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Exploration and Discovery

Spring Section Descriptions

Spring 2019 Online Preference Form is now CLOSED.  

If you didn’t submit a form, please contact the E&D office at or 503-768-7208.

You will be emailed your E&D Placement to your “” email by November 2nd.

Please contact the E&D Administrative Specialist at or 503-768-7208 if you have any questions.

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 Tuesday, January 29th.  
  • All changes must be approved by the E&D Program Coordinator, no add/drop permissions in WebAdvisor are 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 January 29th deadline.

Please email if you have questions.


Spring 2019 Course Section Descriptions


Epic and its Discontents – POD MWF 9:10-10:10am

The goal of this POD is to provide a shared experience between three professors and students across three sections of Core 107.  Each section will follow a common syllabus and will have the opportunity to work with each professor.

  • Ben David           Ph.D., Art History—Italian Renaissance — Core 107-25
  • Karen Gross       Ph.D., English—Medieval Literature - Core 107-03
  • Ben Westervelt   Ph.D., History—Medieval & Early Modern Europe - Core 107-02

The course seeks to explore the literary genre of “epic” and contemporary reactions to and revisions of it.  What is an epic? Can we read texts as epics that don’t seem to meet the standard definition? The classical epics celebrated heroic warriors and divinely-sanctioned empires, yet ancient Greek and Roman writers were also preoccupied with the effects of the irrational upon human beings, particularly the disfiguring powers of war, of sexual desire, and of overweening self-assurance. We will consider Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid alongside modern responses. What does the genre allow us to see and what does it make invisible? Ursula K. Le Guin, in her Lavinia, and Margaret Atwood, in her Penelopiad, have engaged Homer and Virgil critically to address what they leave out.  Are the values and themes of the epic relevant today? Might the Iliad, for instance, have something to say to us today about combat trauma, an argument made by Johnathan Shay in Achilles in Vietnam?Can an epic be visual, such the graphic novel March, which chronicles the achievements of John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement? Do the conventions of the epic continue to inform our practices of storytelling? Colson Whitehead, for example, might be understood to deal with this question in his Underground Railroad, awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 2016. Students will formulate their own answers to these questions and others in a research project and oral presentation.  

Remainder of sections are listed alphabetically by last name of instructor.

Sara Appel

Ph.D., Literature, Feminist & Queer Studies

  • Core 107-08 MWF 11:30am-12:30pm
  • Core 107-28 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 like Frozen River and the documentary The Queen of Versailles, and NPR’s “Rags to Riches” podcast.


Jon Arakaki

Ph.D., Communications

  • Core 107-11 MWF 12:40-1:40pm
  • Core 107-30 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?


Philippe Brand

Ph.D., French

  • Core 107-14 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Species of Spaces:  The Creative Potential of Everyday Life

Grounded in theoretical texts including Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life and Marc Augé’s Non-Places, 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.


David Campion

Ph.D., History—Modern Britain & Ireland, British Empire, South Asia

  • Core 107-18 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

The War to End All Wars: The First World War and its Legacies

Between 1914 and 1918 the conflict that has come to be known as the First World War spread across the globe and unleashed death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.  In many ways we still live with the legacies of this war even though today there is no one left with living memory of it.

While its focus is on an historical event, this is much more than just a history course.  We will take a broad and interdisciplinary approach to our subject.  The semester begins by looking at the war’s origins in a series of imperial rivalries and a breakdown of the international system that had kept peace in Europe for nearly a century.  From there we will ask how did the psychology of individuals and societies respond to the upheaval and trauma of the war?  How did science and industrial technology make this war different than those before it and cause people to question the value of scientific progress?  How did religion and philosophy inform moral arguments in favor of or against the war?  How did the war influence human expression in literature, visual art and music, both during the conflict and in its aftermath?  Finally, how did the peace agreement that followed “the war to end wars” shape the world we live in today and sow the seeds of future conflicts?

Our section will involve a significant amount of reading and writing.  Additionally, there will be evening film screenings on four Wednesdays during the semester (Feb 13, Feb 27, Apr 3 & Apr 17) from 7:00 to 9:30 pm.  Attendance at these film screenings is mandatory.  You should not take this section if your schedule conflicts with these screenings.


For more details see the course website:



Susan Cohen

Ph.D., Political Science

  •  Core 107-07 MWF 11:30am-12:30pm
  • Core 107-27 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Citizens of the World:  Cosmopolitanism, Group Loyalty, and Individual Freedom

If we think of ourselves as citizens of the world—as cosmopolitans—what does that mean for the way we live?  Does cosmopolitanism give us the freedom to reject inherited identities and craft new ones from an amalgam of diverse cultural resources?  Does it tell us that we have significant moral responsibilities encompassing people across the globe? Is it possible to be a citizen of the world and at the same time a devoted member of a particular cultural community, religion, nation, family?  Do we inherit special obligations to our communities whether we like it or not, and if so, what happens when they conflict with our personal, singular vision of a good life? How should government respond to the multiplicity of sometimes inharmonious values embraced by diverse groups and individuals?

