Core Program

Overview | Requirements | Courses | Faculty

Overview

The Core Program is a cross-disciplinary array of courses required of all students. providing  the intellectual foundation for Occidental's commitment to excellence, equity, service, and community. Core classes ask students to engage in analytic and creative thinking: posing questions from different points of view, solving problems, formulating hypotheses, gathering evidence to support claims and arguments, drawing appropriate conclusions, and expressing ideas clearly. These classes explore the large questions which we believe all students must address in order to participate fully in their academic careers, their vocations, and their lives: questions of human cultures and beliefs, of creativity, and of the physical world. Students are asked to examine previously held ideas in the context of new and challenging ones, to experiment imaginatively, to articulate similarities and differences, and to revise both ideas and written work. Methods and materials vary, in disciplines ranging from the humanities to the social sciences, to science, mathematics, and art; and analytic thinking may take place in the context of a lab, in the close reading of a text, on a stage, in a lecture hall, on a computer screen, in a screening room, or in the field. Assignments will also vary from papers, to arguing a thesis, to problem sets, to research term papers, to lab reports, to paintings.

The first-year Cultural Studies Program Seminars are the centerpiece of the Core Program.  These are small seminars, each designed by a faculty member around a topic in his or her field of expertise, emphasizing discussion, critical analysis, and intensive instruction in writing. Students take one seminar in the fall and one in the spring, for a total of 8 units.  In the fall seminars, faculty and students jointly explore human culture from a variety of disciplinary as well as cultural perspectives. Spring seminars approach topics from a global perspective and stress the writing of scholarly research-based essays,  Successful performance in Cultural Studies Seminars, along with a satisfactory writing evaluation, satisfies the college's first-stage writing requirement (see the College writing requirement) and is equivalent to two semesters of English composition. The Seminars for the coming year are described below. Students may not drop a Cultural Studies Program Seminar.

In addition, students participate in the study of culture as embodied in the arts and sciences as well as in the humanities and social sciences. We require a minimum of three courses  (12 units) taken in academic departments that provide significant experiences in (a) diversity in the United States, (b) global connections between cultures, regions, and nations, and (c) a region of the world other than the United States.  One of these (or an additional course) must focus on a period prior to 1800, and one (or an additional course) must treat the theory or practice of the fine arts.  Individual courses can meet a maximum of two Core requirements.

Lifelong learning requires a basic understanding of the theory and methods of the sciences. Accordingly, students are required to take a total of three courses (12 units) in the sciences and mathematics. Of the three, at least one must be a laboratory science.

Finally, graduates of the College must demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English. The various ways of satisfying this requirement are detailed in the requirements for Undergraduate Study.

 

Requirements

1) Culture and Fine Arts: 

A minimum of 12 units (16 or 20 units are recommended) continue and expand on the first-year CSP seminars by situating the study of culture and the arts in specific disciplinary and geographical contexts. Students must enroll in a minimum of four units in each of three different categories.   Four units must represent study of historical periods prior to 1800, and four must be devoted to the fine arts. The pre-1800 and fine arts requirements may be met in courses also representing one of the three major categories of culture requirements, although no course may satisfy more than two requirements.  Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate examinations may not be used to satisfy any of these requirements.

Students who matriculated at Occidental prior to fall 2013 must meet 12 units of the culture requirement as follows:

One
four-unit course must be chosen from each of any three of the following six cultural/geographical categories:

Africa and the Middle East (CPAF)
Central, South, and East Asia (CPAS)
Europe (CPEU)
Latin America (CPLA)
U.S. Culture (CPUS)
Intercultural (CPIC)

Some of these courses are also designated Pre-1800 (CPPE) or Fine Arts (CPFA).

Students who matriculated at Occidental in fall 2013 or later must meet 12 units of the culture requirement as follows:

One four-unit course must be chosen from each of the following three categories:

Global Connections (CPGC)
Regional Focus (CPRF)
U.S. Diversity (CPUD)

Some of these courses are also designated Pre-1800 (CPPE) or Fine Arts (CPFA).

Courses will be listed in the Catalog and online Course Counts with both pre- and post-2013 designation.

 


2) Science/Mathematics Requirement. A minimum of 12 units in science and mathematics. Four units must be in a science course with a laboratory component. The remaining 8 units may be taken from among any of the courses that satisfy the Science/Mathematics requirement. Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate examinations may not be used to satisfy any of these requirements.

3) Foreign Language: 0-8 Units.  All students must achieve Language 102-level proficiency in a language other than English. Students may not take Language 101 for credit if they have taken more than one quarter in college or more than one year in high school (grades 10-12) 

Placement: Students may begin study of a new language at the 101 level if they have not taken it previously for more than one quarter in college or more than one year in high school (grades 10-12).  They  are not required to take the College’s placement exam. First-year students may take the Occidental College Placement Exam either on-line for French, German, and Spanish, or during orientation for other languages taught at Occidental if:

a. they have taken more than one quarter in college or more than one year in high school (grades 10-12)
b. they have participated in after-school or weekend language programs; or
c. they have extensive background in but no formal training in a language.

Students can fulfill Occidental's language requirement in one of five ways:

  1. by completing a language course numbered 102 at Occidental, or the equivalent course in any foreign language at another accredited institution.
  2. by receiving an exemption-level score on Occidental's placement and/or exemption exam given during orientation. (see language studio website for language specific details).
  3. by earning an appropriate Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) II score (560 or above on French, Spanish, or Latin; 550 or above on German or Chinese; 540 or above on Japanese; or 560 for other languages):
  4. by earning an Advanced Placement test score of 4 or above or.
  5. for some languages not taught at Occidental, students may by taking the ACTFL oral proficiency interview (OPI) and the writing proficiency test (WPT) in the languages currently available. Please see the Keck Language and Culture Studio about demonstrating proficiency via ACTFL.

Foreign Language Exemption Policy
International students whose language of education has been in a language other than English and who have completed six years of elementary education or more in a foreign language are exempt from the foreign language requirement. Such students should contact the chair of one of the foreign language departments to confirm their fulfillment of the foreign language requirement.

