Go to navigation (press enter key)Menu

Fall Sections

Africana Studies 101a Martin Luther King Jr.

(Same as History 101)
This course examines the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. We immediately rethink the image of King who liberals and conservatives construct as a dreamer of better race relations. We engage the complexities of an individual who articulated a moral compass of the nation to explore racial justice in post-World War II America. This course gives special attention to King’s post-1965 radicalism when he called for a reordering of American society, an end to the war in Vietnam, and supported sanitation workers striking for better wages and working conditions. Topics include King’s notion of the “beloved community,” the Social Gospel, liberalism, “socially conscious democracy,” militancy, the politics of martyrdom, poverty and racial justice, and compensatory treatment. Primary sources form the core of our readings.

AFRS 101.01 TR 9:00-10:15 am Quincy Mills
Top

Africana Studies 109a Modern Arabic Literature

This course introduces students to major themes, authors, and genres in modern Arabic literature from the late 19th century to the present. Readings include autobiography, fiction, drama, and poetry representing the rich Arabic literary heritage of the Middle East and North Africa. We also read various secondary materials and watch several documentary and feature films that will anchor our discussion of the literary texts in their socio-historical and cultural context(s). Some of the major themes (foci) of the course include (1) tradition and change, (2) the colonial and postcolonial encounters with the other, (3) changing gender roles and the politics of (Islamic) feminism, and (4) religion and politics, among others.

AFRS 109.01 TR 4:35-5:50 pm Mootacem Mhiri
Top

Africana Studies 175a Mandela: Race, Resistance and Renaissance in South Africa

(Same as History 175)
This course critically explores the history and politics of South Africa in the twentieth century through the prism of the life, politics, and experiences of one of its most iconic figures, Nelson Mandela. After almost three decades of incarceration for resisting Apartheid, Mandela became the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa in 1994. It was an inspirational moment in the global movement and the internal struggle to dismantle Apartheid and to transform South Africa into a democratic, non-racial, and just society. Using Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, as our point of departure, the course discusses some of the complex ideas, people, and developments that shaped South Africa and Mandela’s life in the twentieth century, including: indigenous culture, religion, and institutions; colonialism, race, and ethnicity; nationalism, mass resistance, and freedom; and human rights, social justice, and post-conflict reconstruction.

AFRS 175.01 MW 10:30-11:45 am Ismail Rashid
Top

Anthropology 170a Anthropology of Water

Many anthropologists study water as a focus of political contention and environmental impetus to action.  But cultural anthropology’s special contribution to water studies may be its insights into how water is valued, socially and affectively, in culturally and historically different ways.  Water is necessary for human life.  But it is always, also, meaningful in a remarkable range of ways that do not necessarily begin with scarcity, nor end with any one universal goal, even health or profit. Focusing on the relation between drinking water and wider cultural systems, the course introduces three approaches to drinking water:  (1) Semiotics of Bottled Water includes readings from the anthropology of food and beverage, consumer culture, and meaning-making in everyday life.  (2) Water as Global Commodity considers water in the context of the anthropology of gifts and commodities. (3) Water Projects considers state, corporate, and activist discourses about water with attention to anthropological studies of social and environmental impacts. Water cases include Bali, US, post-Soviet Georgia, Fiji and Singapore. The course will include (group) projects on water in local cultural contexts.

ANTH 170.01 TR 9:00-10:15 am Martha Kaplan
Top

Art 190a Considering the Sense of Sight

In class discussion and short papers we explore the wonders of the sense of sight from multiple perspectives, past and present, focusing on how sight has inspired major creative achievements and discoveries in the history of both art and science. Examples from film and literature illustrate how the theme of sight can shape narratives in film and literature as well as art. Throughout the semester the collections of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center provide access to original objects for individual and group presentations. 

