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Northwestern University

Choosing a First-Year Seminar

Spring Quarter 2018 First-Year Seminars

The following seminars will be offered in Spring 2018.  Click on the ">" in front of a title to read the course description. When you have identified the ten seminars that interest you most, log in to your dossier and scroll down to First-Year Seminar Selections: Spring 2018. The Top 10 selection process will open Wednesday, Feburary 14th at 8:00am, and close Friday, Feburary 16th at 8am. You will be placed in your Spring 2018 seminar the morning of Friday, February 16th.

TitleDayTime

Instructor(s): Raemin Jimenez
History

Description:

From acclaimed fiction and film to pop culture and amateur reporting, representations of Africa as the ‘Dark Continent’ and a land without history abound. Many of these portrayals reinforce falsehoods about Africa, including notions of cultural stagnation, tribalism, violence and deprivation. Where did these representations come from, and why do they remain commonplace despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary? This class examines the origins of racialized stereotypes about Africa and Africans, and introduces students to the methods and concepts of writing African history. The course focuses on three key periods: the Atlantic Slave Trade, colonialism, and 20th century independence movements.

African History: Myths, Lies, Stereotypes
TTH3:30-4:50pm

Instructor(s): Ryan Lash
Anthropology

Description:

George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) deliberately poses questions, but also embeds assumptions about the nature of humanity. How do elites maintain power? How do cultures develop such vastly different technologies, worldviews, and expectation of gender and sexuality? Is violence inevitable in a world of conflicting interests and limited resources? Do great players dictate the course of history or are our fates tied to the unassailable power of climatic forces? Anthropologists pursue these same questions as they strive to understand human diversity on earth. In this course students will examine ASOIAF from an anthropological perspective and learn to identify and evaluate theories of human nature that the saga poses. Discussion will center upon six major themes ORIGINS, OTHERS, BODIES, VIOLENCE, MATERIAL/IMMATERIAL, ENVIRONMENT AND ECONOMY. Power is a curious thing, and inspired by the riddle Varys poses to Tyrion, we will question throughout: where does power reside? How do the stories we tell about ourselves hold the power to shape our destinies for good or ill? *Students should be familiar with either the ASOIAF book series or the television adaptation Game of Thrones. All spoilers are free game.

An Anthropology of Westeros: Theorizing Game of Thrones
TTH9:30-10:50am

Instructor(s): Jose Medina
Philosophy

Description:

In this seminar, we will study philosophical discussions of the role of art in the expression and constitution of identity. Philosophers have claimed that art plays a key role not only in expressing who we are, but in articulating and constituting subjectivities and communities. Through philosophical texts and examples from visual culture—especially photography and film—we will explore the role that art can play in in constructing one’s distinctiveness or individuality and in forming community bonds. We will also investigate the role that art can play in politics and in resisting oppression, looking especially at critical engagements with film and photography and discussing the critical work of visual artists and photo activists.

Art, Identity & Politics
TTH2:00-3:20pm

Instructor(s): Robin Bates
History

Description:

How have people tried to explain what their lives mean? How have historical actors come to understand more abstract features of their society – such as religion, nationalism, race, gender, and sexuality – in relation to themselves? How do new historical contexts create new understanding of the self? To address these questions, we will consider autobiographical primary sources ranging from medieval love letters to memoirs of the Holocaust; experiences of trench warfare, artistic creation, and spiritual awakening; lives changed by scientific discovery, fighting duels, and running away from home.

Autobiography and the Self in European History
MW3:30-4:50pm

Instructor(s): Miriam Piilonen
Music

Description:

This course explores music connected to the city of Chicago. Styles to be addressed will include Chicago blues, “Chicago-style” Dixieland jazz, 1980s punk and heavy metal, house, and Chi-town hip hop, among others. In exploring the history of Chicago’s music, students will gain foundational listening skills and music vocabulary and will practice listening through a variety of theoretical, analytical, historical, and cultural lenses. To this end, each class meeting will involve close listening and reflection on what we hear. We will take advantage of our proximity to Chicago by attending live performances and hosting guest speakers. Your grade will be comprised of class participation and a variety of different kinds of written work. 

