Course Listings, Fall 2015

Section 001     Not Quite Human
Instructor:  Jennefer
TTh 11:25-12:45 p.m.

Puppets and robots and zombies, oh my! Through means of art or science, humans have created an array of simulated versions of ourselves. In this seminar, we will critically examine humanoids and forms of artificial life in order to explore the following questions: What makes us human? Why do we find simulated humans so appealing…or so creepy? What purposes do they serve? And what are our ethical responsibilities toward them? Our inquiry will draw upon readings from literature, philosophy, psychoanalytic theory, film, and popular science. Texts may include Freud’s “The Uncanny,” Victoria Nelson’s The Secret Life of Puppets, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Spike Jonze’s film Her. 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 002     The Art of Exile
Instructor:   Tim Harte
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

In this seminar we will explore an exciting, diverse range of films, paintings, and fictional prose works devoted to the issue of exile and the plight of immigrants since the beginning of the twentieth century.  In prose fiction, writers like Vladimir Nabokov, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Jumpa Lahiri, and W.G. Sebald offer moving fictional exposés on the struggles and insights of émigrés, just as the filmmakers Fritz Lang, Andrei Tarkovsky, Werner Herzog, Chantal Akerman, and Fatih Akin, among others, have explored on the big screen the struggles of displaced individuals and their yearning for home.  Similarly, painters—such as Vasily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, and Marc Rothko—departed from their native countries only to establish themselves as leaders of new artistic schools in their adopted homes.  We will analyze the work of these and other artists in this course, exploring the influence of intellectual migration on artistic trends and practices across the globe.  There is plenty to read, watch, and discuss, as a variety of short writing assignments will allow for further reflection on a trend that shaped so much of twentieth and twenty-first century culture around the world.

Section 003 and Section 004     Performance and Self
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

Sec. 003 Instructor:     Linda Caruso Havilland
Sec. 004 Instructor:     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 and in films such as Hedwig and the Angry Inch; 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     Family Secrets
Instructor:  Kate Thomas

MW  1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

Why does every family have a secret?  It might be as sweet as a recipe for walnut cake or as cruel as a stolen birthright.  It might be as tiny as a buried doll or as heavy as a murder.  It might – like Thomas Jefferson’s secret – unmask both a family and a nation.   It might – like Richard III’s secret – reveal some myths to be truth after all.  But whatever it is, however important or horrible or humorous, every single family has one.  From slavery to sexuality, from crime families to royal families, we will look at the power of family secrets, and ask what the family is when it is founded on that which must remain unspeakable. We will cover topics such as the concept of family values, slavery, illegitimacy, sexuality, and inheritance.  Our texts will range from Oedipus to The Sopranos via Dickens, Freud, Agatha Christie, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home.

Section 006     Anarchy
Instructor:  Peter Magee
TTh 11:25 – 12:45

In this writing seminar we examine the definition and utilization of the concept of anarchy within global literature. Through fiction and non-fiction readings, we explore how the idea of anarchy has been deployed to undermine and re-affirm existing political and social strategies. In doing so, we will venture into broader conversations about the social role of scholarship and academics. Readings will include the work of Noam Chomsky, George Orwell, Rudolph Rocker, and Emma Goldman as well as relevant visual texts, such as V for Vendetta and Blindness. We will also explore how anarchy has been represented and appropriated in the burgeoning field of Young Adult fiction, including The Hunger Games.

Section 007     Stranger Than Fiction:  From Realism to the Fantastic
Instructor:     Daniel Torday
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

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 008     Travel Tales and Understanding
Instructor:  Peter Briggs

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

This seminar covers a varied group of readings, all involving travel, visits 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, medical histories, 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, 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 009     Cairo:  A Sensory History
Instructor:  Omar Foda

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

As the largest city in the Middle East and the thirteenth largest metropolitan area in the world, Cairo holds an outsized place in the culture of the Arab world. For centuries it has been the social and cultural capital of the Middle East and the preeminent destination of immigration into the Arab world. Egyptians have even come to refer to it as the Umm al-Dunya (The Mother of the World). This seminar seeks to tell the history of Cairo, the city of a thousand minarets, from its establishment in 968 until the present using the history of its sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes.  The course will be organized into five parts corresponding to one of the five well-known senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing). In each of the five parts of the course we will try to understand the history of Cairo through one of these senses.  For example, when studying sight we will examine the visual history of Cairo. This history will included not only a discussion of the development and construction of major architectural structures in the city, like the Ibn Tulun Mosque, but also a discussion of the electrification of Egypt, which allowed residents to see at night, and a discussion of the efforts to fight trachoma, an eye disease endemic to Egypt. This sensory history will expose students to a wide range of sources, including art, architecture, film, literature, and scientific writing and will examine how we can use these sources to write history. Students will also have the chance to study some well known Egyptian artistic productions including the novels of Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, the films of Yusuf Chahine, and the songs of Umm Kulthum. This is a writing intensive seminar where students will develop their analytical writing skills through close consultation with the instructor and work with their peers. 