ART 190.01 TR 1:30-2:45 pm Susan Kuretsky
Top

Cognitive Science 110a The Science and Fiction/Mind

Our understanding of what minds are and how they work has increased dramatically since the emergence of cognitive science as a multidiscipline in the late 1970’s.  As in other areas of science, it seems that the more we know, the harder it is to convey the richness and complexity of that knowledge to non-specialists.  In this course you will practice two different styles of writing as a way of improving your ability to write clearly, engagingly, and accurately about complex ideas.  One of those styles is direct and journalistic.  Steven Pinker, Jane Goodall, James Gleick, and Stephen Hawking are just a few of the modern writers who excel at this form of writing.  But a great deal of scientific knowledge can also be conveyed in a good piece of fiction, as well demonstrated in the stories and novels of Isaac Asimov, Nancy Kress, Richard Powers, Arthur C. Clark, Alice B. Sheldon, Neal Stephenson, and Frank Herbert, among many others.  Learning to write about complex topics in both styles reveals that good science writing tells a compelling story.  By the same token, even a purely fictional narrative can elucidate how the real world works.

Assigned readings are drawn from cognitive science and from science fiction with a focus on the nature of mind and intelligence, but we also touch on the implications of this work for the understanding of cultural history, human evolution, social systems, and politics.  This course does not serve as a prerequisite for upper-level courses in Cognitive Science.

COGS 110.01 TR 7:00-9:00 pm Kenneth Livingston
Top

College Course 182a Lost in Translation

(Same as German 182)
Eva Hoffman, who emigrated from Poland to Canada at age thirteen, initially experienced the transition from Polish to English as “a dispossession of one’s self.” For her, adapting to a new language and culture requires a balancing act: “how does one bend toward another culture without falling over, how does one strike an elastic balance between rigidity and self-effacement?” This course studies what it means (and has meant) for a variety of non-native speakers to write in English: from the politics of using “the language of the colonizers” to personal journeys of self-transformation, from the loss of one’s identity to the discovery of new aspects of one’s personality in another linguistic and cultural context. Readings include stories, essays, speeches and autobiographies in which authors reflect on what it means to write in English while preserving their own culture. The course also draws on research in applied linguistics and second language acquisition to understand the relationship between language and personal identity. In addition to learning and practicing the stylistic conventions of academic writing in English, assignments give students the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences as non-native speakers writing in English and/or their experience working with communities of non-native speakers of English. The course is ideal for students who have been learning English as a second language.

CLCS 182.01 MW 1:30-2:45 pm Karin Maxey
Top

College Course 186a The Western Literary Tradition: From Antiquity to the Middle Ages

This seminar trains students in intensive English reading and writing skills while providing an introduction to central elements of Western culture. Readings include Genesis, Homer, Plato, Virgil, Plutarch, and St. Augustine as well as relevant critical articles and chapters. Different English translations from disparate historical times are introduced and compared in order to show historical and stylistic developments and variations of the English language. The course’s close attention to the varieties of English one may encounter in a college classroom make it particularly suited to students who are non-native speakers. Students give presentations on their readings and write in various formats such as narrative, essay, and explication of texts based on these readings.

CLCS 186.01 MR 1:30-2:45 pm Haoming Liu
Top

Earth Science 109a Hot Topics in Earth Science and the Media

From fracking to mountaintop removal, BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill, invasive species and their impacts on native ecology, and global warming, geology and related ecologic processes have been major topics in the news lately. This course examines the science behind different natural processes and phenomena (e.g. How do coal beds form? What makes a particular stratigraphic level potentially valuable for hydraulic fracturing? What do we know about responding to oil spills? What does the paleontological record tell us about species invasions?) and also examines media portrayals of these hot-topic issues. Students gain a deeper understanding of the scientific community’s knowledge on these issues and develop the ability to assess whether or not media coverage is fair and accurate. We also discuss how science itself is portrayed in the media and the importance of accurate and accessible scientific communication.

ESCI 109.01 TR 9:00-10:15 am John Fronimos
Top

Education 162a Educational Opportunity in the U.S.

