Philosophy

At Sarah Lawrence College, the study of philosophy retains a centrality, helping students synthesize their educational experience with the discipline’s many connections to other humanities and to social science. Through conference work, students also find numerous ways to connect the study of philosophy with their interests in the arts and natural sciences. Stressing the great tradition of classical and contemporary philosophy, the College offers three types of philosophy courses: those organized around thematic topics, such as Philosophy of Science, Aesthetics, and Philosophy and Literature; those organized historically, such as Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, and 20th-Century Philosophy; and those that study the “systems” of philosophers such as Kant, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein.

Philosophy faculty use the latest technology in their teaching, including Web boards for posting course material and promoting discussion. Yearlong courses make extensive textual work possible, enabling students to establish in-depth relationships with the thought of the great philosophers and to “do philosophy” to some degree—particularly valuable to students preparing for graduate work in philosophy. Conference work often consists of students thinking through and writing on single philosophic and literary works, ranging from Greek tragedy, comedy, or epic to Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Descartes, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, or Heidegger.

2018-2019 Courses

Philosophy

Philosophy as Therapy

Open , Lecture—Year

Since Socrates, philosophy has understood itself as therapy—of “opinion” (Socrates, Plato), of anxiety and passion (the Stoa), of superstition (the Epicureans), and of dogmatism (the Pyrrhonian skeptics and the New Academy). This conception of philosophy receded in the Middle Ages—when philosophy in Christian Europe was conceived of as a “handmaiden to theology”—but returned in the Renaissance and continued to be important in the Enlightenment. Among the moderns, thinkers who understand philosophy as involving therapy include Montaigne, Descartes, Shaftesbury, and Kant, as well as some in the 20th century. In the fall semester, we shall focus on the ancients; in the spring, on the moderns.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The Philosophy of Tragedy

Open , Lecture—Fall

Greek tragedy has been performed, read, imitated, and interpreted for 2,500 years. From the very beginning, it was thought to be philosophically significant—somehow pointing to the truth of human life as a whole. (The phrase "tragedy of life" first appears in Plato.) As a literary form, Greek tragedy is thought to be especially revealing, philosophically, by Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, to name only a few. Among others, Seneca, Corneille, Racine, Voltaire, Goethe, Shelley, O’Neill, and Sartre wrote versions of Greek tragedies. And, of course, there is Freud. Greek tragedy examines fundamental things in a fundamental way. Justice, family, guilt, law, autonomy, sexuality, political life, the divine—these are its issues. For class, we will read three plays by each of the great Athenian tragedians—Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides—with a view toward understanding how they deal with these issues and with the question of the importance and nature of tragedy itself. For conference, we will read perhaps the greatest philosophical treatment of tragedy: Aristotle’s On Poetics.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Heidegger and the Art of Thinking

Open , Seminar—Year

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), one of the most influential philosophers of the last century and a master of the essay form, argued that “to think is to confine yourself to a single thought.” To become familiar with Heidegger’s “single thought” and to follow its development, we will read key essays from his “middle period” (1930s-40s), in which he probes the meanings of death, truth, art, humanism, technology, and thinking. We will pay special attention to the pedagogical facet of these essays; namely, their endeavor to teach us how to discover and develop our own thought.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Economics and Moral Philosophy

Open , Seminar—Year

In the history of economic thought, one of the classic topics has been the “Adam Smith problem,” the problem of how Smith—whose The Wealth of Nations was thought to teach that selfishness is, and ought to be, the primary motive of human behavior—could also have written The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which makes sympathy and benevolence central to human moral psychology. In this course, we shall attempt to understand whether there really is an “Adam Smith problem.” We shall do so by beginning before Smith, with Shaftesbury‘s Inquiry Concerning Virtue and Merit, which teaches that human beings are fundamentally sociable, and Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees, which argues for the political and economic value of selfishness. We shall then go on to read The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations. Our focus will not be on economic theory. Rather, we shall be interested in the question of human nature and its relevance to politics and political economy—and, for example, to disagreements among American “conservatives,” many of whom defend the virtue of selfishness, and American “liberals,” many of whom wish to regard human beings as fundamentally sociable and who wish to cultivate a universal benevolence. Reading these four books slowly and carefully may take us the whole year.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

How to Become Who You Are: Readings in Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Life

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this course, we will read selected works from different phases of Nietzsche’s career and become acquainted with some of the central themes of his philosophy, including his views of art, tragedy, history, and morality. While we will give each theme its own due, our guiding thread will be Nietzsche’s promotion of a morality grounded in an affirmation of life—“yes-saying,” as he called it—and his rejection of all ethical appeals to something beyond this life, this body, this world. To cast light on the profound impact and enduring life of this philosophy, we will accompany our primary readings in Nietzsche with critical appropriations of his thought by leading 20th-century philosophers, including Heidegger, Irigaray, Deleuze, and Foucault.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Time in Film and Philosophy

Open , Seminar—Spring

The experience of time is so deeply engrained in our everyday lives that we tend to take it as a given; we rarely take the time to think about time. Our main objective in this course will be just that: to reflect about time. What is the meaning of time? How do we experience it? Is there a “right way” to experience time and to think about time? Our main register for addressing these questions will be philosophical, and we will get to know writings by some of the best philosophers of the last century and a half—including Bergson, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Kristeva. Since the filmic medium—the “movie”—embodies time and movement in its very structure, we will accompany our philosophical readings with watching and interpreting films, including (Fellini), La Jetée (Marker), Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Akerman), 2001: a Space Odyssey (Kubrick), and Memento (Nolan) that explore their own temporality philosophically.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Ancient Philosophy (Plato)

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

This course will be devoted to a careful reading of one text. The goal of the course is twofold. It is first designed to acquaint students with perhaps the seminal figure in the philosophical tradition in more than a superficial way. (The 20th-century philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once remarked that the “safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”) This will force us to slow our usual pace of reading, to read almost painfully carefully, with a view toward understanding Plato as he wrote and as he understood himself and not as a stage in a historical development. The second part of the goal of the course is to introduce and encourage this kind of careful reading. The text for spring 2019 will be Plato’s Protagoras.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

First-Year Studies: How Things Talk: The Linguistic Materialities of Late Capitalism