Section 010      “Unfamiliar Adventures Into Meaning”:  Art & Lived Experience
Instructor:     Dilruba Ahmed

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

Maxine Greene suggested that engaging with art helps us to “break through the cotton wool of daily life and to live more consciously.”  What can art teach us about lived experience?  In the act of creation, how does art of various kinds - music, visual art, film, literature - respond to both the lived experience of the artist and the broader contexts that gave rise to the work?  In order to fully engage with works of art, what questions must we pose about their historical, cultural, and political contexts?  How do our personal experiences affect our responses to art?  How does art help us to “understand [our] own lives in relation to all that surrounds”?
     As we work together to gain meaning from our experiences with art, we will examine the historical and cultural contexts that gave rise to politically-charged songs, paintings, movies, stories, and poems.  We will also read and interrogate nonfiction sources such as newspaper articles, documentaries, narratives, and essays.  This discussion-oriented course will focus on a diverse group of materials that may include Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen,” Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica,” and Joan Baez’s “China.”  Students will learn how to pose critical questions and hone their ability to argue effectively.

Section 011 and Section 012     Poverty, Affluence, and American Culture
Instructor:  Matt Ruben

Section 011:    TTh 12:55 – 2:15 p.m.
Section 012:     TTh 2:25 – 3:45 p.m.

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, writing, and discussion.

Section 013     Monsters and Mysteries
Instructor:     Gina Siesing

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and classic monster movies to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Twilight series, human/monster interactions and human/monster hybrids continue to compel, thrill, and charm us in popular culture. From eighteenth-century Gothic texts to contemporary detective series, mystery stories draw us (and their internal sleuths) into the unknown, present us with clues and diversions, and challenge us to bring clarity and closure to unsettling unknowns. In this seminar, we will explore ways that Gothic and mystery authors and filmmakers construct and deconstruct genre conventions to engage, satisfy, and surprise their readers and viewers. What do monsters and villains tell us about our cultural and philosophical values in any given historical and political context? How do the creatures we invent serve as mirrors for their creators? Why do we enjoy a mystery? We will examine conventions of structure and motif, as well as conventions of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation as they figure in the works we study, which may include selections from Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories, James Cameron’s Aliens, and Sara Paretsky’s Body Work. During the semester, we will visit Special Collections to see and discuss exemplars of these genres in the College’s rare book and art and artifact collections. Your writing in the seminar will include response papers, online discussion with peers, critical essays, and revisions supported by peer comment and regular one-on-one conferences with the instructor with the goal of helping you to craft effective arguments that engage, clarify, and persuade.  

Section 014     Building Bryn Mawr
Instructor:  Alicia Walker

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

Can architecture shape the way we feel, think, and live? Do the buildings in which we work or study affect the way others perceive and judge us? Can an institution’s reputation and identity be forged in part by its physical environment? This course examines these questions through study of the early stages of development of Bryn Mawr’s campus, exploring the ways in which the founders of Bryn Mawr understood architecture as a key aspect of the institution’s image and aspirations. We will consider the buildings of Bryn Mawr in relation to nineteenth-century debates surrounding the acceptability and appropriate nature of women’s higher education; current trends in architectural forms at the new women’s colleges established in England and the United States at this time; and the ways in which M. Carey Thomas (the second president of Bryn Mawr) understood architecture to be a crucial aspect of the reputation and goals of “her” new institution.

Section 015    Bloodlines
Instructor:  Emily Weissbourd

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

 We describe gifted musicians and athletes as bearing talent “in their blood,” and explain our loyalty to our relatives with the phrase “blood is thicker than water.” But how did the imagery of “blood” as a carrier of personal and group traits develop? And what can tracing its history teach us about our understanding of family, kinship and identity today? Readings will span a variety of genres, geographies, and historical periods, and may include texts on renaissance Spain’s “pure blood statutes,” Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well, short stories by Kate Chopin, and excerpts from Harry Potter and The Mortal Instruments series that depict the inheritance of magical “blood.” You will respond to these texts in several different ways: primarily by writing academic essays, of course (you will draft and revise a few of these) but also through blog posts, book reviews and oral presentations. Throughout, we will consider how formal conventions and implied audience differ across these genres, and how this knowledge can help you to express your ideas clearly and persuasively.

Section 016 and Section 017     Across Genders, Across Cultures:  Transgenderism Around the World
Instructor:  Casey Miller
Section 016:   TTh 11:25 – 12:45  p.m.
Section 017:   TTh  2:25 – 3:45    p.m.

