Spring Words Sections

The majority of Spring Words sections are taught MWF 1:50-2:50pm. The few morning sections offered will be listed before the afternoon sections for each course.

MWF 11:30am-12:30pm — 2 Sections

Knowledge, Power, and Responsibility

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

  • Core 120-01 – 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’ Narrative, Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo, The Matrix). 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). 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 the Black Panther.


Conceptions of Justice: God, the State, and Outcasts

Todd Lochner

This section is also offered at the main class time, please find the section description and professor info further down, listed alphabetical by professor last name.

MWF - 1:50-2:50pm

New section, added January 10th:

Queenship: The Politics of Female Households

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

  • Core 120-11 – 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.

Beyond Humans

Katja Altpeter, Assoc Prof of World Languages - German

  • Core 120-12 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Many creation myths place humans at the center of creation. Some would argue that anthropocentrism (that is, the centering and privileging of humans amidst other species and within nature more generally) is at the core of environmentally destructive human tendencies. They urge us to replace anthropocentrism with ecocentrism, that is, a nature-centered system of values instead of a human-centured one.

In this course, we will examine different ways of thinking beyond humans. We will study historical movements such as panpsychism (i.e. the view that all things have a mind) and contemporary theories that argue for the agency of animals, plants, and, really, all matter. Through the study of theory (e.g. Jane Bennett, Donna Haraway), fiction (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy), and film (Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Alex Garland’s Annihilation) we will explore questions like: Are we separate or fundamentally connected to nature and to other species? What challenges arise when we think of humans as a unique species that tops the hierarchy of living things? And how do certain authors envision more porous forms of existence, in which boundaries between human/animal, human/alien, or human/machine are dissolved.

Alternative Realities: Making the Best of Dystopian and Apocalyptic Worlds

John Barritt, Inst of Academic English Studies

  • Core 120-18 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Recent works of “sci-fi” and “speculative fiction” have offered readers an unsettling diet of dystopian and apocalyptic fare, including deadly global pandemics, environmental catastrophes, and social upheaval—scenarios which no longer seem so distant, given our current realities. Yet in these works filled with dire predictions and bitter pills, not all is “doom and gloom.” Many of these authors hold out hope for humanity and have tried to imagine alternative ways of living beyond the end of “life as we know it.”

This course will juxtapose works of fiction with the writings of essayists and theorists to examine the intersection of issues such as identity, race, gender, economic disparity, immigration, and climate change. Through close reading and literary analysis, students will engage with the texts in an interpretative, critical dialogue, as a means of stimulating deep reflection and writing on a range of issues affecting the world today.

Note: Many of the works we will examine deal with serious issues and may contain scenes or language that some readers may find disturbing. If you have any concerns or questions about the course content, please feel free to contact me by email.

This American Language

Keith Dede, Prof of World Languages - Chinese

  • Core 120-10 – 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.

Culture and the Concert Hall

Kathy FitzGibbon, Prof of Music

  • Core 120-05 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

From the nineteenth century through the present day, the European and North American “concert hall” has prized the composer-genius figure, traditionally male and authoritarian conductors, and even certain kinds of concert etiquette. Among the questions this course will ask: Where do these notions originate, and how do they still shape today’s performances and music criticism? How are musical organizations today working to foster equity in the concert hall, in programming and personnel? Can a composer draw upon cultural influences outside of their individual lived experience, or combine allusions to multiple cultures? A special case study will be Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem, to be premiered by Resonance Ensemble and the Oregon Symphony in May 2022. The class will have the opportunity to view an advance copy of the text and music, as well as meet with the composer and other participants in the project.