Open , FYS—Year

One of the effects of advanced capitalism is to complicate the distinction between words and objects and between humans and things. Within the radicalization of market ideologies characterizing our contemporary moment, what counts as inalienable spiritual values as opposed to alienable material entities? Is kindness a virtuous demeanor or a form of immaterial affective labor that requires the performance of specific acts of speech? What should and what should not have a price? Which is the original, and which is the copy? Is a brand a symbol that stands for a product or a product in itself? How can we distinguish medium from message? This course provides an introduction to anthropology’s theories and methods through an investigation of how words and things mediate and enable human experience, creating the complex semiotic landscapes that we inhabit. The aim is to problematize the conventional conceptualizations of language and materiality and show how, within a regime of advanced capitalism, life and labor unfold through complex interplays of semiotic codes, affective registers, and material objects. Throughout the year, students will be introduced to a series of theoretical and ethnographic readings aimed at illustrating the blurred boundaries between words and things, subjects and objects, signs and referents, artworks and artifacts, gifts and commodities, and alienable and inalienable possessions. Aside from achieving a deeper understanding of how our life is shaped by our relation with things and language, students will also be introduced to the craft of ethnography as a method of research and a genre of writing. At the beginning of the fall semester, each participant will be assigned two objects and will be asked to explore them—as an individual item or as a class of objects—through a series of short essays and ethnographic tasks, which may or may not provide the material for a larger conference paper. Contrary to the classic approach in which the ethnographer engages the description of a specific cultural context through the narratives, beliefs, experiences, and actions of human agents, these thing-centered essays will provide mini-ethnographic sketches of how objects produce cultural meanings and social relations. During biweekly group conference meetings, held throughout the fall semester, students will compare notes on their ongoing thing-ethnographies, share their findings, and discuss their theoretical concerns and methodological problems. Students’ thing-ethnographies will also be presented periodically to the entire class during dedicated workshops. The format of these short presentations will be at the discretion of the participant, but students are encouraged to make use of digital voice recording, photography, and video to illustrate the objects and their contexts of use.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Paris, City of Light and Violence

Open , Seminar—Fall

So they had begun to walk about in a fabulous Paris, letting themselves be guided by the nighttime signs, following routes born of a clochard phrase…. —Julio Cortázar, Hopscotch

For centuries now, the city of Paris, France, has held an actual and imaginary intensity in the lives of many. In this seminar in cultural anthropology, we will explore a number of themes and forces that have shaped the cultural and political contexts of life in Paris through the 19th and 20th centuries and on into the 21st—from great works of art to transformations in urban design to the politics of colonialism, migration, racism, marginalization, and police surveillance, as well as critical events of state and collective violence. In walking (conceptually) about a Paris at once fabulous and haunted, we will come to know various signs of being and power in this renowned city. In attending to key events in the recent history of Paris—in 1942, 1961, 1968, 1995, and 2015, for instance—we will work toward developing a comprehensive sense of the many social, cultural, and political dimensions of urban experience in la ville lumière, the “city of light,” in both its central arrondissements and its peripheral banlieues. Along the way, we will consider a number of important literary writings (Hugo, Balzac, Baudelaire, Breton, Modiano, Cortázar, Perec, Sebbar, and Bouraoui), films (Godard, Truffaut, Marker, Varda, Tati, Kassovitz, Haneke, and Sciamma), and scholarship (Benjamin, Dubord, Harvey, Kofman, Fanon, Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, and Latour). Students will be encouraged to undertake conference work on artists, writers, and thinkers associated with Paris or to develop their own anthropological reflections on Paris or another intensive city known to them.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Understanding Experience: Phenomenological Approaches in Anthropology

Open , Seminar—Spring

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

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Specters of the Subject: Hauntologies of Ghosts, Phantasms, and Imaginings in Contemporary Life

Advanced , Seminar—Year

“The future belongs to the ghosts,” remarked the philosopher Jacques Derrida in 1996. As his interlocutor Bernard Stiegler phrases the main idea behind this statement, “Modern technology, contrary to appearances, increases tenfold the power of ghosts.” With the advent of the Internet, various forms of social media, and the ubiquity of filmic images in our lives, Derrida's observations have proven to be quite prophetic, such that they call for a new field of study—one that requires less an ontology of being and the real and more a “hauntology” (to invoke Derrida's punish term) of the spectral, the virtual, the phantasmic, the imaginary, and the recurrent revenant. In this seminar, we consider ways in which the past and present are haunted by ghosts. Topics to be covered include: specters and hauntings, figures and apparitions, history and memory, trauma and political crisis, fantasy and imagination, digital interfaces, and visual and acoustical images. We will be considering a range of films and video, photography, literary texts, acoustic reverberations, Internet and social media, and everyday discourses and imaginings. Through these inquiries, we will be able to further our understanding of the nature of specters and apparitions in the contemporary world in their many forms and dimensions. Students will be invited to undertake their own hauntologies and thus craft studies of the phenomenal force of specters, hauntings, and the apparitional in particular social or cultural contexts.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

“A Talent for Every Noble Thing”: Art, Architecture in Italy, 1300-1600

Open , Seminar—Year

This course involves an in-depth survey of the major monuments of Italian art and architecture from 1300 to 1600. Equal emphasis will be given to the histories and societies of major city-states such as Pisa, Siena, Florence, Venice, and Rome; the canon of art works by artists such as Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo; readings of major critics and historians of Italian art; and the broader intellectual trends, social realities, and movements that provide a context for our understanding of the artists’ and, to a lesser extent, the critics’ creations. Thus, unified Italian church designs will be juxtaposed with gender-segregated social practice, theories of genius with concepts of handicraft, pagan ideals with Christian rituals, creative expression with religious orthodoxy, and popes with monks, dukes, financiers, and “humanist” intellectuals. The first semester will focus on a close reading of texts surrounding the first polemical “humanist” pamphlets about art in early modern history—Alberti’s On Painting and On Architecture—and will include works by Erwin Panofsky, Ernst Gombrich, and Michael Baxandall. The second semester will engage the development of the “High” Renaissance and the intellectual and aesthetic debates surrounding Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael as philosophers, naturalists, geniuses, models, and marginalized outcasts. Class papers will deal with developing a vocabulary for compositional analysis, critical issues in Italian intellectual and social history (particularly, gender studies), and varied interpretive strategies applied to works of visual art and culture. Conference projects may involve selected topics in religion, history, and philosophy of the Italian Renaissance and art and architecture in Europe and the “New World” from 1300 to the present.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Architectures of the Future, 1780 to the Present

