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Amherst College Subject-First Year Seminar for 2015-16

Archival Explorations:  Becoming a Part of College History

Want to learn more about how the past has shaped Amherst College and may influence your future here? This course takes a dialogic approach to discussion where students and their teachers approach the history of higher education in America through the lens of Amherst College. Team taught by Professor Vigil in American Studies, and Mr. Kelly, Head of Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College, students will learn how to conduct original research using primary documents. In addition, students will participate in weekly writing assignments by contributing to our class blog. Students will also collaborate in planning an exhibition of college history drawn from the archives and other resources, which will culminate in a public event and online exhibition. Students will also document student life at the college in the face of digital ephemera to actively contribute to college history. Research topics and writing assignments, as well as a final term paper, will enable students to engage in a wide range of issues and topics, which may include, but are not limited to, the following: athletics, shifting demographics and “the rule of ten,” gender and sexuality, coeducation, 1960s activism and civil rights, student journalism, music and theater, scrapbooking, fraternities, war, missionaries, and international diplomacy.

Focused on College history this course takes an interdisciplinary approach to research and writing. Through both individual and group assignments students will practice archival and secondary source research, close reading, as well as informal, formal, and public online writing, in addition to giving a public presentation. As a writing attentive course students will have many opportunities to revise and refine their prose while working with their instructors. In addition, students will regularly meet in small groups throughout the semester to workshop each other’s writing pieces.

Fall semester.  Professor Vigil and Mr. Kelly (Head of Archives and Special Collections).


2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014

Asia in the European Mind: Modern European Discourse on History and Identity

Intellectuals in post-Enlightenment Europe have frequently drawn on images of Asia and Asians to illustrate what it means to be modern, enlightened, historically progressive, and universal.  These images of Asia in European thought have been surprisingly consistent and durable. Through close readings of key figures in the intellectual tradition of modern Europe, including Georg W. H. Hegel (1770-1831), Karl Marx (1818-1883), and Max Weber (1864-1920), this seminar asks why this might have been the case. We will explore the epistemological and ideological function of the division between universals and particulars by placing the philosophical projects of these thinkers in historical context. We will conclude the semester by examining more recent examples of intellectuals struggling against universal definitions of modernity, in particular, the project of “provincializing Europe”. The seminar will focus on the related skills of close reading, engaged discussion, and critical writing. You will write guided response papers to the readings, participate in writing workshops, conduct peer review exercises, and give oral presentations. Fall semester. Professors Maxey and Sen.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014

Big Books

This seminar explores the particular pleasures and interpretive problems of reading and writing about three very long works of fiction–novels so large that any sure grasp of the relation between individual part and mammoth whole may threaten to elude author and reader alike.  How do we gauge, and thereby engage with, narratives of disproportionate scale and encyclopedic ambition?  How do we lose, or find, our place in colossal fictional worlds?

As befits its interest in the losing and finding of place, the course introduces students to college-level literary study.  Short papers on different aspects of the novels will be assigned most weeks.  Discussion in class will focus primarily on the novels themselves, though we will also consider (using our own and others’ essays as examples) ways of writing about our experience as readers.  Students will team up in pairs to open the conversation at the start of every class.

In a recent version of the course, the seminar’s three novels included Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children, and Samuel K. Delany’s Dhalgren.  Although the novels for fall 2014 have not yet been selected, they are likely to display similar historical, geographic, and stylistic diversity.

Omitted 2015-16.  Professor Christoff.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

Death and Dying in Islam

In this course we will explore the many and diverse ways that the Islamic religious tradition has made sense of a fundamental and universal concern: death. We will attempt to understand the complexity of this theme by studying Islamic texts that provide insight into a range of issues, including the fear of death; the creation of the universe and the end times (apocalypse); the nature of God’s justice (theodicy) and retribution; the soul’s salvation (soteriology); rituals surrounding the dead—funerary rites, tomb visitation, and the veneration of the dead—all of which form part  of Islamic ritual and practice. Through periodic comparative work, we will see how these topics are understood by other religious traditions.

Fall semester.  Professor Jaffer.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014

Encounters with Nature

What is our place in nature? How do we feel about natural spaces we encountered growing up and how do we view the environment of Amherst College and its setting in New England? How did people in the past think about nature and how did they change their environments as a consequence? How have their ideas affected us today? And how do we imagine the future of the natural world?

This course will explore how our ideas of nature have changed over time. We will give particular attention to the ways we have recreated particular kinds of natural spaces and how we have depicted nature in images. We begin with walks in the nearby wildlife sanctuary, discussions of our past encounters with nature, a study of the Amherst Campus, and, while the weather is still warm, a hike or two. During these excursions we will discuss what we see, learn some basic drawing techniques that will help us take visual notes on the landscape, and discuss and write about how our experience with the land might differ from how people experienced it in the past. We then will explore New England further, discuss ideas about wilderness in the United States, and look closely at American landscape painting. Where do our deeply held assumptions come from? To find out, we will look at poetry, philosophy, Western traditions of landscape painting, and scientific illustration. We also will think about why people collect and draw natural specimens, and how they mapped their environments from the Renaissance through the Aztec empire to the current day.

The course will provide an introduction to liberal studies by helping students learn how to read and comprehend complex texts and images, respond to them in sophisticated ways, and engage in critical reasoning. We expect students to be active participants in class discussions. Students will write brief abstracts every week about the readings and every other week or so perform close readings of texts, art, maps, and even gardens and landscapes.

 Fall semester.  Professors Courtright and López.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013


The act of giving can appear deceptively straight forward and entirely altruistic.  But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, “We wish to be self-sustained.  We do not quite forgive a giver.”  In this seminar we will examine the act of giving – giving between people, between institutions and people, and entirely between institutions – from an inter-disciplinary lens to reflect on what it means to give. We will intentionally reveal and challenge our initial assumptions about giving.  Using a variety of texts in class – religious, literary, first person accounts, and public policy, we will explore the diverse forms philanthropy has taken over time and across cultures – its philosophical underpinnings, its complex interrelationships with religious notions of charity and secular notions of democracy, and its often paradoxical effects on social relations and public policy.  Each student will be asked to spend at least 10 hours working with a local charity organization.

