Spring 2018


AMST 217 – Religion, Democracy and American Culture

The United States has inscribed the separation of church and state into its constitutional order, and yet Americans have for two centuries been more deeply committed to religious faith and practice than any other people in the Western world. This course endeavors to explore that paradox. Topics addressed include the changing meanings of "the city on a hill"; the varieties of millennial belief and utopian community; the relationship between religion, ethnicity, and gender; religious political activism, including abolition, prohibition, anti-war and anti-abortion movements; and the limits of religious tolerance from movements against Catholics and Mormons to recent warnings of a "clash of civilizations" with Muslim cultures.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester.  Professor Couvares.  If Overenrolled: Preference given to majors, then first and second year students.


AMST 351 – The Immigrant City

A history of urban America in the industrial era, this course will focus especially on the city of Holyoke as a site of industrialization, immigration, urban development, and deindustrialization. We will begin with a walking tour of Holyoke and an exploration of the making of a planned industrial city. We will then investigate the experience of several key immigrant groups – principally Irish, French Canadian, Polish, and Puerto Rican – using both primary and secondary historical sources, as well as fiction. Students will write several papers on one or another immigrant group or a particular element of social experience, and a final research paper that explores in greater depth one of the topics touched upon in the course. The course will include students from Amherst College and Holyoke Community College and is open to all students, majors and non-majors. All students will engage in some primary research, especially in the city archives and Wistariahurst Museum, in Holyoke. Amherst College history majors who wish to write a 25-page research paper and thereby satisfy their major research requirement may do so in the context of this course. Classes will be held at both Amherst and Holyoke sites; transportation will be provided.

Enrollment is limited to ten students per institution.  Spring semester. Professors Couvares and Clinton (HCC).  If Overenrolled: History majors first, then seniors, juniors, sophomores, first-years, in that order.


AMST 352/BLST 351/HIST 352 - The Purpose and Politics of Education

Focusing on the United States, this course introduces students to foundational questions and texts central to the history of education and education studies. We will explore the competing goals and priorities Americans have held for primary, secondary and post-secondary education and ask how and why these visions have influenced – or failed to influence – classrooms, schools, and educational policy. We will pay particular attention to sources of educational stratification; the tensions between the public and private purposes of schooling; and the relationship between schooling and equality. In the first part of the course, students will reflect on how Americans have imagined the purpose of self-education, literacy, public schooling, and the liberal arts. Among the questions we will consider: What do Americans want from public schools? Does education promote liberation? Has a liberal arts education outlived its usefulness? How has the organization of schools and school systems promoted some educational objectives in lieu of others? In the second section of the course, we will concentrate on the politics of schooling. Here, we will pay particular attention to several issues central to understanding educational inequality and its relationship to American politics, culture, and society: localism; state and federal authority; desegregation; and the complicated relationship between schooling and racial, linguistic, class-based, gender, and ethnic hierarchies. Finally, we will explore how competing ideas about the purpose and politics of education manifest themselves in current policy debates about privatization, charters, testing, and school discipline. Throughout the course, students will reflect on both the limits and possibilities of American schools to challenge and reconfigure the social order. Course assignments will consist of a mix of short papers and analytical reading exercises. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Moss and Lewis Sebring Visiting Associate Professor L. Gordon.  If Overenrolled: Priority will go to students with a demonstrated interest in Education Studies, and then History and American Studies majors. Then we will prioritize sophomores, juniors, and first-year students, in that order.


ANTH 121/RELI 121 – Fieldwork in Religious Communities

This course will introduce students to the research methods, modes of analysis, and writing styles that accompany ethnographic fieldwork in religious communities.  We will begin with a focus on prominent ethnographies (written accounts of cultures based on fieldwork) that are set in religious communities.  We will consider the research questions and debates this literature has taken up as well as the specific ethical and practical challenges that characterize this scholarship. Students will then gain hands-on experience with a variety of ethnographic methods (e.g., participant observation and field notation, structured and unstructured interviews, and spatial mapping) through course field trips to local places of worship.  We will also spend time examining the various digital tools (apps, social media, podcasts, etc.) that religious communities utilize today.  For their final project, students will carry out their own independent ethnographic research projects with local religious communities. The final weeks of the course will focus on the specific challenges of analyzing and writing about religious cultures, including the ethics of representing others’ beliefs.

Visiting Lecturer Girard.


ANTH 204 – Living with Animals

This seminar course explores the cultural, social, and political relationships between humans and animals. Drawing from cross-cultural anthropological work, starting from histories of domestication, we will consider the participation of animals in different contemporary societies: as spirits, workers, food, commodities, symbols, domestic pets, unwanted pests, wildlife, friendly companions, and scientific objects.

