Emily Balch Seminars Course Descriptions Fall 2021

Section 001: Sense and Nonsense
Instructor: Jen Callaghan
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells….” said children’s author Dr. Seuss. “It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.” In this seminar, we will think deeply about the playful illogic of absurdity, poppycock, and gibberish in order to tease out their whys, hows, and what-fors. What is nonsense? Is it possible to make sense of nonsense? What purposes beyond entertainment can nonsense serve? To help us critically examine nonsense, we’ll also consider some ways in which humans try to make sense of the world and what role our senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing) play in our understanding of it. Our inquiry will draw on texts from literature, philosophy, visual art, film, and science. Topics will include the literary nonsense of Lewis Carroll and Edward Gorey; InspiroBot and Buddhist koans; the avant-garde art movement Dadaism; political satire; and indigenous logics. 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: Lost in Translation
Instructor: Betty Litsinger
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

What is lost and gained in the process of crossing linguistic boundaries? How do authors and their translators negotiate meaning? How does translation contribute to the creation of cosmopolitan societies? What are the social dangers and political consequences of bad translation? Are there some ideas that cannot be translated? Language choices can expose or conceal truths, emotions, intentions. They can elevate or devalue ideas. From the simple miscommunications of everyday life to the complexity of literary translation, we will explore the changes that occur as individuals carry information and artistic expression across borders of time, language, and culture. In addition to various essays, poems, jokes, and stories, we will read Translation as Transhumance, a memoir by French translator Mireille Gansel who wrestles with the challenges of translating German after the Holocaust and Vietnamese after the War, and Chinglish, the Broadway play by David Henry Hwang whose works have been widely acclaimed by the general public but sometimes criticized by fellow Asian-Americans.  Students will engage in peer-informed revision, improving their thinking through writing and discussion and improving their writing by rethinking.

Section 003/004: Performance and Self
Sec. 003 Instructor: Gail Hemmeter  
Sec. 004 Instructor: Linda Caruso Havilland

TTh 11:25 a.m.–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. Our texts come 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 in the writings of Gloria Anzaldua; and we’ll analyze dramas of class in John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation. The end of the seminar will provide an opportunity to create a short project around course themes. Discussion will be less about right or wrong answers, more about exploring ideas in all their complexity. Because writing is also a performance, we will pay attention to how we present ourselves on paper. Students will write frequently, confer individually with the prof, and have opportunities to revise their work. 

Section 005: Solitude: Bliss, Most of the Time
Instructor: Allan Benn
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

In our newly Covidized world, which highlights social distancing and quarantines, being alone has become a topic of common concern. Scientists have established “perceived social isolation” as a risk factor for various health challenges, including early death. This course will not ignore the dark threat of isolation; people need relationships. Yet, in the right proportion, being alone is a key ingredient for a productive, even joyous life; in the song “Solitude Is Bliss,” Tame Impala declares, “There’s a party in my head and no one is invited.” This course will focus more on solitude as a healthy and positive condition—conducive to rest, creativity, and depth of thought—than as a menace. To probe the complexity of this topic, we will sample a wide variety of texts: much literature, ranging from nineteenth century Romanticism to Jhumpa Lahiri’s recent novel Whereabouts; recent magazine and newspaper pieces; peer reviewed scientific journal articles; and May Sarton’s seminal memoir Journal of a Solitude. You will produce various writings, ranging from informal personal reflections to evidence-based essays. In my view, conversations, both in class and in conferences (you will have at least four), produce more learning than tests and lectures do. Let’s enjoy solitude together.

