Spring Seminars approach topics from a global perspective, incorporate the writing of research-based essays, mastering the skills necessary for the location of relevant materials (in both print and electronic media), constructing evidence-based arguments, and utilizing the conventions of academic discourse.
CSP "Lab" Courses
CSP 50 and 51 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 learn to think and work collaboratively, as a member of a diverse intellectual community.
This interdisciplinary study of European culture will examine and analyze material from literature, philosophy, science, medicine, religion, the arts, and political theory. We will consider, in their historical context, such figures as the authors of the Hebrew Bible, Homer, Sappho, Hippocrates, Sophocles, Thucydides, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, the authors of The New Testament, St. Augustine, figures in medieval Islamic science and medicine, Machiavelli, Luther, Calvin, Copernicus, Kepler, Queen Elizabeth, Galileo, Descartes, Locke, Newton, Defoe, Voltaire, Rousseau, Mozart, Wollstonecraft, Napoleon, Charlotte Corday (bathtub murderess of the French Revolutionary leader Marat), Mary Shelley (author of the original Frankenstein), Balzac, Marx, Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Nietzsche (and his claim that “God is dead”) Freud, Woolf, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Gandhi.
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 Regional Studies/Europe. For more information, visit the course page.
Nina Gelbart (History), Roger Boesche (Politics)
CSP 51. 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. For more information, visit the course page.
David Kasunic (Music), John Lang (Sociology), Carmel Levitan (Cognitive Science)
CSP 4-unit Seminars
CSP 52-72 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 52. THE RUSSIAN EXPERIENCE.
The Russian Experience focuses on the enigma and riddle known as “Rus”, “Russia”, “The Russian Empire”, “The Soviet Union” and “The Russian Federation”. This strange land has been a combination of great extremes: West and East, blinding poverty and dazzling wealth, great talent and shocking brutality. The course focuses on the period of Russia's explosion onto the world stage both politically and artistically, beginning with the reign of Alexander I, the Napoleonic Wars and the Decembrist Revolt, and following the development of Russian society and the Russian/Soviet State through the 19th and 20th Centuries, up to the current post-Soviet Russian Federation. There will be equal emphasis on internal politics, the arts, and international relations.
This is a 4-unit course with two linked seminar sections.
Walter Richmond (Russian), Larry Caldwell (Politics)
CSP 53. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT AND THE KILLING STATE.
Why does the United States continue to use the death penalty when nearly every other industrialized Western nation in the world has abolished its use? What explains the persistence of America’s contentious commitment to capital punishment? When the state kills, who wins? These questions will guide our exploration of the death penalty’s past, present and future. Using various historical, legal and social perspectives, we will examine the shifting rationales and nature of contemporary death penalty debates; cross-national public opinion; racial disparities and the historical legacy of lynching in America; the social and personal impacts of executions; and contemporary problems with the death penalty’s current application (e.g., wrongful convictions, sentencing disparities).
Danielle Dirks (Sociology)
CSP 54. MAGICAL REALISM AND THE FANTASTIC IN LATIN AMERICA.
How do Latin American writers approach the question of the supernatural? What makes a work “magical realist”? Why are Argentinean writers Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and the Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi considered practitioners of the fantastic short story, whereas Alejo Carpentier (Cuba), Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia), and Isabel Allende (Chile) are called magical realist? Is there a regional (Caribbean and MesoAmerican) aspect to magical realism? Is there an urban aspect to the fantastic? How are irony and humor used by the fantastic and magical realist writer? This course will be attentive to how the use of Western and non-Western myth, popular folklore and Latin American popular Catholicism, European surrealism and genealogical family novels shape magical realism, as well as to how the narration of a single, disturbing or fearful event tends to characterize the fantastic, but we will also discover to what extent “magical realism” is a very difficult category to pin down.
Adelaida Lopez (Spanish and French Cultural Studies)
CSP 55. THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: PERSPECTIVES AND REFLECTIONS ON CHILDHOOD.
This is a team-taught 4-unit seminar supported by the Keck Undergraduate Research Program.
Using a variety of methods, including historical, literary, and psychological, this co-taught course will investigate the multiplicity of ways in which childhood has been and is conceived from the 18th century to the present. The course will explore questions such as “what is the role of innocence in defining childhood” and “what is the role of imagination, truth, and fantasy in childhood development”? Students will conduct research regarding how digital technology shapes the early literacy of children by writing their own digital children’s story and assessing how actual children in the Childhood Development Center respond to digital texts.