In this course, students identify, explore, and question prevailing assumptions about education in the United States. The objectives of the course are for students to develop both a deeper understanding of the system’s historical, structural, and philosophical features and to look at schools with a critical eye. We examine issues of power and control at various levels of the education system. Participants are encouraged to connect class readings and discussions to personal schooling experiences to gain new insights into their own educational foundations. Among the questions that are highlighted are: How should schools be organized and operated? What information and values should be emphasized? Whose interests do schools serve? The course is open to both students interested in becoming certified to teach and those who are not yet certain about their future plans but are interested in educational issues.

EDUC 162.01 MW 10:30-11:45 am Jaime Del Razo
Top

English 101a Allegories of the Self

This seminar offers students intensive practice in close reading and interpretive writing and conversation through the examination of symbolic worlds inscribed in various media, including original works in Vassar collections, with a focus on the development of allegorical narrative in classical and Medieval textual sources and Medieval and Renaissance art.  Our consideration of allegories as knowledge systems will introduce students to the formulation of liberal arts education in the medieval schools, as well as to the culture of libraries.   Each member of the class will be asked to present an allegorical reading of a modern work selecting from narratives of literary authors such as Kafka and Orwell to works of painting and sculpture by artists such as Thomas Cole, Frida Kahlo, and Kara Walker, to fantasy and science fiction film, television series, and game environments.

ENGL 101.01 MR 3:10-4:25 pm Thomas Hill
Top

English 101a Troubling Girlhood: Rethinking and Rewriting Narratives of Girlhood

In 1692, with the remote and wooded Massachusetts landscape as their backdrop, a group of Puritan teenage girls were at the center of a community panic that ended the lives of 14 women, five men, and two dogs. Haunted by the preternatural and cloaked in mystery, these Puritan girls mark the starting point of this first-year writing course. From witch trials to teenage girls stricken catatonic after their first sexual encounters, this course explores U.S. cultural anxieties surrounding the public and private lives of girls and women. The aim of the course is to “trouble,” to challenge and struggle over, our cultural assumptions about girlhood. Using novels, short stories, plays, historical documents, and visual texts we’ll consider and write about how race, class, gender, sexuality, and other identity categories trouble our sense of the various meanings of growing up gendered a “girl” in the United States.

ENGL 101.02 TR 3:10-4:25 pm Eve Dunbar
Top

English 101a In Search of Silence

 “Silence is not acoustic. It is a change of mind, a turning around” (John Cage).  Silence is often defined as the absence of sound, which makes sense when you live in a noisy world.  But silence can also have presence and expressive power, whether as a formal element in the arts, an alternative language, a spiritual practice, or a political act.  This course explores the meanings and uses of silence through a variety of encounters, both critical and experiential:  through reading, watching, and listening, as well as walking, meditation, and field recording. Texts include a graphic novel (Shaun Tan’s The Arrival), poetry (Emily Dickinson, ASL poets), film (Pat Collins’ Silence), writings and musical compositions (Takemitsu, Cage), and essays (Helen Keller, Audre Lorde). There will be frequent writing in a variety of forms, culminating in a final project.  

ENGL 101.03 TR 3:10-4:25 pm Leslie Dunn
Top

English 101a Contrasting Americas

Given the chaos, division, and hatred—but also the resolve, resistance and reaffirmation— unleashed by the last presidential election and the vast divide between not only the coasts and the imagined center, but also our visions of ourselves and/as others, perhaps the only way to consider where and who we are as a nation is from (at least) two directions at once. Thus this course offers an examination of American culture through contrary literatures, including meditative, polemical, lyrical, graphical (comic) texts; with themes including America Dreams, Walking and Falling, New English, The Western Passion, Fall of the Rustbelt Archipelago, and Rise of Creolized Cities. Readings may include Ana Castillo, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Howe, Nella Larsen, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Charles Olson, Joseph O’Neill, Suzan Lori Parks, Leslie Marmon Silko, Gertrude Stein, Chris Ware, and Karen Tei Yamashita.

