Fall Words Sections

Fall 2024 Words Descriptions are below, listed in order of class time and then by professor last name.

**Please note that two sections will be added at a later date, probably closer to the June 30th deadline. The date/time you submit your preference does not impact your placement.

Please email GenEd@lclark.edu if you have any questions.

MWF 11:30am - 12:30pm


Education and Freedom

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

  • Core 120-01 - MWF 11:30am-12:30pm

Any meaningful idea of liberal education depends upon an idea of what it is to be free. But in pursuing education, what kind of freedom do we seek? The western tradition is full of authors who champion different ideas of liberation, but those ideas have also come under fire as exclusionary and colonial, technologically outmoded, and naïve about the realities of the human mind, among other critiques. Is freedom really the ideal at the heart of liberal education, and can any version of it be salvaged from these critiques? In this course, we will explore these and other related questions through authors such as Plato, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mary Shelley, Frederick Douglass, Richard Wright, Karl Marx, Virginia Woolf, and Kazuo Ishiguro, among others.

Knowledge, Power, Responsibility

Catherine Sprecher Loverti, Visiting Prof of World Languages & Literatures - German

  • Core 120-02 - MWF 11:30am-12:30pm

In public discourse, you often hear the expression ‘Knowledge is Power.’ Yet what does this really mean? What is knowledge, and what is its relation to power? And what are the ethical implications of this power for individuals, groups, and society at large? In this course, we will look at different forms of knowledge and how writers, film-makers, and other artists envision power, as well as the responsibility that comes with it. In some works, knowledge as power can lead to the liberation of individuals and whole groups, especially if that knowledge is forbidden (examples include Plato, Frederick Douglass, Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo, The Matrix, Black Panther). In other works, knowledge leads to a different form of power, namely a power that reaches beyond its creators and threatens to destroy them (examples include Frankenstein, The Sandman, Dr. Strangelove, Blade Runner, Oppenheimer). Throughout the semester, we will explore how knowledge leads to power, and how the individual is faced with the responsibility resulting from this power. We will investigate these ideas by studying works ranging from the Bible to Barbie

MWF 1:50 - 2:50pm


The Greatest American Novels: 2014-2023

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-third decades 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: Phil Klay, Redeployment (2014); Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017); Sigrid Nunez, The Friend (2018); Charles Yu, Interior Chinatown (2020), and Tess Gunty, The Rabbit Hutch (2023).

Note: Several of these texts engage difficult topics, including racial violence, sexual violence, suicide, and war. They feature graphic descriptions of violent acts or experiences and disturbing accounts of the physical and emotional aftermath. 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.’

Critiquing Critical Race Theory

JM Fritzman, Assoc Prof of Philosophy

  • Core 120-08 - MWF 1:50-1:50pm

Critical race theory is in the news. Some people say that it’s being taught in schools. It’s woke ideology. It’s divisive and discriminatory. It indoctrinates and brainwashes children. It makes them feel guilty. Or so they say. This section will aim to understand what critical race theory is and to discover its strengths, limitations, and potentials.

Note: You must be prepared to engage sympathetically and critically with material that will be difficult and challenging. And you must recognize that while our positionalities might be where we begin, they do not determine where we go or who we become. If you have questions or concerns about this section, please email me, fritzman@lclark.edu

Exile and Belonging

Mo Healy, Assoc Prof of History

  • Core 120-04 - 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, we 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 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 of Aeneas’s ancient exile and reestablishing a home, accounts of mass incarceration in the United States, displacement in Palestine and the afterlife of parents’ immigration in the imaginations of their children . 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 can tell which stories? Identity and representation

Suhaila Meera, Asst Prof of Theatre

  • Core 120-10 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Who can play/write/wear what? Though contested from Hollywood to Oprah’s Book Club – to our own college settings – questions of identity and representation lack easy answers. In this collaborative course, we will examine cultural production that centers encounters with an ‘Other’ to formulate our own criteria for evaluating these issues. Our syllabus will be flexible and co-created, with students invited to bring in material; texts will range from the theoretical to the theatrical. We’ll ask: how do representations rehearse and resist erasure, appropriation, misogyny, hetero-/cis-normativity, and racial violence? How do we assess authorial positionality and responsibility? Is there such a thing as ‘good representation’? And even, perhaps – how useful is identity, really?

Please note: we will be engaging authors whose cultural and historical contexts will be different from ours, and our discussions may touch across a spectrum of challenging topics. I invite you to reach out to me – in advance of the course, or once we’re underway – with any questions or concerns.

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.


Matthieu Raillard, Asst Prof of Hispanic Studies

  • Core 120-09 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

What is real? Is reality defined as something you can touch, see, or hear? Is it something that others confirm is real? Are you certain that there is a real world outside of your own perception? Are dreams any less real than the waking world? Are you sure that you exist?

In this course, we will grapple with these ageless, infuriating, perplexing, and fascinating questions through the works of various authors, artists and filmmakers who all shared the same doubts and wonder as to the nature of reality. Coming from a wide range of cultures, backgrounds, and ethnicities, these thinkers and visionaries took on the challenge of figuring out what is “real” in a similarly wide array of styles, genres, and media. We’ll dive into short stories, novels, plays, films and comics that engage with the nature of reality. What can we learn from them?

Contemporary International Fiction

Rishona Zimring, Prof of English

  • Core 120-07 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Together we will read novels that take us to radically different places, and all of which fiercely imagine and take stock of the calamities and dreams of the 20 th and 21st centuries. These are immersive literary works that foreground experiences of inter-cultural conflicts, encounters, exchanges, and translations. They raise questions about words like “international” and “contemporary.” They are historical, and a-historical. Our reading list includes Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, Andreï Makine’s Dreams of My Russian Summers, Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, Fleur Jaeggy’s Sweet Days of Discipline, and Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. We will also consider some film and television.

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? Who are their protagonists, what do they imagine, and how and why do they dream, suffer, love, and live?