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 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 018     Reading, Writing and Scholarship in a Digital Age
Instructor:       Jennifer Spohrer
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

This seminar grapples with the question: “Are digital media changing the way we read, write, and study texts?” Discussions of the Digital Age often focus on quantity, describing the ways that digital publishing platforms, such as iBooks Author, Blogger, WordPress, tumblr, Twitter, or Sina Weibo, enable more people to become published (or public) writers and reach wider circles of readers. But digital publishing platforms also have features that are qualitatively different from older, “paper-and-ink” forms of publishing. Hyperlinks, for example, allow digital authors to direct readers to material outside of a text and create multiple narrative pathways within a text. Many digital platforms also allow readers to leave comments, opening the door for authors and readers to communicate directly and publicly. Do these technological differences create different approaches to reading and writing? Is curling up with a good book the same as curling up with a Kindle? Have digital media changed the way authors and journalists write? Genres we will investigate include fan fiction, hypertext fiction, participatory journalism, and science blogging.

Section 019     “Clash of Cultures(?)”:  East and West in European and Middle Eastern Literatures
Instructor:  David Kenosian
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

In this course we will examine European, Middle Eastern and North African literature from the beginning of the 20th century to the present to see how conflicts have shaped the cultural relations between East and West.  While the primary focus of discussions will be novels, we will also look at excerpts from travelogues, historical studies, and several films. Questions for discussions include the following: How and why does the West see itself as different from its Middle Eastern neighbors?  To what extent does imperialism prevent an understanding of shared cultural and religious history? Have conflicts provided the incentive to question one’s own culture? How have writers in exile or diaspora contributed to our understanding of contemporary questions about immigration and multiculturalism?  The course is designed to help students improve their analytical writing. We will examine ways posing insightful analytical questions. One way of facilitating students’ ability to develop questions will be the journal in which students will write brief responses to and questions about the readings. In addition, we will stress the revision of writing as a means of refining and deepening the arguments presented in essays.

Section 020     Borders
Instructor:  Jennifer Harford Vargas

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

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 21     Greek Myth
Instructor:  Radcliffe Edmonds

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

For over two millennia, the myths of the Greeks have provoked outrage and fascination, interpretation and retelling, censorship and elaboration, beginning with the Greeks themselves.  As we explore one of the richest treasure troves of the ancient world, we will see how some of these stories have been read and understood, recounted and revised, in various cultures and eras, from ancient tellings to modern movies.  By close investigation into the ancient versions, we will gain a sense of the depth and complexity of these tales and their continuing resonance in the modern world. At the same time, this course should provide a more profound understanding of the meaning of these myths to the Greeks themselves, of the cultural context in which they were formulated. Starting from the poems of Homer and Hesiod, we will examine Greek myths recounted in tragedy and lyric, in learned collections and parodic prose, from the tales of gods such as Zeus, Demeter, and Persephone, to heroes such as Theseus and Hercules, perhaps even Plato's perennially popular tale of Atlantis.

Section 022   The Wandering “I”
Instructor:  Pim Higginson

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

This course examines how identities are constructed, altered, bypassed, deviated, or otherwise manipulated. Using texts such as Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun’s "Sand Child" and African American author Nella Larsen’s "Passing", films such as "The Crying Game" and "Boys Don’t Cry", as well as critical essays, we will look at questions of gender, sexuality, race, and class, with an eye to experiences of acculturation (the conscious or unconscious loss of an “original” culture in favor of a dominant culture), passing (whether between sexes, classes, or races), and/or self-invention. We will use a variety of different resources and students will be asked to contribute texts they have found on their own to the course. This seminar will consist of three related activities: 1) Broad and relatively extensive reading of texts (this will also include listening to music and watching movies or video clips) 2) Discussions in class conducted in various formats 3) Extensive critical writing (and rewriting).  The hope is that these activities will help you familiarize yourself with the demands of college writing and assist you in becoming a more effective and refined critical thinker while introducing you to a fascinating topic.

Section 023     Arguing With Songs
Instructor:  Michael Tratner
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

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 024     Social Memory:  How Communities Remember and Forget
Instructor:  Daniel Tober
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