The work with a local charity will be undertaken with careful attention to the ethical questions that are raised by this work. We will also view it as one more text that is accessible to analysis and meaning making. The course will begin and end with the same assignment – a reflective essay in which each student develops his or her personal framework for giving. It is anticipated that the texts and class discussions will influence the evolution of this framework and, hence, the robustness of the final essay.  Along the way, class discussions, readings, and short papers will help students develop their skills as readers, writers and thinkers. 

2014-15: Not offered

Illness and Meaning

This course examines the interplay between meaning, illness, and bodily experience.  We will read a range of literary, anthropological, and philosophical texts in order to explore the following questions:  How do writers try to make order and meaning out of illness, and how do they use illness to talk about other aspects of experience?  How might we understand illness as not merely a disorder of the body but also a disordering of meaning?  Given the seemingly subjective nature of bodily experience, how does one understand or access the pain of the other?  How have writers conceptualized the ailing body as a site of both creative experience and political and economic control?

This is a discussion-based course that will give students a sense of what it means to think interdisciplinarily, and to advance their skills at reading critically, analyzing arguments and literary language, and articulating ideas orally and in their writing.  In addition to promoting active participation in classroom discussion, the course will help develop these skills through frequent short writing assignments and a 6-7 page final project.

Omitted 2015-16.  Professors Frank and C. Dole.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

Thinking Through Improvisation

Much of the thinking we do in college is applied to activities that involve large amounts of reworking and editing. But in many endeavors, efforts that are apparently more spontaneous are required. Thinking in improvisational modes requires several special techniques, and yet is done by virtually all of us at times. Improvisation can be used to solve emergency problems or create art at the highest levels. The preparation for successful improvisation is often enormous, but editing must occur just before the act of execution.  We will explore improvisational thinking with the aid of several skilled practitioners as guest lecturers and performers. We will ask how improvisational thinking differs from other ways of thinking and how it is similar. We will inquire into the variety of techniques used in improvisation, drawing from diverse fields. We will explore the relationship between improvisation and creativity.  We will learn how to naturally incorporate improvisational strategies into our explorations of the liberal arts.

Improvisation is a process not a product. It involves creating in the moment without the opportunity to edit later, instead evaluating during its execution. Improvisation is difficult, rewarding and unavoidable. It requires mastery of many automatic subroutines as raw material and extreme attention to one’s surroundings and inner voice to integrate these subroutines successfully. Improvisation is one major way of thinking. It can be routine or creative and can be practiced and learned. It requires risk-taking and courage, openness and trust. Good improvisation is strongly connected to the creative life. Improvisational skills are intrinsically multidisciplinary and can be used to advantage in many fields where they are often unacknowledged. Improvisation is also multicultural in practice. Therefore experience with improvisational thinking is essential to a complete liberal arts education.

Students will read articles and books on improvisation and creativity, listen to and critique two outside improvisational performances, write evaluations of 10-12 in-class performances, and prepare a substantial term paper on one improvisational activity in depth. About half of the classes are devoted to discussion of texts. Students will also have several opportunities to improvise and self-critique (without grading in order to provide a safe environment for exploration and risk-taking).

Omitted 2015-16.  Professor Poccia.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

Justice in Question

What is justice? How might we recognize it? Is justice fairness? Is it giving to each what is owed? Maybe justice is helping our friends? Or maybe justice is merely the advantage of the stronger? Justice can be difficult to name, especially because we might confuse justice for all and justice for some. And yet, however difficult it is to point to, justice is absolutely essential to our social and political lives. This course aims to investigate justice, putting the very idea of justice in question. What is a theory of justice? What might we want justice to be? How could we achieve such justice? This course will consider these questions, reflecting on ancient and more modern answers to these fundamental puzzles. As a means to approach these questions, we will engage Plato’s Republic as the central text for our course. Plato’s theorizing of justice, and especially the problem of power and justice together in politics, offers an amazing opportunity for us to question normative structures. Additional readings will include more recent political and philosophic reflections on the meaning and significance of justice. Examining a variety of theories of justice in this way should help to problematize our thinking on justice, as well as reveal its necessity for contemporary life.

This seminar is designed to introduce students to liberal studies through close textual analysis, frequent writing, and shared discussion. Throughout the semester, students will have the opportunity to develop habits of critical reading and reflection, writing frequent response papers that directly engage philosophic texts. In addition, students will have several longer assignments which will encourage critical analysis and self-evaluation through re-drafting and re-writing. The aim of the course is to further develop students’ capacities to consider complex theoretical phenomena, individually through written work and collectively through engaged discussion, and all with the intent to develop sophisticated and persuasive arguments.

Omitted 2015-16.  Professor Poe.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014


With a focus on close reading and persuasive argumentation, we ask two linked questions: How has Western culture defined itself through tales and declarations of liberation? How have such texts even in affirming freedom also imposed constraining norms of gender, class, ethnicity, and sexuality?

We start with the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass and Mary Prince, and then look back to ancient accounts of deliverance, including Homer’s Odyssey; the Books of Genesis, Exodus, and Isaiah; and the Gospel of Matthew. From the modern era we read Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger. We also analyze the act of claiming freedom in the American Declaration of Independence, Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women, and documents and films from liberation movements.    

This seminar aims to develop critical skills and expressive range through discussion, as informed by questions and comments submitted before class, and through writing five essays of increasing complexity in consultation with the instructor. Students regularly collaborate in groups to debate and lead discussion, and learn to use the resources of the Writing Center and Library.

Fall semester. Professor Griffiths.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014

Music, Faith, and the Utopian Impulse

Music figures prominently in the human experience of hope and faith. This course explores why this is so, concentrating on three iconic works—J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (1727), Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (1825), and George Gershwin’s opera, Porgy and Bess (1935). In-class work will focus on attentive listening. Written assignments emphasize critical thinking about music and culture. There will be frequent opportunities to attend live performances and meet professional musicians. No prior musical experience is required.

