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Choosing a First-Year Seminar

Spring Quarter 2020 First-Year Seminars

The following seminars will be offered in Spring Quarter 2020.  Click on the ">" in front of a title to read the course description. Fall 2020 First-Year Seminars will be posted in early June. 


Instructor(s): Sara Hirschhorn

Description: War of Independence or Nakba? This course will examine the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948 from the perspective of both history and memory, drawing primarily on a wide variety of primary sources.

1948: History and Memory of the First Arab-Israeli War

Instructor(s): Paul Gillingham

Description: Societies forge the objects they value most. This seminar examines forgery as a window onto the cultural values, economies and geography of knowledge of assorted countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, exploring frauds such as the evolutionary “missing link” of Piltdown Man, the tomb of the last Aztec emperor and the Hitler diaries. These historical detective stories are juxtaposed with social histories to analyze why people go to the trouble of making fakes; why other people buy them; and what their efforts tell us about societies ranging from Imperial China to revolutionary Mexico.

A Beginner's Guide to Forgery

Instructor(s): Nicole Spigner

Description: In “Feminist Afro-Futurisms,” our class will explore the long history of black feminist speculative production, beginning with the turn of the twentieth-century. We will explore black feminine subjectivity in the 1903 novel by Pauline E. Hopkins, Of One Blood, along with later twentieth-century works by Octavia Butler and Nalo Hopkinson. By situating these works side-by-side, along additional literary works and black feminist literary theory and criticism, this course bridges more recent writing and concerns of black women feminists with the lesser known works of nineteenth century Black New Women. We will also interrogate the legacy of black feminine creative production spanning the century. These issues include but are not limited to the position of black women as mothers and family members, concerns of sexual violence, hypersexuality and hypervisibility, questions of canonicity, and the ongoing marginality of black women’s works within the academic classroom.

This is a reading and discussion-based class, and regular class participation is a must. Come prepared to tackle issues of race, gender, class, and sexuality.  Assignments will include leading in-class discussion, two small papers, and a multi-media group final.

Feminist Afrofuturisms

Instructor(s): David Schoenbrun

Description: A long-standing stereotype of Africa as a place of violence exists.  A definition of violence may seem obvious—violence is bodily harm and its aftermaths wrought by one or more persons against one more others. But that simple definition masks moral struggles over questions of the legitimacy of violence. Because thinking historically about violence involves the sometimes overlapping, perspectives of perpetrators, victims, and witnesses, explaining its causes and consequences must address historically specific dimensions of motive and constraint. This approach to violence opens up the ways in which struggles over the morality and legitimacy of force shaped forms of violence in African history. We'll work our way toward asking better questions about the causes and consequences of the violence at the core of slavery and slave trading in West Africa, imperial conquest and colonial power in East Africa, and genocide in Rwanda.

Africa, Beyond Slavery and Colonialism

Instructor(s): Bradley Dubos

Description: If you attended high school in the U.S. or Canada, you may recall learning the acronym “HOMES” to help you remember the names of the five Great Lakes. While this proves a handy mnemonic device, it also presents a distant view of the Great Lakes Basin that begs the question: what does it mean to make home here? Who lives here, and what kinds of “homes” have they built? In this seminar, we will challenge ourselves to rethink the physical and social geographies surrounding the Great Lakes by reading works that complicate “official” mappings of this region with more local, experiential accounts of place. We will look closely at how various texts and objects (from short stories, hymns, and a dystopian novel to monuments, maps, and birch bark) emerge out of specific places in the Great Lakes Basin and remap those places by disrupting broader national narratives that erase their particularities. Starting on Lake Michigan’s shores and moving outward to the rapids of Niagara Falls, Lake Superior’s stunning Pictured Rocks, and even a post-apocalyptic Ontario, our explorations of place will engage with a range of questions: What happens when we view Chicago and its waterways as Native space? What forms of communal homemaking are reflected by the ships, canoes, buildings, neighborhoods, and cities in and around the Great Lakes? How do lake ecosystems relate to global climate change? Along the way, students will experiment with place-based digital tools (such as StoryMap software and the Native Land territories app) and will have the opportunity to research a place that captures their interest.