ENGL 101.05 MR 3:10-4:25 pm Michael Joyce
Top

English 101a Human Rites

This course focuses on rites of passage: from adolescence, to first love, adventure, loss, renewal, reinvention, death. We will work across a range of media – poems, novels, memoirs, essays, short stories, films, songs, graphic novels – to question the interplay between individual formation and communal rite. How do rites such as courtship, college acceptance, family tradition, or marriage define an individual life? How relevant is each rite today? Why do we turn to literature to remember our childhoods, our teenage years, the particular gut-punch of first love? Authors may include: Michael Chabon, Alison Bechdel, Jeffrey Eugenides, Justin Torres, Junot Diaz, Stuart Dybek, Jamaica Kincaid, Anne Carson, Joan Didion, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dorothy Baker, Zadie Smith, James Baldwin, and J.D. Salinger. We’ll gravitate towards moments at which dimensions change; stories shift; feelings settle or inflate; and the world becomes noticeably wider and harder to explain.

ENGL 101.06 TR 12:00-1:15 pm Sebastian Langdell
Top

English 101a Playing with the Devil

As modern readers, we take it for granted that literature is a force for good in the world, but in fact it has a longstanding association with the devil. This course invites students to cultivate their critical skills by reading and writing about literature that engages the concept of evil—whether by imagining it, managing it, condemning it or being accused of it. We start by reading banned books, contextualizing them within the long history of cultural anxiety about the novel’s potential to corrupt young minds. Next, we turn our attention to the famous villains of literature, examining how writers have imaginatively explored the darkest human impulses through these characters. Finally, we will consider how writers have used writing for healing purposes, to process and purge acts of evil on both individual and collective scales. Students will regularly write short critical and creative responses; texts may include Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Bechdel’s Fun Home, Shakespeare’s Othello, Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Coetzee’s Disgrace, Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, and Morrison’s Beloved

ENGL 101.07 TR 1:30-2:45 pm Kathleen Gemmill
Top

English 101a The Essay Form

The high-school essay trapped in the Darth Vader facemask called the topic sentence.  And the immobile drapery of the five-paragraph costume armor. This is an exaggeration, of course, but to write in more imaginative ways let us examine the experiments in prose undertaken by essayists of the past hundred years or so: George Orwell writing about shooting an elephant, James Baldwin on his father’s death and race riots, Jorge Luis Borges on his “modest blindness,” Susan Sontag looking at photographs, Joan Didion bidding goodbye to New York, Adrienne Rich recalling the strands that make up her identity. Also, Geoff Dyer on sex and hotels, Lydia Davis on “Foucault and pencil,” David Shields on the lyric essay, Jenny Boully on the body, Eliot Weinberger on what he heard about Iraq, and David Foster Wallace on anything. We will write brief essays (one to two pages) for each class and two longer essays (about eight pages in length).

ENGL 101.08 TR 1:30-2:45 pm Amitava Kumar
Top

English 101a The Instruction of Citizenship

Emma Lazarus’s celebrated poem, “The New Colossus,” identifies the Statue of Liberty as the “Mother of Exiles” welcoming the world’s “wretched” and “tempest-tost.”  However, the popular definition of the United States as a “nation of immigrants” repeatedly comes into crisis when the state faces the arrival of new groups. This course examines how literature by first- and second-generation Americans brings to light conditions that either bind or divide us as communities. Beginning with but not limited to scenes of classroom instruction (literal and metaphorical), we consider at what sites the instructing of citizenship takes place and what it means to be “naturalized” as an American. We also interrogate citizenship as a model of political inclusion. Some guiding questions for us: What do we gain or lose with assimilation?  How is “cultural citizenship” different from formal, legal citizenship?  How does immigrant writing respond to or disrupt abstract notions of American citizenship?  What is at stake in the language we use to describe displaced people(s): exiles, refugees, migrants, immigrants, asylees, etc…? What might popular culture teach us about citizenship? 