CORE PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS FOR TRANSFER STUDENTS:
Transfer students may meet the Core requirements through classes taken before matriculation at Occidental, or through classes taken at Occidental, or (as is the case for most transfer students) through a combination of both. Transfer students must take the equivalent of two Cultural Studies Seminar (8 units or 2 classes), a minimum of 12 additional units or 3 classes in distribution courses in culture (including pre-1800) and the fine arts, as described above, and 12 units or 3 classes in science and/or mathematics, including a designated lab science course.  They must also complete the language requirement. Appropriate equivalents are determined in consultation with the Core Program Office and the Registrar.

Cultural Studies Seminar  (4 units). A conventional English composition class, or a course specified as "writing-intensive," will ordinarily satisfy this requirement. Any four-unit course in Occidental's Department of English Writing will meet the seminar requirement. The first stage of the writing requirement is a different requirement, and is explained under the Writing Program.


Culture and Fine Arts Distribution Courses (Minimum 12 units or 3 full classes, 16 or 20—4 or 5 full classes—recommended).  Transfer students must take a minimum of 4 units or one full class from each of three groups listed above (U.S. Diversity, Global Connections, and Regional Focus), and must take 4 units or one full class in courses designated "pre-1800" and 4 units or one full class in courses designated as "fine arts." The pre-1800 and fine arts requirements may be met in courses also representing one of the three major categories of culture requirements, although no course may satisfy more than two requirements.  

Mathematics and Science (12 units or 3 full classes). Most transfer students have met at least some of these upon entry. Of these, at least one class must include a laboratory or field component.

All of these Core requirements should be completed by the end of the junior year.

Courses

Cultural Studies Program Fall Writing Seminars

Fall 2014 Course

CSP 1 is designated a CSP “Lab” course, team-taught experimental seminar designed to engage their students critically and actively in synthesizing knowledge and ideas about an important topic.  In this class you’ll work closely with faculty from more than one academic field, developing new, cross-disciplinary perspectives; you’ll engage in intensive reading, writing, and discussion; you’ll participate in field experiences beyond the classroom; you’ll learn to think and work collaboratively, as a member of a diverse intellectual community. 

CSP 1.  THE CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENT SEMESTER.
16 units:  counts as four academic courses (CSP1, Biology 110, Economics 101, and Geology 105).  Satisfies fall CSP requirement and Core Lab and Non-lab Science requirements. (NOTE: This course will fill 16 of your allowed 18 available units for fall).  

Join a group of first-year students and three faculty learning about natural science, economics, and the environment of California.  The spectacular California landscape will be our laboratory as we investigate the geology, biology and economics of our environment through data collection, laboratory and computer analysis, critical thinking and writing, and classroom learning.  Multi-day field trips during the school week introduce you to your fellow CES classmates while hiking and camping in State and National Parks throughout California. No prior camping experience is expected, and we'll provide camping gear.  All of your coursework in fall semester will be taken with your CES peers. 

The California Environmental Semester is a great way to begin your college career.  In addition to satisfying three Core requirements, its classes may count toward seven different programs of study:  Biology, Economics, Environmental Science, Geology, Politics, Diplomacy and World Affairs (DWA), and Urban and Environmental Policy (UEP).  Beyond these programs, CES students excel in a wide variety of majors and college activities from the theater stage to the playing fields to student government, click here.

CSP 4-unit Seminars

CSP 2-31 are independent 4-unit Seminars.  In these classes you’ll join a small group of first-year students and a faculty member investigating a topic in his or her area of interest and scholarly expertise. Despite their broadly disparate subject matters, all seminars emphasize developing sophisticated reading, writing, and discussion skills; they also seek to encourage critical thinking, the informed questioning and analysis of why we think and believe as we do. 

CSP 2  FREEDOM AND ITS FICTIONS: VIOLENCE AND ECSTASY IN THE GREEK POLIS.
From the foul-mouthed hilarity of its comedies, to the inspiring athletic achievements of its Olympics; from the heart-wrenching sadness of its tragedies, to the shocking profundity of its historic and philosophic thinking, every one of the cultural and political institutions invented in the Ancient Greek city-state find their common ground in that strange and complex experience called “freedom.”  Of course, to a large extent these are the same institutions which we live within to this very day.

In this course, we will examine the concept of freedom in the Greek polis and beyond, through a careful study of the cultural contexts in which the term emerges: literature, religion and athletics; history, architecture, music and philosophy.  To assist us in coming to terms with the Ancient Greek experience of freedom, we will make constant reference to the notion as it appears in other cultures across the world, and will draw extensively upon the insights of a number of modern (and “postmodern”) philosophic and artistic movements (the existential, deconstructive, and phenomenological, to name but a few).Whenever possible, we will link our study of the ancient world with the modern in order to encompass a broader range of human experiences.  

CSP 3  REPRESENTING L.A.: IMAGINED SPACES, LIVING PLACES.
As a major U.S. city that grew in importance during a time of increasing globalization, Los Angeles occupies a unique position within the cultural imagination. This course will explore how the unique geographical and cultural space of Los Angeles has contributed to ways in which the city has been imagined and represented in literature and film. In our explorations, we will consider how L.A.’s roots, migrating populations, shifting community boundaries, and multiple forms of power shape imaginings and lived realities of the city. How do various representations reflect – and diverge from – living communities within Los Angeles? How are the city and its communities shaped by national and global forces? How has Los Angeles as a destination city for migrants shaped the ways it is imagined? How do we reconcile the dueling representations of L.A. as both utopia and dystopia? Over the course of the semester, we will examine a broad range of film and literature that will guide our discussion of these and other questions, interrogating what it means to live in the city of Los Angeles. 

