Fall Section Descriptions

Fall 2021 Descriptions are below.  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.    

Numbers

listed in order of class time

MWF 11:30am - 12:30pm

 

Numbers are Human

Tamily Weissman-Unni, Assoc Prof of Biology

  • Core 121-02 – MWF 11:30am – 12:30pm

Numbers are critical to our understanding of each other as humans. We compare ourselves based on how tall we are, how much money or friends we have, or the size of our family. However, numbers are not perfect; they can be easily misinterpreted, or even subtly changed when writing articles, stories, or histories. How do we know which numbers to trust, and which to question? We will practice methods for understanding and analyzing numbers in different contexts, ranging widely from how numbers are used to understand CoVID-19, inequities in STEM, historical events, and even neural circuits in the brain.

Added July 2nd:

Politics and Election Science: The Paradox of Choice

Ian McDonald, Visiting Prof of Political Science

  • Core 121-01 – MWF 11:30am – 12:30pm

We expect democracies to translate public desire into coherent political choice. And we expect elections to deliver these results. But aggregating preferences with popular elections is harder than it looks. The simplest elections based on innocent design choices will produce paradoxical and confounding results.

In this course, we’ll introduce mathematical and logical tools that can help us understand the paradoxes of elections. You will use these tools to develop and refine your quantitative reasoning skills and apply them to a fundamental problem: how does adding together individual preferences make democracy possible? Topics will include redistricting, voting procedures, and election prediction models. We will look at contemporary examples such as the 2021 New York City mayoral election, and the effect of using districts in choosing the Seattle City Council. You will develop arguments, apply data visualization tools and consider the relevance of statistical reasoning and causal inference.

Added July 6th

The Numbered City

Read Mcfaddin, Institutional Research

  • Core 121-13 – MWF 11:30am-12:30pm

“They can print statistics and count the populations in hundreds of thousands, but to each man a city consists of no more than a few streets, a few houses, a few people.” -Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana, 1958

This course asks the central question: how might we understand the complicated relationship between our understanding of the “ideal” city, our experiences in cities, and the numbers and images we use to describe the City? We will explore the ways in which statistics, maps, and images may corroborate or belie what we understand to be true of lived experience within urban spaces. Our course considers the city a living and dynamic organism, both a human construct and ever-present agent subtly shaping social performance. The curriculum will highlight diverse academic disciplines, ranging from art history to sociology, philosophy to urban planning. Participating students should be interested in working creatively with fellow classmates and making occasional off-campus site visits. Prior experience with statistics and mapping is not required or expected.

____________________________________________________________________

MWF - 1:50-2:50pm

& one section 3-4pm

 

Networks and Trees

Duncan Parks

  • Core 121-12 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm
  • Core 121-15 – MWF 3-4pm

The branching network known as a tree is a fundamental geometry in both natural and human systems, from circulatory systems in animals and plants to transportation and utility networks. We will apply our understanding of tree networks to a variety of real-world examples. We will use mathematical tools to build optimal networks in utility or telecommunications contexts. We will then use those tools to build evolutionary trees and evaluate cross-species comparisons in a tree-based context. Finally, we will examine the branching patterns of vascular systems in actual plants, evaluating both the performance of those systems and the fractal geometries that govern their development. Students need not have advanced mathematical skills to use these tools, and students of all backgrounds will encounter new methods and approaches in this course.

Coding, Data, and People (POD)

Peter Drake, Assoc Prof of Computer Science & Liz Stanhope, Assoc Prof of Mathematics

  • Core 121-03 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm
  • Core 121-07 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

This course introduces you to coding and data skills to address questions about the human experience. For example: What is the relationship between wealth and happiness? Do critics treat movies differently depending on the gender of the director? This course examines many such questions, including those that you propose. You will develop skills for analyzing and visualizing real-world data using the Python programming language. The target audience for this section is students with no previous experience with coding or statistics.

Order, Chaos & Randomness

Yung-Pin Chen, Prof of Statistics 

  • Core 121-06 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Chances are all around us every day of our lives. Chaotic and unpredictable phenomena appear in nature. Despite the disorderly occurrences, we can find observable patterns or visible regularities of form in very diverse contexts in the natural world. In this course we will explore both chaotic and random phenomena in nature and in our daily lives. The course is centered around a collection of class discussions and activities that develop effective thinking and build analytic reasoning skills as habits of mind. The exploring topics include: numbers as a language, number system (including complex numbers), numerical patterns in nature, infinity, fractals, randomness, random walks, sampling, data, and distribution models.

How to Build a Moral Machine

Joel Martinez, Assoc Prof of Philosophy

  • Core 121-08 - MWF 1:50-2:50pm

In this course, we will study the history and current development of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is increasingly playing a role in decision-making that influences almost every aspect of our lives. We want AIs to make rational decisions. We also want them to make decisions that align with human values. But, to do this we need to quantify both rationality and our values. How can we do this? In this class we answer the question by studying models both of rational and moral decision-making. These models have already been used by philosophers, psychologists, economists and even in advertising. Some of these quantitative models have been used by AI researchers and some have not. So, in this class we will also investigate which quantitative models of decision-making hold out the most promise for making moral machines.