ENGL 101.09 MW 10:30-11:45 am Hiram Perez
Top

English 101a Deception: Some Truth About Lies

Narratives told by someone who can’t be trusted invite readers to explore the ambiguous border between truths and lies. An author’s perceptions may differ from those of the first-person narrator—the “I”—who tells the story, and that discrepancy opens up intriguing psychological space. “Good readers read the lines, better readers read the spaces,” the novelist John Barth has written. This section of English 101 will analyze both words and spaces—both what is said and what is unspoken or unspeakable. We’ll investigate a rogues’ gallery of unreliable narrators who bring varying degrees of mendacity, self-aggrandizement, and self-deception to the stories they tell. Then, from both literary and neuroscience perspectives, we’ll think about memory, the mind, and the brain. We’ll ask: Are memories always fallible? Are they ever-evolving stories we tell ourselves? Is remembering an act of creation rather than straightforward retrieval of the past? Are we all unreliable narrators? Authors may include Alison Bechdel, James Baldwin, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Lydia Davis, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ralph Ellison, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jamaica Kincaid, Tim O’Brien, Michael Ondaatje, George Orwell, Oliver Sacks, George Saunders, Charles Simic, Zadie Smith, and Oscar Wilde. Students will write both analytical and imaginative responses to the texts.

ENGL 101.11 MR 12:00-1:15 pm Marsha Mark
Top

English 101a Into the Apocalyptic Landscape

This course will explore characters caught in the dreamscape of violence and apocalyptic visions that is perhaps unique to American history and culture.  We’ll examine the concept—coined by rock critic Greil Marcus—of Old Weird America, a folkloric history that has spawned murder ballads, the music of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, and a wide range of literary work, including poetry by Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, William Carlos Williams, Lucille Clifton, and Etheridge Knight; stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O’Connor, and Denis Johnson.  Longer works may include novels by William Faulkner, Gayle Jones, Joan Didion, Hunter Thompson, and the graphic artist, Lynda Barry.

ENGL 101.12 TR 12:00-1:15 pm David Means
Top

English 101a Banned Books: Literature and Censorship

In 1928, a journalist wrote about Radclyffe Hall’s lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness: “I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel.” The book was subsequently banned as obscene in England, and all copies were ordered to be destroyed. In this course, we will examine the rich history of literature and censorship across different countries from the nineteenth century to the present day. We will explore various kinds of censorship, ranging from self-censorship to government-imposed bans. Who gets to decide whether a text is ‘dangerous’ or ‘obscene’? What are the different reasons for censorship? What effect does it have? What arguments have people made for and against censorship? Do we need censorship today? The texts we discuss may range from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Oscar Wilde’s Salome, James Joyce’s Ulysses, D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.

ENGL 101.13 WF 9:00-10:15 am Jana Funke
Top

English 101a Banned Books: Literature and Censorship

In 1928, a journalist wrote about Radclyffe Hall’s lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness: “I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel.” The book was subsequently banned as obscene in England, and all copies were ordered to be destroyed. In this course, we will examine the rich history of literature and censorship across different countries from the nineteenth century to the present day. We will explore various kinds of censorship, ranging from self-censorship to government-imposed bans. Who gets to decide whether a text is ‘dangerous’ or ‘obscene’? What are the different reasons for censorship? What effect does it have? What arguments have people made for and against censorship? Do we need censorship today? The texts we discuss may range from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Oscar Wilde’s Salome, James Joyce’s Ulysses, D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. 

