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Cultural Studies Program Fall 2016 Writing Seminars

Fall 2016 Courses

CSP 1.  CALIFORNIA (IM)MIGRATION SEMESTER. (16 units)
This course offers students the opportunity to analyze the sociohistoric, legal, and cultural tensions surrounding various (im)migrant communities in California. Students will explore the various waves of (im)migration across time to understand the diverse communities of California. Students will also build critical and interpretive capacities through the examination of state policies, statistics, and various historical and empirical studies. Additionally, through the construction and revision of several expository and research-based writings on immigration, students will hone their writing, argumentation, and presentation skills.

The California Immigration Semester meets not only the Fall CSP requirement, but provides 16 units of credit—a full semester's course load—while meeting the Core U.S. Diversity and Global Connections distribution requirements and providing coursework that can potentially be applied toward majors in Spanish, CTSJ, and Sociology.  This program is ideally suited for students interested in the social sciences or humanities, or for anyone interested in immigration within the United States and California specifically.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: US DIVERSITY and GLOBAL CONNECTIONS

CSP 2.  FROM OCEANIA TO LOS ANGELES.
Many “off-island” Pacific Islanders have made Los Angeles their home. Pacific Islander festivals, artists, museum exhibitions, and civic organizations have contributed to the urban fabric of the city. This course will engage with scholarship about indigeneity and diaspora in order to think about the ways in which Oceanic art and culture shapes the Los Angeles landscape. Alongside this urban narrative of space and cultural contact, we will also consider Hollywood’s role in the fabrication of island(er) identity in the media. We will discuss and analyze the intersection and disjuncture between diaspora and representation after screenings of Bird of Paradise (1932), South Pacific (1958), Hawaii Five-O (1968/2010), The Descendants (2011), and Disney’s Moana (2016).

CSP 3.  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.  While problems such as poverty, organized crime and violence against women still take a toll on individual rights, 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, and gay marriage has made surprising headway.  Today there are many resources available for the promotion and protection of human rights in Latin America -- from national legislation promoted by local activists, to treaties and a regional court. While focusing on political, social and legal developments rather than on literary analysis, this class relies substantially on short stories, a play, testimonial essays and films to explore human rights-related problems and progress in Latin America over the last 60 years. 

CSP 4.  “TO BE CONTINUED...”: THE SERIAL IMPULSE IN LITERATURE AND OTHER MEDIA.
Taught in English. Ever since the emergence of serialized formats of fiction in the 19th century, the phrase “to be continued” has left readers in a state of suspense. Eager to keep reading along at home, they now had to impatiently wait for the next installment in order to continue. This course will examine the aesthetics and practices of seriality from the mid-19th century to the present. We will consider how the concept of seriality, as a common logic underlying mass media production, and the series as a distinct form of open-ended composition, articulate themselves in different historical periods across different media (literature, art, television, film), in works ranging from the "mass productions" of popular culture to the artistic experiments of the avant-garde. Course material includes Goethe, Poe, Dickens, Kafka, Benjamin, Deleuze, Warhol, Eco, “The Perils of Pauline” (1914), and “Twin Peaks” (1990-91). 

CSP 5.  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 6.  MAKING IT NEW: MODERNITY, MODERNISM, AND THE AVANT-GARDE.
During the first half of the 20th century—a time of great social, political, and technological change—many writers, artists, and musicians sought new and innovative modes of expression. While their works varied in both genre and style, modernists shared a common desire, in the words of the poet Ezra Pound, to “make it new.” Focusing on the period from 1870 to 1970, this interdisciplinary course will examine the history of a tumultuous century through an exploration of the radically new forms of literature, art, and music it produced. How did writers, artists, and musicians deal with issues of race, gender, and sexuality? How did they react to brutal wars and periods of intense political oppression? And what exactly does it mean to be “avant-garde”? From Wilde to Woolf, Kandinsky to O’Keeffe, Stravinsky to Sgt. Pepper, this course will examine what it means to create modern works for a modern world. Open only to first year frosh.