At Home on the Great Lakes

Instructor(s): Azadeh Safaeian

Description: This course focuses on the nature, meaning, and consequences of what it is to be defined as disabled and explores the implications of this definition in literature and cinema from Persian mythology to recent Disney’s adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. The course will introduce students to different theoretical approaches to studying dis/ability and provide an overview of the relatively new field of Literary Disability Studies, enabling students to think critically about conventional conceptualizations of disability and normality of body and mind. Through this course, we focus on these questions: how the body's shape and capacities have been assumed to determine character and fate, how physical and mental impairments have been used in literature and cinema to signify moral and psychological states, and how representation may challenge conventional conceptions of "normality" and "disability?" Literary texts from various periods and geographies will be supplemented with some films.

Beauty and the Beast: Literary and Cinematic Representations of Disability in World Literature and Global Cinema

Instructor(s): Melville Ulmer

Description: There are two books to read for this class. These are both Sci-Fi books, but both authors sprinkled in some real astronomy. We will read in parallel the two books for this class. For Gateway, the reading will be about 18 pages/per discussion session. For the Dragon's Egg start with page 1 and read about 21 pages/discussion, except the last one where 6 more pages need to be read. Therefore the required reading is only about 68 pages week. At 1 minute per page, you won't be "hurting." You should spend most of your time that you devote to this class to writing papers. This is not a lecture class devoted to teaching you many detailed facts about compact objects (black holes and neutron stars) nor is the expectation that you spend most of you writing assignment time on researching your topic. Each class will have a student discussion leader. The discussion topics can be science issues, history related (the black hole book), or how you found the writing (e.g. exceptionally good or bad, and give examples and talk about why). At the end of the quarter, the discussion time will be replaced by 10 minute presentations by each student. Facilities will be provided for either overhead or power point presentations .

Black Holes, Neutron Stars, Pulsars & all that

Instructor(s): Malia Bowers

Description: Feminism has taught us that the personal is political, and what is more personal than our bodies? This seminar explores how feminist thinkers and actors have brought the body into the political arena. We will engage with feminist theorizations of embodied experience from a diverse set of interdisciplinary texts, including black, Chicana, transnational and queer feminist work. With a focus on gender, race, and sexuality, we will think through questions of identity, difference, location, and voice. The second half of the seminar will use these theoretical framings to analyze political issues and activist movements that center the body, such as sexual assault, police brutality, reproduction, LGBTQ rights, and body positivity. Students will choose an issue or movement to focus their written work on throughout the seminar, ultimately culminating in a research portfolio to be presented to the class.

Body Politics and Feminist Theory

Instructor(s): Luciana Sanga

Description: In this class, we examine writing and books as “technologies” that not only facilitate communication but also impact the very way we think: through writing, our thoughts become more structured and coherent. We seek to defamiliarize the seemingly trivial object that is the book and challenge Eurocentric histories of writing and publishing. While analyzing the material format of writing, we also consider what makes good prose and hone our academic writing skills.

Book History in Japan: Manuscripts, Maps and Manga

Instructor(s): Melissa Rosenzweig

Description: The concept of environmental justice in the United States emerged in the early 1980s as African-American residents fought hazardous waste sites planned in and around their communities. Since then, the environmental justice perspective has been expanded to include the struggles of other minority groups disenfranchised on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender or class. In the first part of the course, students will learn about the history of the environmental justice movement in the US and its development. Next, the course will take a closer look at environmental justice in Chicago, both past and present. As a final project, students will be tasked with researching an environmental justice organization in the Chicago area.

