Course Description Archive 05 - 06

First-Year Seminar Descriptions, 2005-2006

1.  Beauty:  In the Eye of the Beholder and Beyond

 

What is beauty?  Is it an important, even essential, value in human lives?  Or is it only a peripheral value in today’s world, superficial, perhaps even destructive?   Do ideals of beauty lead us to truth, goodness, and justice?  Or do they lead to the opposite?  The idea of beauty has been discussed by philosophers, artists, scientists, and ordinary people throughout the ages.  In recent years, after a period when beauty was attacked as elitist and irrelevant as an academic topic, the idea and ideal have been revived.  In this Precept class we will examine the idea of beauty, an idea we may each understand in our own way, by looking at some of the changes the idea has gone through historically and at some variations in its meaning through the lenses of different disciplines.  Through studying both fiction and non-fiction texts that comment on the idea of beauty, our goal will be to end the course with a broader, deeper, more complex understanding of what beauty can mean.  Readings may include Ovid, Hawthorne, Balzac, Wilde, Morrison, Browning, Ann Patchett, and Elaine Scarry.  

 

Water is essential to the survival of humans, therefore it is inevitable that water has played a key role in when and where civilizations have developed. How civilizations procure and manage water can have considerable influence over their growth, their consolidation of power, and in some instances their eventual decline. We will explore the importance of water to civilizations such as the ancient Mesopotamians and other peoples of the Fertile Crescent area of the Middle East, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Muslim empire of the middle ages, the British Empire, right up to the modern civilizations in North America and Australia. Readings pertinent to the subject will come from the works of Archimedes, the Bible and Koran, Leonardo DaVinci, Robert Harris, Patrick O’Brien, Mark Twain, and others. 

 

3. Journeys

The theme of this course will be journeys, understood both literally and as metaphor.  We will read and discuss a number of narratives which include aspects of travel—actual, spiritual, and psychological.  Authors will include Andrea Barrett, James Baldwin, Homer, Dante, Joseph Conrad, and Christopher Marlowe; if time permits, we’ll take a look at some films as well.

 

4. Gender, Sexuality and Music in Cross-Cultural Comparison

 

In this course students will critically engage with a selection of writings, which explore the concepts of gender and sexuality in the context of world music, while developing their own writing skills through a series of assignments.  Readings will introduce topics in both traditional and popular music from various cultural areas in several different writing styles, ranging from popular journal articles to scholarly work.  Students will consider such seminal works as Ellen Koskoff’s Women and Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Philip Brett’s Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology and Susan McClary’s Feminine Ends: Music, Gender, and Sexuality.  Additional materials will focus on particular genres, such as Gillian Gaar’s She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll, Angela Davis’s Blues Legacies and Black Feminism and Robert Walser’s Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music.  Writing assignments will also include a variety of styles, such as a concert review, a book review, short essays, and a research paper.  Students will thus develop their knowledge of gender and sexuality in music of the world’s people while also developing their argumentative skills as writers.

 

  5. From Shakespeare to Eminem and The SIMS: Just Another Writing Class?

 

What could Shakespeare and The SIMS possibly have in common? In this class you will learn that the power of self-reflexive narrative, where characters search for their authors and audiences become the actors of the plays they see, reaches the confines of the popular culture that surrounds you on a daily basis. By writing yourself into the script of this class you will reflect upon the creation of your own identity in the act of writing. You will enter into dialogue with authors and playwrights like Shakespeare, Pirandello, Brecht, and Borges, as well as music videos by Eminem, films like “Adaptation,” advertisements, and cartoons. In this course, the past and the present will look each other in the eye as we examine how verbal and visual artists comment on their own production and authorship and flaunt the conventions of their artwork. You will create fictional selves and reflect on your own process of creation through projects that include the playing of The SIMS video game, the creation of advertisements, and the writing of poems, plays, and short stories.

 

6. The Political Novel

 

Stendahl observed in The Charterhouse of Parma that “politics in a work of literature are like a pistol-shot in the middle of a concert, something loud and vulgar yet a thing to which it is not possible to refuse one’s attention.”  Yet one of the most effective ways to trace and analyze forms of political organization and their impact on individuals is through imaginative fiction.  In the 20th century in particular, novelists have constructed narratives around the great political themes of our time:  communism, fascism, socialism, and democracy.  In this Preceptorial we will read, discuss, and write about novels by Arthur Koestler, George Orwell, Robert Penn Warren, Alan Paton, Mary McCarthy, Graham Greene, Alan Drury, and Richard Condon.  Several excellent films have also been produced based on some of these novels, and we will view and discuss two or three of them.  Appropriate attention will be given to the historical background of the novels.

