cities, Suburbs, Trains, and Highways: Politics and Geography

FYS—Year

Winston Churchill purportedly remarked that “we shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us,” suggesting that the built environment and geography more generally have a profound impact on society, culture, and politics. This course explicitly will take the study of politics and the social world out of the narrow and traditional views of political science—views that regularly see individuals as “atoms” that are, in the words of Kenneth Shepsle, “unconnected to the social structure in which he or she is embedded”—and, instead, look at how “politics and people” are embedded in particular spaces and places, and networks are highly conditioned, based on specific locational qualities, histories, and features. This course rejects the idea that individuals are atoms and explicitly brings geography into the picture in our study of American politics at the start of the 21st century—in a moment of intense rancor and polarization. After examining theory and methodology, the course tackles a number of big issues that are hotly debated in academic, political, and policy circles vis-à-vis the built environment. One example is the ever-growing literature on geographic differences and regionalism in the United States as an underlying cause of American division and fractionalization. These geographic fissures do not fall along easy‐to‐map state lines but, rather, along a variety of regions in the United States that have been described and mapped by scholars in a number of social-science disciplines. We will examine and review a number of literatures and large amounts of localized data that will enable us to look more precisely into the numerous claims that there are nontrivial regional differences in terms of political beliefs, behaviors, and distinct regional political cultures. While American regions display varied histories and cultures, the question that we will attempt to answer is whether these histories and cultures have an impact on contemporary political attitudes, behaviors, and social values. We will take on similar empirical topics throughout the year, using many tools available from the social sciences—from GIS to historical election and economic data—to examine issues of welfare, mobility, and “hollowing out the middle”; employment; innovation; gerrymandering and issues of representation; competition over natural resources; mass transit and the impact of transportation and highways on sociopolitical development; and urban and rural differences. Many of these topics will be familiar, but the tools through which we examine them will be via a geospatial lens; and the way in which we understand the surrounding politics will, hopefully, be more complete when compared to the traditional lenses of political science. This FYS seminar will be an open, nonpartisan forum for discussion and debate. As such, the course will be driven by data, not dogma. We will use a variety of approaches based in logic and evidence to find answers to various puzzles about American policy and will treat this material as social scientists—not ideologues. Comfort with numbers and statistics is expected. This course will have weekly conferences for the first six weeks; biweekly conferences thereafter.

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Presidential Leadership and Decision Making

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Year

The President is the most prominent actor in the US government, and developing an understanding of how and why political leaders make the choices that they do is the goal of this course. Presidents must make countless decisions while in office and, as presidential scholars George C. Edwards III and Stephen J. Wayne explain, “Executive officials look to [the presidency] for direction, coordination, and general guidance in the implementation of policy...Congress looks to it for establishing priorities, exerting influence...the heads of foreign governments look to it for articulating positions, conducting diplomacy, and flexing muscle; the general public looks to it for...solving problems and exercising symbolic and moral leadership.... This course will examine and analyze the development and modern practice of presidential leadership in the United States by studying the evolution of the modern presidency, which includes the process of presidential selection and the structure of the presidency as an institution. We will then reflect on the ways in which presidents make decisions and seek to shape foreign, economic, and domestic policy. This will be based on a variety of literatures, ranging from social psychology to organizational behavior. We will look at the psychology and character of presidents in this section of the course. We will also explore the relationship of the presidency to other major governmental institutions and organized interests. We will pay particular attention to how presidents have attempted to expand presidential power and the various struggles that the White House has had with the ministry, Congress, the Judicary, and global institutions such as the United Nations. We will pay particular attention to a particular set of presidents: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Donald Trump. We will conclude by examining the post-9/11 era of Bush, Obama, and Trump, where each of these presidents have greatly sought to increase the power of the Oval Office relative to other branches of government. While the course is open to all students, the workload is intense and prior background in American history and politics is preferable.

