Skip to main content
Northwestern University

Choosing a First-Year Seminar

Fall Quarter 2019 First-Year Seminars

The following seminars will be offered in Fall Quarter 2019.  Click on the ">" in front of a title to read the course description.  You will be able to review seminars in the dossier in early June.


Instructor(s): Claire Sufrin

Description: A Rabbi and a Priest walk into a bar to talk about God. As the course title suggests, when Jews and Christians get together we expect them to be joking around about practices like wearing prayer shawls, not eating pork, or abstaining from sex. But what happens when Jews and Christians try to talk together in a serious way about the Bible? Or what happens when we die? Or even about the nature of God? In this class, we will consider whether it is possible for people from different faith traditions to learn from one another in a way that is constructive and meaningful while still respecting the differences between them. We will begin with a historical example of an interfaith dialogue gone awry and then turn to examples of contemporary religious thinkers trying to understand the purpose and possibility of interfaith dialogue. While our focus will be on Jews and Christians, our texts will include some Muslim writers as well. In short: this course is a chance to think about how to talk about our highest values and commitments with those who don't share them.

A Rabbi and a Priest Walk into a Bar to Talk about God

Instructor(s): Jason Seawright

Description: The news is filled with accounts of novel right-leaning political movements: the alt-right, the Koch brothers, the National Front in France, Jair Bolsonaro's movement in Brazil. What kinds of politics do these seemingly diverse movements advocate? Are they similar enough to legitimately be grouped as "right" movements, or are they too distinctive? Are they just the old-fashioned right from the 20th century in new aesthetics, or have they changed substantively? We will explore these questions reading a series of books and articles about contemporary right-leaning political actors in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere.

Alts, Populists, Neos, and Billionaires: Right Politics Worldwide in the 21st Century

Instructor(s): Ryan Platte

Description: In this course we will examine, and learn how to write about, the role of Ancient Greece and Rome in American film and culture. Preliminary steps in this study will involve introductions to various historic eras of the ancient Greco-Roman world as well as important elements of ancient culture. Our emphasis will, however, not be analysis of antiquity itself but rather of American engagement with that antiquity, particularly in film. From reflections of ancient Rome in Star Wars to the adaptation of Greek comedy in Spike Lee\'s Chiraq, we will examine not just how antiquity perseveres in American culture, but how popular art creatively and critically engages with inherited Classical traditions. We will also consider engagement with Classical antiquity in some non-cinematic media as well, such as the graphic novel and even the architecture of the city of Chicago. Through writing and research assignments students will hone their ability to interpret and explain the role of Classical traditions in the modern world.

Ancient Greece and Rome in Modern Film Culture

Instructor(s): Wendy Griswold

Description: This seminar considers the relationship between humans and non-human species from a sociological viewpoint. Topics include: the history of animal-human relations; the moral status of animals; how gender, class, and race-ethnicity impact our dealings with animals; zoos and shelters; the relationship between violence toward animals and toward people; animal rights movements; animal therapy; and the question of whether animals are part of society.

Animals and Society

Instructor(s): Ginger Pennington


In this seminar, we will explore various perspectives on femininity and what it means to be “female,” with a particular emphasis on the ways in which modern society exerts influence on the self-concepts of young women.  In the wake of such events as the Women’s March on Washington, the #MeToo movement, historic election victories for female candidates, record-breaking achievements for female artists, and highly-publicized sexual harassment allegations against major political and media figures, women are confronted with conflicting messages about the nature and impact of “girl power.”  Do today’s young women feel more empowered than previous generations?  Does the modern woman have the power to “choose” her own definition of femininity?  What forces help shape girls’ understanding of their own sexuality, social roles, and future opportunities?  We will read work by psychologists, sociologists, journalists, ethnographers, and other scholars who present divergent points of view on gender roles and feminist psychology.  Students will be encouraged to engage in the spirited exchange of ideas on these issues and integrate the readings with their own observations and lived experience.

Being Female in the 21st Century
T Th12:30pm-1:50pm

Instructor(s): Bill Leonard and Michele McDonough

Description: Science is a process by which people make sense of the world. Scientists examine evidence from the past, work to understand the present, and make predictions about the future. Integral to this process are the methods they use to collect and analyze data, as well as the ways in which scientists work together as a community to interpret evidence and draw conclusions. In this class, we will take a multidisciplinary approach to examining biological thought and action and their social ramifications. We will seek to understand science as a social pursuit: the work of human beings with individual, disciplinary, and cultural differences, and requiring tremendous investments in training and equipment. Does it matter that participation in science is more accessible to some than to others? How do biases, assumptions, uncertainty, and error manifest in scientific work? What is the history of scientific values such as objectivity and reproducibility? The course will conclude by investigating current topics of public debate.

Biological Thought in Action

Instructor(s): Carl Dahl

Description: This course will explore the fundamental ideas of modern physics by way of counter example. From Newton to Einstein, the laws of physics are regularly broken in works of fantasy and science fiction, and by asking what physical laws are broken (and with what consequences) we can come to a clearer understanding of the real world around us. We will ask why both Jedi and blasters violate conservation of momentum, how the ansible’s faster-than-light communication in Ender’s Game could lead to awkward conversations with one’s past (or future) self, and what the impact is of a magic system that enables a perpetual motion machine, among other questions. We will also see how much speculation is still possible without undue violence to the nature of the universe. No particular physics or math background is required.

Breaking the Laws of Nature: Physics in Speculative Fiction

Instructor(s): Marcia Grabowecky

Description: In this seminar we will examine the nature of the mind from both Buddhist and traditional Western psychological perspectives. We will employ Buddhist techniques for investigating mental activity by incorporating a brief meditation period into class and homework activities. We will also examine written materials from both traditions, and these will form the primary basis for class discussion and written assignments.

Buddhist Psychology

Instructor(s): Patricia Beddows

Description: Anthropogenic climate change represents a massive global experiment. In this course we will discuss the scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change, including atmospheric composition changes, sea level rise, melting ice sheets, temperature records, and extreme weather events such as hurricanes. Current trends and the role of human activities will be examined in the context of the geologic record of natural climate variability and the feedbacks inherent in the climate system. Anticipated future impacts include droughts, floods, spread of infectious diseases, drinking water shortages, habitat loss and extinctions. Given these forecasts, strategies for managing the effects of global warming will be assessed. This writing seminar specifically aims to develop effective scientific writing and visual communication for the natural sciences.

