FYSE 101 The Value of Nature

Our impact on the environment has been large, and in recent decades the pace of change has clearly accelerated, with the effects of climate change now being experienced around the world. Many species face extinction, forests are disappearing, and toxic wastes and emissions accumulate. The prospect of environmental collapse seems all too real.

This sense of crisis has spurred intense and wide-ranging debate over what our proper relationship to nature should be. This debate will be the focus of the seminar. Among the questions we shall explore will be: What obligations, if any, do we have to non-human animals, to living organisms like trees, to ecosystems as a whole, and to future generations of humans? Do animals have rights we ought to respect? Is nature intrinsically valuable or merely a bundle of utilities for our benefit? Is there even a stable notion of “what is natural” that can be deployed in a workable environmental ethic? We will investigate these and related questions with readings from diverse literature.

This is a discussion-based seminar, with close attention to writing. The seminar’s goal is to sharpen the ability to think critically and write argumentatively, but also flexibly, about nature and our attitudes towards it.

Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Levin.

FYSE 102 Progress?

Is the world a better place today than it was fifty years ago? Will it be better yet in another fifty years? We cannot answer such questions without asking what we mean by "better," that is, what counts as progress. The question of what progress is cannot be answered simply: the term has been used in different ways at different times and has also been the subject of much critical examination. We will explore the meaning of progress by engaging with a variety of thought-provoking and influential works. 

Fall semester. Professors Dole, Douglas, George, Obert, Schmalzbauer, and Shah.
FYSE 103 Anthropology and Theatre: A Conversation

Anthropology and Theater each explore human behavior through close observation. A primary meeting point for these two disciplines is ritual. Both disciplines distinguish daily behavior from extra-daily behavior and both are concerned with their relationship. Theater people must observe the world to produce a credible and compelling performance of a reality not their own. Anthropologists must observe the world to produce a credible and compelling description of a reality not their own. This course concerns the differences and the similarities between the methods used in theater and anthropology to get the empirical story correct and convincing to their various audiences.

Fall semester.  Professor Gewertz and Senior Resident Artist Lobdell.

FYSE 104 Autobiography/Memior

In this course we will read and write about different works of autobiography and memoir, ranging from Jean Jacques Rousseau’s “Confessions” to Brittany Spears “The Woman in Me.” We will explore the underlying motives of the authors, from apologia to self-promotion to political argument, and discuss the varying techniques the authors use to tell their stories. Aside from Rousseau and Spears, we may consider works by Frederick Douglass, U.S. Grant, Maxine Hong Kingston, Mary Carr, Maya Angelou, Adolf Hitler, Stanley Cavell, and William Connolly. One option for students will be to write about themselves, though this will not be required of anyone.

Fall semester. Professor Dumm

FYSE 105 American History and Memory

Americans are at war over history. While scholars continue to produce new interpretations and consider additional sources of historical knowledge, others in American society seek to revise the established historical record and assert in the public sphere and in classrooms their interpretations of history. Monuments and schoolboard meetings are sites of sometimes acrimonious contestations over what happened in the past and how Americans should remember it. We will study such debates and consider the range of sources of historical knowledge—from government records, photographs, graphic novels, to films—that influence our understanding of history, how we remember. We will explore how individuals, families, communities, and nations record and recall the past by studying a range of written and visual representations of American slavery, the Armenian genocide, Japanese American incarceration, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Covid pandemic. We will pay particular attention to how with these events impacted and were recalled at Amherst College and the local region. How have individuals and groups wrestled with the challenges of recording and remembering these events, including their sometimes conflicting memories? Students will conduct independent research on a related topic of their choosing.

Fall semester.  Professor Hyashi.

