Psychology

How do infants navigate their world? How do factors as diverse as genetics, socioeconomic status, social networks, mindfulness practices, and access to open spaces contribute to how people cope with the problems of living? How do technology, architecture, language, and cultural practices affect how we think? What accounts for the global epidemic of mental health issues? What has psychology contributed to understanding genocide and torture? In what ways can psychologists illuminate the mystery of the creative process in science and art? How does morality develop? What factors determine our political, economic, and moral decisions? What happens in mind and body as we experience emotions? These reflect just a few of the questions discussed in our psychology courses, a sampling of the broad range covered in the psychology curriculum.

We offer courses from the domains of biological, clinical, cognitive, community, cultural, developmental, educational, experimental, health, personality, and social psychology. Our courses emphasize the interplay of theory and observation, research and analysis, understanding and applications. Our courses are also inherently interdisciplinary, making connections between psychology and other fields such as biology, anthropology, education, linguistics, public policy, public health, women’s studies, philosophy, and the arts. Students have a variety of choices as they design their independent conference work.

Some conference projects consist of reviewing and analyzing the primary research literature on a topic of interest. Others make experiential learning central to the independent work. Opportunities open to students include: assisting at our Early Childhood Center, in local schools, or at clinics; planning and carrying out original research in one of three psychology lab spaces on campus (the Child Study Lab, the Cognition and Emotion Lab, and the Adult Experimental Psychology Lab); working with community organizations in Yonkers, New York; and participating in environmental education at our Center for the Urban River at Beczak (CURB). Psychology is also a core component of two focused, semester-long, community-based academic programs: the Intensive Semester in Yonkers and Sarah Lawrence College’s Study Abroad Program in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ideas and skills developed in class and in conference often play a formative role in the intellectual and professional trajectories of students who go on to pursue these ideas in a wide range of fields, including clinical and research psychology, education, medicine, law, the arts, social work, human rights, and politics. Our alums tell us that the seminar and independent conference work here prepared them well for the challenges of both graduate school and their careers.

The college has two psychology-related graduate programs: Art of Teaching and Child Development. These offer the possibility for our undergraduate students to pursue both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years of study. The college also offers a dual-degree program with the New York University Silver School of Social Work, allowing Sarah Lawrence undergraduates to obtain a BA, a Master of Social Work, and an MA in Child Development in six years.

2019-2020 Courses

Psychology

Adverse Childhood Experiences: Post-Traumatic Growth in Urban America

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course will elucidate the insidious nature of developmental risk and resilience in the face of adversity. The incidence and prevalence of grief and trauma across the lifespan will be examined in the context of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and an ecological view of trauma and trauma recovery. We will explore ACEs as a common pathway to social, emotional, and cognitive impairments that lead to a greater risk for physical illness and mental health disorders, health risk behaviors, violence, re-victimization, obesity, disease, disability, and premature mortality. Individual differences in post-traumatic response and recovery are the result of interactions involving the person, the person’s environment, and the traumatic event. This complex relationship can promote social, cognitive, spiritual, and emotional health or impede growth and recovery. Clinical, community, and systemic-level interventions that promote resilience and post-traumatic growth will be discussed. Experiential learning and practical exercises to increase well-being will be implemented from a positive psychology theoretical and empirical framework. Conference work may include any of the pedagogical elements of the course: literature review, empirical research review, and/or an autobiographical personal reflection paper.

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Developmental Forensic Psychology

Open , Seminar—Fall

Forensic psychology is the professional and scientific study of psychology in the context of issues pertaining to the law or legal questions. Forensic developmental psychology as a field focuses on “children's actions and reactions in a forensic context" and "children's reports that they were victims or witnesses of a crime.” Contemporary incidents of violence often leave us bewildered, rendering the undeniable importance of forensics. Forensic psychologists have proven that this practice is an irreplaceable asset to our community safety and system of justice. Appropriate for anyone interested in the intersection of psychology and the law, this course includes: an integrative and historical overview of forensic psychology; a review of current developmental forensic issues pertaining to children, adolescents and young adults in civil and criminal court cases; exploration of how psychosocial reference groups—such as race, culture, social class, sexual orientation, gender, age, and ability—impact the clinical presentation and case conceptualizations of individuals involved in the criminal justice system; biological, cognitive, social/emotional, behavioral, and environmental components of risk and vulnerability; and a discussion of the role of trauma, neglect, and abuse as precursors to legal involvement and consequences of the revolving door of incarceration. We will explore the role of an expert witness and elements of forensic evaluations in child abuse, neglect, and juvenile delinquency cases. A review of landmark and controversial cases and the use of documentary films are pedagogical elements of the course. Conference work may include literature reviews, empirical research, meta-analysis, and observations of court proceedings.

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First-Year Studies: Culture in Mind

Open , FYS—Year

In this FYS seminar, we will keep culture in mind as we explore the diversity of human behavior and experience across the globe. We will pay close attention to how culture influences psychological processes such as cognition, perception, and emotion, as well as people’s sense of self and their relations to the social world. Through our readings and discussions on the connections between culture and mind across the life course, we will ask questions such as the following: How does an Inuit child come to learn the beliefs and values that structure adult social life on a Canadian island? Is the experience of grief or anger universal or distinct in different societies? Why do some people experience cultural syndromes such as nervios or susto and others anxiety or depression? How does immigration influence Latinx adolescents’ identity? Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, our course material will draw from cultural psychology, human development, and psychological anthropology and will include peer-reviewed journal articles, books, and films that address core issues in a range of geographic and sociocultural contexts. Students will conduct a yearlong conference project related to the central topics of our course.

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International Perspectives of 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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Sleep and Health

Open , Lecture—Fall

This lecture is a super lecture and may enroll up to 60 students.