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International Political Economy

Open, Seminar—Fall

It is often said that all politics is economics. The aim of this course is to show that all economics is politics. Though economists and policymakers often present their economic policy decisions and views as neutral—based solely on abstract mathematical models, guided by the laws of nature (or the “invisible hand” of the market)—they are, in fact, driven by transparent political ends and ideology. In this class, we will question the frequently proclaimed universality, neutrality, and inevitability of economic principles and policies through a close examination of neoliberal ideology and the ways in which it limits political discourse, reforms, and development. We will look at the origins of capitalism. We will examine the economic and political origins and consequences of shock therapy in Latin America and Eastern Europe, structural adjustment policies in countries suffering from economic crisis, and austerity measures imposed by the Troika on Greece and other states in the European Union. We’ll also look at socioeconomic explanations for the recent rise of populist parties and politicians. Some of the questions that we will explore include: What is the role of international economic institutions in domestic and international affairs? How do the interactions between international and domestic institutions and actors determine the production and distribution of scarce resources? And what is the relationship between capitalism and democracy, conditional lending and democratization, and international institutions and national sovereignty?

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The Age of Global Uprisings

Open, Seminar—Spring

The first two decades of the 21st century have been decades of uprisings. Looking at images of protesters filling the streets of Paris, France, or Santiago, Chile, it’s hard to believe that, in 1989, Francis Fukuyama famously proclaimed the end of history—delivered by the final victory of liberalism over competing ideologies. He concluded: “The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one’s life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the posthistorical period, there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history.” The 1990s, indeed, seemed to confirm Fukuyama’s predictions. Liberal ideology—with its promarket, technocratic, and antidemocratic policies—left no space for politics or resistance. Margaret Thatcher’s infamous argument that “There is no alternative” became a posthistorical axiom rather than an ideological position. But in Belgrade on October 5, 2000, a state radio/television station was charged by a heavy-equipment machine, beginning a series of Colour Revolutions in Eastern Europe; and just like that, the posthistorical period of boredom was over. In this class, we will look at a series of uprisings that have taken the early 21st century by storm. We will start with the Colour Revolutions, move on to the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, and end with more recent uprisings—including the Yellow Vests in France, independence movements in Catalonia and Hong Kong, and antiausterity protests in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. Some of those movements organized in opposition to corrupt and undemocratic governments or fake elections; others, in response to democratic governments’ lack of consideration for the livelihood of the working people and dominance of capital over human beings and environment. Not all of those movements were ultimately emancipatory projects, however, and their demands and tactics have been radically different. This class will look at the differences and similarities between the movements and ask: What can we learn from those uprisings, and what is next?

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International Perspectives on Psychology

Open, Lecture—Fall

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

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The Hebrew Bible

Open, Seminar—Year

The Hebrew Bible stands at the foundation of Western culture. Its stories permeate our literature, our art—indeed, our sense of identity. Its ideas inform our laws, have given birth to our revolutions and social movements, and have thereby made most of our social institutions possible (as well as the movements to remove them). What is this book? How was it written? Who wrote it? Who preserved it for us? Why has all or part of this body of literature been considered holy to the practitioners of both Judaism and Christianity? Four thousand years ago, various groups of small-tribe, wandering nomads would get together and tell stories. These stories were not preserved on stone tombs but in the hearts and memories of the people to whom they belonged. We will read the collection of traditions in the book called Genesis and compare these stories with other texts (written in mud and stone), such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Babylonian Creation Epic, which were contemporary with biblical traditions. We will read the Biblical epic of liberation, Exodus; the historical books that weave theology into a history of a nation; and the oracles of the great Hebrew prophets of Israel—those reformers, judges, priests, mystics, and poets to whom modern culture owes its grasp of justice. We will trace the social, intellectual, and political history of the people formed by these traditions from the Late Bronze Age until the Roman Age.