Open , Seminar—Year

Through PowerPoint presentations, readings, and discussion, the course gives a challenging, inclusive, and nuanced understanding of buildings and monuments; visionaries and builders; users and functions; and thoughts, practices, and theories of architecture from the Enlightenment to today—all claiming in one way or another to rethink the past, realize the present, and, most importantly, create the future. We will learn to read architecture and read with architects; to contextualize form and its urban, sociopolitical, and epistemological implications; and to see how architecture gives form to context, sense to experience, image to philosophy. Over 200 years, notions of ideal beauty, type, and function mutated to progress in form and function and contemporary iterations in theories of the unformed, the sustainable, the mysterious objective, the abject, and the playful. We will analyze major movements (neoclassical, arts and crafts, technological sublime, art nouveau, Bauhaus, postmodernism, deconstruction, new pragmatism, figural, digital, sustainable) and figures (William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, Sam Mockbee, Zaha Hadid, Jean Gang). Readings will be drawn from history, philosophy, literature (realist, sci-fi, and visionary), Diderot, Edmund Burke, William Blake, William Morris, Buckminster Fuller, Heidegger, Foucault Benjamin, and others. Projects, papers, an architectural notebook dedicated to class notes, readings, drawings, musings, etc., and a conference project will be required in the history, theory, philosophy, and sociopolitical context, including women as users, patrons, and makers of art and architecture. Well-formulated design projects are a possibility. This course shares connections with visual arts, film, and a broad range of subjects in the humanities and social sciences.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Object, Site, and Installation

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

How do we understand sculpture’s literalism, its insistent presence in time and space? Taking our cues from the histories of sculpture, readings in sculptural aesthetics, and theories of objects and social space, this focused seminar examines how modern and contemporary artists have defined sculpture in relation to the body, light, and touch; the pedestal, museum, and public sphere; commodities and everyday objects; and other media such as photography, film, video, and sound. We begin with the legacies of neoclassicism and the fraught status of sculpture in modernism and conclude our story with large-scale, immersive installations in contemporary art. Along the way, we find artists remaking the category of sculpture by blurring the boundaries between public and private; using reproducible and two-dimensional media; and making objects that incorporated commodities, things, bodies, and detritus. The course will touch on discourses of modernism, surrealism, minimalism, site-specificity, installation, and participatory art while offering students a toolkit for thinking about theories of objects and relational aesthetics; race, representation, and monumentality; social and public space; and histories of installation and display. Exploring a range of focused case studies—whenever possible, in situ—this course asks what a 20th-century sculpture was and how it operated in the public realm. This course will also entail a focused consideration of the Bruce Nauman exhibition at MoMA and a field trip to Dia:Beacon; students will be encouraged to focus their conference papers on works seen locally.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

First-Year Studies: Achilles, the Tortoise, and the Mystery of the Undecidable

Open , FYS—Year

In this course, we will take an extended journey through Douglas Hofstadter's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Gödel, Escher, Bach, which has been called “an entire humanistic education between the covers of a single book.” The key question at the heart of the book is: How can minds possibly arise from mere matter? Few people would claim that individual neurons in a brain are “conscious” in anything like the normal sense in which we experience consciousness. Yet self-awareness emerges, somehow, out of a myriad of neuronal firings and molecular interactions. How can individually meaningless physical events in a brain, even vast numbers of them, give rise to meaningful awareness, to a sense of self? And could we duplicate such a process in a machine? Considering those questions will lead us to explore a wide range of ideas from the foundations of mathematics and computer science to molecular biology, art, and music—and to the research frontiers of modern-day cognitive science and neuroscience. Along the way, we will closely examine Gödel's incompleteness theorem, mathematical logic and formal systems, the limits of computation, and the future prospects for artificial intelligence.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Resource Economics and Political Ecology

Open , Seminar—Fall

Humankind’s ability to radically shape, alter, degrade, and threaten the Earth’s system(s) is strongly evidenced. From stratigraphic (geological) markers to plastic and electronic waste to climate change, nonrenewable resource depletion, and soil, water, and air spoliation, the consequences of human activity-induced (anthropogenic) provisioning are well-known, unceasing, and, it appears, accumulating and intensifying. Given the impact and interaction between humankind and the natural environment, far less certainty exists as to how to conceptualize, give narrative to, and address the complex, evolving, and continuous influence between humankind and its environment. As for the discipline of economics, significant tensions exist as to what tools, methods, vision, qualitative and quantitative measurement indicators, and theoretical foundations are appropriate and best-suited for voicing, revealing, stewarding, and redressing existing and future ecological challenges. Along with established and significant topics such as sustainability, externalities, pollution, regulation, global governance, benefit-cost analysis, taxation and subsidy, property rights and the commons, technology, competition and markets, biophysical realities, planetary boundaries, ecosystem services, consumption, and environmental ethics, this semester-long seminar will: 1) investigate distinct and alternative methodological, analytical, and theoretical tools of various schools of economic thought and their approaches to environmental concerns (e.g., mainstream neoclassical, ecological economics, post-Keynesian, Marxian, feminist/ecofeminist, institutionalist, behavioral); 2) examine and stress issues of environmental, racial, and intergenerational justice; unequal ecological exchange; trade and development; labor and ecological arbitrage; legal, political, and public policy dimensions; monetary considerations, accounting; value theory and social costs; 3) consider topics such as deep, shallow, social, industrial, urban, and dark ecology; thermodynamics; and novel ecosystems; 4) analyze and apply evaluative tools, methodologies, and practices, including interdisciplinarity, theoretical pluralism, systems thinking, critical ethnography, critical realism, neoliberalism, ultrasociality, cultural ecosystem services, and indigenous and postcolonial ontologies and epistemologies; and 5) critically explore, appraise, envision, and theorize as to existing and alternative provisioning possibilities and theses such as green capitalism, ecosocialism, degrowth (décroissance), metabolic rift analysis, capitalocene, anthropocene, and subsistence and sufficiency perspectives. Conference production (work) will look to situate students (economists) as keen and discerning interdisciplinary social scientists and will consist of research projects where a broad range of formats or mediums will be accepted in offering the opportunity to examine a topic of personal interest concerning the complex and evolving interaction between humankind’s economic system(s) and the Earth’s system(s).

