Fall Words Sections

Fall 2022 Words Descriptions are below, listed in order of class time and then by professor last name. Additional section descriptions will be added soon.

The date/time you submit your preferences has no bearing on your placement. The preferences you submit closest to the deadline (on June 27th) will be used.

(listed in order of class time)

MWF 11:30am - 12:30pm

(sections also taught MWF 1:50-2:50pm, please see descriptions there)

Communication and the Environment

Kundai Chirindo, Assoc Prof of Rhetoric & Media Studies                                      

  • Core 120-03 - MWF 11:30am-12:30pm 

Curiosity, Knowledge, and the Vindictive Divine

Joel Sweek, Assit Prof w/Term of General Education

  • Core 120-01 - 11:30am-12:30pm

Gender and Performance

Jenna Tamimi, Visiting Prof of Theatre

  • Core 120-02 – MWF 11:30am – 12:30pm


MWF - 1:50 - 2:50pm


Orwell: The Conscience of the 20th Century

David Campion, Assoc Prof of History

  • Core 120-08 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

— George Orwell

Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), known to the world as George Orwell, was an essayist, novelist, poet, journalist, broadcaster, dishwasher, colonial policeman, volunteer soldier, grocer, political activist, social critic, and prophet (of a sort).

In this course we will immerse ourselves in the tumultuous history of the 20th century through the life and writing of this unheroic hero, trenchant observer, uncertain participant, and fearless and provocative critic. Our journey will take us from England’s most exclusive boarding school, to the villages and jails of colonial Burma, the hotel kitchens and flophouses of Europe’s capitals, the mining towns of England’s industrial North, the battlefields of Spain, and finally into a dystopian future. Ever relevant and always honest, Orwell forces us to examine the strength of our convictions and our place amid structures of power in a changing world. In the process, we must reckon with such enduring concerns as the challenges and discipline of writing, the use and abuse of language, class and poverty, the legacies of imperialism, the dynamics and consequences of ideological conflict, individual privacy and the rise of the surveillance state, and the dangers and attractions of authoritarianism.

Course texts include Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), Burmese Days (1934), “Shooting an Elephant” (1936), The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), Homage to Catalonia (1938), Animal Farm (1945), “Politics and the English Language” (1945), “Why I Write” (1946), and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Note: Orwell is not for the faint of heart. The course readings will regularly include blunt and graphic descriptions of poverty, racism, sexual exploitation, and violence. Students concerned about the content of this course may email or speak with the instructor in advance.

Communication and the Environment

Kundai Chirindo, Assoc Prof of Rhetoric & Media Studies

  • Core 120-03 - MWF 11:30am-12:30pm
  • Core 120-13 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

“Parties [to the Paris Agreement] shall cooperate in taking measures, as appropriate, to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, recognizing the importance of these steps with respect to enhancing actions under this Agreement.” Article 12 of the “Paris Agreement.”

Sensitive to Article 12 of the “Paris Agreement,” this section seeks to improve our understanding of the dynamics that affect the spread and acceptance of information about climate change among different groups of people. Good and effective communication is essential to any effort to manage the ecological crisis we now live in (known as the anthropocene). This is because communication and the environment (however you understand both terms) are inextricably bound up in each other. Communication affects (and effects) ideas we have about the environment at the same that environments shape and influence communicative practices, products, and outcomes. This section explores how communication shapes and shifts different ideas of human relations to “the environment” across different societies. We will begin by learning some approaches to the study of communication that illuminate how communication shapes and is shaped by environments. Then, using rhetorical-critical methods, we will practice analyzing environmental communication from the perspectives of communities in different parts of the world. Stated differently, we are going to use rhetorical criticism to explore the mutual effects and that communication and environments have on each other through the analysis of environment related communications.

The Greatest American Novels: 2012-2021

Rachel Cole, Assoc Prof of English

  • Core 120-05 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Each November, five distinguished judges choose one novel or story collection as the winner of that year’s National Book Award for Fiction. Each panel of judges is free to set its own criteria for the award, and as such the list of winners through the years represents an evolving sense of what can and should count as the very best of American literature. In this course, we will read and study some of the novels that have won the National Book Award over the last ten years. As we read, we will try to answer three questions: What stories and characters, what questions and concerns, occupy the “best” American literature today? How consistent are these novels in their interests and preoccupations—do they converge in their understandings of what it means to be American in the second decade of the twenty-first century? Finally, to what extent do each of us recognize their questions and concerns as our own? Do these, publicly celebrated novels represent our own Americas—our cultures, our present moments, our worries and joys?

Texts: Louise Erdrich, The Round House (2012); Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (2016); Sigrid Nunez, The Friend (2018); Susan Choi, Trust Exercise (2019); and Charles Yu, Interior Chinatown (2020).