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Introduction to Ancient Greek Religion and Society

Open, Seminar—Fall

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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Perspectives on 9/11: Religion, Politics, and Culture

Open, Seminar—Fall

It has now been more than 20 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. How have perceptions changed about the events that occurred that day? Shortly after the attacks, then-President George W. Bush insisted that Islam was not to blame and, instead, framed the battle ahead as the “War on Terror.” But what about those who insisted that what had happened was an almost inevitable result of the “clash of civilizations”? How did Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda frame the narrative and their part in it? What kinds of arguments were presented to justify the attack and the US military interventions that followed? In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, what has been called the “Islamophobia industry” developed and flourished, taking full advantage of new forms of media. What role has mainstream and alternative media played in how Muslims have been portrayed and the discrimination that they have faced in the years since 9/11? Ten years after the attacks, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum opened in New York City. How have this site and other memorials shaped the collective memory of the events, as well as the curriculum being taught to a generation born after 2001? In addition to the architects of these memorials, artists, writers, and filmmakers have explored the many religious, political, and social dimensions of the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath. How have these works of imagination expanded the ways in which people have made sense of, and found meaning in, painful events? While this seminar is being offered as a religion course at the College, the approach is an interdisciplinary one that draws upon readings and other materials from a variety of academic, artistic, and literary fields.

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Thinking Beyond Feminism: Reimagining Gender and Sexuality Across Jewish History

Open, Seminar—Fall

Although historically pushed to the margins in both Jewish practice and scholarship, women have played a critical role throughout Jewish history. This course re-examines Jewish life and culture through the prisms of gender and sexuality, as we center previously silenced voices and overlooked experiences. Based on an extensive array of sources from the Hebrew Bible to contemporary scholarship, we will interrogate received narratives about Jewishness and Judaism, exploring how incorporating gender and sexuality reshapes and reanimates our established conceptions. What happens when we apply gender and sexuality as analytical lenses to the narratives that we think we know? Who has the authority to construct Jewish history and to determine who and what gets included? How do gender and sexuality shape hierarchies of power? How have feminist movements impacted our understanding of Jewish history and pushed us to reconsider Jewish identity and practice? And what about intersectionality? This class will situate gender and sexuality at the core of a re-envisioned, more comprehensive Jewish history, complicating Jewish identity and self-understanding in our contemporary landscape.

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In a Strange Land: The Making of the Jewish Diaspora

Open, Seminar—Fall

Originating in biblical lore, the concept of being a foreigner—a stranger in a strange land—has struck a deep root in Jewish life and culture. Through violent expulsion, economic hardship, and political persecution, we will travel with Jewish migrants across the centuries as they gathered their belongings and left home to make new lives elsewhere. As they moved throughout the world, motivated by their search for security, freedom, and economic opportunity, the migrants established distinct communities, identities, and religious practices in each place they settled. This course will examine Jewish immigration, a complex and multifaceted process that embraces Jewish immigrants’ decisions to leave, journey across land and sea, settle in a new home, negotiate state bureaucracy, build new lives, and grapple with the question of naturalization. Together, we will question the nature of “borders”; the relationship between immigration policy and eugenics; shifting rhetoric about immigration; and how gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and disability influence immigration from departure to settling. We will ask what it means to be a foreigner, how related communities develop distinct characteristics, and how the diverse sets of Jewish practices that we know today emerged and evolved. As we trace the journeys of these migrants, we will discuss how the Jewish diaspora came to be, how gender impacted the migrant experience, and how Jews established their own social and political structures in an array of locations and moments across the sweep of history.

