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Spring Section Descriptions
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Spring 2018 Course Section Descriptions
(Listed alphabetically by last name of instructor.)
Ph.D., German Studies
- Core 107-25 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
Human. Animal. Nature.
Our relationship with nature is complex and muddled. We love nature, and we use it. We exploit it, and sometimes nature appears to fight back, and threatens us. Nature also inspires us and is the goal of our longing. Nature is simultaneously matter and symbol. Nature is the foundation of our survival, and also lives as an agent in our imagination, in our laws, politics, and economics.
Through the study of literature, film, and theory, and through practical/experiential work with/in/on nature, we will think about terms such as anthropocene, posthumanism, and animacy, and we will seek to address some of the following questions:
Do nature and animals have agency in art and literature? In real life? Are we part of nature? Do we presume domination over it? What responsibilities do humans have vis-à-vis animate and inanimate nature? Does nature teach us things? What happens when we lose touch with nature? What happens when we lose ourselves in nature?
This course will engage these and other questions through readings/viewings, discussions, writing, research projects, and excursions. Students who are part of the Environmental Action LLC are especially encouraged to consider this course. Some course related events will take place at the EA LLC.
Ph.D., Literature, Feminist & Queer Studies
- Core 107-27 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
Social Class in America
Grounded in history, sociology, literature, and popular culture, this course will explore how social class has functioned as a form of situated experience, and a source of political power, in the U.S. What has it meant to be poor, working class, middle class, or wealthy in America? How have racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression and marginalization combined with classism to enhance the divide between the “haves” and “have-nots”? How have concepts like the American Dream, meritocracy, and what Max Weber called the “Protestant work ethic” fared amidst the scramble for resources characteristic of our capitalist society? And how has the meaning of work changed, or remained the same, along with the evolving labor landscape? In addition to Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, we will engage with texts by Jacob Riis, bell hooks, and Miranda July, films such as Frozen River and the documentary The Queen of Versailles, and NPR’s “Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America” podcast.
- Core 107-18 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
Arts and Culture of the 1960s
The time we refer to the 60s was actually a diverse set of cultural currents swirling in a vast sea of ideas and events. In this class, we will look at the relationships among avant-garde and “popular” cultures of the time, the interactions between them, and their influence on major historical events. We’ll look at several specific topics: technological developments, such as improved transistors and the pill; avant-garde performance artists and their quest for social justice; evolving perceptions of war; the influence of hippies, drugs, and the “drug culture”; how improved transportation and hybrids in music established certain cities as cultural magnets; and liberation movements, both ethnic and gender based. Whenever possible, we’ll examine these through the lens of art forms.
Beyond its well-known mystique, the 60s is an especially interesting period because (a) technology enabled virtually anyone to record history, (b) cross-pollination of ideas, combined with new technology, created explosions in many art forms, and (c) artists became political activists − activists with stature in their communities. Their activism was often recorded, giving us a wealth of historical data, much of it interesting as well as informative.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This section will require out-of-class film screenings and discussion. Screenings will take place 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. on alternate Wednesdays on campus. (There will be 6 screenings − a schedule will be available the first week of class; the requirement is to see any 4 of these, with the other 2 available for extra credit.) You should not take this section if your schedule conflicts with this time.
- Core 107-10 MWF 12:40-1:40pm
- Core 107-29 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
Collective Fascination and the Elevated Individual: Fame, Celebrity Culture, and the Mass Media
Until fairly recently in academic circles, the study of fame and celebrity was seen as a “marginal pursuit,” unimportant to our understanding of the social world. However, with the increase of celebrity-related media products, the subject has certainly received greater attention. One researcher noted that “far from being frivolous, celebrity permeates our social dialogue and generates millions of dollars in revenue for celebrities.” Indeed, the speed and volume of mass mediated information have turned ordinary citizens into celebrities literally overnight, and social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have become major producers of both fame and infamy.
This course is centered on the pervasiveness of celebrity culture in the United States—an inordinate amount of media content is dedicated to the professional and personal lives of television, film, music, sports, political, and even criminal celebrities. Starting with ancient Greece, and drawing upon literature from history, psychology, sociology, media studies, and popular culture research, we will address the following questions (among others): What are the antecedents of modern-day celebrity? What is the role of the mass media in shaping celebrity and American culture? Why/how does society “elevate” certain individuals over others? How has the advent of new technologies and social media impacted the production of celebrity?