CSP 7.  REPRESENTATION AND VISUAL CULTURE.
How is identity represented in visual culture?  This course looks at motion pictures, print media, and art, and asks who gets represented and how? We focus on the depiction of race, gender, sexuality, and nation in the late-20th century/early 21st century to uncover how larger ideas about individual and communal identities are produced and circulated. Students will learn how to identify and negotiate the multiple interpretations elicited by an object of study and to make a compelling argument for a particular reading. We will explore numerous methodologies—including art history, cultural studies, film analysis, gender studies, race criticism, and more—and apply these in our critical writing.

CSP 8.  ASIAN STUDENT MOVEMENT.
Some have discounted the youth of our society as apathetic and trivial, becoming further distanced from society at large and ever more self-absorbed in their own cyberworlds of social media and networking. In the recent past, however, the strength and ideologies of youth toppled governments and changed the world. The focus of this course will be on examining and analyzing pivotal historical student movements in Asia: the Anpo movements in 1960s Japan, the democratization movement of the 1980s in Korea, and finally 1989’s Tiananmen Demonstrations in China. Points of comparison are the student movements in 1960s America and the most recent Occupy movements.

CSP 9.  CHILDHOOD, YOUTH, AND THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF DIFFERENCE.
This course examines the social and cultural factors that shape growing up in the United States. Students will study the process of socialization and the influence of various institutions (family, school, media, etc.) on children and adolescents. Emphasis is placed on understanding how intersections between race, gender, citizenship, language, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc., impact access and opportunity when coming of age.

CSP 10.  WRITING ITALY: ITALIAN IDENTITY AND ETHNIC STEREOTYPING IN ANGLO-AMERICAN FICTION.
English and American literature from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is full of exoticizing references to Italian spaces, people, and cultures. In the Anglo-American literary imagination, Italy has often been connected with violence and danger, “primitive” natural beauty, and liberation from social norms, especially for privileged travelers from England or the United States. These representations have historically threatened to one-dimensionalize a complex and dynamic country with its own complicated history and cultural diversity. As the twentieth century advanced, however, writers increasingly began to complicate and challenge these too-easy stereotypes. Not only did U.S. writers of color and other marginalized voices help to develop more diverse and three-dimensional literary representations of Italian identities, but Italian American writers turned the tables by examining how Italian Americans have themselves projected stereotypes onto people of color in the U.S. – stereotypes that are not unlike those that have been projected onto Italy in the Anglo-American literary tradition. Covering writers from Henry James, E.M. Forster, and D.H. Lawrence to John Fante, James Baldwin, and Bernard Malamud, this course will explore these various ways of writing Italy within English and American literature.

CSP 11.  SPECTACLE AND THE STAGE IN ANCIENT ROME.
The ancient Romans had a flair for the dramatic, creating spaces and staging performances which matched the grandness of their empire. Gladiatorial games, theatrical productions, chariot races, and other festivals played an integral role in the civic, religious, and cultural life of the ancient Romans. This course offers an introduction to the various forms of public entertainment offered during the Roman Republic and Empire. Students will read selections from ancient authors and consider theories about the gaze and spectatorship.

CSP 12.  LITERATURE AND PHILOSOPHY: DIONYSUS IN MODERN THOUGHT.
More than simply a “god of wine,” Dionysus was for the Ancient Greeks a god of ecstatic self-abandon, of gushing fertility, of violent dismemberment and unexpected rebirth. In myth he was attended by crazed Maenads and mischievous Satyrs; amongst humans he was worshipped with festive dances, communal shouts, ritual obscenities, and (perhaps most importantly) with poetry—with the literary genres of ode, comedy and tragedy that were invented specifically to honor him.  What could be farther, we might ask, from the cool, reasonable practice of philosophy than this wild, uncanny, irrational god? And yet, as we shall see in this class, this reckless god of madness and poetry stands at the foundation of some of the most important ideas in modern philosophy—Hegel’s phenomenology of spirit, Nietzsche’s will to power, Heidegger’s philosophy of being.  Beginning with an exploration of Dionysian poetics, this course will attempt to show what Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger and others found so inspiring in this ancient god, and what the writers and thinkers of our own time might find in him still.