Climate Change: The Scientific Evidence

Instructor(s): Matilda Stubbs

Description: This seminar introduces students to the anthropological study of the senses. Through close examination of ethnographic texts and films, students will explore how cultures "make sense" of the everyday and increasingly globalized world. With a heavy emphasis on written assignments, we approach the notion of perception as more than a purely physical act, and through structured participation and deliberate observation, students will learn how sensory experiences are deeply related to our own histories and cultural identities. Course activities center around developing analytic skills in the genre of ethnographic writing, and critically engaging with cross-cultural examples of sensual mediations of reality. Topics range from how the senses shape the aesthetics of daily life through color, odor, and flavor, to the significance of communication and information of technologies in the era of virtual reality, slime videos, and the online autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) community.

Come to Your Senses: The Anthropology of Sensory Perception

Instructor(s): Rebecca Johnson

Description: In this course, we will read literature and watch films that uncover political or other conspiracies, starting with classic spy thrillers of the early twentieth century, moving through their Cold War apex internationally, and ending with current populist conspiracy theories that inform present popular culture. Far from dismissing conspiracy as erroneous thinking, we will instead try to understand the social, political, and above all literary function of conspiratorial thinking. We will treat conspiracy as a mode of reading, interpreting, and knowing, a "passion for making sense" of a complicated world. As such it can link events and actors in false causality just as easily as it can uncover real plots, networks of actors, and hidden powers that make up reality. Just because we're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not after us.


Instructor(s): Sandy Zabell

Description: Cryptology is the study of secret writing, or more generally secure communication. We will discuss classical methods of cryptography, followed by the use of the German Enigma machine during World War II, and end by discussing modern cryptosystems such as RSA and PGP, digital signatures, and their use in internet security.


Instructor(s): Kihana Ross

Description: This class considers what it means to conceptualize, articulate, and actualize a liberatory Black educational project within U.S. public schools structured by anti-Black solidarity. In the first section of the course, we explore the fight to desegregate public schools and the ways the historic Brown v. Board of Education case transformed schooling for Black children and their communities. In considering the impact of the Brown decision on the experiences of Black students in U.S. public schools, we interrogate the rebukes of Brown including the various educational projects (community control, Panther freedom schools, the Black independent school movement etc.) advanced in Brown’s aftermath. In the second section of the course, we explore the myriad ways Black students experience antiblackness and anti-Black racism in U.S. public schools contemporarily, as well as the ways Black students, educators, administrators, community and family members, and scholars have articulated what the notion of liberation may mean in the face of antiblackness. In the final section of the course, we consider the tensions and possibilities in the desire to “get free” within the confines of U.S. public schools.

Education for Black Liberation

Instructor(s): Jules Law, Adia Benton, Daniel Immerwahr

Description: This seminar is reserved for Kaplan Scholars. In this exciting course—taught by an historian, a cultural anthropologist of science, and an English professor—we will ask about empire, one of the most important forms of global connection in the modern age. We’ll approach our topic in an interdisciplinary way, looking at culture, history, literature, and even science—and we’ll examine a rich array of texts and objects from different periods of history and parts of the globe. Some of the questions we’ll consider: What are empires? How do they get formed? How do they become objects of representation, and in what media? How do they regulate the circulation of people, goods, ideas, genes, languages, and germs? How do they shape our most fundamental experiences, and how are they contested or destroyed?


Instructor(s): Scott Ogawa

Description: We will read Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. We will discuss reason, science, humanism, and progress.

Enlightenment, Fall 2019

Instructor(s): Elisabeth Elliott

Description: In this course we will explore some of the sociolinguistic issues (that is connections between language and society) in various Slavic speaking countries and areas (the Russian Federation, the former Soviet Union, the former Czechoslovakia, etc.) and in Central Europe (specifically, Turkish in Germany). We will also look at contemporary issues in Russia and the Ukraine as these relate to sociolinguistic issues, particularly the annexation of the Crimea, anti-gay laws in Russia, and censorship of Pussy Riot. Issues to be examined include: language policies, minority language rights, language vs. dialect, language planning, language and identity, and language and nationalism. As the final paper for this course, students will work on any geopolitical area in the world and examine the sociolinguistic issues particular to that region or linguistic variety. Some previous papers, for example, have looked at the role of Japanese in Korea; Koreans in Japan and language discrimination issues; the languages of South Africa; the status of African-American English (or African-American Vernacular English, or Black English) in the US and the controversy surrounding it in the 1990s in the Oakland, CA school district; US language change and the Internet and social media; Celtic in Ireland; the successful revival of a dead language, e.g., Hebrew, as the official language of Israel; language rights in the EU; American Indian languages; bilingualism in the US or Canada; Kurdish language discrimination in Turkey; and others.

From Fascism to Pussy Riot

Instructor(s): Edward Muir

Description: One of the distinguishing characteristics of western civilization has been its persistent concern to adjudicate disputes and to judge alleged wrong-doers through the process of a trial. The forms of trials and standards of evidence have changed a great deal since ancient times when Socrates was condemned to death, and yet the trial still remains the principal means through which society makes its most important judgments. Trials are also exceptionally revealing of the basic values in society. What distinguishes the great trials has been how they uncover conflicts about those values, how they preserve for prosperity a sensitivity for justice and injustice, how they symbolize conflicting values, and how often they have stimulated great works of philosophy and literature. In this course we shall analyze a few of the most famous trials from the ancient world to the twentieth-first century and ask such questions as what is justice and injustice, what is the role of persuasive rhetoric in trials, how have trials constructed evidence for and against defendants, and most importantly how have the trials of certain individuals stimulated a debate about the fundamental values of society?

Great Trials in History

Instructor(s): Robin Bates

Description: How have people explained the meaning of their lives? What historical circumstances have driven them to try?

How have people throughout history understood more abstract features of their societies - including politics, nationality, religion, gender, sexuality and race - in relation to themselves?

What can we learn about these bigger, more abstract issues by looking closely at the human experience of them in their historical context?

To address these questions, we will engage with autobiographical historical sources ranging from medieval love letters to memoirs of the Holocaust; discover experiences of fighting wars, adopting new religions, and escaping from slavery; see what can be learned from lives changed by claiming new identities and reinterpreting old ones.

