Fall Section Descriptions

Fall 2019 Online Preference Form is now CLOSED.

The form was open June 1st through June 25th.  If you were unable to complete the preference form, please contact the E&D Office at explore@lclark.edu or 503-768-7208.

All incoming students with LC email accounts will be emailed their E&D Placement by July 10th and should be able to see their placement on WebAdvisor by July 3rd. 
Please contact the E&D Administrative Specialist at explore@lclark.edu or 503-768-7208 if you have any questions.


It is important for students to note:

  • If you do not complete the on-line E&D section preference form by the June 24th deadline you will be assigned to a section on a space-available basis.
  • Please select six sections that interest you but select each only once on the preference form. Selecting the same section more than once cancels one of your choices, thereby reducing the number of sections you have selected, and can result in you being randomly placed in a section.
  • The date/time you submit your E&D Preference form has NO impact on your E&D assignment.
  • You may make changes to your preference form during the above registration time by simply completing another online form. The form completed closest to the June 24th deadline will be considered your final submission.
  • All classes are held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Generally, class times are 1:50 - 2:50 pm however, there are a few sections taught at other times to resolve schedule conflicts with other classes.
  • Several faculty members teach multiple sections; therefore it is important to note the time of the class you are selecting.
  • Overload requests are not accepted.

If you have additional questions, please review the E&D Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

After assignments are made it is important to note:

  • Changing sections is limited to open seats.  Changes have to be made before the start of the third class day; the deadline to change your E&D section is Thursday, September 5th.
  • All changes must be approved by the E&D Administrative Specialist, no add/drop permission is needed.
  • The standard add/drop policy, timing, and process does not apply to Exploration and Discovery.
  • Your account must be free of registration holds by the September 5th deadline.

Please email explore@lclark.edu if you have questions.


Fall 2019 Section Descriptions 


Reality and Identity – POD   MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Students in the “Reality and Identity” POD will have the benefit of working with two professors, as individual sections will come together from time to time throughout the semester.

  • David Galaty PhD, History of Science – Core 106-18
  • Ben Westervelt PhD, History—Medieval & Early Modern Europe Core 106-13

“What is reality?” and “Who am I?” are two fundamental—and surprisingly related—questions we ask ourselves. We seem to live in a world of constant change, yet we also experience uncanny structure in the world and in ourselves. We experience chaos and we strive for order. In this course, we will examine these intertwining questions as they have echoed in the works of some of the greatest thinkers of our species.  This course will discuss basic issues in the history of science as well as in the history of the humanities. Professors Galaty and Westervelt will each teach their own sections, but both classes will follow a common syllabus and on several occasions both sections will meet together in one group.

We begin with Plato, who famously said that the unexamined life is not worth living.  Plato also sought to distinguish between eternal truth and evanescent illusion, arriving at a conclusion that continues to reverberate in our 21st-century world.  What would it mean to live an examined life? How can we discern the structure of the cosmos? We will watch Augustine of Hippo struggle to define his identity and his place in the Cosmos. Ibn Tufayl was an Arabic scholar who imagined an isolated human constructing his own identity and ideas about reality. Galileo Galilei and Rene Descartes self-consciously initiated a revolution in thought as they developed new ways of understanding the universe and themselves.  Karl Marx showed how the then new Industrial Revolution had forced people into new ways of experiencing themselves and the world at about the same time that the slave Frederick Douglass tried to escape a fate based in an obsolete way of defining reality. Both Virginia Woolf and Jose Luis Borges used fiction to examine the ways we socially define the world and ourselves. As we brush through centuries, we will learn to “read” texts, equations, ideas, art and film. By the end many of us will have discovered something about how to obey the Delphic command to “know thyself.”

Remaining sections listed alphabetically by last name of instructor.

Sara Appel

PhD, Literature, Feminist & Queer Studies

  • Core 106-11 MWF 12:40-1:40pm
  • Core 106-31 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Nailed It: Failure and Success in Thought and Practice

We’ve all seen the memes. The Cookie Monster cupcakes, blue-frosting mouths perfectly molded to hold a miniature chocolate-chip cookie. But cut to the next photo: “NAILED IT” stamped on the resulting DIY monstrosity, frosting oozing off the pan in a sad, inedible mass. We laugh; it’s a cathartic, low-stakes brand of “Fail.” But there’s also rebellion in that laughter. We resent that a task presented as “easy” might include few instructions. We recognize that often, this implied ease masks access to specialized tools and training.