Omitted 2015-16

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014

Romanticism and the Enlightenment

The late eighteenth century is often characterized as the Age of Enlightenment, a time when educated men and women were confident that human reason was sufficient to understand the laws of nature, to improve society’s institutions, and to produce works of the imagination surpassing those of previous generations (and rivaling those of classical antiquity).  The early nineteenth century brought a distrust of rationality (the Head) and an affirmation of the importance of human emotion (the Heart).  “Romanticism and the Enlightenment” will test these broad generalizations by reading, looking at, and listening to some representative verbal, visual, and musical texts.  Among the texts are paired and opposed works by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin, J. W. von Goethe, Voltaire, Thomas  Gray, John Keats, Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Jacques Louis David, and Caspar David Friedrich.  In dealing with these and other diverse texts, no special skills are required.

The course is a series of discussions in which everyone is expected to participate (although it is understood that some students will probably speak more often than others).  The assumption of the course is that the ability to express yourself by speaking is almost as important as  the ability to express yourself by writing.  It is also assumed that for all of us, including the faculty, there is room for improvement.  There will be three or four short papers (approximately four pages each) and a longer paper that will serve as a take-home final exam.  The discussions and the papers will ask students to engage intellectually and emotionally with the assigned texts.

Omitted 2015-16.  Professor Brandes.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

Things Matter

We are surrounded by things that mean something–the objects we place by our bedsides, the pictures we tack on our walls, the books and DVDs we set on our shelves, even the foods we keep in our cupboards. To the unwitting passerby, these things might mean differently or they might appear to mean nothing at all.  But in fact we know that, in the space of a house or a dorm room, a subculture, or a nation, things matter.  Objects tell stories; images reveal histories; favorite television shows represent tastes; movies incite emotions.  Through readings in literature, poetry, autobiography, and philosophy and through screenings of films and television, this seminar will explore the meaning of things in our everyday lives.  How do things matter?  What do they mean?  And how do we describe the ineffable quality of stuff?

This course will encourage attentive reading and viewing practices, so that our discussion-based meetings will allow us to dwell on the details of what we see.  Students will compose frequent short writing assignments, trying out a range of approaches, including the autobiographical, interpretive, historical, and essayistic.  And we will learn how to write about a variety of “objects”:  knick-knacks, consumer products, food, photographs, films, poetry, and novels.

Omitted 2015-16. Professor Hastie.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

Understanding Haiti: Memory, Violence, and Resilience

Through close textual readings of select texts from the literary oeuvre of Haitian-American author, Edwidge Danticat, this class aims to introduce students to the rich history of Haiti’s people, the deep violence that has afflicted the nation, the trauma that its diaspora carries, and the channels for healing made available to Haitian and Haitian-American communities through literature, theater, and traditions such as oral story-telling and religion.  In particular we will examine: What is the function of literature? Can literature perform healing for its writers and the communities therein represented? Can it function as a tool of memory and human rights action? How does diaspora literature affect life on the island? How do recent catastrophic events get addressed in new writings on the subject?  Supplemented by historical and theoretical essays, we will attempt to understand the Haitian condition in its complexity and astonishing beauty.

The course has three primary objectives. First, students will examine literary genres, memoir, historical fiction, creative fiction, short stories, and oral storytelling. Second, the students will have short writing assignments in which they come to understand better the form and function of different writing styles. Finally, students will learn interpretive reading, learning to read at face value (including emotional response) and also to read for meaning (fact-finding, synthesis evaluation, multiple interpretations).

Fall semester.  Professor Suárez.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014

101 “Sick Unto Death:”  Plague in Literature and History.

Our class will read about epidemic disease with one eye toward exploring personal responses to plague in literature and the other toward understanding the ways communities have responded to the risks and dislocations of epidemic disease.  Some motifs are constants across centuries and cultures—the anguish of sudden loss, the mysteries of why some fall victim while others evade illness, and the confusion that accompanies the breakdown of social institutions and the habits of ordinary life.  Other aspects of the experience change over time, especially the conceptual frameworks through which plague has been understood, treated, and prevented.  We shall be thinking about these continuities and discontinuities as we read classics, such as, Albert Camus’ The Plague, as well as some yet-to-be classics, such as, James C. Mohr’s Plague and Fire: Battling Black Death and the 1900 Burning of Honolulu’s Chinatown

The class will be discussion-centered and will require frequent writing assignments.  Many of the assignments will be short exercises aimed at acquainting you with Frost Library’s resources and with some of the numerous research tools that have become available online in recent years. Others will be brief essays on common readings.

2014-15: Not offered

102 Art in Place and the Place of the Arts

Art is the product of the imagination, but imagination is often the product of a place.  We will examine the process by which art can spring from and return to a place, whether geographically or abstractly located.  The course will survey the interaction of place and art from several perspectives: site-specific art, art in the community, art across borders and frontiers, art in the academy, art in the marketplace, and art and ecology.  Each perspective will be framed by examples of established work in music, dance, theater, and film that arise from or respond to place, both locally and globally.  We will also consider work created by artists in our region, and on our own campus by Five College faculty and students.  Finally, students will be given tools to work on a final creative project of their own, individual or collaborative, following the models and approaches to interaction with place that they have studied.


Supplementary Paragraph

The primary texts for this seminar will be works of art in different disciplines:  dance, theater, music, literature, film and visual art supplemented by theoretical texts that provide useful context and ways to think about Art in Place/the Place of Art.  Weekly viewings of live and virtual works will be required as well as written responses and class discussions about the works of art.  Some of these viewings will involve field trips in the pioneer valley and nearby cities. An emphasis will be placed on students becoming familiar with the wealth of art practices, exhibitions and archives that are available to them as students at Amherst and in the Five Colleges. Additionally students will be encouraged to see and discuss connections between the arts and other disciplines within a liberal arts curriculum as well as their capabilities to build communities and collaborations.  In addition to critical writing and discussion students will create their own art projects in different media as a response to/inspired by some of the examples of work that we see during the semester, working independently and in collaborative groups.  The objective in these projects is not necessarily to become an expert in art making but to engage in art experimentation as a method of analysis and discovery and as a way to view the world.

Fall semester. Professors Sawyer and Woodson.

