Section 001 Perceiving the World
Instructor: Kevin Connolly
Each of us is in contact with the world outside ourselves: we taste, touch, see, smell, and hear. At the same time, we also perceive the world in another way, through our beliefs and past experiences. We come from different places, shaped by different communities and activities, and our beliefs and experiences give us a particular perspective on the world. In this seminar, we will explore how our senses help us experience our environment, and how our worldviews shape the way in which we perceive the world. To what extent do our individual differences shape our perceptions? What can philosophy, literature, and cutting-edge scientific research teach us about these differences? And how can we come to understand worldviews very different from our own? In search of answers to these questions, we will read texts such as George Berkeley’s Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, Oliver Sacks’ Hallucinations, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies. Students will develop their abilities to critically read difficult texts, speak articulately in an intellectual forum, and write well-argued papers.
Section 002 Critical Thinking and Social Justice
Instructor: Jessica Payson
You are signing up for a course designed to enhance your critical thinking skills. But why is critical thinking important? This course will ask you to consider the ways in which your capacity to think critically is not only valuable to you, but also important to society. What is the connection between a successful democracy and an informed and critically engaged people? Is being unaware or sloppy in one’s reasoning a failure in one’s political responsibility? In what ways might a lack of critical thinking perpetuate social injustice, such as sex- or race-based oppression, and in what ways might careful critical practices undermine such injustice? This course will ask students to reflect on these and other related questions by reading texts in political philosophy, ethics, feminism, and critical race theory. Particular theorists may include Socrates, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Stuart Mill, Paulo Freire, and Judith Butler. Texts may also include contemporary political punditry in the form of daily newspapers (The New York Times), radio broadcasts (NPR’s This American Life), or TV programs (The Rachel Maddow Show or The Colbert Report). Students will develop their own capacities for critical thinking through class discussions and writing assignments that require them to analyze, interpret, evaluate, and build compelling arguments.
Section 003 Discipline and Disputation
Instructor: Elly Truitt
The university is a medieval institution. The bachelor’s degree is a medieval credential. The liberal arts education stretches back to classical antiquity. In this course, students will investigate the formation of the liberal arts and the evolution of the curriculum as well as the locations of learning—religious institutions and early universities. Additionally, students will learn about the medieval production of knowledge, through commentary, annotation, exegesis, and manuscript books. In conjunction with the topics of this course, students will also consider what it means to be engaged in a noble pursuit that stretches back over a thousand years.
Section 004 and 029 Performance and Self
Instructors: Linda Caruso Haviland, Gail Hemmeter
When we use the word “self,” what do we mean? Are we coherent, authentic, natural selves, or is what we call “self” a role we’ve taken on and can easily discard or change at will? What does it mean to perform ourselves--in life, on stage, in film, in dance, in texts? Do we perform a social or cultural role in a script that has already been written for us? Or do we create ourselves through desire, passion and will? In this seminar, we will use a variety of texts to examine the ways we perform ourselves in daily life at the intersections of gender, race and class. We will also look at the ways artists and writers construct performances that convey these social and political aspects of identity. We will draw our texts from a variety of sources: philosophy, psychology, theater, dance, fiction, poetry, and film. They include examinations of the self by Freud and social scientist Ervin Goffman; poetic expressions of gender performance by Tony Hoagland and Gloria Anzaldua; analyses of gender in ballet and modern dance, in films such as Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home; depictions of race in Henry David Hwang’s M. Butterfly; dramas of class in John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation and in the writing of Barbara Ehrenreich. Our final project will provide an opportunity for groups to create a short performance around themes and ideas generated by the class. Because writing is also a performance, we will pay attention to how we present ourselves on paper. Students will write frequently, participate in occasional projects and peer review groups, and have opportunities to revise their work.
Section 005 Meditations on Mortality
Instructor: Jennefer Callaghan
One thing is certain: each of us will die some day. Most of us choose to ignore this fact, probably because of its power to provoke feelings of fear, anxiety, or defiant anger. Yet there is much to learn from facing our own mortality--becoming aware that death is an unavoidable, universal human experience. In this course, we will examine a range of responses to mortality by people who encounter death personally or professionally. In what ways do they make meaning of their encounters with death? What understandings do they develop about the relationship between life and death? What, ultimately, can meditations on mortality teach us about life? We will seek answers to these questions by discussing and writing about texts drawn from the fields of literature, philosophy, sociology, and religion. Through frequent short writing assignments that lead to longer analytical and argumentative essays, students will learn strategies for generating and organizing ideas, drafting, and revising.
