FYP List for Fall and Winter Terms 2009-10
1. Rhetorics of War (Childree) W
Two warriors preparing to battle in Homer's Iliad are exchanging boasts and taunts. One stops the other short, saying, "War is fought with our hands; words are for the council. Enough talking--let's fight!" The inevitable reality we face, however, is that most of us experience war not with our hands, but through words and images. This class will look at how war is talked about and represented, from Homer's Trojan War to modern depictions of Iraq. We'll discuss the tactics and techniques involved in discussing such a divisive topic, and ask what benefits paying closer attention to these various viewpoints can bring us. Readings may include Homer's Iliad, Euripides' Trojan Women, Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, John Keegan's Face of Battle, Tim O'Brian's The Things They Carried, and HBO's Generation Kill.
2. Nationalism (Wu) W
This course will study nationalism as a political, cultural, and economic phenomenon, with an emphasis on non-Western countries. Part I will trace the rise of nationalism and nation-states in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Part II will discuss the spread of nationalism to Asia and Africa in the 20th century, focusing on the role of native intellectuals in interpreting and transforming Western ideas. Part III will analyze the emergence of nationalist political movements in Asia and Africa. We will pay particular attention to the question of whether nationalism allowed ordinary people to achieve political freedom and social and economic progress or introduced new ways of oppression, exclusion, and violence. We will conclude by exploring the role of nationalism in contemporary international relations in Asia and Africa.
Readings will include Imagined Communities, Selected Works of Mao Zedong, Things Fall Apart, The Wretched of the Earth, U Nu: Saturday’s Son, and Discovering Chinese Nationalism in China.
3. The Individual (Rudko) F
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.
4. Ethics and the Environment (Doyle) W
This course will focus on the intersections of human cultures and environment, with an emphasis on the social and cultural dynamics of the environment and environmental action. Some questions we will consider in the course: What are the ethical questions that we pose and wrestle with as we interact with and within our environment? What is the place of literature in community, literacy, and environmental activism? To what extent does place matter in our conceptions of what nature is? What are the connections between race, class, and environmental degradation and environmental activism? How does gender enter into the nexus of social interactions that shape our environment? To what extent are humans ethically responsible for non-human nature? How does the practice of careful observation lead us toward ethical practices? We will consider both the concept of “nature” as we consider the concept of human culture. This course is collaborative in nature, and as such students should bring their interests, curiosities, and discoveries to add to the mix. A partial list of readings may include those by Terry Tempest Williams, Barbara Kingsolver, Evelyn White, bell hooks, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Luther Standing Bear, Running-Grass, Simon Ortiz, Ana Castillo, Vandana Shiva, Wangari Maathai, Aldo Leopold, Robert Sullivan, Andrew Light, Holmes Rolston.
5. Narrative Gaps (Stevenson) F
“Gaps to teach you,/ the stages of our story” Shakespeare, Pericles
“Tell a little & he is Hamlet; tell all & he is nothing.” W.B. Yeats, 1925 letter
Literary texts, whether prose or poetry, have stories tucked within other stories. Many of these are implied rather than narrated directly, but all of the narratives within a text perform a role in suggesting important information about what would otherwise have remained unclear. We will study short stories, poems, riddles, some of the Tao, and one play in order to fill in their narrative gaps wherever they occur and thus to see how close we can come to earning a place in the story and understanding with some fullness how it works.
6. Living through Troubling Times (Sargent, J) F/W
We'll take a close look at how people deal with the big and little disasters of life by examining works of literature from as far back as ancient China (Tao Te Ching) to the futuristic novel Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Winnie the Pooh turns out to be a model Taoist who lets his life be guided by the Tao Te Ching, while Atwood gives us a glimpse of the future we may be creating for ourselves as we try to figure out how much we want technology and marketing to control our lives. Rabbi Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People asks us to consider why people believe in divine intervention in human affairs, and Boccaccio's Decameron gives us entertaining insight into how people dealt with the Black Death in Florence in the fourteenth century. The short stories of Raymond Carver show how easy it is to be overwhelmed by in the modern world and the dangers of isolation, while the contemporary David Sedaris offers humorous takes on serious problems like death and political correctness.
