Course Listings, Fall 2016
Section 001 Not Quite Human
Instructor: Jennefer Callaghan
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 Athletics
Instructor: Tim Harte
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
In this seminar we will explore the intersection of athletics and art across the world over the last one hundred and fifty years. Sports, despite their often rough, physical essence, have had an enormous influence on modern culture, particularly literature and the visual arts. For so much of the twentieth century and up to the present day, artists have enthusiastically embraced sports—from soccer, cycling, and tennis to wrestling and auto-racing—as a source of inspiration, transforming athletic pastimes into something far more than just fun and games. We will therefore explore artistic treatments of athleticism through the prism of 1) literature (e.g., Hemingway, Nabokov, Sillitoe, Handke), 2) painting (e.g., Eakins, Bellows, Boccioni, Rodchenko), and 3) film (e.g., Vertov, Riefenstahl, Scorsese, Herzog). By analyzing the significance of athletics for these and other artistic media, we will investigate how artistic responses to sports developed throughout the twentieth century and how athletics shaped the development of art at various times. Class discussion will focus in particular on artists’ use of sports to probe issues of gender, race, class, and ideology.
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 and in a play by this year’s Balch Speaker Suzan-Lori Parks; 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 and Section 006 Family Secrets
MW 1:00 – 2:15 p.m.
Sec. 005 Instructor: Kate Thomas
Sec. 006 Instructor: Bethany Schneider
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 that some myths are true 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. The syllabus will focus mostly on literature, history and film. Texts will range from Shakespeare to The Sopranos, and will include the Pulitzer-Prize-winning play Topdog/Underdog by this year's Balch Speaker, Suzan-Lori Parks. Students will explore these texts in writing and will have the opportunity to revise their papers.
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, Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, 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 and Section 010 The Meaning of Work
Instructor: Eleanor Stanford
Section 009 TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
Section 010 TTh 12:55 – 2:15 p.m.
“Love and work,” Freud, famously said, “are the cornerstones of our humanness.” In this seminar, we will consider this second cornerstone, and ask whether this is in fact the case--Can or should work be as important in our lives as love? How do we define work, and how does it define us? How are different kinds of work represented in art and literature? In what ways do we conflate work with identity, and how can this be problematic in discussions of class and gender? How is new technology changing our ideas about the meaning of work?
Some of the texts may include interviews by Studs Terkel, essays by Barbara Ehrenreich and Mike Rose, poems by Phillip Levine, Julia Alvarez, and Rita Dove, photographs of Sebastião Salgado, the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, as well as readings in economics, sociology, and psychology, and the Spike Lee film “Girl 6,” whose screenplay is by Suzan-Lori Parks, this year’s Balch speaker. Students will have the opportunity to draft and revise their work.
Section 011 and Section 012 Poverty, Affluence, and American Culture
nstructor: Matt Ruben
Section 011: TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
Section 012: TTh 12:55 – 2:15 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 “Born Again”: Narratives of Conversion and Radical Transformation
Instructor: Jesse Stavis
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
Conversion narratives—texts that depict radical personal transformations and shifts in religious or ideological affiliation—have had a profound impact on the development of Western culture since at least the time of St. Augustine. They remain relevant in contemporary American society, where up to forty percent of citizens describe themselves as “born again Christians.” But what do we mean when we describe a change as a “conversion,” and how do these transformations differ from other less dramatic changes in our lives, like becoming a college student? In this seminar, we will investigate these questions by exploring a variety of autobiographical, fictional, and cinematic treatments of radical personal transformation spanning from biblical times to the twenty-first century. Our readings will include classic spiritual autobiographies such as Augustine’s Confessions and John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, more recent memoir accounts like Soul on Ice, a collection of essays written by Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver while he was incarcerated at Folsom State Prison, and Kate Bornstein’s A Queer and Pleasant Danger, which traces the author’s encounters with the Church of Scientology and zir journey from male to female to gender noncomformist, and fictional representations of conversions in works such as Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Il’ich and Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. We will also view several films, including Ivansxtc and The Sun Also Rises. A series of short writing assignments will help us to hone our analytical skills and also provide opportunities to investigate representations of conversion in non-Western and non-Christian societies.