FYSE 106 Finding Your Roots: Narratives of Self and Community

This class offers students the opportunity to learn more about their past through archival research and DNA analysis. Knowledge about the lives of those who came before us and helped make us who we are can impact how we understand ourselves and our future. Such knowledge also impacts how we view the world, and our connections to other people. Students will practice various strategies for recovering and narrating their own stories of home and of family (with a broad understanding of what “home” and “family” mean). Next, each student will conduct genealogical research, store their findings into a structured database, and read histories of migration, race, and nation formation in various parts of the world. Students will have the opportunity to get their DNA analyzed using 23andMe (if they have not previously done so) and will choose whether to share their findings. Next, students will select a particular person, moment, place or time that they discovered through their genealogical research. This will become the inspiration for an original historical research project using digital archives and published secondary literature. Students will finish the course by working together to reflect upon how the things they and their peers discovered about their own and each other’s pasts shape how they think about the changes and challenging transitions they are currently experiencing as the newest members of the Amherst College community. 

To learn about a past iteration of the course, visit https://www.amherst.edu/amherst-story/magazine/issues/2019-spring/college-row/rooted

Fall semester. Professor Lopez

FYSE 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 and President Trump’s alleged assault on truth, from the use of secrecy in the war against terrorism to the endless spinning of political campaigns, from controversies about "fake news" to efforts to hide and excuse police miscoduct, 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? Can democracy survive in a “post-truth” era? 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.

FYSE 108 Icon and Iconoclasm

We live in a world saturated with images. What makes some images the targets of veneration (iconophilia), and others the targets of destruction (iconoclasm)? What drives the rejection or—alternatively—embrace of certain types of images, and how are such acts justified? This course will begin by examining these questions within a historical framework, drawing on medieval and early modern case studies of image worship and destruction from around the globe. We will consider how different religious and cultural communities defined their relationship with images. We will also attend to the physical nature of images that were worshipped or destroyed to better understand the role that materiality, scale, and other properties might have played in inviting these impassioned responses. In the latter half of the course, we will turn to more contemporary case studies—the Taliban’s destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, for example, and the emergence of the digital icon—to ask how, or if, the impulses that drive iconophilia and iconoclasm have changed over time. Our goal is to better understand the power that images hold over us.

Fall semester: Professor Rice.

FYSE 111 Investigating Objects

Our lives are filled with objects. What are our relationships to them, and what is their significance in our culture? In this discussion-based course we will be exploring what objects are, how we define and value them, and what their existence is apart from us. Reading texts from a variety of disciplines including philosophy, literature, art history, and anthropology, we will be investigating a range of perspectives on objects and their significance. In addition to reading about them, we will examine actual objects. Discussions and writing assignments will develop approaches to enrich and inform these encounters through research, visual examination and critical analysis. 

This course will also involve making things. Through a series of studio projects (drawing and sculpture) we will explore how things are made and gain a richer understanding of their physical, visual and tactile qualities. Writing assignments in connection with these projects will help to foster an appreciation of the connections between the visual and the verbal. Some of the objects we will be investigating are: vessels, electronic devices, books, furniture, miniatures, musical instruments and modern sculpture.

No studio art experience is necessary.

Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Culhane.

FYSE 113 The Nuclear Age

On August 6, 1945, a United States bomber dropped the first atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, transforming the world in an instant. This course explores the emergence of nuclear technology and its impact on global politics, society, and culture from roughly the Second World War to the present day. We will begin with the invention of the atomic bomb during World War II, exploring its societal, environmental, and cultural effects in Japan as well as its broader impact on American and European politics and identity. We will then examine the diverse ramifications of the nuclear arms race in the 1950s and 1960s, and again in the 1980s, which both pushed the world towards the brink of destruction and also fostered new forms of international cooperation and grassroots activism. We will also analyze the continuing debates over nuclear technology in the context of energy, natural resources, scientific responsibility, and environmentalism. Drawing on a range of sources, from governmental reports and diaries to cartoons, films, and paintings, the course will highlight the perspectives of a variety of groups and individuals who shaped and were shaped by the nuclear age, including scientists, policymakers, journalists, artists, activists, and survivors of atomic blasts. Two class meetings per week.