CSP 13.  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 14.  BECOMING A MULTI-VARIED INDIVIDUAL.
Discuss how to become a multi-varied individual while learning about people who experienced either the European Renaissance or the Enlightenment of the 14th through 18th centuries.  That was a period of artistic and scientific innovation, religious reform, classical revival, and politics of global encounter. Consider the relationship of contemporary “individuality” to the characteristics of men and women of early modern times.  Two films with memorable lead characters will be The Return of Martin Guerre and Belle. Learning collaboratively, students examine the lives of a diversity of men and women and the controversies their lives provoked. Open only to first year frosh.

CSP 15.  MUSIC AND MIGRATION.
In recent years scholars of human migration have begun to see music as a rich source of information about migrant communities and cultures. Because migrant communities do not always have access to other forms of communicative media, music can sometimes offer a unique glimpse into the worldviews and immigration histories of those who have voluntarily and involuntarily left their lands of origin. Why do people migrate and how can music help us to understand the varied circumstances that have historically impelled migration? How does music inform migrant’s attitudes about their communities of origin and about their host societies, and articulate the new social locations and economic possibilities that emerge post-migration? How are contemporary patterns of global migration different from early migrations and how can music help us to understand those differences? In this course we will approach music as a lens through which to understand the complex socio-economic circumstances, motivations, and life trajectories of diverse migrant communities.

CSP 16.  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 17.  EQUALITY AS A SOCIAL IDEAL.
Although many people and communities claim to value “equality” as a basic principle of justice, what we do and should mean by this ideal is up for debate. In this course, we will explore both historical and contemporary philosophical accounts of the value of equality as a moral ideal, with special attention to economic and social inequality. We will ask: Why should we value equality? Should we value equality for its own sake, or only instrumentally? What kinds of inequities should we care about (i.e. – wealth, resources, opportunities, standing, or something else)? How should a commitment to equality inform our education system and healthcare system?

CSP 18.  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 19.  VISUAL STORYTELLING AND NARRATIVE FILM.
As a first-year seminar, this course is intended to introduce you to the critical thinking and writing that will be expected of you throughout your career at Oxy. Although our study will focus on a single topic—visual storytelling in narrative film—the skills you learn in this course should transmit seamlessly to your other courses. In particular, you should learn to read primary sources (in our case, the films themselves and what the filmmakers say and write about their work) sympathetically and critically. Then you will critically engage with scholarly and other analyses of these sources. The result, after careful reading and deep thinking, will be to assert your own positions regarding the material in interesting, sophisticated, and clear ways both verbally and through writing.

Ideally, you will gain more confidence in your writing abilities, which you can carry with you as you respond to any number of writing situations at Oxy (and beyond). We’ll work together towards developing, shaping, and polishing clear, organized, coherent, detailed and compelling essays, the main form of expression in college writing at all levels.

CSP 20.  WRITING LA: PLACE, RACE, IDENTITY.
This course will examine the social, historical, and spatial forces that have shaped the formation of Los Angeles as a diverse and multiracial, multiethnic city. We will explore central concepts such as urbanity, diaspora, migration, and racial inequality through critical, cultural, and visual theories. Our course materials will also include nonfiction readings in a range of genres, though much of our consideration of the intersecting structures of race and place will be through representations of LA in literature and film. Writing is central to this course: both in terms of our reading and interpretation of writing about LA and in terms of the writing students will produce—reflective, creative, and expository. This class has required film screenings outside of regular class time and includes a “light” community-based learning component as we explore certain cultural artifacts and spaces in Los Angeles, such as Chinatown or Union Station (in our study of Polanski’s film and Blade Runner), or museum exhibits.

CSP 21.  SUNSHINE AND NOIR: LOS ANGELES CULTURAL STUDIES.
This course will consider how Los Angeles has been represented in a cross section of 20th century literature, film, music and popular culture. We will examine contradictory visions of the metropolis as a land of promise and peril where issues of space, race, and class intersect to create an urban culture in which conflict and cooperation exist in productive tension.  Primary texts in the various media will be supplemented and contextualized by secondary readings in social history and cultural theory. Cultural events in greater Los Angeles may be incorporated if appropriate opportunities come up.

