In the spring 2016 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 2016 CSP Courses
CSP 50. "IN THE PROCESS OF SHATTERING THEIR CHAINS”: MODERN LITERATURES OF RESISTANCE IN THE U.S. AND MIDDLE EAST.
The title of this course comes from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1961) in a hopeful overture for the decolonizing world. He says, “The peoples of the Third World are in the process of shattering their chains, and what is extraordinary is that they succeed” (34). During Fanon’s lifetime, there may have been some positive results from decolonization, but was liberation achieved? Fanon also focuses on the fact that “decolonization is truly the creation of new men” (2), but what does all of this mean? Who was the “new man”? the “new woman”? What does emancipation signify to this emerging agent? What happened and happens in the process of global decolonization? Using Fanon’s concepts as the theoretical basis of our class, we will examine the representation of the emerging “new man” in novels and short stories by Native American, African American, Chican@, 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 the notion of emancipation and to Fanon’s concept of the “new man” while expanding upon and complicating his idea.
Amy Tahani (American Studies)
CSP 51. TBA.
Raul Villa (English)
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. 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.
Larry Caldwell (Politics), Walter Richmond (Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture)
CSP 54. TBA.
CSP 55. RACIAL CROSSINGS IN 20TH CENTURY HOLLYWOOD.
This course uses Hollywood film from the silent era to the end of the 20th century to examine changing American attitudes to racial crossings of all kinds. The focus of our class discussions will be on how these films have created, shaped, or broken images of the raced other in America. With the films as our starting point for discussion and analysis, we will explore Hollywood presentations of passing for white, interracial romance, and mixed race characters. As a second semester course in the Cultural Studies Program, the development and exercise of critical thinking and writing skills will be central to all class assignments.
Adrienne Tien (American Studies)
CSP 56. CHINA IN A CHANGING 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 War, 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 57. 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.
Carey Sargent (Center for Digital Learning and Research)
CSP 58. RESEARCH SEMINAR: ENERGY, SUSTAINABILITY, PLANET, LET’S UNPACK THEM.
Webster’s Dictionary defines research as “Critical and exhaustive investigation or experimentation having for its aim the discovery of new facts and their correct interpretation… and presenting the investigator’s discoveries”. Clearly, research involves exploring the unknown, constructing understanding from the process, and communicating that result. Research that is not communicated is research that is not complete. Learning theory tells us that everyone creates their understanding from the experiences of their life. The application of these principles to this class is simple: the answers you find will depend upon the questions you ask, those questions in turn, depend upon the breadth of you knowledge, the experiences you value, and topics you bring to the conversation. Through the process of investigation and reflection, each person will construct a somewhat different understanding of the topic of energy, its sustainability, and the implication of it use for the planet. These understandings are not static, but evolve as your breadth and depth of knowledge expands, per Wilson. It is anticipated that your understanding will encompass a number of perspectives including science, technology, history, economics, literature, and politics.
Chris Craney (Chemistry)
CSP 59. TBA.
CSP 60. WE COULD BE HEROES: HERO NARRATIVES FROM THE ANCIENT PAST TO CONTEMPORARY TIMES.
The narrative of the hero’s journey has many iterations. From Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality to Bruce Wayne’s endeavors to save Gotham, the stories of men and women who overcome adversity in order to fulfill the promise towards greatness have fascinated us for several millennia. Sometimes these heroes are born; they are kings and queens or gods and goddesses for whom greatness is preordained. But often heroes are made, and these narratives show how the weakest among us can rise up and conquer great adversity in order to save humanity from destruction. This course explores the narrative of heroes and heroines from ancient times to the present. We will be covering a wide temporal span and our course materials will include both animated and live action films, as well as several readings from multiple literary genres, including epic poetry, short stories, and graphic novels. Together we will examine the path of the hero as we seek to define the nature of heroism and investigate the hero’s cultural and social significance.
Lisa Felipe (Core Program)
CSP 61. 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 62. DETECTIVE FICTION: INVESTIGATING OUR MODERN WORLD
Since the appearance of popular detective fiction in the 1840s, no genre has been more widely produced and consumed. From the continuing relevance of Sherlock Holmes to the super abundance of investigation dramas in television and film, the genre—both consciously and not—has come to define what it means to use that rational mind to break down and make sense of our world. This course will look critically at these stories of detection, from their emergence in the early stages of modernization to their enduring popularity today, so as to ask what the detective figure can tell us about our evolution into the present: from what it means to be a professional problem solver in the first place to what problem solving can do when confronted with the shifting grounds that seem to undermine the simple rationality to which investigation first appealed.