Sections 014 and 015 Empathy
Instructor: Matthew Rigilano
Section 014 TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
Section 015 TTh 2:25 – 3:45 p.m.
The idea of empathy seems simple: to feel what another feels. But can one ever really experience the experience of the other? What separates the self from the other in such an encounter? Putting that paradox aside, we often hear that empathy is inherently virtuous, that it provides the basis for ethical action by giving us a sampling another’s suffering. But does empathic feeling necessarily lead to ethical action? Or does it familiarize and simplify the strangeness and complexity of the other? In the world of film and literature, empathy allows readers to inhabit the interior spaces of fictional characters. But what happens when we empathize too much? Are we in control of the empathy elicited by cinema and novel-reading? In this course we will explore the philosophical, ethical, scientific, and aesthetic dimensions of empathy. To inaugurate our exploration, we will read essays from Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others (2003) and Leslie Jamison’s Empathy Exams (2014). We will then confront the Enlightenment origins of empathy in the empiricism David Hume and Adam Smith; investigate literary feeling in Charles Dickens’ Hard Times (1854); tackle the psychology of empathy in Theodor Lipp and Sigmund Freud; determine how cinematic devices such as the close-up induce empathy in film through a viewing of Douglas Sirk’s melodrama, All that Heaven Allows (1955); debate the philosophical problem of “other minds,” read the latest research on mirror neurons and survey other neuroscientific and cognitive approaches to empathy; perform our own analyses of empathy after reading Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir Persepolis (2004), and consider the ethics of empathy and altruism in contemporary political discourse. Students will explore these issues in writing and will learn to revise their written work.
Section 016 Food for Thought
Instructor: Peter Brodfuehrer
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
Everyone needs to eat. The simple act of eating embodies many complex issues facing society, from nutritional standards to food security. Eating also poses many personal dilemmas. What to eat? How much to eat? Is this food healthy? In Food for Thought, we will examine these questions in the context of how the food industry, the government, and society have shaped the production, marketing and consumption of food, and have derailed (or not) the pleasures of eating. A range of texts, drawn from biology, food science, political science, psychology, and government webpages, will provide the foundation for us to consider how various stakeholders influence the act of eating. Example texts include White Bread: A Social History of a Store-Bought Loaf by Aaron Bobrow-Strain, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss, and Eat Drink Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics by Marion Nestle. Students will write weekly short essays and reflections, and will have the opportunity to revise their work after critical review from both their instructor and peers.
Section 017 Terror
Instructor: Colby Gordon
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
From torture camps and preemptive strikes to data harvesting, special registration of Muslims, and border control, the fear of terrorism has motivated some of the most undemocratic policies in American history. In this class, we consider the encounter between democracy and terror by exploring the deep history of the politics of fear, including the Terror of the French Revolution, colonialism and guerilla warfare in Africa and India, and racial violence in the American south. We will pay special attention to the rhetoric of terror—that is, how different writers inspire or react to anxieties relating to religion, race, and sexuality. Topics addressed in this seminar include torture, borders, suicide bombing, surveillance, Islamophobia, religion and secularism, and insurgency and warfare. We will draw our texts from a variety of sources, including novels by Alex Gilvarry and Basharat Peer; films like Zero Dark Thirty and The Battle of Algiers; performance art by M. Lamar and Hasan Elahi; and criticism and theory by Moustafa Bayoumi and Frantz Fanon. Students will write frequently and in multiple genres, with time provided for revision and peer review.
Section 018 Race and New Media
Instructor: Hoang Nguyen
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
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 keywords: access, community, identity, democracy, sexuality, interactivity, and activism. We will read and write about a wide range of texts from different disciplines and fields of study. Our case studies will encompass social networking, artists’ projects, YouTube, Twitter, blogs, film, and video art. Texts include Phillip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep; Greg Pak’s film Robot Stories; http://calloutqueen.tumblr.com/; #blacklivesmatter; and Lisa Nakamura's "The Race in/for Cyberspace."