Featuring classics texts in philosophy, literature, and history, this course explores the nature of success and its perhaps more provocative underside, failure. What are the stakes of framing the success-failure binary as a product of individual effort? What happens if we instead conceive of success and failure as the results of a system rife with “goals” that may not be readily accessible to all? What does success look like when, as Frederick Douglass knew well, failure implies the continued absence of human freedom? What might it mean to fail spectacularly at a bare-life level—as Socrates does on the day of his execution—while becoming one of the most “successful” influences on western thought? We’ll read works by Plato, Douglass, Karl Marx, and Virginia Woolf, among other texts that challenge us to rethink our assumptions about failure and success—Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman paired with the TV series Breaking Bad; Roxane Gay’s essay collection Bad Feminist; and Allan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel Watchmen.


Jon Arakaki

PhD, Communications

  • Core 106-10 MWF 12:40-1:40pm
  • Core 106-30 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Discovery, Courage, and the Heroic Life

What, exactly, does it mean to be courageous?  What does it mean to be a hero? Who is a hero?  It is these types of questions that we will be addressing this semester, as well as exploring what it means to stand and fight, to express and follow one’s beliefs, to explore the unknown, and sometimes, to merely endure.  Susan Drucker and Robert Cathcart (1994) noted, “All cultures have heroes, but the hero and the heroic varies from culture to culture and from time to time. What constitutes the heroic and who becomes the hero is a function of cultural priorities and values…” (p. 2).  As we survey the selected works listed below, we recognize that taking risks and holding firm to values often frame our experience.

This course will explore various aspects of discovery, courage, and heroes through several core texts: the dialogues of Plato, the slave narrative of Frederick Douglass, the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels, and the twentieth century cultural criticism of Virginia Woolf.  In addition, will be reading Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, Lauren Kessler’s Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family, and I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai.

One of our main intentions is to ask why we can often attain insight, truth, and knowledge only after challenging and courageous journeys of discovery.  The course is also intended to develop your skills as a critical thinker, writer, classroom participant, and close reader of texts.


Therese Augst

PhD, German Studies

  • Core 106-24 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

The Storyteller

The novelist Elena Ferrante recently claimed that “telling stories is really a kind of power, and not an insignificant one.” Human beings have always told stories to one another, both to give form to individual and collective experience and to make sense of the world around them. And Ferrante is right: the storyteller’s ability to shape what we perceive as the truth of our shared history, to distill the chaotic whirl of individual experience and imagination into collective memory, is a formidable power that we mustn’t take lightly or accept without question. Who, over the course of recorded history, has had the right to a voice? What events, whose experiences have been handed down to us through the force of narrative? Whose voices offer us different ways of reflecting on what we know and how we have come to know it? And no less importantly, how does listening to stories help us to cultivate a more complex perspective on the world and our place in it? The storytellers we will encounter — from Boccaccio to Virginia Woolf, Werner Herzog, Toni Morrison, Yoko Tawada, and Viet Thanh Nguyen — all reflect on how the potent sway of stories (and of storytellers) can offer both a space for critical inquiry and a more nuanced view toward established norms of collective memory and identity.  In the course of the semester we will also engage in our own storytelling practice, as a means of developing skills of oral expression as well as focused and empathetic listening.