Section 006 Representing War
Instructor: Rosi Song
War has always been part of human history. And this history has always been accompanied by the representation of warfare through cultural artifacts. Through writing, paintings, sculptures, photographs, films, and documentaries, the human mind has tried to capture the experience of war. But what does it really mean to represent war? Is it the simple depiction of atrocities either through a visual medium or a written text? What other stories or messages do these texts carry? Are there other stories or narratives? Other perspectives? Has this representation changed through history? What are the ethical implications of engaging with texts that try to tell the “truth” about war? What role do memory and trauma play in telling these stories? We will explore these questions and others that will arise from our class discussion through the reading of fiction, the viewing of films and documentaries, artwork, photojournalism, and propaganda posters. A small selection of fiction and memoir about different war conflicts will anchor our class discussions. Films may include Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. These will be complemented by other critical texts as we expand our exploration of various topics regarding the representation of war. Students will reflect on these subjects through short papers that will be expanded into longer analyses of texts and visual materials assigned for this course.
Section 007 Across Genders, Across Cultures: Transgenderism Around the WorldInstructor: Casey Miller
Although every society defines what it means to be male or female, each does so in its own way. Similarly, in every culture there are people and communities whose gender identities do not fall neatly within a simple male/female binary and who call into question what it means to be a man or a woman. This seminar introduces students to important issues in the cross-cultural and anthropological study of transgenderism. What role does culture play in shaping and regulating gender and sexuality? How are the experiences of transgender individuals and communities around the world both similar and different? What does the study of transgenderism reveal about how gender and sexual norms are created, continued, and challenged? Together we will look for answers to these and other related questions by discussing and writing about a range of contemporary, historical, ethnographic, and fictional texts and films that explore transgender lives and cultures from across the globe, including Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe, South and North America. Possible texts include Don Kulick's Travesti: Sex, Gender and Culture among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes, Gayatri Reddy's With Respect to Sex: Negotiating Hijra Identity in South India, and Esther Newton's Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America. Topics and themes to be studied include concepts like "third gender" and "transgender;" intersexuality; the intersection of transgenderism with class, race, ethnicity, and nationality; drag and camp; and the development of trans theory, politics, and activism. Class writing exercises and assignments will also help students hone their abilities as critical thinkers and writers by developing strategies to engage with difficult texts, create original and insightful arguments, and effectively communicate them to others through drafting and revising short essays and longer papers.
Section 008 Borders
Instructor: Jennifer Harford Vargas
The border is more than a line separating one country from another. We are surrounded by many kinds of borders that divide people and establish a binary between insiders and outsiders, between “us” and “them.” This course examines the concept of the border through the lenses of race and nation in the context of the United States and, in particular, with regards to Latina/os, African Americans, and Anglo Americans. We will explore such questions as: How is race constructed in the U.S., how do individuals perform racial identities, and how do communities negotiate racial tension and racial mixture? How do the immigrant and the undocumented migrant reconfigure or challenge what it means to be a member of our national community, and what do their border-crossings tell us about how we imagine and police the boundaries of the U.S.? We will approach the problematic of borders through different genres such as films (Bamboozled and Sleep Dealer), comedy (Dave Chappelle and Stephen Colbert), performance art ("The Couple in the Cage"), graphic books (Codex Espangliensis), novels (Kindred), documentary narratives (The Devil's Highway), and protest art (Alto Arizona and "Migration is Beautiful") by and about people of color to analyze how borders are defended, crossed, blurred, and even dismantled. We will compare the efficacy of different media and ask how techniques such as parody, historical revision, documentation, and linguistic creativity reinforce or interrogate racial and national borders. Students will ultimately learn to be critically conscious of the various borders that shape their lives.