A key and often-overlooked aspect of recharging is also one of the most obvious: getting enough sleep. There is nothing that negatively affects my productivity and efficiency more than lack of sleep. After years of burning the candle on both ends, my eyes have been opened to the value of getting some serious shuteye. —Arianna Huffington, Sarah Lawrence College Commencement Address, 2012

Sleep is a powerful piece of the human experience that is often marginalized in contemporary culture. This lecture examines historical, developmental, neuropsychological, physiological, and cultural perspectives on the construct of sleep and explores the role of sleep in psychopathology, relevant medical conditions, and wellness. How sleep impacts and is impacted by clinical conditions will be examined, along with Eastern and Western approaches to understanding sleep phases, body clocks, and sleep regulation. Historical and contemporary theories of dreaming—including dream structure and the role of dreaming in memory consolidation, creative problem solving, and preparing for the future—will be considered. Differences in developmental sleep needs will be considered, as well as gender differences in sleep behaviors. The impact of sleep deprivation on cognitive function, school/work performance, mood, and social functioning will be examined, as well as socioeconomic barriers to adequate sleep (e.g., shift work), pressures of a 24-hour culture, and the use of digital devices. The course will conclude with a look at the powerful benefits of sleeping well, including evidence from electroencephalogram (EEG) and neuroimaging data, as well as from an examination of cultures with exceptionally high levels of well-being. This class will meet for one lecture section and one group conference/seminar section per week. Weekly lectures will focus on the foundations of sleep. Weekly group conference sections will go more deeply into lecture material and specific areas of interest. Registered students will choose one group conference section to attend each week, based on their interests. Three group conference sections will be offered: Sleep Routine and Sleep Environment, Developmental Sleep Patterns and Sleep Disorders, and Dreams. Weekly reading assignments will include literature in sleep science, developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, physiology, positive psychology, clinical theory and research, relevant case studies, essays, and memoir. Select film and documentary material will be included for class discussion. Additionally, class members will follow the topic of sleep in popular media. All class members will be asked to monitor their sleep patterns using available sleep apps and/or observation logs. Course requirements include a multiple-choice and short-answer midterm exam and a final essay exam. Weekly discussion posts will be due prior to each week’s group conference section. During the semester, students will record observations of their sleep over two 10-day assessment periods. Each conference group will be responsible for: a literature review and brief informational summary/presentation of their topic; developing a sleep strategy based on their topic, literature review, and initial sleep observations; a poster presentation of their work at the Fall SciMath poster symposium; and a final presentation of their work in class. Group conference projects will consider topics such as developmental sleep needs, quality of sleep environment, light/dark exposure, use of digital devices, and bedtime routine. Project themes may also include topics related to sleep, such as dreaming, memory/other cognitive functions, cultural aspects of sleep, and/or mindfulness meditation. Students interested in developmental aspects of sleep in children may complete a weekly fieldwork placement at the Early Childhood Center.

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

Open , Lecture—Spring

A background in social sciences is recommended.

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

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Who am I? Clinical Perspectives on Psychology of the Self

Open , Lecture—Spring

This lecture is a super lecture and may enroll up to 60 students.

“I don’t feel like myself anymore.” “Things are different with me.” “I think I lost myself.” “That’s just who I am.” “I think I found myself.” What do any of us mean when we say our ”self”? What is the self? Multiple perspectives on this topic have emerged in the literature of psychology, psychotherapy, and beyond. Self-concept, self-esteem, self-worth, real-self, false-self, self-control, self-estrangement, among other terms and concepts will be considered here. And what of the loss of self, as noted by the above statement? What was lost? (Has something been lost?) Is the person’s brain different? Is that where the self is? The person notes that “things” are different. Perhaps that’s some change with relation to the environment or some new development in emotion, habits, or perhaps relationships? Is “the self” a stable concept? We will consider both clinical cases regarding perceived loss of self, as well as cases from neuroscience where some authors have perceived a change in a person’s concept of “self.” We will consider readings that stem from a primarily Western, individuality oriented, self perspective, as well as non-Western and other challenges to these notions of self. While this is an open lecture course, students will be expected to engage actively in discussions as part of every topic. We will consider writings from a variety of perspectives: Heinz Kohut, Donald Winnicott, Karen Horney, Martin Seligman, Joseph Ledoux, Oliver Sacks, and others.

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Virtually Yours: Relating and Reality in the Digital Age

Open , Seminar—Year

This seminar will examine relating and reality in the digital age. In the fall semester, we will focus on ways in which humans have evolved to relate to each other and be related to and how our innate relational patterns fit (or do not fit) within the rapidly evolving digital world. We will consider ways in which digital life is changing how people relate and ways in which this may be challenging for some but beneficial for others. We will begin with relevant historical and developmental perspectives on attachment theory, human bonding, and shifting relational expectations. We will move on to consider how various realms of the digital world (e.g., social media, messaging, dating apps, video chats, artificial intelligence, virtual reality) impact our relational patterns, as well as aspects of self- and identity expression (e.g., of gender, sexuality, values, beliefs, interests). We will consider the role of digital spaces in making new connections, building friendships, falling in love, and maintaining romantic bonds, as well as bullying, revenge, trolling, and potential barriers to empathy that emerge when our gazes are fixed on screens and not on each other. We will also consider our emerging engagement with artificial intelligence and our attachment to digital devices themselves. In the spring semester, we will examine how reality has been defined historically, clinically, and culturally; how one’s sense of reality is shaped through development; and what internal, environmental, social, and cultural factors contribute to one’s sense of reality. Can reality ever truly be objective? Building on material from the first semester, we will examine the innate, developmental, cultural, and social psychological factors that shape our perception of reality and our choice of reliable sources, including the roles of race, gender, and ethnicity in those processes. We will consider how psychological constructs and psychometric measures of reality have taken those factors into consideration, both currently and historically. We will next consider ways in which one’s sense of reality may be impacted by clinical conditions such as brain injury, psychosis, depression, trauma, and anxiety; altered by substances such as psychedelics; influenced by dreams; and potentially enhanced through meditation. We will then consider how the content, pace, and sheer volume of information currently cycling through social media and 24-hour news outlets may impact our perception of reality. Classes will be both discussion-based and experiential, with opportunities for observation (e.g., observing children relating/engaging in play in the SLC Early Childhood Center (ECC) free from digital devices) and in-class activities related to weekly topics (e.g., comparing experiences by engaging with early logic-based digital toys such as Simon and Speak n’ Spell vs. digital toys that express affection such as Furby and contemporary AI). Class reading will include primary- and secondary-source academic material from diverse perspectives in developmental, neuropsychological, clinical, and cultural psychology and related fields. Supplemental material will include relevant literature, memoir, TedTalks, and popular media coverage of related topics. Conference topics may include, but are not limited to, the role of digital spaces in forming and maintaining relationships; relationships formed to artificial intelligence and/or digital devices; and/or developmental, neuropsychological, clinical, social, and/or cultural perspectives on/shifts in relating in the digital age. Conference projects may be completed in the form of an APA-style literature review, original data collection, and/or a creative piece with academic justification and will include a class presentation. Optional weekly fieldwork is available and encouraged for any interested students.