CSP 4 SCIENCE AND YOU.
Who should you believe:  the sculpted Adonis who attributes his heavenly body solely to Product A, or your middle-aged doctor as he looks over horn-rimmed glasses and preaches to you his mantra of fruits and vegetables?  This course will explore how science is portrayed to the public, with the aim of deconstructing issues to objectively evaluate the merits of the arguments.  The first part of the course will explore in great depth the perpetual, self-corrective process of the scientific method to demonstrate the necessity of research and contradictory viewpoints.  The focus will then shift towards topics that include, among others, health/fitness, biotech, and the environment. 

Be prepared:

  • This course includes a rigorous writing component, requires intensive group work both within the classroom (e.g., presentations) and beyond (e.g., community engagement), and emphasizes development of oral presentation skills. 
  • Students enrolling in this course must have a solid background in high school chemistry and biology.   

CSP 5 GENDER AND POP CULTURE.
From Beyoncé to David Beckham, from Girls to Mad Men, contemporary popular culture helps shape our understanding of what it is to be a woman or a man in the twenty-first century. This course will examine how gender is represented, constructed, and contested through pop culture. We will begin with some key readings on the social construction of gender and its intersections with other markers of difference, such as sexuality, race, and class. From that foundation, we will explore depictions of gender in recent literature, television, film, blogs, advertising, and music, using our own expertise as consumers of pop culture to question how these forms both reinforce and challenge existing gender norms and why they are so instrumental in shaping our understanding of gender.

CSP 6 “IN THE PROCESS OF SHATTERING THEIR CHAINS”: MODERN LITERATURES OF RESISTANCE IN THE U.S. AND MIDDLE EAST.
The title of this course comes from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1961) in a hopeful overture for the decolonizing world. He says, “The peoples of the Third World are in the process of shattering their chains, and what is extraordinary is that they succeed” (34). During Fanon’s lifetime, there may have been some positive results from decolonization, but was liberation achieved? Fanon also focuses on the fact that “decolonization is truly the creation of new men” (2), but what does all of this mean? Who was the “new man”? the “new woman”? What does emancipation signify to this emerging agent? What happened and happens in the process of global decolonization? Using Fanon’s concepts as the theoretical basis of our class, we will examine the representation of the emerging “new man” in novels and short stories by Native American, African American, Chican@, and Asian American writers as well as in works from Palestine, Egypt, and Iran. We will begin in the mid-twentieth century and work through the present day to understand how literatures of resistance have offered challenges and critiques to the notion of emancipation and to Fanon’s concept of the “new man” while expanding upon and complicating his idea.

CSP 7 VISUAL STORYTELLING AND NARRATIVE FILM.
Through readings, review of films from a variety of genres, hands-on visual projects, writing exercises, and class presentations this course will explore, examine and analyze the complex relationships between Production Design (Settings and Costumes), Lighting, Composition and Editing that create the images of narrative film. Our framework will be the investigation of the basic principles of visual storytelling and the development of a set of evaluative criteria with which to critique the form, content and style of films from various eras and genres—mystery, comedy, epic, and musical. The goal of the course is for the student to develop a greater understanding of how visual storytelling functions as well as an awareness of the applications and implications of these principles beyond cinema. The focus of the course will be developing the student's critical eye, exploring the practice of visual storytelling and fostering improvement of writing skills.

CSP 8 HUMAN RIGHTS IN LATIN AMERICA IN LITERATURE AND FILM.
Until not long ago, Latin America was best known for its economic, social and political turbulence. With most of the region in the hands of authoritarian governments, human rights violations were widespread and ranged from a lack of free elections to "disappearances" and state-sponsored genocidal violence.  Today the region is, to varying degrees, almost all democratic, but problems such as drug-related violence, poverty, and arbitrary criminal justice systems still take a toll on individual rights.  Yet the region should not just be known for its problems.  Argentina’s post-dictatorship experience has become a model in transitional justice studied around the world, Mexico has adopted important changes in its criminal trial procedures, and Brazil has challenged its long-standing complacency about the integration of its African-heritage population by implementing an interesting blend of affirmative action policies.  Largely relying on novels, short stories, essays and films, “Human Rights in Latin America in Literature and Film” will explore human rights-related problems and progress in Latin America over the last 60 years. 

CSP 9 THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX.
Americans are simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by prisons, prisoners, and prison life.  A consistent reminder of this fascination is the proliferation of an array of reality TV programs exposing life behind prison walls and the popularity of fictional programs and movies about prison life. This course transcends the voyeuristic obsession with prisons and takes a meaningful look at the reality of imprisonment.  My personal contact with prisons and prisoners during my years as a public defender and prisoners' rights advocate has taught me that the prison population exists outside of the democratic sphere.  This experience has afforded me a deeper appreciation and understanding of core democratic principles of freedom, civil liberties, human rights and equal protection and has energized me to advocate for those principles on behalf of disenfranchised individuals and communities.  I believe that students who study incarceration will develop a greater appreciation and understanding of broad democratic principles.

CSP 10. REACTING TO THE PAST.
In "Reacting to the Past," students participate in role-playing games that enable them to relive important intellectual debates in three separate historical moments. In "Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C.," students draw on Plato's Republic as well as excerpts from Thucydides, Xenophon, and other contemporary sources to debate the prospects for Athenian democracy in the wake of the Peloponnesian War. In "Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France," students enter the intellectual and political currents that surged through revolutionary Paris in 1791. And in "Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence, 1945," students participate in the struggle to reconcile religious identity with nation building, perhaps the most intractable and important issue of the modern world.

CSP 11  CALIFORNIA STORIES: DIASPORA, (IM)MIGRATION, AND ALIENATION.
The literature of California is as diverse as the body of individuals who populate this expansive state today. This course will take that diversity as its guide, exploring fictional representations of Californian spaces and cultures by female and male writers from the African American, Asian American, Chicana/o, and Italian American literary traditions. We will pay special attention to how these novelists – from John Fante and Chester Himes to Helena María Viramontes and Amy Tan – address issues of diaspora, immigration, migration, and social alienation. How does Californian literature depict the lives and identities of contemporary Chinese or Mexican immigrants with enduring cultural and personal ties to home? How does membership in a diasporic community influence the experience of Depression-era Los Angeles for African American and Italian American characters? What can we learn from novels that confront the physical suffering and social injustice facing California’s migrant workers?

