In the fall seminars, faculty and students jointly explore human culture from a variety of disciplinary as well as cultural perspectives.
CSP "Lab" Courses
CSP 1 and CSP 2 are designated CSP “Lab” courses, team-taught experimental seminars designed to engage their students critically and actively in synthesizing knowledge and ideas about an important topic. In these classes 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.
16 units: counts as four courses (CSP, Biology 106, Economics 101, and Geology 105). Satisfies fall CSP requirement and Core Lab and Non-lab Science requirements.
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. 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. For more information about the California Environment Semester, click here.
Bevin Ashenmiller (Economics), Gretchen North (Biology), Margi Rusmore (Geology)
CSP 2. REVOLUTIONS: AFRICA AND BEYOND.
8 units: Satisfies fall CSP requirement and Core Global Connections requirement.
Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in 2011, South Africa 1993, Algeria 1962. These are some of the revolutions that captured international attention and dramatically changed the social and political landscape of Africa. The revolutionary thinking of Marx, Lenin, Gandhi, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Fanon and Biko and others, formed the basis of mass mobilization against oppressive regimes. Furthermore, African political thought and praxis inspired civil rights movements and anti-colonial struggles throughout the world. Beyond exploring these revolutions, the class will introduce students to Africa and African diaspora cultures in Los Angeles through activities and excursions that will encompass the visual and dramatic arts, music, culinary experiences, lectures and tours.
“Revolutions” comprises one half of the entire fall semester course load (8 units), and students taking it should plan their remaining courses carefully. It is particularly recommended for students interested in History and/or Diplomacy and World Affairs, or for those going on in the social sciences and humanities generally. For more information abour "Revolution: Africa and Beyond," click here.
Movindri Reddy (Diplomacy and World Affairs), Michael Gasper (History)
CSP 4-unit Seminars
CSP 3-26 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 3. TRANSAMERICA: IDENTITY, MOBILITY, AND AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM.
This course will examine “American Exceptionalism” through twentieth-century portrayals of travel, migration, and wanderlust. After historian Frederick Jackson Turner declared the U.S. frontier “closed” in 1893, cultural representations of mobility became a unique marker of racial, class, and sexual identity. We will examine a range of texts, from 1930s blues songs’ affective expressions about African American “Great Migration” to constructions of 1950s white hipster masculinity in Beat writings to the emergent genre of the transgender road movie. Because Hollywood film was historically the U.S.’s first major international export, this class will focus in particular on cinematic representations, both foreign and domestic, of how traveling identities support or interrogate American nationalisms. Materials will include fiction and memoir by Jack Kerouac and Marilynne Robinson; critical theory addressing topics from the "vanishing" of Native Americans to the travels of transnational Barbie; music from Memphis Minnie to Led Zeppelin; and movies such as Badlands, Thelma and Louise, My Own Private Idaho, Brokeback Mountain, and Transamerica.
Heather Lukes (Critical Theory and Social Justice)
CSP 4. REPRESENTING LA: IMAGINED SPACES AND 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.
Section 1: Donna Maeda (Critical Theory and Social Justice)
Section 2: Daniel Williford (Critical Theory and Social Justice)
CSP 5. CHANGING ASIA, CHANGING THE WORLD: STUDENTS MOVEMENTS IN ASIA.
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.
Paul Nam (History)
CSP 6. QUEER 2.0: LGBT RIGHTS IN THE INTERNET ERA.
This course is about the past, present and future of the fight for equal citizenship for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, commonly known as the “gay rights movement.” A central concept is that gender, race, sex and sexual orientation (among other aspects of one’s identity) are social constructions. We analyze the historical time period from the Internet's birth (1950s) to present day. We examine the historical, cultural, religious, legal and societal significance of marriage as a lens to view the myriad ways that civil rights and fundamental freedoms are mediated by identity. Texts include academic articles, court cases, legal briefs, popular media, fiction, blogs, videos, tweets and images. We use Web 2.0 tools (Blogger, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook) to facilitate students' development as both consumers and producers of intellectual, academic material. The ability of students to produce and critique online content is a learning outcome of this class. No previous knowledge of any particular internet tool is required. Technological support is provided.
Ron Buckmire (Mathematics)
CSP 7. 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.
Shanna Lorenz (Music)
CSP 8. 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.
- 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.
Andrew Udit (Chemistry)
CSP 9. 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; and by listening to hip-hop like Kanye West’s solo albums, 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.
James Ford (English and Comparative Literary Studies)
CSP 10. SUNSHINE AND NOIR: LOS ANGELES CULTURAL STUDIES.