In general, we will interrogate the varied ways in which animals have been, and continue to be, central to human societies and cultures, as well as the role of humans in non-human animals’ lives. This will allow us to address pressing questions about animal agency, rights, and representation.

We will bring these cross-cultural explorations home to explore, as observers, participants, researchers and writers, the social and cultural lives of animals around us — from art museums to pet shelters and organic farms. Through in-class activities and collaborative work in the college, students will acquire critical ethnographic observation skills. They will then use them to explore a site of human-animal livelihood outside the campus, through a local day-long fieldtrip.

In doing so, we will expand our broader understandings of what it means to be human, by including our non-human companions in our social, political, and cultural analysis.

Limited to 25 students.  Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Scaramelli.   If Overenrolled: First preference given to Anthropology majors; then to first and second year students.


ANTH 431/ASLC 494/HIST 494 – Istanbul

At different points in its nearly 2000-year history, the city now known as Istanbul has been the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. Alternately branded as a “global city” and selected as the “Cultural Capital of Europe,” Istanbul continues to thrive as a complex urban landscape of intersecting economies, histories, and ideas. Over its long history, millions of people and multiple communities have called Istanbul their home--each shaping the city with distinct visions of the past and longings for the future. As innumerable identities (communal, religious, national, ethnic) have been both claimed and erased to serve a variety of political, economic, and social ideologies, Istanbul stands today as a city where the meanings of space and place are contested like few others. This seminar explores the connections between contemporary politics and society in Turkey through the contested histories of space and place-making in Istanbul, with special attention to the varied historical legacy of architecture of the city. One class meeting per week.

The seminar will culminate with a 12-day trip to Istanbul, Turkey. All students enrolled in the course are expected to participate in the trip. The trip will begin immediately after the final exam period, departing on May 12 and returning on May 23. The cost of the trip will be covered by the College.

Limited to 12 Amherst College students. Open to sophomores and juniors. Admission with consent of the instructors. Enrollment is by written application only, with an interview process to follow in fall 2017.  Preference given to students who have prior course work in Middle East studies. Spring semester. Professors Dole and Ringer.  If Overenrolled: Preference given to sophomores and juniors, particularly those who have prior course work in Middle East studies.


ARCH 204/ARHA 204 – Housing, Urbanization, and Development

This course studies the theory, policy, and practice of low-income housing in marginalized communities. In particular, the class examines housing in the context of international development—the global project of reducing urban poverty through providing safe housing to those in need. We study central concepts in housing theory, key issues regarding low-income housing, different approaches for addressing these issues, and political debates around housing the poor. This is a thematic, comparative, and transnational course that uses specific case studies from all around the world. We study our subject through illustrated lectures, field trips, seminar discussions, documentary films, and visual analysis exercises. The latter will be interspersed throughout the semester.

Limited to 25 students. Priority to majors, then sophomores. Spring semester. Five College Professor Arboleda.  If Overenrolled: Priority to Architectural Studies majors, then sophomores, juniors, seniors, and first-year students, in that order.


CHEM 100 – Molecular Gastronomy and Food Science: From Test Tubes to Taste Buds

Living organisms require resources to fuel the processes necessary for staying alive. We require a certain number of calories to fuel metabolic processes and to provide building blocks to replace old cells and build new ones.  Our food should provide a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals that we need to consume regularly for a healthy existence. Yet humans have developed another relationship with food that can be either enriching or pathological.  Sharing meals with others, developing the skills to enjoy the sensory pleasures of food, learning about other cultures through their gastronomic habits, and eating moderately while consciously are all examples of a deeper productive relationship with food.  On the darker side, food can be a palliative to relieve our stress or satiate our addictions to sugar, fats, or salt.  Modern humans can be so far removed from our food sources that we lose the connection between animal and meat and do not know if the food on our plates contains added hormones, pesticides, or genetically modified products. This course will examine our core requirements for food as we eat to live, and some of the cultural, social, historical, and culinary dimensions as we live to eat.  Readings will include Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and selections from Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Billet.

The two sections will meet together for 80-minute lecture/demos twice a week, and each section will meet separately for a culinary lab once a week for 80 minutes.  