Note: Several of these texts engage difficult topics, including racial violence, sexual violence, and suicide. If you find reading about and discussing such topics traumatic, this may not be the section for you. If you have any questions or would like to talk before selecting this section, please let me know—I would be happy to chat over email or on Zoom.

This American Language

Keith Dede, Prof of World Languages - Chinese

  • Core 120-17 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

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, “What influences our language choices?”, “What judgments do we all make about language use?”, and, “Why do my parents put … in their texts?!”. The major issues discussed will be linguistic diversity, linguistic discrimination, language evolution, language endangerment and language revitalization. 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 understanding some of the many issues with which it is entangled.

Undead Texts

JM Fritzman, Assoc Prof of Philosophy

  • Core 120-11 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

We’ll read four books that won’t die: Bruno Snell’s Discovery of the Mind, Mary Douglas’ Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, Raymond Williams’ Marxism and Literature, and Leah N. Gordon’s From Power to Prejudice: The Rise of Racial Individualism in Midcentury America. They’re classics. But, paradoxically, they’re seldom read. They’re ambitious and anti-disciplinary. They’re too radical, go too far, and won’t stay in their lanes.

Exile and Belonging

Mo Healy, Assoc Prof of History

  • Core 120-09 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

This semester we will study works that dramatize and theorize the condition of exile: enforced residence in a foreign land. In some texts the journey into exile is a metaphor; in others it is an escape, a physical ordeal, or a psychological odyssey. The experience of exile in turn raises questions about what it means to truly “belong” somewhere. Along the way, will encounter authors who articulate the challenge of belonging and the drama of exile. We will pair classic texts of banishment and repatriation such as the biblical books of Genesis and Exodus, with contemporary texts and films from our modern world of borders, passports, and defined nationalities. Each author or filmmaker presents a different take on our theme of exile and belonging: Plato prefers death to exile from his beloved Athens, and Frederick Douglass asks what it takes for a slave to become free. We will read about Native American banishment from homelands as well asaccounts of mass incarceration in the United States. Intimate, private experiences of exile and belonging feature in the girlhood memories of Marjane Satrapi, while contemporary stories of refugees uprooted from home on a global scale in the works of Viet Thanh Nguyen and Ai Weiwei. Each of us brings to this class a personal sense of what it means to “belong” (or not); this can serve as a starting point for our exploration of others’ historical and modern experiences of exile.

Who am I (without language)? Language and Identity

David Hoffman,  Instructor in Academic English Studies

  • Core 120-18 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

“Know thyself” is a famous but problematic instruction: How are we to know ourselves? How can we identify our “selves” without limiting our opportunities and potential? These questions are compounded when we consider that our construct of “self” is almost entirely mediated by our native tongue. How does that mediation affect our perception of ourselves? How does it help create that perception? If we were to speak another language natively, would we have a different identity? Would concepts and experiences be altered or impossible in that language? This course will consider the many ways in which language and identity interact to affect our perception of ourselves and our place in the world. Through textbook readings and supplemental weekly blogs and podcasts, we will explore questions like “How do our political, social, economic, sexual, spiritual or other identities interact with our language, and what are the effects of that interaction?”

Ideology, Illusion, and Critical Theory

Eli Lichtenstein, Visiting Asst Prof of Philosophy

  • Core 120-16 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

What is ideology and how does it sustain injustice? What are the illusions that lead human beings to accept an oppressive social order? Critical theory is a philosophical tradition that has sought to answer these questions by revealing the hidden causes of ideologies and illusions that reconcile us to an unjust world. In this course we will examine foundational texts in this tradition written by Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Frantz Fanon. We’ll explore the critical frameworks each thinker used to explain deep-rooted social and psychological problems, including inequality, domination, alienation, and racism. We’ll also consider some of their proposed solutions to these problems, such as revolution, violence, psychoanalysis, and the abandonment of morality. Texts to be read include: Marx and Engels’ The German Ideology; Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality; Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents; and Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks.

Conceptions of Justice: God, the State, and Outcasts

Todd Lochner, Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr. Assoc Prof of Govt (Pol Sci Dept)

  • Core 120-12 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

This course examines the concept of justice and its relationship to human affairs. Questions to be addressed include: Does justice flow from divine will? The state? Reason? Does it even exist? What is the relationship between society and justice? How do we balance the desire for justice with other values such as love or compassion—or are the latter an intrinsic element of the former? Is justice as a concept fixed, or does it change depending on time and culture? What do we owe people whose actions deeply offend our sense of justice, if anything? In order to explore these questions, we will examine a variety of challenging and sometimes controversial readings from the fields of literature, philosophy, and religion.

