In the spring 2015 seminars, students continue to hone critical thinking and writing abilities, while designing and carrying out significant research projects under the direction of their faculty instructors.
Spring 2015 CSP "Lab" Course
CSP 50 is designated CSP “Lab” courses, team-taught experimental seminar designed to engage their students critically and actively in synthesizing knowledge and ideas about an important topic. In this class you’ll work closely with faculty from more than one academic field, developing new, cross-disciplinary perspectives; you’ll engage in intensive reading, writing, and discussion; you’ll learn to think and work collaboratively, as a member of a diverse intellectual community.
CSP 50. 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.
David Kasunik (Music), John Lang (Sociology)
CSP 51. DOCUMENTARY DISCOURSE.
Provides students with writing instruction situated in documentary film. For better or worse, documentary has become one of the main ways we access truth today. We will write about a variety of non-fiction films, treating them as examples of visual argument. Some possible themes include mockumentary, visual anthropology, rockumentary, queer documentary, propaganda films, and many others. Scrutinizing the truth-telling techniques of the directors, we will test the limits of non-fiction filmmaking. Students will come away from this class understanding what makes for effective arguments, both in their own writing and in documentary film. Effective composition will result from an awareness of the importance of audience, voice, context, and argument.
Paul Casey (Writing and Rhetoric)
CSP 52. 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)
CSP 53. BECOMING AMERICA: THE SHORT STORY.
Following the revolution, America gradually evolved a collective self-image different from that of Europe. One way to track this construction of our national identification is through one of our favorite media of representation, the short story. This class will trace the development of the short story from the early 19th century to recent post-modern versions. While the chronological expanse of our seminar will be vast, our readings each week will be relatively brief. Our focus will be on intensive understanding and responsible contextualization and analysis. While we will attempt to master the basic elements of narration theoretically, we will also try to understand the specific innovations of each writer as they contribute to the formation of our collective mythology.
Dan Fineman (English)
CSP 54. REMAKING THE WORLD: THE EUROPEAN REVOLUTIONARY TRADITION.
This seminar traces the development and history of the revolutionary tradition in modern European history. We begin with the paradigm shifts of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution and follow their legacy and impact through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The course focuses on the revolutions and revolutionaries that changed the way people understand their relationship to politics, society, culture and one another. We will ask a number of questions, including: what sparks a revolution? Who makes a revolution? When do they succeed and when do they fail? We look closely and critically at the effect of European ideas and practices of revolution -- from the French Revolution to the student revolts of 1968 -- upon American democracy.
Marla Stone (History)
CSP 55. ANIMAL ETHICS.
Humans eat some non-human animals, keep others as pets, perform scientific experiments on others, keep some in zoos, and hunt others for both food and sport. The complex relationship between human and non-human animals raises a host of important moral questions: What do we owe to non-human animals? Do animals have rights? Are we morally permitted to eat/experiment on/keep in zoos/hunt non-human animals? What is the relationship between concern for non-human animals and concern for the environment?
Clair Morrissey (Philosophy)
CSP 56. REINVENTING THE “ART OF THE WEST” AT THE AUTRY: CURATION AS CULTURAL PRACTICE.
In the summer of 2013, the Autry opened a new set of galleries that joined works of art from the collections of the Autry and Southwest Museums. The newly renovated galleries embody a dramatically different story about the “Art of the West” than has been offered since the museum opened in 1988. The exhibition integrates works by Native American, Euro-American, Hispanic and other artists within spaces previously given over to paintings, sculptures, and objects of material culture by European American artists. Students in this seminar will learn about how scholars have traditionally written the art history of “the American West”, while simultaneously considering the impact that multiculturalism and more community-entered museum practice has had on institutions like the Autry. In this course, students will interact with Autry Curatorial, Library, and Education department staff; conduct research on individual objects on view in the Autry’s exhibition; and create a collaborative digital project demonstrating the scope and significance of that research.
Amy Lyford (Art History and Visual Arts)
CSP 57. KNIGHTS, MONSTERS, SORCERERS, AND SARACENS: IDENTITY AND ALTERITY IN THE ROMANCE GENRE.
Though the idea of the romance narrative today often calls to mind tawdry love stories featuring heaving bosoms and uncontrollable passions, earlier examples of the genre tell different stories: sprawling, episodic narratives of chivalry, crusades, the supernatural, and yes, occasionally even love. This course will explore questions of identity and otherness in romances from the Middle Ages through the present day. Beginning with medieval romance—the ancestor of the modern-day novel—we will examine others and outsiders in these texts, assessing the function of characters who are marked by a difference in nationality, race, religion, or body. What do figures such as the Sultan of Babylon, the Green Knight in King Arthur’s court, and the recurring “loathly lady” represent, and what do they say about the cultures that created them? How can we understand the relationship between sameness and otherness, identity and alterity, through these figures? Readings will include medieval texts, a Gothic novel, and contemporary variations on the genre such as the Harry Potter books.