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Virtually Yours Radio

Intermediate , None—Year

This is a 4-credit course. Registration is through permission by the instructor. One semester of Virtually Yours: Relating and Reality in the Digital Age (or a related course) is required.  

Virtually Yours Radio is a weekly talk show that explores themes of relating and reality in the digital age. Through background research, interviews, and original segments, students go more deeply into topics discussed in class and continue the conversation beyond the classroom. Topics include navigating social media, finding community in digital spaces, dating through apps and IRL, and experiences across cultures and generations.

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Virtually Yours: Wartburg Tablet Program

Intermediate , Fieldwork—Year

This is a 4-credit course. Registration is through permission by the instructor. Open to students who have previously completed at least one semester of, or are currently enrolled in, Virtually Yours: Relating and Reality in the Digital Age (or a related course).

Using digital tablets, students will help residents in dementia and Alzheimer’s care create personalized tablet programs (e.g., including apps for relaxation, connecting with meaningful music and photos), helping residents to connect with important memories and important relationships throughout their lives. Students will be responsible for working with residents, staff, and family (if and when available) to develop personally meaningful tablet programs, to help residents access the programs, and to write up a protocol to be shared with future caregivers and family members for continued use. The course requires a time commitment of two hours per week on site, plus 15-20 minutes of travel time, and a weekly 45-minute group conference meeting on campus.

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Introduction to Social Psychology

Open , Seminar—Year

This course introduces students to the key ideas of social psychology. We will examine the social dimensions underlying the cognitive existence of individuals by examining some theories, methodologies, and key findings of social psychology. We will look at human relations at various levels, with a primary focus on the tension between the individual and society. For this purpose, we will compare different theoretical (cognitive, interpersonal, and cultural) perspectives. During the first semester, the course will investigate the role of unconscious processes in our interpretations and explanations of the social world, emphasizing in particular our mistakes in judgment and our misperceptions of causation. The individual as a social cognizer will be explored further to see how we derive interpretations for our own behavior in comparison to those attributed to others’ behavior. In the second semester, we will focus on the contextualization of these different processes in order to analyze the defining characteristics of groups and the extent to which we are, indeed, shaped by our groups.

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Parents and Peers in Children's Lives

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this course, we will study the psychological growth of the child from birth through adolescence, focusing especially on the social lives of children. We will begin by reading about some of the major theories that have shaped our thinking concerning children, including psychoanalytic (Freud and Erikson), behaviorist (Skinner), and cognitive-developmental (Piaget). And we will apply those theories to the “real world” of children's lives, examining the key issues of parent-child relations and children’s friendships. Our study of parent-child relations will include the question of what makes a “good” parent (known as “parenting styles”), as well as the effects of divorce, single parenting, and stepparenting on the subsequent development of children. Our investigation of children’s friendships will include the exploration of its key functions for children’s psychological well-being, the difficulties for children without friends, and the power of the peer group to shape a child’s sense of self. Conference work may include direct experience with children, including fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or other venues.

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Mindfulness: Neuroscientific and Psychological Perspectives

Open , Seminar—Fall

Mindfulness can be described as nonjudgmental attention to experiences in the present moment. For thousands of years, mindfulness has been cultivated through the practice of meditation. More recently, developments in neuroimaging technologies have allowed scientists to explore the brain changes that result from the pursuit of this ancient practice, laying the foundations of the new field of contemplative neuroscience. Study of the neurology of mindfulness meditation provides a useful lens for study of the brain in general, because so many aspects of psychological functioning are affected by the practice. Some of the topics that we will address are attention, perception, emotion and its regulation, mental imaging, habit, and consciousness. This is a good course for those interested in scientific study of the mind.

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The Social Brain

Open , Seminar—Fall

It can be difficult to grasp how a physical mass of neurons can be responsible for our idiosyncratic thoughts, feelings, and human relationships. This mystery has generated much folk wisdom about neuroscience, some of which is in line with current research but much of which is false. This course will address what we know about the human brain, what we can reasonably infer, and what we are yet to discover. Although far from being completely understood, neuroscience has begun illuminating the neural networks underlying complex human behaviors such as learning, decision-making, conformity, and prejudice. Moreover, psychologists’ understanding of the reciprocal relationship between brain and behavior is expanding. This course will also emphasize how our choices and social experiences can physically alter the brain. Students will be encouraged to engage critically with this research, both appreciating its rigor and understanding its limitations.

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Environmental Psychology: An Exploration of Space and Place

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course explores human-environment interactions and the relationships among natural, social, and built environments in shaping us as individuals. We will critically explore human interactions from the body, the home, and the local to the globalized world, with a return to the individual experience of our physical and social environments. As a survey course, we will cover myriad topics that may include informal family caregiving, urban/rural/suburban relationships, gentrification, urban planning, environmental sustainability, globalization, social justice, and varying conceptualizations and experiences of “home” based on gender, race, class, and age and for people with disabilities. As a discussion-based seminar, topics will ultimately be driven by student interest. Films and a field trip will be incorporated.