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Microeconomic Theory and Policy: Advanced Topics

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Some prior background in economics is required.

What assumptions, methodologies, values, vision, and theoretical foundations do microeconomists incorporate and rely upon for analyzing economic behavior at the individual level? What insights, knowledge, inferences, and/or conclusions can be gleaned through examining characteristics of individual firms, agents, households, and markets in order to understand capitalist society? How do our theories of individual and business behavior inform our interpretation of distributional outcomes? Among other topics, this semester-long seminar in intermediate microeconomics will offer an inquiry into economic decision-making vis-à-vis: theories of demand and supply, the individual (agents), households, consumption (consumer choice); theories of production and costs; theories of the firm (business enterprise, corporations); theories of markets and competition; prices and pricing theory; public policy and legal foundations; and theories of value and income distribution. Critical analysis, reflection, and insight into these and other topics will be supported and strengthened by appealing to a broad range of traditions in economics, including neoclassical (orthodox, mainstream, marginalist) and post-Keynesian, feminist, Marxian, law and political economy, and institutionalist (heterodox schools of thought). Insights from legal analyses on microeconomic topics (such as cost-benefit analysis, the Coase theorem, and Pareto optimality) will also be discussed.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Introduction to Property: Cultural and Environmental Perspectives

Open , Seminar—Fall

Perhaps few issues are more contentious in the environmental arena than those surrounding struggles over rights to private, as well as common, property resources. What is property, and how is it made? Who makes property? How are property rights performed, publicized, and enforced? What is a commons, and what is common property? Debates over the “commons” implicate ideas of citizenship, community, the public good, justice, and governance. Controversies over public space and community gardens, genetic recombinant research and rights to the genome, and North-South disputes over rights to biodiversity in the geographic South—as well as debates over property in the Middle East—form some of the hotly contested terrain of property rights and the commons use and ownership. Property rights on a variety of scales—from the biomolecular to whole organs and organisms, from individual trees to whole ecosystems—are examined in varied geographic, biological, cultural, and historical contexts. This course is an introduction to ideas and cultures of property (private, public, and collective); debates, claims, and arguments over the commons; and the environmental and social consequences of different property regimes.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Food, Agriculture, Environment, and Development

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

Where does the food we eat come from? Why do some people have enough food to eat and others do not? Are there too many people for the world to feed? Who controls the world’s food? Will global food prices continue their recent rapid rise? And, if so, what will be the consequences? What are the environmental impacts of our food production systems? How do answers to these questions differ by place or by the person asking the question? How have they changed over time? This course will explore the following fundamental issue: the relationship between development and the environment, focusing in particular on agriculture and the production and consumption of food. The questions above often hinge on the contentious debate concerning population, natural resources, and the environment. Thus, we will begin by critically assessing the fundamental ideological positions and philosophical paradigms of “modernization,” as well as critical counterpoints that lie at the heart of this debate. Within this context of competing sets of philosophical assumptions concerning the population-resource debate, we will investigate the concept of “poverty” and the making of the “Third World,” access to food, hunger, grain production and food aid, agricultural productivity (The Green and Gene Revolutions), biofuels, the role of transnational corporations (TNCs), the international division of labor, migration, globalization and global commodity chains, and the different strategies adopted by nation-states to “develop” natural resources and agricultural production. Through a historical investigation of environmental change and the biogeography of plant domestication and dispersal, we will look at the creation of indigenous, subsistence, peasant, plantation, collective, and commercial forms of agriculture. We will analyze the physical environment and ecology that help shape but rarely determine the organization of resource use and agriculture. Rather, through the dialectical rise of various political-economic systems such as feudalism, slavery, mercantilism, colonialism, capitalism, and socialism, we will study how humans have transformed the world’s environments. We will follow with studies of specific issues: technological change in food production; commercialization and industrialization of agriculture and the decline of the family farm; food and public health, culture, and family; land grabbing and food security; the role of markets and transnational corporations in transforming the environment; and the global environmental changes stemming from modern agriculture, dams, deforestation, grassland destruction, desertification, biodiversity loss, and the interrelationship with climate change. Case studies of particular regions and issues will be drawn from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the United States. The final part of the course examines the restructuring of the global economy and its relation to emergent international laws and institutions regulating trade, the environment, agriculture, resource extraction treaties, the changing role of the state, and competing conceptualizations of territoriality and control. We will end with discussions of emergent local, regional, and transnational coalitions for food self-reliance and food sovereignty, alternative and community supported agriculture, community-based resource management systems, sustainable development, and grassroots movements for social and environmental justice. Films, multimedia materials, and distinguished guests will be interspersed throughout the course. One farm field trip is possible, if funding permits. The seminar participants may also take a leading role in a campus-wide event on “food and agriculture,” tentatively planned for the spring. Please mark your calendars when the dates are announced, as attendance for all of the above is required. Attendance and participation is also required at special guest lectures and film viewings in the Geography Lecture and Film Series—approximately once per month in the evening from 6-8 pm. The Web board is an important part of the course. Regular postings of assignments will be made there, along with follow-up commentaries. There will be in-class essays, debates, and small group discussions. Conferences will focus on in-depth analyses of course topics. You will be required to prepare a poster project and paper on a topic of your choice related to the course, which will be presented at the end of each semester in a special session.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Introduction to Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Year

Experience in the social sciences is desired but not required.