History of the Self

Instructor(s): Jim Hodge

Description: This writing-intensive course focuses on a number of classics by cinema’s “master of suspense,” Alfred Hitchcock. Films will likely include Vertigo, Psycho and North by Northwest, and The Birds. The last portion of the class will discuss Hitchcock’s legacy and influence, e.g. Chris Marker’s La Jetée, John Carpenter’s Halloween and Brian De Palma's Carrie. The broad goal of the course is to introduce students to the conventions and rigors of humanistic forms of evidence-based argumentation and analysis. We will accomplish this by focusing locally on the ways film style affects the treatment of key themes across Hitchcock’s filmography: from mistaken identity and sexual politics to horror and voyeurism. Assignments will include short essays and several digital editing projects including making animated .gifs and supercuts (no technical expertise required).

Hitchcock and Beyond

Instructor(s): Barbara Shwom

Description: Every day on television and radio, on the streets and in classrooms, we hear people expressing opinions about a variety of topics. The people who are most persuasive, however, are those who are most informed. This course is designed to give students the tools to develop an informed opinion, to present that opinion to others orally and in writing, and to persuade others to consider (and even accept) their point of view. In this seminar, you will have the opportunity to select a topic of your choice and research it in depth, using library resources, the Internet, interviews and surveys. You will also learn a number of techniques for presenting your ideas persuasively, both orally and in writing. By the end of the course, you will be in position to discuss your ideas in a thoughtful, authoritative way. In this sense, you will have earned the right to call yourself an expert on your topic.

How to Become an Expert in Roughly 10 Weeks

Instructor(s): Mary Finn

Description: No matter what your major, you will inevitably come across scholarly material that uses specialized vocabulary particular to the methodologies within that discipline. This is true from Anthropology to Statistics. These materials can read to a novice like deliberately confusing jargon. And they can tempt us to reject or gloss over the argument without fully considering its point. We will read a wide collection of such essays to hone your skills in close reading and sophisticated comprehension.

For comparison and contrast, across the disciplines we will also read material considered to be for the “general public” (such as The New York Times, The Economist, Vanity Fair). What is gained and what is lost when a complicated topic is “translated” from “academic speak” to “plain prose”? In many classes you will also engage with primary materials: novels, The Constitution, survey data, a burial mound, and so we will as well in this seminar.

In reading and evaluating all these kinds materials in any class you will need to up your game as you start Northwestern. The goal of this course is to hone your skills in close reading. But what does getting better at "close reading" mean? It means: always understanding new vocabulary; reading carefully at the level of the sentence; tracing the argument through the sequence of paragraphs; identifying the evidence – or lack of evidence – so central to any successful argument in all fields; being able to paraphrase the main thrust of the argument.

This kind of reading enables sophisticated analysis and critique, which is the goal for your writing for the class as well as your contribution to class discussion. As your close reading skills become more advanced, your participation in discussions and your own critical analysis in writing will also advance in sophistication.

We will read across the social science and humanities fields taught at Northwestern, including a number of essays by eminent Northwestern scholars. I have not finalized our selection, but we will read about such things as data and skepticism about data; literature and literary theory; history and the revision of historical truisms; the intersectional categories of race, gender and class… All class materials will be available electronically.

How to Read- Critical Thinking and the Craft of Close Reading

Instructor(s): Charles Yarnoff

Description: We live in a time when hostility towards immigrants has made many Americans forget that, as President Obama said, “We are and always will be a nation of immigrants," and has obscured the complex reality of their lives. In this course, we will study literary works by immigrants and their children in order to understand that complex reality. We will explore such questions as: How do social institutions and structures impact the lives of immigrants as they seek to pursue the American Dream? What happens to the relationships between parents and children through the process of acculturation into American society? How do differences in national origin connect with other differences, particularly gender, race, ethnicity, and class? What are the similarities and differences between the experiences of immigrants and those of refugees?

We will read novels and short stories that were written over the last 100 years and that tell stories of immigrants from Vietnam, Mexico, Russia, Barbados, and Japan.

Immigrant Stories

Instructor(s): Sean Ebels-Duggan

Description: "Goodness" is a concept we cannot seem to escape. This seminar will address several questions about the nature of goodness. For example, is goodness reducible to something seemingly unrelated to goodness? Do we encounter goodness in experience like we encounter solidity in experience? Can we be judged as good or not, even if we cannot fully understand goodness? And what of its source: is it something natural, or supernatural, or something else entirely? The seminar will examine how these questions are addressed in several traditions, with a focus on the work of the novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch.

Is Goodness Out of this World

Instructor(s): Vivasvan Soni


The enduring appeal of Jane Austen’s novels is due in part to the fact that the historical and cultural debates in which she intervened are very much the same ones that confront us today: tradition v innovation, parental authority v filial obligation, customary social bonds v contractual relations, emotion v reason, the role of women in society, the value of the arts. This class will consider Jane Austen’s development as a writer, in the context of the “culture wars” in Britain in the 1790s, in the wake of the French Revolution. Is Austen a radical or conservative novelist? Does she defend the values of a dying aristocracy, or champion a new middle class sensibility? How does she respond to the jarring changes affecting her society? Does she assert the privileges of the governing classes or urge the rights of silenced groups (especially young women)? Does she offer a traditional or progressive view of marriage? Should children make their own choices in marriage or defer to parental authority? How do her novels cultivate good judgment? Do the arts have a progressive role in transforming society or a conservative one in maintaining traditional values? These are some of the questions we will examine as we read a range of her novels. Our goal will be to understand the experimental and fluid nature of Austen’s thought, as well as the way in which she transformed the history of the novel.

One important purpose of the class will be to develop skills of critical thinking and analytic writing. To that end, we will practice dissecting the arguments of others, work on formulating and defending our own arguments in writing, and hone the skills of listening to other positions in classroom conversation and debate. As you make the transition to college life, Austen’s “coming of age” novels can serve as a crucial sounding board for some of the issues you will confront.

Jane Austen and the Culture Wars

Instructor(s): Kevin Boyle

Description: In 1966 Martin Luther King Jr. came to Chicago to direct a massive direct action non-violent campaign against the city's deeply entrenched racial system. This course will explore the system King wanted to change, the campaign he built, and the fierce confrontations that resulted. In the process we'll see a side of the civil rights movement many Americans don't know. And we'll confront the injustices that shaped the city you'll be calling home for the next four years.

