Emily Balch Seminars
Course Descriptions
Fall 2018

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   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 challenging and rewarding texts, open-ended class discussions focused on these texts, frequent short interpretive essays, and one-on-one writing conferences outside of class.

Section 003/004  Performance and Self

Sec. 003 Instructor:   Gail Hemmeter
Sec. 004 Instructor:   Linda Caruso Havilland

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. 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. We’ll also read selections from 2018 Emily Balch Speaker Roxane Gay. Our final project will provide an opportunity to create a short performance 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, participate in occasional projects and peer review groups, and have opportunities to revise their work.  

Section 005 and Section 006   Family Secrets

Sec. 005 Instructor:  Kate Thomas
Sec. 006 Instructor:  Bethany Schneider

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. 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 selections from the writing of Roxane Gay, this year’s Emily Balch Speaker. Students will explore these texts in writing and will have the opportunity to revise their papers.

Section 007  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 008  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 009   Do You Feel Lucky?  Luck, Ethics and Politics
Instructor:  Joel Schlosser
TTh 11:25–12:45  p.m.

What is the role of luck in human life? How should political institutions account for the influence of luck? This course investigates the meaning of luck and its importance for ethics and politics. We will explore narratives of luck from Sophocles to the films of the Dardennes Brothers and Kelly Reichert. We will then consider how the presence of luck should influence judgments about responsibility and moral desert, reading work by Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum, and others. This foundation will then allow us to approach the contemporary discussion about “meritocracy” and to consider how different understandings of luck influence political institutions.

Section 010   Not Quite Human
Instructor:  Jennefer Callaghan
TTh 2:25–3:45 p.m.

See section 001 for description

Section 011  Lost in Translation
Instructor:  Betty Litsinger
TTh 11:25–12:45 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 012   Peace, Love and Understanding
Instructor:  Michelle Mancini
TTh 11:25–12:45 p.m.

Faced with injustice and tragedy, there are communities and individuals who commit themselves to imagining and achieving social structures and institutions based on cooperation rather than exploitation. This course will examine efforts to imagine new ways of resolving economic and political conflict ("peace"), building families and friendships ("love"), and simply seeing and gaining a knowledge of each other and the world ("understanding"). Such efforts sometimes give rise to inspiration and hope and sometimes elicit tears. They can also be funny. The materials we will read, view, and experience will include the inspirational, the heartbreaking, and the comic.  Throughout the course, we will make use of the "critical, probing, thoughtful approach" common to all the Balch seminars. We also consider what it might mean to bring instead a supportive, embracing, and heartful approach to these topics. Our readings will include celebrations of protest, love stories, and speculative fiction. We'll consider issues like interracial marriage and alternatives families, communes and cooperatives, education within prisons, and more. Students will write reflective and argumentative essays and will also have the opportunity at points in the semester to engage in collaborative, creative, contemplative, or activist practice. Authors and texts will include James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, Aristophanes' Lysistrata, Jean Merrill's The Pushcart War, and essays and excerpts by Arundhati Roy and Ursula Leguin. 

Section 013   Music and Global Politics:  From Beethoven to Beyond
Instructor:  Adam Sacks
TTh 2:25–3:45 p.m.

This writing seminar explores the relationship between music and politics from the French Revolution until Black Lives Matter. We will examine the ways in which music reflects and anticipates political concerns. Cases will be drawn from symphonies to grand opera, modernist experiments to fascist propaganda, the civil rights movement to genres such as Afrobeat, Tropicalia and the Riot Grrl movement of 3rd wave feminism. This course will challenge students to think critically about the relationship between music and words, larger social meanings and political contexts. Musical selections will be paired with brief, but stimulating primary sources that articulate political ideas and considerations as well as essays on the role and function of music and performance.

Section 014  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.

Section 015/016   Imagining Childhood
Instructor Eleanor Stanford

Section 015  TTH 11:25–12:45 p.m.
Section 016  TTh 12:55–2:15 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 017  Women Who See Through Walls
Instructor:  Michelle Francl
TTh 11:25–12:45 p.m.

Poet Marilyn Nelson sees “pearl-necked viruses [and] winged protozoans” in the dust she sweeps away, eighth century Sufi mystic Rābiʻa grounded her visions in pails of wash, medieval abbess Hildegarde of Bingen mused on the evolution of  plants and animals, while crystallographer Kathleen Lonsdale unraveled the inmost secrets of molecules at her kitchen table.  In this seminar we will explore the ways in which women writers have seen through the walls of their ordinary worlds and exposed the invisible realities beneath. What can we learn about how to grapple with what we cannot see? Texts for this course will include poetry, short fiction, photographic essays and films by diverse voices, including works by Marilyn Nelson, Jane Hirshfield, Annie Dillard, Sabrina Vourvoulias and Natasha Tretheway.  Students will write frequently, in and out of class, with opportunities to revise and sharpen their work.  