Philippe Brand

PhD, French

  • Core 106-23 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Species of Spaces: The Creative Potential of Everyday Life

Grounded in theoretical texts including Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust and Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life, in this course we will explore the ways in which contemporary authors, filmmakers, and artists reconsider the creative potential of overlooked and everyday spaces in their works. While most of the time we pass right by the things we see every day, critic Warren Motte notes that “one can look for—or in fact, create—intrigue in the places one might least expect to find it, that is, in the nooks and crannies of our shared, daily experience.” In Species of Spaces, Georges Perec turns his gaze to a series of ever-broadening place-based reflections, from the page on which he writes, to his bed, to his room, to his apartment, to his street, to his neighborhood, to his city, and so on. Leslie Kaplan’s Excess—The Factory seeks to find a new literary language to convey the experience of working on a factory floor, while Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary Manufactured Landscapes offers a stunning depiction of manufacturing on a global scale. Jennifer Clement’s novel Gun Love depicts life in a Florida trailer park while the documentary Faces Places, a collaboration between director Agnès Varda and street artist JR, explores the power of street art to renew our perceptions of the landscapes around us. We will pay close attention to the concrete and virtual spaces that we inhabit in our daily lives, delving into literature, theory, street art, graffiti, photography, and documentary filmmaking.


Kim Cameron-Dominguez

PhD, Anthropology—Race, Gender & Class in the US and Latin America

  • Core 106-21 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Elements of Belief: Magic, Faith, And Reason

Is the line hard and fast between magic and science, dream and reality, or rationale and faith? This semester, we will hold that line as a space of “not quite either” rather than a truth about one or the other. We will be aided (and hindered, perhaps) by cats with revolvers, gods in disguise, and robots on the run in a set of texts that invite us to enjoy the blurry spaces in-between. This will mean unpacking the assumptions we make in our search for self and what we believe. This is a discussion-based course. There will be conventional writing assignments given. However, in an effort to keep the magic alive, students will have an opportunity to choose whether to use debate, performance, or illustration as methods for actively engaging with course material and with their peers.  


Susan Cohen  

PhD, Political Science

  • Core 106-07 MWF 11:30am-12:30pm
  • Core 106-26 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

The Good Life and the Good Society

What does it mean to live a good life, to flourish?  And what kinds of social and political structures best facilitate human flourishing?  Our focus will be on ethics and political philosophy as we explore these questions. We’ll ask whether there are universal moral truths that constrain our choices as we search for a good life.  We’ll attempt to understand what it means to be an ethical person: Is ethics primarily a matter of respecting the rights of others? Cultivating emotions like empathy and compassion? Honoring cultural traditions?  Obeying, or loving, God? What responsibilities do we have to family, friends, community, nation, humankind, the divine? What do we owe to the poor and the marginalized in our own country and abroad? How might government, and we as individuals, negotiate the tensions among our various responsibilities, and how do we remain true to ourselves as we try to carry them out?  Can one even have a good life if its path is not of one’s own choosing?  In wrestling with these and other questions we will seek out wisdom in—as well as challenge—texts that include:  three dialogues by Plato, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Douglass’s “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?,” Michael Sandel’s Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, essays in feminist philosophy, and the Book of Genesis.   


Mark Duntley

PhD, Religion and Society

  • Core 106-19 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Being in the World: A Quest for Happiness and Fulfillment

In this course we will examine a variety of works of drama, philosophy, and narrative fiction. Each work in its own way grapples with questions at the heart of the human condition: what are the origins of human happiness and human suffering? Can knowledge of the self and the nature of things— if such knowledge is even possible— lead to happiness and fulfillment? Or is this view fundamentally at odds with the way we experience life, seemingly buffeted by forces beyond our rational control? In other words, is there a path to living the “good life”?  If so, what might such a life look like? Through critical analysis and lively conversation together we can learn how these authors confronted the problem of “being in the world,” and perhaps begin to seek understanding and guidance for ourselves.


Kurt Fosso

PhD, English—British Romanticism & Literary Theory

  • Core 106-05 MWF 10:20-11:20am

Narrative Crossroads: Discovering Knowledge

This section will focus upon the discovery and production of knowledge and its relationship to narrative and authority. Indeed, we’ll consider how literary and other narratives produce knowledge—of ourselves and our world—and what roles language, interpretation, and authorship play in articulating and constraining what we deem to be real and true.  What indeed is truth when it can be (or even must be) narrated and structured?  All the works we read will explore these and other challenging aspects of knowledge and ignorance, from eating forbidden fruit to reading wrong-headed books to testing the difference between human and machine.  Along with several of E&D’s core traditional works—Plato, Marx, Douglass—we’ll examine texts from the Bible, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Reza Aslan’s God: A Human History, and Ridley Scott’s Frankenstein-inspired, postmodern sci-fi-noir film, Blade Runner. Hang onto your seats.