Section 019 and Section 020 Changing Our Story: Shifting Identities, Altering Environments
11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
Sec. 019 Instructor: Jody Cohen
Sec. 020 Instructor: Anne Dalke
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 and interact in the social and natural worlds. We look simultaneously 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 consider the novel All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki; short stories by Ursula LeGuin and Octavia Butler; Elizabeth Kolbert’s “unnatural history,” The Sixth Extinction; and essays by community activists and educators Teju Cole, Paulo Freire, Van Jones and Eve Tuck. Students will write frequently and will have the opportunity to revise.
Section 021 Resistance
Instructor: Sara Black
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
What defines an act of resistance? Does resistance necessarily involve violence? Do acts of resistance need to be visible and openly defiant or can they be secret and covert? Using the French Resistance to the Nazi occupation of France during World War II as its primary case study, this seminar explores the concept of “resistance” from numerous perspectives. We will explore topics and themes including violence, sabotage, and guerrilla warfare; censorship and the underground press; cultural and intellectual resistance; gender, sexuality, and espionage; small acts of resistance in everyday life; and the complicated legacy of collaboration and resistance in French memory and national identity after the war. We will examine a wide variety of sources in the French context: memoirs, diaries, and poems written by resistance fighters; the 2015 film Suite Française; news articles and cartoons published in the secret underground press; Vercours’ short story The Silence of the Sea; film footage of sabotage; and the oral testimonies of rural villagers who hid French Jews from the Gestapo. In order to think through the complexities of “resistance” as an analytical concept, we will also read scholarship from a variety of other disciplines, including the work of political scientist James C. Scott, sociologist Jocelyn Hollander, philosopher Frantz Fanon, and novelist George Orwell. Through in-depth class discussions, short writing assignments, and an emphasis on the revision process, this course is designed to cultivate critical thinking and analytical writing skills that will be essential for future courses at Bryn Mawr.
Section 022 and Section 023 “Delusion or Divinest Sense?” Interpreting Madness
Instructor: Jody Griffith
Sec. 022: TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
Sec. 023: TTh 2:25 – 3:45 p.m.
Why do we find madness so terrifying and so fascinating? How do we understand madness, and how does it help us understand ourselves? What does madness mean in medical, legal, aesthetic, and popular discourses? Often the stuff of nightmares and gothic horror tales, madness can be a means of marginalizing difference, but it can also offer empowerment and social critique. In this course, we will analyze the cultural significance of madness in all of these various contexts, tracing evolving conceptions of madness through time. 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. 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. We will pay particular attention to the power dynamics at play in the diagnosis, treatment, and depiction of madness, especially in the way these dynamics reflect and redefine class, gender, and sexuality. We will read some of the seminal texts that have shaped our perceptions of madness, including the case studies of Sigmund Freud, the philosophical analyses of Michel Foucault, and the journalistic exposés of Charles Dickens and Nellie Bly, in the historical context of the evolving medical and legal definitions of madness. In addition, we will consider artistic depictions of madness across media and genre, in films, plays, visual art, poetry, and fiction. Texts will include a gothic sensation novel by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, a play by Tennessee Williams, short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Vladimir Nabokov, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. 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.
Section 024 and 025 Trauma, Holocaust Memories and Forgotten Histories
Instructor: David Kenosian
TTh 11:25 – 12:45
TTh 12:55 – 2:15
The Holocaust, the attempt to destroy systematically European Jewry, has raised profound questions about our ways of understanding the history of modernity. Fictional works and films often create the illusion of reality, but they depict an event that is described as impossible to represent adequately. In this class we will discuss memoirs, films and selected historical studies to consider these issues and others: How have Holocaust films and their reception changed over time in different countries? To what extent have films compelled us to face the horrors of the Holocaust or alternatively, contributed to the forgetting of chapters of the Holocaust that remain widely forgotten.
