Special Topics Courses

 

Term 1, 6-Week Courses (May 16-June 28)

ENGLISH (English) 110S Introduction to Creative Writing: The (Very) Short Form.

Instagram. Snapchat. Twitter. Much of our day-to-day communication relies on social media forums and their call for instantaneous, micro pieces of writing. Although some authors and literary critics have criticized social media for its perceived negative influence on attention and creativity, others have embraced it for generating creativity through its (very) short forms. Novelists David Mitchell and Teju Cole have both developed short stories specifically for Twitter, each told through 140-character micro installations. “Instagram poets” Atticus and Nikita Gill (among others) use the limited space of the Instagram window for their poetry and have acquired a vast audience of hundreds of thousands of followers as a result. What is special about these creative micro forms? How might we use the micro form to tell our own stories? How have writers used very short forms in interesting ways throughout generations—perhaps even prior to social media? This course will focus on these questions as we explore how to express and communicate in our own lives through flash fiction, micro-fiction, and micro-poetry.

We will read a number of texts by authors that effectively use micro forms in order to refine our understanding of the craft as we explore our own creative writing. We will also discuss a number of general techniques involved in the process of creative writing — from generating inspiration to fine-tuning the skills of self-editing. Additionally, we will develop our ability to provide and receive constructive feedback in a peer-led workshop setting and we will discuss practical tips for pursuing both professional and do-it-yourself publication. Most importantly, we will contemplate how specifically the micro form might best speak to the way we inhabit, move within, and respond to the contemporary moment and its stories.

            This course encourages you to think attentively of all your writing as work in progress. You will complete a creative writing portfolio at the end of the term composed of a combination of flash fiction, micro-fiction, and micro poetry, but much of your grade on this portfolio will depend on how hard you work at drafting and revising throughout the course. In the process of doing the work, we'll discuss questions like: What makes a good story? A good poem? Where do our own stories and poems, and our own writing goals, fit in?

            In order to enrich and enhance our development as creative writers, we will visit the zine archive holdings at Duke’s Rubenstein Library to view varying approaches to short-form, pictorial DIY texts. In addition, we will develop and contribute weekly to a collaborative, course Tumblr page with our collected in-class writings. There will be a number of short, creative writing assignments and interactive workshops that will lead up to and compose the majority of a final creative writing portfolio and an end-of-term class reading. Stark

ENGLISH (English) 290S From Science Fiction to Cli Fi. 

The climate is changing — and so is literature. Our political and ethical imaginaries are increasingly bound up with questions of the environment, foregrounded by record-breaking catastrophes but often overlooked in global warming’s everyday symptoms. Contemporary novels and films are at the forefront of thinking through the questions that climate change poses: What can we do? Who is responsible? Is it too late? Taking unconventional and even non-human perspectives, offering alternative histories that defamiliarize our present, and transporting readers to future worlds that are more recognizable than we might like — these stories aim to rebuke, comfort, and prepare readers for the uncertain possibilities of an irrevocably altered planet.

The glittering techno-utopias of sci fi’s golden age have yielded to eco-apocalypses — with new heroes, new communities, and a new “nature” to inhabit. Approaching climate change as a simultaneously technological, political, and literary problem, we will spend the summer tracing the emergence of this genre and grapple with the difficult questions it poses. Possible texts include Blade Runner, Children of Men, Snowpiercer and novels from Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, Kim Stanley Robinson, Barbara Kingsolve, and J.G. Ballard. We will also examine graphic novels, documentary film, scientific studies, and relevant critical works. Students will complete a set of short writing assignments and one final project in the form of an analytic essay, comic book, book review, or other written format. Ravenscroft

LIT (Literature) 190S True Detectives: Crime Fiction in the Global Age. Detective fiction is one of the most recognizable and popular genres in the world today. This course will serve as an introduction to the genre conventions of hard-boiled detective fiction in order to understand its innovation from the 1930s to the present, analyzing the American tradition before tracing its proliferation as a global phenomenon. Detective fiction poses important questions about the ethical and moral responsibility of individuals within a society and has historically served as a form of intellectual engagement for imagining the kind of world we want to live in. Its innovation over time reflects the historical conditions of a world that has rapidly globalized, and therefore as a genre it has adapted, beyond the literary register, to television and film as well. Over time, detective fiction has persisted as a genre that registers the attempts of its socially committed practitioners to address the fundamental problems inherent in society, which makes it a uniquely adaptable global form. The proliferation of detective fiction as a genre across the globe introduces an exciting opportunity to analyze how different cultures have interpreted its conventions and adapted them to their particular concerns.  As detective fiction has often preoccupied itself with big questions, students are likely to be largely familiar with the thematic concerns of a genre that is today ubiquitous on page and screen.  This will afford us the ability to begin from the comfort of what we know, what is a form of collective or public knowledge, in order to analyze how detective fiction illuminates what we take for granted in a given society.  Among our central concerns will be the history of the nation-state, democracy, capitalism and technology, and how detective fiction has represented their evolution over time. Gonzalez