Section 018   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 019   Complex Thinking, Simple Wisdom
Instructor:  Gina Siesing
TTh 11:25–12:45

One of the most powerful facets of a liberal arts education is the chance to develop rich new ways of understanding our complex world in a community with other people who love to learn. How do we grapple effectively with such multi-faceted topics as political polarization in the US, cross-generational paradigms for social justice, ways of thinking about cures for malignant diseases, or methods for repairing interpersonal or societal harm? How do we think about the big question of whether institutions like ours represent a “bubble” apart from “the real world” or a reflection of the world in all its complexity and a place to build skills and practices relevant to living in the world and making it the best place it can be? When people from diverse backgrounds—both in terms of formal training and lived experience—come together to analyze gnarly questions and to seek new approaches to addressing those questions in our world, it helps to have methods for listening well and for finding common ground. Building our capacity for understanding complex situations from multiple perspectives and cultivating wise practices for cutting through complexity and handling areas of uncertainty can be a deeply beneficial kind of learning in community. In “Complex Thinking, Simple Wisdom,” we’ll use case studies to explore the value of using multiple lenses to understand complex issues in nuanced ways. Readings will range from articles in The New Yorker on paradigm changes in the health sciences and in education to Pew Research Center studies and infographics on US political bifurcation to Huffington Post essays and personal blogs on generational differences and how these affect ideas about activism and justice. The wisdom traditions we’ll explore through classic and contemporary writers are ones that have provided those who grapple with nearly unsolvable questions the insight to reframe these questions in ways that create new possibilities for holistic understanding and for moving forward individually and collectively. To integrate these wisdom texts into our explorations, we’ll draw on such readings as Chögyam Trungpa’s Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior and Pema Chödrön’s “No Right, No Wrong,” Melissa Gayle West’s Exploring the Labyrinth, and the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. This course is an opportunity to develop skills and confidence in close reading, attentive listening, and in-depth discussion based on exploring multiple perspectives and building a shared understanding among seminar members. Your writing in the seminar will include response papers, online discussion with peers, critical essays, and revisions supported by peer comment and regular one-on-one conferences with the instructor with the goal of helping you to craft effective arguments that engage, clarify, and persuade.

Section 020   Lovesick
Instructor:  Rudy Le Mentheour
TTh 11:25–12:45 p.m.

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 021  Spiritual, But Not Religious: Countercultural Ecstasies
Instructor:  Adam Sacks
TTh 11:25–12:45 p.m.

This writing seminar explores the question of what it means to be spiritual in a secular age. We will examine a broad range of ideas and practices that make up spirituality and distinguish this phenomenon from organized religion. We will begin with early esoteric New Age movements of the late 19th and early 20th Century such as Theosophy, Anthroposophy and the self-realization fellowship of Paramahansa Yogananda as a foundation for modern movements of spirituality in the era of the “death of God.” The course will then pursue a particular focus on spiritualities in the post-war American counterculture including Beat poetry, hippie music festivals, yoga, communal living experiments, as well as outsider offshoots from mainstream monotheistic faiths such as the Jesus movement, Kabbalah Center and the Na Nakhs, as well as the 5%ers of the Nation of Islam and its links inside contemporary Hip-Hop. Analysis of such phenomenon will enable students to recognize and explore the search for meanings, attachment and ecstatic experience amidst a complex landscape of pluralism, capitalism, secularism and race. Reading selections will also include brief but fundamental texts on theories of faith, limit experience, religion, celebration and gift giving.

Section 022  The Hero in Pop Culture
Instructor:  Pedro Marenco
TTh 11:25–12: 45 p.m.

Depictions of heroes and heroism in popular art are a function of societal and formal factors. Portrayals of iconic figures such as recurring comic book heroes change as societal norms, priorities, and fears change. In this course we will critically analyze a variety of print and visual works through the lens of genre and cultural comparison in order to become more sophisticated consumers and critics of popular art and culture. During this course we may study works and writings about works such as The World of Waconda, Spider Man, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, El Mariachi, The Magnificent Seven, Alien, and The Big Lebowski.  We will work together to improve writing and verbal communication via a series of short writing and speaking assignments that build to larger projects that showcase critical thinking skills.