Chicago Environmental Justice

Instructor(s): Jayme Collins

Description: From hurricanes to polar vortexes and wildfires, in recent years, weather has frequently appeared in headlines throughout digital and print media. Accompanied by accelerations in global heating, unpredictable seasonal cycles, and political inaction, it has become increasingly clear that not only how weather is spoken about but also the weather events themselves are deeply political. In this freshman seminar, we will consider a variety of contemporary representations of weather from art to fiction to poetry and film to explore the relationship between weather as material event and weather as political context. Where does weather begin and end? What happens when weather becomes not just a mysterious force but an actively produced by-product of industrial expansion? What is “totalizing” about both weather and politics?

Clouds, Carbon, Weather

Instructor(s): Lance Rips

Description: This class looks at the way people think about mathematical infinity. Topics include Galileo's Paradox, differences in the sizes of infinite sets, and ordinal numbers. The topics also include how children learn about the infinity of the positive integers and children's and adults' mistakes in reasoning about infinity.

Concepts of Mathematical Infinity

Instructor(s): Erin Andrews

Description: From the recent groundswell of references to The Handmaid’s Tale in feminist protest practices to several new screen adaptations of work by Ray Bradbury and Phillip K. Dick, dystopian fiction is currently having an influential moment. This course will explore the current fascination with dystopia, especially as the form relates to modes of political debate. How do dystopias produce their own argumentation in the form of narrative? How have they spurred debate in different historical moments? How well do political arguments and media adaptations based on dystopian fiction represent their source material, and why might that matter? The class will take up these questions as we approach a selection of both classic and contemporary literary dystopias, as well as some of their major film and television adaptations.

Debating Dystopia

Instructor(s): Robert Linrothe

Description: Mountains of trash, littered empty oxygen bottles, corpses covered in snow and ice for decades, deep within crevasses or left in the open to serve as path markers, blackened frostbitten fingers, toes and noses, later amputated, $45–130K per attempt paid to commercial climbing companies, including an $11K fee to the Nepalese government. At least 296 deaths on the mountain are known to have occurred, a third of them Nepalese Sherpas engaged as guides and porters to carry supplies, set the ropes and metal bridges and assist the wealthy climbers. Every year, about 1000 people attempt to reach the 29,029 (and still growing) peak; more than a third turn back, despite the upfront, prepaid cost. Why do they come? Do they know why, themselves? What are the rewards and motivations for attempting it? In the past century and a half, there have been both national and personal pride invested in being the first, or one of the only. But for most of human history, climbing into the “death zone” was considered suicidal and avoided at all costs. Even today, most of the people who live in the Himalayas consider it an unnecessary sacrilege to trample on the goddess, Chomulungma, and do it only regretfully to support their families via adventure tourism. This course will examine the geology of Everest, explore different perspectives on the history of attitudes toward it, as well as the motivations, costs and rewards for those who attempt to climb it today.

Everest: Altitude and Attitude

Instructor(s): Kinga Kosmala

Description: Rock and punk music played a substantial yet still underappreciated role in subverting the power of the communist system among the youth cultures of the Eastern bloc countries. Poland was no exception, as these two types of music became remarkable artistic and subversive cultural realms during the communist period in Poland. Even though rock was repeatedly attacked, banned, and relegated to illegal culture status it became an integral part of the Polish urban landscape under the communist rule. The rock and punk bands provided a (loud) voice and a space of freedom for the younger generations who were searching for their identity within the controlling and ominous communist state. In this class we will look at the phenomenon of massive popularity of Western rock and punk music along with the exceptional fame of music created by Polish artists as well as its significance in the Polish urban culture under communism.

Free to Rock – Communism Brought Down by Rock 'n' Roll

Instructor(s): Bernard Dobroski

Description: Description forthcoming. 

From First Rehearsal to Final Performance

Instructor(s): Micaela Di Leonardo


This course title refers both to the famous 1889 Jacob Riis photo-documentary on poverty in New York City, How the Other Half Lives, and to the slogans of the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011. It does so to highlight the disturbing return, over the past few decades, of the extreme levels of economic inequality—heavily but not entirely connected to racial/immigrant/gender status--that were characteristic of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in America. In this seminar, students will read about, discuss, write about, and thus gain the intellectual tools to begin to evaluate past and present American urban inequalities—including not only those of class, but also race/ethnicity, gender & sexuality, nationality. We will read across several different academic disciplines and journalism to become familiar with key analytic concepts, methods, and historical phenomena, such as the Great Compression, the War on Poverty, urban regimes, ethnography, political economy. Using them, we will explore arenas of inequality: employment; urban space, housing, migration, and neighborhoods; schooling, criminal justice, the public sphere. You will watch two short, relevant videos on your own before the first seminar meeting. 