Paradoxes of Reading

Michael Mirabile, Asst Prof w/Term of English

  • Core 120-06 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

This section will be devoted to the processes and paradoxes of reading. Why do we read? What, exactly, is involved in the activity known as “reading”? According to several critics, this activity is fundamentally paradoxical: while authors often invite us to interpret their writings, they also construct or frame those writings in ways that resist totalizing or conclusive explanations. What is meant by “textual analysis,” “close reading,” “critical reading,” “symptomatic reading,” etc.? How do we understand the related tasks involved in reading for the subtexts and contexts of a work? Some of the topics we will explore are: irony, ambiguity, metafiction (i.e., fiction about fiction), figurative language, tropes, codes, narrative (i.e., narrative closure vs. narrative openness). Additionally, our class discussions will provide an opportunity to introduce and familiarize ourselves with complex concepts such as ekphrasis, semiotics, historicity, exegesis, and hermeneutics. We will emphasize literary works (but will include non-fictional, philosophical, and theoretical works) with the purpose of considering the challenges of approaching texts that may have multiple meanings and may be interpreted in many ways. Our readings will be drawn from some of the following authors: Plato, Frederick Douglass, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Franz Kafka, Alice Walker, Richard Rodriguez, Jean Toomer, and Jorge Luis Borges.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Bruce Podobnik, Assoc Prof of Sociology

  • Core 120-14 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

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.

Fictions of Identity

Will Pritchard, Assoc Prof of English

  • Core 120-04 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

In this class we will be reading, discussing and writing about texts that investigate the nature of personal identity. More specifically, we will consider works from several centuries that depict identity as arbitrary, artificial, fictional, malleable and even multiple: tales of impostors, stories of “passing,” narratives of assimilation and accounts of divided selves. Some key questions will be: To what extent are identities, in these texts and in our own lives, innate (determined by birth) and to what extent are they up for grabs (forged in performance)? Is your identity defined by who you feel you are, or is it determined by who others say you are?

Tentative reading list: William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, or What You Will (1601-02); Eliza Haywood, Fantomina, or Love in a Maze (1725); Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886); Nella Larsen, Passing (1929); Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (1982); Julia Alvarez, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991); and Danzy Senna, Caucasia (1998).

Curiosity, Knowledge, and the Vindictive Divine

Joel Sweek, Assit Prof w/Term of General Education

  • Core 120-01 - 11:30am-12:30pm
  • Core 120-04 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Texts from earliest times record a frustration with what seem to be limitations set on human knowledge. Early on, this gave rise to an ambivalence toward the gatekeepers of that inaccessible information: the gods. In our impatience, we began to deploy various alternative means of obtaining knowledge: from metaphysical speculation to supernatural devices. This course reads in this historical-literary frustration over knowledge, from the Flood to deals with the Devil: in ancient Near Eastern literature; in Greek, Roman, and Christian sources; in Judaica; in Medieval and Renaissance texts; and in modern writers like Nietzsche and Bulgakov.

Gender and Performance

Jenna Tamimi, Visiting Prof of Theatre

  • Core 120-02 – MWF 11:30am – 12:30pm
  • Core 120-15 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

This course is an introduction to some of the main keywords and discussions that shape the interdisciplinary fields of Gender Studies and Performance Studies. We will look specifically at ways in which gender intersects with race, class, and sexuality. Topics we will explore include reproductive rights, the beauty myth, labor, representation, and more. We will work together to apply these concepts to cultural productions (films, plays, etc.), exploring the performativity of gender both on the stage and screen, and in everyday life.

Abolish the Police?

Elliott Young, Prof of History

  • Core 120-10 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

This course will explore the history and contemporary debate over policing with a special focus on Portland. In the last few years, a major debate has emerged between those who argue for defunding or abolishing the police and those who push for expanding the police. Even some of those who argue in favor of police accountability and reform think we should increase resources to police and put more officers on the streets. By looking at media and politicians’ portrayals of crime and comparing them to actual data on crime, we will see how a largely false moral panic around crime has been mobilized to push for increasing funding for police. Portland became one of the centers of this debate in 2020 during the racial justice protests that led to more than one hundred consecutive days of protests and a deployment of federal and local police who brutally attacked demonstrators. Some of the questions we will be asking in this course are: What should the role of police be? What functions do the police serve now that can better be handled by unarmed alternatives? Do police disproportionally target BIPOC people, the houseless and the mentally ill? What would a society without police look like?

Texts include: Alex Vitale, The End of Policing, Elizabeth Hinton, America on Fire, and Stuart Schrader, Badges Without Borders.

This class will include readings and visual images that are disturbing and portray acts of racist violence and other forms of police brutality. If you have concerns about the content of the course, you are warmly invited to contact me.