2014-15: Not offered

103 The Great Schism through Eastern Eyes

How does one account for the Great Schism, the centuries-long estrangement between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Christian churches? How does a religion such as Christianity—whose texts and traditions speak so eloquently about unity—find itself so riven by division? We'll explore such questions in a broad array of primary documents authored between the first and twenty-first centuries by Greeks, Russians, Syrians, Egyptians, Georgians, Serbs, Ukrainians, and Poles. How did the Eastern church become isolated from the West, and why does this isolation persist?

We'll engage in close reading, critical interpretation, and vigorous discussion of theological treatises, biographies, diplomatic communiqués, fiction, scripture, journalistic accounts, commentaries, missives, and satire. We'll examine portrayals of "the other" in film, painting, and propaganda. We'll consider attempts by anthropologists, theologians, and historians to explain religious divisions. We'll grapple repeatedly with tensions between, on the one hand, Eastern Orthodoxy's conception of itself as an ecumenical and universal confession, and, on the other hand, its multiple manifestations in various regions and cultures. And as we critique arguments crafted by others through the centuries, we'll critique our own in structured debates and written essays. 

Fall semester.  Professor Geffert.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014

104 Friendship

An inquiry into the nature of friendship from historical, literary, and philosophical perspectives.  What are and what have been the relations between friendship and love, friendship and marriage, friendship and erotic life, friendship and age?  How do men’s and women’s conceptions and experiences of friendship differ?  Readings will be drawn from the following:  The Epic of Gilgamesh; Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus; selections from the Bible and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics; essays by Montaigne, Emerson, and C.S. Lewis; Mill’s On the Subjection of Women; Whitman’s poetry; Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs; Morrison’s Sula; Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, and Herzog’s My Best Fiend.

The readings vary considerably.  The seminar being an introduction to liberal studies, students will be encouraged to cross, even transcend disciplinary lines intelligently.  There will be frequent, short writing assignments on the materials of the seminar and one relatively long final paper which will be, in effect, an essay on Friendship.  The seminar will be one prolonged discussion, a discussion of the texts and of short papers, the aim of which is to encourage creative reading as well as creative writing.

Fall semester.  Professor Emeritus Townsend.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

105 Burundi, Rwanda and the World

[SC,G] This first-year seminar uses a comparative case study of Burundi and Rwanda to analyze the interaction between ethnicity, state-building, socio-economic change, gender, and political competition, as well as the impact of the international system on these processes. We will use mainly political science texts, but there will also be quite a few readings from history and anthropology. One of the goals of this seminar is to understand how the dynamics of ethnicity and belonging, competition for power and privilege, state formation and social exclusion, violence and memory are not unique to places far away, but parts of all our lives.

Students will both analyze and discuss key texts with each other and engage in careful listening and dialogue as they share personal experiences and viewpoints.

The seminar involves extensive writing: there will be weekly writings, usually short, but on two occasions significantly longer. One of these occasions will be a small original survey students will carry out, comparing their results with those of the same survey in Burundi and Rwanda.

Limited to 15 students   Fall Semester   Professor Uvin

2014-15: Not offered

106 Language Crossing and Living in Translation  

When did you start dreaming in a second language? Which translation of the Bible counts as the Word of God? Was Mary a virgin or a maiden? What happens to the immigrant children who need to the be interpreters in the life of their family? How much more tangled or how much more nimble is the wiring of the bilingual brain? What are we doing to our languages when we immerse in a new academic discipline? We will tackle these and other questions like these as we engage in the following units of study:  1) Babel and language differentiation and diffusion.  2) European translators from early modern humanism and the Reformation.  3) Case studies:  Squanto, Malinche and the Navajo Code talkers.  4) Language in contemporary empires and resistance, migrations and globalization.  5) Language issues in gay and lesbian diasporas.  6) Bi- or multi-lingual education.  7) Literary practitioners of living in and out of translation:  Luis de León, Vladimir Nabokov, Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

The seminar will work with the same texts, issues and exercise for about two-thirds of our time together. The other third we will concentrate on projects that emerge from the students’ own linguistic condition. Students will be required to delve into their own family archives looking for ancestors’ letters written in languages they cannot yet read. They will be encouraged to document/fictionalize the stakes of marrying into another language, or to study and report on the language crossings of their particular diaspora.

Despite the apparent advantage of having more than one language to engage in our work, this course has no pre-requisites and its does not exclude monolinguals. When we talk about the cultural contributions, the headiness and the struggles of bi- or multi-lingual individuals, it will be invaluable to have interlocutors who think they live only in one language.

Fall semester.  Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2014-15: Not offered

107 Secrets and Lies

Politics seems almost unimaginable without secrecy and lying. From the noble lie of Plato's Republic to the controversy about former President Clinton's "lying" in the Monica Lewinsky case, from the use of secrecy in today's war against terrorism to the endless spinning of political campaigns, from President John Kennedy's behavior during the Cuban missile crisis to cover-ups concerning pedophile priests in the Catholic church, from Freud's efforts to decode the secrets beneath civilized life to contemporary exposés of the private lives of politicians, politics and deception seem to go hand-in-hand. This course investigates how the practices of politics are informed by the keeping and telling of secrets, and the telling and exposing of lies. We will address such questions as: When, if ever, is it right to lie or to breach confidences? When is it right to expose secrets and lies? Is it necessary to be prepared to lie in order to advance the cause of justice? Or, must we do justice justly? When is secrecy really necessary and when is it merely a pretext for Machiavellian manipulation? Are secrecy and deceit more prevalent in some kinds of political systems than in others? As we explore those questions we will discuss the place of candor and openness in politics and social life; the relationship between the claims of privacy (e.g., the closeting of sexual desire) and secrecy and deception in public arenas; conspiracy theories as they are applied to politics; and the importance of secrecy in the domains of national security and law enforcement. We will examine the treatment of secrecy and lying in political theory as well as their appearance in literature and popular culture, for example Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Primary Colors, Schindler's List and The Insider.

This is a discussion-based course. Students will be expected to be active participants in the seminar. During the course of the semester we will use our discussions to cultivate reasoning skills as well as student capacities to present arguments in a compelling manner. In addition, there will be frequent writing, and I will provide careful and extended responses to student writing. The course will provide an introduction to liberal studies by helping students learn how to read and comprehend complex texts, respond to them in sophisticated ways, and engage in critical reasoning about venerable and pressing ethical, social and political problems. 