How the Other 99% Lives

Instructor(s): Kyla Ebels-Duggan

Description: Some academic philosophers today treat philosophy as a series of puzzles about abstract questions or thought experiments. But ancient philosophical traditions around the world engaged in philosophy with the practical aim of figuring out how to live well. In this class, we will carry on that practical approach. We’ll think hard together about big questions that you might wonder about in your ordinary life: What does a successful life look like? What should we aim at and how should we pursue these aims? Should we try to be happy? Should we try to make the world better? Should we try to be good? Or are we too fixated on doing things? Would it be better to give contemplation, gratitude, or enjoyment a larger role? We'll think about these questions with the help of great texts from the past, the work of some contemporary philosophers, and journalistic reports and essays drawn from popular media. You will develop, refine, and argue for your own answers in both discussion and written work.

How to Live the Good Life

Instructor(s): Regina Schwartz

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

Instructor(s): Arturo Chang

Description: This course examines the political problems, debates, and peoples that framed post-colonial movements in the American hemisphere. The course will begin with debates centered on the “New World” in the late 1700’s, turn to insurgency movements during on to the Age of Revolutions in the 1800’s, and consider the legacies of American revolutions in the 20th century. The goal of the course is to engage the political innovations that emerged from projects of American emancipation, including indigenous movements in Latin America, slave revolts in the Caribbean, and abolitionist discourse in the United States. Thus, the course decenters the United States in order to illustrate the hemispheric and post-colonial features of American nation-building. This course readings will cover post-colonial theory, indigenous studies, transatlantic histories, theories of nation-building, and studies of popular movements. Our primary cases will be in the United States, Mexico, Haiti, Colombia, and Peru.

Insurgency and Nation-Building in the Age of Revolution

Instructor(s): Aaron Grecius

Description: The supposed deep connection between music and mathematics is much trumpeted but seldom explicated. Our first approach to this question will be a mathematical take on the anatomy of music. We will give mathematical models of musical objects: starting from the basic parameters of pitch, harmony, rhythm, and timbre, and then moving on to higher-level structures like melodies, scales, chords, and chord progressions, as well as musical operations and compositional techniques. We will end by discussing similarities between music and mathematics understood more broadly as intellectual activities. Are the acts of writing a piece of music and coming up with a mathematical proof similar in nature? Can our enjoyment/understanding of a piece of music be compared to the pleasure of following a subtle mathematical argument? No prior knowledge of music or mathematics will be assumed. Musical and mathematical examples will abound.

Mathematics and Music

Instructor(s): Domietta Torlasco

Description: This course will explore the role that exhibitionism and the logic of spectacle have played in Italian culture from the years of Fascism (1922-1943) to Silvio Berlusconi’s rise to power in the 1990s and our current predicament. As the flip side of our desire to see, exhibitionism manifests the desire to be seen, to expose oneself to the look of others—to turn oneself into a spectacle— in both the private and public spheres. While drawing from the fields of cinema and media studies, we will analyze how film, television, and social media have simultaneously reflected and constructed our desire for self-display. We will pay particular attention to questions of gender and sexuality and to the ways in which spectacle and politics have joined forces at different junctures in Italian history. Among the films we will study are Luchino Visconti’s Bellissima (1951), Federico Fellini’s La dolce vita (1960) and Ginger and Fred (1986), Erik Gandini’s Videocracy (2009), Matteo Garrone’s Reality (2012), and Paolo Sorrentino’s La grande bellezza (2013).