CSP 12  REVOLUTIONS.
Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in 2011, South Africa 1993, Zimbabwe in 1979– these are some of the African revolutions you will explore in this class. Delve into the revolutionary thought of Marx, Lenin, Gandhi, Fanon, Biko and others. Engage in an intellectual journey into the social and political movements that changed Africa. From anti-colonial to anti-authoritarian/military/Apartheid revolutions, African opposition leaders throughout the continent have employed complex revolutionary strategies to bring about political change. The recent revolutions in North Africa represent a continuation of a robust, volatile and contested tradition, highlighting the struggles of Africans in an increasingly globalized world, where corporate interests and international actors play a strong and intrusive role. The implications of global and digital media add new dimensions to notions of revolutionary mobilization and change. This class attempts to introduce you to the main concepts of revolutionary thought and revolutionary action.

CSP13 THE AMERICAN DREAM: AN INTERCULTURAL PERSPECTIVE. 
An intercultural examination of various conceptions of the American Dream from the colonial encounter to the contemporary period.  We will examine authors ranging from John Winthrop, Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, and Emily Dickinson to Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Sandra Cisneros. 

CSP 14  POET, POEM, WORLD.
This seminar will explore poetry and its purposes and effects. What are poems for? What do they do? How do they mediate between private and public realms, between poets and their readers, between the self and its world? Students will be encouraged to develop theoretical responses to questions like these, and to become familiar with the responses of other writers and thinkers who have addressed them. But the main focus of the course will be on experiencing poems, discussing them, and writing analytically and clearly about them.

CSP 15  THE ARTIST'S LIFE.     
Many students know the typical novel focuses on a single character’s life journey—what literary scholars call the “bildungsroman.” In this class we will examine an understudied subgenre—the künstlerroman or “life of the artist.” We will consider key features of this narrative form and how it alters across literary, film, visual art and musical genres. By framing fugitive slave narratives as “escape artists”; by exploring visual artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kara Walker; by watching Black Swan starring Natalie Portman and Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, we will understand the complexity of taking up the artist’s journey in the modern world and how this path becomes a metaphor for past and present social struggles.

CSP 16  THE BERLIN WALL AND ITS FALL IN 1989. POLITICAL AND CULTURAL TRANSFORMATIONS OF A METROPOLIS.
Berlin has been a focal point of German, European, and indeed world politics for more than a century. The course will focus 1) on the post WWII years, when Berlin became a divided city, a fault line in the Cold War, and the wall was a symbol of the irreconcilable differences between East and West, known throughout the world, 2) its unpredicted fall thanks to a powerful grass roots civil rights movement whose motives and expectations will be analyzed, and 3) the aftermath of the re-unification with its consequences, problems, and achievements throughout Germany. The goal is to compare rhetoric and reality of the Cold War, the achievements and shortcomings of the GDR civil rights movement, the expectations of East and West (after unification), the politics of memory, the role of various urban communities, and the changing character of the city. A major component of the course will be the collaboration with the Wendemuseum in Culver City which houses tens of thousands of documents and other items around the wall, its fall, the Wende or “turning point,“ and everything relating to the GDR world. We will also work closely together with the Villa Aurora – a German cultural institution in Pacific Palisades - which invites young writers, film makers, and artists many of whom come from Berlin. 

CSP 17  ENVIRONMENT AND POWER IN CA HISTORY.
This interdisciplinary seminar will examine the intellectual, social and political history of the California environment with a particular focus on the ways in which different cultural and ethnic groups have perceived, used, managed, and conserved it over the past 250 years. The course will introduce students to essential concepts, concerns and methods in environmental history, at large, while engaging topics specific to California history including the Spanish frontier, the Gold Rush, forestry, the hydraulic empire, wilderness parks, industrialization, urbanization, and environmental justice. Los Angeles as a field of study will occupy a significant place in our exploration. 

CSP 18  SLAVERY AND EMANCIPATION IN FILM AND HISTORY.
As evidenced by the awarding of the 2014 best picture Oscar to Twelve Years a Slave, the historical subject of slavery is receiving unprecedented national attention in popular feature films. This course will analyze the representation of slavery and emancipation in film. We will view several important works such as Sankofa, Beloved, Amistad, and Burn!, analyzing them in the light of published slave narratives, primary historical documents, historical scholarship and film  criticism. Participants in the class will think and write about how film depicts the historical experience of slavery and we will analyze underlying issues of race, gender, violence, and struggles for freedom. The course begins with film and readings centered in US southern slave society and culminates with the depiction of modern day slavery in the Mende Nazer book Slave and film I Am Slave. In addition to regular class sessions taught by Occidental History Professor Sharla Fett, this course will also feature a series of guest visits by UCLA faculty member Dr. Brenda Stevenson.

CSP 19  A GLOBAL HISTORY OF ANARCHISM.
Description: This course looks at world history from the late 19th century into the 20th century by following the development of the global anarchist movement. We will look at cases from France, Russia, Spain, Latin America, China, Japan, the Philippines, India, and the US through primary and secondary source readings as well as film. These diverse anarchist movements were connected by global flows of migrants, ideas, and practices, and shaped by a new imagination of the world in response to imperialism and capitalism. We will end the course by looking at the revival of anarchism from the 1960s to the present.

CSP 20  SPORT IN FILM.
From The Freshmen (1925) to Rocky (1976) to Bull Durham (1988) to Remember the Titans (2000) to Blue Crush (2002) to Bend It Like Beckham (2002) to The Fighter (2010) sport has been a central theme in film for close to a century. This course will explore such topics as race and class, gender, sexual orientation as depicted in sport film. Students will explore additional topics including motivation, personality, friendship, competition and group dynamics through film (an additional 2hrs is spent per week viewing films).

CSP 21  IN SEARCH OF AFRICANISMS IN THE MUSICS OF THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE. 
This course surveys African musical elements as they exist in North, South and Central America as well as in the Caribbean Islands.  Through readings, lectures, videos and sound recordings, we will trace the historical origins of some traditional aspects found in Africa and relate them to the development of many musical genres found in the Western Hemisphere.