The Space Between: Writing Across Difference in American Literature

Kristin Fujie, Assoc Prof of English

  • Core 120-09 - 1:50-2:50pm

“[T]he Borderlands are physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy.”
—Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands / La Frontera

This course is all about in-between spaces. We will immerse ourselves in works of American literature—poetry, fiction, essays, memoires, and genre mashups—that evoke and explore the fraught spaces created when two bodies, generations, cultures, or even species converge. It is common enough to say that language is a “bridge,” but each of our writers will test the idea that words connect. If language is a bridge, they ask, what are its dimensions and architecture? Might language constitute, instead, an obstacle? An evasion? A wound? Our texts engage these questions vis-a-vis global histories of (im)migration, colonialism, slavery, and war, and through the more intimate perspectives of family, sexuality, and personal identity. Taken as a whole, our syllabus resembles a mosaic—one that highlights the internal gaps and interstices within American selfhood, American culture, and the American dream. Readings may include work by Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Layli Longsoldier, James Baldwin, Jhumpa Lahiri, Valeria Luiselli, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Ocean Vuong.

Note: I would like students to know in advance that some of the course readings include difficult material related to domestic violence, racism, and addiction. You are warmly encouraged to reach out to me with questions about the course and the readings.

People, Paleography, and the Past: Analyzing the Slavery Archive

Nancy Gallman, Assist Prof of History

  • Core 120-15 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

The sources we use to study the history of slavery in North America exist in multiple forms and archives. Written and unwritten narratives, diaries, newspapers, legal codes, trial transcripts, ledgers, material culture, visual art, music–all found in archives, libraries, museums, family papers, and memories. How do we discover and recover these materials? How do we analyze them to understand their origins, their purpose, and their significance? How do we interpret them to answer questions about the institution of slavery, the experience of slavery, and the end of slavery? Do the voices of the enslaved speak in these records? How do we use the slavery archive to work through the silences and fathom the realities of their lives? What are the stakes of this kind of research?

In this course, we will address these questions by exploring major themes in the history of slavery and annotating the world’s largest document collection on this topic, Slavery & Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive. This database contains over five million pages of archival material from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries written in multiple languages, including Spanish, English, and French. With a combination of collaborative research, discussion, and writing, students will develop skills in paleography (deciphering handwritten historical manuscripts) and historical analysis to examine the archive’s role in the study of enslaved peoples and the people who enslaved them.

One but Many: Language, Heritage, and Identity in the US

Lina Gomaa, Visiting Inst of World Languages - Arabic

  • Core 120-16 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

This course engages with languages and heritage language communities in the US. The communities we will study speak: native American languages, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, German, and others. We explore these communities’ history, identity, language loss, language gain, language resistance, healing, and bi/multilingualism. Class material will include the main textbook: Language Diversity in the USA, along with scholarly articles, films, documentaries, and academic texts that study what these communities have experienced and policies that (de)promoted their language use. Students are encouraged to use theoretical concepts used in Critical heritage language learning theory. They are urged to work on specific topics of special interest to them (ie: papers can include other languages and communities of interest the students prefer and other topics related to languages use and policy in the US).

Magic, Miracle and Wonder in the Pre-Modern World

Karen Gross, Assoc Prof of English

  • Core 120-02 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Inspired by our Main Stage’s upcoming production of Medea this spring, we will examine how ancient and medieval writers imagined magic and the supernatural. Magic attributes to words the power to change reality: a spell or a curse can transform one thing into another. It frequently produces wonders that demand interpretation, with obscure intentions and deceptive surfaces: hence why stories involving magic often become self-referential, interrogating how texts and art make meaning. Magic also can be a metaphor for those mysterious private transformations we all experience but are baffled by, whether that be falling in love or discovering that we have indeed forgiven someone, not just in our words but in our hearts. Questions we may consider this semester include: Who was thought capable of using magic? To what ends or under what conditions might magic be used? Is magic unnatural or hyper-natural? How is a miracle different from magic? Is art a form of enchantment? Are there ethical or aesthetic principles inherent to wonders? How does magic help us grapple with difficult truths? Our readings will include Euripides’s Medea, Virgil’s Fourth “Georgics”, Apuleius’s The Golden Ass, “Sir Orfeo” and the lays of Marie de France, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, saints’ lives and miracles, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. We may also read some modern critics and historians, including Jane Bennett, Caroline Walker Bynum, and Marcel Mauss.

