Emily Balch Seminars 2017

Section 001   Not Quite Human
Instructor:  Jennefer Callahan
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   Origins of Philosophy in China and Greece
Instructor: Stephen Salkever

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

In this seminar we will read and discuss central philosophic texts from two traditions, ancient China and the ancient Greek world.  By “philosophic” I mean self-conscious critical reflection on one’s own opinions about reality and morality, and on the leading opinions of the culture from which such reflection emerges. From China, we will consider the works of Confucians (Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi) and Daoists (Laozi and Zhuangzi); from Greece, we read Parmenides, Heraclitus, Plato, and Aristotle. As we will see, these two ancient philosophic traditions are different from one another and yet surprisingly overlapping on key points. We’ll also consider ways in which these ancient texts can be used today as fresh and exciting take-off points for understanding and criticizing our own increasingly global and increasingly problematic modernity.

The course involves active reading of texts, open-ended class discussions focused on these texts, frequent short interpretive essays, and one-on-one writing conferences outside of class.
 

Section 003  Performance and Self
Instructor:   Gail Hemmeter

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

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. We will 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, fiction, poetry, and film. They may include examinations of the self by Freud and Emerson, and expressions of gender performance in the poems of Tony Hoagland; in a play by Susan Glaspell; in European paintings; and in films such as Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  We’ll consider performances of ethnicity in Henry David Hwang’s M. Butterfly, and analyze dramas of class in John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation and in the writing of Barbara Ehrenreich. We’ll read a piece from The Secret Life of Wonder Woman by 2017 Balch speaker Jill Lepore. Our final project will provide an opportunity to create a short performance around course themes or to organize a panel discussion about ideas generated in the seminar.  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 004 and Section 005   Family Secrets
MW  1:00 – 2:15 p.m.

Sec. 004 Instructor:  Kate Thomas
Sec. 005 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 Secret Life of Wonder Woman by this year’s Emily Balch Speaker, Jill Lepore. Students will explore these texts in writing and will have the opportunity to revise their papers.
 

Section 006   The Physician’s Life
Instructor:  Jonas Goldsmith

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

In this course, we will engage in discussions about the challenges of physician life, including the process of becoming a physician, making serious decisions with incomplete information, managing the doctor-patient relationship, and interfacing with the complex health care system. We will read a variety of literature, including both long-form and short-form non-fiction and fiction.  Texts may include “Complications” by Atul Gawande, “Intern” by Sandeep Jauhar, “The House of God” by Samuel Shem and essays on health care from the New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly. Class discussion and writing assignments will focus on analyzing the texts we read and crafting clear and cogent arguments that will help explore these multi-facted issues. Guest speakers may include both practicing physicians as well as physicians-in-training.
 

Section 007   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 008 and Section 009   The Meaning of Work
Instructor:  Eleanor Stanford

Section 008  TTh   11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
Section 009  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?                                    

Texts may include interviews by Studs Terkel, essays by Barbara Ehrenreich, fiction by Lorrie Moore, 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.  As in all Esems, students will have the opportunity to draft and revise their work.
 

Section 010 and Section 011  Poverty, Affluence, and American Culture
Instructor:  Matt Ruben

Section 010:    TTh 11:55 – 12.45 p.m.
Section 011:    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 012   Reading and Writing Difference
Instructor:  Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

In nearly every part of our daily lives—in the books we read, the movies we watch, the music we listen to and the way we present ourselves to the world—we analyze and create cues about identity and difference. We are constantly engaging ideas about gender, race, class, sexuality, and the connections between them. But how are these ideas about identity difference circulated and critiqued in contemporary culture? How do writers and artists use their work to contest popular ideas about these and other forms of difference? And how can we participate in those conversations in our own written work? In this course, we will examine important literary works from Junot Díaz’s short story collection, Drown, Audre Lorde’s “Biomythography,” Zami, Justin Torres’s novel, We The Animals, Natalie Diaz’s poetry collection When My Brother Was an Aztec and others, as well as films like Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, and McG’s, Charlie’s Angels, and musical texts that reflect a range of pop culture genres. We will read these texts alongside important theories of identity, difference, and power, using them to help us explore the political and social stakes of those creative texts. Emphasizing engaged in-class discussion, close literary analysis, short critical writing assignments, and occasional creative exercises, we will consider how race, gender, sexuality, body shape and size, (dis)ability and other forms of difference are taken up in contemporary culture, and how we can engage these conversations in our own writing.
 

Sections 013 and 014   Mind Your Manners!
Instructor:  Jody Griffith

Section 013 TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.
Section 014 TTh 2:25 – 3:45 p.m.