Memory informs every aspect of our lives.  For the Greeks, Mnemosyne was a goddess, and as mother of the nine Muses, she gave the world literature and the arts.  For St. Augustine, Locke, Freud, and Proust, along with a good many present-day writers of memoir and autobiography, memory is identified as the primary architect of the self; our personality depends fundamentally on the recollection and interpretation of a unique past, and we can never access, as an unfortunate character in one of Borges’ short stories, the memories of anyone else.  Yet, since the nineteenth century, memory has been seen to play an important role in the identity not only of the individual but also of the group: according to the philosopher and essayist Ernest Renan, the “soul” of a nation consists in part of “the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories,” and for the sociologist Max Weber, shared memories constitute an even more powerful bond than cultural, linguistic, or ethnic ties.This course explores such “social” memories.  We shall begin by considering the relationship between an individual’s memory and identity: Is remembering a reconstructive or a constructive act?  In what sense do our memories help us process information about the world in which we live? And how does society dictate the mode in which we remember?  Next, we shall look at memory’s rhetorical function; by drawing on passages from Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and the mnemotechnologists of the Middle Ages, we shall examine how we remember legends, poems, and orations, as well as the nature of our fascination with mnemonics.  We shall turn next to the ways in which groups of individuals remember collectively, how such shared memories help to foster a sense of community (from village to nation, from ancient Greece to contemporary America), and how the behavior of oral tradition sheds light on our understanding of the past and the present.  Lastly, we shall examine the bifurcation between Memory and History: what distinguishes these two modes of thought, and how has our current obsession with monuments and heritage disturbed their relationship.

Section 025 and Section 026   Changing Our Stories:  Shifting Identities, Altering Environments
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
Section 025 Instructor:  Jody Cohen

Section 026 Instructor:  Anne Dalke

Co-designed by professors in Education and English, this pair of Esems offers a series of different stepping stones into the “muddy” work of social and environmental justice.  Grounding ourselves in the domains of identity matters and ecological studies, we ask how different dimensions of human identity (such as race, class, gender, sexuality and religion) affect our ability to act in the social and natural worlds; conversely, we look at how these spaces shape and re-shape our identities and actions, individually and collectively. Our cross-disciplinary approach re-examines personal experiences through the differing orientations of the humanities, social sciences and sciences. Seeking fresh understandings, we revisit well-known examples of children’s literature and popular films, alongside Eli Clare's memoir, Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness and Liberation; Elizabeth Kolbert’s “unnatural history,” The Sixth Extinction; and one novel (perhaps Ruth Ozeki's All Over Creation or Amitah Ghosh's The Hungry Tide); as well as essays by community activists and educators Teju Cole, Paulo Freire, David Sobel and Eve Tuck.

Section 027     Beginnings of Philosophy
Instructor:     Robert Dostal
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

There are two leading questions for this course:  "what is philosophy?" and "what is the good life?"  We address these questions by examining the historical beginnings of the western philosophical tradition in Greece. To introduce the beginnings in Greece we look briefly at short selections from epic poetry, history, and the so-called Pre-Socratic philosophers. We then take up three accounts of Socrates--Aristophanes (comic drama), Xenophon (history), and Plato's dialogues -- and consider the question "Who is Socrates?" What kind of life did he lead?  We pursue Plato's explicitly philosophical identification by reading several dialogues which tell the story of Socrates trial and death: Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito. We read part of the Republic and conclude our reading of Plato with the Phaedrus which defines philosophy as a kind of erotic madness and provides a picture of the good life. We see how Aristotle develops this tradition of philosophy by reading selections from his works: Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics. Throughout the semester we consider questions that are both theoretical (what can we know?) and practical (what ought we do?  what is best?  what makes us happy?).  We also consider the relation between knowledge and action, theory and practice.  All along we will consider whether these accounts are relevant to putting together a life today.

Section 028 and Section 029    Delusion or “Divinest Sense”:  Interpreting Madness
Instructor:  Ashly Bennett

Section 028:  TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
Section 029:  TTh 12:55 – 2:15 p.m.

Crazy, hysterical, paranoid, sick: when, why, and to what effects are such labels applied? When does madness designate folly or delusion? When might it instead be a case, as Emily Dickinson writes, where “Much Madness is divinest Sense”? This course will analyze the cultural significance of madness in its various guises and contexts. We will map how labels such as madwoman or madman have been used at different historical moments to mark boundaries of behavior, expression and thought. In tracing madness over time, we will ask why insanity is often so closely linked with creativity, rebellion, and errant desires, and related to changing conceptions of gender and sexuality. We will also follow the madman and madwoman through a variety of spaces that have been constructed for them—the home, the asylum, the psychoanalyst’s couch, and the doctor’s office—and consider what is at stake in different ways of placing and treating those deemed insane. Our inquiry will be guided by philosophers, psychologists, doctors, historians and artists who have tackled the puzzle of madness. Texts may include case studies by Sigmund Freud; the philosophy of Michel Foucault; the cultural criticism of Elaine Showalter; the films Safe and Girl, Interrupted; and literary works ranging from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Vladimir Nabokov.  As we encounter varied approaches to madness, we will develop our own perspectives on the subject in writing and class discussion. Through writing assignments of varied length and formality, and continual teacher and peer feedback, students will develop personalized approaches to crafting engaging prose and persuasive arguments.