King in Chicago

Instructor(s): Bob Gundlach

Description: How do children achieve the remarkable feat of acquiring language? Which aspects of the human capacity for language are best understood as biological, as species-wide and species-specific? How do families, schools, and communities help shape children’s development as speakers and listeners, and eventually their development as readers and writers? How does learning a first language (or more than one language) interact with learning to think, learning to imagine, and developing a sense of identity? How is early language experience related to opportunities later in life? We will begin exploring these questions by reading I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language by Lydia Denworth and Why We Cooperate by Michael Tomasello. We will also sample firsthand the topics, methods, and forms of argument characteristic of current scientific research, We will then extend our exploration by considering how children learn to read and write and by reflecting on the role of language in children’s development of cultural and individual identity.

Language and Childhood

Instructor(s): Lisa Del Torto

Description: This seminar will explore language as part of our social experience. We will examine the spoken and written language we use and observe in a variety of everyday situations, considering such questions as: Why do we call some language varieties “dialects” and others “languages?” Why do some people think you have an accent while others think you don’t? Has your own language changed since you came to Northwestern? What patterns govern the conversations we have, and how do we create social relationships, communities, and identities in those conversations? Why do some people mix multiple languages when they speak and write? Is it, like, ok for me to, like, use like so much? What about um or ain’t or ya know? Students will formulate and consider their own questions about language and social life in papers and presentations.

Language and the Everyday Experience

Instructor(s): Myrna Garcia

Description: This course will explore the histories, identities, and experiences of Chicago's heterogeneous Latina/o/x populations through an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary framework. With a special focus on ethnic Mexican and Puerto Rican communities, we will study migration histories as well as the trans/formation of Latina/o/x identities, political activism, and cultural expressions. Moreover, we will also study how, and under what circumstances, Latinas/os/xs engage with Latinidades. Lastly, we will discuss how Latinx Chicago scholarship has shaped the field of Latina/o/x Studies.

LatinX Chicago

Instructor(s): Deborah Rosenberg

Description: In his outrageous version of the Inquisition in History of the World Part I, the comedian Mel Brooks touches on many of the misconceptions about the Inquisition that circulate today, indicating the lack of deep knowledge about Jewish life in Spain throughout history. In this seminar, we will examine both the Inquisition and other essential moments in Spanish-Jewish history: the (mostly) peaceful coexistence with Arabs and Christians in the Middle Ages, the 1492 expulsion and its aftermath, and Spanish-Jewish life in the 21st century. Our guide will be primary sources, the voices of Spanish Jews throughout describing their experiences in poetry, biography, and other texts. We will also examine universal themes--for example, the suffering of refugees--that emerge and are relevant to our contemporary world.

Look Out Sin! Jewish Lives in Spain

Instructor(s): Steve White

Description: There are many different and incommensurable kinds of goods: consumer goods (like cars and computers and clothes), personal relationships (love and friendship), goods of status, bodily goods (health, freedom from pain), opportunities for meaningful work, leisure, and so on. We will explore the moral and political implications of the idea that the way in which a specific good should be allocated, promoted and engaged with depends on the type of good it is. In particular, we'll be interested in the contrast between marketable goods - commodities - and other sorts of goods. If there are things that should not be for sale, why is that, and what does it say about the nature of value?

Love and Money

Instructor(s): Ben Gorvine

Description: While those going into the field of mental health typically think about it as a “helping profession”, there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to the psychological, economic, and political forces that have defined the development of the field. The purpose of this course is to explore some of the historical psychological, economic, and political factors that have shaped the field as it exists today. Before delving into the specifics of the mental health field, the course will begin with a brief detour and explore the important and provocative concept of “choice overload”, along with a consideration of the mental health consequences of choice. Then we will shift to an exploration of the role of state mental hospitals in the U.S. in the early to mid-20th century, and we will examine the political forces that drove the de-institutionalization movement of the 1970s and 1980s. Finally, the course will focus on the evolution of psychotherapy in the modern marketplace, as well as the development of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (now in its 5th edition), with a particular focus on some of the problems that have emerged from the disease-based framework utilized in the manual. The aggressive way in which the DSM has been marketed internationally will be discussed. Along the way, we will explore critiques of the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, and modern psychiatry. Some of these themes will also be explored through analysis of popular films and other media.

Mental Health Diagnosis and Treatment: Political a

Instructor(s): Patricia Nguyen

Description: Migration, Detention, and Sanctuary examines U.S. immigration policy and the carceral state alongside a history of the movement to protect undocumented citizens and racially, religiously, and sexually marginalized groups. Readings for the course include work from Critical Ethnic Studies, A. Naomi Paik, Dylan Rodriguez, Mae Ngai, and Lisa Lowe; Policy/Community Organizing Toolkits from the National Immigration Law Center and Immigrant Defense Project; and a range of multimedia artwork. The purpose of the course is to introduce students to U.S. foreign and domestic policies shaping contemporary struggles for immigration and prison abolition, and the fight for freedom in immigrant and refugee communities.

Migration, Detention, and Sanctuary

Instructor(s): Liz Trubey

Description: Why go to college? To become educated? To stay up all night thinking deep thoughts? To prepare for a career? To party? Is college a straight and narrow path through requirements and electives to graduation, or is the story more complicated, more open-ended? What happens when the story ends (or doesn’t end) at graduation? Does attending college even matter today? The stories we tell about the college experience shape our expectations and our experiences at a university – as do current debates about the value of a liberal arts education.

Course Goals and Objectives: To get you thinking critically about why you chose Northwestern and what you hope to achieve here; to hone your close reading skills by examining contemporary texts (fiction, non-fiction essay, film) that tell different stories about college; to understand today’s debates about the liberal arts; to introduce you to new ideas about how to learn and thrive in college; to introduce you to Weinberg College and its resources; to hone your skills as a writer of college-level work. Optimistically: as we think our stories about a/the College Experience, you will begin to write the story of your own.

Narratives of College

Instructor(s): Pam Bannos

Description: This course will explore the history and nature of photographic imagery relating to its capacity for misrepresentation, with emphasis on context and photography as a contemporary art practice. From the work of 19th century daguerreotypists, to conceptual artists of the 1980s and current digital imaging practitioners; from optical lens distortion to post-production manipulation; from re-contextualized art photography to Internet hoaxes; and, from sophisticated HDR compositing, to Instagram filters, we will investigate the age-old issue of truth and its relationship to photography. In addition to more extensive essays, students will write short responses to readings, and produce imagery related to discussion topics.

