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Fall 2021 Courses

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Engendering American Genius (Honors)

Lecturer: Nick LoLordo

Section 001 MW 3:00-4:15 Physical Science Center 0314

What would you say if I told you that the September 1933 cover of TIME magazine featured the most famous living American writer, a woman who had spent decades in Paris creating mysterious, experimental works before suddenly producing a best-seller by ghost-writing the autobiography of her own wife? This “American genius” was Gertrude Stein. With her work as lens, we’ll consider portraiture, dramatic performance, celebrity studies, and LGBTQ+ history, exploring the complexities of modern identity from self-promotion to self-discovery.

Boom to Zoom: Generation Gaps

Lecturer: Nick LoLordo

Section 002 MW 4:30-5:45 Physical Science Center 0314

Mythologizing a “Lost Generation” after WW I, mining data to build the collective identity constructs of today, for more than a century the American media has imagined history in generational terms. Your cynical, flannel-clad Gen X professor will guide our tour of cultural forms from fiction to pop music, movies to memes, considering how they represent collective struggles over power, wealth and opportunity. What might the lens of generational analysis show us about the true nature of an increasingly unequal society—& what might it obscure?

 

Seeing is Believing: Ocularcentrism in the New Millennium

Lecturer:  CR Mintler

Section 003 TR 4:30-5:45 Synchronous online

Ocularcentrism, an overreliance on vision & privileging of visual knowledge over other ways of knowing, has predisposed western cultures to value visual knowing over knowledge acquired from our other senses. From Ancient Greece to the present, this privileging of vision has produced dangerous consequences, especially when what we see has been mediated and controlled by others. Although both early visual technologies like photography and film and recent technologies in our digital age have created new ways of seeing that continue to inform and entertain, they continue to manage us as consumer subjects in capitalist marketplaces, making vision paradoxically emancipatory and CAPTIVating. We will end with the politics of being seen vs. unseen that occur when visual technology racializes or erases “others” by making them visible, invisible, or hyper-visible. Is seeing really believing? We’ll have to see about that.

Doppelgängers & Doubles

Lecturer:  CR Mintler

Section 004 TR 1:30-2:45 Synchronous online

The mysterious, eerie, uncanny doppelgänger, or “double walker,” has haunted western culture in folklore, myth, philosophy, romanticism, science and science fiction for more than two centuries, most recently influencing fashion, science fiction, film, virtual reality, social media, and video gaming culture. In literature, the doppelgänger functions as a literary device representing either the experience of a living person’s self-division or the phenomenon of a ghostly double that appears as twin, shadow, or mirror image—often of evil or misfortune. In modern consumer capitalism, human doubling evolves from the automaton, an early type of robot that replicates human form and function, into a reproducible and, more importantly, ideal and commodifiable form of “self as other” in wax museums, in department store mannequins, and in cloning. Computer games and social media platforms provide virtual worlds for other possible selves we call avatars.

In this course, we will read, analyze, discuss, research, and write about the concept of doppelgängers and reproducible doubling in a variety of guises—as shadow, automaton, mannequin, replicant, clone, and avatar—in a attempt to understand the meaning and relational function that disturbs or confronts the wholeness of self identity, dividing, fracturing, or mirroring the self. In other words, the doubling function of the doppelgänger not only as a figure, but also and more importantly as a process in disciplines like painting, fiction, poetry, opera, cultural studies, fashion, TV and cinema, and virtual reality.

We will explore the creepy and uncanny figures of Doppelgängers & Doubles in Freud’s essay on “The Uncanny,” E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Grimm’s Fairy Tale-esque story “The Sandman” (and its sampling in a modern performance of Jacques Offenbach’s nineteenth-century opera The Tales of Hoffman), the divided self of “double consciousness” theorized by W.E.B. Dubois, and literary doubles in Gilman’s “Yellow Wall Paper,” Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, and a short story by Langston Hughes titled “Passing.” Our attention will move to the commodification of gender in human doubling we see mirrored in the figure of the mannequin, in fashion models, and in clones. Recent developments in biotechnology and computer technology raise new questions and concerns about robots replacing human workers, and the psychological affects of social media/computer game avatars. Some of the video and film sources we will view include episodes from the original Twilight Zone series, and several films, which may include Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Michael Crichton’s Looker, David Fincher’s Fight Club, Lana & Lilly Wachowski’s The Matrix & Jordan Peele’s Us