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester.  Professor O'Hara.  If Overenrolled: If overenrolled, preference will be given to upper class students (seniors, juniors, and sophomores


CHEM 200H – Being Human in STEM

This is an interactive course that combines academic inquiry and community engagement to investigate the theme of diversity within STEM fields--at Amherst and beyond. In the first half of the semester we ground our understanding of the STEM experience at Amherst in national and global contexts, specifically looking at the way in which gender, class, race, sexuality, and geographic upbringing might shape these experiences. We accomplish this through reading interdisciplinary scholarly literature and surveying existing evidence-based inclusive practices at a range of educational institutions. We will supplement this research with interviews with current and past members of the Amherst STEM community. In the second half of the semester, students will design their own group projects that apply the findings of their research to develop resources and engage the STEM community, whether at the college, local, or national level.  Course work includes weekly readings, reflective writing, in-class discussion, and will culminate in a public presentation on the group projects.

Not open to first year students. Limited to 18 students. This is a half credit course. Professor Jaswal and Ms. Lyster.  If Overenrolled: Preference will be given to ensure a mix of participants with different backgrounds and experiences in STEM.


ENGL 104 – Engaging the Arts

When writing about literature, performance or, indeed, any form of art, you face a difficult task.  In order to share your perceptions with readers, you must first conjure the artwork for them using nothing but words.  The ancient Greeks had a name for this feat: ekphrasis, literally the “speaking out” of an experience or thing, the verbal description of a non-verbal work of art.

In this class, an introduction to literary study, performance analysis, and critical writing across the arts, we will study ekphrastic poems, prose, and plays in order to see how they conjure works of art.  We will then test our own ekphrastic powers, not only on these literary works themselves, but also on art we encounter near Amherst College.  Since this will require you to attend an assortment of performances (literary, musical, theatrical, and dance-based) and to visit museums, cinemas, and art galleries near campus, it will serve as your introduction to the wide range of cultural institutions in the area. You will be expected to engage in workshops in class and meet individually with the instructor outside class on a regular basis to discuss your writing.

Preference given to first-year students and sophomores.  Limited to 18 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Grobe.  If Overenrolled: Preference given to first-year students and sophomores.


ENGL 120 – Reading, Writing, and Teaching

This course considers from many perspectives what it means to read and write and learn and teach both for ourselves and for others.  As part of the work of this course, in addition to the usual class hours, students will serve as weekly tutors and classroom assistants in adult basic education centers in nearby towns.  Thus this course consciously engages with the obstacles to and the power of education through course readings, through self-reflexive writing about our own varied educational experiences, and through weekly work in the community.  Although this course presses participants to reflect a great deal about teaching, this course does not teach how to teach. Instead it offers an exploration of the contexts and processes of education, and of the politics and desires that suffuse learning.  Course readings range across literary genres including essays, poems, autobiographies, and novels in which education and teaching figure centrally, as well as readings in ethnography, sociology, psychology, and philosophy.  The writing assignments cross many genres as well.

Limited to 18 students.  Spring semester.  Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.  If Overenrolled: Pre-registered students have priority.


ENGL 223/MUSI 255/THDA 255 – Sound, Movement, and Text: Interactions and Collaborations

This studio course is designed as an interactive laboratory for dancers, composers, actors, writers/poets, vocalists, and sound artists to work together to create meaningful interactions between sound, movement, and text. Working individually and in collaborative groups, students will create original material in the various media and experiment with multiple ways to craft interesting exchanges and dialogues between word, sound, and movement or to create hybrid forms.  The emphasis in the course will be to work with exercises and structures that engender deep listening, looking, and imagining.  Some of the questions that inform the course include: How do music, voices, electronic, digital, and natural sounds create a sonic world for live performance and vice versa? How can movement inform the writing of text and vice-versa? How can we successfully communicate and collaborate across and between the different languages of sounds, words, and movement?  We will have a series of informal studio performances, events, and installations throughout the semester with a culminating final showing/listening at the end of the semester.

Requisite: Previous experience in composition in one or more of the central media, or permission of the instructors. Limited to 16 students. Spring semester. Professor Woodson and Visiting Instructor Meginsky.  If Overenrolled: Priority given first to majors in theater and dance, music, and English, then to others with experience in these media.


ENGL 277/FAMS 333 – Videogames and the Boundaries of Narrative

In this course we will engage in a comprehensive approach to narrative video gaming–-play, interpretation, and design–-to explore how video gaming helps us to conceptualize the boundaries between our experiences of the world and our representations thereof.  We will ask how play and interactivity change how we think about the work of narrative.  What would it mean to think about video games alongside texts focused on similar subjects but in different media?  How, for instance, does Assassin’s Creed: Freedom’s Cry change how we understand C.L.R. James, Susan Buck-Morss, Isabel Allende, or others’ discussions of the Haitian Revolution?  And how do video games help us to reconceptualize the limits of other media forms, particularly around questions of what it means to represent differences in race, gender, physical ability?  Finally, how might we more self-consciously capitalize on gaming’s potential to transform the work of other fields, for instance education and community development?      