LIT (Literature) 190S Dirty Jobs. This course will take up three contested sites of labor in order to think through the political and legal dimensions of “work” in the twentieth and twentieth-first century American context: sex work, housework, and prison labor. In thinking through three forms of labor that are expressly refused as legitimate sites of wage-earning labor, the course will examine the American workplace through its limit cases: those sites that are not imagined to be “proper” sites of waged labor.  The course will look to cultural representations of these “dirty” jobs (like Orange is the New Black) as well as legal and political critiques, and examples of workplace organizing in all three sites. This course will have substantial readings of literary texts as well as film and other media. Part of the course will be devoted to learning how to read literary and artistic texts as well as understand them in their cultural contexts. This course deals with issues surrounding law and culture and will do substantial work in understanding legal and political narratives in the contemporary United States and their historical underpinnings. In addition to examining the tropes and narratives of female criminality we will constantly be situating these narratives in their cultural contexts and questioning both our assumptions regarding the women we read about as well as the ways they are situated in relation to the state and each other. The history of the women’s prison and modern conceptions of female criminality and morality will be central themes in the course. Issacharoff

LIT (Literature) 290S Queer Reading. This class serves both as an introduction to queer criticism, and as a crash course in queer reading. Surveying a variety of genres, time periods, and media—Victorian literature, modernist photography, the mid-century American novel, comic books, popular film, and more—students will explore what it means to “read queer,” all the while honing queer reading skills themselves. Each week, we will pair various cultural objects with examples of queer criticism. As we tour this vast array of material, we will ask: what does it mean to “read queer”? We will explore a wide range of media, including Victorian literature, modernist photography, the mid-century American novel, comic books, and popular film. Students will practice the vocabulary of literary and film criticism, and perform visual as well as thematic analysis on each creative product on the syllabus. In addition, we will examine the various ways in which “queer reading” has manifested in cultural criticism, taking into account historical moment, political identity formations, and societal forms. Questions of the political and social stakes of queer reading will be strongly tied to the ideas and events we learn about. Gregory

LIT 290S (Literature) Finance Fictions. On the surface, 'finance' and 'fiction' might seem worlds apart—the one pertaining to the realm of cold calculation and material interest, the other to the ethereal spheres of the imagination. Look more closely, however, and this distinction begins to crumble. On the one hand, financial documents reveal themselves to be full of literary flourishes and figurations; on the other, fictional works reveal a deep concern with questions of economics, interest, and value. This course will explore the fictions of finance and the finance of fictions. Beginning with Mandeville's Fable of the Bees, we will examine a number of works which trouble the distinction between literary and economic genres. We will consider the literal and figurative economies at work in various fictions as well as the fictions, figures, and tropes at work within economic texts. Questions we may ask include: is literary value distinct from economic value? do notions like "investor confidence" depend on forms of rhetoric and modes of persuasion typically considered literary? can money itself be considered a sort of fiction? Carpenter

PSY (Psychology) 390S Developing Your Life. This course will combine developmental psychology, human development, and human-centered design with a focus on the developing human – the student. The student will examine his/her own development to date, including influences and contextual factors, understand him- or herself in the present and consider a plan for the future which combines the past and the present. The course will use a framework of developmental psychology, human development, and human-centered design thinking to address the designing of the student’s life and career. The course idea is loosely based on the extremely successful Design your Life course offered at Stanford University, but will be focused on developmental psychology and human development, complemented by human-centered design. The course will include seminar-style discussions, short writing assignments, guest speakers, and individual development through reflection, in-class exercises, and assigned readings. The final course project will be a life assessment and future plan/vision, incorporating substantive and reflective material. Maxson

PUBPOL (Public Policy Studies) 290S Writing for Public Policy. This is an online course. Every student of public policy needs to write clearly, succinctly, and with conviction. This course is a writing class designed to teach the basics of the forms of writing that are likely to be used by public policy students when they enter the work world. These include letters to the editor, op-eds, policy briefs, memos, executive summaries, speeches, committee reports, grant proposals, and other relevant documents. Assignments, incorporating editing and rewriting opportunities, include four short (2-5 pages) papers and one long (15 pages) paper. Class members will participate in an online chat room and in online meetings with one another. Everyone will have the opportunity to work on personal strengths and weaknesses and to design a project relevant to work or an internship. Weddington

 

Term 2, 4-Week Courses (July 10-August 2)

BIOLOGY (Biology) 190 The Hard Truth of Evolution. Through selected readings, short lectures, and class discussions, we will investigate some of the fundamental truths of biological evolution, the consequences of evolutionary biology for society, and the potential conflicts that emerge when evolutionary biology and (American) religion seek to co-exist. Building on Theodosius Dobzhansky’s famous statement that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” we will explore why some areas of evolution are easy to accept as factually true and why some areas are much harder to grasp. The course also seeks to broaden the discussion of evolutionary biology to include how societies have historically used and abused evolutionary theory (ancient crop breeding, eugenics, GMOs, etc.). Finally, we will discuss the modes of interaction between modern Western science and traditional Western (Abrahamic) religions, focusing on the rise of Creationism and Intelligent Design in contemporary American culture. This course will present various aspects of evolutionary biology, including phylogenetics, adaptations, natural selection, and genetics, while drawing on diverse elements of cultural anthropology and theology to address the complexity of societal issues relating to evolution. Students from a variety of backgrounds, scientific and not, religious and not, are invited to engage in a collaborative discourse of one the thorniest scientific topics in modern society. Shreve