On Seeing and Believing
T Th1pm-2:20pm

Amy Partridge


Description: The U.S. 1970s Women’s Health Movement demanded everything from safe birth control on demand to an end to for-profit healthcare. Some participants formed research collectives and published D-I-Y guides to medical knowledge such as the Boston Women's Health Collective's Women and Their Bodies or Carol Downer's A New View of a Woman's Body. Some movement members established battered women's shelters, underground abortion referral services, and feminist health clinics. Others formed local committees and national networks, such as the Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse (CARASA) and the National Women's Health Network (NWHN), with the goal of transforming contemporary medical protocols and scientific research agendas. Because many of these local and national groups are still in existence, original movement goals continue to define the parameters of a "women's health" agenda in the present moment. On the other hand, the Women's Health Movement was (and is) a heterogeneous movement. Then, as now, groups with competing ideas about the healthcare needs of women as a group identified as part of same movement. Thus, an examination of historical and current debates over "women's health" is also a means of assessing several distinct, often competing, paradigms of health and disease. Moreover, how we articulate a "women's health agenda" depends on our (often taken-for-granted) ideas about gender, sexuality, and embodiment itself.

Our Bodies/Ourselves: The Women's Health Movement(s) Then and Now

Instructor(s): Ricardo Court

Description: This course presents a choice between enjoying the sensation of ‘being right’ and the possibility of moving one’s personal and political agenda forward in concrete ways. Lately, political culture has been almost exclusively about the former to the detriment of the latter. In this course, participants will exercise political skills in the classroom and apply them to their own political advocacy. This course stresses the radical difference between political skills and political punditry, one requiring practice and application, the other requiring only primitive rhetorical skills.

This course will ask students to develop their civic knowledge, communication abilities, and networks of relationships that will define their role as an active civic actor, providing genuine hands-on experience as an engaged citizen. Participants are asked to faithfully articulate views from a variety of perspectives, inevitably, from perspectives that run contrary to their own. The goal of political skill is distinct from debate, the later centered around winning, the former around understanding.

Political Controversy/Political Skill

Instructor(s): Paul CaraDonna

Description: This course will focus on developing an understanding of the ecology of plants, pollinators, and their interactions. We will build on this ecological knowledge in order to think critically about the conservation challenges faced by plants and pollinators all across the globe today. Topics in this course will range from plant and pollinator life cycles, pollinator behavior, pollination ecology, pollination as an ecosystem services, and conservation. Emphasis in this course will be on the development of skills in critical reading, interpretation, discussion, and writing for the sciences.

Pollination Ecology From Conservation to Extinction
M W3:30pm-4:50pm

Instructor(s): Megan Hyska

Description: Democracy works when people are able to make conscientious, informed decisions about the kind of society they want to live in. Thinkers from antiquity to the present have been concerned with the various ways that this ability can be undermined by propaganda, both in purported democracies and in explicitly authoritarian regimes. On the other hand, many radical thinkers have suggested that propaganda isn't always bad, and is perhaps a necessary component of liberatory social and political movements. In this course we will be asking three central questions: What is propaganda? How does propaganda function in the world today? And finally, how can a just society deal with propaganda's negative effects?


Instructor(s): Sara Monsoon


This seminar will guide students in a slow, close reading (in English translation) of a globally significant text from Greek antiquity that has had nearly unparalleled cross-cultural and historical impact on a wide range of areas of human creativity — Plato's Republic. Well-known episodes in this text include the ship of state, allegory of the cave and the philosopher-ruler. Our group will pay special attention to some striking 21st political resonances of the episodes in the text (especially its account of the vulnerabilities of democracy and their links to the development of tyranny) as well as its sustained portrait of a "resilient" person. Assignments will include short seminar presentations. Frequent papers of varying lengths (from one paragraph to 3 pages). No final exam. Please obtain the edition of the Republic published by Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, Plato, The Republic, edited by GRF Ferrari, translated by Tom Griffith. Other supporting scholarship will be posted to the canvas site. 

The best preparatory reading to do over the summer is Introducing the Ancient Greeks: From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind by Edith Hall.  This is that rare kind of wonderful book: a very lively read intended for general audiences written by a high powered scholar in command of the most up to date knowledge. It is not a turgid textbook. It is widely available (including e-book) and inexpensive.

In addition, if you wish to read about Socrates, that central character on all of Plato's writings, I recommend the article by Debra Nails in the online (open access) Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  It is available at this link:

Resilience Theory: Plato's Road to Resilience

Instructor(s): Michael Maltenfort

Description: This course explores certain mathematics that connects the Rubik's cube and square dancing. The Rubik’s cube is a puzzle toy that first became popular in the 1980s. We study both how to solve it and why our techniques work, but we deemphasize algorithm efficiency and speed. The square dancing that we learn is largely independent of the US folk dancing from which it developed. Our class looks at this dancing as a mathematical activity, emphasizing motion and position. We also use modern music and eliminate the gender roles that are part of traditional square dancing.

Rubik's Cubes, Square Dancing, and Mathematics

Instructor(s): Larry Trzupek

Description: In this course we will read and discuss works on technical subjects written for a general audience with no special scientific training; the authors we'll be reading include Sam Kean, John McPhee, Don Norman, Richard Rhodes, and Lewis Thomas.

Science Writing for Non-Tech Audience

Instructor(s): Eric Mosser

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.


Instructor(s): Megan Geigner


Contemporary US culture has competing definitions of what it means to be an American. This seminar will ask students to consider the following set of questions: who or what is an American?; what forms do stories of the nation and of citizenship within it take?; and how and why do ideas of otherness remain complex in US history and culture? Students will contemplate these questions through two different types of readings: a series of scholarly and popular expository non-fiction essays, and a selection of short stories, plays, and poems. The essays will help students better understand what we mean when we say the words ‘nation,’ ‘citizenship,’ ‘otherness,’ and ‘culture’; the short stories, plays, and poems will help students understand the American experience through the lives of the many rich and diverse populations who help define it including immigrants, racial minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities. Students will demonstrate their new knowledge about the connections between such populations and Americanness through drafting and revising a series of analytical papers.