Media and Exhibitionism

Instructor(s): Adia Benton

Description: At the height of the 2013-2016 West African Ebola epidemic, it was often said that the fears of the disease globalized more quickly than the disease itself. These kinds of statements - and the proliferation of official efforts to control Ebola outbreak in West Africa and elsewhere - show the significance of cultural, social, political and economic dimensions of epidemics. This first-year seminar privileges a critical medical anthropology perspective on the dynamics of epidemics: from disease transmission to prevention and control. Together, we will investigate how complex interactions among social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental factors influence the natural history of infectious disease and public health efforts to understand and address them. The seminar focuses on contemporary problems and issues with the explicit purpose of addressing questions of equity and justice.

Modern Plagues

Instructor(s): Yoram Lithwick



Global Warming is one of the most difficult challenges facing humanity. We will examine global warming from a variety of perspectives, including many of the following: science, policy, economics, ethics, politics, journalism, engineering, history, astronomy.

Perspectives on Global Warming

Instructor(s): Marcelo Vinces

Description: Biology is the study of life and living organisms. Like all the natural sciences, is a data-driven endeavor, concerned with describing, predicting and understanding natural phenomena based on evidence from observation and experimentation. But like all human activities, it does not exist in objective isolation, but rather within a societal context. This course aims to contextualize the study of biology towards a better understanding of how social and cultural histories and dynamics have had a profound effect on biological research, and how social, political and economic problems can severely limit the impact of scientific breakthroughs.

The topics we will cover, among others: the cultural, political and societal barriers to reaping the benefits of biological research; the damaging legacies of racism, sexism and colonialism on the biological research enterprise; the role of communications in the field of biology; and select biological topics in evolution, genetics and disease. Students will learn from press articles, academic literature and non-fiction books (Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; Shah, The Fever: How malaria has ruled humankind for 500,000 years).

Promises & Perils: Society & the Biological Sciences

Instructor(s): Stefan Henning

Description: The Chinese have achieved enormous economic growth over the last forty years which has dramatically raised living conditions in China. The Chinese Communist Party has steered this economic development through authoritarian rule which denies the Chinese liberties you take for granted. Thirty years ago, the Communist Party killed Chinese who demanded these liberties by employing the military inside the country. Since the massacre of 1989, protest in the streets has moved to networking on the internet. You will write your paper about this challenge to authoritarian rule by engaging some of the following questions: How have urban Chinese lived with the trauma of the massacre? What exactly happened thirty years ago? Making and uploading videos to the internet is a crucial weapon for activists. How do you evaluate the power of individual videos to force political change? These videos are documentaries, performance art, interviews, covert recordings of state agents, cries for help of fugitives in real time, and witness testimony. The creators of these videos are prepared to take risks because they feel there is something wrong with China today. These feelings are value judgments, or valuations. How do you tease out the values by which activists judge the state and evaluate their lives in China? What in turn are the value judgments of American reporters who report on Chinese activism to the American public? What are the value judgments of American professors who study Chinese activism? And what are your own value judgments: If it turns out that U.S. capitalism in its combination with democracy cannot economically compete with Chinese capitalism in its combination with authoritarian rule, and you were forced to choose, would you choose capitalism or democracy? What parts of your life would be impossible under authoritarian rule? Which line would populism and neo-authoritarianism in America have to cross for you to fight the government?

Rebellion and Its Enemies in China Today

Instructor(s): Jeffrey Masten

Description: What was Shakespeare’s sex? We will read intensively a small set of plays and other texts by and about William Shakespeare in order to think about sex, sexuality, gender, and desire in his time and ours. How can we “translate” the foreign-yet-familiar languages and intensities of human interaction and emotion we read in Shakespeare into our own understanding? What acts, affections, emotions, and identities counted as “sex” in Shakespeare’s time? How can we begin to understand the “sex” of a writer one of whose central skills was continually to cross-voice himself as a variety of women (and sometimes women as young men)? Alongside our close reading, discussion, and writing about A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Venus and Adonis, Othello the Moor of Venice, and Twelfth Night, Or What You Will, we will sample biographies (Shakespeare in Love) and feminist and queer criticism that attempt to answer the question of Shakespeare’s sex.