Section 006: The Human Animal
Instructor: Willow DiPasquale
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

In this seminar, we will consider the question of identity by way of the animal kingdom. What makes us human? What makes an animal not like us, or maybe very like us? Where do we draw that line (or should we) between ourselves and animals? As a class, we’ll explore animal texts from a variety of sources—scientific, popular, philosophical, literary, and artistic—including medieval bestiaries; recent fantasy literature, film, and television; and news articles covering animal welfare issues. Our purpose will be to examine how these texts can illuminate the values, challenges, and unique experiences of both humans and animals, and to consider what we can learn about ourselves through exploring the lives of animals. Topics may include animal rights; environmental and habitat crises; animal satires; “otherness;” veganism; discrimination; intersectionality; animal cognition and behavior; race, gender, and other markers of identity. Students will engage with short, exploratory writing assignments, as well as more developed analytical essays. These compositions will support students’ writing processes via planning, drafting, and revising. Regular class discussions will also encourage students’ development of academic discourse, critical thinking, and expression of ideas.

Section 007: Money and the Good Life
Instructor: Thimo Heisenberg
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

What role should money, and its pursuit, play in our lives? Is it unethical to do things “just” for the money? How does having money change someone’s character? How does it affect their relationships to others? And, does money make us happy? In this seminar, we will examine these questions from a sociological, psychological, literary and philosophical perspective. Texts for the seminar may include selections from works such as Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Marx’s “Money in Bourgeois Society,” Simmel’s Philosophy of Money, Sherman’s The Anxieties of Affluence and Bijleveld/Aarts’ The Psychological Science of Money. Through intensive class discussions, longer writing assignments and frequent peer-review, students will learn how to write and talk about ethically resonant ideas in an interdisciplinary setting.

Sections 008/009: Family Secrets
Instructor, Sec. 008: Bethany Schneider
Instructor, Sec. 009: Kate Thomas
MW 1:10–2:30 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. 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 “family” means 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. We will approach writing as a way to communicate and persuade, done best when you engage your creativity and curiosity. Texts will range from Shakespeare to The Sopranos. You don’t have to come to class with answers—only questions, an interest in what makes families tick, and a nose for a good secret!

Section 010: Erotica: Love and Art in Shakespeare and Plato
Instructors: Jane Hedley and Stephen Salkever
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

“I would the gods had made thee poetical,” says Touchstone the clown in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, to a country girl he is trying to seduce.  Her response is to ask him naïvely “What is poetical?  Is it honest in deed and word?  Is it a true thing?”  Plato’s Socrates, the philosopher who notoriously claims to know only that he knows nothing, also insists—perhaps ironically—that the one topic he truly understands is erotica: “love-matters.”  At the heart of our syllabus will be three plays of Shakespeare (As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra) and two Platonic dialogues (the Phaedrus and the Symposium) that raise important questions about love’s relationship to both truth and what we call “art” but Plato would have called “poêsis” and Shakespeare, “poetry.”  Is erotic love an exercise in frivolity or worse, an “expense of spirit in a waste of shame”—or do lovers gain access to new forms of knowledge and new ways of being?  How are love and art related?  What does each contribute to human flourishing?  Strategically chosen essays by modern commentators will help us to formulate and address such questions.  Our writing assignments will foster open-ended inquiry, productive dialogue, and serious play.

Section 011: Reading and Writing Difference
Instructor: Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
TTh 11:25 a.m.–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 difference? And how can we participate in those conversations in our own written work? In this course, we will examine important literary texts including 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 Nahnatchka Khan’s Always Be My Maybe, television shows like POSE, and musical works by Janelle Monáe, Bad Bunny, Lizzo, and others. We will read these texts alongside important theories of identity, difference, and power, using the theory to help us explore the political and social stakes of those creative works. Emphasizing engaged in-class discussion, close literary analysis, short critical writing assignments, and occasional creative exercises, we will consider how race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, 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.

Section 012/032: Food and Identity, Past and Present
Instructor: Matthew Jameson
Section 012 TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.
Section 032 TTh 2:25–3:45 p.m.