CSP 22  LESSONS FROM THE GREAT PHILOSOPHERS. 
We will begin by reading selections from the ethical writings of three great philosophers: Aristotle (4th century BCE), Immanuel Kant (18th century), and John Stuart Mill (19th century).  We will then use the insights and arguments of the great philosophers to determine what the nature of a meaningful life is -- what we ought to value and how we ought to live.  We will consider what kinds of moral obligations we have, not only to ourselves, our families, and our friends, but also to strangers, to non-human animals, and to nature.

CSP 23  CONFRONTING AUTHORITY: REFLECTIONS ON PROTEST AND NARRATIVE STORYTELLING.
Adapted from the title of Derrick Bell's influential work Confronting Authority: Reflections of an Ardent Protester this course will explore narrative storytelling in its many forms.  While this course will draw on examples of narrative storytelling against subordination or social (in)justices in broader contexts, it will also interact significantly with examples of storytelling in daily life reflecting a desire to a have a meaningful, rather than tokenized, voice.  In this course, we will use interdisciplinary readings, films, music, experiential learning, and case studies.  Students will work closely with faculty and peers to plan and facilitate class sessions.  Students will also be required to attend events outside of the course meeting time.

CSP 24  L.A. TRANSITIONS: RACE, SPACE, AND PLACE IN THE CITY OF ANGELES.
Complex and contradictory, Los Angeles defies simple understandings. Through the lens of neighborhood transitions this course will examine the economic, political, and social forces that shape this city. Relying upon insights from a variety of disciplinary perspectives including critical theory, ethnic studies, geography, history, political science, sociology and urban planning we will examine how LA’s neighborhoods have been created, contested, and recreated over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries. Our texts will include maps, photography, literature, film, music, and others. This course will be supplemented by community-based learning exercises that may include field trips and off-campus assignments.

CSP 25  POPULARS, JOCKS AND NERDS:  PEER RELATIONS IN CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENCE.
The course is designed to examine current scientific research on peer relationships in childhood and adolescence.  The questions which will guide the course include: What types of children are victimized by their peers?  Why are some children more popular than others? What effect does popularity have on children and adolescents’ emotional, behavioral, or academic functioning? What role does aggression play in establishing and maintaining status in the peer group?  What types of peer crowds do adolescents affiliate with?  How are peer relationships different as individuals develop?  We will discuss how psychological science has been used to examine these, and related questions about child and adolescent peer relationships. The course will examine the form and function of peer relationships in Western and non-Western cultures.

CSP 26  NATURE WRITING AND THE ENVIRONMENT.
This course examines classic and contemporary texts categorized as nature writing. We will explore three themes in close readings of these texts: 1) nature writing as literary genre, 2) nature writing as development of spiritual consciousness, and 3) nature writing as expression of ecological/environmental concern. Focusing on North America, we will give special attention to California and the West, as we review the connection between nature writing and emergent environmental ethics in a time of environmental crisis. This writing seminar will draw from the skill and power of nature writing to advance our own efforts at effective writing.

CSP 27  BONDAGE, FREEDOM, AND JUSTICE FOR ALL: RHETORICS AND REALITIES.
This class will examine forms of bondage and freedom in U.S. culture and society, as we take a comparative look at the meanings of emancipation and the politics of liberation. Through our work with a range of materials, especially literature and film, we will consider the rhetorical uses of the ideas of freedom: how have memories of emancipation and enslavement been sustained, suppressed, and constructed? What are the features of race, class, and gender oppression (and what features do they share), and what is the place of violence and anarchism in political action against oppressive forces? How are earlier debates about liberation still relevant and resonant today? We will look at how these debates are represented culturally at key historical moments, from the Civil War through the McCarthy era, women’s suffrage to women’s liberation, in texts as seemingly different, for example, as Griffith’s Birth of a Nation and Tarantino’s Django Unchained or in futuristic-dystopian depictions of human bondage in the Planet of the Apes (1968) or The Handmaid’s Tale.

CSP28  ISLANDS OF INFLUENCE.
In this course, we seek to compare indigenous and Western imaginings of modernity and globalization within the context of island nations. Modern and contemporary art objects, film, and music will anchor the ways in which island societies may be distinctly conceptualized within discourses of identity, tourism, and diaspora. Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti, Hawaii, Samoa, and New Zealand will form the field of exploration as we discuss (1) how cultural, ethnic and national identities are formed, (2) the relationship between visual culture and the construction of historical and cultural narratives, and (3) the ways in which tradition, culture, and identity shape (and are shaped by) visual practices.

CSP29  COMING OF AGE IN A BORDERLESS(?) WORLD.
In our current moment, the world seems to be getting smaller: travelers can go most places with relative ease, borders are open for trade, and the Internet allows us to connect with people wherever they may be.  At the same time, the world has also become more fraught and complicated: displacement of large groups of people due to war and conflict, economic disparities between the so-called First and Third Worlds, and anti-immigrant confrontations and laws leading at times to violence.  What is it like to grow up in such a world?  What is it like to discover one’s self in a world that seems to present infinite possibilities, yet somehow remain in disarray?   In what way can the things that happen in far-off places “over there,” affect one’s life “over here”?  These are just some of the questions this course will be grappling with through film and literature that take us on journeys to places like Japan, Morocco, Mexico, Iran, Spain, and Hawaii.  Together we will examine how these texts depict the challenges of coming of age in the context of globalization and how people’s lives are changed by this globalized world.

CSP30  ENVIRONMENTS, EARTHWORKS, AND ECOCRITICISM: CONTEMPORARY ART AND ECOLOGY.
Thankfully, it is no longer the case that ecologically-minded art is dismissed as “tree hugging.” What this means, however, is that the history of art is in need of re-writing—and that is what we will do together in this course. By examining artists such as Robert Smithson, structures such as habitats, images such as those of disaster, genres such as landscape, and discourses such as speciesism, we will consider how artists, art historians, and environmentalists have imagined nature and humans’ relationship to nature.  We will debate whether (and how) it is incumbent upon the contemporary art world to direct its attention to ecoaesthetics and concentrate its energies on sustainability and remediation. What would real change look like and what is visual art’s capacity to “picture” that?