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

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Romantic Europe

Open , Seminar—Year

Between the 1790s and the middle of the 19th century, European culture was largely shaped by the broad current of thought and feeling that we know as “Romanticism.” This course will examine the rise of the romantic sensibility in the decades between the 1760s and 1800 and survey diverse manifestations of Romanticism in thought, literature, and art during the subsequent half-century. We will pay particular attention to the complex relations between Romanticism and the three most portentous historical developments of its era: the French Revolution; the birth of industrial society in Britain; and the rise of national consciousness among Germans, Italians, and other European peoples. Readings will include prose fiction by Goethe, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and Walter Scott; poetry by Wordsworth, Shelley, Hölderlin, and Mickiewicz; works on religion, ethics, and the philosophy of history; and political treatises by the pioneers of modern conservativism, liberalism, and socialism.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The Enlightenment

Open , Seminar—Year

The 18th-century Enlightenment was arguably the most important single episode in the last thousand years of European intellectual history—the true watershed between the “premodern” world and the “modern” world. Yet historians have found the Enlightenment to be a singularly elusive phenomenon. Enlightenment thought was woven of several very different strands; the champions of “enlightenment” shared a surprisingly large number of assumptions with their supposed opponents; and some of the beliefs that we regard as most characteristic of the Enlightenment were already being attacked by Rousseau and other adventurous pre-Romantic thinkers before the century was half over. This course will examine the development of the Enlightenment from its origins in the age of the Baroque to its demise in the era of the French Revolution and Romanticism. While the course’s central focus will be ideas, values, and sensibilities, we will also consider the economic, social, and political context of the Enlightenment and examine the revolutionary upheavals in European politics and culture that brought it to an end. We will conclude by discussing several key texts of the 1790s that typify the revolt against the Enlightenment outlook with which the 18th century ended.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Beginning Latin

Open , Seminar—Year

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

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The Bible and Literature

Open , Lecture—Year

The Bible: the story of all things, an epic of human liberation and imaginative inspiration; a riven and riveting family saga that tops all others in its depiction of romance, intrigue, deception, seduction, betrayal, existential dread, love, reconciliation, and redemption; an account, as one commentator described it, of God’s ongoing “lover’s quarrel” with humanity; a primary source book for major literature across the planet, still powerful in its influence on the style and subject matter of both prose and poetry. In the first term, this course will provide close readings of major biblical narratives and poetry in Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Lectures will explore and interpret a number of patterns and literary types: the major historical narratives of both scriptures; the poetics and speech acts of creation, blessing, promise, covenant, curse, and redemption; the visionary prophetic tradition from Moses to John, the writer of the Apocalypse; the self-reflective theological interpretations of history by Hebrew chroniclers and the New Testament letters of Paul; the sublime poetry of the Psalms, the Song of Songs, and the Apocalypse of John; and the dark wisdom of the Book of Job and of Ecclesiastes. The second term will study the work of major writers who have grounded their own work in biblical themes, narrative patterns, characters, and images and who have so transformed their biblical sources as to challenge their readers to rethink what scripture is and how it works. Selections will be drawn from the work of Dante Alighieri, John Milton, John Bunyan, William Blake, Herman Melville, Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, and Toni Morrison. If there is enough interest in the class, there will be a “Bible Blockbusters” film series on Sunday evenings during the spring term.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Literary Visions From Antiquity to the Middle Ages

Open , Seminar—Year

In dream books and visionary narratives from antiquity to the Middle Ages, characters travel through imaginative alternate worlds that test the boundaries of ordinary human experience and provide insights into their own realities. Such narratives of mental adventure and wonder inspired elaborate dream theories and attributed great authority to the poet’s subjectivity. This course will examine the tradition of literary visions, from Cicero’s Dream of Scipio to the late medieval poem Pearl, using an interdisciplinary method that situates texts within their historical, theological, and manuscript contexts. Our study will highlight the formal conventions of the vision genre but also will reveal how many authors resisted a circumscribed form to explore various contentious political, social, and religious ideas.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

17th-Century British Literature

Open , Seminar—Year

Prerequisite: At least one year of a college-level class in the humanities or a strong AP course in literature.

In England during the 17th century, the great ordering coherences of medieval and earlier Renaissance thinking seemed to disintegrate under the warring impulses of individualism and authority, empiricism and faith, and revolutionary transformation and reinforcement of tradition. Yet, even as monarchy and established church were challenged and torn apart, the 17th century produced an extraordinary flowering of drama, poetry, and prose that expressed the contradictory energies of the period. This course will study English writing of the 17th century in a roughly chronological sequence. The first semester will explore the aesthetics and ideology of the Stuart court and the robust and bawdy urban center of London through a reading of masques and plays by Jonson and Shakespeare and their contemporaries; dramatic and meditative experiments in “metaphysical” and moral verse by John Donne, Ben Jonson, Aemilia Lanyer, George Herbert, and other poets; various developments in scientific, philosophical, and meditative prose by Francis Bacon, Richard Burton, and Thomas Browne; and the early poetry of John Milton. The second semester will study major writing in the period of the English Revolution and Restoration. Our focus will be on Milton, but we will also study the poetry of the Cavaliers, Katherine Philips, Andrew Marvell, and John Dryden and the prose of Thomas Hobbes, John Bunyan, Aphra Behn, and Margaret Cavendish.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Forms and Logic of Comedy

Open , Seminar—Fall

Comedy is a startlingly various form, and it operates with a variety of logics. It can be politically conservative or starkly radical, savage or gentle, optimistic or despairing. In this course, we will explore some comic modes—from philosophical comedy to modern film—and examine a few theories of comedy. A tentative reading list for the first semester includes a Platonic dialogue (the Protagoras), Aristophanes, Plautus, Juvenal, Lucian, Shakespeare, Molière, some Restoration comedy, and Fielding. In the second semester, we may read Jane Austen, Stendhal, Dickens, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Kingsley Amis, Philip Roth, and Tom Stoppard. We will also look at film and cartoons. Both semesters’ reading lists are subject to revision.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

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 Whitman and Dickinson, the fountainheads of a visionary strain in the American poetic tradition, before turning to Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, T. S. Eliot, Hart Crane, Elizabeth Bishop, and John Ashbery. 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.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Translation Studies: Poetics, Politics, Theory, and Practice

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

Linguistic proficiency in a foreign language is strongly recommended.