It is well known that food is a human necessity, but at what moment does food become culture? How do we define cuisine? How is it connected to identity, individual or communal? Using case studies drawn from both the past and the present, we will explore the different relationships people around the world have with food and drink. We will tackle issues such as appropriation, taboos, and sustainability and consider how they have shifted over time. As a class, we will examine primary ancient texts, modern fiction, and current scholarship, alongside recent television and podcast media focusing on the link between food and identity. Critical engagement with sections from Herodotus’ Histories, Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf, and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, among others, will frame our approach. Class will consist of discussion activities and informal writing exercises centered on the readings. Students will learn and practice the method of planning, drafting, and revising by completing a series of short writing assignments and a longer analytical essay. There will be opportunities for both peer-review workshops and one-on-one meetings with the instructor to facilitate and develop the writing process.      

Section 013/014: Archiving the Unknown
Instructor: Jess Shollenberger
Section 013: TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.
Section 014: TTh 2:25–3:45 p.m

Is there such a thing as history without a written record? In the absence of an archive, how do we represent the past? In this seminar, we ask how writers, artists, and filmmakers deal with silence in the archive and create alternative histories. Representing what is unknown, at least within “official” archives, is an important method for Black, queer, feminist, and other minority histories. Course texts will be drawn from these academic and activist fields and will include works of experimental biography and memoir, poetry, film, and historical fiction. We will study director Cheryl Dunye’s fabricated archive of Black lesbians in film in The Watermelon Woman; poet M. NourbeSe Philip’s excavation of a single legal document to tell the unknown story of a massacre aboard an eighteenth-century slave ship in Zong!; and scholar Saidiya Hartman’s intimate, part-fictional accounts of Black women’s experiments in living at the turn of the twentieth century in Wayward Lives. Through frequent short writing assignments, students will learn and practice strategies for generating, drafting, and revising longer essays. We will approach the writing process as a creative and collaborative one, informed by class discussion, peer-review, and one-on-one conferences.

Section 015: Forms of Celebrity
Instructor: Sara Bryant
TTh 11:25 a.m.–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: Being in a World of Things:  The Basis of Marx’s Analysis and Critique
Instructor: Casey Barrier
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

Things: They are everywhere! Things are both wonderful and useful (you might be reading this on your cell phone) and they are also frightening and even life-threatening (think of the piling up of discarded things in landfills and the potential threats of climate change). Things seem to lord power over us – we must work to produce things, and/or we must work to buy things. Famous theorists have created entire worldviews based on the centrality of things, some going so far as to granting human-like agency to things or, even, to relegate we humans to the category of mere things.

We have all heard the name of Karl Marx, the 19th century political economist, philosopher, and radical thinker. The lore of Marx is commonly attached to 20th century revolutionary struggles, post-colonial movements, and radical politics. Most of us, however, know much less of the central importance of the “thing” in his work. For Marx, the ways in which we organize how we make and consume things in our globalized world creates a key problem:  we see and respond to things that we have imbued with fantastical powers instead of seeing the underlying social relations between human beings. Marx saw this a problem of mental inversion and compared it to an illusion – a phantasmagoria – inhabited by ghostly apparitions.  He laid the basis for his analysis and critique in the first chapter of his book Capital, Volume 1, where he examined what he called the “fetishism of the commodity.”    In this class we will read this key section of Marx’s Capital as well as other small sections of his corpus. We will also read across other academic disciplines to better understand this problem and others like it. Frequent short essays will be crafted that will allow us to actively engage the texts and apply them to various issues of the day. A key objective of this class is to better understand Marx, but students will also have opportunities to read and write on topics from other authors and across various disciplines.  