This course will study representations of Los Angeles in 20th century literature, film, and popular culture. We will examine contradictory visions of the metropolis as a land of promise and peril where the effects of social space, racial identity, and class position intersect to create an urban culture of productive tensions. Primary texts in the various media will be contextualized by secondary readings in social history and cultural theory. Cultural events or field assignments in greater Los Angeles may be incorporated if appropriate opportunities come up.
Raul Villa (English and Comparative Literary Studies)
CSP 11. THE HERO VS DEATH AND GOD.
This course will examine the peculiar aspirations and struggles of the ancient hero--not (to quote the 90’s film classic, Swingers) the modern "PG-13 hero, the one everyone really hopes is going to make it happen,” but rather the "R-Rated" ancient hero, “the one you're not so sure you like yet.” We shall begin the course with the four thousand year old story of Gilgamesh, the troubled and troubling hero-king of the Ancient Near East; we shall then attempt to interpret anew the meaning of three of the most famous Greek and Roman epic heroes (Achilles, Odysseus, and Aeneas); and finally, we shall conclude the class with an examination of the heroes of the Mahabharata, the great religious epic of ancient India. Too energetic, too angry and far too proud to shrink back from a challenge, these difficult figures made a habit of exposing themselves not only to the mortal dangers of advancing enemy hordes, but, more meaningfully, to all those maddening contradictions our human existence seems to entail for us: the "higher" powers that even against our wills determine us, the sad mortality that against all our longing ends us. Scorning the safety of the familiar and the everyday, the heroes of ancient epic pushed themselves relentlessly to act and to think to the very limit of things. Availing ourselves of any number of modern philosophic theories (deconstruction, phenomenology, existentialism and the like), we shall endeavor in this class to think that exasperating limit in intimate company with them.
This class will occasionally meet with Professor Freas’s CSP16.
Damian Stocking (English and Comparative Literary Studies)
CSP 12. DESERT OR GARDEN.
Does our world appear to us like an abundant garden--or is it a stony, unforgiving desert? This seminar will explore the opposed images of desert and garden, of barrenness and fruitfulness that pervade Western history. Beginning with a close reading of Genesis and the story of human expulsion from the Garden of Eden, we will first examine these images in a number of literary and artistic appearances (including T. S. Eliot’s famous diagnosis of the “modern” condition as an unredeemed “waste land”). In the second phase of the course we will consider their specific effects, for better and for worse, on the development of an iconic U.S. institution: the city of Los Angeles.
John Swift (English and Comparative Literary Studies)
CSP 13. AN IMAGINED HOLLYWOOD: THE REAL AND THE REPRESENTED IN HOLLYWOOD’S TEXTUAL HISTORY.
This seminar will explore the myth, idea, culture, and history of Hollywood through careful readings of both historical and literary texts. The objective of this course is to consider which kinds of texts offer us the most “authentic” representation of Hollywood. What is real Hollywood? And what is just imagined? In a place like Hollywood, where entire lives, landscapes, and narratives are manufactured for film, can we attempt to untangle the essential Hollywood – the real Hollywood – from its textual representations? As we move through these topics, we will also be exploring the various skills necessary for writing critical and analytical essays, including crafting a thesis statement, the difference between summary and analysis, and integrating textual evidence.
Sarah Simcha Cohen (Core Program)
CSP 14. 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 1910 to 1968, this interdisciplinary course will examine a tumultuous half-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 is the avant-garde? From Woolf to Kerouac, Kandinsky to Warhol, and Stravinsky to Sgt. Pepper, this course will examine what it means to create modern works for a modern world.
Edmond Johnson (Music)
CSP 15. ENVIRONMENT AND POWER IN CALIFORNIA HISTORY.
This interdisciplinary seminar examines 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.
Alexandra Puerto (History)
CSP 16. VIOLENT FEMMES: CLYTEMNESTRA AND MEDEA IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY.
This course explores the literary depiction of two exceptional women in myth: Clytemnestra and Medea. Clytemnestra is an adulteress who murders her husband, King Agamemnon, upon his victorious return from the Trojan War. Medea, after being spurned by her husband who remarries a young princess, kills the bride, her father the king, and her own two children in order to punish her husband. The course title points to the subversive qualities possessed by these two figures: neither woman should use violence to acquire power, but they do and so confound historical expectations for their gender. In this course we will consider what can be learned about women (and men) from these presentations of Clytemnestra and Medea and think deeply about what has made them so fascinating and horrifying for over two thousand years.
This class will occasionally meet with Professor Stocking's CSP11.