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Mobility and Modernization: Exploring Received Narratives in American Jewish History

Open, Seminar—Spring

What is “Jewish” about American Jewish history? Does a single “American Jewish history” even exist? What does “Jewishness” mean, and does it differ from “Judaism”? How do we reconcile history and memory? This course invites us to think critically about American Jewish history beginning in the colonial period, when Jews first settled on American shores, and thereafter and continuing into the present. These questions will allow us to explore how Jews developed a diverse and fluid array of social, cultural, political, and religious practices as they encountered new social structures, ideologies, and cultures throughout what became the United States. Through the lenses of gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and disability, our discussions will center Jewish communal formation and evolution in response to the changing conditions of the United States over time. In our classroom community, we will deepen our conceptions of American Jewish history by analyzing texts, featuring both storied figures and marginalized voices, as we learn to apply different theoretical approaches and examine how historical narratives evolved and coalesced. Students will analyze primary sources, write creative pieces unpacking historical events, and produce a research paper on a topic of their choice. The readings chosen for this course are not meant to be exhaustive but, rather, to strengthen students’ understanding of American Jewish history, provide a range of theoretical approaches to enhance their analytical toolboxes, and illuminate the construction and perpetuation—and, when relevant, associated agendas—of American Jewish historical narratives.

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The Many Faces of Jewishness: Representations of Jews Through the Ages

Open, Seminar—Spring

The shrewd moneylender, the newly arrived immigrant, the nosy busybody, the heroic pioneer, the cunning villain...different images of Jews populate our history, literature, and media, impacting our cultural ideas of the “typical Jew.” How did these archetypes first develop? How did they evolve? What common biases do we unthinkingly accept? What is the relationship of these biases to Jews’ historical roles in society, and how do they manifest across time and geographical location? Together, we will explore these questions and more through a multidisciplinary array of sources that portray Jews—spanning centuries, borders, and diverse societies. As we do so, we will encounter a variety of images of Jews—including observant Jews who grapple with tradition in the face of modernity, Jewish immigrants adapting to their lives in the United States, displaced Holocaust survivors fighting for a permanent home, American Jews who push boundaries as they negotiate conflicting identities, and still others—allowing us to unpack our own assumptions and preconceptions about what it means to be a Jew.

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Readings in Early Christianity: John

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

The Fourth Gospel and the epistles associated with its authors, 1-3 John, have been particularly significant for the development of Christian thought. In this course, we will study The Gospel of John closely, engaging in the hermeneutical arts with an eye to the development of Christian theology, as well as uncovering the history and growth of the early Christian community responsible for its unique prose and views regarding Jesus of Nazareth and the role of Christian discipleship. We will immerse ourselves in the Hellenistic world, especially as it relates to Mediterranean Judaism. In doing so, we will examine the roots of Christian antisemitism and the development of Gnosticism and Christian docetism.

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Sociological Perspectives on Detention and “Deviance”

Open, Lecture—Spring

In this lecture, students will be introduced to key areas of study in the sociology of “deviance,” detention, and illegality. We will be taking a global and transnational perspective on examining the ways in which social groups define, categorize, and reinforce deviance and illegality, from the treatment of minority and persecuted groups to the detention and expulsion of populations such as undocumented migrants and refugees. Students will learn about foundational theories and concepts in the field, starting with a reading of Émile Durkheim’s classical study of suicide and the idea of anomie, followed by Robert Merton’s strain theory, and then contemporary ones such as conflict theory, labeling theory, and the infamous “broken-windows” theory. The class will take a critical approach to reflecting and challenging ideas about deviance and illegality by examining global and transnational forms of population governance, such as ongoing mutations to human rights and the technocratic management of displaced populations through humanitarianism around the world. We will be reading about major sectors of transnational deviance and crime, including industrial fishing and trafficking on the high seas (Ian Urbina’s Outlaw Ocean), exploitation and profiteering through international logistics (Carolyn Nordstrom’s Global Outlaws), and transnational sex work and trafficking (Christine Chin and Kimberly Hoang). This critical lens is intended to help us understand how different groups and populations are rendered “deviant” or “illegal” for the purposes of management and control (or political leverage) and to what extent groups themselves are able to resist or challenge those categorizations. Finally, we will be looking at how social movements and acts of resistance can produce widescale changes in societies toward the treatment and categorization of people seen as “deviants,” “criminals,” or “illegals”—including struggles against apartheid, hunger strikes in prisons, and protest movements for undocumented groups. Additionally, we will be discussing how social transformations wrought by three years of living under a global pandemic has led to the emergence of new forms of deviance related to biopolitical and biotechnological notions of population health and well-being. For conference work in this lecture, students will work in groups to produce portfolios of research on an area of study related to deviance, detention, and illegality. Each portfolio will include presentations and discussions of the chosen area of study, as well as critical essays written by each student that bring in conceptual and theoretical discussions drawn from the class.