Section 009 Travel Tales and Understanding
Instructor: Peter Briggs
This seminar covers a varied group of readings, all involving travel, exposure to new cultures, and the kinds of learning that come with exposure to unfamiliar and often thought-provoking values. Some readings are set in everyday contexts, while others are more unusual: captivity narratives, imaginary travels, a temptation narrative, and even a descent into madness. Readings will include Zitkala-Sa's American Indian Stories, Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats, Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders, Charlotte Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, H.G. Wells's The Time Machine, Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, and Julia Alvarez's How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. This rich reading fare guarantees lively class discussions, often centering on the social and personal values of different cultures; the readings also provide many writing opportunities--chances to look into new values or conflicts among values on paper. This is a seminar without “right answers.” It prizes ongoing explorations above arrival at a final destination.
Section 010 Race and New Media
Instructor: Hoang Tan Nguyen
This seminar explores the central role that “race” plays in our experience of the Internet. How is “race” differently constructed in “old” and “new” media? In what ways have virtual spaces enabled new identities and community formations? How have people of color interacted with these new technologies? Our investigation of race and new media will be guided by the following key terms: access, community, identity, democracy, sexuality, interactivity, and activism. We will read a wide range of texts from different disciplines and fields of study. Our case studies will encompass social networking, video games, artists’ Web projects, YouTube, blogs, film, and video art. Texts include Phillip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep; Greg Pak’s film Robot Stories; the website Blackpeopleloveus.com; Glowpinkstah's YouTube channel; and Lisa Nakamura's "The Race in/for Cyberspace."
Section 011 Classical Myth and the Contemporary Imagination
Instructor: Karl Kirchwey
The myths of the Greeks and Romans have provided an inexhaustible imaginative source for artists in all media throughout the history of Western civilization, and each age has rewritten these myths (by translating them or adapting them) to reflect its own interests and anxieties. Writers have superimposed their visions upon the source myth, and in turn these visions have been examined by literary criticism, creating a kind of archaeology of interpretation on three levels. In the tension between the source myth and its reinterpretations lies the interest and the challenge for us as critics and as writers. This course will pay particular attention to myths as they are embodied in the works of the playwrights Sophocles and Euripides and the poet Ovid, and their updates by writers such as Jean Anouilh, T.S. Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Ezra Pound, Wole Soyinka, Timberlake Wertenbaker, and others.
Section 012 Breaking: Creative Disruption in Experience, Knowledge, and Writing Instructor: Alice Lesnick
“Only Connect!” With these words, expressing the thoughts of a beloved literary heroine, novelist E.M. Forster affirmed a deep human impulse: to bridge, to fuse, to merge. This course begins where this impulse ends--with the decision to make a deliberate break in a way of thinking or living. While human socialization through institutions such as family, school, and religion often emphasizes connection, we will examine instead the arts of disruption. Through reading and writing in a variety of genres, we will explore the dynamics of breaking--intellectual and emotional, personal and social--and how to use breaking as a lens on two areas of academic and activist work. We will begin by working with The Breaking Project, an online anthology devoted to the exploration of breaking in essay, poetry, video, and artwork. Additional genre-breaking texts (print, visual, and video), including by graphic novelist Alison Bechdel, writer and wire walker Philippe Petit, and mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar (whose Magic Gardens in Philadelphia we will visit), will follow before we undertake a study of education as breaking. The final phase of the course will offer each student the opportunity to investigate an area of personal academic interest using breaking as an analytic frame and tool. In addition to intensive writing, revision, and consultation, frequent informal writing and sustained writing groups will provide a community structure to support students’ growth as writers and thinkers.
Section 013 Culture Shock
Instructor: Sharon Bain
The concept of culture comprises the beliefs, values and institutions passed down from generation to generation within a social or ethnic group. Culture, as each of us defines it, influences our behavior, informs our attitudes toward others, and shapes our understanding of right and wrong. What happens when disparate cultures intersect? How do individuals cope with the “culture shock” that forces them to redefine reality as they know it? When does this shock lead to conflict, destruction or enlightenment? This seminar will examine fictional works of literature and film that depict characters who encounter ways of life foreign to their own. In class discussions and writing assignments students will explore the cross-cultural relationships in these works and will analyze the ways authors depict beauty and tragedy as outcomes of struggle. Some of these works include East Wind: West Wind by Pearl Buck, Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick, the film Good-bye, Lenin! directed by Wolfgang Becker, and Miss Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell. By the end of the semester, students will have produced six papers, including a small research project on culture shock at Bryn Mawr.