BIOLOGY (Biology) 190 Ecology in the News. Have you read headlines in the Washington Post or New York Times and thought about the ecology behind them? For example, recent hurricanes in the United States have led to increases in local mosquito populations. To explain this pattern to a general audience, journalists must communicate foundational ecological concepts like population growth, infectious disease, and species interactions. How can we make connections between popular press and the real, underlying science, and how can learning to make these connections help us make sure that scientists communicate effectively with the general public, policy makers, and others? Although science courses often emphasize the use of primary, peer-reviewed literature in scientific journals, the majority of people get their information from non-scientific sources, such as the news media. In this course, we will cover foundational ecological concepts, including aspects of population ecology, species interactions, community structure, and ecosystem processes, using peer-reviewed scientific literature, field trips, demonstrations, and lectures. We will then locate and read articles from the popular press that address these same concepts and discuss how mass media covers these topics, what they do and do not effectively communicate to the public, and what we can learn about science from media sources. An understanding of fundamental scientific concepts can be an essential tool in understanding headlines in today’s news. It is important to evaluate the evidence provided. In addition to gaining an understanding of foundational ecological topics through reading popular and scientific articles, students will have the opportunity to interview a science writer from Science Magazine about how to convey effectively scientific concepts to a lay audience and workshop their own article. At the end of the term, students will give final presentations about one mainstream media article and the relevant primary literature article that details the science underlying that issue. Students will ultimately learn how to read ecological scientific literature, critique media coverage of scientific articles, and practice communicating scientific information in both oral and written formats. In college and beyond, understanding scientific concepts and the ability to synthesize and evaluate evidence are useful skills. In this course, we will practice each of these skills while learning foundational ecological concepts. Dalton

BIOLOGY (Biology) 190 Life in the Deep Sea. The deep sea is the largest habitat on earth, representing 97% of the space where organisms can live on our planet. Once thought to be a lifeless abyss, it is home to an incredible diversity of animals with innovative adaptations to the deep-sea environment. This course explores the deep-sea habitat and the biological challenges of living there through a combination of lecture, discussion, and student presentations. Students will learn about the important environmental variables and habitats in the deep sea and how animals have adapted to survive, reproduce, and interact with each other in the deep-sea environment. Finally, they will learn the crucial services deep-sea ecosystems provide to humanity and the direct and indirect impacts we have on this seemingly far-off environment. Students will be asked to read scientific papers, contribute to discussions, and prepare a final presentation. This course will give non-majors an introduction to concepts in ecology, evolution, and conservation while using the deep-sea as a fun and fascinating focal system. They will also receive a primer on the scientific method and be able to read and interpret scientific journal articles. Finally, students will be able to draw direct connections between basic research and human prosperity, which will be mirrored in the course structure and assessments. Thomas

BIOLOGY (Biology) 190 Phenomenal Physiology.

While anatomy is the study of a body’s form, physiology is the study of its function. This course will examine the questions of how and why the body functions the way it does, looking beyond the functions of individual systems and also emphasizing the high level of functional integration between them. We will also touch on the consequences of dysfunction (pathophysiology). Students will learn how even minor changes in the normal physiology of one system can create dysfunction of that system, as well as have secondary effects on other systems.

The “processes” component of this course will cover the mechanisms by which the body receives input (stimuli), processes this information, and determines an appropriate output (reaction). For example, sweating occurs as a mechanism for modulating internal temperature, but what variables are involved in the process? And why does sweating often occur when we’re nervous, even if we’re also cold? And if an individual is unable to sweat, where is the dysfunction in the process likely occurring, and what consequences might we expect? These last two ponderings are examples of the “phenomena” and “pathology” components, respectively, which will be incorporated in our coverage of physiology. Eason

BIOLOGY (Biology) 190 Coping: Evolution in the Anthropocene.

For non-human organisms, living in the Anthropocene, or the Age of Humans, means adjusting to highly variable climates, rapidly dwindling habitat, and the emergence of new environments altogether. These human-induced environmental shifts are creating new pressures on organisms to accommodate and adapt to the human-influenced world. In this course, we will draw on emerging research to discuss the various ways that organisms evolve to accommodate anthropogenic change. We will look at some specific examples from coastal, island, and urban environments, and discuss how anthropogenic effects have impacted both phenotypes and genetic code to create evolutionary shifts with impacts on biodiversity and ecology. Finally, we will discuss what, if any, ethical obligations we might have to mitigate these ongoing shifts.

            This course will be structured as a series of seven simplified case studies drawn from the current ecological genomics literature and examined for two days each. At the end of the course, there will be two days to discuss modern philosophical work on foundations of the concept of biodiversity and our ethical obligations to non-human organisms. Students will close the course with a presentation of a research proposal to study a system that they believe may be evolving in response non-human organisms. Alvarez