Sarah Ostendorf (English)
CSP 58. 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 (Core Program)
CSP 59. FROM REVOLUTION TO CATASTROPHE: CONTEMPORARY NARRATIVES OF UPHEAVAL.
The 20th and 21st centuries have seen and continue to see the reoccurring, often violent upheavals, which in the most fundamental ways, have come to define who we are and how we interact with each other. These upheavals can take the form of revolutions as people challenge the status quo and shift the seat of power in the effort to build better realities for themselves. From Tiananmen to Tahrir Squares, while always fraught with hardship, this process can be a peaceful one. However, too often we must bear witness to the catastrophic consequences that come with the aftermath of the revolutionary process: the displacement of thousands from their homes, the continued violence upon the innocent, and the collapse of economies that leave regions in turmoil for years to come. In the specter of these upheavals, how do we make sense of the devastation? How do we work through the trauma? How do we attempt to reclaim our humanity despite the brutality? These are just some of the questions this course will be grappling with as we explore film and literature set in places that have seen major upheavals, among them the U.S., Cuba, Iran, South Africa, Japan, and Pakistan. Together will examine how people’s lives are shaped by the catastrophic events that precede or follow revolutionary struggles, and consider the role of these cultural productions in representing these experiences.
Lisa Felipe (Core Program)
CSP 60. THE DEMOCRATIC IMAGINATION.
Few political ideas have engaged the public imagination with as much moral force and political complexity as democracy has since the classical period. This course is an exploration of the ideal of democracy in the political imagination of prominent philosophers, politicians, activists, and artists from ancient Greece to the present. The aim of the seminar is to introduce students to major themes in the study and experience of democracy: the balance between liberty and equality; pluralism and difference; membership and exclusion; moral versus political sources of legitimacy; radical versus deliberative democracy; democracy and war; democracy and social justice; and the relationship between democracy and the humanities. Democracy’s appeal and inclusive functioning stem from the way in which the pursuit and struggle for, and the continual elaboration of, democratic ideals reflect and speak to the multiplicity of voices and experiences in society. This course introduces students to the lives and circumstances that account for the evolution of democracy as both a political form and an idea in the modern imagination.
Huss Banai (Diplomacy and World Affairs)
CSP 61. 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 (Core Program)
CSP 62. THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX.
Americans are simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by prisons, prisoners, and prison life. A consistent reminder of this fascination is the proliferation of an array of reality TV programs exposing life behind prison walls and the popularity of fictional programs and movies about prison life. This course transcends the voyeuristic obsession with prisons and takes a meaningful look at the reality of imprisonment. My personal contact with prisons and prisoners during my years as a public defender and prisoners' rights advocate has taught me that the prison population exists outside of the democratic sphere. This experience has afforded me a deeper appreciation and understanding of core democratic principles of freedom, civil liberties, human rights and equal protection and has energized me to advocate for those principles on behalf of disenfranchised individuals and communities. I believe that students who study incarceration will develop a greater appreciation and understanding of broad democratic principles.
Lisa Holder (Core Program)
CSP 63. THE TRICKSTER IN CHINESE NARRATIVE.
An archetypical character appearing in myths, folk tales, religious texts, and literature, the trickster ironically transgresses cherished social conventions and beliefs in order to create new or reaffirm existing conventions. This seminar will first examine the trickster as a literary motif and question how such a construct can limit our understanding of the trickster of specific times and places. We will then explore how Chinese writers used the trickster to challenge literary and cultural norms in a variety of texts, including historical, religious, and philosophical texts; literary and folk tales; and the Ming-dynasty novel, Journey to the West, featuring the naughty Monkey King, Sun Wukong.
Andrew Miller (Core Program)
CSP 64. GENDER, LABOR, AND THE WORK OF ART: WOMEN ARTISTS IN TRANSNATIONAL AMERICAN FICTION.
Although portrayals of traditional “women’s work” or domestic labor are common in transnational American literature, a variety of diasporic women writers living part-time or full-time in the United States have published fiction that complicates this conception of women’s labor. In the work of authors such as Gayl Jones, Ntozake Shange, Jamaica Kincaid, Edwidge Danticat, Cristina García, Anita Desai, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, female characters emerge whose artistic identities are inseparable from their work lives. This course will examine recent novels, novellas, and short stories in which women painters, photographers, singers, instrumental musicians, dancers, and writers seek to make artistic production their vocation, embracing it as an alternative to domestic labor. In the process, our seminar will consider the unique challenges facing women artists working in a variety of mediums and a range of socioeconomic contexts, both in the United States and abroad.