 

7. Technology: Celebration and Warning

 

Without technology, our world would certainly be a different place, but would it be better or worse than our world with technology?  Some celebrate technology, arguing that the progress of technology improves society and culture.  Others warn against technology, arguing that the progress is illusory or comes with a price.  In this course, we will read authors that say something about technology, its limitations, or its relationship to society.  Through this reading and reflecting in writing, you will experience different ways of addressing an issue, learn about the interactions between technology and society, and develop and understand your own opinions on technology.  We will read classic literature as well as more modern accounts, both fictional and non-fictional.  Readings will likely include Tracy Kidder, Mary Shelley, Dava Sobel, and Ellen Ullman.

 

8. Living Theory: Of Self and Other

In this course we will utilize literature and film as pretexts to query (meaning to problematize) ideas about self, citizenship and personhood. We will engage long-established and alternative discourses related to culture, gender, and race formation in the context of mythopoetic (literary), filmographic, cultural, and scientific narratives of social identity. By exploring the formation of such discourses and by confronting their historical embeddedness, we will assemble a critical language useful in grasping the informal and formal practices that help to shape and preserve perception and knowledge.

We will map our way through theory by reading satire (Voltaire’s Candide), science fiction (Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz), fiction (Ana Lydia Vega’s True and false romances: stories and a novella, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians), and by confronting notions of normalcy and selfhood (films: In the Company of MenWrestling with ManhoodHappinessBowling for Columbine), among other possible films/texts. The theory text used in this class is The Theory Toolbox: Critical Concepts for the Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences.

 

9.Borderlands

 

In this course we will explore the politics, literature, and culture of the US/Mexico border.  We will examine what it means to be an “American” and how the policing and cultural mixing of our national borders complicates our national identity.  We will discuss citizenship, border-crossing and immigration post-9/11, bilingual education, environmental concerns of nuclear waste and pollution, and the clash of cultural, religious, and racial differences in the American Southwest.  We will read texts from a variety of cultural and political perspectives, including Gloria Anzaldua, Samuel Huntington, Leslie Silko, Richard Rodriquez, and others.  We will also examine art from the US/Mexico borderlands as well as films such as Lone Star and Leaving Home.

 

10.  The Dark Side: Night in Society, Literature, Music, and Art

 

In most societies (and even today, despite electrical lighting), rules change when the sun goes down. Night is a separate, mysterious, and often dangerous sphere. In this preceptorial we will examine how ancient and modern societies have responded to night in law, religion, literature, music, and art. We shall begin with legal and religious regulations for nocturnal activity as drawn up by various societies, turning next to literary responses, and concluding with artistic and musical representations. Readings will include A. R. Ekirch At Day's Close: Night in Times Past and selections from such ancient literary texts as Genesis, Hesiod's Theogony, Vergil's Aeneid, Ovid's Metamorphoses, and Livy on the Bacchanalian Conspiracy of 186 BC as well as more recent texts, including, for example, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, E. Young's Night Thoughts, Novalis' Hymns to the Night. In looking at visual representations of night we will pay close attention to the lighting of night from a variety of sources (moon, stars, candles, electric lights) as well as to the nocturnal themes such works often address (catastrophe, love, death, sleep, dreams, religious festivals, loneliness, and allegory). Musical responses to night will begin with a few pieces of classical music known to the instructor. Students will be invited to supplement this meager fare. Students will also be invited to participate in a variety of written exercises, ranging from close analysis of texts to personal nocturnal reflections.

 

11.The Individual and the Nation

 

 “Often, when one man follows his own will, many are hurt.”  These are the words of a young man who has seen his nation’s leader die in the pursuit of glory; they are spoken near the end of Beowulf, at the very beginning of recorded English literature.

In this course we will explore the tensions between individual desires and the common good, between human values and political argument.  Our readings will span literature, philosophy, and politics, including Plato, Beowulf, Shakespearean tragedy, and a number of classic American writers (Douglass, Emerson, Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton).  How do the voices and stories of individuals speak about the problems and promise of a nation?  Having honed our political and literary perceptions, we will culminate the course by applying what we have learned to the seminal epic of ancient Rome, Virgil’s Aeneid, in which the founding of a nation is closely linked to the character and costly adventures of one man.