The Chicago Music Scene
TTH11:00am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): John Marks
English

Description:

While superheroes rule the box office, alternative comics and graphic novels have established a unique niche in literary culture. This class will examine how alternative comics emerged as a multi-generational countercultural phenomenon, from the early centrality of comix in the 1970s San Francisco arts scene to the prestige graphic novels that are now essential to discussions of contemporary literature. We will focus class sessions on developing new ways to read and interpret the comics form as sequential art. This class will additionally examine criticism of the “alternative” in alternative comics for its overreliance on “coolness” and “authenticity,” interrogate the gender issues that have plagued underground comics, and consider the limits of treating comics strictly as literature.

Comix and Counterculture
TTH3:30-4:50pm

Instructor(s): Paul Ramirez
History

Description:

Scholars have overturned the long-held idea of a European conquest of the Americas. How is this possible? This course explores the meanings of conquest, one of the most pervasive metaphors in Latin America, through a focus on some of the major textual and non-textual sources for the history of Spanish colonization. We will look at letters and chronicles of early encounters (Columbus, Díaz del Castillo, Cabeza de Vaca); annals, pictographs, and maps that shed light on non-European perspectives; and more recent reinterpretations of Spanish colonization in art, literature, and film. How should the remarkable endurance of the conquest framework, in the past and present, be assessed? The aim is to attend to the range of actors who participated as interpreters, military allies, and chroniclers, with special emphasis on women and people of native American and African descent; to examine how visual art, literature, and film translate historical topics, and to what ends; and to provide a critical introduction to some of the major themes in the historical study of colonialism and Latin America.

Conquest Cultures
TTH3:30-4:50pm

Instructor(s): Lorien Elleman
Psychology

Description:

Psychological research findings can challenge the ways we understand ourselves. The more a new discovery disrupts our previous beliefs, the more controversial we tend to find it. This seminar will cover three topics that have disrupted the beliefs of psychologists and the general public. We will read from original studies as well as news and commentary from scientists, journalists, and activists. These readings will require critical thinking, stimulate discussion, challenge biases, and encourage students to consider new perspectives. First, we will examine how psychologists have used social media data to produce frighteningly accurate predictions about individuals’ political beliefs, personality, or even sexual orientation. We will discuss the scientific and social implications of this type of research, as well as evidence that it is already having a major impact in the real world. Next, we will examine evidence for and against the possibility of personality change. Can any of us truly change who we are, or are we trapped in a destiny crafted by genetics and environment? We will review the evidence supporting deliberate personality change, with methods ranging from psychotherapy to psychedelic mushrooms and DIY brain stimulation with electric current. We will also explore the social and legal implications of viewing personalities as unchangeable fates. Finally, we will question the legitimacy of many popular psychological studies. Research that gets the most attention is often dazzling, counter-intuitive, and seemingly groundbreaking. For example, a recent study appeared to find consistent evidence for ESP across nine experiments. But can we really trust findings that fly in the face of conventional wisdom? To what extent should we be skeptical of psychological research findings?

Controversies and Provocative Findings in Psychological Research
MW2:00-3:20pm

Instructor(s): Penny Hirsch
Writing Program

Description:

What creates community, why is community important, and who is considered a member? How does community affect identity, and in a democracy or a college, does diversity enhance or challenge community? In this course, we will use various methods—such as reading, writing, observation, reflection and discussion—to seek answers to these questions. In one paper, you will explore the nature of your own identity and your experiences with community. In another project, working with your classmates, you will research a community of your choice at Northwestern. Finally, as we consider the forces that build or erode.