Suzanne Roszak (Core Program)
CSP 65. 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 66. THE EXPERIENCE OF WAR.
This seminar will study and reflect on the literary, filmic, and historiographic descriptions of wars in the 20th and 21st century, with an emphasis on WWI, WWII, the Vietnam War and the recent war in Iraq. How are the reasons for "going to war" presented, who promoted them? Who fought against the wars? Why were the voices of the opponents not heard? How are the dead and the victims commemorated? Do we learn from wars and are they still accepted as "natural" events? What are the limits of re-presenting wars in literature and film?
Juergen Pelzer (German Russian Cultural Studies)
CSP 67. RENAISSANCE INDIVIDUALS.
Experience the European Renaissance of the 14th through 17th revival, artistic and scientific innovation, religious reform, and global exploration. Consider the relationship of contemporary “individuality” to the characteristics of men and women of early modern times. Films will highlight the multi-varied individual, like the courtesan and poet Veronica Franco, as well as the confrontation between artist Michelangelo and military pope Julius II. A source reader will provide practice in analyzing texts, as well as objects of material culture, in an age of encounters between cultures. For a research-based essay utilizing evidence from the times, each student will focus on two individuals in a field of the student’s interest such as politics/diplomacy; court life; sexuality/gender; crafts and the arts; reformation in religion; scientific experiment and enlightenment; mapping the globe; or travel and encounter. Learning collaboratively, students examine the lives of a diversity of men and women and the controversies their lives provoked.
Maryanne Horowitz (History)
CSP 68. 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 69. 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.
Jennifer Piscopo (Politics)
CSP 70. MAPPING RELIGIOUS IDENTITIES: RACE, PLACE, AND EMPIRE.
How do particular spaces invoke a certain sense of religious identity? What makes a place sacred or holy? How does the inside of a temple or Cathedral cause someone to behave differently than they would in the quad of Occidental? Scholars have become interested in the ways spaces, both real and imagined; have the potential to make meaning for many people. This course introduces students to the concepts of space and place and how they relate to religion. We will read primary sources from a variety of religious traditions which demonstrate the deployment of religious languages, rituals, and spaces, from antiquity, to the present. In doing so we will consider religious identities as new geographies and in this way, map the way space and place contribute to the broader forces of empire, globalization, and multiculturalism.
Peter Mena (Religious Studies)
CSP 71. 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)
CSP 72. EXISTENTIALISM.
Existentialism is a philosophy that grapples with the problem of human freedom and moral choice in a world that often seems devoid of transcendental meaning or purpose. In this course we will read literary and philosophical texts from the French, German, Hispanic, and Russian existentialist traditions, and will explore the structures and possibilities of consciousness, knowledge, desire, imagination, aesthetics, ethics, and political commitment. Authors studied will include Albert Camus, Fydor Dostoevsky, Franz Kafka, Eduardo Mallea, Ernesto Sábato, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Leo Tolstoy.
Robert Ellis (Spanish and French Studies)
CSP 73. ISSUES OF SPANISH IN THE U.S.
This course discusses issues surrounding the Spanish language and Spanish-speaking communities in the United States. The course focuses on the connection between language and culture, and addresses the social issues surrounding the status of Spanish in the United States, specifically language attitudes and ideologies, language policy, bilingualism and bilingual education. We will challenge common beliefs surrounding language and bilingualism, and its effect on Spanish speaking communities in the US.
Mary Johnson (Spanish and French Studies)
CSP 74. THEATER ABOUT THEATER.
It can be argued that, since the Renaissance, theater artists have been communally and delightedly inspired by a certain subject: themselves. From the plays within Shakespeare's plays A Midsummer Night's Dreamand 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 75. 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 (Core Program)
CSP 76. FROM THE UNDEAD TO THE ALREADY DEAD: VAMPIRES, ZOMBIES AND MONSTERS IN LITERATURE AND FILM.
The course will consider the ways in which such books as Frankenstein andDracula and such films as Night of the Living Dead and , 28 Days Later complicate the distinction between the living and the dead, and the human and the inhuman. What are the consequences when certain individuals or, increasingly, groups (or even populations) are declared, despite appearances, undead or already dead rather than living? In what ways are such declarations tied to the use of violence and deadly force? We will take as our starting point philosopher Giorgio Agamben's assertion that one of the central political categories of modernity is that of homo sacer, the individual who can be killed with impunity.
Warren Montag (English)
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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