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Contextualizing Communications: The Poetics of Seeing

Open, Seminar—Fall

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

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Global Refugees: Temporariness and Displacement

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

What does it mean to be a “temporary” person? The multiple discourses surrounding “migrants,” “refugees,” “illegals,” and other “foreign” people often paint problematic, exaggerated, and frustratingly misunderstood portraits about entire communities and populations. Politicians and movements (often of the far-right disposition) continue to reinforce views of the foreigner as a national threat, one that will rip apart the fabric of society if left to its own devices. Yet, more than ever, we live in a world where almost 245 million people are living in a country other than where they were born—and that includes millions of refugees and displaced populations who struggle under incredibly vulnerable and precarious conditions. Some 740 million people migrate internally, primarily from rural to urban centers, bringing the total number of migrants to more than one billion people. Even during a global pandemic, displacement around the world has continued to lead to large numbers of people stuck in “temporary” status and conditions, while the dual threat of climate displacement and geopolitical conflict promises even more expulsions and displacement. Here, we focus on communities and groups of migrants who are often targeted as national “problems”: refugees, undocumented persons, and so-called “economic” migrants. We start by looking at how different groups of migrants become categorized through institutionalized regimes as “temporary” populations—guest workers, asylum seekers, seasonal workers, and foreign workers—and examine what implications this temporariness imposes upon migrants themselves, both at the everyday level and in terms of the larger political climate. We will explore the realities of today’s migrant experience, with a special focus on temporariness, globalized fragmentation of social reproduction, and regimes of managed migration around the world. We will explore different forms through which the experiences of being temporary, precarious, and displaced are depicted and represented, including the mediums of photography, film, fiction, and video games. Lastly, we will look at how societies around the world are attempting to prepare for a changing demographic reality of hyperdiversity and a more permanent state of precariousness and vulnerability. The course will require students to seek out and develop reflective projects (blogs, forums, wikis, or journals) focusing on these key questions. As part of conference projects, students will be encouraged to imagine different, nonconventional ways of writing and expressing themes of vulnerability, precarity, temporariness, and being out-of-place in today’s world.

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

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

This course takes a long view of travel, seeing it as a “contact zone”—a contradictory site of learning and 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 in/through/of particular sites? How do these meanings differ, depending on the positionality of the traveler? What makes particular sites inviting? 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/through travel? We will examine these questions through a multiplicity of sources—including but not limited to diaries, journals, and memoirs by travelers, as well as films and scholarly writings on travel and tourism. 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, theoretical perspectives on travel and/or tourism, or the political economy of travel. Fieldwork locally is yet another possibility for conference work.

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Advanced Intermediate Spanish: Political Creativity

Open, Seminar—Year

This course looks at ways that individuals and communities across the Spanish-speaking world have gotten creative about politics and political about creativity. Students will develop analytic skills and explore social-justice issues through literature, film, music, and visual art by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Sara Gómez, Samanta Schweblin, Yásnaya E. Aguilar Gil, Lia García La Novia Sirena, and many more. We will also study the politically creative actions of communities and organizations working outside the structures of the nation-state. An important aspect of this course will involve following activist movements in real time and working with social-justice initiatives in Yonkers and its surroundings. Students will produce both critical and creative written work. This discussion-based course will be conducted in Spanish and is intended for students who wish to further hone their communication and comprehension skills through advanced grammar review.