Stories from Diverse America

Instructor(s): Karrie Snyder

Description: This course examines the experiences of young people today and how the experience of being a young person varies greatly by socio-economic status, gender, and race/ethnicity. We will also spend time looking at how life stages associated with youth (such as tween, teenager, and emerging adulthood) have evolved and why the road to adulthood is often longer today. We will also think about how the media shapes societal views of young people and how young people use social media. Finally, we will consider how the lives of young people today (Millenials) compare to earlier generations (including Baby Boomers and Generation X) and we will look at intergenerational interactions at home, in school, and in the workplace.

Teens, Tweens, and Adolescents

Instructor(s): Will Reno

Description: This course surveys the changing American strategies in the conduct of warfare since the end of the Cold War in 1989. The course opens with a consideration of the massive military buildup and assault on Iraq in 1991. The American military presence in that region never went away. This presence provides us with a framework for analyzing the changing character of warfare. Consideration of the Iraq War (2003-2011) focuses on the development of counterinsurgency and the emergence of multi-domain warfare (i.e., political warfare, information warfare, etc.) and increased reliance on low-profile Special Operations Forces. Our attention then turns to recent challenges of hybrid warfare (i.e., hacking and fake news and their roles in conflicts), and the advent of flexible responses such as increased American reliance on drones and contractors in the conduct of warfare. The course ends with the consideration of several emerging American war-fighting strategies.

The American Way of War

Instructor(s): Ean High

Description: This seminar takes a literary approach to the art of medicine, exploring how medical practice, ethics, and history intersect with broader social, political, and cultural concerns. The course includes both fiction and non-fiction. We will read novels alongside clinical memoirs and other forms of non-fiction storytelling. This class is curated for students considering careers in medicine, public health, or the medical humanities, but is open to anyone interested in the intersections of literature and science.

The Art of Medicine

Instructor(s): David Boyk

Description: The Hindi film industry, often called Bollywood, is famously one of the world’s biggest and most recognizable. Every year, Mumbai’s studios put out hundreds of movies, in addition to the hundreds more that are released by India’s other film industries in languages like Tamil, Telugu, and Bengali. Most of these movies are full of songs and dances, and bring action, comedy, tragedy, and romance together into one (often very complex) story. As the subject of our class has said, Hindi cinema “offers poetic justice in three hours. You walk away with a smile on your lips and dried tears on your cheeks.” Film industries everywhere choose a few actors to elevate above all others. The biggest of these movie stars in India, and probably in the world, is Amitabh Bachchan. With his brooding, rebellious charisma, not to mention his ready wit and enviable dance moves, his “angry young man” persona dominated the films of the 1970s. Today, half a century after his film debut, he is still a major star. His face and voice are instantly recognizable, not only throughout South Asia and its diaspora, but in Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere. As his characters have aged from youthful rebels to somewhat less youthful rebels to stern patriarchs to goofy old men obsessed with their digestive tracts, he has at times seemed inescapable off the movie screen as well. He has spent time in politics, hosted a wildly successful game show, and starred in children’s comic books; one fan has even built a temple to worship him as a literal idol. In this course, we will focus on Amitabh Bachchan, not only because he and his films are so interesting, but because he has so much to tell us about how Indian films work and what a star is. Students will have opportunities to think and write, not only about Amitabh and his films, but about film and celebrity more broadly.

The Big B Amitabh Bachchan and Bollywood Stardom
T Th3:30pm-4:50pm

Instructor(s): Owen Priest

Description: In The Chemistry of Food we will explore the chemistry and science of nutrition, cooking, food preservation, flavoring, coloring, and aroma. We will explore the science of salt, sugar & high fructose corn syrup, leavening agents, microwaves, proteins, and fats. What is the science behind genetically modified foods and why is it so controversial? What is celiac disease and gluten sensitivity? Is gluten sensitivity real? What does the science say? These questions, and more, will be explored through readings that will include the textbooks listed below.

The Chemistry of Food

Instructor(s): Kathleen Carmichael

Description: What makes a writer credible? In other words, how do readers determine what writers deserve their trust? Every day we place our confidence in strangers who advise us on matters that range from the immediate (movies and restaurants) to the long-term (our money and our health). Yet debates over “fake news,” “authentic” experience, and scientific principles remind us that we must not place our faith too casually. In this course, we will examine the relationship between writers and their readers with an eye to understanding how the style, social context, and unspoken assumptions readers bring to a written work help inspire our confidence or elicit our disbelief. Students will be asked to consider the ethical responsibilities both of readers, alert to the possibility of misrepresentation or fraud, and of writers seeking to establish their own credibility and authority.

Course readings will include works of fiction, journalism, business, and writings from the natural and social sciences. We will also consider practical topics such as how University library resources and experts can help students locate and evaluate key sources and develop authoritative voices and arguments.

The Credible Writer - The Nature of Writing and Evidence

Instructor(s): Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern

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

Instructor(s): Christina Normore

Description: Taught primarily at the Block Museum, this course is based on close engagement with artworks as ever-changing material objects and the methods and issues that they raise. From raw materials in an artist’s studio to fragile objects that require or resist conservation, we will trace the life history of things and consider the ethical and interpretive questions that arise from their changing states. Students will be introduced to the material histories of objects and global media practices, basics of technical and scientific analysis and related theoretical debates that resituate
art history as a study of physical things as well as their disembodied images.

The Life and Afterlife of Art Objects
T Th2pm-3:20pm

Instructor(s): Larry Stuelpnagel

Description: Presidents and presidential candidates often claim that the press is either “liberal” or “conservative.” But many factors drive what the public receives as news. Those factors include: the economics of the business; information biases that come from striving to be “objective;” work routines by journalists; and the need to tell a story in a simple fashion so that readers and viewers can easily understand the subject. This fall we will be following the actions of the Trump administration, the reaction in Congress, the mid-term election and the on-going investigation into the possible collusion of the Trump campaign with Russia during the election. Trump declared the press is “the enemy of the people” during his campaign and now as president, what impact does that have on politics in America?