Translation is the process by which meanings are conveyed within the same language, as well as across different languages, cultures, forms, genres, and modes. The point of departure for this course is that all interpretive acts are acts of translation, that the very medium that makes translation possible—language itself—is already a translation. Because difference, “otherness,” or foreignness is a property of language, of every language, perhaps some of the most interesting problems that we will address revolve around the notion of “the untranslatable.” What is it that escapes, resists, or gets inevitably lost in translation? And what is gained? Does linguistic equivalence exist? How do we understand the distinction between literal and figurative, formal and vernacular, expression? And what underlies our assumptions about the authenticity of the original text or utterance and its subsequent versions or adaptations? Although translation is certainly poetics, it is also the imperfect—and yet necessary—basis for all cultural exchange. As subjects in a multicultural, multilingual, and intertextual universe, all of us “live in translation”; but we occupy that space differently, depending on the status of our language(s) in changing historical, political, and geographic contexts. How has the history of translation theory and practice been inflected by colonialism and postcolonialism? How are translation and power linked in the global literary marketplace? Our readings will alternate between the work of theorists and critics who have shaped what we call translation studies and literary texts that thematize or enact the process of translation, beginning with Genesis and the Tower of Babel. In addition, a workshop component to this course, involving visiting members of the foreign-language faculty and other practitioners of translation, will engage students directly in the challenges of translating.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Game Theory: The Study of Conflict and Strategy

Open , Lecture—Spring

The minimum required preparation for successful study of game theory is one year each of high-school algebra and geometry. No other knowledge of mathematics or social science is presumed.

Warfare, elections, auctions, labor-management negotiations, inheritance disputes, even divorce—these and many other conflicts can be successfully understood and studied as games. A game, in the parlance of social scientists and mathematicians, is any situation involving two or more participants (players) capable of rationally choosing among a set of possible actions (strategies) that lead to some final result (outcome) of typically unequal value (payoff or utility) to the players. Game theory is the interdisciplinary study of conflict, whose primary goal is the answer to the single, simply-stated, but surprisingly complex question: What is the best way to “play”? Although the principles of game theory have been widely applied throughout the social and natural sciences, their greatest impact has been felt in the fields of economics, political science, and biology. This course represents a survey of the basic techniques and principles in the field. Of primary interest will be the applications of the theory to real-world conflicts of historical or current interest.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Discrete Mathematics: A Bridge to Advanced Mathematics

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Your voice will produce a mostly continuous sound signal when you read this sentence out loud. As it appears on the page, however, the previous sentence is composed of 79 distinct characters—including letters and a punctuation mark. Measuring patterns—whether continuous or discrete—is the raison d'être of mathematics, and different branches of mathematics have developed to address the two sorts of patterns. Thus, a course in calculus treats motion and other continuously changing functions. In contrast, discrete mathematics addresses problems of counting, order, computation, and logic. We will explore these topics and their implications for mathematical philosophy and computer science. The form of this seminar will be that of a (mathematical) writing workshop. We will work collaboratively to identify and reproduce the key formal elements of mathematical exposition and proof as they appear in both mathematical literature and each other's writing. This seminar is designed for students interested in advanced mathematical study and highly recommended for students with an interest in computer science, law, logic, or philosophy. Some prior study of calculus is highly recommended.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Philosophy of Music

Open , Lecture—Spring

This course may be taken as a five-credit humanities class or as a component of a Music Third.

In recent years, a number of philosophers have examined the experience of music: Does it express emotions? And, if so, how? Does it convey meaning? Can we use the idea of narrative to help understand music without a text? Etc.? This class will begin by examining some different perspectives on the role of music—and art in general—in life and thought, including that of the Ancient Greeks, Kant, Hegel, Dewey, and Adorno. We will then look at the work of more recent philosophers. The ideas presented in the class will always be related to musical examples; the class will equally involve reading and attentive listening. Musical examples will come mostly from the Western classical tradition, but some other traditions may also be relevant. The goal of the class will be to see how music and philosophical thought can illuminate each other and, hopefully, to deepen our awareness of the range and power of music. We will use analytical techniques in looking at pieces of music, but prior knowledge of music theory is not required.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The Quantum World

Open , Seminar—Fall

Quantum physics revolutionized our understanding of the physical world almost a century ago, and today concepts from it (“Schroedinger’s cat,” “Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle,” “parallel universes,” “entanglement”) can be found all over popular culture—often in confused and distorted ways. In this open course, we will explore the true meaning of quantum theory in a way that does not require physics or mathematics prerequisites. The course will cover the historical process that led to the development of quantum physics, the conceptual meaning of the theory, the ways it is applied in modern physics and technology, and the ongoing philosophical debates about its implications for the nature of reality.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

First-Year Studies: Democracy, Diversity, and (In)Equality

Open , FYS—Year

From ancient times through the major modern democratic revolutions, democracy’s advocates—as well as its critics—believed that democracy requires, and tends to bring about, political equality. Often democratic equality has also been understood to entail important limits on social inequality. And it has also been long presupposed—and sometimes argued—that democracy only works in fairly homogeneous societies, since only in such societies can a people be sufficiently similar and equal to form shared political understandings and projects. Absent considerable commonality—religious, linguistic, ethnic, racial, and/or cultural—as well as political and perhaps social equality, it is feared that democracy deteriorates into the tyranny of the majority or a war of all against all or a shallow contest of competing interests. At the outset of the 21st century, however, we are witness to two dramatic shifts in the character of society that increasingly seem to challenge the viability of democracy, at least if these long-held views about its necessary social presuppositions are correct. 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 new political conditions. On the other, democratic societies are increasingly diverse and their citizens less willing to “forget” their many differences to melt into a dominant national culture. These developments raise some basic questions. Can the character of democracy be reconceived so that it is either better suited to—and/or better able to modify—these new social conditions? If not, is democracy 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. By the end of the course, students will have been introduced to a variety of different disciplines in the social sciences, with a special focus on contemporary political philosophy, and will have surveyed a number of different proposals for deepening democracy in 21st-century social conditions. Educational objectives include acquiring, developing, and perfecting the skills necessary to: read demanding texts with care and rigor; participate in focused analytic discussion of these texts; write, edit and revise interpretive and argumentative academic essays; and conduct original, independent research projects. Students will meet for individual conferences to discuss their independent research projects on a biweekly basis and will also participate in small-group, biweekly meetings to discuss, among other things, the applicability of various concepts discussed in seminar to everyday social and political contexts; to engage in peer-writing workshops; and to take trips to New York City as a “laboratory” of democracy, diversity, and inequality.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Damaged Democracy: Structural Roots of Democratic Dysfunction