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

FYS—Year

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

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

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

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

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Painting Pop

Open, Concept—Fall

In this experimental studio class, we will explore how to digest, appropriate, reconfigure, and rewrite popular media, using mostly, but not limited to, painting, drawing, and collage and open to video, animation, sculpture, and performance. We will examine how artists operate as consumers,  catalysts, motors, and destroyers of TV, film, music, social media, and advertisement. Slideshows, readings, and presentations will exemplify the tight relationship between art and popular media throughout history and contemporary art and will serve as inspiration for students to create their own works. Students will be encouraged to deconstruct their own spectacles of adoration and critique and celebrate images that are impactful to them. We will promote generative group conversations, studio time, experimentation, collaboration, creativity, and improvisation.

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Details Useful to the State: Writers and the Shaping of the US Empire, 1945 to the Present

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

Are you going to ask where I am? I’ll tell you—giving only details useful to the State... —Pablo Neruda, Letter to Miguel Otero Silva, 1948

What might it mean for a writer to be useful to a state? How have states used writers, witting and unwitting, in projects aimed at influence and hegemony? How might a state make use of language as a weapon? What might it mean for a writer to attempt to avoid being useful to a state? How might a state inflect and influence the intimacy between writers and what they may write? In this class, we’ll discuss an array of choices that writers have made in relation to state power, focusing particularly on the United States from just after World War II until the present. You’ll be asking to read four books: Joel Whitney’s Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers; Frances Stonor Saunders’sThe Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters; Eric Bennett’s Workshops of Empire: Stegner, Engle, and American Creative Writing During the Cold War; and Peter Dale Scott’s long poem, Coming to Jakarta. This is not a history or a literature class; our lens will be that of a writer, using deep study and playful practice to figure out the dilemmas and best practices of the present. Although this is a lecture class, with a limit of 30 students, you’ll be asked to participate, improvise, and do some class reading and writing work with a partner, as well as to participate in one group conference a week. At the end of the class, you’ll be asked to lecture in teams, addressing some of our questions and your responses to them. The only prerequisite is the courage to think out loud with other people—a.k.a. the courage required to learn.

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Episodes

Open, Seminar—Spring

The use of the episode is both ancient and modern and is central to storytelling in everything from The Arabian Nights to telenovelas, from Netflix to The Canterbury Tales, from comics to true-crime podcasts. Episodes differ from chapters in a novel and from short stories and can have many changing characters and plot lines. Episodes are disinclined toward resolution but love time, hunks of it, and do well depicting both the daily and the historical. We will be reading, looking at, and discussing episodes in several forms and, for conference work, writing six episodes over the semester, supported by small brainstorming groups as we go forward. This course may be taken with Words and Pictures as a year course.

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Stories And

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

This class will involve telling stories, writing or recording our own and other people’s stories, and illustrating stories with photos or drawings. It involves becoming collectors of the storytelling around us and analyzing its form, type, uses, and pleasures. It centers on oral storytelling—formal and informal, short and long, fantasies, tales, family stories, and gossip. It also involves practice in being both a leader and a member of a storytelling group at the Wartburg Elder Care Residence in nearby Pelham or at some other venue, perhaps involving children or teens. Homework will include reading, practicing your stories, working as a group leader with a classmate, and calling on family and friends to tell their stories. Anyone interested in their own or other people’s lives, in leadership and followership, in teaching, and otherwise in stories should consider this course.

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Children’s Books: A Reading and Writing Adventure

Open, Seminar—Fall

Who doesn’t love Frog and Toad? Have you ever wanted to write something like it—or like Charlotte’s Web or A Snowy Day? Why do our favorites work so well and so (almost) universally? We will begin by reading books we know and books we missed and discuss what makes them so good. We may look at books for older children and consider what good children’s history and biography might be like. We will talk about the place of the visual, the careful and conscious use of language, notions of appropriateness, and age level. Then, we will try our hand at writing picture books, older children’s narratives, collections of poems like Mother Goose. Conference work will involve making a book, an animation, or a game for children with narrative content.

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