7. Innocence and Experience: The Storyteller's Art (Marten) F
This course will explore the ways we come to understand the meaning of “innocence” and “experience” as they are revealed in the “storytelling” of selected fiction writers, personal essayists, poets and visual artists, singers, film makers. We will consider such subjects as how storytelling “truth” relates to “happening truth”; why stories are told; the relationship of story to ritual; the nature of ceremonies; stories as ways of expressing personal, family, and public histories; the ways visual art and illustration can change written art; the ways musical art can change written art; the role of tragedy in storytelling; the role of humor in storytelling; the role of lies in storytelling; the ways stories define and are defined by one’s culture. Throughout, the themes that link the tales we’ll explore will be the nature of innocence and experience, and the relationship of one to the other.
Readings will be selected from works by William Blake (Songs of Innocence and Experience), Peter Godwin (When A Crocodile Eats the Sun), Toni Morrison (Song of Solomon) Barbara Myerhoff (Number Our Days), Tim O'Brien (The Things They Carried), Shakespeare (King Lear), Jordan Smith (The Names of Things Are Leaving), Leslie Silko (Ceremony), Graham Swift (Waterland), Tobias Wolff (This Boy's Life), selected poems by Seamus Heaney, Robert Lowell, Syliva Plath, Theodore Roethke, William Carlos Williams, songs by Greg Brown, Bob Dylan
8. Man and Beast (Heinegg) F/W
A philosophical and (popular-) scientific exploration of the ties between humans and the natural world, including the ways we resemble and differ from other animals, the ongoing planetary, ecocide, animal rights, vegetarianism, and the intriguing prospect of the disappearance of homo sapiens. The readings will feature classic excerpts about "man and beast" (from the Bible, etc.) plus Bill Mc Kibben, "The End of Nature," Peter Singer, "Animal Liberation," Mark Bekoff, "The Emotional Lives of Animals," Reg Morrison, "The Spirit in the Gene," and Alan Weisman, "The World Without Us."
9. On the Outside (Rosenthal) W
Society emphasizes conformity. The way we perceive and understand the world around us is strongly influenced by this fact and, for many of us, this conformity is reflected in our “ways of knowing” and perceiving of others. One of the main goals of a liberal arts education is to learn to understand and analyze complex issues from a variety of perspectives and to learn to be more understanding of those who are different from us. This seminar will consider the perspective of those who are on the “outside”, either by choice, whether politically or artistically, or through circumstances beyond their control, such as social status, poverty or a disability. How is someone’s perception of the world altered when they are outside of the mainstream ? Who is really “on the outside” ? Are we all to one extent or the other “on the outside”? In the process we will learn how to “read critically”, an invaluable skill for you, our guide being How to Read Like A Writer by Francine Prose. You will also have multiple opportunities to work on your writing, not just through traditional essays, but also op-ed pieces, creative writing, and more. Readings will include short stories by William Gay and others, The Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy (author of No Country for Old Men and The Road),Lowboy by John Wray (about schizophrenia), editorials by Barbara Ehrenreich (This Land is Their Land), as well as films and discussion of art and jazz. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.
10. St. Petersburg Nightmares: The Horror of the City (Arndt) F
The move to the “big city” is often traumatic, especially for those who come from tradition-based agrarian societies. Upon transferring to urban areas, some of the inhabitants experience alienation and a sense of rootlessness, while others flourish in their new environment. All of this begs the question as to whether the influence of the city, and the civilization it represents, is helpful, benign, or harmful to the individual. This course will address the question in two ways. First, we will analyze texts which explain this phenomenon of alienation (these include Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto). Following this, we will consider a particular case-study; Saint Petersburg, Russia. Here we will draw from a number of seminal works of Russian nineteenth-century literature (including Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground), which give voice to the estrangement engendered by what the latter referred to as “the most intentional city in the world.”
11. Politics and the Novel (McFadden) W
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, and Katherine Burdekin, along with works of political theory by Plato, Rousseau, Mill, Marx, and Freud. Several excellent films have also been produced based on some of these novels, and we will view and discuss at least one of them. Appropriate attention will be give to the historical background of the novels.