The Press and the Political Process

Instructor(s): Luke Flores

Description: In this seminar, we will examine recent research on learning and memory through the unique lens of college life. What do we know (or think we know) about how memories are encoded in the brain? How is college a different learning environment than high school? Together, we will review scientific studies on the impact of college life on student academic performance, and correlate those findings with studies of human and animal learning in the laboratory. After taking this course, you will have a foundational understanding of the neurobiological basis of memory, learn how to read scientific literature critically, and develop strategies to improve your study habits and performance here at Northwestern University.

This is Your Brain on College

Instructor(s): Richard Walker

Description: In this seminar we will survey disparate topics in politics, philosophy and economics. Exactly what we end up covering will depend a little on what most interests the group, but provisional topics include include the median voter theorem, the Condorcet paradox, Arrow's impossibility theorem, the trolley problem, Rawls' theory of justice, Peter Singer and speciesism, the ethics of nationalism, the economic effects of immigration, the simulation hypothesis, how economists and regular people think about risk and uncertainty, the economics of healthcare, charter cities, prediction markets and the wisdom of crowds, the pros and cons of a basic income policy. The aim is to find interesting things to read, talk and write about. We will use a wide variety of sources, including newspaper and journal articles, blog posts, podcasts and perhaps a couple of books.

Topics in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics

Instructor(s): Elizabeth Smith

Description: One way people work through trauma—understood as major ruptures in human experience such as mass violence and death, natural catastrophe, or forced displacement—is by visiting its locations and re/creating narratives about it. Representations of fear and suffering serve as forms of therapy, prevention, civic education, and even entertainment. Memorials to traumatic human experience are often offered as symbols of hope for transformation and the future deterrence of further trauma ("never again"). In this seminar, we analyze these sites and practices, asking whose trauma is remembered, and who's forgotten? What power inheres in different forms of remembering through travel, and in the aesthetic and material shape of memorials? What do culture and heritage mean to those who produce it and for those who consume it as tourists? How can sites, objects, and histories of trauma simultaneously "belong" to a local community, a nation, and all humanity? Topics include museums, genocide, colonialism, slavery, the Holocaust, and war, among others. We examine tourism from an anthropological perspective, using local and global case studies such as: the representation of slavery at Colonial Williamsburg, the role of community museums in post-apartheid South Africa, visiting Holocaust sites in Europe, and genocide tourism sites in Cambodia and Rwanda.

Tourism of Trauma

Instructor(s): Elizabeth Lenaghan

Description: Hoaxes are ancient phenomena, but in our current “post truth” landscape we might wonder if they are more pervasive than ever before. Are they? If so, why? Are today’s hoaxes different in anything other than quantity? What are their historical precedents? And, perhaps most important, what truths can we learn from studying outright lies? This course will allow us to explore these questions—and more—through the examination of several historical and contemporary hoaxes. We will use these case studies to explore topics including ideology, originality, authenticity, identity, memory, and authorship. Additionally, your final paper will provide you with an opportunity to research a hoax of your own choosing in order to argue why it should be added to future iterations of this class.

Truth in Representation

Instructor(s): Cristina Traina

Description: Dystopian fiction like *The Hunger Games* and *A Handmaid's Tale* describes human survival and subversion in horrible-worlds-gone-wrong. In some ways it's the opposite of utopian fiction that--often on religious premises, like Thomas More's 16th-century novel *Utopia*--spins out a picture of a perfect society. As we explore examples of utopias and dystopias, we'll explore the line between them. Is one person's utopia another person's dystopia? Is religion the saving grace or arch-nemesis of human happiness? Why do people write and read this work and even try their own hands at creating religious utopian communities? Our quarter will involve reading novels, viewing films, and learning about some actual utopian communities that have left their imprint on American society. The focus of the course is writing and discussion.

Utopias and Dystopias

Instructor(s): Joe Walsh

Description: One of the major challenges of our changing world is the loss of biological diversity. An overwhelming majority of people agree that we should work to save biodiversity, but their views are largely based on vague, positive feelings about nature rather than concrete justifications. This course investigates those concrete justifications. The first half of the course sketches out the argument for preserving biodiversity (i.e., "thinking globally"). The second half of the course focuses on the practice of ecological restoration in forest preserves a few miles from campus (i.e., "acting locally") not merely as a way to preserve biodiversity, but as a path to redefining a sustainable relationship between nature and culture. The readings for the course range from classics of environmental writing to recent research papers in the primary scientific literature. Biodiversity also needs to be experienced directly, so we will take a field trip to a local forest preserve where we will roll up our sleeves and help restore a native habitat and see how much biodiversity means to the people with whom we live and work.

Values of Biodiversity

Instructor(s): John Paluch

Description: Vienna at the turn of the century was a center of political transformation and cultural innovation. Both a monument to historical continuity as the seat of the Habsburg Empire, and a vortex of revolutionary cultural production, the city provided an environment that fostered the work of pioneering thinkers, researchers and artists whose works dramatically influenced the 20th century. Political and social developments throughout the 19th century resulted in a dramatic decline in the importance of the aristocracy, giving rise to the establishment of an informed, engaged and empowered middle-class citizenry. Sigmund Freud’s original work in psychology radically changed how people understood themselves and their position in family and society. Karl Lueger was elected mayor of Vienna on an openly anti-Semitic political platform, and Theodor Herzl campaigned for the establishment of a new Jewish state. In the arts, the intellectual and cultural milieu of the period allowed for daring experimentation in literature, painting, architectural design and music.

While acquiring an acquaintance with the artistic, literary, historical and political aspects of fin-de-siècle Vienna, students will work on their academic writing and make use of research tools available in the library and on-line.

Vienna at the Turn of the Century

Instructor(s): Oya Topcuoglu

Description: Food can be a very relatable and intimate way to study the unfamiliar. In this course we will explore the complex relationships between food, culture, and society through the lens of Turkish food from the Middle Ages to the present. Food represents an integral part of livelihood, culture, and identity. Food production, consumption and sharing also have symbolic and ideological meanings. By delving into the culinary traditions, cultural practices, ingredients, recipes, and tools that are essential to Turkish cooking, we will take a close look at the historical and cultural phenomena that make up this diverse culture, and explore global issues such as identity, immigration, international relations, and religion within the context of the modern Middle East. In the classroom we will occasionally try foods from Turkey and the course will conclude with a cooking demo on campus to experience Turkish cuisine first-hand.