 

 12. Creativity and Culture

Contemporary artists often cultivate attitudes of detachment from and critique of society. A lingering cliche imagines an artist laboring in obscurity in a garret, but a few achieve the kind of celebrity and notoriety more typically associated with rock stars. This course will look at ways in which artists' roles reflect their times, and ways those roles are defined by different societies and the artists themselves. We will read historical and philosophical documents by Plato, Vasari and Michelangelo; literature reflecting on the experience of making art by the Romantic poets, Henry James, James Joyce and Henry Miller. Journals and criticism by artists like Willelm de Kooning, David Smith and David Wojnarowicz will give a perspective from inside the creative process. By looking at Jackson Pollock's painting, listening to readings of William Burroughs and the music of John Coltrane, we'll explore links between literary, visual and performance arts. In the end we will draw some conclusions regarding creativity and the zeitgeist.

 

13. Food for Thought

 

This Preceptorial considers the production, distribution and consumption of food.  Food embodies nature and culture in a way that few other things can.  Perhaps our most intimate relationships are with food.  Politics and technology determine the production and distribution of food.  Religions tell us what and when we can and can’t eat.  Science tells us what we should or shouldn’t eat. Readings for this Preceptorial will range from religious texts (the Bhagavad-Gita, the Q’uran and the Bible) to philosophical and scientific texts on genetic engineering and food safety to journalistic accounts of hunger and fast food culture.

 

14.Ways of Knowing and Understanding the World: How We Make Decisions

 

How does the world work?  How is it ordered?  Who's in charge?  Is the world indifferent to us?  On what basis should we make decisions and live our lives?  What do we do when things don't go well?  How valuable is religion in keeping us from doing wrong?  How do we know what the right thing is?  How much do reason, personality, and force of will influence our outlook and the decisions we make? 

Equiano's Travels, Woody Allen's movie Crimes and MisdemeanorsHamlet, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Tao Te Ching provide strikingly different answers to these questions. The 18th-century autobiography of the slave Equiano explores how luck, hard work, compromise and religious faith sustained the author through difficult times.  Crimes and Misdemeanors follows the lives of characters who embrace either religious orthodoxy or religious skepticism.  Hamletshows what happens when the individual is cut free from the past and must function in a "modern" society that provides neither moral nor religious support.  The Bhagavad-Gita teaches us how to discipline our desires and conform our will to divine will in order to become truly free and content.  Taoism challenges our western belief that the more we know and the harder we work, the happier we will be.  We will also draw on Benjamin Hoff's Tao of Pooh to understand how Winnie the Pooh resembles a Taoist sage while his friends Rabbit and Owl are more like the striving, goal-oriented westerner.

 

15.  Narrative Gaps

 

“Tell a little and he is Hamlet; tell all and he is nothing.”

                                                  W.B. Yeats

 

This course studies ‘stories’ where we do not at first sight see them and where we need to imagine them in order to understand significant parts of a given text.  We will look at narrative practice from a variety of viewpoints, discovering how it works perhaps most strongly where important parts of a story are missing.  Student essays will develop interpretive stores as bases of their analytical essays about the following texts: Baghavad Gita; Genesis; Hamlet; 8 Modern Essayists; Beloved;  Wonderful Words…  and Selected Poems by Charles Simic.

 

 16. Nature and Culture

 

The interaction of human beings and nature is as old as the origins of homo sapiens, and has assumed an endless variety of forms. We have often regarded nature as a mirror of ourselves, nature personified, idealized and gendered - or as the “other”, to be feared, resisted and dominated. This course will examine these attitudes through texts ranging from the pastoral poetry of ancient Greece and Rome to twentieth century non-fiction.  We will consider where nature has been located: in the realm of the imaginary and the real, the historical and the contemporary, the literary and the scientific, and as a site for romantic escape or political action. Emphasis will be placed on learning how to read critically and actively, and on improving your writing skills. Our investigation will include music. Union College music professor and composer Hilary Tann will discuss the role of nature in twentieth century music, and the class will attend the performance of one of  her recent compositions. Readings may include Theocritus and Virgil (selections), the Song of Songs and St Francis' Canticle of the Sun, Shakespeare's The Tempest, Thoreau's Walden, stories by Horacio Quiroga, John McPhee's The Control of Nature, Jane Smiley's 1000 Acres, David Quammen's The Song of the Dodo, and Judith Shapiro's Mao's War Against Nature.