Fall semester. Professor Sarat.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

108 Evolution and Intellectual Revolution

The centerpiece of this course is Darwin and his book On the Origin of Species.  Like all revolutionary ideas, Darwin's theory did not appear out of nowhere and did not settle matters once and for all; therefore the course will explore the scientific context in which this work appeared and Darwin's own intellectual background.  We will read the great book itself to see what exactly Darwin had to say and how he went about saying it.  Pigeons will come up. Then extracts from the writings of Darwin's contemporaries will be used to look at the scientific, social, and theological responses to Darwin's theory.  Finally, we will consider a few of the major issues in evolution that still reverberate today.

The course on Darwin's theory will be taught as a seminar--we will all read something, then gather together and try to figure out what exactly it was that we read.  The reading itself will be challenging, sometimes because the ideas are subtle, sometimes because the sentences are long, sometimes both, and discussion will be necessary to figure out what happened in the readings.  There will be many writing assignments, most of them short.  A common assignment might be to summarize and explain an argument, or to imagine the response of one point of view to an argument from a different point of view.  We hope that you will come away from the course with a better understanding of evolutionary theory and its impact on the world, but also with an enhanced appreciation of vigorous reasoning and a better idea of how to fashion and support your own arguments.

Fall semester.  Professors Martini and Miller.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

109 Mind and Brain

How could there be any difficulty understanding mind, when we seem to have easy and direct access to the workings of our own minds simply by paying attention to what we are experiencing at the moment?  By comparison, matter—including the matter our bodies are made of—seems foreign and remote.  Yet why, on thinking more about it, does mind seem so mysterious that the seventeenth century philosopher René Descartes could liken it to something "extremely rare and subtle like a wind, a flame, or an ether"?  Descartes believed that mind is puzzling because our apprehension of it is obscured and distorted by the body and the senses.  He argued that until we turn things around and analyze the mind with the penetrating clarity he thought possible, we will not be able to justify our claims to know anything.

These are intriguing ideas, especially since one aim of liberal education is to develop habits of mind such as a willingness to question one's own beliefs, to say clearly what we believe and why we believe it, and to ask ourselves whether we have a sound basis for our beliefs.  If Descartes is right, we cannot proceed far in liberal studies without inquiring into the nature of mind and determining its powers and limitations in connection with knowledge and reasonable belief.  We will ask whether Descartes' account of mind can survive what is known today about the unconscious, the influence of emotions and conditioning on belief and action, and the relation between brain function and mind.  How does Descartes' view of mind fare in explaining personal identity, free will, and differences between humans and computers or animals?

The goal of the course is not to uncover a completely satisfactory account of mind—none exists at present—but rather to organize puzzlement through the process of clarifying and examining basic beliefs and assumptions about the nature of mind.  This process involves self-scrutiny, as well as discussion and writing based on readings from philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, plus occasional laboratory work.  The aim is to give opportunities to develop an inquiring mind capable of tolerating ambiguity rather than clinging to false certainties, yet also capable of having beliefs rather than retreating into total skepticism.  Three classroom hours per week.

Fall semester. Professor Emeritus S. George.

2014-15: Not offered

110 Authority, Obedience and the Rule of Law

All political systems must operate according to the "rule of law" if they are to be deemed legitimate. This statement has assumed the quality of a truism:  we hear it repeated by the President of the United States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and the President of the International Criminal Court.  At the same time, though, that everyone seems to agree that the "rule of law" is a good thing, no one seems able to say for sure what the "rule of law" is.  What, then, do we mean by the "rule of law"? What does it mean to speak of government limited by law? What are these limits, where do they come from, and how are they enforced? What role does the "rule of law" play in legitimating structures of governance? Does the "rule of law" imply any particular relationship between legality and morality?  We will hazard answers to these questions through a close reading of works of theorists such as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, H.L.A. Hart and Lon Fuller.  In addition, we will examine the arguments of the theorists as they help us think through pressing legal challenges of our age, such as defining the limits of executive power in the "war against terror."

Our seminar will be devoted to the close reading of a select number of texts.  We will analyze the structure, meaning and adequacy of the arguments contained in these works through vigorous discussion and frequent writing assignments.  Our aim is to gain a rich critical understanding of a concept that lies at the foundation of domestic and international socio-political systems, and to improve our abilities to discuss and write about complex ideas with sophistication, nuance and flair.

Fall semester. Professor Douglas.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014

111 Violence and Politics

[ IL, G ] Violence lies at the very heart of both political institutions, such as the state, as well as the expression of political beliefs.  Focusing on domestic rather than international forms of conflict, this course will address questions of what violence is, how it is organized in society, and what it means to those who use it. We will first identify ways to think about violence as a political activity – why do actors choose violent over non-violent means of resisting governments or expressing dissent?  Is violence ever rational?  What purposes does it serve?  How is violence different from other kinds of political interaction like arguing or debating?  Next we will think about how violence is organized – that is, how do political leaders, parties, police forces, and paramilitaries, for example, try to control and manage the use of force?  When do private individuals and groups choose to protect themselves and when do they turn to the state?  Building on the theoretical interventions of scholars such as Arendt, Weber, Sartre and others, we will use empirical studies of the political use of force from around the world to ask how violence shapes political phenomena such as elections, protest movements, taxation, and nationalism.

This seminar course is designed both to facilitate engaged classroom discussion as well as improve analytic skills. Throughout the course we will engage with the arguments and contentions of a number of key theoretical and empirical works, which will provide a foundation for critical reading and reflection through writing. The core assignment of the course is a 12-15 page paper, which we will break into a number of sub-assignments, allowing students to learn organizational skills involved in managing larger projects and providing feedback and opportunities for re-drafting.  

Limited to 15 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Obert.