Exploring Identity and Community at Northwestern
MW2:00-3:20pm

Instructor(s): Richard Kraut
Philosophy

Description:

We will examine and discuss some of the most important concepts that figure in contemporary political discourse. Among our topics will be: political legitimacy, equality, liberty, justice, democracy, liberalism, socialism, rights, race, and gender. After surveying the issues associated with these ideas, we will examine in greater detail recent controversies concerning the right of free speech. What is its value? How is it to be understood? What are its limits?

Fundamental Concepts of Political Philosophy
TTH2:00-3:20pm

Instructor(s): William Cochran
Philosophy

Description:

It seems there is some new technological advancement everyday. Self-driving cars are already on the roads. AlphaGo (a Go-playing AI) recently devised a new strategy to defeat the worlds best (human) Go player. Using CRISPR, scientists have begun to edit the DNA of human embryos. Chinas government recently created a Social Credit System which will track a citizens trustworthiness and broadcast their score to others. In light of these developments, now is the right time to ask two questions: (1) What are the ethical implications of such technological developments? (2) If left unchecked, what kind of future will these emerging technologies produce? In order to address the first question, we will turn to philosophers of the past and present. For at the heart of a question like can a machine be human? is what does it mean to be human in the first place? Philosophers have come up with several responses to the latter question, and we can use their past answers to address the ethical issues of future technologies. In order to address the second question above, we will compose codes of ethics intended to offer practical moral guidance for the development of the different technologies we discuss.

Future Tense: The Ethics of What Will Be
MW11:00am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Megan Costa
English

Description:

Why do we encourage some forms of surveillance (through participation in social media like Snapchat), while fearing and resisting other forms of monitoring and intrusion? In this course, we will examine the historical and ongoing tensions between privacy and exposure, freedom and control through close engagement with literature and film. We will analyze dystopian surveillance texts (such as Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Orwell’s 1984, and Moore and Lloyd’s graphic novel, V for Vendetta) alongside voyeuristic films like Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Powell’s Peeping Tom. How do imaginative representations of surveillance technologies and voyeuristic pursuits urge us to reconsider the gender politics of “looking,” boundaries between private and public spheres, and relations between individuals and broader communities? How do we--as Twitterers, Snapchatters, and Instagrammers--normalize and internalize surveillance? We will pursue these and other questions as we explore the rich literary and cinematic histories of social and political monitoring and evaluate our own personal archives of social media disclosure and self-display.

Gawkers and Squawkers: Surveillance in Literature & Film
TTH12:30-1:50pm

Instructor(s): Nick Davis
Gender & Sexuality Studies

Description:

This course will train a series of scholarly lenses on commercial feature films produced or released around the world in the last three years. In highly diverse ways, all these movies work to unpack contemporary experiences of gender and sexuality, using teenage and college-age characters as a point of emphasis. As intellectual collaborators, we will have three main goals: 1) to learn skills and terms for "close reading" a movie in refined detail, understanding its images, edits, sounds, and style as crucially complicating its story; 2) to read academic texts, recent journalism, and other contextualizing documents, including some we identify through individual research, that help us to grasp the intricate stories and ideas in the movies we watch; and 3) to undertake the difficult but rewarding labors of achieving critical distance on our own present moment, without relying on "common sense," majority opinion, or points of view limited to one identity category or national context. We will pursue these goals through a series of writing and revision assignments, ranging from single, letter-graded sentences to full-length papers, and written for various public and academic audiences. Assigned films may include Moonlight, about a queer black man surviving a tough childhood in Miami; As I Open My Eyes, a Tunisian drama about a headstrong female student and vocalist, performing dissident songs that alarm government censors; Spa Night, about a Korean American man exploring new sexual longings while trying to get into a good college and help his struggling parents stay afloat; 20th Century Women, a 1970s-set dramedy that asks whether a small commune of free-thinking women can together raise a boy into manhood; The Fits, about a squad of young, female African American dancers who start coming down with mysterious seizures; Everybody Wants Some!!, an ensemble comedy about college baseball players sharing a house in early-80s Texas; La Jaula de oro, about young Guatemalan refugees seeking a safe haven in the U.S. They, about a genderqueer Iranian American teen seeking transition amidst an already-complicated family situation; and American Honey, a daring drama about unchaperoned teens experimenting with sex, drugs, and crime while roving around the so-called heartland. The pace and depth of film-watching will be ambitious, as will the expectations of intensive conversation and of frequent writing. A willingness to treat movies as much more than casual entertainment is a strict prerequisite for this class, though we will retain the joy of watching and debating them.

Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Cinema
TTH11:00am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Andrew Leong
Asian Languages & Cultures

Description:

This course focuses upon a comparative study of manga, comics, and other graphic narrative forms originally published in Japan, the United States, and Brazil. Two-thirds of the course will be devoted to a historical survey of the emergence of graphic narrative forms and their close association to realistic depictions of everyday urban life. The other third of the course will turn to students' individual research projects, and can include work on non-realist manga and comic forms (e.g., superhero comics, fantasy and sci/fi manga, etc.). This year, the course will also include a special class visit from Luli Penna, a Brazilian comics artist who has recently published Sem Dó (Without Pity), a narrative of urban life in 1920s Sāo Paulo. In addition to the writing exercises that form a part of any first-year seminar, we will also work through a series of drawing exercises to think about the disciplines of visual representation and textual production intersect. (No talent or prior training in visual arts is necessary for this course).

Graphic Novel and Manga
MW2:00-3:20pm

Instructor(s): Robert Gundlach
Linguistics

Description:

In this seminar, we will explore the power and complexity of the human voice as we encounter it in both speech and writing. We will begin by examining the physical and cognitive aspects of speaking and listening. We will then consider how the human voice conveys cultural meanings, how voices interact in conversation, and how "voice" is expressed in written form. Each student will select a topic of individual interest for a final research project. Topics might include (but are not limited to) the role of intonation in linguistic communication, voice and technology (e.g., telephones), voice in social media, voice and music, voice in professional roles, voice and gender, voice and age, voice disorders, the forensic use of "voiceprints," voice in acting, voice in animal communication, human-machine vocal interaction, variations of voice across languages, accents and voice control in second language learning, the significance of voice in public speaking, and the representation of speech in literature. Throughout the quarter, students will also develop their ability and confidence as writers, and may use this seminar as an opportunity to experiment with their own written voices in a variety of forms.

The Human Voice, Spoken and Written
TTH11:00am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Regina Schwartz
English

Description:

This course will examine ideas of justice in western cultural and literary traditions. Biblical prophecy, the trial of Jesus, Plato, and tragedy in Shakespeare will be included. Our exploration will be done in the context of theories of justice. But the literature offers elaborations of theories of justice, both within legal frameworks and beyond, as they shape communities and the private lives of people. We will ask how religious ideas of justice inform and depart from secular ideas of justice, how retributive and distributive ideas of justice are imagined and critiqued, and how the relation between justice and law has been conceived.

Ideas of Justice
MW9:30-10:50am

Instructor(s): Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtem
History

Description:

Modernity has radically changed the way the Jew and Jewish Civilization are portrayed in western literature. A marginal satirical image representing a despised and alienated minority, the Jew has become a quintessential human being in modern literature across languages and cultures. Images and metaphors stemming from Judaic liturgy, philosophy, and religion became indispensable in the discussion of the Irish independence, the Russian revolution, the French resistance movement, and the American experience. This course will explore how Christian and Jewish writers contributed to the reevaluation of the role of a Jew and Jewish civilization in modern society incorporating them into the Western literary canon. The students will discuss chapters from the novels and short stories that will open up issues related to the history of Jewish people and religion, Judeo-Christian dialog, and tradition vis-à-vis modernity. The course will considerably enhance students’ understanding of modern literary response to the 20th century historical upheavals, cultural revolutions, and mentality changes.