BIOLOGY 190 Genetics of Evolution & Adaptation in Humans. Out of the millions of species which inhabit Earth, only one species is found on every continent - humans! The diversity of environments in which humans live, and their often complex demographic histories, have led to a series of evolutionary changes through both time and space. Understanding the evolutionary mechanisms which underlie these changes is important, because it not only helps us to understand our own evolutionary past, but also to make important and informed decisions about how to apply evolution to our everyday lives. This includes basic tasks, such as using personal genome sequencing to determine our ancestry (from companies such as 23&Me), to sometimes life-altering decisions involving medical procedures. In this class, we will learn basics of evolutionary genetics by exploring the model system Homo sapiens. This will include unearthing how neutral and demographic processes shape population structure in modern day humans, discovering how natural and sexual selection have shaped phenotypic variation in modern human populations, and understanding how human medicine can be influenced by evolutionary theory. The class will be split into mini-lectures and seminar style discussion sections for each meeting. We will also work throughout the term on developing experiments to test the evolutionary mechanism(s) responsible for potential adaptations in human populations, with the overall goal of writing a miniature mock grant proposal. This process will include an oral presentation, as well as providing and obtaining peer review comments on proposal drafts. Coughlan

BIOLOGY (Biology) 190 Genetics in the News.

The ultimate goal of this course is to gain an appreciation for the relevance of genetics and biology to many aspects of daily life, while empowering students to be critical and informed consumers of popular media. This will be achieved through “just-in-time” learning of biology foundational concepts presented within the contexts of current society, recent history, and various professional applications, such as law and medicine. There will also be an emphasis on developing students as scholars and professionals, focusing both on oral presentation skills and on study methods for sciences, which can differ substantially from other disciplines. Proposed topics break down roughly into five main areas, which are interrelated and complementary. Some of these may ultimately be deemed outside the scope of the course; however, all of them are important to keep in mind.

1) Foundations in Biology, including scientific approach: correlation vs. causation, proof vs. disproof, hypothesis vs. theory; evolution: non-directional, selective pressures, populations scale; inheritance: DNA, haplotype blocks, allele frequencies; central dogma, cellular players and mechanisms; genetic and phenotypic variation (SNPs, CNVs, haplotype blocks); and cell lineage: stem cells, differentiation, tissue types.

2) Research Technologies including induced pluripotent stem cells; high-through put sequencing; and CRISPR-Cas.

3) Applications of Genetics including medicine: genetics of the individual (genetic testing, forensics); medicine: reproductive technologies (IVF, non-invasive prenatal testing, preimplantation genetic diagnosis); medicine: gene editing and gene therapies; law: wrongful birth suits, gene patents, military ethics, genetic discrimination, etc.; and other, including genetic intersections with disparate disciplines and professions.

 4) Genetics in Society including genealogical research and personal identity; genetics in the media – cultural perceptions/fears/hopes for genetic technologies; and current and historical controversies in genetic technologies.

5) Students as Professionals including how to learn and study basic sciences; and presentation skills. Zwemer

ECON (Economics) 190 Game Theory. The interactions of human beings with other individuals, within groups, and with the earth lead us to ponder many questions concerning the ways in which people coordinate and structure their actions. It is to these questions that we turn, in trying to understand the strategic decisions that people make on a daily basis. Will it make a difference if I throw my candy wrapper in the street instead of waiting to find a trash can? How much should I pay for a used car? How will our family decide who cooks dinner? Is it feasible for a firm to enter the market for a new product? Under what conditions would a union go on strike during labor contract negotiations? In this course students learn the basic tools of game theory in order to analyze these various economic and social situations. We start by providing a background and introduction to both game theory and economics. We then proceed to define the terminology used in both fields. Our section on games begins with an analysis of normal form (strategic form) games in which we have a static setting and players move simultaneously. Concepts such as a player’s best response, dominant strategies, and the Nash equilibrium are presented, along with various examples of applications. The three classic games of chicken (hawk-dove), coordination (battle of preferences), and the prisoners’ dilemma are introduced, with an extension to the mixed strategy Nash equilibrium. Next we turn to extensive form games in order to analyze dynamic games in which players move sequentially. The notion of a sub-game perfect Nash equilibrium is discussed, and the technique of backward induction is taught. Repeated interactions between players are then considered as we discuss both infinitely repeated games and finitely repeated games. Topics in public and environmental economics are introduced in order to apply these game theory concepts to situations pervaded by free-riding and collective action problems. Evolutionarily stable strategies are also discussed, allowing us to understand how repeated games can lead to the stability of social inequalities by class, gender, race, and ethnicity. The role of institutions (such as norms, customs, traditions, beliefs, and property rights) in maintaining these inequalities is discussed from a game theoretic standpoint. Lastly, we study situations of asymmetric information between players. We give specific references to issues of principal-agent problems, moral hazard, and adverse selection as applied to monitoring, signaling, and “lemons” markets. We will also discuss bargaining models. The course concludes with a critical analysis of the theories and assumptions used in game theory. In particular, students debate the usefulness of concepts of “rationality.” Miller

ENGLISH (English) 290S American Classics: Tales and Poems from Poe to the Present. This course represents a close study of selected short stories and poems by American authors, some famous, others less well known. Major authors will include Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, William Carlos Williams, Richard Wright, Flannery O'Connor, Robert Penn Warren, Sylvia Plath, Philip Roth, John Updike, Reynolds Price, and Joyce Carol Oates. These writers represent various and sometimes conflicting cultural, political, and literary schools and values relating to the subcultures (Jewish, black, gay, urban and rural, religious, etc.) that appear in their writings. Out of this ferment involving codes of behavior numerous ethical issues emerge that will be explored throughout this course. Strandberg