Fall semester. Professor Walker.

FYSE 114 Literature on Trial

Why are novels so interested in trials? What is the relationship between literary and legal interpretation, and between the role of a reader and that of a juror? How do we interpret “facts” in a literary text versus a legal context? In this course, we will read texts that feature trials in order to explore the relationship between the literary and the legal, two very different ways of making sense of the world that collide in works about trials. As part of our exploration of this relationship, we will put literary characters on trial in order to explore how guilt, judgment, and redemption operate in the works we read, and to consider our own role and responsibility as readers. By placing trials and judgment at the center of our reading experience, we can investigate some of our texts’ major ethical questions: Do we have the right to judge others? Can people be redeemed? What is the relationship between reading and judgment? What does justice look like in a literary work? Readings will include works by Sophocles, Franz Kafka, James Baldwin, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Claudia Rankine.

Fall semester. Prof. Drennan.

FYSE 116 The Anatomy of Pictures

This course is about the centrality of images produced by mechanical means in the rituals, practices, and representations of everyday life—what we now understand as visual culture. With a focus on the last 50 years, we will explore why it is important to understand the image as utterly diverse in its functions. We will dissect examples from contemporary photography, new media, screen culture, and cultural theory that critically challenge visual culture. Our conversations will cover topics from new models of spectatorship and how to become visually literate to controversies surrounding trigger warnings and the risk of “remaining forever trapped inside the image” (cf. Jacques Rancière’s “The Intolerable Image”). Readings will include the voices of artists, critics, historians, cultural theorists, and philosophers such as Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Richard Dyer, Jessica Evans, Michel Foucault, Anne Friedberg, Stuart Hall, bell hooks, Kobena Mercer, Adrian Piper, Claudia Rankine, and Hito Steyerl.

Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Falk.

FYSE 117 New Women in America

This course will examine the emergence of the “New Woman” as a category of social theory, political action, and literary representation at the turning of the twentieth century. Early readings will trace the origins of the New Woman as a response to nineteenth-century notions of “True Womanhood.” Discussions will situate literary representations of women in larger cultural events taking place during the Progressive Era–debates over suffrage as well as their relationship to issues of citizenship, immigration, Jim Crow segregation, urbanization, and nativism. The course will focus on texts written by a diverse group of women that present multiple and, at times, conflicting images of the New Woman. Close attention will be paid to the manner in which these women writers constructed their fictions, particularly to issues of language, style, and form. Readings will include texts by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, Pauline Hopkins, Anzia Yezierska, and Sui Sin Far.

Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Bergoffen.

FYSE 118 African American Creative Masterpieces

This seminar introduces students to the art of cultural criticism and to the study of African American expressive culture. Deploying a broad, interdisciplinary approach, we survey influential works of twentieth/twenty-first century African American fiction, music, drama, painting, and photography in order to understand the tendencies and trends associated with what scholars sometimes refer to as “the black aesthetic.” We pay particular attention to “masterpiece” works—i.e. extraordinary works of art that have been widely acknowledged as watershed, influential, and enduring. What makes a (black) work of art a “masterpiece”? How have African Americans historically turned to the arts and expressive culture as sites of sociopolitical critique? What role have artists played in building and sustaining what the poet Fred Moten refers to as “the black radical tradition” (i.e. a tradition of black resistance, rebellion, and creative worldmaking)? Some of the “masterpieces” that we will explore this semester will include Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and Nina Simone’s Greatest Hits, among others.

Fall semester. Professor Roberts.

FYSE 119 Coexistence: Christians, Muslims and Jews in Spain

A vital question in today’s multicultural societies is how individuals with different identities—religious, racial, ethnic, etc.—can live and prosper together. Participants in this seminar will explore the literature, culture, and history of medieval Spain, where Christians, Muslims and Jews lived side-by-side for centuries. Through readings and class discussion, we will examine how varied relations between Christians, Muslims, and Jews developed and how writers from the three cultures treated questions of acculturation and assimilation, tolerance/intolerance, religion, and gender. Examining the context of medieval Spain will also serve as a means to help us think through issues of diversity in our world today. 