Ph.D., Political Science
- Core 107-05 MWF 10:20-11:20am
- Core 107-26 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
Liberty/Equality/Identity: Multiculturalism and the Liberal Ethos
What does it mean, exactly, to respect cultural diversity, and are there limits on how far such respect should extend? This course explores conceptions of multiculturalism and asks whether it is, in some form, a philosophy we should embrace. Is multiculturalism at odds with liberalism’s commitment to freedom and equality? Is multiculturalism a threat to feminism? What are its implications for public policy? (Is it appropriate, for example, to grant rights—or exemptions from legal obligations—based on membership in a particular cultural or religious group?) Our focus will be on political theory, but we’ll also use literature to reflect on individuals’ experiences of cultural identity, asking, for example, whether identity is something one inherits or creates. If we have obligations to our cultural community, what happens if they conflict with our personal, singular vision of a good life?
Specific issues we’ll examine over the course of the semester include, among others: whether France was wrong to ban the hijab (Islamic headscarf) in public schools, and whether a baker with deeply-held religious objections to same-sex marriage should have the right to refuse service to a gay couple wishing to exercise their constitutional right to marry.
Ph.D., Developmental Psychology
- Core 107-08 MWF 11:30am-12:30pm
The Many Faces of Human Identity
The concept of identity is at the heart of being human. Who are you? Where do you come from? Where are you going? What stories do you tell yourself and other people about who you are? To fully address these important questions, this section of Exploration and Discovery is loosely divided into three segments. The first focuses on historical and contemporary views of what it means to have an identity and how individuals form them. This includes how age, ethnicity, and gender shape one’s personal identity. Then we will consider where identity resides. Is it in our memories or our physical bodies? Is identity an illusion? Finally, we will cover how “in-group” and “out-group” identities relate to personal identity. Do we need a ‘them’ to feel like part of an ‘us’ and to know who we are? An overarching goal of this course is for students to gain a better understanding of identity, in general, and their own, in particular.
Ph.D., Religion and Society: Social Ethics Emphasis
Dean of Religious & Spiritual Life
- Core 107-20 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
Dilemmas in Medicine and Health Care: An Introduction to Biomedical Ethics
This course explores the wide array of moral and ethical issues posed by modern medicine and health care. We will examine three areas in depth: advancements in biogenetic technologies and treatments; end-of-life care and issues involved in caring for the dying and the critically ill; and the US health care system and some alternative international approaches to providing health care. We will explore cross-cultural values in health care, and practice moral decision-making and applied ethics by evaluating some of the key controversial issues facing modern medicine today. We will also investigate the broad history of medical ethics and examine the key moral concepts that provide a foundation for doing contemporary biomedical ethics.
Ph.D., History of Science and Technology
Understanding How We Understand the Maya
Americans have been fascinated by the sophisticated architecture of the ancient Maya since the beginning of the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century every academic discipline that could possibly be employed has been focused on the study of the Maya. As a result we have a growing set of images and descriptions of the Maya – each set of pictures taken from a different perspective. We will examine the ways in which westerners have endeavored to understand the Maya, starting with the Maya’s own view of themselves at the point of European contact. Those Europeans in turn had their own very different views of the Maya, as have subsequent American adventurers, historians, archeologists, anthropologists, paleo-astronomers, and others. As we gradually uncover the fascinating story of these attempts to understand Mayan culture, we will also begin to understand the methods used by different disciplines to explore, discover, and create new knowledge. Will we ultimately discover the real Maya?
Ph.D., Victorian Literature
- Core 107-15 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
Scandal, Sensation, and Fraud
What happens to sin, the Socratic dialogue, and the “tragic flaw” in literature once skepticism begins to prevail over religious faith, the celebrity replaces the hero, and novels and newspapers supplant the tragedy and the epic? This course will focus on literary representations and historical case studies of scandal, sensation, and fraud. We will consider how the form of the novel emerges out of and contributes to scandal. We will explore the gender, class, and racial politics of sensation. We will also ask ourselves how different cultures rely on episodes of fraud to achieve self-definition. Along the way, we will study theories of the carnivalesque, moral panic, melodrama, and taboo. Students will write a final research paper on a recent scandal.
