Fall Words Sections

Fall 2021 Words Descriptions are below, listed in order of class time. Additional section descriptions were added July 2nd and 12th. To change your preferences simply submit a new form by the new July 15th deadline (prior deadline was the 14th).

The date/time you submit your preferences has no bearing on your placement. The preferences you submit closest to the deadline (on July 15th) will be used.

(listed in order of class time)

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

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.

Added July 2nd:

Queenship: The Politics of Female Households

Hannah Crummé, Watzek Library Head of Special Collections & College Archivist

  • Core 120-19 – MWF 11:30am – 12:30pm

Britain was built by queens. From Boudicia, who defended Celtic Britain against its Roman invaders, to Mary I, who protected Catholic Britain against the Protestantism of her father and brother, England, and later the empire, was shaped by female leaders. This course traces Britain through the monarchs that managed it. Beginning with Elizabeth I’s race against Spain’s Philip II for the new world, considering Anne’s Acts of Union and Victoria’s heyday of empire, and concluding with the increasing isolation of Britain under Elizabeth II, this module will consider how various rulers have shaped the course of history, both of England and those nations and people that interact with it. We will ask: How have female leaders asserted authority throughout time? What are the unique political and diplomatic circumstances that face female courts? Who, if anyone, might assert authority above the Queen, and how could this be done? Using a political, historical, and cultural lens we will assess the efficacies and efficiencies of these reigns to consider what differences can be expected, if any, from a female administration. Texts range from poetry to propaganda and include both modern representations of historic reigns and contemporary accounts.


MWF - 1:50 - 2:50pm & one section 3-4pm

Who am I (without Language)?: Language and Identity

David Hoffman, Instr of Academic English Studies & Blair Orfall, Interactive Learning Center & Teaching Excellence Program

  • Core 120-15 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm
  • Core 120-21 – MWF 3-4pm
  • 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?”

Note: Three sections of this course are offered, one taught by Blair Orfall and two by David Hoffman. Although all three courses have the same theme, assignments and readings could differ between them.

Narrative Refuge: Stories of Exile and Migration

Therese Augst, Assoc Prof of German Studies

  • Core 120-12 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

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. When people are forcibly displaced from familiar surroundings, however, stories gain even greater value. They might function as treasured objects that preserve the connection to a lost homeland, or as acts of imagination that provide an anchor in an unsettled present, or as expressions of self-determination in dehumanizing circumstances.

The texts and films that we will discuss in this course are all based on historical examples of forced migration, but they raise questions that are intended to be more universal and timeless: How can we conceive of basic human rights in a world of borders, passports, and defined nationalities? How might the individual voices of displaced and stateless people offer us diverse perspectives on the effects of globalization and mass migration? And in particular, how do stories — as both reflections on experience and flights of imagination — allow us to cultivate a more complex perspective on the modern world and our place in it?

Orwell: The Conscience of the 20th Century

David Campion, Assoc Prof of History

  • Core 120-14 – 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, 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 working-class 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, 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.

The Politics of Love

JaDee Carathers, Visiting Prof of Sociology

  • Core 120-03 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

What is love? This course situates love as a dynamic social force in an examination of the normative dimensions of relationality across diverse contexts, e.g. intimate, familial, spiritual, educative, and political. As a discursive mechanism, love can reveal societal fault lines and can help us name oppressions. To understand the powerful potentialities of love as praxis, the course centers humanizing pedagogies from scholars bell hooks and Paulo Freire. We will build a critical framework to interrogate social reality, investigate how love works as social cohesion, and consider how it motivates social action both in daily encounters and in global relations. We will ponder key questions about love, humanity, global consciousness, and social change. Can love be a force for political action? What if love is the conceptual lens we apply to efforts toward justice?

Communication and the Environment

Kundai Chirindo, Assoc Prof of Rhetoric & Media Studies

  • Core 120-10 - 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.

Undead Texts

JM Fritzman, Assoc Prof of Philosophy

  • Core 120-08 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

We’ll read four books that won’t die: Susanne Langer’s Philosophy in a New Key, Mircea Eliade’s Sacred and The Profane, Gregory Bateson’s Mind and Nature, and Marshall Bergman’s All That Is Solid Melts Into Air. 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.

Globalization, Identity and Culture: Asian American Experience in the 21stCentury

Kabir Heimsath, Visting Asst Prof w/Term of Anthropology and Asian Studies

  • Core 120-13 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

This course engages Asian-American experience as way to open up new approaches to studying contemporary culture. We explore broad concepts such as identity, globalization, gender, education, and racial perception with a hybrid approach that intentionally crosses boundaries of literature, sociology, anthropology and media studies. Class material will include fiction, memoir, film, art, social media and material objects in addition to more conventional academic texts. The course includes some historical introduction, but is focused on contemporary life experiences. Students are encouraged to use theoretical concepts and methodological approaches suggested by Asian American studies, but urged to work on specific topics of personal interest to them (that is, essays do not need to focus on Asian American topics and no prior background is expected!).