 

17.Morality, Religion, Altruism and Justice

 

Society infuses our minds with widely accepted meanings of morality, religion, altruism and justice. Many extol the experience of spiritual exaltation provided by religion; others see religion as mind numbing the destructive. Many extol altruism as a virtue; others see altruism as detrimental to the individual and to society. Many believe justice is administered by the courts; others find injustice everywhere.

To explore different viewpoints, we begin by reading texts discussing good versus evil and insider of society versus outsider. We continue with readings on altruism versus selfishness, for or against religion and end with a look at various forms of justice. We will read texts of varying length by Anouilh, Bolt, Camus, Garcia Marquez, Gide, Ibsen, Langston Hughes, Maugham, Th. Mann and Sophocles and supplement these with brief excerpts from the writings of Buber, Emerson, Epictetus, Marx, Niebuhr, Nietzsche, Rand, and Rousseau.

 

18.The Individual

The course will focus on the individual.  The first part, which is more personal in nature, will explore one’s progress through life and its stages: the discovery of the self in childhood and through its memories, the family unit, relationships, love, sex, marriage, and finally death.  The second will address the confrontation between the individual and the universe as manifested by the Big Bang, faith, reason, randomness, and freedom.  These topics will be viewed from several points of reference. Readings include Annie Dillard,  An American Childhood,  James Baldwin, Go Tell it on the Mountain,  Jane Smiley, The Age of Grief,  as well as Freud, the Tao Te Ching, and the Koran.

 

19. The Other

 

From birth, we are taught to conform, not to be different.  As a result, we distrust or are fearful of those who are different, who represent “the other.”  This course will examine, through texts by Gide, Balzac, Virginia Woolf, Gogol, and others, some traditional examples of people considered to be different—the artist, the homosexual, women in a male dominated society.  Since we are at Union, we are all the same.  But obviously we were not all raised according to the same norms.  What happens when we have to confront the different in our daily lives?  What happens when we realize that we are different or are forced to be “the other”?  Using texts by some social theorists such as Freud and Foucault, we will examine life at Union today both in terms of difference and conformity.  Ramée’s campus presents a norm to which we should conform.  Our terms abroad program forces us to be outsiders in another society.  How do we exist in this deliberate tension?

 

20. Truth and Self-Fashioning

 

Does being yourself mean staying true to what you have always been?  Or, rather, does it require transforming yourself into the person you have always wanted to be?  Is our true self, in other words, something we discover, or something we create?  This FYP course studies a range of responses to these questions, from ancient tragedy to contemporary film, focusing on how particular texts problematize the project of becoming oneself.  On the one hand, this literature regards the struggle to break free of one’s past to be an ethical, even heroic, act.  At the same time, however, these authors show an acute awareness of the limitations and dangers involved in any act of self-creation.  Are we really free to change who we are?  What forces (historical, sociological, psychological) stand in the way?  And, finally, what do we lose by becoming something new?  Readings will include Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Diderot’s Rameau’s Nephew, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Freud’s “The Dissection of the Psychical Personality,” Sartre’s Nausea, and Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich.   

 

21. The Other: A Stranger Among Us ?

 

In this course we will discuss the concept of the "other" by examining several narratives centered upon the protagonist's search for identity.  Invariably authors introduce these quests through the rhetorical device of the stranger.  We will consider the image of the stranger in order to confront the estrangement inherent in family origins, gender and literary acceptance, and the author's unresolved feelings about him(her)self. Frequently the associations of a sense of place are bound together with memory, stasis and nostalgia.  What gives a place a unique flavor is the fact that it is constructed out of a specific arrangement of social and physical relations that intersect at a particular point.  The works selected center on the theme of alienation seen through the eyes of the stranger. We will discuss the function of this trope on three levels - the spatial, temporal and psychological. Of particular interest will be the disturbing 'falling away' from the family or group, and the movement from unity and acceptance to individuality and denial. Through a close reading of works including, but not limited to Balzac's The Unknown Masterpiece, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Woolf's A Room of One's Own, Camus' The Stranger, Morrison's Song of Solomon and Petrushevskaia's The Time Night, we will seek to understand the way one is able to construct and manipulate his/her own sense of place.