Ph.D., US Post-Civil War, Cultural, Social, Gender
- Core 107-23 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
Enacting Greenwich Village, 1913
American radicalism peaked before World War I, when Socialist candidate Eugene Debs won 6% of the vote in the 1912 presidential election, the all-time high for the Socialist Party. The center of American radicalism, both cultural and political, was the lower West Side of Manhattan, where artists, immigrant intellectuals, labor activists and sexual iconoclasts convened to talk, argue and try to design a better world. Those who spent some time in the Village included Big Bill Haywood of the Industrial Workers of the World, Emma Goldman, advocate for free speech and birth control, journalist Jack Reed and writer Louise Bryant, both of Portland, and many other young experimentalists. In their magazine The Masses, they pioneered a new kind of art, and a new way of being.
This course blends the more traditional classroom with the highly acclaimed and elaborate role-playing pedagogy “Reacting to the Past,” pioneered at Barnard College. Students will assume the lives of Greenwich Village characters from this era, research, write, and deliver speeches and position papers, engage in strategic gamesmanship, and attempt to influence history. When it is over, we will all continue to research and reflect. The goal of the class is not to replicate historical outcomes, but to enable students to experience for themselves the competing pressures that buffeted their predecessors. It should also help everyone to understand the contingent nature of historical outcomes. History happened, but it did not need to happen just as it did.
Ph.D., Political Science
- Core 107-17 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
The Art of War
This section covers the historical, strategic, and moral dimensions of war to give entering students an understanding of the most important challenge faced by humankind. The central questions revolve around the nature, purpose, and limits of warfare. The approach has students learn conceptual insights largely through reading about the actual experience of warfare, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary readings interpreting patterns across cultures and time periods. Using a mix of lecture and discussion, students will ponder and analyze the fundamental controversies surrounding organized armed international violence.
Ph.D., Music: Ethnomusicology
- Core 107-06 MWF 10:20-11:20am
More than Bollywood
This course examines South Asian art worlds through the interdisciplinary study of film. From Sanskrit treatises and courtly entertainment, to Bollywood glamour and Indian Idol—we build a working frame of reference for situating styles, sensibilities, storytelling, and media in relation to historical forces, creative economies, and social groups. In the process, we also develop ethnographic skill sets and representational strategies for learning about the performing arts in Portland’s South Asian communities.
M.A., (ABD), History of Art and Architecture
- Core 107-03 MWF 9:10-10:10am
Apocalypse and Armageddon
“Repent! The end is near!” This section explores the theme of apocalypse and eschatological imagery in the western tradition. The class will seek to define “apocalypse” and consider the relationship between the term’s origins and its modern usage. We ask what images the term might generate in the imagination and draw comparisons to historical interpretations. How might apocalyptic rhetoric (both in textual and visual form) create a teleological framework for interpreting current events? What happens when apocalyptic expectations go unfulfilled? The eclectic course will examine the Book of Revelation; the apocalyptic writings of Saint Augustine, Joachim di Fiore, and Christopher Columbus; the engravings of Albrecht Dürer and Lucas van Leyden; nineteenth-century American landscape painting; and Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang. While the course texts will primarily consider the Apocalypse in the Judeo-Christian and contemporary context, students will be asked to write a final research paper on eschatological ideas and images in a contemporary or historical faith tradition (including scientific approaches) of their choosing.
Ph.D., Fiction, Film Studies, Post-War and Contemporary Novel
- Core 107-04 MWF 10:20-11:20am
- Core 107-19 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
Suspense / Horror / Paranoia
This course is devoted to examining varieties of fear from a number of distinct but related perspectives: psychological, cultural, historical, and social. Special attention is given to how these fears correspond to genre categories in literature and film: namely, the thriller, the Gothic or horror story, and the conspiratorial narrative (often cited as an example of a general “paranoid style”). While most of our primary sources will be modern works of fiction and films from the twentieth century, we will consider course materials in light of theoretical frameworks that will be based on our readings of relevant scholarship and criticism (pertaining to media critique, gender studies, psychology and cultural studies). Along with our focus on conventions of genre will be a consideration of the remaking or reinvention of genre. In particular, we will discuss how the motif of the double from thrillers and horror stories is adapted for purposes of reflecting on questions of identity – and on how these questions are shaped by constructions of race, gender, and class.