Susan Glosser

PhD, East Asian History

  • Core 106-25 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Speaking Your Mind

Since grade school we’ve all been told “the pen is mightier than the sword,” but over the centuries many have died or been ostracized for what they have had to say. In this class we’ll read biographies, essays, and fiction by and about people who challenged their societies’ preconceptions, disregarded their taboos, and undermined their sacred beliefs. The underlying assumptions of this course are that freedom of thought and speech are essential to the health of all communities and polities, and that college should encourage and protect that freedom. In each of the readings, we will consider who or what the author challenged, how opponents and critics reacted, and what thought and action the author’s iconoclasm made possible. Our readings will take us from the time of Socrates to the 19th and 20th century, and on to the issues of gender, sexuality, race, and religion that preoccupy us now. We’ll conclude with readings that are likely to challenge our notions of free speech and whether, or when, we should limit it.


Matt Johnston

PhD Art History

  • Core 106-03 MWF 9:10-10:10am

Capitalism and Conscience

In this section, we focus on the relation between moral values and a society based on the free market system. To what extent are our conceptions of right action and the common good shaped by economics? What moral arguments justify the negative aspects of capitalism, such as an ever-widening gap between rich and poor and a class-based social hierarchy? How have these questions evolved over time as our economy has changed? This section looks at texts that address the moral dimensions of a free market world, pro and con, juxtaposing non-fictional works by Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Frederick Douglass, and Thorstein Veblen, among others, with novels that explore many of the ideas advanced by these writers, including works by Frank Norris, Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and George Orwell.


Gordon Kelly

PhD, Classical Studies

  • Core 106-20 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Reconstructing the Past

The Noble prize-winning novelist William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” In this course, we will examine how our struggle to comprehend past events (both in human and natural history) reflects and affects our views of the present and the future. We will read a wide variety of works that attempt to reconstruct and understand some aspect of the past, whether it’s the origins of the universe (Book of Genesis; George Gamow’s The Creation of the Universe), the mythological beginnings of a nation (Virgil’s Aeneid), personal experiences (Linda Brent’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein), or a deceased person’s life (John Krakauer’s Into the Wild).


Rob Kugler  

PhD, Religious Studies – Jewish & Christian origins

  • Core 106-02 MWF 9:10-10:10am
  • Core 106-06 MWF 10:20-11:20am

What Do We Owe to Each Other?

The question, “What do we owe to each other?” is particularly charged in our times. Why? Because of the fundamental tension between the dominant contemporary understanding of the individual as self-determining and self-possessing and the urgent need for us to address as a society various challenges, some so extreme as to even threaten human survival. For example, from the perspective of the prevailing sense of the self, the answer to the question, “What do we owe to each other?” is likely to be “Little to nothing.” But from the perspective of the demand on us to respond to the unfolding climate crisis, the answer can only be, “Whatever it takes.”

We spend the first half of the semester exploring some of the answers people from antiquity to the present have given to the question “What do we owe to each other?” We devote the second half to two case studies which do in fact require our response to the question. Are reparations owed to black Americans for the sins of slavery, Jim Crow, “separate but equal,” and “redlining”? And what do we owe to each other and to the future in view of catastrophic potential of an unchecked climate crisis? Our case studies will reveal see how the ideas covered in the first half of the semester play out in contemporary thinking and can shape our own. And in the bargain, they will model a method for getting the most and best you can from your liberal arts education.


Read McFaddin

MA (ABD), History of Art and Architecture

  • Core 106-27 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

The City

What defines a city? Shakespeare believed it to be defined by the community and its people. Sixteenth-century French jurist Jean Bodin believed the city to be defined by its laws and social bonds, while contemporary Italian architect Aldo Rossi recognizes the city through the architecture that gives voice to its history. De Certeau and Baudelaire proposed that the city is understood by moving through urban space. With these approaches in mind, our course considers the city a living and dynamic organism, both a human construct and ever-present agent shaping urban social performance. We will explore the visual and textual image of the city, both in its civitas (the people) and urbs (the structure) characterizations, as a crucial actor in the polemics of Plato, Frederick Douglass, Karl Marx and Virginia Woolf (E&D common works). Works from Sir Thomas More, Michel de Certeau, Jane Jacobs, and Italo Calvino will complement our core readings, and we will consider our local “cities” of the L&C campus and Portland. Participating students should be interested in the study of images and occasional off-campus site visits.