Section 014 The Politics of Development in East Asia
Instructor: Michael T. Rock
The aim of this seminar is to examine the relationship between politics (autocracy and democracy) and economic development in the East Asian newly industrializing economies (China, Japan, South Korea, and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) in Northeast Asia and Indonesia; Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand in South East Asia). We will draw on theory and case studies to answer questions such as: Have East Asia's governments fashioned uniquely new relationships between states and markets, challenging a more conventional wisdom that democracy and markets are inseparable? Why hasn’t the middle class played its historic role of ushering in democracy in some of these polities? How has ethnic diversity affected or influenced the emergence and consolidation of semi-democratic regimes? Why has the transition to and consolidation of democracy been so difficult in some of these polities, while it appears to have occurred rather smoothly others? Finally, how has the transition to and consolidation of democracy in several of these polities affected development?
Section 015 Anxious Masculinity
Instructor: Ray Ricketts
Certain figures of masculinity grab center stage in our cultural memory, whether they are actual or mythical, heroic or vicious: the chivalrous knight, firemen, stoic cowboys, dandies, the mob boss, the tomboy, the bad boy, the family man, the computer geek, “Rosie the Riveter.” Far from expressing any timeless essence of masculinity, these examples reveal the highly contingent and emotionally fraught nature of masculinity, especially in relation to history, politics, the body, sexuality, and popular culture. In this course, students will focus on this malleability through interrogating how we often define masculinity by opposing it to femininity; we’ll explore masculinity as a concept that can be detached from the male body, and ways in which social and cultural forces construct both genders. In examining the ongoing cultural construction of masculinity, specifically, we may conclude that its only “timeless” aspect is its constant vulnerability to subversion and change. Topics will include the important connections among masculinity, race, and class; the roots of recent phenomena such as the sensitive man, the men’s movement, “bear” culture, and the increased visibility of female-to-male transgender expression; homoeroticism, queer masculinity, and female masculinity; and representations of masculinity in popular culture. Texts may include Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, Susan Faludi’s Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, Susan Bordo’s The Male Body, C.J. Pascoe’s Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School, Judith Halberstam’s Female Masculinity, and others. We’ll also read autobiographical accounts of female-to-male transgender people, as well as screen the 2001 documentary Southern Comfort. Students will write frequently, contribute to class discussion, and have the opportunity to revise their work.
Section 016 Bookmarks: Technologies of Writing and Reading, from Plato to the Digital Age
Instructor: Katherine Rowe
In this seminar, students think about media change across very long spans of time and assess different writing and reading technologies for both their strengths and limitations. For example, we may talk about the differences and similarities among scrolls, books, and Web pages in terms of the ways they store and transmit knowledge, and serve the different interests of writers, editors, and readers. Or we may compare the unexpected rebound effects Mark Twain experienced when he bought his first typewriter with those that students today experience with emerging e-technologies such as Wikipedia and Facebook. Students will learn to approach their own writing strategically: practicing skills that can scale to small and large projects and translate readily across different writerly contexts.
Section 017 Arguing with Songs
Instructor: Michael Tratner
This course will focus on how popular songs persuade us to act and think in certain ways and on how we might “argue back.” We will start with songs that overtly present arguments: critiquing consumerism (Kanye West, “All Falls Down”); breaking gender roles (Dar Williams, “When I was a Boy”); presenting solutions to social problems (John Lennon, “Imagine”); criticizing the global political order (Fela Kuti, “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense”); resisting sexism (Queen Latifah, U.N.I.T.Y.); turning political speeches into songs (Will.I.Am. and others, “Yes We Can”). We will examine how such songs are structured as arguments, and we will write songs and essays using those structures. To generalize from songs to other arts, we will consider how arguments appear in images, videos, architecture and even landscaping. To understand the power of the arts to persuade, we will read some theories of how the arts tap into the unconscious and prescribe identities for us to inhabit. Finally, we will consider what it means to live in a media-saturated society: to be yourself, do you need to find ways to answer all the arguments washing over you every day?