Of course, we all understand the importance of good manners. But what counts as good etiquette, how do we know, and who gets to decide? Is it about knowing how to use the proper silverware, or knowing what not to post on Facebook? Some values like respect, consideration, and hospitality seem to transcend geography and generations. But, it also turns out that etiquette varies widely across cultures and is strangely time-specific, changing in response to social, economic, and technological shifts. Moreover, manners can bind us together by providing a structure for our social interactions, but can also exclude, privileging those with access to political and economic capital. Social norms can promote civility, but can also enable the power imbalances of classism, sexism, and ableism. In this class, we will investigate the explicit and, more importantly, the implicit rules that govern our behaviors, whether in dating, professional life, or cyberspace.

Our class will look at the evolution of manners past and present in the etiquette guides, instruction manuals, and advice columns and podcasts of different eras. We’ll think about how the narratives we consume, from Austen’s novels to Sex and the City reflect and influence our sense of what is socially acceptable. We’ll also spend some time examining how comedies establish and break the rules of social behavior, from the plays of Sheridan and Wilde, to modern sit-coms like Seinfeld. And finally, we will look at social norms from the perspective of those who have difficulty understanding social cues, such as individuals on the autism spectrum, or people from different cultural backgrounds. Class texts may also include short stories and novels by Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nathanael West, Lydia Davis, and Mark Haddon, the social theory of Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault, and contemporary studies of the status of civil discourse in our social, political, and virtual experiences.


Section 015    Forms of Celebrity
Instructor:  Sara Bryant
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

We are sick of celebrities: We know that popular fame can be a pervasive nuisance or a harmful distortion of cultural values. Yet we also can’t get enough of celebrities, who continue to attract attention, sell products, and champion the social good. This seminar explores how different media—print, photography, film, television, and the Internet—have given rise to changing forms of celebrity. We will investigate both the underlying bases of celebrity and the varied cultural, artistic, and economic functions that this kind of fame performs. Our overarching focus will be how celebrities and celebrity-hood shape the public sphere and our collective discourse. Texts and topics of inquiry might include: late-Victorian celebrity Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray; glamour and star-making in the golden age of Hollywood; rhetorics of privacy and visibility during the Cold War; cultures of fandom; Lauren Berlant’s take on “Diva Citizenship”; celebrity politicians; and fame in the era of Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. We will develop conceptual questions and arguments through close readings, engaged discussions, short essays, the revision process, and classroom presentations. 


Section 016  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 017   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 ways 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 architectural development on Bryn Mawr’s campus. In particular, we explore the ways in which the founders of Bryn Mawr understood architecture as a key aspect of the institution’s image and aspirations. We consider Bryn Mawr’s High Victorian Gothic and Collegiate Gothic buildings in relation to nineteenth-century debates surrounding the acceptability and appropriate nature of women’s higher education; trends in architectural styles at the other 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) promoted architecture as a crucial aspect of the reputation and goals of “her” new institution. Readings will include nineteenth-century letters, architectural treatises, and institutional documents as well as literary works such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “The Princess” (1847) and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892). We will also read selections of Victorian social and medical treatises that address women’s perceived physiological and intellectual limitations, including Edward H. Clarke’s Sex in Education; or, A Fair Chance for Girls (1884). Course assignments emphasize critical thinking and writing skills as well as the cultivation of personal voice.
 

Section 018   Provoke, Subvert, Entertain: The Role of Humor in Society
Instructor: Annie Liontas

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

"Comedy too can sometimes discern what is right. I shall not please, but I shall say what is true." --Dicaepolis, in Aristophanes’ Acharnians (l. 500-1)

We begin with questions like, What’s funny? What makes us laugh? Analyzing trends in humor, from late-night talk shows to Broad City and Two Dope Queens, we ask, Who gets to be funny? And how do comedians, technicians of laughter, relate to society and conceive of their own vocations? How, in fact, is a comedian a critic, contributing to public discourse and civility? From there, we proceed to larger, complex questions: How does laughter help to shape cultural norms and national dialogue? How has humor, in certain proximity to larger advocacy movements, advanced racial equality and LGBTQ rights? In the current political climate, what role does humor serve? What is the power of comedy? What is its limitation? And how do political ideologies use comedy to promote or discredit stances on contested issues like race, gender and class? Through critical examination, guided by rhetoricians like Kenneth Burke and the dramatistic theory of rhetoric, we’ll consider what the function of satire is in a democratic society. We’ll think, too, about what it means to deploy humor not just as a style or genre but as an attitude, as a way of reframing—and perhaps even remaking—the reality we inhabit and create. In order to give shape to the discourse surrounding comedy, we’ll examine written comedic texts, as well as audio podcasts and excerpts from television. These will be framed by our consideration of academic texts, including Elizabeth Benacka’s Rhetoric, Humor and the Public Sphere: From Socrates to Stephen Colbert (2017) and Don J. Waisanen’s “A Citizen’s Guides to Democracy Inaction: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Comic Rhetorical Criticism,” in which Waisanen analyzes the special role comedy plays in re-contextualizing America’s political discourse.
 