While welcoming observations about how the past informs and departs from our present understanding, please note that there is no Harry Potter, Gandalf, or Sabrina in this course. Other than modern critics, our most recent reading dates to 1611.

Utopia and Dystopia

Gordon Kelly, Assoc Prof w/Term in Humanities

  • Core 120-06 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Authors from antiquity to the present day have imagined ideal societies, often set in alternate realities or strange locales. Conversely, literary dystopias construct hypothetical worlds that are irredeemably flawed. Despite this other-worldly setting, works with utopic and dystopic themes critique issues that face real human societies. In this section, we will explore the possibilities of utopic and dystopic literature as an effective medium of social commentary. Some real-world topics that our readings will examine include gender roles, racism, the nature of government, censorship, the tension between communal solidarity and individual freedom, and the effects of technology on human life. Assigned texts include the book of Genesis, Plato’s Republic, Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s Herland, Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Note: Many of the assigned works contain language some readers may find disturbing, and deal with serious issues such as sexual assault, racism, and interpersonal violence. If you have any questions or concerns about the course content, please feel free to contact me via email.

Conceptions of Justice: God, the State, and Outcasts

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

  • Core 120-19 – MWF 11:30am-12:30pm
  • Core 120-07 – 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.

The Art of War

Bob Mandel, Marc Messina Chair of International Affairs

  • Core 120-08 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

This course covers the historical, strategic, and moral dimensions of war in order 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 study conceptual insights largely through reading about the actual experience of warfare, viewed through the eyes of participants or direct observers. The emphasis is on interdisciplinary readings interpreting patterns across culture and time. Views of diverse groups, both powerful and oppressed, are fully represented. Students ponder and analyze the fundamental controversies surrounding organized armed international violence throughout the ages.

Suspense / Horror / Paranoia

Michael Mirabile, Assist Prof w/Term of English

  • Core 120-04 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

This course will be devoted to examining varieties of fear from a number of distinct but related perspectives: cultural, psychological, 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”). 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. Our primary materials for analysis and discussion will be twentieth-century films and works of literature.

So You Think You’re Secular?

Paul Powers, Assoc Prof of Religious Studies

  • Core 120-14 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

This course will explore the very idea of not being religious, which today is apparently a real and growing possibility. Such a possibility, however, is arguable very new, with as-yet unknown implications, and far more shaped by religion than secular people realize. We will explore some understandings of the nature and functions of religion in order to try to establish a boundary between religious/not religious. A crash course on the Protestant Reformation will help us see the (unintended) secularizing forces hidden in that seemingly highly religious set of events. We will explore some historical examples of heretical, “freethinking,” or proto-secular thought in different cultural contexts. We will explore the motivations and effects of European/American efforts to establish a “separation of church and state.” Variations on the so-called “secularization thesis,” once dominant in the social sciences, will get our critical review. And we will consider whether anything of real—perhaps even essential—value might be lost in processes of secularization.


Will Pritchard, Assoc Prof of English

  • Core 120-03 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

A satire is a work of imagination which makes an attack upon some aspect of real life. Satirists use humorous exaggeration to ridicule and perhaps to reform the “knaves and fools” that populate the world. This class will examine satiric works in many genres (poem, novel, play, film, meme) and from many periods (ancient Rome, 18th-century Europe, 20th- and 21st-century UK and USA). We will also read some theoretical work on satire. Our main effort will be to identify and meet the demands – intellectual, aesthetic and ethical demands – that these particular satiric texts make on us.

Warning: satire can be offensive, sometimes deliberately so. You may, in the course of the semester, encounter language and attitudes that you find abhorrent.


Matthieu Raillard, Assoc Prof of World Languages - Hispanic Studies

  • Core 120-13 – 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?