2014-15: Not offered

112 Growing Up in America

How do race, ethnicity, social class and gender shape the experience of growing up in America? We will begin by examining the life of a contemporary African-American male on his journey from the inner city to an Ivy League university. We then look back historically at some nineteenth-century lives--male and female, real and fictional--to understand how the transition from an agricultural to an urban industrial society has influenced the experience of coming of age.  The remainder of the course will center on coming of age in the twentieth century. Our focus will be on the formation of identity, relationship with parents, courtship, sexuality, and the importance of culture and community. In addition to historical, sociological and psychological texts, the class will include fiction by Horatio Alger, Ella Deloria, and James Baldwin.

The course introduces students to liberal studies through exposure to interdisciplinary readings and methods of inquiry from history, psychology, sociology and literature. We hope to advance students’ skills at reading critically, analyzing arguments, and articulating ideas orally and in their writing, skills that will be crucial for future coursework at the college. Preparation for each class involves students formulating questions on the reading assignment, and students are expected to be active participants in this entirely discussion-based course. We find that students readily connect to the material and learn from one another as they respond to the material in diverse ways. The writing assignments range in length from 2-6 pages and involve the analysis of individual texts and the connection between texts. Through paper assignments students will work on developing their own arguments, backing up their arguments with evidence, and revising their prose.

Fall semester. Professors Aries and Hart.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

113 Beethoven Hero

How did Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) become the universal composer, a quintessential figure who embodies the highest aspirations of humanity across boundaries of culture and history? How did he and his music become intertwined with the artistic and political idea of hero?  

We will consider these questions in a series of case studies, employing his music and life story to explore how Beethoven became a prism for refracting cultural meaning. Seminar members—whether familiar with music or undertaking its study for the first time—will develop the practice of active listening in combination with class discussion, frequent short writing projects, concert attendance, and conversations with visiting musicians.

Fall semester. Professor Kallick.

2014-15: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

114 Reading Asian American

Asian American. Who or what is Asian American? What meanings does that term have? How does it operate as a descriptor to define a range of people of heterogeneous histories and cultural backgrounds? How is it defined and manifested in the realms of art, law, education and politics? In this course, we will explore the evolution of terms to define peoples of Asian descent in America and the corresponding creation of this fluid panethnic label of identification. By examining discrete moments in American history when the meaning of Asian American was contested we will examine the construction and ongoing legacy of this American identity.

The course will be highly interdisciplinary and include readings in literature, history, and law and involve archival research on local Asian American history. Most course meetings will involve group discussion of course materials. Coursework will include essays, research assignments, and group presentations. Instruction in writing will also be a major focus of the course. 

2014-15: Not offered

115 The Literature of Love

This course examines literary, artistic, religious, and philosophical explorations of romantic, erotic, and ethical varieties of love. It is centered on the literary, artistic, and intellectual traditions of premodern India, but will offer occasional comparative forays into conceptions and schemas of love in western traditions. We will focus on India’s classical art and its literatures of epic stories, court poetry, erotics, and aesthetic theory to examine romantic love, and its religious literatures to explore ethical and religious love.

[Additional Paragraph:]  The objective of the course is to develop conceptual and aesthetic sophistication about love in many of its varieties:  ethical, religious, family, romantic, and erotic.  While we are focused on the rich literary, religious, and philosophical texts of classical India, we will also engage in comparative study with theorists of love from the western traditions. While we are cultivating our capacities to read texts in rich and complex ways, the course will also incorporate the study and critical appreciation of South Asian art, using the Mead Art Museum’s fine collection. The seminar sharpens students’ critical and argumentative tools, their abilities to read and analyze texts, and their capacities to express themselves in writing.

2014-15: Not offered

116 Thought Experiments in Physics

As a boy, Einstein famously imagined chasing a light beam on its way to a mirror and wondered if he would see his reflection in such an event.  Later in life, he was struck by the conflict such a hypothetical experiment would create with other parts of experience and physical theory.  This reflection (or its absence!) eventually led him to the formulation of the special theory of relativity.  The kind of reasoning Einstein undertook as a boy goes by the name gedankenexperiment or thought-experiment.  In fact before Einstein, different kinds of thought-experiments had been used by Galileo and Newton among others in their path-breaking contributions to physics.  The common element in these works in the philosopher Martin Cohen's words "is the discovery of a way of seeing the world" rather than making an observation, measurement or even a realistic model of some physical system.  In this seminar we will read the accounts of thought experiments by Galileo, Newton and Einstein as a primary means of gaining some insights into aspects of space, time, motion, relativity, and gravity.  The discussion will be supplemented by more contemporary texts.  We will inquire into the peculiar status thought experimentrs have in producing knowledge or understanding.

This course does not require a background in science, but we will be reading sources that make use of some geometry and mathematical reasoning.  In addition, students will be assigned simple problem sets involving numerical and graphical work based on high school mathematics.  The aim of these exercises is to teach parts of fundamental physics that are accessible without a strong technical background, but with some attention to epistemological considerations; while some historical context will be essential, our main focus will not be on issues in history of science.  The course will require a fair amount of writing, including short papers on the strengths and limitations of the particular arguments advanced by our sources and a final paper on the philosophical questions raised by thought-experiments.  

Professor Jagannathan.

2014-15: Not offered

117 Performance

This course will explore the basic elements of performance as an art form, including the relationship between action and environment, time and space, and perception and memory on the stage.  Students will attend a broad range of performances, from traditional theater and opera to contemporary dance and installation work, and explore the nature of performance and the audience experience in regular descriptive and analytical writing.  Additional readings and other media will serve as a springboard for class discussion, and as potential starting points and/or narrative frameworks for the creation of designs or performance pieces, allowing students to develop ideas for a final project within established contexts.  Required field trips.

Fall semester. Professors Dougan and Bashford.

2014-15: Not offered

118 Crossing

The lines of race and sex are enforced by parables of powerful figures who cross these boundaries to take on new identities, for good or ill. Those who artfully “pass” or transform themselves can corrupt and disrupt the social order or, alternatively, renew it. Some do both, like the foreign-born (he thinks) Oedipus, who wins a throne and a queen for courageously curing one plague, then brings another for committing incest and parricide. Tales of women warriors, race-émigrés, two-spirit people, and closeted geniuses celebrate human potential, if often tragically. But rarely distant are fears about contagion and “crimes against nature,” that entrench notions of racial purity, gender conformity, and sexual normality.  