Section 023   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 024  Culture Shock? Perspectives on Difference and Belonging in the 21st Century U.S.
Instructor:  Amanda Weidman
TTh 11:25–12:45 p.m.

The diversity of 21st-century U.S. society makes it difficult to generalize about “American culture.” How do we construct a sense of ourselves, our people, our home? How do we understand those who are different from us?  And what role do seemingly impersonal factors—institutional structures, national politics, and mass-mediated culture—play in these projects of negotiating difference and belonging? This seminar will explore these questions through the lens of ethnography, a method based on long-term, participatory research in which the researcher’s own ideas and assumptions are often challenged, and in which understanding and representing the voices of others is of prime importance. We will focus on three anthropological case studies on different topics and settings within the contemporary U.S.: girlhood and race relations in a suburban high school, refugee resettlement in a New England town, and country music performances by Navajo musicians in the American southwest, pairing each study with documentary film and journalistic reportage.

Section 025  Sisterliness
Instructor:  Chloe Flower
TTh 11:25–12:45 p.m.

The term “sisterliness” invokes a broad range of relationships: biological, political, medical, religious, and—as reflected in our own particular community—collegiate. This course asks how sisters have been represented in a variety of cultural imaginations, focusing on sisterhood as a relation that both maintains and challenges the structure of the patriarchal family.  We will examine how authors depict sisters as both individual literary characters and symbols of connection between girls and women. In doing so, we will explore the ways in which this theme might lead us to rethink conventional understandings of the family, as well as broader questions about female participation in public life during periods of history when women were traditionally associated with the home. We will also study works concerned with the limits of sisterliness as a metaphor for female community, for example in works that depict the exclusion of racial, class, and sexual minorities from groups of prosperous white girls and women.Readings for this course may include texts by George Eliot, Louisa May Alcott, E.M. Forster, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Ann Petry, Shirley Jackson, Toni Morrison, and others. We may also consider films such as Jane Campion’s Sweetie and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger’s Black Narcissus, as well as images from Nicholas Nixon’s photographic series The Brown Sisters. We will think about these works alongside excerpts from major theoretical texts on genre, family and kinship, identity, power, and difference. This class will focus on literary analysis, critical writing, and argument formation. Students will revise written assignments following review.

Section 026   Greek Mythology
Instructor:  Asya Siegelman
TTh 11:25–12:45 p.m.

“Achilles’ heel,” “Oedipus complex,” “Pandora’s box,” “Herculean labor”: Greek mythology lives on in our everyday language and culture, though we usually don’t stop to reflect on the ancient stories behind common expressions such as these. This course will introduce the student to the treasure trove of Greek myth that has come down to us in the forms of prose, poetry, and drama across more than two millennia. From century to century, these ancient stories inspired countless thinkers, poets, painters, sculptors, and writers to elaboration and reinterpretation, from medieval poetic retellings to twentieth-century films. As we enter the magical world of Greek gods and titans, of heroes and monsters, of mortal women so beautiful their face alone “launch’d a thousand ships” and of mortal men so cunning they could descend live into the Underworld and come back out again, we will seek to get a better understanding of the cultural and historic context in which these myths arose and the significance they had for the Greeks themselves. We will also explore how and why these myths survived the centuries and why they continue to be important in our modern world. Ultimately, we will ask: what do Greek myths tell us about the relationships of gods and humans, order and chaos, women and men, freedom and slavery, reality and magic, life and death—and how do these ancient perceptions, filtered through many centuries of subsequent history, compare with and continue to influence our modern attitudes to these same subjects.

Section 027  The Revolutionary Set
Instructor:  Jennifer Walters
TTh 11:25–12:45 p.m.

How does art shape how people think about history or democracy? Specifically, how is “Hamilton: An American Musical” shaping people’s perspectives on American history? The show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda has said, “Hamilton is the story of America then, by America now.” We will discuss the creative choices Miranda and his collaborators made in lyrics, musical composition, choreography, casting, and staging and how the show amplifies and departs from historical accounts. We will learn how to listen to and read the Hamilton score and “Mixtape” closely alongside material Miranda has drawn on or quoted from, including the writings of early American thinkers such as Paine, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Washington and contemporary historians and critics. We’ll also explore the world of Hamilton-inspired spin-offs including self-help books, homemade videos, fanfiction, animatics, and parodies. 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.

Sections 028/029  Poverty, Affluence and American Culture
Instructor:  Matt Ruben

Section 028:  TTh 11:25–2:45 p.m.
Section 029:  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 030  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.