Section 018 Political Philosophy: Articulating the Modern “West
Instructor: Stephen Salkever
Modern Western political philosophy arose as an attempt to make sense of the profound, tradition-shattering changes in European society and politics that came to a head in the 16th and 17th centuries. What changes? One was the emergence of modern nation-states in place of feudal authorities. Another was the development and spread of a new kind of science and philosophy that was independent of organized religion (later known as “the Enlightenment”). And finally the gradual shift for large numbers of people from rural to urban society, from an agricultural life within a long-standing and seemingly changeless traditional social hierarchy, to a commercial life (later known as capitalism) organized around relatively impersonal, changeable, and self-regulating markets.
We will read a variety of short but substantial texts from this political and philosophical project, including works by Machiavelli, Locke, J.S. Mill, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche. We will also look at some applied philosophy in the form of recent Supreme Court cases. Our classes will be discussions of the presuppositions and implications of these texts, and of how they reinforce and (often) challenge one another. In general they all agree that freedom should be the ultimate political goal, but they differ radically over what this “freedom” should mean. Frequent short papers, with opportunities for rewriting, will give students the chance to join in this often contentious philosophical conversation about the meaning of modernity, and to go one step further by asking whether this modern “West” is now being transformed by our globalizing present into something very new.
Section 019 Stranger Than Fiction: From Realism to the Fantastic
Instructor: Daniel Torday
While we often think of fiction and nonfiction as distinct genres, the lines that divide them are not always so clear. How do we read George Orwell’s account of seeing a man executed by hanging differently if Orwell actually witnessed the event--or if it was “only a story,” as he claimed long after “The Hanging” was published? How can reading both the fictional accounts of the Russian Red Cavalry found in Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry Stories and earlier accounts of the same events found in Babel’s diaries help us understand why some writers of war narratives present their texts as nonfiction, while others write fiction clearly derived from first-hand experience? And what’s with W.G. Sebald’s crossing the lines between memoir and novel? In this course we will use close readings of a group of stories, novels, essays, and films that blur the lines separating nonfiction and fiction--in form and in content--to make inquiry into the nature of the dialectics of the reporting of empirical facts, memory and storytelling. While engaging these texts, we will develop and hone the writing skills expected on the college level.
Section 020 Drugs, Brain, and Culture: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Instructor: Earl Thomas
The human brain is certainly the most complex entity in human experience and quite possibly the most complex thing in the entire universe. It defines us as human beings. As such, it is the source of many great controversies. We will consider these controversies in the context of how we see the role of drugs and the brain in our culture. Our view of drugs and society is often revealed in literature, and in film. We will examine examples from literature and film as a means of reflecting upon how we view the interface between drugs, brain and culture. Examples from literature include Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Don Delillo’s White Noise. Examples from film include Dr. Erhlich’s Magic Bullet and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. We will also examine closely the writings of those who are highly involved in the controversies. One of the goals of the seminar is to provide the student with enough scientific background to enable her to develop an informed opinion on these issues. Students will write regularly on the issues and participate in group discussions as well as in one-on-one conferences with the instructor.
Sections 021 and 022 Poverty, Affluence and American Culture
Instructor: Matthew Ruben
Section 021: TTh 12:45-2:15
Section 022: TTh 2:15-3:45
Whether dramatized by images of the Great Depression and post-Katrina New Orleans, or by the number of Americans lacking health insurance or facing foreclosure, poverty is one of the most persistent problems and controversial issues in the United States. Along with its obvious economic dimensions, poverty has a wide variety of political and cultural meanings. Through a selective, critical examination of scholarly works, journalism, novels, and movies, this Balch Seminar will explore the related themes of poverty, wealth, and the American Dream in the U.S., from the 1860s to the present. Using work from authors and directors as diverse as Benjamin Franklin, Malcolm X, Barbara Ehrenreich, Sandra Cisneros, Spike Lee, and Richard Wright, the course will look at how poverty, poor people, and class mobility have been discussed and represented in the United States, and it will provide an opportunity to explore how class and economic advancement impact how we see the meaning of America.
As an Emily Balch Seminar, this course involves critical reading, in-class discussion and cogent, idea-driven academic essay writing with one-on-one writing conferences outside of class. Course materials are drawn from a variety of genres and fields, and are meant to promote rich, open-ended interpretation and discussion. Students will write a series of papers and will have the opportunity to revise their work.