ENGL 101.14 WF 1:30-2:45 pm Jana Funke
Top

Environmental Studies 187a A Prehistoric Perspective on Climate Change

This course situates current climate change in the context of that which shaped the human species, from evolutionary and social perspectives. The course opens by reviewing how the Earth’s climate has changed over the past century, and the ecological consequences of this. We then review the history of climate change since our species’ origin, and how such instances have impacted the environments in which we evolved. We transition from this evolutionary perspective to a social one, asking, ‘at what point did human intelligence and technology mitigate the evolutionary consequences of climate change? At what points was climate change more than civilizations could handle?’ The latter half of the class examines archaeological and historical evidence of how human societies have handled environmental hardships resulting from climate change. We end by examining the parallels between past and present and asking what environmental, ecological and biological consequences might await our still short-lived species in the present climatic conundrum.

ENST 187.01 TR 3:10-4:25 pm Zachary Cofran
Top

French and Francophone Studies 170a Meeting Places

(Same as WMST 170)
This first-year writing seminar examines the role of gender in stories about people who meet in public urban places, such as bars, streets or cafés. Public urban places are associated with a specifically modern consciousness, characterized by the embracing of more fluid identities, fewer constraints, and a greater sense of the ephemeral. We use each text to practice writing about literature while exploring the critical concepts of gender, place and modernity in a French studies context. The course is taught in English: all works are read in translation.

FREN 170.01 TR 10:30-11:45 am Kathleen Hart 
Top

German 101a Sex Before, During, and After the Nazis

This course offers an introduction to Germany’s unique position in the history of sexuality. As early as the late 19th century, Germany and Austria were a hotbed for new thinking about sexuality and sexual freedom, including the founding of psychoanalysis and the world’s first homosexual emancipation movement. National Socialism, however, forever changed the way that Germans and non-Germans viewed every aspect of Germany’s history and culture, including its sexual politics. This course examines some of Germany’s most salient debates about sex from the late 19th century to the Nazi era and beyond, including the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Materials include autobiographies, fictional works, plays, films, political tracts, and sexual case studies, as well as secondary texts representing a variety of disciplinary approaches.

GERM 101.01 MWF 10:30-11:20 am Eric Trump
Top

German 182a Lost in Translation

(Same as CLCS 182)
Eva Hoffman, who emigrated from Poland to Canada at age thirteen, initially experienced the transition from Polish to English as “a dispossession of one’s self.” For her, adapting to a new language and culture requires a balancing act: “how does one bend toward another culture without falling over, how does one strike an elastic balance between rigidity and self-effacement?” This course studies what it means (and has meant) for a variety of non-native speakers to write in English: from the politics of using “the language of the colonizers” to personal journeys of self-transformation, from the loss of one’s identity to the discovery of new aspects of one’s personality in another linguistic and cultural context. Readings include stories, essays, speeches and autobiographies in which authors reflect on what it means to write in English while preserving their own culture. The course also draws on research in applied linguistics and second language acquisition to understand the relationship between language and personal identity. In addition to learning and practicing the stylistic conventions of academic writing in English, assignments give students the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences as non-native speakers writing in English and/or their experience working with communities of non-native speakers of English. The course is ideal for students who have been learning English as a second language.

GERM 182.01 MW 1:30-2:45 pm Karin Maxey
Top

Greek and Roman Studies 187a Greek Tragedy for Trauma

In this class we look at the work of Outside the Wire, a production company based in NYC that uses ancient Greek tragedy to help different communities deal with trauma and suffering: combat veterans and their families, prisoners and the people who guard them, those dealing with end of life care, and people struggling with addiction. We consider the efficacy of the arts—particularly the ancient arts—for dealing with modern afflictions. We also ask some of the big questions that preoccupied the ancient Greeks and that still preoccupy us today: what are the effects of war on individuals and communities? How can communities heal from tragedy, suffering, and loss? What are the gendered dimensions of violence? Whose stories get told and why? Readings include Bryan Doerries’ Theater of War and various ancient dramas such as Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes, and Euripides’ Trojan Women and Herakles, among others. In addition to academic essays, writing assignments include personal narratives and theatrical reviews.

GRST 187.01 TR 12:00-1:15 pm Tara Mulder
Top

History 101a Martin Luther King Jr.