ENGLISH (English) 490 Language and Social Identity. Whenever we hear someone speak, we inevitably make guesses about his or her gender, age, occupation, place or origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion. We also often refer explicitly to the language and identity connection. For example, we talk of expressing our identity through our choice of vocabulary, or ‘losing’ our identity along with our regional accent when we enter a new environment such as college. In this course, we will draw on examples from the media, literature, the internet, pop culture, and politics to explore how speakers portray themselves to others through the use of language. We will also consider how language is talked about, and what assumptions people make about others based on how they speak. Students will be encouraged to bring their own examples to class for discussion. Baran

ENGLISH (English) 490 Intercultural Communication. This course introduces students to the theoretical and practical aspects of analyzing intercultural communication, which can be defined as any interaction between individuals or groups coming from different cultural backgrounds or contexts. Often, even when participants in an interaction are able to speak the same language fluently, culturally-specific cues and messages may be misread and misinterpreted by the speaker’s interlocutors. In this course, we will examine how such cultural misunderstandings come about and how people go about resolving and repairing them. We will do this by examining current approaches to the study of culture, communication, and identity, and by applying these to specific examples from existing research, media, and real-life situations. The course is intended to include student input, in that the students’ particular cultural backgrounds will be taken into account in the choice of contexts we will look at, and students will be invited to bring personal examples to the discussion table. In analyzing intercultural encounters, we will also study and apply sociolinguistic methods of discourse analysis, in particular conversation analysis (or CA), which has been developed to record, transcribe, and examine talk-in-interaction. Baran

LINGUIST (Linguistics) 490S Language and the Media: The NY Times to Twitter. The focus of this course is upon the linguistic analysis of texts – from the past and the present, including social media – with a view to understanding how they create, sustain, or challenge "common-sense" understandings of society and politics. English first-language speakers will be equipped with the tools to understand how *their own* language works in the media; second-language (L2) speakers will learn invaluable skills in identifying and understanding idiom, nuance, and rhetoric in both academic and media texts, thus offering preparation for undergraduate classes in a range of disciplines. If possible, writers from the Duke Office of News and Communications will visit class to engage students in a few intensive writing and analysis workshops. The instructor of this course has written for news outlets such as The Huffington Post, The London Guardian, The Seattle Times, The Taipei Times, and The News and Observer (of Raleigh, North Carolina). Price

LIT (Literature) 190S Race, Technology & Everyday Life: Surveillance in the Afterlife of Slavery. Technology is undoubtedly central to our everyday life. It has extended our ability to communicate, travel, and process information at unprecedented rates. Yet, technology has also further enabled social control. This course examines the genealogy of surveillance technologies and their place in everyday life in the context of race, as well as gender, sexuality, and class, from the antebellum era to the present. In the course we will analyze race as technical, a mechanism of scrutiny that is both socially produced and productive of domination in its various forms. We see that both in the way that race acts as a marker of ‘otherness’ when Black and Latino men are regularly stopped and frisked by the police in New York City, and in the way that facial recognition software has been used to profile and track Black Lives Matter activists in Baltimore. To further understand these issues, we will engage critical works that theorize surveillance as a cultural practice, and we will examine how legal doctrines, visual culture, spatial regulation, and science function to uphold its pervasiveness. In doing so, we will study various modes of surveillance by examining histories of racial segregation, scientific racism, capital punishment, policing, and digital surveillance, to ask: how have surveillance technologies evolved over time? and, how have ideologies and practices of social control changed the logic of policing? Against this backdrop, we will consider how artistic expression, activism, and aesthetics have shaped politics of refusal in the last century. From antebellum identification papers to TSA (Transportation Security Administration) body scanners, the course will prompt us to consider what it means to think about race, and racialism, as a technology that has profoundly shaped our daily experiences, social norms, modalities of resistance, as well as possibilities for the future. The course emphasizes engagement with cultural production. Students will analyze primary texts in the African-American cultural discourse, including literary works (poetry and fiction) and products of visual culture (film and photography). Theoretical texts will be read alongside cultural texts: we will read authors such as James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, etc. We will also watch three documentaries and engage contemporary art as case studies for our study. Where appropriate, the course will engage musical production, e.g, Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit” in the section on racial terror. In addition to cultural texts, the course relies on texts in in literary and critical theory and popular commentary by public intellectuals. Karklina

LIT (Literature) 190S Art Markets in Contemporary China. This course aims to familiarize students with some salient themes in contemporary Chinese art, including the social political change after Deng Xiaoping’s economic reform, the impact of economic transformation on culture and art, and the Chinese contemporary art scene on the global stage. How do documentary films and blockbusters create “China” in the international cultural exchange? What is the role of censorship and state-promotion on art? How does the international market trade of Chinese artworks operate? Throughout the course, students will learn an array of theoretical approaches, although we will not read “theory” as such. Only English materials will be used in this course, although some materials are originally in Chinese. Cao