12. Initiations: Discoveries of the Self, Society and the Sacred (Selley) W
How do we come to know who we are and what we believe? How do our families affect our boundaries--what we will and will not do? What does "family" mean? What are the events, both subtle and ritualized, that initiate us into the many societies into which we are born or with which we eventually have significant contact? What does "reality" mean, and how do we construct and determine our own realities based on perceptions of self, society and the sacred (and/or the profane)? We will explore the development of selfhood and of familial and social relationships in poetry, fiction, drama, sacred texts, and film. Approximately three weeks of the course will be devoted to exploring relationships between the human and the spiritual/divine, as seen in the Bible (specifically, the Old Testament Book of Genesis and the New Testament Gospel according to St. Matthew) and other works. The film The Matrix and will be considered in relation to Buddhism and Christianity. The Japanese anime Spirited Away will be discussed in the context of the Shinto religion. The film (and perhaps the book) Dead Man Walking will be considered in the context of legal, social and religious issues. Students will write at least five essays, take quizzes, give an oral report, and take a final exam. Possible texts (one or two might be added) include: Handouts of poetry; Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown"; Morrison, The Bluest Eye; Sophocles, Oedipus the King (trans. Robert Fagles, Penguin Classics); The Gospel According to Saint Matthew; Alter, ed., Genesis (Norton); Vea, Gods Go Begging.
13. Genocide (Lobe) F
Genocide is humanity's greatest and most enduring scourge. After the horrific Holocaust, the world's leaders cried out, "Never Again." Sadly, genocide has occurred repeatedly since World War II, murdering, raping, terrorizing, and pillaging millions of victims in countless places. This course examines genocide comparatively, noting its complex causes, from racism, to imperialism, war, revolution, xenophobic nationalism, anti-modernism, and agrarianism. Examples of genocide, from the Armenian to the Shoah, from Cambodia, to Darfur and Rwanda, are examined. In each case we shall note the motives of the perpetrators, the actions of the victims, and responses from various bystanders. And the course grapples with how genocide can be avoided or prevented, including through international humanitarian interventions. Finally, we shall study post-genocidal societies, in terms of justice, memory, denial, redress, trials, and punishment. Because genocide is "unbelievable," and "defies imagination," we shall use many modes of presentation.
14. Media Accuracy, Credibility, Fairness, and Reliability (Mafi) F/W
According to a published report by The American Society of Newspaper Editors, “78 percent of U.S. adults believe there’s bias in the news media.” In order to carry our social responsibilities, we ought to be able to think critically and evaluate the information we get through the media: Radio, TV, Internet, Movies, Books, Newspapers, and Magazines.
In this course, the students will:
- have an increased awareness of inaccuracies in the media and will be provided with tools to search for different opinions and perspectives.
- be inspired to critically reflect on increasingly complex social, political, and cultural issues.
- learn how to read between the lines and form their own independent opinion despite the proliferation of media outlets and PR tricks.
- be better prepared to identify WMD (Weapons of Mass Distraction).
- have ample opportunity to use and enhance their critical thinking ability.
As citizens and future leaders, our students will be better equipped to protect great values such as democracy, civil liberties, peace and justice if they are well informed.
15. Identity and Migration in the Twentieth Century (Calandra) F/W
According to Meera Alexander, an internationally renowned author of the Indian diaspora, the effect of migration is the following: “the shock of arrival [in a new place] is multifold--what was borne in the mind is jarred, tossed into new shapes, an exciting exfoliation of sense. What we were in that other life is shattered open. But the worlds we now inhabit still speak of the need for invention, of ancestors, of faith.” In this course we will explore how migration both creates a painful “shatter[ing]” of the past and offers the “exciting” possibility of “invention.” We will focus on the movement of bodies and cultures across national and regional boundaries in the twentieth century to examine how migration reshapes the identities both of the migrants themselves and of all those whom they encounter. More specifically, we will ask how this reshaping of identity is reflected, questioned, or facilitated in fiction, film, and critical essays. Possible texts for this course include Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, Excerpts from Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, testimonials about Ellis Island, poems from Angel Island, stories about the Great Migration, Marjane Satrapi’sPersepolis, and Le grand voyage.
16. On Suffering (Tuon) F
Why do we suffer? Is suffering necessary? If suffering is inevitable, how do we cope with it? As a class, we will examine these questions about suffering by reading philosophical and literary texts on the problem and meaning of suffering, religion and spirituality, the relationship between good and evil, morality and ethics, and war and atrocity. Texts may include Thomas Merton's The Way of Chuang Tzu, The Book of Job, What the Buddha Taught, Art Spiegelman's Maus, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, Loung Ung's First They Killed my Father, and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis.