Shakespeare's Sex

Instructor(s): Todd Nordgren

Description: Literature to film, creators of science fiction and fantasy grapple with the relationship between people and places, exploring our understanding of racial, ethnic, or sexual minorities through fiction. Some stories take place in fictionalized versions of real world locales, from the eerie version of Transylvania in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) to the futuristic Republic of Gilead in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1986), while others create otherworldly new places, such as Ursula K. Le Guin's dragon-infested Earthsea or the extra-terrestrial planet of Octavia Butler's "Bloodchild" (1984). Surveying a range of literature, film, and television from Dracula to Star Trek, we will track the developments of ideas about race, science and technology, sexuality and gender, and national identities as they appear in science fiction and fantasy, preparing you for your own role as a thoughtful participant in popular culture and academic research.

Speculative Fictions: Race & Space

Instructor(s): Larry Perry

Description: What does “spiritual but not religious” mean, and why has it become such a pervasive self- description in contemporary America? This course lends a lens to the relationship between spirituality and formal religion, on the one hand, and secular modes of understanding the self, such as psychology, on the other. Close attention will be paid to the writings of 19th Century Transcendentalist Thinkers, Pragmatic Philosophy, the Positive Thinkers Movement, Quaker Mysticism, the Spirituality of the Harlem Renaissance, the emergence of Yoga and Meditation in the American popular culture, and the Religion of Black Lives Matter.

Spiritual but not Religious

Instructor(s): Daniel Horton

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.

Sustainability and Social Justice
TTh 12:30-1:50pm

Instructor(s): Shelby Hatch

Description: Over the past several months, environmental (justice) events have peppered the headlines: fires in Australia, earthquakes in Puerto Rico, entire (native) villages being relocated in Alaska. These occurrences and others - including local ones - will be foregrounded in class readings, discussions, field trips, and assignments. What sustainable solutions are available to mitigate such disasters? What actions can we take to prevent future ones? How can the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry and Engineering be utilized to create a more sustainable future for all? Students will examine behaviors of individuals and institutions, analyzing how those actions contribute to the success or failure of a sustainable and environmentally just future. Students will use various forms of media to communicate their findings to the Northwestern community and beyond, culminating in student-directed projects and presentations.

Sustainability Meets Environmental Justice

Instructor(s): Lisa Del Torto

Description: Scholars of language and writing argue that language and its modes, varieties, genres, and rhetorical strategies are always shifting, flexible, and contested. Thus, sociolinguistic diversity—differences across and within spoken and written languages and dialects—is inevitable. This seminar will explore the ways in which language difference is situated in current discourses, considering language in written, spoken, and signed forms. We will disrupt monolingual ideologies that infiltrate those discourses, focusing on the ways in which difference in language is an asset to individuals, cultures, and institutions. The course will consider how our sociolinguistic diversity sustains us, how we can sustain sociolinguistic diversity, and how we can create more equity and inclusion around language differences in a variety of social contexts. Students will formulate and consider their own questions about sociolinguistic diversity, equity, and inclusion in papers and presentations. Students of all sociolinguistic backgrounds are welcome to take this seminar, and our course design will provide direct benefits to students who identify as international, multilingual, and/or native speakers of non-mainstream Englishes.

Sustaining Sociolinguistic Diversity for Equity and Inclusion

Instructor(s): Kevin Mazur

Description: This class examines the 2011 Syrian uprising and ensuing civil war through the lenses of social science, journalism, film, and literature. Theoretical issues raised include the role of economic, political, and ethnic factors in the onset of revolutionary challenge, state strategies of repression, international influences on intrastate war, and the role of Islamist groups and ideology in patterns of violence and rebel governance.

