Fall 2010



Martha M. Umphrey (Section 01)


In the age of the internet, do we have any privacy anymore?  More to the point, do we want it?  In this seminar we will examine the idea of "privacy" and the values protected by it, exploring how the very idea of the "private" developed and how it has been represented in culture in shifting ways.  Broadly stated, the "right to privacy" can be understood as a "right to be let alone."  But that language of rights tends to universalize and decontextualize a concept that has a traceable history and that exists within particular social landscapes.  Drawing upon novels and films, historical studies, philosophical texts, legal cases, and political/cultural debates, we will consider, for example, the relation between privacy and property rights, the emergence and development of individual self-consciousness, the conflict between sexual privacy and state police powers, and the redefinition of privacy through technology.  Who has the privilege of privacy, and how does access to privacy inflect social identity?  How and why does law either protect or puncture private spaces in liberal democracies?  Given the power and the lure of technology in contemporary society, has the idea of privacy been emptied of meaning? 

This seminar will introduce students to a number of scholarly approaches so that they can learn how to analyze one rich concept - privacy - from varying angles and can gain some insight into the different ways rigorous scholarship is conducted and presented.  Because writing is both an art and a practice, students will write frequently with an eye to learning the fundaments of lucid and compelling college-level prose style and argumentation.  Weekly, students will craft one-to-two page responses to questions arising out of the course materials and will occasionally read or speak in class from those response papers.  Students will also draft and polish three medium-length pieces of writing, analytic and imaginative, so that they can understand the process and virtues of revision.

Fall semester.  Professor Umphrey.

Cost: 65.00 ?


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2010