17. Words that Change Worldviews (Mar) F
A handful of people in the past 150 years have used the power of their minds and the power of language to change the thinking of the rest of us. In this Preceptorial, we will examine a few of the people who have created paradigm shifts in our ways of thinking and consider the ways in which they communicated their ideas so persuasively. We will analyze, for example, some political speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King to see what made them so powerful. We will also look at the writing of Charles Darwin and Rachel Carson, scientists who not only changed their respective fields of biology and ecology but also the assumptions and beliefs of most humans on the planet. Through these and other examples, we will look at the nature of paradigm shifts and how they come about. Together we will come to conclusions about what made these people’s words, which introduced ideas that many at the time found difficult to accept, so very powerful in persuading others to change their views. At the same time, we’ll be learning principles of persuasive argumentation useful for academic course work and careers in any discipline.
18. Human Rights and Human Wrongs (Mar) W
What human rights are most valued? What rights should be our priorities? Are certain human rights universal? Who decides? Can we agree on them? Does it matter? Will it make any difference in reducing the wide-scale abuses of rights? Who is responsible for protecting human rights, whether in our everyday lives or globally? This Preceptorial seminar will center on the concept of human rights in a global world. As a class, we will read and discuss various works of fiction and nonfiction related to issues of human rights. Drawing upon these texts, students will enter the debate, making claims about the issues and supporting them with evidence.
19. The Rise of the Ethnic American Gangster (Murphy) W
This course will examine the ways in which marginalized immigrant groups within the United States have attempted to subvert capitalist power structures via organized criminal activity. Beginning with an 18th century American criminal narrative and concluding with contemporary gang activity, we will read about and discuss "The Flash Company"--the first organized gang in 18th Century America, the rise of the Irish Gangster, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, the Japanese Yakuza, the Russian Mafiya, the Mexican L eMe, and the Central American Mara Salvatrucha, among others. Particular attention will be given to the history of organized crime in America, the psychology of the criminal mind, cultural theory and crime, and gender theory and youth gangs. Readings will be comprised of poetry, fiction, and drama, critical studies of the culture of criminality, and journal articles. Students will read Herbert Asbury's historical texts on early urban gang culture, James Diego Vigil's A Rainbow of Gangs: Street Cultures in the Mega-City, Monica Brown's Gang Nation: Delinquent Citizens of Puerto Rican, Chicano, and Chicana Narratives, Luis Valdez' Zoot Suit and Other Plays, and Yxta Maya Murray's Locas. Emphasis will be placed on close readings of texts and the further development of college level writing skills. Students will be expected to write several drafts of each essay assignment and will lead at least two class discussions based on specific topics related to course readings.
20. Growth and the Good Life (Foster) F
Does growth make us better off? Most economists (and many of us) would answer “yes—of course,” and could point to dramatic improvements in standard of living made possible by improvements in technology and the operation of free markets as evidence that growth does indeed make us better off. Others question whether improvements in material well being mean that we are moving closer to living “the good life.” Does having more “stuff” mean that we are happier? Isn’t there more to life than working, shopping and consuming? Environmentalists argue that environmental degradation and natural resource depletion caused by rapid economic and population growth are moving us closer to disaster, not closer to the good life. Critics of the market system point to inequalities of income distribution and the plight of groups “left behind” or “left out” during periods of growth as evidence that growth doesn’t result in a good life for many in our society.
We will take an in-depth look at issues related to growth and the good life in this precept section. This course is organized around the following questions:
§ What is the good life? We will consider different perspectives on what the good life is and reflect on the nature of the good life as it is portrayed in essays and in fiction.
§ Can economic growth bring us closer to the good life? We will discuss both arguments that growth is good because it causes improvements in our standard of living and arguments that growth is good because it promotes more open, tolerant and democratic societies.
§ How can growth undermine the good life? Environmentalists caution that there is dark side to growth—global warming, pollution and resource depletion may destroy life as we know it today unless preventive measures are taken soon. Critics of the market system argue that too many segments of society don’t share in the benefits of growth in a capitalist economy. Others warn that economic growth may have increased life spans and material wellbeing, but has not brought us closer to that elusive goal of “happiness.”
§ What can we do to help ensure a bright future—a better life—for ourselves and our children? We will discuss policy proposals designed to promote “virtuous” economic growth—policies that enhance the standard of living and address the negative environmental and distributional consequences of growth.
21. DREAM CAFÉ : Viewing Culture through Dreams (Culbert) F
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 Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum’s Madeleine is Sleeping, Andrea Rock’s The Mind at Night, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 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.