 

Violence and the Sacred

Lecturer: Robert Scafe 

Section 005 MWF 103:0-11:45 Bizzell Library 0102

Beginning with Biblical human sacrifice and extending to the contemporary phenomenon of suicide bombing, this course examines how human communities have used symbolic violence to forge a common identity and to establish boundaries between themselves and others.  Why do cultures create "scapegoats" in times of crisis?  Why do religions of peace produce prophets of terror?  Why do secular states cloak their wars in sacred language?  We will address these questions by reading first-hand accounts and literary interpretations of violent episodes such as the medieval crusades, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and Jihadist terrorism.

Course texts include Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the legend of Romulus and Remus in Livy’s History of Rome, the accounts of Cain & Abel and Abraham & Isaac from the Book of Genesis, and films such as Hotel Rwanda and Apocalypse Now.

Real Utopias

Lecturer: Robert Scafe

Section 007 TR 1:30-2:45 Bizzell Library 0102

In this course we will examine literary utopias in speculative and science fiction as well as real social experiments from 19th-century communes to 21st- century online cooperatives. What motivates modern people to form alternative communities? Why do so many utopian communities fail? How have some succeeded? What can a world facing climate catastrophe learn from the history of intentional communities?

Humans, Nature: Fragile Future

Lecturer: Timothy Bradford

Section 012 MW 1:30-2:45  Kaufmann Hall 0223

Section 013 MW 4:30-5:45  Bizzell Library 0102


Welcome to the Anthropocene, a relatively new term for this geological epoch marked by significant human impact on the Earth beginning, depending on your perspective, anywhere from 15,000 years ago to 1945. Regardless of its start, it’s clear the current human population of 7.8 billion, projected to be 9 billion by 2037, is profoundly changing our environment. For example, a football field’s worth of forest is lost every second around the clock, approximately twenty-four species go extinct per day, and atmospheric carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, is over 400 parts per million, the highest level in 800,000 years. How did we get here, what does this mean, and where are we headed? And what can be done to lessen our impact? Using The Fragile Earth anthology and related digital media to guide us, this course will ask these and related questions that we will attempt to answer while exploring our place in the conundrum of the Anthropocene.

Truth to Power

 Lecturer: Eric Bosse

Section 014 MW 1:30-2:45 Synchronous online

This course focuses on intersectional identity, representation in higher education, and contemporary justice issues through the work and writings of civil rights leaders and social justice activists. In particular, students will explore issues related to human rights, overlapping social identities and systems of oppression (intersectionality), the deconstruction of "toxic masculinity," the roles of allies in social movements, and the implications of protest and dissent for stakeholders within institutions and systems. Through a sequence of writing assignments, students will be challenged to move beyond initial thoughts toward more fully developed arguments, and to examine the power of taking a stance and making a stand for justice.

Political Satire

Lecturer: Eric Bosse

Section 015 MW 3:00-4:15 Synchronous online

According to the columnist Molly Ivins, “Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful.”  Writers, cartoonists, and filmmakers often employ satire to provoke or prevent change by ridiculing the powers that be; and those powers occasionally strike back.  In this course we will examine the traditional and contemporary roles of satire in cultural and political discourse.  Has satire proven an effective political weapon? Can satire change the hearts and minds of audiences?  Where do we draw the lines between funny and offensive, between satire and irony, between satire and reality? And should certain topics be “out of bounds” for satirists? Course texts will include Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer,” George Saunders’ short stories, Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, Issa Rae’s Insecure, Donald Glover’s Atlanta, and recent articles from the Onion.  

Competition and Collaboration: Reconciling Self and Society

Lecturer: Al Harahap

Section 018 TR 10:30-11:45 Physical Science Center 0120

Section 019 TR 12:00-1:15 Carson Engineering Center 0119

Our desire to succeed individually is often at odds with the need to work collaboratively. What cultural, economic, political forces contribute to this problem? Are these behaviors in conflict or can we reconcile them? How do current crises at local and global levels require working together? In this course, we will study how these attitudes have been shaped across different places and times. Students will conduct collaborative research, thinking, and writing, and study how these values manifest uniquely in their professional fields.