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Year

Contemporary democratic and American politics are deeply unsettled. Throughout the democratic world, popular disaffection and anger with “politics as usual” propels candidates from outside the establishment into front-runner status. The “new normal” of our politics includes partisan polarization, an escalation of rhetorical salvos, persons with little to no political experience being elevated to leadership positions, an increasing impatience with the rule of law and similar institutional niceties, and media saturated with highly negative and distortive reportage and advertising. This political climate belies the gravity of issues faced: the erosion of wages and standards of living; increasing inequality and stalled social mobility; unsustainable spending on core state goods, including social security and medical care; ongoing security challenges; global climate change; education and healthcare systems that deliver mediocre results at extraordinarily high costs; etc. What are we to make of our democratic ambivalence, as we live with the triumphs and troubles of a political system that is the worst—except for all the others? To gain insight into these issues, we will look at democracy from a more philosophical, historical, and comparative perspective. We will examine transformations in American political institutions, economics, and civil culture that have, perhaps, made our politics at once more inclusive but also more fractious, unequal, and dysfunctional. The first semester will concentrate on the history of modern democracy, looking both to develop a strong, critical account of democracy as a normative ideal by studying its theoretic roots in seminal texts of modern political thought from Locke to Tocqueville and to gain a critical historical overview of its cultural and institutional genesis, evolution, and decay (Fukuyama and Habermas). We will then turn, mainly in the second semester, to examine some main aspects of the forces troubling democracy in the United States and elsewhere, surveying, in turn: the decline of the legislative process; the decline of political parties and voluntary associations and the consequent “hollowing out” of civil society; important changes in the political economy that have rendered democratic capitalism more prone to crisis, oligarchic capture, and cultural distortion; the role of (new and old) mass media in late-modern democratic politics; the question of whether constitutional democracy is intrinsically valuable or inherently contradictory, in general, and whether the American Constitution is (anti) democratic; the way in which different aspects of an electoral system, from districting to how winners and losers are determined, structure different forms of democracy; and whether the politics of identity is, at once, redressing historical injustice while also fracturing democratic solidarity. Finally, the course will conclude by considering some proposals to strengthen democracy as we move into the heart of the 21st century.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

It’s Complicated: The Nature of Emotions

Open , Lecture—Spring

In the words of Jonathan Swift, “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” In the words of another Swift: “Shake it off.” How do those quotations from popular discourse contribute to our understanding of emotions? Can emotions be defined as simply the opposite of reason? Do they function outside of our control, or can they be regulated? And if they can be regulated, which strategy is best: one that shifts our attention away from emotional stimuli or one that avoids them altogether? These questions represent only part of the curiosity in understanding the complex nature of emotions. In this open-level lecture, our broad aim is to answer, as best we can, the question of what emotions are. We will explore this question through readings from cognitive science, neurobiology, psychology, and the creative arts. The course will begin with a review of historical and contemporary theories of emotion to facilitate discussion about the way each perspective defines emotion. Course themes include explorations of the tension between emotion and cognition, the relationship between emotion and the body, the interplay between emotion and relationships, the intersection of emotion and psychopathology, and emotion regulation. Students are encouraged to contemplate their own emotion-regulation strategies and to reflect on their effectiveness in dealing with challenging emotional situations. Students will be given the opportunity to delve deeper into these course themes through group conference projects. Course content will be infused with discussions of emotion in popular culture. Together, we will look at the ways in which emotions are discussed in music, literature, and film and what studies in this area have to offer by way of increasing our understanding of emotions in everyday life. Lecture.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Building Resilience: Tools From Positive Psychology

Open , Seminar—Fall

For decades, psychology could be considered the study of what is wrong with individuals. Recent contributions from positive psychology are an effort to redirect the field toward areas where human beings get it right. An introduction to the relevant theories and research in positive psychology will help ground our thinking about this perspective and what it has to say about human potential and well-being. A review of recent empirical research will allow students to contemplate the following questions: Does money make us happy? Can listening to music build resilience? Why do some people persevere through adversity while others do not? How does our biological need to connect with others act as a buffer against stress? What benefits do clinical research and practice stand to gain from an integrated positive psychology perspective? Readings will draw upon topics related to attachment and social connection, mindsets and optimism, pleasure and happiness, and meaning and purpose. Particular attention will be paid to the effects of stress and negative thought patterns on physical and mental wellness. Weekly challenges and reflections will be used to connect course materials to students’ lived experiences.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Personality Development

Advanced , Small 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 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, and George Vaillant. Throughout the semester, we will return to fundamental themes such as the complex interaction of nature and nurture, the unanswered questions 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.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Readings in Early Christianity: The Johannine Community

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Fall

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

Faculty
Related Disciplines

First-Year Studies: (Re)Constructing the Social: Subject, Field, Text

Open , FYS—Year

How does the setting up of a textile factory in Malaysia connect with life in the United States? What was the relationship of mothers to children in upper-class, 17th-century French households? How do our contemporary notions of leisure and luxury resemble, or do they, notions of peoples in other times and places regarding wealth and poverty? What is the relation between the local and the global, the individual and society, the self and “other(s)”? How is the self constructed? How do we connect biography and history, fiction and fact, objectivity and subjectivity, the social and the personal? These are some of the questions that sociology and sociologists attempt to think through. In this seminar, we will ask how sociologists analyze and simultaneously create reality, what questions we ask, and what ways we use to explore our questions and arrive at our findings and conclusions. Through a perusal of comparative and historical materials, we will look afresh at things that we take for granted; for example, the family, poverty, identity, travel and tourism, progress, science, and subjectivity. The objective of the seminar is to enable students to critically read sociological texts and also to become practitioners in “doing” sociology—something we are always already involved in, albeit often unself-consciously. This last endeavor is designed both to train students in how to undertake research and intended as a key tool in interrogating the relationship between the researcher and the researched, the field studied, and the (sociological) text. In conference, students will undertake research on topics of interest to them and learn the craft of research by working on topics of direct interest to them. In the seminar, students will also engage in a few shorter collaborative projects with their peers.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Marx and Marxisms: Lineages and Contemporary Relevance