Section 017: Urban Gothic
Instructor: Chloe Flower
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 pm

Since the late nineteenth century, the city has been a symbol of fear and aspiration, of ruin and regeneration, and authors, artists, and filmmakers have figured it as a site synonymous with modernity. This class will focus on the particular genre known as the “urban gothic,” posing the question of how writers and artists have used modes of the fantastic or supernatural to examine the emergent, real, though often unspoken, anxieties about the conditions of city living. The new arrival’s anonymity amidst the urban crowds offered thrilling opportunities for romantic and economic possibility. Why, then, did the gothic--a genre long associated with foreign travel and desolate country houses--move into cities in the twentieth century? How does the urban gothic register new cultural anxieties about race, sexual mores and class mobility? How do the emerging discourses of imperialism and degeneration, contagion, occultism and psychoanalysis register the fears and desires associated with urban life? We will consider early hallmarks of the genre such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Other texts for the course may include works by N.K. Jemisin, Neil Gaiman, Carmen Maria Machado, and selected theoretical pieces. We may also discuss examples from film noir by Jules Dassin, Fritz Lang, and Howard Hawks. This class will focus on literary analysis, critical writing, engaged class discussion and argument formation. Through a series of short writing assignments, students will become familiar with the processes of analysis and revision.

Section 018: The Art and Urgency of the Science Documentary
Instructor: Selby Hearth
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 pm

The public needs to understand science -- now more than ever. Climate change demands a global response, and COVID-19 has demonstrated what happens when the public and policymakers misunderstand and mistrust science. Communicating science has never been more urgent … or more beautiful. New filming technologies have brought unprecedented footage of the natural world into our living rooms, and computer modeling can elevate scientific diagrams into works of art. This class will examine the art and urgency of the science documentary. How do filmmakers communicate complex ideas, visually and verbally? How do they convey doubt, margins of error, and the general messiness of the scientific process? Where are the lines between education, advocacy, and entertainment -- and where should they be? This course will also examine the social context of science documentaries. Whose stories are told -- and whose are omitted? How have filmmakers grappled with science’s entwinement with Western colonialism and white supremacy -- and how have they failed to? The answers to these questions shape the public conception of what science is, how it works, where it comes from, and who it’s for? Students will engage these questions through short, weekly writing assignments. Together, we will watch, analyze, and critique a range of science documentaries, from early education films like the BBC’s 1922 series The Secrets of Nature, to modern blockbusters like Netflix’s 2019 Our Planet. We will supplement these with essays by science writers examining techniques and troubles of communicating science. Students will be asked to bring an interdisciplinary perspective to these critiques; no previous scientific knowledge is necessary. 

Section 019: Lovesick
Instructor: Rudy Le Menthéour

TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 pm

Love has often been compared to some kind of sickness. In this class, we will explore this traditional discourse on love from different angles: how sick is love? What kind of sickness are we talking about? Is there a cure to love? Is love always delusional? Is there always a touch of sacrifice in love? In order to answer these questions, we will read and write about books including a graphic novel and movies belonging to a variety of cultures and times, from Ovid’s The Art of Love to Robin Campillo’s Beats Per Minute.

Section 020: How To Do Nothing: Resistance, Ecology, and Politics
Instructor: Joel Alden Schlosser
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 pm

“Nothing is harder to do these days than nothing,” writes Jenny Odell in How To Do Nothing. Everything vies for our attention: important news, exciting updates from friends, cat videos, advertisements. How could we possibly do nothing when there’s always something? This course investigates how and why doing nothing might be the most important thing to do at a time when it feels like there’s so much to do. If we really want to do something in our lives and in the world, we might need to begin by doing nothing, resisting or refusing the immediate demands on our attention and energy to refocus and concentrate ourselves toward more meaningful action in common with human and non-human others. We will experiment with different forms of writing that avoid just doing something and instead cultivate attention and intention. In dialogue with Odell’s book, this writing will investigate resistance and refusal with writers including Melville, Thoreau, and M.L. King; attention and ecology with Robin Wall Kimmerer and Masanobu Fukuoka; and political imagination with Rebecca Solnit and Alexis Pauline Gumbs.