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Public Health Psychology

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course will address the intersection of public health and psychology—an approach that has the potential to positively impact health experiences and outcomes, although the disciplines are not often considered together. ​​Because health is determined by the interaction of myriad complex factors—including biology, lifestyle, environmental factors, and social and political conditions—multidisciplinary approaches are needed to address our most pressing public-health problems. Community psychology is particularly interested in social change, activism, reducing oppression, and empowerment, while public health focuses on assessing prevalence and incidence, as well as identifying risk and protective factors and changing individual health behaviors. ​Our approach will look at health and community psychology, in combination with public health, to explore various perspectives and interventions related to current health and social problems. The two disciplines vary in their approaches to interventions, with individualistic approaches on the one hand and population level on the other. Students will be invited to explore issues related to personal health and illness, as well as population level approaches to health promotion, in order to identify macro-level structures and individual-level barriers to achieving health equity. Topics of inquiry will be led by student interest and will include: environmental, occupational, and behavioral health; housing and displacement; aging; physical and cognitive disabilities; and food and health.

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Remedies to Epidemics: Understanding Substances That Can Heal or Harm

Open , Seminar—Fall

From the 1990s through the early 2000s, the Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health practices, promoted in its standards the increased visibility of pain, once written as “Pain is assessed in all patients.” Many health care organizations took up this recommendation, even promoting pain as the “Fifth Vital Sign.” With respect to what has been described as an opioid epidemic since that period, many have described this effort as an example of best intentions gone awry. The credentialing organization’s own recently published material described it as “A good idea (make pain visible) had gone astray.” Psychoactive substance use has been part of our oral and written record with regard to medicine, ecstatic spiritualism, and addiction in perhaps every culture other than the Inuit of the Arctic (where such plants did not grow): the soma drink of the HIndus, the peyote of the Southwest Americas, the nepenthe of the Greeks, to name a few. Recent years have seen the resurgence of interest, considered by some to be epidemics of recreational abuse and to others a potential to be tapped for medicine: marijuana, LSC, psilocybin, opioids...the list goes on. This course is a multidisciplinary overview of addiction, with special consideration for those drugs that may both help and harm and are, therefore, under great scrutiny by society. Explanations for addiction—spiritual, emotional, biological—have spanned the ages and remain controversial today. This course will explore the study of addiction from historical roots to contemporary theory. Competing theories of substance abuse/addiction will be examined, with a focus on the individual and with regard to cultural and societal concerns. This course presents a framework for understanding models of substance use and addiction, including neuropsychological advances, with a critical review of the evidence and controversies regarding each. Readings will include literature from psychology, public policy, medicine, the arts, ethics, and the press.

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Immigration and Identity

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course asks how contemporary immigration shapes individual and collective identity across the life course. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach that bridges cross-cultural psychology, human development, and psychological anthropology, we will ask how people’s movement across borders and boundaries transforms their senses of self, as well as their interpersonal relations and connections to community. We will analyze how the experience of immigration is affected by the particular intersections of racial, ethnic, class, gender, generational, and other boundaries that immigrants cross. For example, how do undocumented youth navigate the constraints imposed by “illegalized” identities, and how do they come to construct new self-perceptions? How might immigrants acculturate or adapt to new environments, and how does the process of moving from home or living “in-between” two or more places impact mental health? Through our close readings and seminar discussions on this topic, we seek to understand how different forms of power—implemented across realms that include state-sponsored surveillance and immigration enforcement, language and educational policy, health and social services—shape and constrain immigrants’ understanding of their place in the world and their experience of exclusion and belonging. In our exploration of identity, we will attend to the ways in which immigrants are left out of national narratives, as well as the ways in which people who move across borders draw on cultural resources to create spaces and practices of connection, protection, and continuity despite the disruptive effects of immigration.

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Communities in Context: Community Psychology From New York City to Yonkers

Open , Seminar—Spring

The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. —Audre Lorde

What roles can psychology play within multiple communities? How can psychology commit to challenging inequalities within communities in New York? In this course, we will explore community psychology through a localized lens, focusing on communities within New York City and Yonkers. Our readings will draw from a wide range of disciplines, including environmental psychology, critical social psychology, history, sociology, community psychology, and literature. We will begin by examining the history of psychology’s interactions with marginalized communities and the influence that movements (such as the Civil Rights Movement, Labor Movement, and community organizing around AIDS and health care) have had on the field of psychology. We will read the works of DuBois, Kenneth and Mamie Clark, James Baldwin, Emma Goldman, Audre Lorde, Martin Duberman, and others to inform our discussions. Next, our course will explore specific case studies within New York City and Yonkers, including shining a critical light onto education, policing, health care, immigration, housing, and public space. Our discussions may be informed by multiple guest speakers, organizing around social justice issues within Westchester County and New York City. Lastly, our course will critically reflect on Sarah Lawrence College as a community and its contributions to psychology and influence within Yonkers. This course is open to students interested in how issues of inequality and power play out in New York City and Yonkers. Conference projects may include community-based research, archival work, and work with Community Partnerships. Former ISY students are also encouraged.

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Bonding to Wellbeing: How Early Attachment Bonds Shape Well-being Throughout Life

Open , Seminar—Spring

Attachment theory has become a widely accepted foundation of understanding early human development. Pioneered by John Bowlby, attachment theory emphasizes the role of infant and early childhood bonds with caregivers, usually parents, on social and emotional development. As study of attachment theory has advanced, interest in human bonding throughout adolescence and adulthood has increased. No longer confined to attachments established during infancy and early childhood, understanding how important relationships shape us during adolescence, adulthood, and older adulthood are growing areas of interest. Emerging studies of attachment in neuropsychological development, adoption, queer families, spiritual identification, social affiliation, and parenting give us new insights into how the fulfillment or deprivation of important relationships throughout life impact development and well-being. This course explores the historical and cross-theoretical roots of attachment theory, follows advances and refinements in attachment theory and research, and looks at attachment beyond childhood through adolescence, adulthood, and older adulthood. Readings include classical attachment theory, as well as contemporary attachment research, developmental psychopathology, feminist critique, identity theory, social psychology, neuropsychology, object relations, and psychoanalytic literature. Film and relevant case studies will be included for reflection and class discussion. Students will be required to complete weekly fieldwork placements in the Early Childhood Center (ECC). Students will work closely with classroom teachers one hour per week and will become part of the class (as advised and supervised by classroom teachers) while maintaining weekly observation logs relevant to seminar objectives and conference work. Conference will include observations from the ECC (child or child-parent observations). Conference work may also include observations from other settings where the students may be completing fieldwork, such as youth/adolescent programs or the Wartburg Center for Senior Living.