In this course, students will play and analyze video games while engaging texts from a variety of other critical and creative disciplines.  Assignments for this course will be scaled by experience-level.  No experience with video games or familiarity with computer coding is required for this course, as the success of this method will require that students come from a wide variety of skill levels.

Professor Parham.


EUST 259 – Shakespeare in Prison

Taught at the Hampshire County Jail, the course is devoted to close readings and staging of parts of Shakespeare’s plays while exploring in depth his historical context, dramatic and stylistic style, and world view. The topics of bondage, revenge, injustice, and forgiveness will serve as leitmotifs. On this iteration, four plays will be the focus: As You Like It, Macbeth, Hamlet, and The Tempest. Conducted in English.

Professor Stavans.


SPAN 345 – Puerto Rico: Diaspora Nation

[RC] Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship to the United States has generated waves of migration to the point that today, more Puerto Ricans live in the United States than on the island.  In this course, we will examine the literary and cultural manifestations of this diaspora.  The course will also integrate a community-based learning component in partnership with the Holyoke Public Library, which is working to preserve and make available artifacts and stories about Puerto Ricans in Holyoke.  As part of this community component, students will conduct oral history interviews in Holyoke, and then travel to Puerto Rico during Spring Break in order to visit relatives of the interviewees, share this knowledge, interview them in turn, and bring the gathered oral histories and artifacts back to Holyoke for sharing and archiving.  During the trip to Puerto Rico we will also conduct cultural visits directly related to the course material. Conducted in Spanish.

Requisites: SPAN 211 and consent of instructor.  Limited to 12 students, with travel costs covered for all accepted students.  Spring semester. Professor Schroeder Rodríguez.  If Overenrolled: Priority to Spanish majors.


SWAG 220 – Queer Theory and Practice

“Queer Theory and Practice” is an interdisciplinary methods course designed to complement the existing SWAG core sequence. Using theories and approaches from the discipline of performance studies, the explicit mission of the seminar is to acquaint students with the study of LGBT history, politics, and culture while also strengthening student research skills in four overlapping areas: archival research, close-reading, performance analysis, and community engagement-as-activism. Course activities include working in the Amherst College Frost Archives, the production of a performance piece, and structured engagement with contemporary LGBT activism in the Pioneer Valley and the larger world.

Requisite: SWAG 100 or similar Five College intro to gender and sexuality courses. Recommended requisite: SWAG 200, 300, 330, or 353.  Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Polk.  If Overenrolled: Preference will be given to SWAGS majors.


THDA 155 – Introduction to Dance Studies: Dance Performance and Theory

This course will focus on dance performance as it reflects theories of gender, sexuality, critical race, crip (disability), and queer studies. We will look at these theories to gain an introductory understanding of their origins, perspectives, and frameworks, specifically around the physical body and performance. Through readings, discussions, viewing of recordings of contemporary choreographic work, analytic writings, movement experiences, and attendance at live dance events, we will use these theoretical frameworks to deconstruct dance performance to determine how dance is a cultural art practice that is constantly theorizing and subverting the implications of the body through performance. 

We will reference theorists such as Judith Butler, Susan Bordo, bell hooks, Michel Foucault, Brenda Dixon Gottschild, Laura Mulvey, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Michael Warner. Some of the choreographers we will examine in this course include Martha Graham, Katherine Dunham, Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Pina Bausch, Ralph Lemon, Bill T. Jones, and Crystal Pite. 

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Brown.  If Overenrolled: Seniors will have priority.


THDA 266 – Ensemble: Dancing in Community

This advanced studio course is designed for students who want to develop their skills as dance/theater artists by participating in the creation of a student dance company that is viable and sustainable in a liberal arts environment.  Students enrolled in this course will be part of an ensemble and perform regularly in different sites in the Five College Community.  In addition to the ongoing practice of technique, class times will focus on learning and creating different repertory with the instructor of the course, guest artists and the students who are enrolled in the course. 

 In addition, we will examine different professional dance company models as inspiration in the formation of the ensemble as well as research diverse examples for community engagement and the arts.  Questions that will inform the work include: What does it mean to be part of a performing ensemble in a liberal arts setting?  How do performance art making and community intersect?  What are potential structures for organizing an ensemble performance company to insure flexibility as well as sustainability? What are some of the challenges in keeping a collaborative body together and viable? Three two-hour meetings per week plus lab TBA.

Requisite: Previous performance experience in dance/theater.  Limited to 10 students. Admission with consent of the instructor after audition. Fall and spring semesters. Visiting Professor D. Brown