Michael Mirabile

PhD, Comparative Literature

  • Core 106-04 MWF 10:20-11:20am

Critique of Institutions

This section of Fall E&D will address the influential role that various institutions play in our lives.  Through the close reading of selected texts, we will examine how they describe, stage an encounter with, and / or subject to criticism a number of social institutions.  The critical perspectives we will engage take many forms and are concentrated on distinct institutions in the writings of our authors, whether it be in Plato (the court), Frederick Douglass (slavery), Virginia Woolf (education), Franz Kafka (legal institutions), Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (economic institutions), or Saskia Sassen (contemporary globalization).  In the course of our discussions of these authors over the semester, we will additionally gain valuable insights into the traditions of modern social thought and critical theory.  Although our readings will cover a range of historical contexts, there will be a particular focus on the many-sided significance of modernity and globalization – keys to understanding the formation of our contemporary institutions. 


Will Pritchard

PhD, English—17th/18th Century British Literature

  • Core 106-14 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Fictions of Identity

In this section of Exploration and Discovery we will read texts that investigate the nature of personal identity. In particular we will be reading works that depict identity as artificial, fictional, malleable and even multiple: tales of impostors, stories of “passing,” narratives of assimilation and accounts of divided selves. A tentative list of authors and books includes: William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, or What You Will; Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Nella Larsen, Passing; Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre; Julia Alvarez, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents. We will also read some recent and not-so-recent philosophical attempts to frame the question of identity. Students will write five short papers throughout the semester, in addition to a midterm and final exam.


Christopher Roberts

PhD, Religious Studies – Religion & Culture

  • Core 106-17 MWF 8-9am
  • Core 106-01 MWF 9:10-10:10am

Dialogue and Narration as Creative Contestation

This section of Exploration & Discovery will analyze transgressive instances of reality contestation and world creation in works of literature and socio­cultural critique. For the first half of the course we will read texts by Plato, Galileo, Marx, Douglass and Woolf that foreground individuals who take a critical perspective on received ideas, stereotyped images and “common sense” notions of “reality” in general. In each text we will examine the relationship between voice, expression and contestation, with a particular focus on the various rhetorical strategies of argumentation and narration that we encounter. For the second half of the course we will shift from texts centered on an individual voice or perspective to others in which, as the scope widens, an entire world is brought into being. Though each of these texts (Genesis and Exodus from the Hebrew Bible, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea and Patrick Chamoiseau’s Texaco) is replete with compelling characters, these works stand out for the singular way each brings a lifeworld into being. With these counterfactual life­worlds each of these texts contests “reality” and takes distance from the everyday world in ways that offer the reader an opportunity to reflect upon it in critically significant ways.


Molly Robinson Kelly

PhD, Romance Languages and Literatures

  • Core 106-15 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Insiders / Outsiders: Belonging and Alienation in Literature and in Life

Many of the joys and hurts of human life revolve around the need for belonging. In recent years, we have become more aware of the ways in which systemic power and privilege are based in long-standing cultural norms that classify some people as “insiders” and others as “outsiders.” Although usually unspoken and sometimes even unconscious, these norms teach us from an early age that certain opportunities (education, suffrage, power, and leadership for example) are appropriate and expected for certain groups of people, but inappropriate and unexpected for others. When these lines are crossed, discomfort, resistance, and even violence can emerge. Whether the groups of people are defined by gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religious affiliation, or some other category, humankind tends to divide itself into those who are seen as belonging in the arena, and those who are seen as too different to fit in. Throughout time, literature has reflected these tensions of belonging and alienation. In this course, we will become deep readers of a selection of works showing different facets of the insider / outsider dynamic, gaining a broader and more informed understanding of its historical and intersectional resonances. Work to be read include Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Mariama Bâ’s So Long a Letter, Jean-Dominique Bauby’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Ta Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, and Mary Beard’s Women and Power.