CSP31  WORKING TOWARD THE HEALTHY CITY:  ENVIRONMENT, PEOPLE, AND HEALTH.
Can cities and metropolitan areas grow in ways that are healthy, socially just, and environmentally sustainable?  This course explores these relationships and posits that good urban governance coupled with empowered communities can help lead the way.  Particular focus is placed on investigating the nexus between the built environment and health.  Films and a field trip will complement readings, lectures, and discussions.

Cultural Studies Program Spring 2015 "Global Issues" Research Seminars


CSP50 CULTURE OF FOOD.
What do you like to eat? Who prepares your food, and who is at the table eating it with you? In this course we will take on these and related questions, covering aesthetic, historical, social, and cognitive approaches to food studies. In addition to critically examining cross-cultural aspects of food culture, students will engage with Los Angeles food culture.

This is an 8 unit colloquium and seminar course. Students enrolled in this colloquium will not only get credit for the first year spring seminar requirement, but also will meet the Core Program’s Cultural Studies Distribution requirement for Global Connections.

CSP51 DOCUMENTARY DISCOURSE.
Provides students with writing instruction situated in documentary film.  For better or worse, documentary has become one of the main ways we access truth today.   We will write about a variety of non-fiction films, treating them as examples of visual argument.  Some possible themes include mockumentary, visual anthropology, rockumentary, queer documentary, propaganda films, and many others. Scrutinizing the truth-telling techniques of the directors, we will test the limits of non-fiction filmmaking.  Students will come away from this class understanding what makes for effective arguments, both in their own writing and in documentary film.  Effective composition will result from an awareness of the importance of audience, voice, context, and argument.

CSP52 JAPAN AND KOREA THROUGH FILM AND FICTION.
Through the mediums of cinema and fiction, this course will introduce students to the similar, yet vastly distinct, societies and histories of Korea and Japan. In addition to work from great storytellers such as Ozu Yasujiro, Natsume Soseki, Lee Changdong, and Ch'ae Mansik, we will look at some less "celebrated" and perhaps more popular works. At the end of the semester, it is my hope that students will not only come out with a better understanding, but more importantly a greater appreciation and interest in the Korean and Japanese peoples.

CSP53 BECOMING AMERICA: THE SHORT STORY.
Following the revolution, America gradually evolved a collective self-image different from that of Europe. One way to track this construction of our national identification is through one of our favorite media of representation, the short story. This class will trace the development of the short story from the early 19th century to recent post-modern versions. While the chronological expanse of our seminar will be vast, our readings each week will be relatively brief. Our focus will be on intensive understanding and responsible contextualization and analysis. While we will attempt to master the basic elements of narration theoretically, we will also try to understand the specific innovations of each writer as they contribute to the formation of our collective mythology.

CSP54   TBA

CSP55  ANIMAL ETHICS.
Humans eat some non-human animals, keep others as pets, perform scientific experiments on others, keep some in zoos, and hunt others for both food and sport. The complex relationship between human and non-human animals raises a host of important moral questions: What do we owe to non-human animals? Do animals have rights? Are we morally permitted to eat/experiment on/keep in zoos/hunt non-human animals? What is the relationship between concern for non-human animals and concern for the environment? 

CSP56 REINVENTING THE “ART OF THE WEST” AT THE AUTRY: CURATION AS CULTURAL PRACTICE.
In the summer of 2013, the Autry opened a new set of galleries that joined works of art from the collections of the Autry and Southwest Museums. The newly renovated galleries embody a dramatically different story about the “Art of the West” than has been offered since the museum opened in 1988. The exhibition integrates works by Native American, Euro-American, Hispanic and other artists within spaces previously given over to paintings, sculptures, and objects of material culture by European American artists. Students in this seminar will learn about how scholars have traditionally written the art history of “the American West”, while simultaneously considering the impact that multiculturalism and more community-entered museum practice has had on institutions like the Autry. In this course, students will interact with Autry Curatorial, Library, and Education department staff; conduct research on individual objects on view in the Autry’s exhibition; and create a collaborative digital project demonstrating the scope and significance of that research.

CSP57 TBA

CSP58 FROM THE PHONOGRAPH TO AUTO-TUNE:  EXPLORING THE CULTURES OF RECORDED MUSIC.
Writing in 1906, the American composer John Phillip Sousa expressed grave concerns about what he termed the "menace of mechanical music." According to Sousa, the advent of devices like the player piano and the phonograph threatened to remove "the human skill, intelligence, and soul" from music and reduce it to little more than "a mathematical system of megaphones, wheels, cogs, disks, and cylinders." More than a century later, musicians and audiences today have embraced musical technology in ways that would have been inconceivable in Sousa's time. How did the introduction of such technologies transform musical culture at the turn of the twentieth century? And how has the subsequent development of new musical technologies changed the way people both produce and listen to music? Through the examination of a diverse range of literature, films, archival materials, and sound recordings, this course will explore the complex and continually evolving relationship between music and technology -- from the primitive phonograph introduced by Thomas Edison in 1877 to vibrant culture of digital sampling, MP3s, and Auto-Tune of the present day.

CSP59  “OVERLAPPING DIASPORAS”: BLACK DIASPORIC THOUGHT AND ITS REVERBERATIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
In The Practice of Diaspora, Brent Hayes Edwards thinks through Earl Lewis’ concept of “overlapping diasporas” to suggest that the use of the term diaspora “implies neither that it offers the comfort of abstraction, an easy recourse to origins, nor that it provides a foolproof anti-essentialism: instead, it forces us to articulate discourses of cultural and political linkage only through and across difference in full view of the risks of that endeavor” (12). In this course, we will examine literature by African Americans as well as Iranians, Palestinians, and Egyptians to understand how distinct social, cultural, and political differences can actually inform and engage one another in the struggle against colonialism. For instance, how did Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth work its way into the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran? What role did the Black Panthers play in the Palestinian struggle for liberation? Why did Malcolm X turn to Islam as a tool of liberation and resistance? How did Pan-Africanism influence and inform Pan-Arabism? These are some of the issues we will cover in this course.