 

22.Suspicious of the Visual

 

Is a picture worth a thousand words?  In Ancient Greek the verb for “to know” is related to the verb “to see.”  Despite this linguistic connection, the Athenian philosopher Plato was highly critical of what we think we know by sight. This course will focus on a range of philosophical approaches to the problematic relationship between knowledge and the visual, through four key images theorists have employed to picture it:

1.       The Cave (Plato, Susan Sontag)

2.       The Panopticon (Jeremy Bentham, Michel Foucault)

3.       The Fetish (Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Naomi Klein)

4.       The Gaze (Jean-Paul Sartre, Laura Mulvey, bell hooks)

We will frame our discussion of each of the above critical tropes through the analysis of film.  That is, we will use Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges, 1941) to talk about the Cave, Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954) to talk about the Panopticon, L’Age D’Or (Luis Bunuel’s and Salvador Dalí, 1930) to talk about Fetishism, and Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959) to talk about the Gaze. As a counterpoint to this survey of critical suspicion of the visual, we will also discuss the ways in which the language of the eye and the language of the tongue depend upon one another to produce meaning.  By the end of the course we will have mastered a variety of arguments for why we should be suspicious of visual knowledge, and we will also learn strategies for articulating our own critical perspectives in relation to these major theoretical ones.

 

23. Political Opinions for Bright Dummies

 

The target audience is students majoring in Humanities, the Sciences, and Engineering or students undecided about their major but not likely the Social Sciences; and who have some interest in politics  or public affairs, but aren’t sure of their political ideas and feel uncomfortable in expressing their political opinions  or “arguing” about politics.   Students majoring in the Social Sciences should not choose this section

 

 Democracy requires political participation by citizens.   But expressing political opinions, arguing about politics, and discussing hot political topics make a lot of people uncomfortable. Several very bright people avoid expressing their political opinions or arguing about politics because they are not sure of what their opinions really are.  They may not even be sure of why they hold the opinions they do.  And many doubt that they know enough to argue effectively, whether putting forward their own positions or arguing against the contentions of others.   The goal of this Precept  section is to assist students in developing the philosophical, logical, and empirical bases for asserting and defending political opinions.  It doesn’t matter if you are liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican  or Green, or moderate or extreme in your orientation.  What matters is that you want to learn how to develop and defend well reasoned, well articulated political opinions. Readings will include  works in political philosophy, contemporary fiction,  and current events.  Students will choose two issue areas of particular interest (one  domestic, one in foreign affairs) about which to develop their own opinions as a conclusion to the course.

 

24. Seminar on American Freedom : Beyond the Pentagon Press Release

 

In The Story of American Freedom, Eric Foner warns against understandings of American freedom that "give it a fixed definition." In fact, he recommends that "rather than seeing freedom as a fixed category or predetermined concept," we consider it "an 'essentially contested concept.'" This process-driven notion of the history of American freedom allows us to see that, rather than challenging a pristine and timeless vision of the founding fathers, dissent over the meaning, range, and experience of American freedom is the force by which it was produced and by which it is sustained, damaged, deepened, and improved. This course will examine the concept and practice of "American Freedom" as it has twisted and turned, expanded & contracted, on its way through history. We'll gather our thoughts in relation to contemporary and historical essays, novels, songs, memoirs, poems, paintings, photographs. This year's course, will devote significant attention on important, would-be international extensions of this troubled, troubling and visionary concept : American Freedom.

 

25.  Gender, Race, and Sexuality

Are men "naturally" more violent than women?  Is there any scientific basis for the idea of race?  What happens to a child  raised by gay parents?  These questions and others like them occur when we try to draw the line between human behavior that is "natural" and that which is culturally acquired.   In this class, we will track the ways in which ideas about what is "natural" have been used over the centuries to justify Western cultural beliefs and practices.  As we explore the history of ideas about gender, race, and sexuality, we will be particularly interested in the influence of philosophical and scientific discourses about what is "natural" on the legal and social practices that regulate our behavior.  Readings will include excerpts from texts by Aristotle,  Thomas Kuhn, Simone de Beauvoir, Shakespeare,  Kwame Anthony Appiah, Thomas Jefferson, and Stephen Jay Gould.