Debra Freas (German, Russian and Classical Studies)
CSP 17. 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.
Carina Miller (Diplomacy and World Affairs)
CSP 18. NAVIGATING LIFE'S OPPORTUNITIES - HOW TO GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY.
The content of this course is derived from the disciplines of sport psychology, positive psychology, and stress management. Concepts such as motivation, goal setting, energy management, and finding meaning will be discussed in a way that is directly applicable to daily living. Students will have the opportunity to engage in self-exploration in addition to being exposed to lives of individuals such as John Wooden, Viktor Frankl, and Morrie Schwartz (of “Tuesdays with Morrie”). Students will leave the class with a greater awareness of how to utilize their strengths and be equipped with strategies that foster resilience when dealing with challenges.
Melinda Houston (Kinesiology)
CSP 19. 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, and 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).
Lynn Mehl (Kinesiology)
CSP 20. 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.
Simeon Pillich (Music)
CSP 21. 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.
Marcia Homiak (Philosophy)
CSP 22. WRITERS AND READERS.
Why do we write, if not to communicate with a reader? Readers can be anyone: yourself, someone you know, someone you hope to meet, or a whole group of people whose expectations you must imagine, and whose responses you may never see. In this course, we’ll explore expectations of writers and readers in academic contexts, persuasive personal writing, professional writing, journalism, and creative writing. We’ll experiment with a variety of essay styles and writing development tools to translate writer-centered work into reader-centered work, with an emphasis on reader feedback, revision, and reflection. The class workshops will help you find your voice as a writer; improve your understanding of professors’ and other readers’ expectations for writing; boost your confidence in your own abilities as a reader, writer, and scholar; and help you design your own path to mastery of effective writing. This course is for all students who want to master a broad range of writing styles and situations, and it is of particular benefit to students who prepared for college outside the US.
Kathryn Tucker (Writing and Rhetoric)
CSP 23. LA TRANSITIONS: RACE, SPACE, AND PLACE IN THE CITY OF ANGELS.
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.
Regina Freer (Politics)
CSP 24. 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.
Andrea Hopmeyer (Psychology)
CSP 25. PRODUCTION, CONSUMPTION AND WASTE.
During this seminar, we will study capitalism not only as an economic system, but also as an ethos (or way of being). We will begin by examining a number of accounts of the emergence and functioning of the mechanisms of capitalist production and consumption. This will lead us to an exploration of the ways in which this transforms individuals, societies, and cultures. In particular, we will focus on the way in which waste and idleness are experienced as problems and then addressed. Students will be asked to consider how different configurations of these mechanisms and practices can together create conditions of existence for us. In the latter part of the seminar, students will be asked to identify the limits created by these conditions and to explore through research possible alternative modes of living and working.
Malek Moazzam-Doulat (Religious Studies)
CSP 26. 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.
Tom Slotten (Theater)
CSP 27. GREEK TRAGEDIES AND MODERN AUDIENCES.
Since the sixth century b.c.e., playwrights and audiences have returned over and over to the stories and characters, the dramatic structures and devices, and the complex layering of ideas first presented in the Theater of Dionysos. We will investigate the myths and the dramaturgy of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, Sophocles’ Elektra, and Euripides’ Orestes in contemporary translation as well as a number of reinventions, appropriations, and adaptations of these plays for audiences of today. What in our own cultural and political moment leads playwrights such as Charles Mee, Sarah Ruhl, Ruth Margraff, Steven Berkoff, Luis Alfaro, and Caridad Svich back to the ancient Greeks and their tragic themes? And what in those themes continues so powerfully to draw audiences more than 2500 years later? Students in this seminar will attend at least one performance of a modern adaptation of Greek tragedy.
Susan Gratch (Theater)
CSP 28. RESIST AND EXIST: MODERN LITERATURES OF RESISTANCE IN THE U.S. AND MIDDLE EAST.
When the Martinican psychiatrist Frantz Fanon suggested in The Wretched of the Earth (1961) that “decolonization is truly the creation of new men,” what did he mean? Who was the “new man”? the “new woman”? What happened and happens in the process of global decolonization? We will examine the representation of the emerging “new man” in novels and short stories by Native American, African American, Chicano/a, 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 Fanon’s concept of the “new man” while expanding upon and complicating his idea.
Amy Tahani-Madain (Core Program)
CSP 98. EXPERIENCING LOS ANGELES CULTURES. (1 unit)
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. (1 unit)
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.
Johnson Hall-McKinnon Center
- Mailing Address:
Occidental College (F-6)
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041-3314