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Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses

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European Studies

Advisory Committee: Professors Barbezat, Ciepiela, Courtright, de la Carrera †, Epstein, Griffiths ‡, Katsaros, R. López, Machala, Móricz, Raskin ‡,  Rockwell ‡, Rogowski, Sarat, Schneider, Sinos, R., Staller, and Stavans; Associate Professors Boucher *, Brenneis, Engelhardt (Chair,fall), Gilpin, Nelson †, Polk *, van den Berg, and Wolfson; Assistant Professors Gordon *, Infante, Paul, and Zanker; Five College Associate Professor Long.

European Studies is a major program that provides opportunity for independent and interdisciplinary study of European culture. Through integrated work in the humanities and social sciences, the student major examines a significant portion of the European experience and seeks to define those elements that have given European culture its unity and distinctiveness.

Major Program. The core of the major consists of eight courses that will examine a significant portion of European civilization through a variety of disciplines. Two of these courses will be EUST 121 and 122 (or the equivalent; see below).  All majors must give evidence of proficiency in one European language besides English. Save in exceptional circumstances, majors will spend at least one semester of the junior year pursuing an approved course of study in Europe. By the end of their junior year, all majors shall complete a substantial course-based research project on some aspect of European culture. Prior arrangement for supervision must be made if a student intends to do this project while abroad. For their senior year, European Studies majors will then opt into one of two possible paths: Thesis or Capstone. 

Thesis Option. Students wishing to pursue an independent project as an honors thesis will take one thesis research course in the first semester of the senior year, and another in the final semester. Students may designate the research course of the final semester as a double course (EUST 499D), in which case the total number of courses required to complete the major becomes nine.

Possible approaches for the senior thesis project include comparative literary studies, interdisciplinary work in history, sociology, philosophy, political science, economics, performance studies, visual arts, architecture or music involving one or more European countries. Students are encouraged to take a relevant methods class fitting their research approach (such as HIST-301 or SOCI-315), which, with permission from the EUST chair may count toward the major’s eight courses. 

Capstone Option. In the capstone option students, after having completed a substantial course-based research project on some aspect of European culture, will complete their eight European Studies courses without an independent project. A month into their final semester, capstone majors will submit a five-page retrospective essay on the entirety of the course of their studies in the major, which will be followed by a conversation with the European Studies faculty members. 

Honors Program.  Students may be recommended for Program honors only if they complete a thesis.

*On leave 2021-22.†On leave fall semester 2021-22.‡On leave spring semester 2021-22. 

112 Russian Empire in Eurasia

(See HIST 112)

117 Arthurian Literature

(See ENGL 117)

121 Readings in the European Tradition I

Topics in the past have included readings and discussion of a series of related texts from Homer and Genesis to Dante: Homer’s Iliad, selected Greek tragedies, Virgil’s Aeneid, selections from the Bible and from medieval texts. Three class hours per week. Required of European Studies majors.

Open to European Studies majors and to any student interested in the intellectual and literary development of the West, from antiquity through the Middle Ages. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2021-22. 

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

125 The Italian Renaissance: Politics, Culture, and Society

(See HIST 125)

127 Early Modern Europe in a Global Context (1500–1800)

(See HIST 127)

128 Medieval Europe (1000-1500)

(See HIST 128)

131 History and Theory of Architecture

(See ARHA 131)

135 Renaissance to Revolution: Early Modern European Art and Architecture

(See ARHA 135)

145 The Modern World

(See ARHA 145)

221 Voices from a Bygone Time

(See MUSI 221)

222 Music and Culture II

(See MUSI 222)

223 The Musical Symptoms of Modernism

(See MUSI 223)

226 Women and War in European History, 1558–1918

(See HIST 226)

227 Law, Sex, and Family in the Wider Mediterranean (1300–1800)

(See HIST 223)

230 The French Revolution

(See HIST 230)

231 Race and Empire: The British Experience from 1760

(See HIST 231)

232 Representation and Reality in Spanish Cinema

(See SPAN 315)

233 Love

This panoramic, interdisciplinary course will explore the concept of love as it changes epoch to epoch and culture to culture. Poetry, novels, paintings, sculptures, movies, TV, and music will be featured. Starting with the Song of Songs, it will include discussions of Plato, Aristotle, Catullus, and other Greek classics, move on to Dante and Petrarch, contemplate Chinese, Arabic, African, and Mesoamerican literatures, devote a central unit to Shakespeare, continue with the Metaphysical poets, and move on to American literature. Special attention will be paid to the difference between love, eroticism, and pornography. Multilingual students will be encouraged to delve into various linguistic traditions, in tongues like French, Russian, German, Yiddish, and Spanish. Conducted in English.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Stavans.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Spring 2017, Spring 2022, Fall 2024

234 Nazi Germany

(See HIST 234)

235 Impostors

An interdisciplinary exploration of the causes behind the social, racial, artistic, and political act—and art—of posing, passing, or pretending to be someone else. Blacks passing for whites, Jews passing for gentiles, and women passing for men, and vice versa, will be the central motif, with attention given to biological and scientific patterns such as memory loss, mental illness, and plastic surgery, and to literary strategies like irony. As a supernatural occurrence, discussion will  include mystical experiences, ghost stories, and séance sessions. The course will also cover instances pertaining to institutional religion, from prophesy from the Hebrew and Christian Bibles to the Koran and Mormonism. In technology and communications, analysis concentrates on the invention of the telegraph, the telephone, and the Internet. The class will also analyze entertainment, ventriloquism, puppet shows, voice-overs, children’s cartoon shows, subtitles, and dubbing in movies and TV and examine posers in Greek mythology, the Arabian Nights, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Jorge Luis Borges, Philip Roth, Oliver Sacks, and Nella Larsen. Conducted in English.