Sections 023 and 024 The Journey: Act and Metaphor
Instructor: J.C. Todd
Section 023: TTh 11:15-12:45
Section 024: TTh 2:15-3:45
Why do we travel? What happens when a journey goes wrong? How can we journey while sitting still? These and other questions will arise as we investigate how a journey can be seen as a manifestation of freedom, of resistance, of oppression, of intellectual engagement. Our aim is to develop critical insights into the journey and its structure as an act and as a metaphor. We will use a variety of sources: literature, history, cultural studies, science and our own travels, beginning our investigation as the first humans began their travels—on foot, examining the relationship of walking to consciousness. We will explore spaces where travelers might rest and reassess or wander: Bryn Mawr’s green spaces, cloister and labyrinth, as well as the public squares and walkways of Philadelphia. Among the texts we will explore are classics such as the Sumerian myth of “The Descent of Inanna,” and more contemporary essays, fiction, graphic novel, film and poetry by writers and artists such as Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Jessica Abel, Allen Ginsberg, Jane Jacobs and Agnès Varda. Engagement with these written and visual texts will lead to discussion, fieldwork, journaling, and analytical writing and revising toward final portfolios. Each student’s writing in this course will become a map of the journey of her critical engagement with the idea of journey. In addition to conferencing with the instructor, students will form a community of readers, commenting supportively on the writing of their peers. The campus is our primary walking space, but we will take one Saturday afternoon field trip to Philadelphia; date TBA.
Sections 025 and 026 Exploring Time’s Pendulum
Instructors: Peter Brodfuehrer, Arlo Weil
What time is it? How is time measured? Does time have a direction? Is time travel possible? Why do all organisms have internal time-keeping mechanisms - biological clocks? How do organisms keep time? Where is the human clock located? When did time start? When will it end? Does time exist at all? We will discuss these and other questions in a seminar focused on exploring the concept of time. A range of texts, drawn from metaphysics, philosophy, physics, geology, and biology, will enable us to consider how each of these disciplines grapple with the question of time. We will begin with early philosophers like Saint Augustine and his musings on the reality and direction of time, and then move onto the Age of Enlightenment with Sir Isaac Newton and his assertion that time is absolute and independent of the contents of the universe. From there, we will explore Albert Einstein’s ideas on the relativity of time and the assertion required by quantum mechanics that time has no direction, and is therefore reversible. Additional topics will include the paradoxes associated with time travel, the brain and timekeeping, and “deep time” as relevant to the vast expanse of Earth history. Students will write frequent short essays and reflections, and will have the opportunity to revise their work after critical review from both their instructor and peers. Selections of essays, short stories, scientific articles and visual media will be assigned weekly to support class discussions and generate informed arguments for affective writing. Example texts include excerpts from “A brief history of time” by Stephen Hawkings, “All you Zombies” by Robert Heinlein, and “Time’s Arrow Time’s Cycle” by Stephen Jay Gould. Example films include Momento, directed by Christopher Nolan, and H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, directed by George Pal. The goals of the course are to familiarize students with the demands of college writing and assist them in becoming more effective critical thinkers while introducing a fascinating topic.
Sections 027 and 028 Play in the City
Instructors: Anne Dalke, Mark Lord
TTh 11:15-12:45, plus frequent weekend trips into Philadelphia
These two seminars will address the question of how we construct, experience, and learn in the act of play. We will consider how play is both structured by the environment in which it occurs, and can re-structure that space, unsettling and re-drawing the frame in which it is performed. Our primary playground will be the city of Philadelphia: designed on a grid system, and filled with small side streets and parks, this nearby metropolis will serve us well as a place open to exploration, interpretation and reinterpretation. It is a space where we might also shape and re-shape our own identities in play.
We will visit Philadelphia a lot--sometimes in a large group, sometimes alone or in pairs, exploring various playgrounds, performances and events (travel expenses and most admissions costs will be covered by the College’s experiential, community-based Praxis program). In class, we’ll describe and respond to our play in the city, with assistance from assigned readings, viewings, and other interactive experiences. Using writing as a means of critical reflection, we will think out loud together on a public playground called Serendip Studio, where we will create on-line events in a range of forms. These occasions for writing may include weekly letters to one another, as well as multi-draft essays. We will also play repeatedly with the question of who our audience might be, sharing our writing with one another, responding to (and receiving responses to) one another's creations, as well as giving feedback to, and getting it from, the instructors in bi-weekly conferences.