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Principles of Psychology

Open , Seminar—Spring

When William James published The Principles of Psychology in 1890, he described it scathingly as a “loathsome, distended, tumefied, bloated, dropsical mass” that proved that he was an incompetent and that psychology was not a science. Over 100 years later, Principles is one of the most quoted and influential psychological texts. In it, James set out his views on a range of subjects that continue to capture the interest of contemporary psychologists and neuroscientists, such as attention, memory, the senses, the self, consciousness, habit, time perception, and emotion. We will read some of James’s writings in conjunction with contemporary texts that draw inspiration from his work and discuss them in light of current neuroscientific studies of the brain, mind, and body.

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The Psychological Impact of Art

Open , Seminar—Spring

That’s one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people, and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.—Dave Grohl.

The expressive arts bridge the gap between personal and collective experiences. Music, dance, literature, sculpture, and other creative pursuits allow artists a personal venue for intimate expression; but their products also have influence on thousands of others. Art evokes emotions, changes opinions, forges identities, and can be an anthem for social change. This class will explore how engagement with the arts influences who we are and how we relate to others. We will discuss the relative importance of the process of making art, versus the product itself, for personal growth and fostering social change. Although often thought of as a uniquely personal relationship, psychologists’ understanding of how the arts affect social, cognitive, and affective human behavior is expanding. In this class, students will be encouraged to engage critically with this psychological research and appreciate the difficulties associated with quantifying the impact of the arts.

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Food Environments, Health, and Social Justice

Open , Seminar—Spring

With obesity and diabetes rising at alarming rates and a growing awareness of disparities in food access, researchers and policymakers are rethinking the role of the environment in shaping our diets and health. This course takes a collaborative approach to investigating some of the key issues guiding this area of research and action. Students will critically review literature on food environments, food access, and health inequalities and explore how modes of food production and distribution shape patterns of food availability in cities. Students will use photography and video to examine the availability of food in the neighborhoods where they live, review media related to the course themes, and use a time/space food diary to participate in a SNAP Challenge (eating on a food stamp budget), while reflecting on the ways that their own eating habits are influenced by the social and material settings of their day-to-day lives. The course concludes with students writing letters to the editor/Op-Eds to a news outlet of their choice, with suggestions about how to move forward with action to improve food access, public health, and social justice in the places where they live.

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Human Legacy

Open , Seminar—Spring

Our “human legacy” is the result of a long journey. Considering our physiological, psychological, and social changes over time, these evolutionary transformations point to the fundamentally social nature of our human history. We have always had an incessant need to articulate common systems and points of reference in order to make sense of our world. Such common understanding of social reality requires the elaboration of representations around which groups form. These representations are social and serve the purpose of structuring our relations with one another and validating our common reality. In so doing, our social reality is constructed and social identities are created. Against this background, we will explore in this course how we, as humans, have been driven to develop into what we are today. To help us understand the constructive, dynamic, and social nature of our evolution, we will revisit one of the more obscure books in social psychology, The Human Legacy, written by Leon Festinger—one of the most famous social psychologists of the 20th century. This book analyzes some of the crucial elements of our evolution that have permitted the steady and continuous progress in our history. Key questions addressed in this book are more than relevant for our time, including the development of technology and its relation to religion, the implications of sedentary living, the production of food, and the human race’s self-destructive propensity for warfare.

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Global Child Development

Intermediate , Small seminar—Fall

Prerequisite: a college-level course in the social sciences

The majority of the world’s children live in the global South, yet less than 10% of developmental science research has studied communities that account for 90% of the world’s population. Thus, there is a desperate need to better understand child and adolescent development outside of the United States and Western Europe. In this course, we will begin to do this by exploring what is currently known about children’s health and nutrition, motor and cognitive language, and social and emotional development across the globe. Where the research is limited, we will consider if and when research in the global North can be informative regarding child development in the global South. As we do this, we will discuss various bioecocultural approaches to better map out the connections between multiple factors, at multiple levels, impacting children’s developmental outcomes. Such holistic, multidisciplinary approaches will lay a foundation for sustainable, context-appropriate, community-based projects to better understand and reduce the aversive effects of multiple environmental risk factors on the development of children across the globe. These approaches will also help us understand and build upon the opportunities afforded by different contexts. Readings will be drawn from both classic and contemporary research in developmental and cultural psychology, psychobiology, anthropology, sociology, and public health, with a critical eye toward understanding both the usefulness and the limitations of this research in light of the populations studied and the methodologies employed. To better understand these contexts, we will also read the literary work of both classic and contemporary authors from the global South. Conference work will provide the opportunity for students to focus on a particular context of children’s lives in greater detail. This may include fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or in another setting with children. This is a small collaborative seminar. In addition to the class meeting time, students will meet in small working groups throughout the semester.

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Bullies and Their Victims: Physical and Social Aggression in Childhood and Adolescence

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Prerequisite: a prior course in psychology.

It can be the bane of our existence in childhood: the bully who simply will not leave us alone. Until fairly recently, the image that came to mind, in both the popular imagination and the world of psychological study, was that of a physically imposing and physically aggressive boy—someone who found the littlest, most defenseless boy to pick on. In recent years, however, that image has begun to change. Now we realize that the ability to harm a person’s social relationships and social “standing” —usually through the manipulation of others—can be every bit as devastating to the victim. And in this new world of social aggression, girls’ expertise has come to the fore. In this course, we will study the nature of bullies and victims in both the physical and social sense and the possible long-term consequences of such bullying for both the perpetrator and the picked upon. We will explore recent evidence that bullying and victimization begin even in the preschool years, far earlier than previously thought; and we will examine some modern approaches used to break this vicious cycle, such as peer programs and interpersonal problem solving. Conference work may include field placement at the Early Childhood Center or other venues, as interactions with real children will be encouraged.

