Matthew Arnold famously said that poetry is, at bottom, “a criticism of life.” But if any literary form is truly a criticism of life, it is the essay. And yet despite the fact that all students write essays, most students rarely study them; bookshops and libraries categorize such work only negatively, by what it is not: “non-fiction.” At the same time, the essay is at present one of the most productive and fertile of literary forms. It is practiced as memoir, reportage, diary, criticism, and sometimes all four at once. Novels are becoming more essayistic, while essays are borrowing conventions and prestige from fiction. This class will disinter the essay from its comparative academic neglect, and examine the vibrant contemporary borderland between the reported and the invented. We will study the history of the essay, from Montaigne to the present day. Rather than study that history purely chronologically, each class will group several essays from different decades and centuries around common themes: death, detail, sentiment, race, gender, photography, the city, witness, and so on.... Read more about The Essay: History and Practice
To explore key literary, cultural and critical theories, we pose questions through readings of classic and contemporary theorists, from Aristotle to Kant, Schiller, Arendt, Barthes, Foucault, Glissant, Ortiz, Kittler, and Butler, among others. Their approaches include aesthetics, (post)structuralism, (post)colonialism, media theory, gender theory, ecocriticism. Each seminar addresses a core reading and a cluster of variations. Weekly writing assignments will formulate a question that addresses the core texts to prepare for in-class discussions and interpretive activities.... Read more about Questions of Theory
The Story of the Stone (also known as The Dream of the Red Chamber) by Cao Xueqin (1715?-1763) is widely recognized as the masterpiece of Chinese fiction. It is also a portal to Chinese civilization. Encyclopedic in scope, this book both sums up Chinese culture and asks of it difficult questions. Its cult status also accounts for modern popular screen and television adaptations. Through a close examination of this text in conjunction with supplementary readings and visual materials, the seminar will explore a series of topics on Chinese culture, including foundational myths, philosophical and religious systems, the status of fiction, conceptions of art and the artist, ideas about love, desire and sexuality, gender roles, garden aesthetics, family and clan structure, and definitions of socio-political order.
In this seminar, we will ask: first, how has the present wave of far-right parties in western and central Europe tapped into notions of national decline, instability, and changing demographics? Second, what can we learn about these movements by studying histories of European fascism in France, Germany, Spain, and Italy? And finally, how have these histories been obscured and rehabilitated in different ways in each of these countries? By moving from contemporary cases of resurgent nationalist sentiment to their interwar predecessors and back again, and through a consideration of novels, films, historical documents, speeches, and monuments, among other sources, the course will seek to uncover how anxieties of migration, race, and empire—as well as changing roles of religion, gender, and nationhood—shaped political animosities and allegiances within the European Far Right both a century ago and today.
Margaret Atwood is often asked if the The Handmaid’s Tale is a “feminist” novel. Her response: “If you mean an ideological tract in which all women are angels and/or so victimized they are incapable of moral choice, no. If you mean a novel in which women are human beings — with all the variety of character and behavior that implies — and are also interesting and important, and what happens to them is crucial to the theme, structure and plot of the book, then yes. In that sense, many books are ‘feminist.’” This course focuses on such feminist books. It explores issues of perspective: what happens when an author writes from the perspective of a woman? Since taking this perspective does not depend on biology, we will explore authors from a variety of backgrounds, especially those whose class, race, and/or ethnicity add another dimension. We’ll focus on contemporary Anglophone novels and drama.... Read more about Gender and Representation
Analyzes major social variables that affect population health: poverty, social class, gender, race, family, community, work, behavioral risks, and coping resources. Examines health consequences of social and economic policies, and the potential role of specific social interventions. Reviews empirical and theoretical literature on mechanisms and processes that mediate between social factors and their health effects, and discusses alternative models for advancing public health.... Read more about Society and Health
Migration, both voluntary and involuntary, helps to shape the culture, society, economics, and politics of the modern world. It benefits both movers and receiving countries, but also entails considerable costs. The course begins with consideration of the broad sweep of population movements, and addresses various impacts on both migrants and receiving countries. It focuses primarily, however, on the politics of and political science research about contemporary population movements in the United States and other western nations. Topics include patterns of incorporation and exclusion, consequences of different legal statuses, and the differential impact of migrants’ nationality, gender, and class status.... Read more about Migration
Women represent half of humanity, but they have been greatly underrepresented in studies of past cultures and societies. This course provides an introduction to aspects of women’s lives in the cultures of ancient Mediterranean Greece and Rome. We will examine not only what women actually did and did not do in these societies, but also how they were perceived by their male contemporaries and what value to society they were believed to have. The course will focus on how women are reflected in the material and visual cultures, but it will incorporate historical and literary evidence as well. Through such a comparative and interdisciplinary approach, we will examine the complexities and ambiguities of women’s lives in the ancient Mediterranean and begin to understand the roots of modern conceptions and perceptions of women in the Western world today.
Although race is often presumed to be a visual phenomenon, it is also created and produced through sound. But what does race sound like? What might we learn when we attune our ears to the music and noise that race makes in popular music, on the stage, and in literature? How can texts like songs, films, and novels both reinforce and challenge cultural hierarchies and arrangements of social power? This course explores the sonification of race and the racialization of sound, music, and noise in the United States from the late nineteenth century to the present.... Read more about Sound and Color: Music, Race, and US Cultural Politics
We'll be reading Hamlet, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice,Henry V, and The Tempest. Special attention to dramatically motivating issues involving familial kinship, racial and linguistic difference, and national and religious conflict. Philosophical and historical issues include Shakespeare's unique use of language, the ambiguous authorship of the plays, gender issues informing stage production, the sense of place in Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and the influence of the Shakespearean canon in the various arts and media.... Read more about Five Shakespeare Plays
Considers theories of power in American political science and political theory; how to measure and use these theories to understand political choices. Attention to race, gender, class, legal standing, policies, history, values and institutional frameworks.... Read more about Power in American Society