In exploring these questions we’ll examine such topics as:  Afrocentric education, France’s ban on the hijab (Islamic headscarf) in public schools, and the right of a small business owner with sincere religious objections to same-sex marriage to deny a wedding cake to a gay couple wishing to exercise their constitutional right to marry.  Texts include philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah’s Cosmopolitanism and Sherman Alexie’s novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.


Keith Dede

Ph.D., Chinese Language and Linguistics

  • Core 107-04 MWF 10:20-11:20am

This American Language

From the texts, emails, and essays we read and write to the lunch chats, lectures and dorm-room deep-dives we participate in, we spend our days swimming in language. What patterns can be discerned in this ocean of communication, and what do those patterns say about our country, our community and ourselves? In this class we will turn a scientific eye to language itself, asking such questions of it as, “Who speaks what to whom?”, “What influences our language choices?”, and “How have these choices changed over time?”. Through essays (such as Rosina Lippi-Green’s “Language Ideology and Language Prejudice”), films (such as, The Linguists and Do You Speak American), and podcasts (Lexicon Valley), we will explore the rich diversity of language in North America with the aim of untangling some of its variation and changes.


Joel Fisher

M.F.A., Photography

  • Core 107-12 MWF 12:40-1:40pm

Art in Text

This course aims to investigate the diverse boundaries between art and lived experience in literature and media. Through rigorous discussion and debate, individual and collaborative projects, papers, and presentations, we will examine how a medium—like the literary novel—can absorb and comment on another medium—such as photography. We will focus on sensory experience, feeling, and potential for critical and analytical thinking that are galvanized when encountering artworks in texts. We will consider art and cultural criticism through personal, anecdotal, and historical literature from the twentieth century up until the contemporary moment. Writers will include Rebecca Solnit, John Berger,  James Baldwin, W.G. Sebald, Ben Lerner, and Maggie Nelson. Artists will include Eadweard Muybridge, Tacita Dean, Martha Rosler, Patti Smith, Christian Marclay, and Harry Dodge. 



David Galaty 

Ph.D., History of Science and Technology

  • Core 107-21 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

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? 


Leah Goldman

Ph.D., European History

  • Core 107-10   MWF 12:40-1:40pm
  • Core 107-26 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

The Culture of Stalinism

Stalinism occupies a unique corner in the contemporary imagination, one filled with political terror, dictatorial, and the epic battles of WWII. To be sure, the nearly 30-year-long Stalin Era included all of these elements, but it also contained much more. Stalinism was, in historian Stephen Kotkin’s famous phrase, “a civilization,” and like any civilization, it generated a range of creative productions that expressed the hopes, fears, aspirations, and wonder of those who lived through it. In this interdisciplinary course, we will explore Stalinism by analyzing its cultural artifacts in a variety of genres, including literature, memoirs, film, music, and visual art. We will consider issues of propaganda and true belief, identity formation and belonging, utopian imagination, and subtle resistance. Along the way, we will also interrogate the radical economic, social, and, demographic shifts of this period, their effect on Soviet citizens’ sense of individual and national selfhood, and their legacy in contemporary post-Soviet Russia. Over the course of the semester, each student will progressively develop an individual research project on a topic related to this course, culminating in a long-form research paper and an oral presentation at our Festival of Stalinist Culture.



Andrea Hibbard

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 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 focuses on literary representations and historical case studies of scandal, sensation, and fraud. We will consider how the form of the novel emerged out of and contributed to scandal. We will explore the gender, class, and racial politics of sensationalism in the media. We will ask ourselves how different communities rely on episodes of fraud to achieve self-definition or as an outlet for fears and fantasies. Along the way, we will study theories of the double life, carnivalesque, moral panic, melodrama, satire, and taboo. This course invites students to think hard about how and why scandal narratives have come to occupy such a prominent place in our national discourse. What does our current appetite for scandalmongering signify? Students will write a final research paper on a scandal of their choosing.


Jane Hunter

Ph.D., History—US Post-Civil War, Cultural, Social, Gender

  • Core 107-31 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

New York City in Two Movements:  Enacting Greenwich Village and Meeting the Harlem Renaissance (1913-1934)

In 1913, the center of American radicalism was lower Manhattan, where artists, immigrant intellectuals, labor activists and sexual liberals convened to talk, argue and try to design a better world.  Such figures as Emma Goldman and Big Bill Haywood gathered in the cafes of Greenwich Village to challenge Victorian gender roles and the American capitalist order. This course blends the traditional classroom with the highly acclaimed role-playing pedagogy “Reacting to the Past,” pioneered at Barnard College.  Students will assume the lives of Greenwich Village characters, research, write, and deliver speeches, engage in strategic gamesmanship, and attempt to influence history.  