Does the mechanism of suspense change over time? Do objects of horror also change? Why do collective expressions of suspicion and paranoia undergo periodic renewals, such as during the Cold War era in the United States? Our goal in this course will be to look closely at shifts in perspective and at the contexts within which are found powerful inducements to anxiety.
Ph.D., 17th/18th Century British Literature
- Core 107-14 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
Knee Deep in the Blues
This section will focus on the African American musical genre known as the blues. We will view the blues through a number of different lenses (historical, musicological, literary, cinematic), but our main point of entry will be recordings from the 1920s through the 1960s, the decades in which the blues flourished.
Among the questions we will consider: Where did the blues come from? What are its musical antecedents? Is blues primarily folk music or commercial (“pop”) music? What makes a blues performance (or a blues performer) “authentic,” and how has the discourse of authenticity shaped the production and reception of blues music? To what extent is blues music the exclusive property of African Americans? What roles have women played in the development of the blues? What is the relation of blues to jazz music? What happened when blues music, along with millions of African Americans, migrated from the rural south to the urban north and west? How did blues contribute to the birth of rock and roll? What role did blues music and blues musicians play in the civil rights movement? What happened when, in the 1960s, white folklorists, collectors, promoters and performers rediscovered an older generation of blues performers? Is the blues still a living musical form, and if not, when did it expire?
This course assumes no prior familiarity with blues music, and you need not be a musician to take it. We will, however, spend some time learning about the musical features of the blues (i.e., I, IV and V chords, 12-bar form, “blue” notes). Students will also complete a small-group creative project: writing, performing and recording a blues song. Our main activities, however, will be reading about, listening to, discussing, researching, and writing about the blues.
Ph.D., English – Modern American Literature
- Core 107-11 MWF 12:40-1:40pm
- Core 107-30 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
Race and Performance in America
In the mid-nineteenth century, T. D. Rice—a white man who blackened his face to, as his most famous song put it, “jump Jim Crow”—became an international star, beloved for a routine he claimed to have learned from a crippled, black stablehand. Just a few decades later, “Jim Crow” referred to a set of laws that enshrined racial segregation.
This course will examine the ways that American racial politics have been shaped by both institutions and performance: by congressional bodies and dancing bodies, by costume and song, by fact and fiction on stages, on screens, and in print. Closely examining a variety of primary and secondary sources—including Nella Larsen’s Passing, Luís Valdez’s Zoot Suit, David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly, the film Paris is Burning, and a live dance performance by Urban Bush Women in downtown Portland—we will consider how artists have created, conformed to, subverted and challenged common understandings of race, sometimes all at once. Along the way, we’ll discuss gender, sexuality, class, power, and artistic form. Frequent writing assignments will help you to sharpen your powers of description and analysis, and to generate research questions for a culminating essay on a topic of your choice.
Ph.D., Cultural Studies
- Core 107-13 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
The Art of Solidarity
From the streets of Charlottesville to NFL stadiums, over the past year, the concept of solidarity has become a staple of our collective political vocabulary. In its most basic definition, solidarity is an expression of unity and mutual support between groups, communities, or individuals. In practice, solidarity means taking sides to support a struggle. In this course, we will examine the art of solidarity in two senses. First, we will explore what solidarity looks like, which is to say, its aesthetics. How is solidarity expressed visually, artistically, expressively, and materially? Second, we will explore how solidarity works by examining its praxis. How is solidarity practiced and what are the theories and ideas that propel it? The course will examine a diversity of case studies of twentieth and twenty-first century political struggles and social movements from different parts of the world, and will focus on the diverse media produced through practices of solidarity, including books, zines, poster art, music, film, video, graffiti, fashion, public protest, social media, and performance art.