Syria: Politics, Society, & Culture in Revolution

Instructor(s): Marci Freedman

Description: This course looks at the history of the medieval and early modern worlds through everyday objects. It examines what life was like for different types of people by examining the physical objects that they made, used, bought and sold. The course will further investigate what can be learned from the meaning attributed to these objects. The material objects studied will engage with key themes of the pre-modern world including: religion, trade, travel, domestic environments, intellectual culture, medicine, and working life. Through the use of a wide range of primary sources, and secondary background readings, the aim of this course is to understand how material objects are historical sources, and how they can shape and transform cultures.

The History of Europe Through Objects

Instructor(s): Christine Helmer

Description: This course explores the Nazi Olympics, held in Berlin 1936, in relation to religion, race, and politics. We show how the Nazi Olympics appropriated themes from the ancient Olympics in Greece in order to create a new religious, aesthetic, and political ethos. We also look at the legacy of politics in the Olympics of Mexico City in 1968, with a focus on Black activism in contemporary sports.

The Nazi Olympics

Instructor(s): Felipe Costa Neves

Description: What do we mean when we say, “it happened to me?” Are my experiences exclusively my own? But what if what I experience, feel, suffer, or even imagine, has actually never happened to me? Do experiences belong exclusively to someone or are they somehow collective? Can I feel, or perhaps share, the pain (and joy) of others? Can I give voice to somebody else’s experience, if not out of identification, at least out of empathy? How ethical or opportunistic would that be? At the same time, what if I cannot properly articulate my own experiences without imagining the experience of others? What happens when I realize that my own feelings derive from somebody else’s narrated experience? In short, what are the boundaries between appropriation of the other’s experience and authentic identification?

Throughout the course, we will critically engage with contemporary narratives in literature and film by authors such as Alejandro Zambra, from Chile; Michel Laub, from Brazil; Marcelo Piñeyro, from Argentina; Mayra Santos Febres, from Puerto Rico; and Horacio Castellanos Moya, from El Salvador. Through them, we will think about the ideological, historical, sociological and philosophical consequences of constructing the present and the contemporary self by revisiting and revaluing the past and the inherited culture/history.

Vicarious Fictions: History and Experience in Latin American Contemporary Literature

Instructor(s): Jonah Radding

Description: Herodotus’ observation that “no one is so foolish as to choose war over peace” is both obviously true and consistently belied by the choices that humans make. In this course, we will examine how the ancient Greeks and Romans conceived of both war and peace, ranging from some of the earliest anti-war literature that survives to the use of ideologies of peace as instruments of oppression. Our sources will include poets and politicians, historians and artists, and the material traces of life in the ancient world that allow us to glimpse how war and peace affected vast ranges of individuals and communities. In the process, we will seek to understand both how the realities of war and peace were perceived and experienced in the ancient world, but also why it is that peace remains at once so enticing and elusive.

War and Peace in Ancient Greece and Rome

Instructor(s): Leslie Harris

Description: This course will provide students with a way to explore the history of Northwestern University and Evanston, IL. Often when students and faculty arrive at a campus, they think very little about how the campus came to be. Who lived on the land before the university existed? What were the goals of the university at its founding? How did the university relate to the town within which it exists? How has the university changed over time, and how does that reflect changes in higher education--in the case of Northwestern, from the Pre-Civil War period to the present? For whom were universities created, and who do universities serve today? When and why did it become important for non-elite people to attain a college degree? This course will provide students with a way to think about these topics generally, and within the specific context of Northwestern and Evanston.

In addition, students will learn about archives--one of the sources of raw material from which history is created. In addition to the University archives available at Northwestern, students will visit the Evanston Historical Society and Northshore, a community archive. Students will also do a campus tour; and a tour of the town of Evanston. These experiences will give students a sense of public history: how historical narratives are shaped by institutions for the general public. Some of these tours may take place on Saturdays early in the quarter.

By the end of the course, students will have gained a deeper sense of the history of the place within which they will spend a large portion of the next four years. This history continues to influence Northwestern and Evanston today. By understanding this history, students can think about the challenges and possibilities for their own time here. What histories do you wish to create at Northwestern and in Evanston?

Where Am I? A History of Northwestern
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