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Theories of the Creative Process

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

A background in college-level psychology, social science, or philosophy is required.

The creative process is paradoxical. It involves freedom and spontaneity yet requires expertise and hard work. The creative process is self-expressive yet tends to unfold most easily when the creator forgets about self. The creative process brings joy yet is fraught with fear, frustration, and even terror.The creative process is its own reward yet depends on social support and encouragement. In this class, we look at how various thinkers conceptualize the creative process—chiefly in the arts but in other domains, as well. We see how various psychological theorists describe the process, its source, its motivation, its roots in a particular domain or skill, its cultural context, and its developmental history in the life of the individual. Among the thinkers that we will consider are Freud, Jung, Arnheim, Franklin, and Gardner. Different theorists emphasize different aspects of the process. In particular, we see how some thinkers emphasize persistent work and expert knowledge as essential features while others emphasize the need for the psychic freedom to “let it happen” and speculate on what emerges when the creative person “lets go.” Still others identify cultural context or biological factors as critical. To concretize theoretical approaches, we look at how various ideas can contribute to understanding specific creative people and their work. In particular, we will consider works written by or about Picasso, Woolf, Welty, Darwin, and some contemporary artists and writers. Though creativity is most frequently explored in individuals, we also consider group improvisation in music and theatre. Some past conference projects have involved interviewing people engaged in creative work. Others consisted of library studies centering on the life and work of a particular creative person. Some students chose to do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center and focus on an aspect of creative activity in young children.

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Speaking the Unspeakable: Trauma, Emotion, Cognition, and Language

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Psychological trauma has been described as unspeakable—so cognitively disorganizing and intense that it is difficult to put the experience and the emotions it evokes into words. Yet, the language that survivors use to describe their traumas provides insight into the impact of trauma and the process of recovery. This course will begin with an overview of theories of trauma, resilience, and post-traumatic growth, as well as an introduction to the study of trauma narratives and how language reflects emotional and cognitive functioning. We will then explore the cognitive, emotional, and biological impact of undergoing a trauma and how those changes are reflected in the language that trauma survivors use as they speak and write about their experiences. We will consider works by experts on trauma and language, including Judith Herman, Bessel van der Kolk, and James Pennebaker, as well as current research in the field of trauma and trauma narratives. Through these readings, we will address topics such as what makes an experience traumatic, how representations of trauma in popular culture color our perceptions of trauma and recovery, the role of resilience and growth following a trauma, and what we can learn from attending to the content and structure of language. This course will be of interest to students who are curious about how the words that we use reflect our cognitive and emotional functioning—and especially for students interested in pursuing topics such as these at an advanced or graduate level.

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Intersectionality Research Seminar

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

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

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

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Thinking Evil: A Social Psychological Exploration

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

The attributional power of the concept of “evil,” in its various representations, has been quite dominant recently. The concept has manifested itself not just in public discourse or theological mystification but also in the work of social scientists, politicians, philosophers, and journalists. “Evil” may even be seen as part of how social media has evolved. Various atrocities and horrors over the past hundred years are proof of “evil's” omnipresence—the prominence of lynching in the South of the United States, the Holocaust, different genocides (e.g., Armenians, Leopold II in the Congo, America’s occupation of Haiti, Pol Pot in Cambodia, China’s Cultural Revolution, Rwanda), and more recently the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and in Paris. Of course, this notion of “evil” is well anchored in most of our religious imaginations. In this century, we have experienced continuous processes of “glorification” of “evil” through the reemergence of religion, facilitating the propagation of various hegemonic representations of “evil.” This seminar seeks to explore the nature of “evil” in our moral, political, and legal discussions. Is it an outdated concept that we should no longer use? What are the conditions defining an action as “evil?” What do we mean when we identify an individual as being “evil?” Is there a relation between the action and the individual committing those acts? These are all questions that we will seek to address from a social-psychological (and thus rather interdisciplinary) perspective.

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Theories of Development

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

For graduate students and seniors with permission of the instructor.

“Knowledge is there in the seeing.” What we observe when we look at children is related to the adult assumptions, expectations, and naïve theories that we carry with us from our own families and childhoods. How are these related to the ways that theorists have framed their questions and understandings of children’s experiences? Competing theoretical models of Freud, Skinner, Bowlby, Piaget, Vygotsky, Werner, and others have shaped the field of developmental psychology and have been used by parents and educators to determine child-care practice and education. In this course, we will read the classic theories in their primary sources—psychoanalytic, behaviorist, attachment, and cognitive-developmental—as they were originally formulated and in light of subsequent critiques and revisions. Questions we will consider include: Are there patterns in our emotional, thinking, or social lives that can be seen as universal, or are these always culture-specific? Can life experiences be conceptualized in a series of stages? How else can we understand change over time? We will use theoretical perspectives as lenses through which to view different aspects of experience—the origins of wishes and desires, early parent-child attachments, intersubjectivity in the emergence of self, symbolic and imaginative thinking, and the role of play in learning. For conference work, students will be encouraged to do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or in another setting with children, as one goal of the course is to bridge theory and practice.

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Memory Research Seminar

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Some previous coursework in psychology is required, and a previous course in statistics is highly recommended.

The experimental study of remembering has been a vital part of psychology since the beginning of the discipline. The most productive experimental approach to this subject has been a matter of intense debate and controversy. The disputes have centered on the relationship between the forms of memory studied in the laboratory and the uses of memory in everyday life. We will engage this debate through the study of extraordinary memories, autobiographical memories, the role of visual imagery in memory, accuracy of memory, expertise, eyewitness testimony, and the neuroanatomy of memory. Frederic Bartlett’s constructive theory of memory will form the theoretical backbone of the course. Most conference work will involve experimental studies of some aspect of memory.