Section 021: The Future is Female? The Politics of Women’s Empowerment
Instructor: Caitlin Brown
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 pm

Only the most unabashed anti-feminists and misogynists will openly disagree with the goal of “women’s empowerment.” Instead, political actors the world over have coalesced around the idea that women and girls play an important—maybe even the most important—role in the future of their states, economies, and societies. In this class, we’ll take a critical look at policy initiatives meant to “empower” women. This will require us to excavate the concept of power itself. What types of power are being given to women, and how are they to use it? Which women and girls are being empowered? Is the empowerment of women a revolutionary action—or might it be a conservative one? Who stands to benefit the most from the rhetorical and/or actual pursuit of a “female” future? Texts that we will consider may include Sandberg’s Lean In and responses to it, Kristof and WuDunn’s Half the Sky, Valdini’s The Inclusion Calculation, and the novel This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga. Written assignments will range from an op-ed article to a policy proposal, with opportunities for revision in the form of peer workshops and one-on-one conferences with the professor. While there is no guarantee that you will emerge from this class as an “empowered woman,” or if you will even want to become an “empowered woman," the thinking and writing skills you develop should make you a more empowered student.

Section 022: Al Dente!  The Italian Culture of Food    
Instructor: Daria Bozatto
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45

Food has a pivotal role in Italian culture and represents the calling card of “Italiannes” around the world. This course will investigate how food shapes contemporary Italian society and culture through the analysis of historical, anthropological, literary, cinematic, and visual texts (e.g. Nuovomondo by Emanuele Crialese and the Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine by F.T. Marinetti). Students will discover the historical, social, and political aspects that influenced certain Italian gastronomical traditions; they will understand the economic, ecological, and cultural impact of movements such as the Slow Food; and they will consider the role and the adaptation of Italian food in the American culture. Contemporaneously, students will question the importance of food in their own lives, and explore the relationships between food, identity, race, and gender. 

This course will adopt a student-centered learning approach. Lessons will typically consist of activities that promote a focused classroom discussion. Students will enhance their critical thinking skills thanks to short readings, class discussions, oral presentations, and written assignments. Throughout the semester, students will produce few short papers, with opportunities for peer review and revisions. Finally, they will acquire some cooking skills through the actual preparation of simple dishes (e.g. home-made pasta) and strengthen their commitment to ethics and sustainability thanks to experiential learning opportunities.

Section 023: Forget it?  The History of the Lost and Found
Instructor: Michael Burri
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 pm

Have you ever forgotten your phone somewhere, an important appointment, your mother’s birthday? Or wondered if, as in the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it just might help to erase the memory of another person? This course asks students to reflect upon the concept of forgetting. For many of the ancients, of course, forgetting was not a defect, but the default human condition. Plato contended that true knowledge preexisted individuals in the shape of the soul: all knowledge was remembering.  Descartes, too, believed, that some things were so inherently human that they must be seen as remembered, not learned. Later, modernist thinkers challenged this essentialism. Freud tried to answer why we forget, or repress, certain incidents, and saw in a reversal of forgetting the cure for what ails us. Meanwhile, Nietzsche saw forgetting as a characteristic of the strong; only the weak tried to remember. Today, we live in a troubled age, where “collective memory” is a call to action, and saying “I don’t remember” is a legal strategy not a philosophical claim. But given recent theories of “inherited trauma,” have we actually just found our way back to Plato? Would it be better, to speak with the recent critic David Rieff, in “praise of forgetting”? And what, anyway, are the prospects for never forgetting? Through films, critical readings, and class discussion, our seminar is devoted to considering these questions.

Section 024: Horror Classics
Instructor: Carman Romano
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

Why do we tell scary stories, seek out terrifying films, and gravitate toward narratives that set out to make us uncomfortable? In this ESEM, we will visit classic and Classic figures of horror: the witch, the ghost, the vampire, the shapeshifter, and the Self, and trace their early appearances in the literatures and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world up to their modern reincarnations. Prepare to engage with both Greek and Latin sources in translation as well as modern literature, theories of horror, and films. Texts may include works by Lovecraft, Euripides, Poe, Sophocles, Vergil,  Freud, and Stephen King.  Students will hone their ability to think critically across a broad range of ancient and contemporary material, and gain a deeper appreciation for the ties, severed or maintained, between the ancient and modern worlds.