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Stavans.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2014, Spring 2018, Fall 2021, Spring 2025

236 The Bible as Literature

A close reading of significant portions of the Five Books of Moses, done from the perspective of literature: how are the human and divine characters built, what interior life do they display and what philosophical view do they convey? Attention will be given to the nineteenth-century theories that approach the Bible as a composite book delivering a nationalistic story. Students will also reflect on the impact of the Bible in Western literature, from Dante’s Divine Comedy to R. Crumb’s cartoon retelling of Genesis. Taught in English.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Stavans.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Spring 2019

237 God

This course rotates around the shifting notion of the divine in Western Civilization, focusing on theology, philosophy, literature, and music. Students explore the development of the three major prophetic religions as well as some of the mystical movements they fostered. Discussions rotate around the King James Bible, Augustine’s Confessions, the Koran, Maimonides’ The Guide for the Perplexed, the Zohar, the Popol Vuh, the Ramayana, and Spinoza’s work as a cornerstone to the Enlightenment. We will contemplate secularism in modern culture and analyze the contemporary atheist movement of Dawkins and Hitchens . Music explorations range from Johann Sebastian Bach to John Cage; in science, from Isaac Newton to Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking; and in film, from Ingmar Bergman to Woody Allen. Readings include parts of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Freud’s Moses and Monotheism, Kafka’s The Castle, Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, Borges’ “The Secret Miracle” and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Stavans. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2013, Spring 2021

238 Soviet Union During the Cold War

(See HIST 236)

240 The Last Russian Revolution: State and Society from the Late Soviet Period to the Present

(See HIST 240)

241 The Age of Michelangelo: Italian Renaissance Art and Architecture

(See ARHA 241)

245 Stalin and Stalinism

(See HIST 235)

252 Witches, Saints, and Whores: Representing Gender in Premodern Europe

(See GERM 252)

255 Imposture: Con-men, Swindlers, and Other Pretenders

(See RUSS 255)

258 Art, Things, Spaces, and Places

(See ARHA 258)

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. In Spring 2018, four plays were the focus: As You Like It, Macbeth, Hamlet, and The Tempest. Conducted in English.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Stavans.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2020

269 Baroque Art

(See ARHA 269)

284 Women and Art in Early Modern Europe

(See ARHA 284)

294 Black Europe

(See BLST 294)

303 Literature as Translation

(Offered as EUST 303, ENGL 320 and RUSS 310) Acts of translation underwrite many kinds of cultural production, often invisibly. Writers of the Harlem Renaissance, for instance, engaged with black internationalism through bilingualism and translation, as Brent Edwards has reminded us. In this course we will study literary translation as a creative practice involved in the making of subjects and cultures. We will read key statements about translation by theorists and translators, such as Walter Benjamin, Roman Jakobson, Lawrence Venuti, Peter Cole and Gayatri Spivak. We also will directly engage in translation work: each student will regularly present translations in a workshop format to produce a portfolio as a final project. The class will be “polyglot,” meaning that students are welcome to translate from any language of which they have knowledge; when they share translations, they will be asked also to provide interlinear, or “literal,” translations for those who may not understand the language they are working in.

Requisite: Two years of college-level study of the chosen language. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professors Bosman and Ciepiela. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021, Spring 2023

310 History of Fascism

(See HIST 310)

315 What is Language? Russian and Soviet Views in Comparative Context

(See RUSS 315)

320 Seminar on Opera and Musical Theatre

(See MUSI 420)

327 Fascism, War, and Freedom: Spain and Japan On Screen

(See ASLC 327)

328 Trial and Error: An Interdisciplinary Experiment with Montaigne's Essais

(See FREN 328)

330 Race and Otherness in the Middle Ages

(See ENGL 330)

336 Thatcher's Britain

(See HIST 336)

360 Performance

(See GERM 360)

363 Traumatic Events

(See GERM 363)

365 Making Memorials

(See GERM 365)

368 SPACE

(See GERM 368)

369 TIME

(See ARCH 369)

374 Medieval and Renaissance Lyric

(See ENGL 441)

385 Witches, Vampires and Other Monsters

(See ARHA 385)

390, 490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2024

420 Antisemitism

An in-depth, thorough chronological study of Antisemitism—“the longest hatred”—from Hellenistic and Roman times to early Christian thinkers, the development of Islam, the Middle Ages, especially the Holy Office of the Spanish Inquisition, the Enlightenment, Nazism and other forms of fascism, Communism, to the twenty-first century. Special attention will be placed on geographical varieties and national traditions (France, Germany, Russia, Iran, the United States, Spain, and Argentina), the Dreyfus Affair, the Protocols of the Wise of Zion, Henry Ford, and other focal points. The class will analyze in detail the metastasis of antisemitism into anti-Zionism before and after the creation of the State of Israel. We will also discuss antisemitism in politics, education, culture, and media, and its link to racism, anti-immigration, xenophobia and other hatreds.

This course will be conducted online. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2021-22. Professor Stavans. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

421 Where in the World is Europe? Decolonial, Transnational, and Domestic Perspectives (1500-1800)

(See HIST 421)

425 European Economic Take-Off in Global Perspective, c. 1050–1750

(See HIST 425)

430 Renaissance Bodies

(See HIST 430)

432 Gender, Class, and Crime: The Victorian Underworld

(See HIST 432)

498, 498D, 499, 499D Senior Departmental Honors

Spring semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

Thematic Analysis

465 Multicultural Spain

(See SPAN 465)

Special Topics Courses

490 Special Topics

(See SPAN 490)

Related Courses

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