Section 019    The Absurdity of the Real
Instructor:  Airea D. Mathews

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

We live in a time of absurd reality—Internet news, politics, racial divisions, labor ethics and unlimited social media. While we often think of absurdist literature as inhabiting experiences that could never happen, our contemporary milieu proves differently. In this course we will juxtapose the absurd with current events. How does Kafka’s Metamorphosis mirror the realities of a certain segment of the global workforce as creatively documented by poet Xu Lizhi? What might Beckett’s mysterious Godot suggest when coupled with Coates’ “Hope and the Historian” article? How do contemporary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s images speak to American ambivalence in the current, non-interventionist Internet culture? In this course we will closely read and consider stories, plays, poems, films and visual art juxtaposed against articles and current events—in form and in content—to explore the important facets of the human condition that often express themselves as absurd realities through the creative lens. We will discuss how hyper-fictionalized accounts of the quotidian provide critical cultural analysis that is relevant today. While engaging these texts, we will develop and hone the writing skills expected on the college level.


Section 020   Good Science, Bad Science, and Nonsense
Instructor:  Mark Matlin
TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

This seminar will explore the differences between legitimate science and its “evil twins” – bad science, pseudoscience, and others – as exemplified by “miracle” cures, cold fusion, homeopathy, and astrology, among many other examples.  We will learn about the scientific method – the best method we know of for distinguishing scientific fact from fiction.  We also will consider the personal and sociological factors that play a role in the conduct of science.  Finally, we will explore common errors in thinking that often lead people to believe in unsubstantiated ideas and false claims (including conspiracy theories and “fake news”), and how we can avoid those errors.  Readings may include “The Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan and “Don’t Believe Everything You Think” by Thomas Kida.
 

Section 021   The Revolutionary Set
Instructor:  Jennifer Walters

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

What is the role of the artist in shaping how we think about history? Specifically, what accounts for the way Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical has renewed interest in the founders and the ideals and contradictions of American democracy? Is it the hip-hop score? The story of a “young, scrappy, and hungry” immigrant? A deadly bromance? Diverse casting? A ripe political moment? What are the stories about America that Miranda wants to tell in this musical and why do they resonate with the public? We will discuss the creative choices Miranda and his collaborators made in composition, choreography, and staging and where the musical amplifies or departs from historical accounts. We will listen to and read the “Hamilton” score and “Mixtape,” and material Miranda has drawn on or quoted from in the musical, including Paine, Hamilton, Jefferson, Washington and ‘80s and ‘90s hip-hop. We’ll also explore the world of Hamilton-inspired self-help books, videos, fanfiction, animatics, and parodies. In addition to course materials drawn from various genres and fields, we will read selections from the 2017 Emily Balch Speaker, Jill Lepore. This course involves critical reading, attentive listening, in-class discussion, and individual and group presentations. Students will have frequent short writing assignments with opportunities for peer review and revision.
 

Section 022    Drugs, Brain, and Culture: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Instructor:  Earl Thomas

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

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 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.
 

Section 023   Refusal: Chinese Civil Resistance in Literature and Films
Instructor:  Yonglin Jiang

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

This seminar examines Chinese civil resistance, an important form of human refusal—the expression and action of refusing and denying -- through works of Chinese literature and film, as well as critical work in the field, including the Flexner Lectures delivered by the leading scholar of democratic, feminist and legal theory Bonnie Honig of Brown University.  We will address three sets of questions: 1) What is refusal and civil resistance, and what are the general experiences and themes of civil resistance in world communities?  2) What are the Chinese political, social, and cultural powers that shape and enforce class, gender, and ethnic injustice, and how do the Chinese people engage in civil resistance in either everyday life or organized social movements? 3) in what ways is Chinese civil resistance different from and similar to that in other societies and cultures?  Through weekly reading and writing assignments and class discussions, including the attendance at the Flexner Lectures, students will not only become familiar with general concepts and issues of civil resistance, the Chinese values, experiences, and representations of civil resistance, and the differences and similarities between the Chinese and other societies, but also hone their skills in critical thinking, clear and analytical writing, and effective presentation.  Texts include the novels of To Live by Yu Hua, Farewell My Concubine by Lillian Lee, and their film adaptations.

Section 024    Arguing With Songs
Instructor:  Michael Tratner

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

This course will focus on how some popular songs persuade us to act and think in certain ways and on how we might “argue back.” Most popular songs are poetic, just describing moments of love.  But quite a few have a different form and a different purpose, 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 025   Queering Utopia
Instructor:  Piper Sledge

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

Theory and fiction both serve as ways through which to make sense of social life. Within the traditions of feminist and queer thought, utopian and dystopian fiction has been utilized as a means by which to imagine the outcomes of various social processes and alternative gender/sexuality systems. This medium is also useful for exploring the ways in which gender and sexuality are not only integral to individual identity but also to the structure of social life itself.