Adrianne Wadewitz (Center for Digital Learning and Research) and Heather Banis (Psychology)
CSP 56. DOCUMENTARY DISCOURSE.
“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. Along the way we will analyze particular sub-genres within documentary history, scrutinizing the truth-telling techniques of the directors. 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.
Paul Casey (Writing and Rhetoric)
CSP 57. RENAISSANCE INDIVIDUALS.
Experience the European Renaissance of the 14th through 17th centuries—an age of classical revival, religious reform, and global exploration. A book of almost 100 concise biographies—Renaissance People: Lives that Shaped the Modern World—introduces students to the daily lives of a diversity of men and women and the controversies their lives provoked. 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. Together students will share the evidence upon which scholars re-interpret the past to meet concerns of our present world.
Maryanne Horowitz (History)
CSP 58. REIMAGINING THE “ART OF THE WEST” AT THE AUTRY: CURATION AS CULTURAL PRACTICE.
This seminar is supported by the Keck Undergraduate Research Program.
In the summer of 2013, the Autry will open a new set of galleries that joins works of art from the collections of the Autry and Southwest Museums. The newly renovated galleries will offer a dramatically different account of the “Art of the West” than has been offered since the museum opened in 1988. The new gallery structure will integrate works by Native American, Euro-American, Hispanic and other artists within spaces previously given over to paintings, sculptures, and objects of material cultured by European American artists. Students in this seminar will be asked to focus on and learn about both the history of the Museum’s engagement with, and promotion of, an “Art of the West.” At the same time they will consider the transformation of the historical and curatorial goals of the museum by focusing on the re-invention and re-narration of the Museum’s art collection underway in 2013. Our seminar group will also have the opportunity to collaborate with an Autry Museum Curator throughout the semester.
Amy Lyford (Art History and the Visual Arts)
CSP 59. CHINA IN A GLOBALIZED WORLD: FROM THE OPIUM WAR TO POST-MAO REFORMS.
This course studies China’s cultural, political and social development in a global setting from the early 19th century to the present. It delves briefly into China’s historical background prior to its opening to the Western world forced by Britain in the Opium Wars, before exploring the profound changes brought by globalization. Western influences in China, from Christianity to Marxism, will be examined with a focus on key events such as the Taiping Rebellion, Boxer Rebellion, Xinhai Revolution, May 4th Movement, Communist Revolution, and China’s recent rise as a global power. Students will gain a unique perspective from which to understand the consequences and impact of globalization on our rapidly changing world.
Xiao-huang Yin (American Studies)
CSP 60. 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 61. 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.
Raul Villa (English and Comparative Literary Studies)
CSP 62. REIMAGINING FAMILY.
We will explore the alternative family structures depicted in contemporary British and U S novels. Among the novels we will read are: Angela Carter, The Magic Toyshop; Don DeLillo, Mao II; Louise Erdrich, Tracks; ,Nick Hornby, How To Be Good; Jamaica Kincaid, Annie John; Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior, and Anne Tyler; Saint Maybe; and Alice Walker, The Color Purple.
Jean Wyatt (English and Comparative Literary Studies)
CSP 63. UTOPIAN VISIONS.
This course will explore the various literary, artistic, cinematic, and philosophical manifestations of utopian thinking in history, especially in Europe and the United States. We will start with two famous texts which were to become literary models for presenting an ideal (or, at least, improved) society: Plato’s Republic and Thomas More’s Utopia. Along with these classics, a wide spectrum of modern utopias will be examined, including feminist utopias (like Perkins’ Herland) and ecological utopias (like Callenbachs Ecotopia). We will also look at examples of Science Fiction and literary and cinematic dystopias.
Juergen Pelzer (German)
CSP 64. 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.
Thaddeus Russell (History)
CSP 65. 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.
Simeon Pillich (Music)
CSP 66. READING THE REAL.