The Image of the Jew in Western Modernism
MW3:30-4:50pm

Instructor(s): Deborah Rosenberg
Spanish & Portuguese

Description: This seminar will examine the cultural legacy of the Jewish inhabitants of Spain. We will take an historical view of the Jews of Spain from the early Roman settlements to the 2014 announcement of citizenship for descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. Alongside this historical analysis, we will look at the cultural production of the Judeo-Spanish population, including the poetry of Judah Ha-Levi (c. 1075-1141), narratives surrounding the 1492 Expulsion, and contemporary Ladino music.

Jewish Voices of Spain
TTH12:30-1:50pm

Instructor(s): Emily Haynes
Anthropology

Description:

Indigenous peoples around the world are often imagined as "traditional" and "local" with customs "as old as time." But in reality Indigenous peoples engage with the globalizing processes of the 21st century just as the rest of their fellow humans do. This course surveys key issues in Indigenous peoples' lives as related to globalization, transnationalism, and diaspora. We will explore theoretical approaches from Native American and Indigenous Studies as well as ethnographic examples from Asia, Oceania, Europe, and throughout the Americas. This is a writing-intensive course, and students will complete a number of short essays throughout the quarter through which they will develop critical perspectives on Indigenous peoples, sovereignty, decolonization, and intersectionality.

Natives Beyond Nations
MW9:30-10:50am

Instructor(s): Ayca Alemdaroglu
Middle Eastern & North African Studies

Description:

While countries across North America, Europe and East Asia are grappling with declining birthrates and aging populations, young people are the largest population bloc in the Middle East. Over 60 percent of population in Iran and Egypt and over 50 percent in Turkey are under 30 years old. Despite the political significance of youth in the region, young people have been long regarded as apolitical or alienated. The recent protests in the region unpredicted by most challenged this view and brought Middle Eastern youth to global attention. In this course, we are going to examine young peoples role and experiences in the regions social and political transformation since the early 1900s. We are going to study their socio-economic constraints and opportunities, cultural meanings and practices, and political attitudes and actions. The course will pay special attention to nationalism, gender and sexuality, religion, ethnic and class hierarchies and social media usage.

Politics, Protest and Youth in the Middle East
TTH9:30-10:50am

Instructor(s): Kara Johnson
English

Description:

“Who does the dishes?”  Underneath this deceptively simple question are complicated political, social, and ethical debates about housework’s function in society.  This course focuses on the roles of class, race, and gender in shaping participation in the home—both with and without pay.  By using methods of literary and visual analysis, we will follow several representations of working in the home through the early-twentieth to twenty-first century.  With gender theory, critical race theory, and Marxist criticism as foundations, we will learn the various social, economic, and political valences of housework.  We will also trace housework as a site for critique through the first-, second-, and third-wave feminist traditions.  The texts will range in topic from the development of the 1950s “housewife” phenomenon, to contemporary labor movements in the Evanston/Chicago area.  In addition to exploring these issues through texts, students will be given the opportunity to immerse themselves in contemporary debates surrounding housework through a self-designed final research project. 

The Politics of Housework
TTH9:30-10:50am

Instructor(s): Sara Broaders
Psychology

Description:

Lots of people have beliefs that other people think are just plain weird. Why do people have these beliefs? We'll look at "weird" beliefs within our culture as well as some cross-cultural examples, and try to understand what leads people to develop and maintain these beliefs. Another issue is that one person's "weird" belief may be another person's firmly held conviction. From this perspective, we'll also try to understand which beliefs are rational. Among the topics we may cover are: witchcraft, alien abduction, superstition, parapsychology, ghosts, evolution vs. creationism, repressed memories of abuse, multiple personality disorder, and spirit possession. Students will learn to use a wide variety of academic and not-so-academic resources (including empirical research articles, ethnographic descriptions, philosophical arguments, popular press books, and documentary films) to explore the bases for these beliefs and practices.