When the game is over, we’ll still have questions.  Most African Americans lived in the South, and the villagers talked little about race.  During the Great War, however, black Americans from all backgrounds moved north to seek new opportunities. Writers and intellectuals such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston too settled in Harlem creating an energized African American community and a major cultural movement. The 1920s Harlem Renaissance produced noteworthy literature, music and art, and a charged social milieu that we’ll explore after we leave the Village. Throughout the term, we’ll try to understand the contingent nature of historical outcomes.  History happened, but it did not need to happen just as it did.


Bob Mandel

Ph.D., Political Science

  • Core 107-16 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.


Read McFaddin

M.A., (ABD), History of Art and Architecture

  • Core 107-29 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

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.


Michael Mirabile

Ph.D., Fiction, Film Studies, Post-War and Contemporary Novel

  • Core 107-05  MWF 10:20-11:20am
  • Core 107-20  MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Suspense / Horror / Paranoia

This course will be 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 psychoanalysis, media critique, gender studies, cultural studies, etc.). 

  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. 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.  


Susanna Morrill

Ph.D., History of Religions

  • Core 107-19 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Magic, Witches, and Ghosts in American Culture

Our goal in this class is to challenge and hone our understandings of the concept of religion. Religion has been always been a foundation and generator of American culture. An illuminating way to learn about religion and its importance to American culture is to look at the places where phenomena are defined as being NOT religion—magical practices and witchcraft—and where phenomena are added to religious beliefs and practices—hauntings and communication with the dead. We will examine how the beliefs and practices of magic, witchcraft, and communication with the dead have changed through time, how their function within American culture has changed through time, and how the way they are perceived and accessed has changed through time. Starting with witchcraft scares in seventeenth century New England and ending with the runaway success of Harry Potter, we will consider such phenomena as cunning folk and white magic, the founding of Mormonism, Spiritualism, and the increasingly organized neo-Pagan movement. Our approaches will be historical, sociological, anthropological, and psychological.


Dawn Odell

Ph.D., Art History—East Asian & Early Modern Europe

  • Core 107-13 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Art Crimes

From forgery to bad taste, iconoclasm to theft, terrorism to grave robbing, this course examines why some works of art are perceived as so valuable they are worth stealing, and others are seen as so dangerous they must be destroyed. Through case studies that span several geographic and temporal spaces, we consider the power of art as it is revealed through attempts to eradicate, counterfeit, and illegally possess it. Among other issues, we will study the Nazi theft of art during World War II and current attempts at restitution; explore several unsolved art heists, including the shocking Isabella Steward Gardner Museum robbery; and discuss the ways that modern museums and art galleries confront issues of repatriation amidst a historic and ongoing trade in illicit antiquities. Our class will also consider the role of specialists who attempt to recover and protect art, to explore how art crimes reveal not only fear and desire but also the value of cultural memory.


Bruce Podobnik

Ph.D., Sociology

  • Core 107-22  MWF 1:50-2:50pm

The Pursuit of Happiness

The US Declaration of Independence declares our unalienable rights to be “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  But what is happiness?  Can it be pursued, intensified, or made a more permanent part of our lives?  Is it even important to be happy, or is that an overly self-indulgent quest?  In this course, students will delve into these and related questions.  We will draw on the disciplines of psychology, philosophy, history, sociology and others to shed light on the complex roots of happiness. 


Chris Roberts

Ph.D., Religious Studies

  • Core 107-01  MWF 8-9am
  • Core 107-06  MWF 10:20-11:20am

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.


Molly Robinson Kelly

Ph.D., Romance Languages and Literatures, French

  • Core 107-17 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 the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Christian Gospels, Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Maya Angelou’s poetry, 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.


Jessie Starling

Ph.D., Religious Studies

  • Core 107-23 MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Healing, Spirituality, and Culture

What does it mean to be “well”? How do humans in various cultures define and attribute meaning to pain? How do they determine the effectiveness of a given treatment? Where do they locate healing agency (the power to make one well)?

This course examines these and other questions about the relationship between healing, spirituality, and culture by reading and discussing scholarship from the fields of religious studies, anthropology, sociology, and history. We will look at examples from a variety cultural contexts including ancient Greek, Chinese and Native American traditions. We will pay particular attention to the way in which dominant frameworks of authority for explaining sickness and health have changed over the last 200 years in the West, leading us to inquire into the contemporary appeal of “alternative medicine” in Portland in 2019.


Joel Sweek 

Ph.D., Religious Studies

  • Core 107-09  MWF 11:30am-12:30pm
  • Core 107-24  MWF 1:50-2:50pm

The Ancient City                                                                                                   

Why and how did people begin to live in cities? Modern ambivalence toward “civilization” notwithstanding, 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 sfive 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.


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