22. Morality, Apes and Religion (Davis) F
Of late one hears more and more about the implications of evolution theory and neuroscience for our understanding of morality. Does the claim that morality has evolved out of the behavior of primate ancestors imply that
(a) non-human animals are capable of morality?
(b) evolution determines our morality?
(c) moral and religious ideals and beliefs are mere 'adaptations' without objective truth-value?
We will look at some work on morality in animal behavior (de Waal´s Primates and Philosophers), on the evolution of morality (Joyce´s The Evolution of Morality and Hauser's Moral Minds), on religion and evolution (Pascal's Religion Explained). This is an exploration and a launching pad for reflection about morality, religion and human nature.
23. The Surreal (Hauser) W
In 1924, André Breton wrote, "I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak" (First Manifesto of Surrealism). Breton's mission was philosophical, poetic, psychological, artistic, and political. In this course, we will read and discuss texts central to the early-Twentieth-Century movement known as surrealism, including its two greatest intellectual influences: Marxism and psychoanalysis. We will tackle the primary question of what, exactly, Breton was talking about, while we also immerse ourselves in examples of surrealist poetry, prose, and visual art. We will also attempt a better understanding of surrealism by participating in some of the artistic parlor games the surrealists invented for their parties. Throughout, we will have occasion to look ahead to our own cultural environment to survey the echoes of surrealism that remain in our films, advertising, music, and literature. Hopefully, we will be able to interrogate Breton's contention that, "only the marvelous is beautiful."
24. Constructing the Self (Pease) F
What is the Self? What makes every person unique? What do all humans have in common? How do humans learn and form judgments? What makes humans peaceful or violent, conservative or liberal, competitive or collaborative, truthful or deceitful? What is the nature of friendship, love, and loyalty? This section of the Preceptorial will address these and many other questions by bringing together biology, cognitive science, ethics, history, psychology, philosophy, gender studies, religious studies, literature, linguistics, art, and the latest findings of genetics to explore the complexities of the Self. Students will watch movies and talks, as well as read about consciousness, free will, sexuality, and artificial intelligence.
The reading list will include Susan Blackmore's provocative Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction, a book of philosophical essays, a set of Science Fiction short stories, and Cordelia Fine’s A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives.
25. Goodness, Happiness and Truth (Benack) F
We will spend the term looking at several different ways of thinking about three central ideals toward which (I propose) human beings strive: goodness, happiness, and truth. Presumably, we all want to be good, happy, and believe what is true --- and avoid being bad, unhappy, and believing in falsities. Different people, and different cultures, however, give quite different understandings of the nature of goodness, happiness and truth, and different advice on how to achieve them. Does being good make you happy, or is it easier to reach happiness by throwing off moral restrictions? Is there any objective moral truth, and, if not, why be moral? Are these ideals real or, as some claim, are they illusions, which serve only to enslave us. We will examine how some key philosophers, political theorists, and psychologists have answered these questions (e.g., Freud, Plato, postmodernists, Buddhism, evolutionary psychology). For each ideal, we will examine what might be built into our biology (human nature) and also the influence of social organization (culture) on our conceptions of goodness, happiness and truth.
26. The Marketplace of Ideas: What “The People” Know...or Think They Know (Brennan) F
Information drives today’s society. The vast networks (traditional and electronic) which provide news, intelligence, perspective, and gossip enlighten our lives, and we believe that what we know routinely provides a critical foundation for how we live. While inclined to view this as a modern phenomenon, information’s use (and misuse) has a long and rich lineage. This course will use a variety of texts to study several critical past events and to examine what people knew, how they knew it, and evaluate the reliability of the information on which they depended. I.F. Stone’s The Trial of Socrates, offers a rather unsympathetic examination of Socrates as an elitist enemy of the common man’s capacity for self-government and right to free expression. Edmund Burke's widely read and prophetic pamphlet Reflections on the Revolution in France stands in seeming contradiction to his support for the American Revolution, but reflects his concern about the power of popular opinion to produce mass dislocation. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe created a national sensation that informed millions of Americans about the conditions of slavery (or “life among the lowly”) and will introduce students to the potential power of literature to both educate and persuade. Moving into the 20th century, Edward Bernays’ classic study, Propaganda discusses the means to shape and manipulate public opinion (or the “engineering of consent”), which will be dramatically represented in Propaganda and the Germany Cinema, 1933-1945 by David Welch. Finally, Arthur Miller’s cold-war epic The Crucible vividly mingles history, humanity, morality, drama and mid-20th century themes, the relevance of which to 21st century events cannot be dismissed.