(Same as Africana Studies 101)
This course examines the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. We immediately rethink the image of King who liberals and conservatives construct as a dreamer of better race relations. We engage the complexities of an individual who articulated a moral compass of the nation to explore racial justice in post-World War II America. This course gives special attention to King’s post-1965 radicalism when he called for a reordering of American society, an end to the war in Vietnam, and supported sanitation workers striking for better wages and working conditions. Topics include King’s notion of the “beloved community,” the Social Gospel, liberalism, “socially conscious democracy,” militancy, the politics of martyrdom, poverty and racial justice, and compensatory treatment. Primary sources form the core of our readings.

HIST 101.01 TR 9:00-10:15 am Quincy Mills
Top

History 160a American Moments: Rediscovering U.S. History

This is not your parents’—or your high school teacher’s— American history course. No textbook: instead we read memoirs, novels, newspaper articles, letters, speeches, photographs, and films composed by a colorful, diverse cast of characters—famous and forgotten, slaves and masters, workers and bosses. No survey: instead we pause to look at several illuminating “moments” from the colonial era through the Civil War to civil rights and the Cold War. Traveling from the Great Awakening to the “awakening” that was the 1960s, from an anticolonial rebellion that Americans won (1776) to another that they lost (Vietnam), the course challenges assumptions about America’s past—and perhaps also a few about America’s present and future.

HIST 160.01 TR 9:00–10:15 am James Merrell

(Note: HIST 160.02 is not a First-Year Writing Seminar.)

Top

History 174a The Emergence of the Modern Middle East

An exploration of the Middle East over the past three centuries. Beginning with economic and social transformations in the 18th century, we follow the transformation of various Ottoman provinces such as Egypt, Syria/Lebanon, and Algeria into modern states, paying careful attention to how European colonialism shaped their development. We then look at independence movements and the post-colonial societies that have emerged since the middle of the 20th century, concluding with study of colonialism’s lingering power—and the movements that confront it.

HIST 174.01 TR 12:00-1:15 pm Joshua Schreier
Top

History 175a Mandela: Race, Resistance and Renaissance in South Africa

(Same as Africana Studies 175)
This course critically explores the history and politics of South Africa in the twentieth century through the prism of the life, politics, and experiences of one of its most iconic figures, Nelson Mandela. After almost three decades of incarceration for resisting Apartheid, Mandela became the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa in 1994. It was an inspirational moment in the global movement and the internal struggle to dismantle Apartheid and to transform South Africa into a democratic, non-racial, and just society. Using Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, as our point of departure, the course discusses some of the complex ideas, people, and developments that shaped South Africa and Mandela’s life in the twentieth century, including: indigenous culture, religion, and institutions; colonialism, race, and ethnicity; nationalism, mass resistance, and freedom; and human rights, social justice, and post-conflict reconstruction.

HIST 175.01 MW 10:30-11:45 am Ismail Rashid
Top

Media Studies 184a Star Wars: Resistance, Rebellion and Death

In a 19 September 1944 article for the French resistance newspaper, Combat, Albert Camus wrote, “Revolution is not revolt. What carried the Resistance for four years was revolt––the complete, obstinate, and at first nearly blind refusal to accept an order that would bring men to their knees. Revolt begins first in the human heart. But there comes a time when revolt spreads from heart to spirit, when a feeling becomes an idea, when impulse leads to concerted action. This is the moment of revolution.” Our course examines the multimodal rhetorics of conquest and empire, freedom and rebellion in the Star Wars canon by situating the films in a theoretical context provided by Frantz Fanon (The Wretched of the Earth), Hannah Arendt (Between Past and Future) and Albert Camus (The Rebel). Within this post-colonial context, students are afforded the opportunity to design and conduct their own research-based projects that consider representations of the intersections between Imperialism, revolution, and identity politics.