 

26.‘Whatever it is, I’m against it”: The Rhetoric of Dissent

 

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, and people are most easily persuaded by what they already in some degree believe. How, then, does one persuade people that most everything they believe is wrong?  That is the problem confronting the great dissenters of history, from Socrates and Jesus of Nazareth to Thoreau and Karl Marx, and it confronts the dissenters of more recent times, from Martin Luther King, Angela Davis, and Malcolm X to Edward Abbey, Arundati Roy, and Noam Chomsky, and from Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and John Lennon to Bruce Springsteen, Kurt Cobain, and Steve Earle.  We will examine their modes of dissent and try to concoct effective modes of our own. Note: in keeping with the spirit of the topic, students are encouraged to dissent from the ideas expressed by any of the texts studied in class and from those of the instructor himself. In fact, students are encouraged to dissent from their parents, their fellow students, Union College, and just about everything.  Given the current political climate, this may be your last chance . . . or first opportunity.

 

27.Culture and Human Nature

 

Why is ADD endemic is contemporary America but virtually unheard of in other societies and historical periods?  Are males naturally more aggressive than females?  Is there a common human nature or are individuals born "blank slates" to be written on by society?  These are a few of the questions that will be addressed in a wide-ranging consideration of the relationship between individuals and cultural communities.  We will start by considering various Western and non-Western theories about individuals and communities.  We will then look more specifically at: the ways culture shapes gender roles; the impact of mass media on kids; and cultural influences on the experiences of mental and physical illness.  We will examine such diverse topics as changing ideas about anorexia through European history; suicide rates in turn-of-the century France, and constructions of mental illness in US society.  Readings will include excerpts form Hindu and Taoist texts, excerpts from Freud, The Nurture Assumption (Harris), Asylums (Erving Goffman), Middlesex(Eugenides) and Fasting Girls (Brumberg).

  

28. Globalization and Culture

 

Globalization -- the spread and intensification of worldwide social, political and economic relationships -- has generated unprecedented interdependence among citizens, governments and economies throughout our world. The disparate impact of globalization’s forces on whole cultures as well as individual citizens is the focus of this course.   As Benjamin Barber writes in Jihad vs. McWorld, one of the books we will read in the course, a critical examination of how cultures and citizens outside capitalist markets view globalization as an intrusion into their way of life is crucial in understanding the violent resistance in some parts of the world we see today.  Just as important is a critical look at how globalization has impacted the goals and priorities of western cultures as well as individual citizens within them in profoundly social and psychological ways.

 

28. The Romance, from the Greeks ‘til Today

 

This section will read the popular romance novels spanning from Ancient Greek Chaereas and Callirhoe, to Lazarillo de Tormes in Renaissance Spain, to eighteenth-century England’s Pamela, to the first gothic and the modern Harlequin.  Many of these works are now “classics.”  How did they make the cut? What makes these works so popular?  To whom do they appeal and why?  We will focus on the representation of love and its relation to social life as well as tracing the evolution of narrative technique of the romance.  In order to address the questions above, we will consider critical material from sociology and history as well as literary and cultural criticism alongside our primary texts. This course is designed to help you improve your reading and writing skills and understand what it means to write “a college-level essay.”  We will devote both class time and individual conference sessions to this goal.

 

29.Our Monsters, Ourselves

 

Human beings throughout history and in every part of the world have talked about and written about monsters.  Some people claim that we need monsters.  Why?  How have the kinds of monsters we have created changed over time?  What do the monsters we create tell us about ourselves?  What do they reveal about our nature and our culture--and the debates about each?  What do they tell us about our beliefs about good and evil?  In this inquiry-based seminar, we will examine some early representations of monsters, including Homer’s Cyclops and Beowulf’s Grendel, well-known 19thCentury literary monsters in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as well as more recent representations of monsters in literature, film, and life.  In addition, we will evaluate some of the explanations offered by different academic disciplines for our need to create monsters and the ways in which they reveal our lives and our selves.  

 

30. DREAM CAFÉ : Viewing Culture through Dreams

 

How do we define ourselves through dreams?  How do artistic and literary representations of dreams speak to our communal understanding?  Are the archetypes of our dreams universal?  How do artists shape dreams to reflect culture?  We’ll look at dreams through the eyes of writers, artists, playwrights, film makers.  We’ll view different cultures through the medium of dreams.  We’ll research the science of dream theory and look at how the psychology of dreams has shaped how we view dreams.  Course readings and writings will encourage critical evaluation of these questions on a personal, individual basis and on a communal, reflective level.  Resources will likely  include Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried,  Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams,  Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame, the paintings of Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Paul Klee and others, and films of Ingmar Bergman, Peter Weir and others.