27. Cybercultures (Bracken) F
This course will examine the impact of the Internet, cyberspace and virtual reality on the way the world is inhabited, perceived and represented. Paying attention to issues such as subjectivity and embodiment, we will be considering the transformative effect cyberspace has on conventional readings of the self, as well as traditional understandings of space and time. Questions will be asked concerning operations of power and the ways in which cyberspaces and their cultural representations can operate to both subvert as well as uphold normative structures, looking specifically as issues relating to gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality and class. We will be looking at a variety of texts throughout this course, online and offline, fiction, non-fiction and film. Readings may include authors such as William Gibson, Donna Haraway, Sherry Turkle and Slavoj Zizek and films such as The Net, Hackers and The Matrix Trilogy.
28. Radical Thinkers (Kuhn) W
This course surveys the work of some eloquent advocates of ideas that in one way or another attack the foundations of traditional Western culture. Our readings will include writers such as Rousseau, who argues that civilization has led not to progress but to the moral debasement of the human species; Friedrich Nietzsche, who assaults (among other things) Judeo-Christian theology and ethics, rejects every form of metaphysics, and substitutes “perspectivism” for eternal truth; Sigmund Freud, who argues that the price of order and civilization is the purposeful mutilation of our instinctual desire; and Karl Marx, who attacks capitalism and calls upon the poor to revolt and establish a communist society. We will also look at feminist writers, such as Simone de Beauvoir and Susan Faludi, who consider the myriad ways men oppress women and offer thorough-going alternatives; queer theorists such as Judith Butler and Adrienne Rich, who explore heterosexuality as a social construction. Other writers may include Peter Singer, who champions animal liberation, vegetarianism, and voluntary euthanasia, while charging that all excess wealth is criminal; Reg Morrison, who traces all our environmental crises to destructive (and probably irreversible) overreaching by a demented “plague species” (humans); Christopher Clausen, who insists that we are living in a “post-cultural” age and mocks the current American obsession with cultural diversity; and, Sherwin Nuland, who debunks the myth of “death with dignity” with a chillingly detailed account of what actually goes on in American hospitals and ICUs. Students will be asked, not to agree with the often jolting and unexpected stands of these “extremists,” but to explain and defend their own views in the light of our authors’ radical insights.
29. Literature, Ethics, and the Environment (Lynes) F
This course will focus on the intersections of human cultures and environment, with an emphasis on the social and cultural dynamics of the environment and environmental action. Some questions we will consider in the course: What are the ethical questions that we pose and wrestle with as we interact with and within our environment? What is the place of literature in community, literacy, and environmental activism? To what extent does place matter in our conceptions of what nature is? What are the connections between race, class, and environmental degradation and environmental activism? How does gender enter into the nexus of social interactions that shape our environment? To what extent are humans ethically responsible for non-human nature? How does the practice of careful observation lead us toward ethical practices? We will consider both the concept of “nature” as we consider the concept of human culture. This course is collaborative in nature, and as such students should bring their interests, curiosities, and discoveries to add to the mix.
A partial list of readings may include those by Terry Tempest Williams, Barbara Kingsolver, Evelyn White, bell hooks, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Luther Standing Bear, Running-Grass, Simon Ortiz, Ana Castillo, Vandana Shiva, Wangari Maathai, Aldo Leopold, Robert Sullivan, Andrew Light, Holmes Rolston.
30. The Horror of Writing (Lewin) W
The Horror of Writing focuses on reading and writing about Gothic Romance and Horror fiction. From the first Gothic novel (Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto) to modern horror “classics” (such as Stoker’s Dracula), we will come to understand how and why these texts “made the cut.” What makes these works so popular? To whom do they appeal and why? If fear and its relation to power (and lack thereof) in women is part of the answer to these questions, we will consider why this is so and how we may continue to live in a culture that fosters and then seeks to neutralize its own fears. In order to address the questions above, we will consider critical material from a variety of disciplines alongside our primary texts. In addition to being a forum for discussion, this course is designed to help you improve your reading, writing, and analytical skills and understand what it means to write three different types of “college-level essays.” We will devote both class time and individual conference sessions to this goa