Primary sources will include literary texts, historical accounts, films, legal documents, and maps and will be supplemented by secondary critical texts. This is a discussion-based course and students will be expected to be active participants in class discussions. The course will also give special attention to writing, offering students a number of opportunities to edit and improve their written expression.

Fall semester. Professor Infante.

FYSE 120 Telling Stories

We all like a good story. But why? And what is a good story? Neurobiologists have documented the chemical changes that occur in our brains when we listen to a well told story. Hannah Arendt argues that who we are is best determined by the stories others tell about us, not the stories we tell about ourselves. TED talks have over-determined that all ideas worth sharing must be explained in 18 minutes, no more or less; with compelling graphics, of course. Stories are a feature of cultures around the world, and elements of both universality and diversity can be found in storytelling norms. The explosion of oral history work has done much to add the stories of “regular” people to historical narratives about events deemed worth remembering. It is possible that a story well told can compel listeners to behave more altruistically.

Fall semester. Lecturer Mead.

FYSE 121 Thinking Through Improvisation

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, brainstorm, or create art at the highest levels. While successful improvisation requires considerable preparation and skill development beforehand, most improvisers vary and select from the choices available in their repertoire almost simultaneously with their execution, sometimes even surprising themselves. We will explore improvisational thinking with the aid of several skilled practitioners of improvisation 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. We will draw from diverse fields and activities. Students will also have several opportunities to improvise.  Improvisation is linked to the creative process. Neither improvisation nor creativity is limited to the arts or any other field. We will come to think of improvisation as a useful tool to apply to various activities as students and in whatever areas we choose to specialize.

Fall semester. Professor Poccia.

FYSE 122 Television and Possibility

Television has become so vast, so amorphous that it may seem impossible to define today. But in
this ineffability also lies possibility. This course will explore the possibilities that television
offers us when we look at it closely: possibilities of comfort, of speculation, of desire, even of
kindness. And we will consider other formal possibilities in television’s various incarnations
from its original broadcast commercial format in the US to contemporary streaming applications.
Hence, we will also explore televisual and digital approaches to narrative, temporality, and
control. The course will include a range of readings about television from disciplinary
perspectives, and it will also include readings that enable an imaginative approach to what
television has to offer us as viewers. Indeed, we will see television viewers themselves (and
ourselves!) as also full of possibilities; hardly passive, TV viewers have the potential to analyze,
speculate, and imagine connections within and across television series, or “texts.” We will also
look at several case studies: multiple episodes and arcs of historical and contemporary series to
ground our understanding and debates.

Fall semester. Professor Hastie.

FYSE 123 Asia in the European Mind

From the late-eighteenth century onward European intellectuals frequently drew on images of Asia to discuss what it meant to be modern, enlightened, and historically progressive. By critically tracing this intellectual genealogy we will together confront controversial yet remarkably durable conceptions of human subjectivity, freedom, and progress, conceptions we are often complicit in today. We will start with key figures in the intellectual tradition of modern Europe, including Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), Georg W. F. Hegel (1770–1831), Karl Marx (1818–1883), and Max Weber (1864–1920), but move on to the echoes of their thought among more recent, especially Asian, thinkers who have grappled with the problem of modernity. We will conclude with contemporary thinkers, including Judith Butler (1956-), Ueno Chizuko (1948-), Naoki Sakai (1946-), Homi Bhabha (1949-), and Dipesh Chakrabarty (1948-), and consider their attempts to grapple with the tension between universal conceptions of human being and particular modes of criticism and resistance. 