Numbers are Human

Tamily Weissman-Unni, Assoc Prof of Biology

  • Core 121-05 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Numbers are critical to our understanding of each other as humans. We compare ourselves based on how tall we are, how much money or friends we have, or the size of our family. However, numbers are not perfect; they can be easily misinterpreted, or even subtly changed when writing articles, stories, or histories. How do we know which numbers to trust, and which to question? We will practice methods for understanding and analyzing numbers in different contexts, ranging widely from how numbers are used to understand CoVID-19, inequities in STEM, historical events, and even neural circuits in the brain.

Added July 2nd:

Fire: Energy and Civilization

Jessica Kleiss, Assoc Prof of Environmental Studies

  • Core 121-04 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

The ancient Greeks described the composition of all matter and nature in terms of the “elements” earth, air, fire, and water. This course dives deep into “Fire,” more commonly referred to today as “Energy.” Early energy sources such as the burning of wood, followed by coal, and then oil, have led to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The prospect of climate change has motivated the development of a dizzying array of alternative energy technologies that use sources as diverse as tides, kelp, and the deep earth. This course will discuss fundamental concepts such as heat, work, the laws of thermodynamics, and the generation of electricity. Then we will center our inquiry on this guiding question: What must be done to reach the goal of net-zero global carbon emissions?”

To address this question, we will investigate energy usage in agriculture, manufacturing, buildings, and transportation. We will explore the influence of energy on community health, poverty, and security. Our inquiry will be rooted in mining publicly available datasets that we will analyze with online tools, spreadsheets, and basic computer coding. We will interpret and construct graphical representations of data and work in teams to tackle the pressing challenge of an equitable transition to global net-zero carbon emissions.

The Census

EJ Carter, Watzek Library Special Collections & Archives Librarian

  • Core 121-09 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

The act of counting people has been controversial for centuries. The census originally served the two chief functions of government, taxation and raising an army. But it also ignited bitter tensions over political representation, the sources of wealth and poverty, and the status of religious and ethnic minorities. In the United States the census has been at the center of some of our biggest disputes: the Three-Fifths clause; the regional jockeying for power that led to the Civil War; the subsequent debates over voting rights and citizenship; mass immigration starting in the 19th century (and its restriction in the 1920s); and the debates sparked by the Civil Rights Movement over identity and representation that continue today. The class will survey this history, but it will also impart practical skills: how to ask and answer research questions using census data, and how to work with the tools that offer access to it.

The Numbered City

Read Mcfaddin, Institutional Research 

  • Core 121-10 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

“They can print statistics and count the populations in hundreds of thousands, but to each man a city consists of no more than a few streets, a few houses, a few people.” -Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana, 1958

This course asks the central question: how might we understand the complicated relationship between our understanding of the “ideal” city, our experiences in cities, and the numbers and images we use to describe the City? We will explore the ways in which statistics, maps, and images may corroborate or belie what we understand to be true of lived experience within urban spaces. Our course considers the city a living and dynamic organism, both a human construct and ever-present agent subtly shaping social performance. The curriculum will highlight diverse academic disciplines, ranging from art history to sociology, philosophy to urban planning. Participating students should be interested in working creatively with fellow classmates and making occasional off-campus site visits. Prior experience with statistics and mapping is not required or expected.

Politics and Election Science: The Paradox of Choice

Ian McDonald, Visiting Prof of Political Science

  • Core 121-11 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

We expect democracies to translate public desire into coherent political choice. And we expect elections to deliver these results. But aggregating preferences with popular elections is harder than it looks. The simplest elections based on innocent design choices will produce paradoxical and confounding results.

In this course, we’ll introduce mathematical and logical tools that can help us understand the paradoxes of elections. You will use these tools to develop and refine your quantitative reasoning skills and apply them to a fundamental problem: how does adding together individual preferences make democracy possible? Topics will include redistricting, voting procedures, and election prediction models. We will look at contemporary examples such as the 2021 New York City mayoral election, and the effect of using districts in choosing the Seattle City Council. You will develop arguments, apply data visualization tools and consider the relevance of statistical reasoning and causal inference.

Added July 12th:

Bad Data, Misinterpretation, and Bullshit

Joe Gantt, Director of Forensics and Instr of Rhetoric and Media Studies

  • Core 121-14 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

The average person is subjected to a staggering number of arguments on a daily basis. Marketing firms estimate that those claims number in the thousands or even tens of thousands. Yet, many of those claims are built upon unstable or deceitful foundations. In some cases, data are unreliable or invalid. In other cases, valid data are unintentionally misinterpreted or misunderstood. And finally, some arguments are intentionally designed to misrepresent data in order to deceive; colloquially, we can call those arguments bullshit.

This course will present an argumentative model to the claims we encounter. Students in the course will examine arguments from sports, politics, health, and economics among other subjects in learning both how to construct better quantitative arguments and to identify bullshit when they come across it.

Was the second sentence of this course description bullshit? That’s the type of claim we’ll examine in this course.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Words 

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 lense 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); andDanzy 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 secularor the most spiritualcountry 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 animefilm. 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-culturalconflicts, 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-culturalmobility (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 lense 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 themoral, 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.