The course is designed to you improve their analytical writing. We will examine ways posing insightful analytical questions. One way of facilitating your ability to develop questions will be the journal in which you 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 essay.
Section 026 Murder 101
Instructor: Michele Monserrati
TTh 11:25 – 12:45
Why is detective fiction so popular? What explains the continuing multiplication of mystery novels despite the seemingly finite number of available plots? This course will explore the worldwide fascination with this genre beginning with European writers before turning to more distant detective stories from around the world. The international scope of our readings will highlight how authors in different countries have developed their own national detective typologies while simultaneously responding to the international influence of the Anglo-American model. Our international journey will begin in England and continue through America (Edgar Allen Poe and Raymond Chandler), France (Georges Simenon), Italy (Andrea Camilleri), Argentina (Jorge Luis Borges) and beyond. As we journey through the world, we will look at the possibility of reading detective fiction through the categories of gender, postcolonial and race studies. Film adaptations of the novels we read will be included in the course material as well. While these readings and films will spark class discussions, a substantial part of the work will consist of honing our writing skills, through the process of paper writing, editing, revising, and work-shopping during one-on-one conferences outside of class.
Section 027 How Stuff Works
Instructor: Anne Balay
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
This seminar explores several pervasive systems that operate by virtue of being invisible. We will read, think, and write about the internet, gender, and trucking, and read, think and write about how these systems have been analyzed and understood in various disciplines. Our goal is to *see* the internet, gender, and trucking/goods distribution as structures that discipline sociality, knowledge, and global power. Students will write both exploratory pieces and longer, persuasive essays engaging each of these invisible structures, learning how to pose critical questions and how to argue effectively. We will read excerpts from texts ranging from Andrew Blum's Tubes to Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender, and engage with whatever political and social issues the contemporary moment makes visible.
Section 028 Dictators, Democrats and Development
Instructor: Michael T. Rock
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
Why do some dictators and democrats see growth and development in their own interest while others use their control of the state to enrich themselves and those in their entourage? How do developmentally minded dictators and democrats go about creating and sustaining pro-growth and development political coalitions? Why has the transition to democracy been so much easier in East Asia and so much harder in the Middle East? How does religion—Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism and Islam—affect the developmental and democratic aspirations of dictators and democrats? Is Confucianism responsible for the developmental successes of China, Korea and Taiwan? Is Islam anti-developmental and anti-democratic as some contend or are they incubators of development and democracy? The aim of this seminar is to begin to answer these questions by looking at the democratic and developmental experiences of a number of countries in East Asia and the Middle East. We will explore these questions in film, longer texts, and journal essays. Students will engage with these questions in short papers, class presentations and class discussion.
Section 029 Writing with Light
Instructor: Jesse Hoffman
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
Photography, its Greek roots meaning to write with light, captures our most intimate moments and our most public acts. We view significant parts of our lives through its lens. Go to the Museum of Modern Art in New York to see Pablo Picasso’s “Girl Before a Mirror,” and you will find a crowd of people gathered around the painting. Remarkably, many of them are not looking with their eyes; their vision is mediated by a device in the face of an artwork about the very act of envisioning the self. While Susan Sontag calls the camera a “fantasy machine,” a technology that can inhibit our understanding of reality, we will also consider the extent to which photography enables us to imagine new worlds and ideas, especially in writings that theorize and represent the medium. A rich body of literature about photography will inform our work, ranging from poems and short stories to essays and memoirs. Our texts might include Susan Sontag’s On Photography, Susie Linfield’s The Cruel Radiance, Julio Cortázar’s “Blow-Up,” Adam Kirsch’s Emblems of the Passing World, Sally Mann’s Hold Still, Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia, and John Berger’s Another Way of Telling. We will work closely with these texts and related images to develop substantial critical essays that will undergo significant revision.
Section 030 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.