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Cultural Psychology of Development

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: previous course in psychology or another social science.

Cultural psychology is the study of the ways in which individual and culture, subject and object, person and world constitute each other. This course will explore how children and adolescents make meaning of their experiences in the contexts in which they live—assuming that, for all of us, development is an ongoing response to the cultural life around us and that culture is a dynamic process of engagement. We will consider topics such as: language and culture, early storytelling in families, transitions from home to school, and gendered and racial identities. We will read a combination of psychological and anthropological texts. Questions to be explored include: How are a sense of self and place constituted in early childhood? How are these values expressed in children’s stories, art, and play? How do adolescents navigate differing language communities and cultural values in forging their identities? What are some of the implications for public education in this country? Students will have the opportunity to do fieldwork in school or community settings and to use conference work to bridge reading and practical experience.

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Becoming Oneself: From Freud to Contemporary Psychoanalytic Theories of Personality Development

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Fall

A century ago, Sigmund Freud postulated a complex theory of the development of the person. While some aspects of his theory have come into question, many of the basic principles of psychoanalytic theory have become part of our common culture and worldview. This course will explore psychodynamic developmental concepts about how personality comes to be through reading and discussion of the work of key contributors to psychoanalytic developmental theory since Freud. We will trace the evolution of what Pine has called the “four psychologies of psychoanalysis”—drive,ego, object, and self-psychologies—as well as the more recent integrative “relational perspective.” This is a different approach from the social personality work done on trait psychology, and we will consider its value for developmental understanding of the person. We will also consider the issues that this approach raises about children’s development into individuals with unique personalities within broad, shared developmental patterns in a given culture. Readings will include the work of Anna Freud, Erik Erikson, Margaret Mahler, Daniel Stern, Steven Mitchell, Nancy Chodorow, George Vaillant, and others. Throughout the semester, we will return to fundamental themes such as the complex interaction of nature and nurture; as yet unanswered questions, for example, about the development of personal style; and the cultural dimensions of personality development. An interest in theory and its applications is important, as is some background in psychology. Fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or another appropriate setting is required, although conference projects may or may not center on aspects of that experience, depending on the individual student’s interest.

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Challenges to Development: Child and Adolescent Psychopathology

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Spring

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

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Histories of Modern and Contemporary Art

Open , Lecture—Year

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

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

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First-Year Studies: The Brain According to Oliver Sacks

Open , FYS—Year

Dr. Oliver Sacks was a prominent neurologist and prolific writer who considered the workings of the brain through the lens of observing and diagnosing patients, including himself. Sacks communicated the marvels of the brain to the public through his engaging and remarkable stories of neurological dysfunction and his musings on intriguing and poorly-understood topics in neuroscience. We will study the awesome brain in health and disease through Sacks’ writings, accompanied by readings and various media—including a number of films—that complement and expand upon Sacks’ descriptions of brain function. Topics will likely include: vision, blindness, and prosopagnosia (aka face-blindness, from which Sacks himself suffered); speech, audition, music, and deafness; religion, spirituality, out-of-body experiences, and hallucinations; autism and Asperger’s syndrome; Tourette’s syndrome; neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s; memory, amnesia, and the perception of time. Individual conference meetings will alternate biweekly with small-group conference meetings.

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Drugs and the Brain

Open , Lecture—Fall

The nervous system is the ultimate target of many drugs: those taken to alleviate pain, to increase pleasure, or to transform perceptions. We will focus on the neuronal targets and mechanisms of psychoactive drugs, including which neurotransmitter systems they modulate. We will consider stimulants, depressants, narcotics, analgesics, hallucinogens, and psychotherapeutics. Drug use cannot be fully explained, however, by simply identifying the neuronal proteins with which drugs interact. In order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of drug use and abuse, we will explore the social, political, economic, and genetic factors that influence drug consumption—both legal and illegal—and drug epidemics, including the current opioid epidemic in the United States. We will learn about drug sources, forms, and methods of use while exploring what is known about the biological basis of tolerance, cravings, withdrawal, and the disease of addiction. Finally, we will explore the neurobiological mechanisms of currently available treatments for drug overdose and addiction.

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Neurobiology

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

The brain is our most complex organ. The human brain contains a hundred billion neurons whose functions underlie our remarkable capacities, including the ability to sense our environment, communicate via language, learn and remember, perform precise movements, and experience emotions. In this introduction to neurobiology, we will focus on the structure and function of the nervous system, considering molecular, cellular, systems, and cognitive perspectives. We will learn how the nervous system develops and how the major cells of the nervous system—neurons and glia—function. We will examine the chemical and electrical modes of communication between neurons, with a focus on the action potential and neurotransmission. We will consider the major subdivisions of the brain and how those regions control neural functions, including learning and memory, emotion, language, sleep, movement, and sensory perception. Finally, we will study disorders of the nervous system and consider how they inform our understanding of healthy brain function.

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Democracy and Emotions in Postwar Germany

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

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

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

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

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

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

Advanced , Seminar—Fall

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

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

Open , FYS—Year

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

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Romanticism and Its Consequences in English-Language Poetry

Open , Seminar—Year

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

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Conscience of the Nations: Classics of African Literature

Open , Seminar—Fall

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

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The Poetry of Earth: Imagination and Environment in English Renaissance Poetry

Open , Seminar—Fall

One of John Keats’s sonnets begins, “The poetry of earth is never dead.” This course will step back from Keats to the writing of several of his great predecessors in the English Renaissance to reflect on how imagination shapes environment and environment shapes imagination in the early modern period. The late 16th and 17th centuries were a time of transition between traditional, feudal society—with its hierarchical ideas of order, of humanity, and of nature—and emerging modernity, with its secularizing humanism, its centralization of political and economic power, its development of increasingly dense and complex urban centers, and its commitments to the study and potential mastery of nature through empirical science. With early modernity come all of the challenges to natural environment and its resources that we are so familiar with and challenged by: urban sprawl and environmental degradation, privatization of land, air and water pollution, deforestation and exhaustion of other resources, and diminishment of local species populations. We will study how several major writers register and respond to these tensions and these changes in what we might call their environmental vision, their imagination of nature: as wilderness, the “other” to civilization and its values, as chaos and threat, as liminal space of transformation, as pastoral retreat, as cultivatable human habitation and home. Class reading will include major works of Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, John Milton, Andrew Marvell, and Margaret Cavendish. Conference work may entail more extended work in any of these writers or literary modes or other authors who are engaged in theorizing and imagining nature—and may include study in history, philosophy, geography, politics, or theory.