CSP60  THE DEMOCRATIC IMAGINATION. 
Few political ideas have engaged the public imagination with as much moral force and political complexity as democracy has since the classical period. This course is an exploration of the ideal of democracy in the political imagination of prominent philosophers, politicians, activists, and artists from ancient Greece to the present. The aim of the seminar is to introduce students to major themes in the study and experience of democracy: the balance between liberty and equality; pluralism and difference; membership and exclusion; moral versus political sources of legitimacy; radical versus deliberative democracy; democracy and war; democracy and social justice; and the relationship between democracy and the humanities. Democracy’s appeal and inclusive functioning stem from the way in which the pursuit and struggle for, and the continual elaboration of, democratic ideals reflect and speak to the multiplicity of voices and experiences in society. This course introduces students to the lives and circumstances that account for the evolution of democracy as both a political form and an idea in the modern imagination.

CSP61 BLACK PARIS: THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE AND THE FRENCH CONNECTION.
During the early 20th century Paris was a center of intellectual activity for writers and artists of the Harlem Renaissance as well as Caribbean and African thinkers. This course will examine the international elements of the Harlem Renaissance, addressing themes such as Jazz Age Paris, the Pan-African congress, Negritude and Garveyism. Readings will include works by and about figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker and Léopold Senghor.

CSP 62. THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX.
Americans are simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by prisons, prisoners, and prison life.  A consistent reminder of this fascination is the proliferation of an array of reality TV programs exposing life behind prison walls and the popularity of fictional programs and movies about prison life. This course transcends the voyeuristic obsession with prisons and takes a meaningful look at the reality of imprisonment.  My personal contact with prisons and prisoners during my years as a public defender and prisoners' rights advocate has taught me that the prison population exists outside of the democratic sphere.  This experience has afforded me a deeper appreciation and understanding of core democratic principles of freedom, civil liberties, human rights and equal protection and has energized me to advocate for those principles on behalf of disenfranchised individuals and communities.  I believe that students who study incarceration will develop a greater appreciation and understanding of broad democratic principles.

CSP63 THE TRICKSTER IN CHINESE NARRATIVE.
An archetypical character appearing in myths, folk tales, religious texts, and literature, the trickster ironically transgresses cherished social conventions and beliefs in order to create new or reaffirm existing conventions.  This seminar will first examine the trickster as a literary motif and question how such a construct can limit our understanding of the trickster of specific times and places.  We will then explore how Chinese writers used the trickster to challenge literary and cultural norms in a variety of texts, including historical, religious, and philosophical texts; literary and folk tales; and the Ming-dynasty novel, Journey to the West, featuring the naughty Monkey King, Sun Wukong.

CSP64 TBA

CSP65 URBAN FICTIONS: THE MODERN CITY IN LITERATURE AND OTHER ARTS.
This course will examine texts of fiction, poetry, essay, music, film and graphic arts that have as their subject the problems and promise of urban life in major world-cities of the 19th and 20th centuries. Among the cities we may explore through their imaginative representation are London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Mexico City. Field study in Los Angeles may be incorporated as pertinent events or opportunities come up.

CSP66 THE EXPERIENCE OF WAR.
This seminar will study and reflect on the literary, filmic, and historiographic descriptions of wars in the 20th and 21st century, with an emphasis on WWI, WWII, the Vietnam War and the recent war in Iraq. How are the reasons for "going to war" presented, who promoted them?  Who fought against the wars? Why were the voices of the opponents not heard? How are the dead and the victims commemorated?  Do we learn from wars and are they still accepted as "natural" events? What are the limits of re-presenting wars in literature and film.

CSP67 RENAISSANCE INDIVIDUALS.
Experience the European Renaissance of the 14th through 17th revival, artistic and scientific innovation, religious reform, and global exploration. Consider the relationship of contemporary “individuality” to the characteristics of men and women of early modern times. Films will highlight the multi-varied individual, like the courtesan and poet Veronica Franco, as well as the confrontation between artist Michelangelo and military pope Julius II. A source reader will provide practice in analyzing texts, as well as objects of material culture, in an age of encounters between cultures. For a research-based essay utilizing evidence from the times, each student will focus on two individuals in a field of the student’s interest such as politics/diplomacy; court life; sexuality/gender; crafts and the arts; reformation in religion; scientific experiment and enlightenment; mapping the globe; or travel and encounter. Learning collaboratively, students examine the lives of a diversity of men and women and the controversies their lives provoked.

CSP68 MUSIC AND TRANCE: HOW MUSIC INFLUENCES THE ECSTATIC STATE THROUGHOUT THE GLOBE.
This course explores the relationship between music and consciousness in different world cultures with the intention of developing an understanding of the role that music plays in ecstatic experiences. This course draws on ethnomusicology, psychology, anthropology, dance ethnology, and religious studies.

CSP69 POLITICS, CULTURE, AND SPORTS.
Sports offer paths to glory for athletes; they create shared emotional experiences for competitors, spectators, and fans; they give cities, states, and nations a common purpose. What, then, can sports teach us about politics, culture, and society? This class uses critical theory to study amateur and professional sports in the contemporary United States. Students will analyze sports institutions, organizations, and teams to explore ethics, racial and social justice, patriotism and nationalism, and economics. Specific topics may include college athletics, team mascots, concussion epidemics, the public financing of sports stadiums, marketing practices, Olympic boycotts, and doping. By thinking analytically about sports, students will reflect on how the industry shapes narratives about opportunity, identity, and nationhood.   