Psychology & Weird Beliefs
TTH11:00am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Jackson Bartlett
Sociology

Description:

Have you ever wondered why "gay neighborhoods" tend to be mostly white and affluent, or why people tend to associate homophobia with low-income neighborhoods and communities of color? This course will first consider how sexuality--together with race, gender, and class--is built into the urban landscape. Second, it will interrogate popular assumptions about sexual difference, race, and place that serve to reinforce segregation in the twenty-first century. In the first unit, we will consider the relationship between race, sex, and the city in the post-war, Fordist era, where suburbia was king and the heteronormative, white, nuclear family was upheld by stereotypes of urban minorities as sexual others. In the second unit, we will examine cultural "reurbanization" and the shift towards broader social acceptance of a white homonormativity which casts of minorities as homophobic or "backward" in the march toward greater social progress. In each instance, students will consider how these social norms prop up urban political economy. As a first-year seminar, this course will include in class and out of class writing assignments and lots of discussion.

(Race and) Sex and the City
MW12:30-1:50pm

Instructor(s): Sherwin Bryant
African American Studies

Description:

Capital and ongoing state violence against Black populations across the Americas have a history in slavery, Native American removal, and the development of western law. This course explores the development of colonial law and indigenous displacement through the lens of colonial attempts to regulate slavery and claim Indigenous territories. Students will read and engage range of colonial texts to explore the ways that racial slavery served to sketch American capital and law. Students will come away with the ability to critically discuss these developments in their own words, and perhaps think more carefully about the implications of law and state structures etched during then era of and with regard for racial slavery. Through it, students will come to know the peculiar relationship between slavery, property, capital, race, and Law across the Americas.

Slavery, Race and Law in the Americas
TTH12:30-1:50pm

Instructor(s): Eric Mosser
Biological Sciences

Description:

Sleep is both mysterious and essential. Essentially all multicellular animals sleep. People can reject food and abstain from sex, but cannot help falling asleep. The vital need for, and strong evolutionary conservation of sleep indicates that it meets a fundamental need, but what functions sleep serves, and how it is regulated are still open questions. Sleep deprivation and circadian rhythm disruptions like jet lag and shift work have been demonstrated to affect immune function and may be linked to obesity. Sleep disorders have become so pervasive that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared that they constitute a public health epidemic. This course will examine the neurobiological basis and societal relevance of sleep and sleep disorders.

Sleep
TTH3:30-4:50pm

Instructor(s): Seth Kamal
Physics & Astronomy

Description:

This seminar course is intended to enhance the first-year students ability as critical thinker and effective writer by following challenging books and ideas, participating in classroom discussions and writing short reports. The required primary book, “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking of which the course is centered. Among other subjects of interest, technical Education and Federal Support for Science in the US will also be discussed.

Space, Time, and Matter
TTH 2:00-3:20pm

Instructor(s): Shelby Hatch
Chemistry

Description:

Is sustainability a White issue? How and where does sustainability intersect with the principles of environmental justice? Northwestern University recently released a five-year strategic sustainability plan. This plan will serve as a starting point for discussing various issues of sustainability such as the built environment, transportation, and resource conservation. We will delve into the chemistry behind sustainable design with a particular eye toward how the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry and Green Engineering are applied.  Students will also critically examine the plan with an environmental justice lens. For example—where are our solar panels made?  How is the coal mined for our electricity? Who grows our food? We will also explore potential impacts of various sustainable solutions. Is the latest innovation necessarily the most effective? And how do behaviors of individuals and institutions contribute to the success or failure of a sustainable future? We will explore these questions through readings, field trips, and student-directed projects. Students will use various media to communicate their findings from this course to both the Northwestern community and beyond.

Sustainability meets Environmental Justice
TTH11:00am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Daniel Horton
Earth & Planetary Sciences

Description:

The challenge of sustainability to "meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" has evolved over the past few decades. This course will introduce fundamental concepts of sustainability, consider the application of these concepts in diverse societal, economic, and cultural settings, and explore the potential of climate science and sustainable development to act as forces for environmental and social justice.