This class will examine various literary and filmic strategies of representing reality. Both persistently elusive, and decidedly material, the notion of the real has provided one of the most compelling challenges to artists and theorists alike. Over the course of our discussions we will consider what is meant by the notion of the real as it is deployed in diverse historical and theoretical contexts. Where appropriate, we will situate our understanding of theories and representations of reality within the specific political formations to which they correspond. We will juxtapose realist texts with those that deliberately distort traditional understandings of reality. We will read literature from a range of genres including social realism, magical realism, and surrealism. Additionally, we will analyze visual texts from the global new wave, Bollywood, and contemporary reality television. Occasionally, we will supplement our fictional texts with theoretical materials which consider the ways in which realities are socially produced.
Leila Neti (English and Comparative Literary Studies)
CSP 67. 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.
Lauren Brown (Spanish and French Studies)
CSP 68. PERFORMING PERFORMANCE.
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.
Laural Meade (Theater)
CSP 69. 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.
Edmond Johnson (Music)
CSP 70. 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.
Paul Nam (History)
CSP71. 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 (standardized tests, classwork, disciplinary scholarship), personal writing (personal statements, cover letters, statements of purpose), professional writing (memos, proposals, reports), journalism (stories, reviews, commentary), and creative writing (blogs, fiction, non-fiction, genre fiction, poetry). 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. Whether you were an excellent writer in high school, a writer who hated the formulas of high school essays who wants to reclaim your connection to your writing, or a writer whose exposure to conventions of academic writing was limited in high school, this workshop-focused course can 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 72. JUSTICE PERFORMED: THE FEEDBACK LOOP BETWEEN LAW AND PERFORMANCE
This course addresses the fluid boundary between law and performance. We will think through how performances of law influence legal practice and vice versa. We will also interrogate how theater provides an alternative site for the performance of justice – one that may satisfy needs that go unmet in state and federal courts. To do this we will not only attend an actual trial at a Los Angeles courthouse, but we will also study past trials and their dramatizations, such as the Scopes trial and Inherit the Wind, the McCarthy hearings and The Crucible, the trials of Oscar Wilde and Gross Indecency, and the 2010 federal legal battle against California's Proposition 8 and Dustin Lance Black’s play 8 -- to name a few. We will put these plays and trial transcripts into conversation with contemporary theater, performance and legal criticism, while also thinking about how our own needs and impressions of justice have been, or can be, staged in and through performance.
Sarah Kozinn (Theater)
CSP 73. ENERGY, SUSTAINABILITY, AND THE PLANET.
This broad-ranging course will explore the science impacting the use of energy in our society as well as the sustainability of this practice on the planet. Case studies from both the developing and developed world will be the focus. This discussion-focused, writing-intensive course employs a scientific framework in considering four themes (1) fossil fuel energy sources and their use, (2) renewable sources, (3) consequences of energy consumption in our global society and (4) implications for sustainable development on the planet. In addition to a final paper, each student will also develop a 15-minute oral presentation on a scientific question related to one of the four key themes noted above. Students enrolling in this course should have completed at least one course at the high school level in biology, chemistry, and physics.
Chris Craney (Chemistry)
CSP 74. 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.
Carey Sargent (Center for Digital Learning and Research)
CSP 75. "ME-SEARCH" AND RESEARCH: COLLEGE ACCESS AND THE FIRST YEAR EXPERIENCE.
Students will be introduced to the study of higher education as it relates to the P-20 pipeline, college access, and the first year experience. Beginning with the larger historical purposes of U.S. higher education and the changing demographics of those who have access to college, this course will provide a space for exploring the disparate nature of our educational system as well as the intersection of sociological theories of race, class, and gender within college access and the broader college experience. Students will then be able to conduct an original empirical study using Occidental student survey data to better understand their own first year experience.
Hanna Spinosa (Core Program)
CSP 76. WOMEN, RACE, AND CLASS.
Is there such a thing as a “woman’s condition,” and can such a condition be explained by examining the economic dimensions of women’s history? Is the violence that people are disproportionately exposed to based on gender, race, sex, and sexuality only a tool in the production and reproduction of economic classes, or do these identities and experiences require an analytic framework that transcends economic relations? To tackle these questions, this course will consider the texts by Marx and Engels in relation to American, British, and Italian traditions of thought and activism that include feminists working in national and transnational Women of Color traditions. Student research papers will engage contemporary or historical issues expanding on these theoretical readings.
Heather Lukes (Critical Theory and Social Justice)
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.
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