CSP22.  WE HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON: LITERARY IDEAS AND ILLUSTRATIONS OF COMMUNITY.
Community is something we largely take for granted. It is a notion around which we organize our lives, as we all belong to and participate in various communities—from our neighborhoods, to our interest groups, to our nations—yet, at the same time, it is a notion we often struggle to understand or explain. What is a community, exactly; how and when do we belong to one, and what does such belonging mean to our sense of personal and social self? Literature has long meditated on these questions, from essays on the meaning and nature of community to stories about different communities, and their struggles to articulate and develop their shared sense of purpose. This course will read through a selection of these efforts, with the goal to better understand how different communities come into being, what they aim to accomplish, and how or why they succeed and fail.

CSP23.  MESS: A CONCEPTUAL HISTORY.
Once upon a time, mess was something people ate. (At a particularly hungry juncture in the book of Genesis, for instance, an elder son named Esau sells his birthright to his brother Jacob for a “mess of pottage.”) However, over the course of the nineteenth century, the word mess gradually extended the range of its meanings to include more abstract states of mixture; it enriched, piecemeal, its spiritual resonances and cultural applications. Today our appraisals of messy situations, messy feelings, and messy political processes owe their cogency to the nineteenth century’s formalization of this fine term for formlessness. This seminar tells the story of the concept’s evolution by sampling eight distinct types or episodes of mess: the culinary kind, of course, as well as the semantic effect called ambiguity, the affective fields of impertinence and righteous outrage, architectural motifs of sprawl and waste, the info-fuzz termed white noise, and the strange medleys of free jazz. Course texts include a mock-epic by Joel Barlow titled “The Hasty-Pudding” (1796), Elizabeth Stoddard’s female bildungsroman The Morgesons (1862), Pauline Hopkins’s racial-uplift melodrama Contending Forces (1900), the Watts Towers in South Los Angeles, and Kendrick Lamar’s multi-vocal masterpiece, To Pimp a Butterfly (2015). 

CSP24.  CONTAGION: FROM PLAGUE NARRATIVES TO THE LITERATURE OF PUBLIC HEALTH.
In this course we will study representations of infectious disease from the Early Modern period to the present day, using these texts as case studies for some of the most pressing political, philosophical, and aesthetic concerns of our age. Plague narratives are an ideal arena in which to investigate the legal, ethical, and conceptual relationships between individual subjects, bodies, and the “body public,” questions about human nature and the state of nature, and questions about how governments form and what the best types of government are. We’ll also analyze how disease in these texts highlights or complicates contemporary conceptions of “otherness,” and how plague narratives employ different narrative frameworks (providential, rational, existential, etc.). Finally, we’ll consider how these texts metaphorize illness and contagion as a way of thinking about other topics (for example: colonialism, print culture, revolutionary politics, and moral decline)—but we’ll also think carefully about the ethical and aesthetic implications of those metaphors. Readings to include Defoe, Dracula, Camus, Zika, and zombies.

OTHER COURSES
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.
1 unit

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 eight on-campus events during a semester. Students will select these events from a list of events compiled each year by the Arts Committee; at least two of the events attended must combine an arts presentation with a lecture or discussion by the artist or a faculty member. 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.
1 unit

Cultural Studies Program Spring 2016 "Global Issues" Research Seminars

 
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Other Cultral Studies Program Courses

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96 - Experiencing Mathematics and Science

This course is designed to expose students to mathematics and science, to broaden their awareness of the research questions asked in those disciplines, and to introduce skills and ideas scientifically shown to improve persistence in college, especially in science and math majors. Students may acquire one semester unit of credit for attending eight on-campus events during a semester. Certain seminars and class meetings will be mandatory; students will select additional events from a list of events provided each year by the instructor. 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.
1 unit

- 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."