Sustanability and Social Justice
TTH2:00-3:20pm

Instructor(s): Cynthia Nazarian
French & Italian

Description:

Knights, battles, thrones, giants; these are the building blocks of tales of adventure. This first-year seminar explores heroes and the tests they face, the journeys they pursue, and the ways in which adversity and accident shape them. What is a hero? When is a hero born, and when is s/he made? What are the lessons of failure and self-delusion that the quest and the trial teach? Beginning with the Song of Roland, we will examine epic, Arthurian romance and comic parodies of knightly genres in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and then turn to contemporary film to trace the ways in which modern fantasy and superhero adventures raise old questions and provide new answers to the challenges of the hero’s self-defining mission. Works under discussion will include The Song of Roland, Chretien de Troyes’ Lancelot, or the Knight of the Cart, François Rabelais’ Gargantua and Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, as well as Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.

The Trial and the Quest
TTH9:30-10:50am

Instructor(s): Helen Thompson
English

Description:

If you're attracted by the title of this class, chances are that you're a fan of Jane Austen. Love her or not, and this seminar also aims to speak to those who do not, you probably agree when she describes her novels as "the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush." Austen offers a tiny painted cameo as a metaphor for her novels to belittle their topic: family life, courtship, and marriage. But Austen's metaphor takes her far outside the home, because a bit of ivory involves global traffic—elephants are not native to England. This freshman seminar aims to challenge Austen's characterization of her work by pondering how her novels make us think—and what they invite us to think about. In this class, we'll read four Austen novels, each paired with complementary shorter readings to help illuminate the historical, critical, and global questions they help us ask. We will read Austen's Pride and Prejudice alongside feminist writing by Austen's shocking contemporary Mary Wollstonecraft to ponder this novel's sexual underbelly: how does Austen relate economics and female sexuality in the early nineteenth century? Is marriage—even happy marriage—really all about romance? Next, we will read Austen's Emma alongside economic history by E. P. Thompson and Karl Marx to think about social status and class antagonism. How much does social class define who you are, in the nineteenth century and today? For our third novel, we'll read Austen's Mansfield Park alongside contemporary critical treatments of slavery and abolition. We will also ponder the question: how can we say that Mansfield Park is about slavery when its references to this topic are rare? What critical techniques do we use to argue for the meaning of literary texts? Finally, we'll read Austen's Northanger Abbey to reflect on the story she tells about popular novels like her own. Alongside Northanger Abbey, we'll read excerpts from popular Gothic fiction of the time to reflect on Gothic horror and sensation, then and now.

Thinking with Jane Austen
MW12:30-1:50pm

Instructor(s): Julie Merseth
Political Science

Description:

This course examines the politics of undocumented immigrants in the United States. We will study topics such as "illegality" and unauthorized immigration in the U.S. in historical perspective; political identities among the undocumented, foregrounding the role of race and ethnicity; public opinion toward and among the undocumented; media framing and representations of undocumented immigrants; participation and mobilization with a focus on undocumented youth activism (DREAMers); and policies targeting undocumented immigrants (racial profiing, detention and deportation, birthright citizenship and mixed status families, work permits and public benefits).

Undocumented Immigrant Politics
MW11:00am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Susanna Sacks
English

Description:

President Obama famously said that novels taught him to be a better citizen. Literature helps us understand how to feel, how to ask questions, and who to feel for. Beginning with this claim, this course asks how literature trains has framed our discussion of contemporary human rights. Today, the practical implications of human rights debates spans from military intervention in Syria to gender-based wage gaps in the US. We will try to understand this range of topics through a study of foundational literary texts from the twentieth century. Examining non-fiction creative writing from the US, Europe, and South Africa, we will consider how literary expressions of human sympathy influence our ideas about politics and rights today. What stories do we hear? And whose voices? These questions will guide our reading of both literary texts and news stories, questioning our ideas about language, law, and humanity through them. Students will work and write across media, engaging digital and traditional forms of writing to hone their expressive and analytic skills. 

Writing Human Rights
MW3:30-4:50pm
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