Devin Fromm (Core Program)
CSP 63. TBA.
CSP 64. ECONOMIC MARKETS: DO THEY WORK?
This course examines how economic markets work, and when and why they fail. If economic markets worked all the time, then we would never see any labor market discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. But we know discrimination exists, so markets fail! If economic markets worked all the time, then the costs of pollution in some industries would not exceed the sum of the wages and profits, but they do, so markets fail! In this CSP, we will use current research in behavioral economics to ask questions about "rational behavior" and to debate issues such as: labor market discrimination based on race, sex, and sexual orientation; environmental issues such as offshore oil drilling and climate change; enforcement and regulation issues focused around issues such as health, illegal immigration, and banking.
Bevin Ashenmiller (Economics)
CSP 65. 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 66. 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.
Sarah Ostendorf (English)
CSP 67. POET, POEM, WORLD.
This seminar will explore poetry and its purposes and effects. What are poems for? What do they do? How do they mediate between private and public realms, between poets and their readers, between the self and its world? Students will be encouraged to develop theoretical responses to questions like these, and to become familiar with the responses of other writers and thinkers who have addressed them. But the main focus of the course will be on experiencing poems, discussing them, and writing analytically and clearly about them.
John Swift (English)
CSP 68. OBJECT LESSONS: AN INTRODUCTION TO EAST GERMAN (MATERIAL) CULTURE.
Objects tell stories--stories about people, their history, and their culture. Building on practices traditionally employed by archeologists and ethnologists, the discipline of Material Studies explores artifacts from any period or place to gather socio-political and cultural information. In this course, we will focus on the German Democratic Republic, a country that disappeared with the fall of the Berlin Wall after merely 40 years of existence. Working closely with the Wende Museum in Culver City, students will investigate different aspects of East German society based on objects from the museum’s collection. Literary texts and films will provide the context for our discussion of how material culture expressed itself and shaped (East) Germany during the Cold War era.
Katharina Von Ankum (Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture)
CSP 69. NATURE WRITING AND THE ENVIRONMENT.
This course examines classic and contemporary texts categorized as nature writing. We will explore three themes in close readings of these texts: 1) nature writing as literary genre, 2) nature writing as development of spiritual consciousness, and 3) nature writing as expression of ecological/environmental concern. Focusing on North America, we will give special attention to California and the West, as we review the connection between nature writing and emergent environmental ethics in a time of environmental crisis. This writing seminar will draw from the skill and power of nature writing to advance our own efforts at effective writing.
D. Keith Naylor (Religious Studies)
CSP 70. 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 71. PARIS IN LITERATURE AND FILM.
Paris has been called “The City of Light,” the “Capital of Europe,” “Capital of the Nineteenth Century,” and “Gay Paree.” Why is Paris such an iconic city? What role has it played in major world events? How has its influence expanded throughout the centuries? This course will trace the cultural history of Paris and its development from ancient times to the contemporary period through fiction, essays, poetry, and film. Examining French classics by Molière, Alexandre Dumas, and Victor Hugo, contemporary works of fiction by authors such as André Breton, Patrick Modiano, and Leïla Sebbar, as well as films by Jean-Luc Godard and Luc Besson, we will consider the transmutations of Paris as an urban space, its evolving identity, and global impact.
Lauren Brown (Spanish and French Studies)
CSP 72. 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 73. 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)
The courses listed below allow students to earn 1-unit of credit while learning about mathematics and science (CSP 96), the culture of Los Angeles (CSP 98), or the arts (CSP 99). CSP 98 and 99 can be taken by all Occidental students, while CSP 96 is only open to first-year students. Please note: These 1-unit courses do not fulfill the first-year CSP seminar requirement.
CSP 96. EXPERIENCING MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE
This course is designed to expose students to mathematics and science, to broaden their awareness of the research questions asked in those disciplines, and to introduce skills and ideas scientifically shown to improve persistence in college, especially in science and math majors. Students may acquire one semester unit of credit for attending eight on-campus events during a semester. Certain seminars and class meetings will be mandatory; students will select additional events from a list of events provided each year by the instructor. A short two-page paper is due on the last day of class.
This course is graded CR/NC only and will not meet specific Major/Minor or Core requirements. Students may take this course twice, for a maximum of two units being applied toward graduation. Prerequisite: open only to first year frosh.
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
- Mailing Address:
Occidental College (F-6)
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041-3314