The seminar is designed to practice the related skills of close reading, engaged discussion, and critical writing. In addition to 5 formal essays, reading prompts and short writing exercises will ask you to develop the reading skills needed for active class discussion and effective writing. Short research exercises will introduce you to Frost Library and a group presentation will allow you to practice oral communication skills. 

Fall semester. Professor Maxey.

FYSE 124 Modern China

In this seminar, we will grapple with the profound impact of China’s modern transformation against a backdrop of the global circulation and competition of ideas and ideals. The course uses a variety of sources and approaches to make sense of the Chinese quest for modernity. We examine a selection of key historical figures, intellectual movements, and cultural milestones from the mid-nineteenth century organized into five thematic units: China’s encounter with the modern West; revolutionary heroines; the Mao Era; postmodern/post-Mao-Deng China; and a special unit on Taiwan in the  twentieth century. Methodologically, the course highlights literary and artistic creation as a form of historical engagement and a vehicle for ethical reasoning, while cultivating skills of humanistic inquiry that are broadly relevant in and beyond college intellectual life.

The seminar places an emphasis on close reading, engaged discussion, argumentative writing, and oral presentation, with some exposure to visual, material, and digital sources. Reading prompts and informal writing exercises help students practice the reading skills required for active class discussion and effective writing. Students will write three formal papers of various lengths and have regular writing consultations with the instructor. 

All readings are in English. No prior knowledge of China or the Chinese language is required.
Fall Semester. Professor Ying.

FYSE 125 Space and Place

This course is an interdisciplinary exploration of physical space and the sense of belonging and rootedness we call place. The organizing principle of the course is the expanding circle; we will begin with the individual, then move to the home and family, the city, the nation, and end with the globe as a whole. We will cover a range of topics along the way, including memory, imagination, nationalism, borders, war, exile, imperialism, and globalization. Works range across philosophy, history, anthropology, film, fiction, photography, and environmentalism, among others. We will approach this material from within a liberal arts framework, which will give students exposure to a wide variety of perspectives in the humanities and social sciences.

Fall semester. Professor Van Compernolle.

FYSE 126 The Tragic Condition

Events in recent years in the United States and across the globe have revealed how tragic human life can be. But what does it really mean to call something “tragic”? This course explores the tragic condition by reading the most lasting works of Ancient Greek tragedy by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides alongside modern retellings of these tragedies by authors from diverse communities around the world and in the United States. We will learn about the enigmatic origins of tragedy in Greece and about the performance of tragedy in ancient Athens by studying the conventions of music, dance, and the mask. Most importantly, we will reflect on enduring relevance of Greek tragedy today by reading several works by authors and playwrights from diverse communities around the world who have taken these powerful myths, stories, and characters from Greek tragedy and adapted them to the Black, Chicano, Transgender, African, Latin American, Muslim, and Japanese experience. All readings will be in English translation. No previous knowledge of Ancient Greece, tragedy, or myth is required.

Fall semester. Professor Hutchins.

FYSE 127 Music and Totalitarianism

In 1936 the official Soviet newspaper Pravda denounced Dmitri Shostakovich’s latest opera as “muddle instead of music.” In 1942 the Party used his “Leningrad” Symphony as propaganda in the Soviet Union’s war against Nazi Germany. Shostakovich’s career demonstrates both the unlimited government support and the unlimited control totalitarian states exercise over their artists. This course explores musical life under totalitarian regimes: the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, the GDR, Socialist Hungary, and China at the time of the Cultural Revolution. Classes will center on musical works affected by such control, including Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth and his Symphony No. 5, and the Chinese ballet The Red Detachment of Women. We will watch propaganda films such as Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky and Leni Riefenstahl's The Triumph of the Will as well as films about the perils of totalitarianism such as István Szabó’s Mephisto, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Life of Others. Readings will include Hannah Arendt’s analysis of totalitarianism and historical documents pertinent to interpreting musical works in their political context. No previous knowledge of music is required.

Fall semester. Professor Moricz.