LIT (Literature) 290S Monstrosity, Science, Culture. Deformity. Unnatural. Inhuman. These are the ideas that come to mind when we think of “monstrosity.” As creatures that elicit disgust, fear, and perhaps even a perverse fascination, monsters have always been intense zones of meaning. The etymological root of “monster” is twofold: it connotes an act that unveils and exposes as well as a sign of warning and admonishment. By straddling the line between the normal and the illicit, “monstrosity” is a sign of the cultural systems we use to make sense of the world. Our monsters also are rooted in the collective cultural anxieties of our time. This course provides a broad theoretical and cultural overview of the evolution of the concept of “monstrosity.” We first study how in ancient thought, “monstrosity” and “hybridity” are not cemented with “evil.” We then attend to how monstrosity becomes a site of transgression, taboo, and even danger with the rise of modern Judeo-Christian religions. Following this, we analyze how “monstrosity” once again evolves after the rise of modern science with the creation of manmade laboratory monsters in the late nineteenth century. We assess how the monsters of our past still deeply permeate our contemporary biotechnological imaginary in how we come to regard the “naturalness” of biological life. Some questions we will track in this course are the following: have “hybridity,” “abnormality,” and the crossing of boundaries always been sources of taboo and sites of transgression? what are the historical and cultural roots in society’s fear and fascination with monsters? how do “deformity” and “monstrosity” cross-pollinate our ideas about sex, gender, and the maternal? what is the relationship between “monstrosity” and “nature”? how do the concepts of “monstrosity” and “hybridity” further evolve following the rise of modern science? how do these ideas prefigure modern biotechnological endeavors? Dahiya

MATH (Mathematics) 190S Mathematics of the Universe. This course will survey, in precise mathematical terms, what is known and not known about the universe, from special relativity, the big bang, and black holes to dark matter and theoretical astrophysics. Einstein's idea that "matter curves spacetime," which is the fundamental principle behind general relativity, requires a field of mathematics called differential geometry, for example. Since this is a seminar, the pace and emphasis of the class will be highly influenced by the questions asked by the students. Nevertheless, mastery of single variable calculus is highly recommended. Bray

MATH (Mathematics) 190S Democracy and Game Theory. What is democracy? Using preferential ballots in elections is a natural idea since it allows voters to express a first choice, a second choice, a third choice, etc., on each ballot, thereby collecting more information from each voter and creating the potential for an outcome which better represents the voters. However, there are many ways to determine the winner of a preferential ballot election, and each “preferential ballot vote counting method” has its own game theory, both for the candidates and the voters, some better and some worse, and often very different from the game theory of the single vote ballot. So which preferential ballot vote counting method is the best? Does there exist a vote counting method which incentivizes politicians to seek out centrist, consensus building positions and to focus on issues important to voters, more than game theoretic tactics meant to manipulate the electorate? Or is there another goal we should be pursuing? In this course, we will use game theory and mathematics to study these questions. Bray

 

Term 2, 6-week Courses (July 2-August 12)

ARTHIST 490S Architecture & Performance. The objective of this course is to consider how performance art and performance theory use and conceive of space in art practice and in relation to architecture. This course will explore how Western performance art and theory of the twentieth century used, re-invented, and rethought about the spaces of performance. In this course students will investigate the role architecture plays in the work of performance art and theory and the politics of the performance artists of this time period. Students will be asked to tie artists’ ideas about art, politics, and architecture into a way of thinking about the changes in performance and theater that occurred during the twentieth century in the West. Bullock

CULANTH 290S Labor & Violence in a Globalized World. In capitalist societies, labor is a commodity that is freely exchanged on the market—and yet, workers must sell their labor in order to get what they need to survive. In this course, we will explore the tension between freedom and coercion under contemporary conditions of globalized capitalism, using an ethnographic lens. How do contractual arrangements, such as debt or the labor contract, naturalize forms of violence? What happens when people are locked out of waged work? How do regimes of citizenship and immigration govern the inclusion and exclusion of workers in national labor markets? And finally, how do capitalist forces intersect with militarism in wars of global scale? Throughout the course, students will confront tough ethical questions about how labor relations condition the experience of freedom or coercion in capitalist societies.  They will also learn through concrete ethnographic examples how power is exercised through the manipulation of race and gender, as well as through the management of citizenship and national borders. Miller

EDUC (Education) 290S Exploring and Sharing Critical Issues of Environmental Education. This course utilizes the methodology of oral history to investigate environmental education. The central focus will be upon researching, collecting, analyzing, and writing about stories of environmental education. By the end of the course students will be able to identify and demonstrate knowledge of multiple issues of environmental education. Each student will focus on one specific area, such as land loss, oil and gas companies, or rising water levels. Students will research their chosen area through the lens of a qualitative researcher and will be trained to complete oral histories. Stone

ENGLISH (English) 110S Introduction to Creative Writing.

“Technically, we’re all half centaur.” Nick Offerman, Shower Thoughts

This course is an invitation to the hybrid, bookish-beasts of writing: the journal entry, the listicle (list+article), the prose poem, the short lyric essay, and some of the many glittering forms of writing that fall between and around these forms. In this studio/workshop-styled course, we will begin class like an art class: with several models of the form we are considering and a group conversation/deep discussion centered around those models. This time will be followed by a writing period (from 10-25 minutes) in response to a writing prompt. Eugenio Montale called writing “the second profession”—it is what we do in addition to working a fulltime job, taking care of children, and living busy lives with others. In-class writing shows us how to fit writing into those small spaces in our lives. As the poet and memoirist Molly Peacock tells her studio participants, “In the attempt is the success.” The results of in-class writing are often a happy surprise to the writer, and produce some of the class’s favorite pieces written during the course. In the second half of each class, we will workshop a rotating selection of our new writing, and provide timely feedback and responses for the writer to help with their revision process. Poet and writer Wayne Koestenbaum says that revision is considering the “unexamined” places in our writing, so our goal will be to help each other locate, identify, and think about these places in workshop.