We consider a range of novels, plays, films, and self-narratives that address the intersectionality of racial, gendered, and LGBT identities in Western culture.  We focus on three turning points: Athens in the fifth century BCE; the 1920s, including the Harlem Renaissance; and the growth of multicultural queer and trans* cultures in recent decades.  Literary works include Sophocles, Oedipus the King; Euripides, Medea and The Bacchae; Plato, Symposium; Willa Cather, The Professor’s House; Nella Larsen, Passing; James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man; Virginia Woolf, Orlando; Yukio Mishima, Confessions of a Mask; Manuel Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman; and David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly.  Films include Leontine Sagan, Mädchen in Uniform: Jennie Livingston, Paris is Burning; and Kimberly Pierce, Boys Don’t Cry.

This seminar aims to develop skills of critical reading and analytical writing by active participation in class discussion, as informed by questions and comments submitted before class, and by consultation with the instructor in the writing of five essays of increasing complexity. To develop oral argumentation, discussion is regularly supplemented by group reports and debates.    

2014-15: Not offered

119 Happiness

In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson breaks with John Locke's emphasis on "life, liberty and property" and instead asserts that the basic rights ("inalienable") of humans are "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." In this bold move, Jefferson placed "happiness" at the core of the political and personal concern. We will examine in this seminar how we define, measure, and attempt to generate and maintain happiness. Our examination will serve as an introduction to the many methods of inquiry and articulation available at the College. We will read, discuss and write about written texts from philosophy, political science, history, literature, psychology and economics. We will watch, discuss and write about films from different eras that demonstrate examples of "happiness." In addition, we will undertake exercises that will allow students to become mindful of their own well-being and will allow them to have direct experiences of the issues we address. Classes will be held to generate conversations about the texts, films and exercises. There will be frequent, short writing assignments on the materials of the seminar and one relatively long final paper. Thus, students will gain practice in the articulation of their ideas and internal states through speaking, writing and self-awareness.

Fall semester.  Professor Barbezat.

2014-15: Not offered

120 Pariscape: Imagining Paris in the Twentieth Century

Paris has been for centuries one of the exemplary sites of our urban sensibility, a city that has indelibly and controversially influenced the twentieth-century imagination.  Poets, novelists and essayists, painters, photographers and film-makers: all have made use of Paris and its cityscape to examine relationships among technology, literature, city planning, art, social organizations, politics and what we might call the urban imagination.  This course will study how these writers and visual artists have seen Paris, and how, through their representations, they created and challenged the “modernist” world view.In order to discover elements of a common memory of Paris, we will study a group of writers (Baudelaire, Zola, Calvino, Stein, Hemingway and others), philosophers and social commentators (Simmel, Benjamin), filmmakers (Truffaut, Godart, Tati and others), photographers (Atget and Brassaï), and painters (Manet, Cézanne, Picasso, Delaunay, and others).  Finally, we will look at how such factors as tourism, print media, public works, immigration and suburban development affect a city’s simultaneous and frequently uncomfortable identity as both a geopolitical and an imaginative site.

This is a course where participation will be expected of each and every student. It will not be a lecture course. To do well, each student will be expected to be an active participant in each class meeting. Written work should reflect the quality of the seminar’s discussions. Logic in argument and rhetorical subtlety will be considered strengths. I will provide extensive comments on student papers, and will expect students to discuss those comments–-positive and negative-–with me in private meetings. Students will also work in teams on specific projects.

This course seeks to introduce students to the intellectual variety of the liberal arts, their content and methods. We will touch on such disciplines as literary analysis and close reading, translation, history, sociology, psychology, photographic and film analysis, art and architectural history, anthropology, gender and ethnic studies, sexuality, demographics, politics and the law.  Knowledge of French is not necessary.We will always keep a sense of humor, perhaps take a field trip to New York, and not be patronizing to those who do not have the good fortune to be in this seminar.

Fall semester. Professor Rosbottom.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

121 The World, Performed

“Mere theater!” we might say dismissively of a political event.  “He just loves drama,” we might say about a friend behind his back.  “She’s such a diva!”  “He’s putting on a show!”  You get the idea.  Our language often implies that the world is a theatrical performance, and when it does we usually mean that it’s insubstantial or inflated or fake.

But seeing the world as performance can also be a powerful and empowering act.  In this course, we will chart the history of this Janus-faced concept in the West, from its ancient roots in the notion of the theatrum mundi  (the theater of the world) to the present-day understanding that gender, for instance, is “performed.”

We will attend performances and watch films; read dramatic, literary and theoretical texts on this theme; and discuss them together as a class.  You will also attend non-theatrical events in order to examine them "as performance."  In frequent writing assignments, you will learn how to bridge the gap between the Big Ideas of this course and particular texts or performances, but we will focus, not just on critical analysis, but also on the creative craft of essay-writing.  For instance, special attention will be paid to the way your writing might evoke a lost or absent performance for your reader.

Fall semester.  Professor Grobe.

2014-15: Not offered

122 Representing Equality

This seminar is the third in a sequence that studies Amherst campus life, its history, privileges and problems, with the aim of creating productive discussions designed to make a friendlier and more integrated community.  In Representing Equality, students will engage with art work and texts that touch on a variety of aspects of inequality in our larger society, including educational disparities as well as racial, ethnic, gender, and economic inequality; for example, they will read  the work of Anna Deveare Smith that examines the ethnic rifts leading to violence. They will also explore techniques of productive dialogue across differences and acquire skills in interviewing and careful listening. These discussions and skills will help students to construct a class project that will explore social life on the Amherst campus and that will pick up on and broaden conversations started in this seminar in 2013 about creating a  safer and more cohesive environment--one that helps members to benefit from the extraordinary diversity among students and that links inequalities and stereotypes to sexual violence and other local and national problems. Students will conduct interviews with other students, faculty, and staff to deepen their understanding of campus life. They will collaborate  on photographic representations of campus issues and produce an end-of-semester public event to  summarize their findings and generate further dialogue.      