Ph.D., Religious Studies
- Core 107-01 MWF 8-9am
- Core 107-02 MWF 9:10-10:10am
The Anatomy of Moral Panics
Wherever one looks in history or across the globe, communities seem unable to establish immunity against what sociologists have called moral panics. A moral panic involves an excessive response to a perceived threat, often leading to a suspension of community norms in hope of purifying the social body of the source of moral pollution. But it is an oversimplification to construe this as a simple eruption of irrationality into a community that is otherwise rationally legislated and ably administered, for there are always social elements poised to benefit from moral panics, and there is always a price to be paid by stigmatized others. How do the exceptional events that we will theorize under the rubric of moral panics reveal some of the implicit premises and practices that structure “normal” social life? What do they suggest about the nature of being human? Locales stricken by moral panics that we will examine include ancient Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome, medieval Europe, Reformation Germany and pre-modern France, wartime Zurich, recession-era London and, of course, contemporary America. Authors whom we will read include Thucydides, Tacitus, Josephus, Michelet, Nathanael West, Georges Bataille, Greil Marcus and Jeannette Winterson.
Ph.D., Religious Studies
- Core 107-09 MWF 11:30am-12:30pm
- Core 107-21 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
The Ancient City
Freud observed a modern ambivalence toward “civilization,” but once upon a time people turned toward the city on purpose. How and when did this happen, where, and why? In what ways did we express our joy or dismay at this movement from foraging, herding, or familial farmsteads to the densely-packed confines of the city and a life among strangers? In this seminar on the material, demographic, and cultural features of what has been called “the urban revolution,” we examine how they figure in five prominent instances: the Mediterranean Neolithic, Bronze Age Mesopotamia, a New Kingdom Egyptian utopia, Periclean Athens, and earliest Rome. Familiarizing ourselves with the archaeological record of the material culture and with the very earliest literature bearing upon the city, we will study the origins, emergence, and flourishing of the ancient city, each participant crafting an individual research project on a material or cultural object pertinent to the urban revolution.
M.F.A., Creative Writing
- Core 107-28 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
- Core 107-31 MWF 3-4pm
Reading and Writing the Wild Outdoors
This course will explore the many ways that writers, scientists, activists, and explorers represent “the wild outdoors” in fiction and nonfiction. To begin, we’ll focus our energies on the strategies and techniques some of our finest writers and deepest thinkers use to tell real and fictionalized accounts about the wild outdoors. What happens when the author turns her gaze on mountains and woodlands and boondock places? How does presenting “nature” through the written word—poems, stories, essays—affect us? We’ll discuss these topics and the ways different environments influence the atmosphere, meaning, symbolism, and tone in outdoor writing. Additionally, we’ll wrestle with our collective notions about the “environment” and “the wild outdoors.” Does nature still exist? What did the idea of nature historically mean to our culture and to others? And what is our connection with nature now in the age of climate change? In order to deepen our understanding of humanity’s relationship with the natural world, we’ll read from a growing nature-writing canon, including selections from Genesis, Meriwether Lewis, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rachel Carson, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Henry David Thoreau, Mary Oliver, Ellen Meloy, Julia Butterfly Hill, Edward Abbey, William Cronon, and Terry Tempest Williams. T.C. Boyle’s novel A Friend of the Earth will guide our conversations about eco-activism while Alexander Supertramp, from Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, will fuel discussion about glorifying and underestimating nature’s brute power. Students will be encouraged to venture outdoors and create their own lively story worlds.
Ph.D., Drama & Humanities
- Core 107-16 MWF 1:50-2:50pm
The Artist in Jail: Art, Dissent, and the State
We live in a time of intense social protest and dissent, and there has been much debate about the power and effectiveness of protest, both individual and collective. Included in this discussion is the role of the artist as activist. One strand of the course examines a spectrum of thinking about the relationship of art to dissent, looking at essays by George Orwell, Herbert Marcuse, James Baldwin, Bertolt Brecht, Paul Von Blum, and Ursula Le Guin. Can art change the world? Does the artist have a moral imperative to be socially engaged? Does dissent need to be explicit? Is art central to social action or peripheral? The second strand of the course is an examination of particular cases, where artists have felt called to speak truth to power and have been incarcerated (and worse) for their efforts. We will look at case studies from around the world, from the advent of modernism to the present. Case studies will include the lives and works of Oscar Wilde, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Vaclav Havel, Wole Soyinka, Victor Jara, Pete Seeger, and more recently, Pussy Riot, Belarus Free Theatre, Jafar Panahi, Mahnaz Mohammadi, and others. What in the artwork triggers the repression of the artist? Is the artwork itself central to the state’s response? What effect, if it can be assessed, does the artwork or the repression of the artist have on social change? And more broadly, can topical art, political art, also be lasting art? Research topics will focus on case studies of your own choosing.