In the fall 2015 seminars, students develop their analytical and writing skills in an intensive focus on topics drawn from a variety of academic disciplines and cultural perspectives.
Fall 2015 CSP "Lab" Courses
CSP 1, 2, and 3 are designated CSP “Lab” courses, experimental seminars (often team-taught) designed to engage their students critically and actively in synthesizing knowledge and ideas about an important topic. Students in CSP 1 and 3 will receive 8 units of credit (the equivalent of two courses); those in CSP 2 will receive 16 units. In these classes you’ll work closely with faculty with materials and approaches drawn 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.
To find out more about any of these three classes, please click on the course title.
The Struggle for Human Rights in Mexico: Realities.
After Mexico’s transition to electoral democracy in 2000, two alternative party (PAN) Presidents either failed to act in accordance with the transitional justice movements sweeping Latin America, or actually returned to mano dura (heavy-handed) military practices to battle the drug cartels. Consequently, as compared to South American countries, human rights violations in Mexico have increased rather than decreased since its transition to democracy. This was clearly the case when local police forces, on orders of a mayor, disappeared 43 students in Guerrero state in the Fall of 2014. But this class will do more by documenting both the realities and representations of ongoing human rights violations in Mexico since 1968.
The Struggle for Human Rights in Mexico: Representations.
Cultural production is central to the struggle for human rights. As cultural artifacts both conceptualize and memorialize social-political trauma, our class will take a close look at the struggle for human rights in Mexico as represented in film, literature and music.
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.
Students enrolled in this colloquium will not only get credit for the first year fall seminar requirement, but also will meet one of the Core Program's distribution requirements (United States). The CIS, which comprises your entire fall semester course load (16 units), is a unique opportunity to fulfill three requirements toward graduation (a Core writing requirement, the United States Core requirement, and the Intercultural Core requirement) and elective courses for three majors (CTSJ, Sociology, and Spanish). The prerequisites are a curiosity for learning about California’s cultures, a willingness to visit and learn from immigrant communities, a fondness for films and documentaries, and the enthusiasm and patience to work with children. Open only to first year frosh.
CSP 3. HEALTH AND HUMANITY. (8 units)
This interdisciplinary course will bring together the tools of history, economics and philosophy to analyze the concept of health and the practice of medicine. Students will learn how notions of health and well-being and institutions of medicine are culturally and historically bound, how they participate in a broad network of economic priorities and transactions, and how they are philosophically grounded in conceptions of morality, science, and humanity.
This is an 8-unit colloquium course. Students enrolled in this colloquium will earn credit for the first year fall seminar requirement and will also meet the Core Program's Distribution requirements for Pre-1800 and Global Connections. Students interested in pursuing careers in the health professions—whether as physicians, allied health workers, researchers, or policy experts—are especially encouraged to enroll.
Fall 2015 CSP Courses
CSP 4. FAMILIES IN FLUX: CULTURAL HYBRIDITY, INTERGENERATIONAL CONFLICT, AND THE CONTEMPORARY NOVEL.
In diasporic and postcolonial fiction, contemporary novelists often examine how cultural hybridity complicates identity: how people navigate the sometimes difficult experience of identifying with more than one culture. While the challenges of cultural hybridity certainly affect individual people in isolation, they can also have a profound influence on relationships between family members, including – and perhaps especially – those who belong to different generations. This course will use novels by Tsitsi Dangarembga, Gish Jen, Patricia Powell, Julia Alvarez, and Jhumpa Lahiri to examine how this linkage between cultural hybridity and intergenerational conflict is represented in contemporary fiction. In the process, our seminar will engage with a diversity of historical issues, from the influence of colonial education in Zimbabwe to the prejudice against Chinese immigrants in nineteenth-century Jamaica and Dominican immigrants in the twentieth-century United States.
How do we remember episodes of racial conflict and violence in the United States? In remembering and recounting the past, what is left out and what is included? What do these erasures and retellings suggest about how Americans have come to terms with the darker dimensions of their national past? This course explores these questions and more using a range of historical topics including North American slavery, the Mexican American War, Indian removal, continental expansion and overseas imperialism, Japanese internment, twentieth-century civil rights struggles, and finally, the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
CSP 6. PUPPETS ON FILM!
Puppetry is one of the oldest forms of performative art and has been used for (literally) thousands of years to explore and express what it means to be human. In this course, we will engage in a critical, philosophical, and psychological study of puppets on film, focusing in on the unique roles played by artificially-animated inanimate bodies in a medium whose greatest promise is realistic live action. Our readings and screenings will touch on diverse forms and techniques, from marionettes to shadow puppetry to ventriloquism, and they will span the history of cinema, from early silent experiments in stop-motion animation to the new digital technologies that are capable of turning the human body into either a puppet or puppeteer, such as cgi (computer-generated imagery) and motion capture.
CSP 7. THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON ART.
Art – be it visual, music, dance, or literature – is an extraordinarily powerful experience driving much of our behaviors. This class will explore our attraction to the arts touching on questions like, what is art? What factors shape our preferences? What happens in the brain of the beholder while experiencing a work of art? And, what happens in the brain of the artist during spells of creativity? To answer these questions, we will draw on various perspectives in cognitive science, introducing current and historical theories of art perception based in philosophy, psychology, museum studies, and neuroscience.
CSP 8. 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 9. 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.