In this course we will explore the challenges to the status quo asserted by feminist and queer theorists; as well as consider the various implications for everyday life of these theories as presented through the lens of speculative fiction. We will compare works of fiction with works of social theory to think through the ways in which gender and sexuality structure social life as well as the ways in which we do, undo, and resist gender in everyday life. Over the course of the semester, we will contemplate work by Samuel R. Delany; Michael Warner; Margaret Atwood; Urusla Le Guin; Nikki Sullivan; J. Jack Halberstam; and Emily Balch Speaker, Jill Lepore.

Section 026    The Sound of Numbers
Instructor:  Amy Myers

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

Mathematics and music are just two of the many ways we respond to the world around us.  Mathematics describes quantity and space, while music involves the appreciation
of sound.  Both math and music are intentional human creations.  Like mathematicians, musicians describe concepts like “chords” that cannot be touched or seen.  Like musicians, mathematicians speak of “beauty” or “elegance”—in their case, of a particular equation, theorem, or proof.  Both disciplines rely on precise notation. 

In this course we explore the connections between math and music through class discussions and written assignments.  We consider musical works from J. S. Bach, Phillip Glass, Ella Fitzgerald, Taylor Swift, Ghanaian drum circles, Flamenco artists, and others to illuminate mathematical concepts such as Fibonacci numbers, modular arithmetic, wave functions, equivalence relations, transformations, tilings, and more.  The course emphasizes the appropriate use and citation of sources, and includes an explicit process of drafting, revision, and peer review.
 

Section 027   Resistance, Rebellion, Revolution
Instructor:  Joel Schlosser

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

This course investigates theories of resistance to reflect on and engage the structures and discourses of power that shape everyday as well as political life. We will inquire into the reasons for resistance, the political and social structures that create resistance, and the forms that collective resistance has taken in recent protest movements around the world. Together we will study not just the meanings of resistance, rebellion, and revolution but also who has power and who gets to resist in concrete terms, with particular attention to political activists and theoreticians from indigenous, decolonial, feminist, and other radical traditions. Authors will include Sophocles, Frantz Fanon, Gandhi, Hannah Arendt, and Paulo Freire. Over the course of the semester, students will develop a theoretical vocabulary with which to analyze these concepts in different social and political contexts; students will, moreover, learn these concepts through their use, analyzing how they function within broader theories of power and how different theorists and actors understand and actualize movements to resist and claim power.
 

Section 028    Attention, Please
Instructor:  Mark Lord

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m.

Our contemporary moment is marked by a ferocious battle for our attentions. Corporations clamor for us to fix our eyeballs on their content. Programmers attempt to maximize the amount of time we spend interacting with their online creations. Activists ask us to sustain our attention to developments in the news. And, as individuals, we struggle to maintain a sense of focus in our work, to find a sense of balance between our work and our lives, and to achieve a sense of mindful presence in the moments of our lives. In our seminar we will investigate the ways that attention works in contemporary culture, art, and in our own critical writing. We will read and study selections from a broad range of sources, from scientific articles to podcasts to works of art.  In our class, we will seek to theorize attention in historical context, to understand the workings of our own concentration, and to use our study of attention to develop a fuller understanding of how our writing process works and what we should expect (and write for) in terms of reaching and convincing our readers.

Topics of discussion will include the ways that human consciousness is evolving in the internet era, the ways that the speed of contemporary life seems to challenge our capacities to sustain focus, the layers of human experience, and the role that concentration and focus play in the creation and experience of works of art, including visual art, literature, film, television, plays, and performance.
 

Section 029   Read and Writing in an Internet Age
Instructor:  Jennifer Spohrer

TTh 11:25 – 12:45 p.m

How has the Internet affected the way we read and write? One one hand, Internet publishing platforms like WordPress, tumblr, Twitter, Weibo and Amazon Kindle enable more people to become published (i.e., “public”) writers and to reach wider circles of readers. On the other, the algorithms and business practices employed by Internet publishers, search engines and content aggregators profoundly, yet often invisibly, affect how readers find and access Internet-published texts. And digital publishing platforms offer features that are qualitatively different from older, “paper-and-ink” forms of publishing, such as hyperlinks and commenting. In this seminar we analyze the Internet’s impact on journalism and fiction in particular. We will consider not only changes to the formats and business models in which news or fiction texts are published, but also changes in the ways that readers interact with texts, and changes in the way that writers write them. Some of the topics we will cover include participatory journalism, “fake news,” fan fiction and hypertext fiction.