Advanced , Seminar—Year

Ideas of social movements and social change throughout the world in the 19th and 20th centuries were significantly informed by the ideas of one social thinker: Karl Marx. Even today, thinkers in the humanities and social sciences— including media and cultural studies—along with social and political activists continue to be engaged with Marx’s ghost. While many detractors would argue—following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end to the “Cold War”—that Marx’s thought is now irrelevant, others argue the opposite: that the current phase of globalization that we are presently in was, in fact, anticipated by Marx. In this seminar, through a close and in-depth study of Marx’s writings and those of others about him, we will examine the impact of Marx’s ideas on thinking about and practices of social change. The themes in Marx’s writings on which we will focus include the following: his views on human nature, social structures and individual agency and subjectivity, alienation, religion and ideology, objectification and commodification, social class and power relations, and political economy including globalization. Following our close scrutiny of Marx’s work in the fall, in the second semester we will study later thinkers whose work has been inspired by Marx and who carried his ideas further and/or addressed new questions in the light of developments since the historical period in which Marx was writing. Among the latter, we will include thinkers such as Gramsci, Barthes, and Williams, who addressed questions of culture and hegemony; structuralists like Althusser, who dealt with the state and ideology; socialist feminists interested in the relationship of class, gender, and sexuality; geographers interested in the relationship of space, class, and power such as David Harvey and Dorren Massey; critical race theorists; and current analysts of globalization. For conference, students could work on specific social thinkers in the Marxist tradition and/or examine political and social movements inspired by his analysis.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

First-Year Studies: Fake News, Real News, News That Stays News

Open , FYS—Year

This combination literary survey and writing course will introduce students to the rhetoric and reality of factual writing and to the dilemmas of truth that obtain when we take complex, fragmentary human experience—whether personal or social—and transform that experience into stories. Students will be asked to write their own stories and to research stories about the world along the spectrum of nonfiction from journalism to essays to oral histories to case studies. They will also be asked to think about the underlying epistemic problems that come with representing facts in language—from blunt-force manipulations of truth for the sake of political gain to more subtle distortions that arise from the techniques of creation, representation, and persuasion. We will read a broad variety of writers, ranging from Aristotle, Longinus, and St. Augustine to Basho, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, and Marshall McLuhan to a legion of contemporary writers writing about race, gender, sex, art, technology, the environment, sports, and themselves. We will think long and fruitfully about how the ephemeral facticity of the world is fashioned into, on the one hand, propaganda and polemic and, on the other, great art.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Poetry: The Creative Process

Open , Seminar—Spring

The novelist Willa Cather stated that real “artistic growth” is a continuing refinement of our own approach toward “truth-telling.” Emily Dickinson wrote: “Tell all the Truth, but Tell it Slant.” In this poetry workshop, we will read and write, bearing in mind questions about the creative process, metaphor, truth, and truthfulness. Is a fact the truth? Is metaphor a lie? How does telling it “slant” help our poems evoke or enact rather than state (a poem is never reportage) how and why? We will read and discuss essays on creative approaches to writing; on poetics, prosody, memory (metaphor?), and revision—also reading a variety of poems across traditions, cultures, and contemporary poets of different styles and aesthetics. To read IS to write! If you are not reading, you are not writing! A workshop is the best place for risk-taking and mistake-making. We are here to help one another become better readers and writers, each in our own voice, with passion and compassion. Requirements: class participation, attendance, conference meetings, a “chapbook” of revised poems (no fewer than eight poems per semester), and an annotated book log due each semester.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Eco-Poetry

Open , Seminar—Year

In this poetry class—a yearlong school of poetry and the Earth—we will consider the great organism Gaia, of which we are a part. We will read the long and rich tradition of poetry addressing itself to this subject, from the early indigenous peoples through the Zen monks and Wordsworth and right up through Gary Snyder and to utterly contemporary poets such as Brenda Hillman and Chase Twitchell. We will also read books and articles that teach us about the physical world. We will wonder how eco-poetry is different from nature poetry. We will practice one and then the other. Each student will research an aspect of the natural world and incorporate that knowledge into documentary poems. Each student will present his/her knowledge and poems to the class community as a conference project each semester. We will read books of poems but also watch films, take field trips, and meet with each other outside of class. By the end of the class, my hope is that each of us will have a greater understanding of the great organism that we call Earth and will create a collection of poems that engage the questions that our class raises: What is time? What is death? What is Eden? Where is the garden now? Who are the other organisms? How have we, as a species, affected the other organisms? How have we affected the oceans, the earth, the air? How can poetry address the ecological crisis? Required for this class: intellectual curiosity, empathy, and a willingness to observe the world—to pay attention and to write poetry that matters—beyond the individual self. This is a class for experienced writers, as well as for those who want to give writing poetry a try. All are welcome.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

A Kind of Haunting: A Poetry Workshop

Open , Seminar—Spring

In James E. Young’s essay, “Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin: The Uncanny Arts of Memorial Architecture,” Young describes Libeskind’s designing of the Jewish Museum in Berlin and how essential to its design was the folding in of fragment, void, interruption, and other iterations of rupture. Of Libeskind’s project, Young writes “His drawings for the museum thus look more like the sketches of the museum’s ruins, a house whose wings have been scrambled and reshaped by the jolt of genocide. It is a devastated site that would now enshrine its broken forms.” In this poetry workshop, we will examine the different ways in which poetry can allow for what cannot be articulated—either because there are simply no words to convey what must be said or because the speaker cannot utter what must be said—and how allowing space for the unspeakable can result in a kind of haunting in a poem. Each class will begin with the discussion of an outside text and then move on to the workshopping of students’ poems. Texts we will be reading and examining include James E. Young’s essay, as well as writings by Jacques Derrida, Mark Fisher, Darian Leader, excerpts from Laura Oldfield Ford’s ‘zines Savage Messiah, excerpts from films, contemporary artwork, and, of course, poetry. Readings from poetry may include work by Cathy Song, Fred Moten, Dionne Brand, Denise Riley, Helene Dunmore, Sean Bonney, Novalis, and the fragments of Hölderlin.

Faculty
Related Disciplines