Štĕpán Šimek

BA Theatre, MFA Directing

  • Core 106-16 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Creation Myths

In order to make sense of what it means to be a human being, the individual and the society must in a sense “create themselves.” What kind of creation myths and stories does one create in order to define oneself as a people and as an individual; how do those stories and myths shape our understanding of who we are both as a society and an individual; and, finally, how does the actual reality clash with those creation myths and stories?

The course will examine number of such “creation stories” from several points of view including, but not limited to: What do they tell us about who we are? Who is telling the story to whom and for what purpose? Who is not telling the story, and why? How does each story represent doesn’t represent the actual reality of the society?

The texts will range from an ancient Roman epic poem, “The Aeneid,” to classical and modern drama, such as Sophocles’ Antigone and Lucas Hnath’s The Christians, to Virginia Woolf’s “Room of One’s Own” and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” portions of the Old and New Testaments, political manifestos, such as The Declaration of Independence and the Communist Manifesto , to philosophical and psychological ruminations on the creation of self, including readings from Plato’s Dialogues and Sigmund Freud’s “Civilization and it’s Discontents.”


Joel Sweek

PhD, Religious Studies

  • Core 106-08 MWF 11:30am-12:30pm
  • Core 106-22 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Liberty and Responsibility

Are agency and responsibility coherent ideas? Do we really even have the liberty and the responsibility to act on behalf of others? This section reads foundational texts on these and other questions relevant to liberty, agency, morality, and responsibility. Offering opportunities for close reading, analytical thinking, and incisive writing, students in this section read in several genres from antiquity to the current day: authors like Sappho, Plato, Virgil, the biblical literature, Shakespeare, Kant, Marx, Mill, Woolf, and Baldwin.


Norma Velazquez Ulloa

PhD, Neuroscience

  • Core 106-34 MWF 9:10-10:10am


What is the origin of the world? Where do we come from? These are questions humans come back to again and again. In this course we will read, discuss and write about texts and other works that offer a variety of perspectives on origins. We will explore ideas concerning the origin of life and of the diversity of organisms on Earth from a scientific perspective by reading excerpts from The Origin of Life by Alexander Oparin and The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin and ideas about the origin of humans from the mythological perspective of Mayans by reading excerpts from the Popol Vuh. We will also examine literary texts that challenge our imagination about life and death, consciousness in inanimate objects and human immortality by reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo, I Robot by Isaac Asimov, The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares and in the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Finally, we will examine readings about the origins of ideas about us and about others by reading excerpts from The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison. These texts span from antiquity to modernity and were chosen to include a diverse set of perspectives. Throughout the course, the students will explore their own answers to questions about their own origin and how it impacts who they are.


Stephen Weeks

PhD, Drama & Humanities

  • Core 106-29 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Coming Into One’s Own:  Journeys of Identity

Becoming one’s best self, what Abraham Maslow termed self-actualization, is a complex and often life-long process of making choices and facing constraints.  To forge an identity and then to maximize one’s potential through that identity can be framed as a journey or series of journeys that can be intellectual, social, moral, creative, political, geographical, communitarian, or some combination of all of these.  Like all journeys, the way is never smooth or untroubled, and completion is never certain. The questions that animate this section are these:  How does one come into one’s own within given social contexts?  What obstacles do individuals routinely face in making choices about their own lives?  Can those obstacles be overcome — and if so, how? In what ways does the inevitable negotiation between individual desire and societal expectation play out?  In what ways do immigrants or other ‘outsiders’ to normative power negotiate identity? Our approach to these questions is not primarily through psychology or sociology proper but through great texts from Saint Augustine to the present day.  We explore these themes through a number of genres: dialogues, essays, novels, plays, life narratives.  Readings will include: Augustine’s Confessions, Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, Maria Alyokhina’s Riot Days, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Tara Westover’s Educated, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi’s Americanah, Lucas Hnath’s The Christians, and David Henry Hwang’s Yellow Face.