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.

Art Crimes

Dawn Odell, Assoc Prof of Art History

  • Core 120-02 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

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 topics, we will study the Nazi theft of art during World War II and recent court decisions regarding restitution; discuss several unsolved art heists with an FBI art crimes investigator; debate the morality of copying art work from the perspectives of Ming dynasty landscape painters and 1960s pop artists; and explore the choices facing contemporary museums and art galleries as they acquire art amidst a historic and ongoing trade in illicit antiquities. Our class will also learn about the individuals, both professionals and dedicated amateurs, who attempt to recover and protect works of art, and consider how art crimes reveal not only fear and desire but also the value of cultural memory.

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 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); Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894); 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).

Japanese Religion

Jessie Starling, Assoc Prof of Religious Studies

  • Core 120-09 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Japan is variously described as either the most secular or the most spiritual country on earth. Such observations should prompt us to critically reflect on what we mean by words like “religious,” “spiritual” or “secular.” In this course, we will survey diverse examples of religion in Japan, including a prehistoric shaman-queen, a shape-shifting dragon-girl from an Indian sutra, a hidden Christian community, an apocalyptic healing cult, an ascetic monk, a Buddhist mortician, a tour-bus pilgrimage, and an anime film. As we examine the intersection of Japanese religion with gender, statecraft, capitalism, and national identity, we will draw sources and analytical insights from the fields of history, sociology, anthropology and religious studies.

Curiosity, Knowledge, and the Vindictive Divine

Joel Sweek, Assit Prof w/Term of General Education

  • Core 120-11 – 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.

Reality and Identity

Ben Westervelt, Assoc Prof of History

  • Core 120-07 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

“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.”

Contemporary International Fiction

Rishona Zimring, Prof of English

  • Core 120-05 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Together we will read novels published recently (2010 and after) that will take us to radically different times and places, from 18th century Japan to post-WWII Italy and beyond: immersive literary works that foreground experiences of inter-cultural conflicts, encounters, exchanges, and translations. David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, and Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko.

How do such works explore the complexities, difficulties, ambiguities, and rewards of migration, displacement, and cross-cultural mobility (or the lack of it)? To what extent do they offer readers ways to imagine other lives, or, on the other hand, ways to experience detachment and solitude? Do arguments in favor of categorizing such works as “world literature” help or hinder our understanding of their form and function? What might we make of the ease of reading works in translation, from one language to another, or from one medium to another in the case of cinematic adaptations? What arguments can be made about whether these fictions encourage or inhibit ethical approaches to globalization? What understandings of ecology and temporality might these works involve?

Writing for the course engages with these questions, and includes commentaries on the use of language and form in literary works.

Added July 2nd:

Queenship: The Politics of Female Households

Hannah Crummé, Watzek Library Head of Special Collections & College Archivist

  • Core 120-16 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Britain was built by queens. From Boudicia, who defended Celtic Britain against its Roman invaders, to Mary I, who protected Catholic Britain against the Protestantism of her father and brother, England, and later the empire, was shaped by female leaders. This course traces Britain through the monarchs that managed it. Beginning with Elizabeth I’s race against Spain’s Philip II for the new world, considering Anne’s Acts of Union and Victoria’s heyday of empire, and concluding with the increasing isolation of Britain under Elizabeth II, this module will consider how various rulers have shaped the course of history, both of England and those nations and people that interact with it. We will ask: How have female leaders asserted authority throughout time? What are the unique political and diplomatic circumstances that face female courts? Who, if anyone, might assert authority above the Queen, and how could this be done? Using a political, historical, and cultural lens we will assess the efficacies and efficiencies of these reigns to consider what differences can be expected, if any, from a female administration. Texts range from poetry to propaganda and include both modern representations of historic reigns and contemporary accounts.

The Rise and Fall of Sapiens

John Holzwarth, Assoc Prof w/Term of Political Science and Director of the Writing Center

  • Core 120-17 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

What’s so special about sapiens? A “cognitive revolution” some 70,000 years ago paved the way for unprecedented forms of experience – all the moral, intellectual, and aesthetic capacities in which we find value and meaning as human beings. But its evolutionary purpose was to enable forms of group coordination that allowed sapiens to survive, compete, and eventually establish species dominance, with catastrophic results for rival species, ecosystems, and all too often, one another. The legacy of our species is wisdom and folly, individuality and tribalism, beauty and holocaust. Can our cognitive abilities elevate and preserve what is extraordinary about sapiens, or can they only lead to devastation, obsolescence, and extinction? And is it just species vanity to think that it matters?

This course will explore these and many related questions by matching a series of texts with portions of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, setting the stage for discussions about biology and autonomy, group identity and violence, race and gender, and the future of human distinctiveness. Readings may include Plato, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Virginia Woolf, Richard Wright, Hannah Arendt, and Don DeLillo, among others.