Spring Words Sections

Spring 2023 section descriptions below.

The preference form is closed (deadline was 9am PST, Nov 1st). If you missed submitting, please email GenEd@lclark.edu with any and all sections you would like to be waitlisted for. Placements will be emailed to your @lclark.edu account by Friday, Nov 4th.

(listed in order of class time, then Prof last name)

MWF 11:30am-12:30pm


The Rise and Fall of Sapiens

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

  • Core 120-01 – MWF 11:30am-12:30pm

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.

MWF - 1:50-2:50pm

Beyond Humans

Katja Altpeter-Jones, Assoc Prof of World Languages - German

  • Core 120-13 – 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 (added December 15th)

John Barritt, Inst of Academic English Studies

  • Core 120-19 – 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.

Elements of Belief:  Magic, Faith and Reason

Kim Cameron Dominguez, Asst Prof of Anthropology

  • Core 120-12 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Is the line hard and fast between magic and science, dream and reality, or rationale and faith? This semester, we will hold that line as a space of “not quite either” rather than a truth about one or the other. We will be aided (and hindered, perhaps) by cats with revolvers, gods in disguise, and robots on the run in a set of texts that invite us to enjoy the blurry spaces in-between. This will mean unpacking the assumptions we make in our search for self and what we believe. This is a discussion-based course. There will be conventional writing assignments given. However, in an effort to keep the magic alive, students will have an opportunity to choose whether to use debate, performance, or illustration as methods for actively engaging with course material and with their peers.

The Politics of Love

JaDee Carathers, Visiting Prof of Sociology

  • Core 120-09 – 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?

This American Language

Keith Dede, Prof of World Languages - Chinese

  • Core 120-14 – 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.

The Stories that Bind Us

Kristin Fujie, Assoc Prof of English

  • Core 120-04 - 1:50-2:50pm

“Society is held together by our need; we bind it together with legend, myth, coercion, fearing that without it we will be hurled into that void, within which, like the earth before the Word was spoken, the foundations of society are hidden.” ~James Baldwin

In this course we will immerse ourselves in works of literature (novels, short stories, memoirs, essays) that explore how stories bind us. In its most literal sense, to bind means to tie up, but also to tie together (e.g. binding a book); it can furthermore mean to bandage (a wound) or place under obligation. That stories can restrain and imprison, but also connect, unite, and heal, creates a paradox that lies at the heart of this class and the texts we’ll encounter. I think you’ll find our writers at once captivating and highly self-reflexive; they compel us to get caught up in their stories, and, simultaneously, to step back and reflect on how those stories work—how the narratives that their characters tell about themselves and each other bind them (and us!) in paradoxical, transformative, and sometimes heart-breaking ways. Readings might include the following: Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Toni Morrison’s Jazz; also, shorter works by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, James Baldwin, Leslie Marmon Silko, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joan Didion, and/or Jhumpa Lahiri. I want students to know in advance that course readings could include difficult material related to domestic violence, sexual assault, racism, mental illness, and addiction. You are warmly encouraged to reach out to me with questions.

One but many: language, heritage, and identity in the US

Lina Gomaa, Visiting Asst Prof of World Languages - Arabic

  • Core 120-15 – 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, Prof of English

  • Core 120-05 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

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 Georgic, Apuleius’s The Golden Ass, Sir Orfeo and the lays of Marie de France, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, saint’s lives and miracles, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. We may also read some modern critics and historians, such as Jane Bennett, Caroline Walker Bynum, and Marcel Mauss.

NB: 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.

Who am I (without language)? Language and Identity

David Hoffman, Instructor in Academic English Studies

  • Core 120-17 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

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

Ideology, Illusion, and Critical Theory

Eli Lichtenstein, Visiting Asst Prof of Philosophy

  • Core 120-16– MWF 1:50-2:50pm

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

The Art of War

Bob Mandel, Prof of and Marc Messina Chair of International Affairs

  • Core 120-10 – 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, Asst Prof w/Term of English

  • Core 120-07 – 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.


Will Pritchard, Assoc Prof of English

  • Core 120-08 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

A satire is a work of imagination which makes an attack on 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 as readers, viewers and humans.

Warning: satire can be offensive, sometimes deliberately so. You will likely encounter within these satiric texts language and attitudes of which you disapprove.

Possible authors include Jonathan Swift, Voltaire, Edith Wharton, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, George Schuyler, Dorothy Parker, George Orwell and Bernadine Evaristo.

The Romantic Generation: European Art Music of the 19 th Century

Susan Smith, Assoc Prof of Music, Director of Piano

  • Core 120-03

What is Romanticism, and what do we mean when we apply this term to some of the most beloved musical works of the 19 th century? This course will explore the music of 19 th -century composers and the philosophies that informed their work. Students will learn about specific musical compositions that embody Romantic ideals, the melodies, harmonies, textures and timbres we associate with this music, and the meaning music held for artists of the time. We will get to know several of the most prominent Romantic composers through their music, writings, letters, and the writings of their contemporaries as well as through biographical portraits. In understanding the many ways music reflected the collective ideals of 19 th -century European society, we will see how many of these ideas continue to play a role in the art music of our time. Students need not have a background in music to take this course.

Japanese Religion

Jessie Starling, Assoc Prof of Religious Studies

  • Core 120-11 – MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Japan is variously described as either the most secular or the most spiritual lcountry 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.

Place-Based Thinking: The Microcosm To The Macrocosm

Cara Tomlinson, Assoc Prof of Art, Studio Head of Painting

  • Core 120-06– MWF 1:50-2:50pm

Climate change is affecting ecologies and communities at alarming rates. Can grounding ourselves in the context and materials of our immediate surroundings help us develop ways to grapple with the anxieties and realities of this changing moment? What experiential methods can we use to tap into the layered and multifaceted understanding of place? How might placemaking models of the past help us to understand the present need for belonging? Can place-based knowledge and community engagement provide models of sustainability for the future?

In this course, we will start where we are, literally the ground that we are standing on. We will explore how understanding the vast intricacies of this one place (this microcosm: the environs of Palatine Hill, the Tryon Creek Watershed, and the region) contains worlds. We will engage with texts and visual resources from literature, anthropology, biology, philosophy, feminist and indigenous studies, history, and, art; conduct site-based research; take local field trips; and, explore materials of place through hands-on workshops.