Section 025/026: Poverty, Affluence and American Culture          
Instructor: Matt Ruben

Section 025: TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.
Section 026: 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, 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 027: Imagining Childhood
Instructor: Eleanor Stanford
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

Childhood has been variously conceived as a time of innocence, a stage of innate wisdom, and a feral sort of state. How do we define childhood as a social category? What do these definitions say about the culture and historical moment from which they arise? In this course, we will consider depictions and ideas of childhood across cultures and time periods; literary representations of childhood in fiction and poetry; and scientific findings about brain development. Texts may include The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and Alison Gopnick's The Philosophical Baby. Other possible topics include legal ramifications (Pennsylvania’s ruling that minors cannot be sentenced to life in prison without parole, for example, or the argument for lowering the voting age); helicopter parenting, free range parenting, and the relatively recent use of “parent” as a verb in general; and how technology is changing our ideas about childhood.

Section 028: Reimagining the Possible: Education, Imagination, and Social Change
Instructor: Kelly Zuckerman
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

Educational philosopher Maxine Greene once posited, "Imagination is the capacity to think of things as if they could be otherwise." Framed by Greene's words, this seminar will explore the interplay between education, imagination, and social change. How do we approach critical issues in education with criticality and creativity? How can, if at all, standards and accountability coexist with imagination and innovation? What is the role of risk-taking, failure, and fear in educational reform? What about close observation, collaboration, and reflection? In our exploration, we will place our own educational autobiographies in conversation with the works and thoughts of Maxine Greene, John Dewey, Paulo Freire, and bell hooks, among others. Through close reading, critical self-reflection, and class discussion, as well as a variety of writing assignments—expository, persuasive, narrative, and descriptive—we will give imaginative shape to a more just and equitable educational system and world. 

Section 029: Sick
Instructor: Colby Gordon
TTh 11:25 a.m.–12:45 p.m.

In this seminar, we will think about sickness in a variety of senses: as an embodied experience of illness; as a political problem requiring complicated responses at the global and national level; as a phenomenon that changes the texture of the social fabric; and as a shorthand for perversion or criminality. What do our narratives about health, wellness, and sickness tell us about the society we inhabit? How do particular bodies and populations become to be associated with illness? In considering such questions, we will explore texts from a variety of disciplines, including philosophy, history, sociology, medical journalism, literature, and film. Topics may include: the plague, eugenics, disability, the wellness industry, Typhoid Mary, the HIV crisis, addiction, globalization, public health, xenophobia, outbreaks, and zombies.

Section 31: The Human Animal
Instructor: Willow DiPasquale
TTh 12:55–2:15 p.m.

In this seminar, we will consider the question of identity by way of the animal kingdom. What makes us human? What makes an animal not like us, or maybe very like us? Where do we draw that line (or should we) between ourselves and animals? As a class, we’ll explore animal texts from a variety of sources—scientific, popular, philosophical, literary, and artistic—including medieval bestiaries; recent fantasy literature, film, and television; and news articles covering animal welfare issues. Our purpose will be to examine how these texts can illuminate the values, challenges, and unique experiences of both humans and animals, and to consider what we can learn about ourselves through exploring the lives of animals. Topics may include animal rights; environmental and habitat crises; animal satires; “otherness;” veganism; discrimination; intersectionality; animal cognition and behavior; race, gender, and other markers of identity. Students will engage with short, exploratory writing assignments, as well as more developed analytical essays. These compositions will support students’ writing processes via planning, drafting, and revising. Regular class discussions will also encourage students’ development of academic discourse, critical thinking, and expression of ideas.