CSP 10. 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, and Mexico has adopted important changes in its criminal trial procedures. 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 11. GENDER AND POP CULTURE.
From Beyoncé to David Beckham, from Girls to Mad Men, contemporary pop culture helps shape not only our understanding of what it is to be a woman or a man in the twenty-first century, but also our understanding of what it is not to meet the criteria for either of those categories. 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 television, film, music, advertising, print, and online culture, 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 12. 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 13. 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 14. THE AMERICAN DREAM: CRITICS AND TRUE BELIEVERS.
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 15. HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD, AND LIE, WITH MAPS.
“Wars of nations are fought to change maps. Wars of poverty are fought to map change.” Muhammad Ali.
Maps have powerful, sometimes outsized effects on people. Changes in mapping technology and geographic information will powerfully affect your future. In this course, you will develop and skills and appreciation for maps and map-like images. You will learn different mapping techniques, make your own maps using computer and internet-based tools, and interpret maps made by others. You will evaluate real and imagined spatial relationships, the psychology of maps, how all maps lie (they have to…) and how they are used as propaganda by examining topics including segregation, disease clusters, environmental quality, natural hazards, crime and safety, and metrics of sustainability.
CSP 16. W(H)ITHER THE GODS?
This course is a survey of the gods in Greco-Roman myth with a particular focus on the representation, function, and meaning of the gods. We will consider how and if these ancient gods have survived in modern contexts in order to deepen our understanding of them.
CSP 17. 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 we has 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 18. A GLOBAL HISTORY OF ANARCHISM.
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, Italy, England, Spain, Latin America, China, Japan, 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 19. BURNING UP THE SCREEN: SLAVERY AND EMANCIPATION IN FILM AND HISTORY.
Course Description: The 2014 Best Picture Oscar awarded to Twelve Years a Slave is just one sign that 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 Gone with the Wind, Beloved, and Sankofa, analyzing them in 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 experiences of slavery and we will analyze underlying issues of race, gender, violence, and struggles for freedom illuminated in feature films. The course begins with film and readings centered in US southern slave society and culminates with a comparison of Twelve Years a Slave to the historical narrative.
CSP 20. GREAT IDEAS AND HEALERS IN THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE.
From the Hippocratic Oath in ancient Greece to the sophisticated medical technologies of today, we will explore the work of female and male nurses, midwives, doctors and inventors, who devoted themselves to the art of healing through the ages.
CSP 21. 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 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. THE NEW CAMPUS ANTI-RAPE MOVEMENT.
This course examines political activism around sexual violence on college campuses in the United States. Students will analyze the causes and consequences of the campus rape epidemic, the history of activism around this issue, the contemporary legal and political landscape, new networked social movements, and best practices for addressing sexual violence on college campuses.
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 25. ACADEMIC LITERACY; ACADEMIC IDENTITIES.
This course begins and ends with what it means to develop an academic identity and one’s own academic literacy in the post-secondary institution. Our course explorations will include an analysis of your own literacy history as well as its intersections with race, class, economics, education and other interconnected aspects of life and culture. Ultimately, we will develop personal and collective theories about academic literacy’s integration with identity and as a social phenomenon. Our reading and writing tasks will investigate and complicate academic literacy as a powerful social activity and will help us develop understandings of writing and reading as social actions that contribute to personal and group dynamics and definitions. This course is designed to be collaborative and speculative as we build upon existing knowledge about academic literacy and value our own experiences as readers and writers.
CSP 26. IDENTITIES AND SOCIAL RELATIONS IN DIGITAL CULTURE.
As media pundits, technocrats, policymakers and other prognosticators of culture remind us daily, digital technology continues to broaden its significance in our lives at a rapid pace: from leisure to work; from the mundane to the spectacular; from the private to the public. Drawing from new media studies, information and communication studies, and cultural studies, this course will evaluate, historicize and critique various assessments of contemporary digital culture that range from techno-utopia to techno-dystopia. This course will situate the issues of identities and social relations beyond the familiar discourse of the “digital divide,” in order to deepen our ability to examine our individual and collective relationship to recent developments in digital technology. We will also draw from works of fiction and film to address the overarching question of the course: “What does it mean to be a ‘digital native’ in the current age of multiculturalism and information economy?”
CSP27. HIP & COOL: A STUDY OF DISTINCTION & EXCLUSION.
What is a hipster? The meanings of hip and cool, as well as hipsters and cool cats, have shifted through the years. They are categories within space, place, and time, contextualized within subcultures, and situated by social class, income, race, and various other demographics. This course will be an exploration of the past, present, and future of hip and cool. Learning will be grounded in academic and popular texts, and informed through ethnographic field investigations of the in situ production of the hip, the cool, and the hipster in Los Angeles.
Terri Anderson (Sociology)
CSP28. ROOTS/ROUTES IN OCEANIA.
Oceania is comprised of a “sea of islands” that crisscross an ocean that have been boundless for ages. It is within this context that art reinforces and acknowledges intersections between Oceanic communities. This course will consider the role of the visual in shaping pre-colonial, colonial, and postcolonial notions of tradition, culture, society, and identity amongst Pacific Island nations. An exploration of painting, sculpture, tattoos, music, clothing, and performance created by Pacific Islander artists will illuminate the ways in which the arts have served as commentary about indigenous interconnectivity and critique of global cultural contact as it appears in the media, tourist economy, and contemporary art market.
CSP 29. 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.
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 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
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