            We will start with journaling and list writing—daily, familiar forms of writing. Then we will transform these pieces: pushing at their edges, filling them with collaged materials and different kinds of page space, seeing how far we can develop and refine them. We will use the form of the listicle, popularized by Buzzfeed, as a form of life-writing and memoir. Having developed our thinking about hybrid writing forms and learned specific methods for composition via in-class writing prompts, we will then bring our developing skills and inspiration to the prose poem and the short lyric essay.

            The goals of this course include a digital art exhibition of your multi-media listicle and a 15-page writing portfolio of your best journaling, prose poems, and short lyric essays. Our final exam will be a class party plus reading. VanderHart

ENGLISH (English) 290S Playing with Shakespeare: Interpretation, Performance, Adaptation.

Ben Jonson’s oft-repeated pronouncement that Shakespeare “was not of an age, but for all time” seems especially prescient today as, more than 400 years after his death, Shakespeare’s works continue to inspire writers and artists to re-mount, re-work, re-interpret, and re-imagine his plays on stage, screen, and page, over and over again. But what is the appeal of Shakespearean adaptation in a world that seems so alien to Shakespeare’s own? What can adaptations teach us about the texts they borrow from, about our own contemporary moment, and about the creative potential of interpretation itself? What do we mean, really, when we call a text “original”? This course will take advantage of the condensed format of summer session to consider these and other questions by focusing intensively on three plays by Shakespeare, in both their “original” form and in a variety of adaptations on film, stage, and in other media.

In addition to reading together (closely, slowly, and intensively) our three Shakespearean plays, we will also follow the afterlives of these plays in a variety of contemporary media. We will consider how adaptation functions in relation to a source text: what does it mean to be “faithful” (or not) to a source? how do artists navigate and play with the contextual chasms (and the surprising similarities) between Shakespeare’s moment and our own? is adaptation an inherently reductive or a revolutionary form? how does Shakespeare’s own practice of adaptation and borrowing inform the way we approach his “original” work? Potential pairings of texts may include Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew and Gil Junger’s popular film 10 Things I Hate About You; Shakespeare’s Othello considered alongside Toni Morrison and Rokia Traoré’s 2011 song-cycle/play Desdemona; or Shakespeare’s The Tempest as diversely reimagined in Julie Taymor’s gender-swapped 2010 film and in Margaret Atwood’s parodic 2016 novel Hag-Seed. If possible, a class trip to the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA, will allow us the opportunity not only to see one of our plays performed in (an interpretation of) Shakespeare’s “original” staging conditions, but also to explore questions of why (or if) historical reconstructions of this kind have relevance for modern audiences.

            Throughout the course, we will also use our own interpretive and adaptive skills to hone our writing in a variety of genres and forms and for a variety of audiences: students will produce a short academic essay, a review of a film or performance aimed at a general readership, and a creative writing or performance project of their own devising which thoughtfully interprets and adapts one of the plays we engage with. Larre

EVANTH (Evolutionary Anthropology) 390S Methods in Paleontology. Could you outrun a T. rex? How do paleontologists reconstruct the behavior and biology of extinct organisms? This course focuses on the fundamentals of paleontology, including an overview of the evolution of vertebrates, the taphonomic process, and the construction of phylogenies. Students will experience hands-on activities that allow them to practically apply the methods covered in class and used by paleontologists to answer questions utilizing specimens represented in the Evolutionary Anthropology teaching collection, 3D prints of fossil material, and digital specimen available through online repositories like Morphosource. Students will develop their own hypothesis about an extinct organism and design a research proposal for how to approach testing their hypothesis. This course is open to majors and non-majors, although students are expected to have completed a high school level biology course. Perchalski

LIT (Literature) 190S Spies & Terrorists: Narratives of U.S. Enmity. Where did the enemy of U.S. liberal democracy go once the twentieth century Cold War was over, and who did it become once the post-Cold War period began? The purpose of this course is to examine the transition points from the “spy” to the “terrorist” as the figurative ‘other’ of U.S. nationalism. We will look at texts of popular and critical culture in order to examine how the enemy-narrative shifts from one of containment to one of disassembly as the U.S. role in global leadership moves from the Cold War to the War on Terror, from democratic liberalism and the security state to undemocratic neoliberalism and the homeland security state. We will look at productions of popular culture (television, literature, comics, film, social media, news) and critical culture that try to narrate and re-narrate the relations of power embedded in national self-creation during the above epochs, focusing primarily on the “hot” periods of the Cold War and the post 9/11 period. Specifically, this class will ask: is there a coincidence between the end of the Cold War and the end of the coherence of democratic liberalism? Similarly, is there coincidence between the terrorist assemblage and the incoherence of the post 9/11 homeland security state? This class will maneuver around the possibly analogous figures of the spy and the terrorist in order to develop a hermeneutics of such (in)coherences. Students will emerge knowing how to apply methods of literary analysis and cultural criticism to a variety of cultural forms – including literature, television, and art performances – tied to contemporary culture and politics. Students will leave this class with the ability to apply ethical critical lenses to concepts such as race, religion, gender and sexuality, and citizenship. Such a multiplicity of representational forms will allow us to work dynamically, asking not only how culture is produced across the two periods, but also how cold war cultures do or do not communicate across epochal borders. Gokhberg