MEDS 184.01 TR 10:30-11:45 am Matthew Shultz

Top

Music 180a The Sound of Faith: Music and Spiritual Practice

In nearly every era and culture music has been an essential element in spiritual practice, offering a mode of expression that is deeply human, yet transcends words; a special voice with which mortals may explore, worship, entreat, and, perhaps, touch the divine. This course engages participants in close listening, discussion, and written response to musical works from periods and cultures that we examine both as works of art, and as artifacts or vehicles of spiritual and religious practice.

May not be counted in the requirements for concentration in Music.

MUSI 180.01 MW 10:30-11:45 am Kathryn Libin
Top

Philosophy 106a Just War Theory

This course will explore the contemporary philosophical literature on just war theory. The past decade has seen an explosion of philosophical work on war, with important consequences for our thinking about both the ethics and law of armed conflict. We will examine traditional formulations of the just war doctrine, as well as the challenge posed by revisionist just war theorists. Readings will include Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars and Jeff McMahan’s Killing in War.

PHIL 106.01 MW 1:30-2:45 pm Jamie Kelly
Top

PHIL 104a Tragedy and Philosophy: Ancient and Modern Perspectives

Since Greek antiquity, philosophers have puzzled over the meaning, value, and purpose of tragedy. This course traces their conversation from ancient Athens to German Romanticism to the present, examining classic writings alongside plays that have captured the philosophical imagination. Authors may include: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Schiller, Hegel, Nietzsche, Edward Albee, and Martha Nussbaum. Students learn to write short, carefully argued analyses of challenging texts and to reflect on broader questions about literary interpretation, the relationship between moral and aesthetic values, and genre. If appropriate, the class will also attend a performance by the Vassar Drama Department, a film screening, or a live broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera.

PHIL 180.01 TR 10:30-11:45 am Christopher Raymond
Top

Psychology 184a Living Rhythms

Human activity is rhythmic. We engage in cycles of eating, loving, working, resting, walking, talking, learning, and sleeping. We multitask, nesting and switching cycles within cycles. Our activity entrains to cycles of the sun, moon, weather, natural and cultural seasons, and human-made devices. In this course, students explore and write about the psychology of rhythmic activity by means of participation, observation, interview, and literature review.

PSYC 184.01 TR 9:00-10:15 am Carolyn Palmer
Top

Religion 184a Seeing God in Art, Image, Inner Experience

Religious traditions and philosophies across world history have faced the question of how to represent or picture the sacred. This means addressing whether divinity or holiness can be visible at all, or whether truth must keep out of sight, accessible only through language or inner experience. For this course, we will read broadly across sources from classical philosophy, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism in order to compare the different justifications for or prohibitions against making divinity visible or tactile. Doing so prepares us to consider the power of images in contemporary mass media and question the relationship between beauty and deception.

RELI 184.01 MW 10:30-11:45 am Klaus Yoder
Top

Russian Studies 171a Russia and the Short Story

In this course we read and discuss a number of classic short stories by such Russian masters of the genre as Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, Anton Chekhov, Issak Babel, and Yury Olesha.

RUSS 171.01 TR 12:00-1:15 pm Farida Tcherkassova
Top

Sociology 183a Disaster and Disorder: The New Normal

Disasters have been much in the news these days, and the evidence suggests their frequency is increasing. Hurricanes, droughts, floods, earthquakes, and heat waves are among the natural disasters we have gone through—while “unnatural” man-made catastrophes are many—including economic meltdowns, nuclear power plant accidents, and toxic contamination. Disasters force us to confront the very nature of our society, including problems of poverty, race, ethnicity, age, and gender. They test the relative strength of our safety net, the viability of our institutions, the elasticity of our resources, and the capacity of our technologies. In this course, we look at a variety of case studies, such as Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, Chernobyl, Bhopal, the Gulf Oil Spill, Fukishima, Three Mile Island, and the Great Recession.

SOCI 183.01 TR 3:10-4:25 pm Marque Miringoff
Top