Courses in specific topics, such as culture, literary movements or genres, linguistics or film. Taught in English. May be repeated for credit with a different topic. May count towards European Studies minor.
Current Semester InformationFrancesca Seaman
295A: Tps:20thCentury Ital Lit
Who are the Slavs? Where do contemporary Slavic cultures have their roots and how have different Slavic peoples come to understand themselves in both regional and global contexts?
This survey of Slavic cultures will explore a number of major sources, influences and questions that have given shape to the problem of Slavic "identity" or, more correctly, Slavic "identities." Specifically, engagement with a variety of cultural "texts" (from mythology and literature to the visual arts and popular media) will feed discussion of issues that have become historically and culturally significant for various Slavic groups: this course will examine the Russian, Polish, Czech and Ukrainian cases in particular.
Course topics include the relationship of myths of ethnicity to the formation of a sense of national identity, the cultural cohabitation of Christian and pagan belief systems (dvoeverie), the enduring impacts of war and political displacement, the interplay of opposing impulses throughout Slavic cultural history (such as authoritarianism vs. dissidence, religious tolerance vs. cultural conservatism, patterns of alliance with East vs. West), and the challenges as well as opportunities posed to traditional Slavic identities by new social and geopolitical realities.
Written course assignments will challenge students to pursue some individual research and to think critically about the complexity of cultural self-definition as an ongoing social process.
"Is it possible that, despite inventions and progress, despite culture, religion, and philosophy, that we have remained on the surface of life? Is it possible that this surface, which might after all have been something interesting, has been covered over by unbelievably boring stuff, so that it looks like living room furniture when you are away on vacation?" [Rilke]
The 21st century brings us both warnings of immanent apocalypse (climate catastrophe, economic collapse, famine and war) and utopian dreams (technologically-assisted immortality, complete information, the "posthuman"). In another arena, we encounter, particularly in the US, battles between religious and scientific fundamentalism. Yet one cannot escape a feeling of spiritual emptiness, a sense on all sides of refusal to face those fundamental problems of modernity which so engaged the "masters of suspicion," Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud.
How does one fill the spiritual emptiness of modern life, without returning, like the religious fundamentalists, to the dated solutions of yesteryear or, turning, like the scientific fundamentalists, to the futuristic fantasies of total control: by escaping into a world of fantasy, by remodeling the world into another image (say, Marxist or fascist), by returning to the roots of life? We will read works by Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, as well as imaginative fiction which seeks concrete visions of their critiques and projects new ways of living and understanding. We will address questions such as:
*is the world a creation of the mind?
*is everything pointless? is meaning in the world, or in us?
*are you really who you think you are, or are you just a plaything of deeper forces?
*what is freedom?
*what is work?
*what is love?
At the same time, we will be writing ourselves.
All texts and discussions will be in English.
295D: Tps:Intro to Linguistics
Tps:Intro to Linguistics
This course is designed to introduce the scientific study of human (natural) language, investigating sub-disciplines in the field of Linguistics--Phonetics, Phonology, Morphology, Syntax, Semantics, and Applied Linguistics. Language is a complex system that is one of the cores of human behavior. We will think about what language is through examining language structure from the sub-disciplinary angles. The exercises include data sets of actual linguistic materials that require analytical thinking to solve problems. We will focus on developing linguistic argumentation based on testable hypotheses through the data analyses. We will adopt Noam Chomsky's theoretical framework, Universal Grammar, as a way to understand complex cognitive human behavior.