Class meets on Tuesday 11:30 a.m. - 12:50 p.m. and Friday 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. Fall semester. Visiting Artist-in-Residence Ewald and Professor Saxton.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

123 Drugs in History

This course examines the changing ways that human beings have used psychoactive drugs and societies have controlled that use. After examining drug use in historical and cross-cultural perspectives and studying the physiological and psychological effects of different drugs, we look at the ways in which contemporary societies both encourage and repress drug use. We address the drug war, the disease model of drug addiction, the proliferation of prescription drugs, the images of drug use in popular culture, America’s complicated history of alcohol control, and international drug trafficking and its implications for American foreign policy. Readings include Huxley’s Brave New World, Kramer’s Listening to Prozac and Reinarman and Schivelbusch, Tastes of Paradise; films include Drugstore Cowboy and Traffic. This course will be writing attentive.

Fall semester. Professors Couvares and Himmelstein.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014

124 Vienna around 1900: Cradle of Modernity

This course explores the “joyful apocalypse” of fin-de-siècle Vienna, where brilliant artistic creativity emerged in a volatile multi-ethnic Empire teetering on the verge of collapse.   We shall examine how and why the city became the birthplace of many ideas on gender, sexuality, class, and ethnicity that continue to be relevant today. We shall explore artistic experimentation in literature (Schnitzler, Hofmannsthal, Musil, Kraus), music (Mahler, Schönberg), and the visual arts (Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka, O. Wagner, A. Loos).  We shall trace the various forces that sought to respond to a pervasive sense of crisis: the emergence of new, often irrational, forms of mass politics; the psychoanalysis of Freud; the skeptical philosophies of Ernst Mach and Ludwig Wittgenstein; the pacifism of Bertha von Suttner; and the emergence of modern Zionism (Theodor Herzl) in a context of a growing anti-Semitism that shaped Hitler’s irrational worldview.  And we shall discuss how fin-de-siècle Vienna became a breeding ground for many of the social, cultural, and political forces that characterize modernity to this day.  Weekly writing assignments of diverse kinds will be complemented by a focus on methods and techniques of inquiry.

Fall semester.  Professor Rogowski.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013

125 Relativism and Toleration

Most of us agree that we should be tolerant of the beliefs and practices of others. Often the call for tolerance is grounded in some form of relativism—that is, in the thought that there simply isn’t an absolute or objective fact of the matter. After all, on what basis could we insist that others share our beliefs if those beliefs are subjective in some way, a function of our upbringing, our religion, our social norms, our culture, or our own peculiar tastes and concerns? But what reasons do we have to accept some such form of relativism? Can relativism really ground our commitment to tolerance? If not, then how else can we justify that commitment? We will explore these questions as they arise in a number of different philosophical and religious traditions. Readings will be drawn from both classical and contemporary sources and will include the work of anthropologists, literary and political theorists, philosophers, and theologians.

Most course meetings will involve a combination of interactive lecture and discussion. Our task will be to make sense of the ideas and arguments advanced in the texts we are reading and to determine whether those ideas and arguments are cogent. We will also work together to formulate compelling arguments of our own. Students are required to participate actively and intelligently in these class discussions, which will often take the form of a close reading and analysis of a passage from the assigned reading. I will encourage participation by randomly calling on students at various points during the semester to summarize and explain ideas and arguments from the reading. Note that in order to participate effectively in such discussions, students must read the assigned texts carefully and aggressively before coming to class.

Fall semester. Professor Shah.

2014-15: Offered in Fall 2014
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

127 Genes, Genomes and Society

The sequencing of the human genome ranks as one of the most significant scientific achievements of the last century. How might we ensure that scientific progress is matched by society’s ability to use that knowledge for human betterment? While the scientific ramifications of the genomic revolution are just now being explored, major implications are already apparent in such diverse fields as philosophy, medicine and law. The course will begin with a primer on genetics and molecular biology but quickly move to consider some of the philosophical, ethical, and very practical societal concerns raised by recent genetic discoveries. We will consider such issues as the safety of recombinant DNA, the origin of humans and of human races (and are there such?), the use and potential misuse of DNA fingerprinting by governmental agencies, the complex interaction between one’s genes and one’s environment, the ability of parents to screen potential offspring for a range of diseases, the creation of genetically altered plants and animals, and human gene therapy.

In this discussion-based course, students will consider the “code of life” from molecular, evolutionary, philosophical, ethical, and legal perspectives. Students will be expected to engage the full range of thought–from the evaluation of primary-source scientific data to the consideration of their societal ramifications–that accompanies a major scientific revolution. Readings will be drawn from an array of sources including original-research articles, histories, popular-science works, and essays. Careful attention will be paid to the conveyance of ideas: frequent writing projects will be assigned, and students will discuss their work in formal presentations and the occasional debate.  All students should expect to contribute to the back-and-forth exchange of ideas in the classroom each day.

Fall semester. Professor Bishop.

2014-15: Not offered

128 Oceans of the Past

Participants in "Oceans of the Past" will explore global maritime history. We will investigate how mariners, pirates, smugglers, merchants, novelists, cartographers, hunters, policymakers, and scientists have understood the seas from ancient times to the present. We will also look at long-term environmental issues shaping our maritime futures. These include: climate change, fisheries management, and aquatic pollution. In addition to our classroom activities, we will use the collections at the Mead Art Museum and make a trip to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. Staff members from the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole and the Nantucket Historical Association will visit us during the semester.

Fall semester. Professor Melillo.

2014-15: Not offered

130 Africa:  Power and Representation

The right to represent oneself has always been an important piece of symbolic capital and a source of power.  External representations of Africa have consistently distorted and misinterpreted the peoples and cultures of the continent.  Within Africa, this right--to produce and display particular images--has been inseparable from both secular and sacred power.  The discrepancy in interpretation of various images, whether these are in the form of visual objects or in the form of philosophies or concepts, has produced a misunderstanding of African institutions and art?  In addition, historically the right to represent and claim one's identity has become increasingly politicized.  Control over various representations and images of Africa and things African has become contested.  Using an interdisciplinary focus from the fields of art history, history and anthropology, this course will examine representations and interpretations of images of Africa both from within and from outside the continent.  Ultimately we will link these various forms of power and legitimacy to consider the complexity behind the development of an idea of Africa.

Fall semester.  Professor Goheen.

2014-15: Not offered