CSP70 MAPPING RELIGIOUS IDENTITIES: RACE, PLACE, AND EMPIRE.
How do particular spaces invoke a certain sense of religious identity? What makes a place sacred or holy? How does the inside of a temple or Cathedral cause someone to behave differently than they would in the quad of Occidental? Scholars have become interested in the ways spaces, both real and imagined; have the potential to make meaning for many people. This course introduces students to the concepts of space and place and how they relate to religion. We will read primary sources from a variety of religious traditions which demonstrate the deployment of religious languages, rituals, and spaces, from antiquity, to the present. In doing so we will consider religious identities as new geographies and in this way, map the way space and place contribute to the broader forces of empire, globalization, and multiculturalism.

CSP71 LIBERAL ARTS AT THE BRINK? NAVIGATING THE CRISIS IN HIGHER EDUCATION.
Unemployment, student loan debt, and protest are colliding with rising education costs, endowment building, branding wars, and labor outsourcing. At this tumultuous moment in higher education, this course asks students to reflect on the fate of liberal arts education through a focused analysis of its past and present. Specifically, how do economic pressures and technological innovations impact the sustainability of liberal arts values such as social justice, serving the public good, and cultivating a “life of the mind”?  Students will debate and synthesize arguments about the value and sustainability of liberal arts education by viewing higher education from the perspective of private corporations, governments, college administrators, faculty, parents, and students. In so doing, students will learn to situate their personal experiences within broader institutional, historical, economic and political contexts. Through reflective essays that incorporate both primary and secondary sources, students will develop critical thinking skills, authorial voice, and a sense of ownership over their own education. They will also be introduced to interviewing techniques and textual analysis that will serve as a basis for future independent research.

CSP72  EXISTENTIALISM.
Existentialism is a philosophy that grapples with the problem of human freedom and moral choice in a world that often seems devoid of transcendental meaning or purpose.  In this course we will read literary and philosophical texts from the French, German, Hispanic, and Russian existentialist traditions, and will explore the structures and possibilities of consciousness, knowledge, desire, imagination, aesthetics, ethics, and political commitment. Authors studied will include Albert Camus, Fydor Dostoevsky, Franz Kafka, Eduardo Mallea, Ernesto Sábato, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Leo Tolstoy.

CSP73 ISSUES OF SPANISH IN THE U.S.
This course discusses issues surrounding the Spanish language and Spanish-speaking communities in the United States. The course focuses on the connection between language and culture, and addresses the social issues surrounding the status of Spanish in the United States, specifically language attitudes and ideologies, language policy, bilingualism and bilingual education. We will challenge common beliefs surrounding language and bilingualism, and its effect on Spanish speaking communities in the US.

CSP74 THEATER ABOUT THEATER.
It can be argued that, since the Renaissance, theater artists have been communally and delightedly inspired by a certain subject: themselves. From the plays within Shakespeare's plays A Midsummer Night's Dream and Hamlet to Pirandello's meta-theatrical examinations of self in Six Characters in Search of an Author and Tonight We Improvise to Broadway's send-ups of the production process Noises Off and The Producers -- no theatrical subject matter intrigues quite like the making of theater. What are these artists saying about the nature of their own art form? Where do they converge? How do they differ? What is so consistently alluring about the act of performance? Students will explore these questions and various plays through in-class readings, artist visits, and attendance at live performance.

Other Cultral Studies Program Courses

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- CSP 98: "Experiencing Los Angeles Cultures"

This course is designed to expose students to some of the many cultures of Los Angeles, a vibrant microcosm of the "complex, interdependent, pluralistic world" of the 21st century described in Occidental College's mission statement. Students may acquire one semester unit of credit for participating in five off-campus "cultural encounters" during a semester. Students will select these events from a list compiled each year by the Core Program or they may propose their own experiences for approval. A short two-page paper is due on the last day of class.

This course is graded CR/NC only and will not meet specific Major/Minor or Core requirements.

Students may take this course twice, for a maximum of two units being applied toward graduation.

- CSP 99: "Experiencing the Arts"

This course is designed to expose students to the arts, to broaden their cultural horizons, and to instill in them a desire to expand their knowledge of and attention to the arts. In addition, the course is designed to prepare students for life-long learning, for engaging in their communities, and for having the basis for further exploration in the field of the arts. Students may acquire one semester unit of credit for attending 8 on-campus events (out of those specifically identified for this course) during any semester.  Students will select these events from a list of events compiled each year by the Director of Core; at least 2 of the 8 events attended must be designated starred events which will combine an arts presentation with a lecture or discussion by the artist or faculty member. 

  • This 1-unit course is graded CR/NC only and will not meet any specific Major/Minor nor Core requirement.  
  • To complete the requirement and due before the last day of class, a two-page reflection paper must be turned in electronically.  In an email with specific details, all students will receive a prompt prior to the due date.
  • Students may take this 1-unit course for up to two semesters, for a maximum of 2 units being applied toward graduation.

 

What former CSP 99 students have said...

"In many ways your time at Oxy is defined by academics and what happens in the classroom. Learning how to prepare for class, take tests, and even reflect are all crucial parts of the academic process.  Something that I think needs to be stressed more often is the visceral, exploratory nature of a program like CSP 99.  Throughout the semester, I have learned to appreciate different forms of expression, and how people are able to approach even simple tasks with very different strategies."

"Experiencing the arts offers students a unique opportunity to enjoy a variety of events put on by Occidental College. These events provide a chance to expand ones intellectual engagement and increase ones musical interest. Authors, musicians, plays, and dynamic films are all offered to broaden students wealth of knowledge. These events reach out into the Los Angeles community to bring various professionals onto campus where they can engage the minds of Oxy’s youth. They provide students with an opportunity to learn about various professions from those who have found success. I have acquired a new wealth of knowledge from participating in these events."

"All of the events I attended this semester were more intriguing than initially expected. Based on other students who had previously taken the class I figured the events would be insightful but my experiences with the events were more impactful than others credited."

Faculty

Regular Faculty

John Swift, chair

Associate Dean for Core Curriculum and Student Issues; English; Core Program; Advisory Committee, Urban and Environmental Policy

B.A., Middlebury College M.A., Ph.D., University of Virginia