LIT (Literature) 290S Dystopia. American culture (and, to a related degree, global culture) at the turn and beginning of the twenty-first century has been marked by a strong dystopian bent: in blockbuster films like The Matrix (1999) and The Hunger Games (2012), in popular television like Game of Thrones and Black Mirror, and in acclaimed novels like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. This dystopian bent can also be seen in public discourse as humanity faces down short and long-term social crises of climate change, interminable war, resource scarcity, resurgent far-right extremism, and various incarnations of economic rupture and increasing stratification. This course will provide a survey-style introduction to dystopian cultural forms and thinking, with a strong emphasis on the twenty-first century, beginning with the emergence of dystopia’s formal progenitor, Utopia. Students will be asked to investigate in class discussion and in writing the relationship between the poles of utopia and dystopia, how we make ethical and moral judgments about what belongs in which category, how those judgments are historically shaped or determined, and what function the dystopian imagination might serve us. We will examine works by (in addition to those listed above): Plato, Thomas More, Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels, P. K. Dick, Ruth Levitas, Tom Moylan, Fredric Jameson, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kathi Weeks, and a selection of visual and experimental artworks (e.g., the films of Martin Arnold; Christoph Schlingensief’s Container; Goldin+Senneby’s Headless) and music (especially noise). Huber

LIT (Literature) 290S Politics of Literary Space. This course offers a theoretical introduction to how literature shapes our understanding of social and political space. The course will look at novels, plays, and poems as primary texts, as well theoretical readings from philosophy, critical geography, cultural studies, and other disciplines. The course takes an initially wide historical range, from the industrial revolution to the present. But its primary focus is on how the post-1945 period has witnessed a transformation of how space is experienced (with the rise of globalization and new digital technologies) and to investigate how literature has responded in both content and form to these seismic shifts. This era has witnessed near global urbanization, environmental disaster, and the waning of national sovereignty, as well as the political and economic crises that have accompanied these developments. All have forced literary criticism to re-conceptualize the traditional roles of narrative and form in making sense of human experience. This course is designed to equip students with the critical and analytical vocabulary to carry out literary and cultural analysis in such a radically altered conjuncture. One of the primary tasks of the course is to introduce students to the ways in which literature is understood and interpreted by critics responds to broader civilizational trends. How does the organization of space (urban space, rural space, and even virtual space) shape the formal properties of literature? Students will learn to read literature not just as passive enjoyment, but as a way of interpreting the historical development of ideologies and practices that shape civilizational trends. Students will learn to read novels, plays and poems closely and critically, in order to be able to discuss not just their content, but their formal properties and how these help shape the meaning of the text. Students will be encouraged to think a level beyond this and demonstrate how the way in which form shapes literary meaning conveys the political, social, and cultural context from which it springs. Soule

PSY (Psychology) 330S Developing Your Life. This course will combine developmental psychology, human development, and human-centered design with a focus on the developing human – the student. The student will examine his/her own development to date, including influences and contextual factors, understand him- or herself in the present and consider a plan for the future which combines the past and the present. The course will use a framework of developmental psychology, human development, and human-centered design thinking to address the designing of the student’s life and career. The course idea is loosely based on the extremely successful Design your Life course offered at Stanford University, but will be focused on developmental psychology and human development, complemented by human-centered design. The course will include seminar-style discussions, short writing assignments, guest speakers, and individual development through reflection, in-class exercises, and assigned readings. The final course project will be a life assessment and future plan/vision, incorporating substantive and reflective material. Maxson

PUBPOL (Public Policy Studies) 290S Writing for Public Policy. This is an online course. Every student of public policy needs to write clearly, succinctly, and with conviction. This course is a writing class designed to teach the basics of the forms of writing that are likely to be used by public policy students when they enter the work world. These include letters to the editor, op-eds, policy briefs, memos, executive summaries, speeches, committee reports, grant proposals, and other relevant documents. Assignments, incorporating editing and rewriting opportunities, include four short (2-5 pages) papers and one long (15 pages) paper. Class members will participate in an online chat room and in online meetings with one another. Everyone will have the opportunity to work on personal strengths and weaknesses and to design a project relevant to work or an internship. Weddington

PUBPOL (Public Policy Studies) 290S Free Speech, Hate Speech, No Speech: The First Amendment in a Changing Society. This is an online course. Centered upon the fundamentals of understanding the First Amendment in relation to speech, this course utilizes case histories focusing on the evolution of control of speech in American culture. Students will learn what hate speech is and when it is legal and when not.  Students will discuss political correctness in speech especially on college campuses. Students will identify and understand both classic and contemporary examples of free speech through case studies and current literature. Organized around extensive readings, this class will be conducted through online lectures, scheduled chat room, and peer group meetings through a Sakai site. Graded work will include one op-ed (3 pages) and one in-depth analysis of a historical case about free speech (20 pages). Weddington

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