FYSE 128 War and Peace

Leo Tolstoy insisted that War and Peace was not a novel, all appearances to the contrary. As we carefully read his subversive masterpiece, we will consider the ways in which the book attempts to revolutionize what literature can do, by posing radical questions about freedom, violence, the relationship between the life of the mind and everyday experience, the value of culture, the possibility of change, and the search for an authentic self. This course takes Tolstoy's text as a departure point for exploring the possibilities of interpretation as an intellectual practice: the fictions of history and the truth of fiction; the challenges of writing about emotions, events, and texts; and the attempts to adapt something as complex and unorthodox as this book to stage and filmincluding a recent BBC re-make and a Broadway "electropop opera."

Fall semester. Professor TBD.

FYSE 129 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. Professor Miller.

FYSE 130 Graphic Lives

Graphic novels have become a potent way to tell stories about individual lives lived during moments of cultural and social upheaval. Once known as “the funnies,” comics have breathed new life into periods and events as diverse as the Renaissance, the Holocaust, the Iranian Revolution, and dictatorship Spain. But has the graphic novel killed the novel? Authors and illustrators have adapted canonical works of literature into a vibrant visual format, perhaps even putting text-only literature in peril. Some graphic novels have been criticized for trivializing serious topics. In this first-year seminar, we will examine and think critically about contemporary, international graphic novels by Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, Paco Roca, Sarah Varon, and Enriqueta Zafra, among others. We will also study literature and film in dialogue with these graphic novels, including The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes, Night, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and “Robot Dreams.” Via our comparative readings and class discussions, we will ask ourselves: What are the limits of the graphic novel? In a culture dominated by visual narratives, where do textual narratives belong? Our seminar will be highly interdisciplinary, as we read, think and write about history, politics, gender, memory, art and storytelling.

Fall semester. Professor Brenneis

FYSE 131 Globalization & the City

This is an interdisciplinary course that examines literary and other creative representations of cities, particularly those arising from colonization and historical and contemporary globalization.  We will explore such themes as power relationships between cities in the Western world and the global south, migrations, neoliberalism, environmental concerns, gender and sexuality, and the unique place of world cultures amid more vexing concerns about the impact of globalization.

Fall semester. First year students only. Limited to 16 students. Prof. C. Bailey

FYSE 132 Francophone African Literature: Magic or Realism?

Framed by realities such as colonialism and liberation, diverging religious traditions, and cultural differences, Francophone African literature expresses people’s character and engagement in times of adversity and harmony. It recounts stories of survival and death, of adaptation and rigidity, of rebirth and loss of self, almost in the same breath. Yet, in this multiplicity, there is an implicit question uniting the threads of these stories:  What does it mean to be authentically African and why is this meaning so important? Throughout the semester we will try to decipher the various themes presented in the readings and answer the underlying question regarding African identity and its ties to spirituality, through the prisms of magic and realism.  We will be using different literary genres, from a tale of initiation, a novel, a biography, to an autobiography, to accomplish this task.

Fall semester: Professor Brodnicka.

FYSE 134 Pilgrimage: Relics, Dirt, and Life in Transit

The phenomenon of pilgrimage—of making a journey to encounter a particularly significant location—can be found in many cultures. Even today, people regularly travel to long-recognized sacred places like the Holy Sepulcher and Mecca, but also make “secular” pilgrimages to Civil War battlefields and Jim Morrison’s grave. Why do people go on pilgrimage? What makes a place worth visiting? How does the journey change them? And how might the practices of pilgrimage help us understand our own experiences of being in new and unfamiliar places or of being a stranger? Over the course of the semester, we will examine and analyze first-hand accounts of pilgrimages, travel routes, material evidence, and modern examples of religious and secular pilgrimage. Our discussions will consider topics such as the meaning of place, temporality, materiality and embodiment, foreignness, voyeurism, tourism, and relics and souvenirs.

Fall semester. Professor Stephens Falcasantos.