We Are What We Eat: Turkish Food Culture & Cuisine

Instructor(s): Axel Mueller

Description: In this seminar we will examine some of the fundamental ideas and questions behind democracy and provide a reading of their "inventors". Some of the questions are: What is democracy? Is it a form of government, a value, an ideal, a political system, a form of life, a bit of all this? Is democracy always the best political solution (in wartime? general starvation?)? Why should the whole of the people decide and not the specialists in the respective questions? Are all democratically taken decisions automatically legitimate (what about minorities\' rights?)? How should all citizens in a democracy participate in politics? By direct self-government of the people or by voting representatives? Is everything democratically decidable or does the individual have unalterable rights? Is tolerance and/or free speech necessary for democracy and how far can it go?

What is Democracy

Instructor(s): Daley Kutzman

Description: Economists believe in the power of markets to lead us to optimal and efficient outcomes. In this seminar, we will examine at an introductory level when markets work well, but then explore why and how they fail. We will apply this framework to a variety of contexts for debates about the role of policy in economic issues, such as education, social welfare, climate change, and health insurance, among others.

When Markets Fail

Instructor(s): Lane Fenrich



In 2014, a fifteen-year-old trans boy named Gavin Grimm asked, and received, permission from his school principal in Gloucester County, VA to use restrooms and other facilities in accordance with his identity. That decision triggered a fierce backlash from parents and others in the community resulting in a new policy that required students to use restrooms and locker rooms “corresponding with their biological genders.”  Grimm sued and eventually won, but not until his senior year after he had already been accepted to college. In the meantime, the question of how—and, indeed, whether—to include and support trans students and adults sparked nationwide controversy. City councils and state legislatures debated so-called “bathroom bills,” corporations and nongovernmental organizations severed ties with states in which such bills passed, and various religious denominations plans to expand in states that did not recognize trans rights, and nongovernmental organizations such as the NCAA mounted boycotts to protest the passage of anti-trans ordinances and legislation. During the Obama administration, the Justice, Education, and Defense Departments all issued sweeping commitments to trans equality; statements subsequently repudiated by President Trump and the heads of those same departments in his administration. This class asks “why?” and “why then?”  What was and is at stake, and for whom? And what was—and is—it like for Grimm and other trans youth to navigate the already fraught world of high school and college when their very existence is the subject of political debate? 

Who’s Afraid of Gavin Grimm? The Struggle For/Against Transgender Equality

Instructor(s): Sara Hernandez

Description: In this seminar, we will look into the many different facets of the economics of gender. We will learn about economic decisions that individuals and households face from a unique gender perspective and ask ourselves: do women and men behave differently in economic circumstances? The topics we will cover include, among others: the status of women around the world, education, marriage, fertility, labor supply, bargaining power, and discrimination. For each topic, we will study concrete examples emanating from all over the world. Students will learn to use a wide variety of academic and not­ so­ academic resources (including empirical research articles, ethnographic descriptions, and popular press books).

Why Gender Matters in Economics

Instructor(s): Patricia Nichols

Description: Immigration has become one of the ‘hot’ buttons of contemporary social and political dialogue. Through the prism of the Latina experience in the United States, this class will explore causes and consequences of global migration in the 21st century, analyze the marginalization of third-world immigrants in first-world society, and seek to develop an understanding of the evolving ‘face’ of America. Students will further examine how their individual experiences and backgrounds help shape their perceptions of this new world order.
Latina immigrants to the U.S. often leave intolerable circumstances and brave life-threatening border crossings in pursuit of the American dream. Yet, those who succeed in crossing the geographic border almost inevitably find that the marginalized existence they hoped to leave behind takes on an equally powerful form in their new world as they face economic, political, racial, and cultural barriers north of the border.

Women at the Border: The Marginalization of Latinas in the U.S.

Instructor(s): Helen Thompson

Description: This first-year seminar will be launched by the eagerly awaited sequel to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments, available in print September 10. The Handmaid’s Tale envisions a near-future American dystopia, Gilead, in which a dwindling population of fertile women are forced into reproductive service for a ruling cadre of men. Lately we have witnessed a surge of interest in The Handmaid’s Tale, from the currently streaming Hulu series to real-life feminist activists wearing the Handmaid uniform of red robes and white bonnets. Why, we will ask, has speculative fiction—the imaginative rendition of catastrophic near futurity—proved so meaningful for us today? How do The Handmaid’s Tale, its sequel, and the re-imaginings of this genre we’ll read in our seminar, compel us to think about the status of women, in history and today? How do these speculative visions of women in dystopia compel us critically to engage the histories and future horizons of our social, ecological, political, and imaginative lives?

We’ll begin the course with The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. Then we’ll turn to other dystopian visions which imagine women’s key role in socio-environmental catastrophe and possible regeneration. Along with The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments, our reading list includes: Nalo Hopkinson, Brown Girl in the Ring; Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves; Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death; Olivia A. Cole, Panther in the Hive; Naomi Alderman, The Power. We will add one item to the syllabus based on class consensus—another dystopian novella or story or a female-centered fantasy comic (for example, Saga, Monstress, Witchling, Violator Union, Our Work Fills the Pews). For required writing in this class, you will have the opportunity to generate short analytic essays as well as your own creative visions of near-future dystopia.

Please note: several of the assigned texts contain graphic descriptions of violence, including sexual violence.

Women, Speculative Fiction, and Dystopia

Instructor(s): Ryan Dohoney

Description: This seminar is reserved for students in the dual degree BA/Music program. The class is designed as a workshop-practicum in the development of good writing habits as well as dealing with the specific challenges of writing about music. Reading assignments will consist of pedagogical texts about writing and exemplary music scholarship that will serve as a basis for discussion. The goal for the course is to provide you with practical skills that will enhance your writing facility and help you actually enjoy the experience of writing. It will also show how writing can be used to clarify your thinking about musical experience.

Writing About Music

Instructor(s): James O'Laughlin

Description: This course is about thinking and writing about social justice.  We’ll study a range of important writings in the United States since the 1950s which explore social justice in relation to race, class, gender and sexual identity.  We’ll take up various questions with these works, such as how they define social justice, how they approach conflicts, and what assumptions they make about their audiences.  We’ll also consider what these works say or what they show us about the role of writing in the pursuit of social justice.  You’ll write analyses in the course and you’ll have the option at some point of including personal narrative, as in some of the writings we’re studying.

Writing and Social Justice
Back to top