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Odyssey/Hamlet/Ulysses

Open , Seminar—Spring

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

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Slavery: A Literary History

Open , Seminar—Spring

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

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Eight American Poets: Whitman to Ashbery

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

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

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open , Lecture—Fall

Prerequisite: basic high-school algebra and geometry.

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

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The Creative Process: Influence and Resonance

Advanced , 3-credit seminar—Spring

Students may choose to take this course for creative arts credit (creative final project) or humanities credit (final research paper). Permission of the instructor is required.

This seminar/workshop is for advanced students in all of the creative arts—composers, choreographers, writers, and visual artists—who are interested in the process of developing original material. There is no singular creative path, but each artist needs to confront the past in order to find a unique vision, a unique voice. We will examine various influences on creative thought, finding resonant clues and methods in areas outside of one’s chosen creative field. In each session, the point of departure will always begin with music where, for instance, “influence” may be understood as direct musical quotation from a specific composition or a structural idea based on a literary or visual image while “resonance” is about incorporating without actually imitating another composer’s particular sound or translating into music the color and texture of a painting. Since the world is rich with collaborative interconnections, we will explore everything that might have an impact on making new work—from musical antiquity to the far reaches of technology, as well as ritual and myth, the role of nature, art and architecture, literature, memory, politics and protest, nationalism, and global culture. Along with assigned readings and listening to and looking at various media, students will actively seek out and document sources of inspiration and will keep a journal in which they will record their personal experiences and working methods and insights into the creative process. Biweekly group conferences will serve as “open studios,” where individual projects or collaborative work will be explored. The term will culminate in class presentations of either a new work or an in-depth paper based on research.

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Introduction to Social Theory: Philosophical Tools for Critical Social Analysis

Open , Lecture—Year

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

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Chaos or Calm: The 2020 Elections

Open , Seminar—Spring

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

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Democracy, Diversity, and (In)equality

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

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

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Advanced Interdisciplinary Studio II

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

Open to juniors and seniors with extensive prior visual-art experience. Please bring examples of your work to the interview. Students interested in senior exhibitions are encouraged to interview.

This is a continuation of the fall-semester course and is intended for advanced visual arts students interested in pursuing their own art-making processes more fully. Students making work in painting, drawing, sculpture, video, mixed media, performance, etc. are supported. Students will maintain their own studio spaces and will be expected to work independently and creatively and to challenge themselves and their peers to explore new ways of thinking and making. During this spring semester, students will focus exclusively on their own interests and will be expected to develop a sophisticated, cohesive body of independent work accompanied by an artist’s statement and exhibition. We will have regular critiques, readings, image discussions, and trips to artist studios and will participate integrally with the Visual Arts Lecture Series. This will be an immersive studio course for disciplined art students interested in making art in an interdisciplinary environment.

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First-Year Studies: The Way Things Go

Open , FYS—Year

The title of this course is borrowed from the 1987 art film by Peter Fichli and David Weiss, which follows a sequence of causal interactions in a Rube Goldberg-like way. Each object and action affects the next, as the piece evolves over space and time and with great sensory range. In this interdisciplinary studio FYS course, students will be asked to consider their own art-making practice as an interconnected group of acts that evolve over time. Ideas in any creative endeavor rarely arrive fully formed, but creativity, understanding, and clarity come through committed engagement with the act of making. All of our senses contribute to the way we understand the world around us and, consequently, inform how and why we make art. When we see something we’re excited by, we simultaneously hear, smell, or feel something else—which, in turn, affects our initial point of view. This sensory interconnectedness will serve as our course’s foundation, and students will delve deeply into ways of translating the raw data of experience into art. To do so, you will be asked to develop a rigorous studio practice and to work across a full range of mediums—drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, performance, video, photography, sound. Each work will inform the next as your ideas are translated across mediums. As we progress through the year, your artworks will evolve in unexpected ways, challenging you to recognize their potential to affect your subsequent actions. This class will alternate biweekly conferences with biweekly small-group activities, including project and conference work critiques, attendance at the Visual and Studio Arts Lecture Series, museum/gallery tours, and visits to artist studios in the New York City area.

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Media Burn: Moving Image Installation in Practice

Open , Seminar—Year

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

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The Body, Inside Out: Drawing and Painting Studio

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Course preference will be given to those who have painting and/or drawing experience.

This will be a rigorous art course that explores the theme of the body in transformative ways and across the mediums of drawing and painting. The figure will be our main subject, and in-class work will be designed to provoke students to investigate the body physically, psychologically, emotionally, scientifically, and socially. We will paint and draw from live models, from ourselves, and across other diverse media sources. For context, we will look at depictions of the figure from prehistory through contemporary art, as issues of the body in space and the dynamic between the artist and model are extremely relevant in today’s art world. Through direct, immersive observation and imaginitive interpretation, the works you make will be stylistically varied, experimental, and exploratory. You’ll be asked to challenge the conventional dynamic between drawing and painting and, in doing so, push yourselves to make works that defy easy categorization and question the norms of traditional figurative art. Studio practice will be reinforced through discussion, written work, readings, and image lectures for context. Trips to see exhibitions and artist studios will be an integral component of the class, and attendance at the Visiting Artist Lecture Series is mandatory.

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The New Narrative Photography

Open , Seminar—Spring

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

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Nonfiction Workshop: To Tell the Truth

Open , Seminar—Year

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

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Our World, Other Worlds

Open , Seminar—Year

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

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