Going Further

by Mary Shipp Bartlett

Going further

The interdisciplinary investigations begun in Core I continue — with sharper focus and in an array of course offerings — in Core II. The aim of Core II courses, often team-taught, is to challenge students and faculty to apply interdisciplinary methods to questions that require such an approach. Here is a sampling:

  • The Roar of the Lion: The Lives and Deaths of Animals. This course explores and historicizes how people have defined the boundaries between humans and animals in three critical moments: antiquity, the early modern, and today. Readings include philosophy, science, and literature and will explore issues around animal rights and capabilities, animal consumption, and the place of animals in society. Professors Ellen Finkelpearl, Jennifer Wernimont
  • Riotous Americans: Los Angeles and the Poetics of Unrest. This course focuses on three Los Angeles riots (“Zoot Suit,” Watts, Rodney King) with an eye towards understanding them as complex and multilayered “histories of the present.” By focusing on “riots,” we’ll explore how our built environments continue to produce and reproduce differential structures of class, race, gender, and citizenship. Professors Warren Liu, Rita Roberts
  • Nationalism and Culture. Cultural forms that both affirm and create a sense of national identity sustain the modern nation-state. This course begins with a study of contemporary national representations and excavates into the past to explore how music, visual arts, film, and other cultural forms from the last two centuries in Europe, China, and the United States represent and construct nations, prescribe their membership and identity, and encourage participation in their perpetuation. Professors YouYoung Kang, Juliet Koss

Core III courses are small seminars designed to foster innovation and collaboration among students and faculty. Students create and execute a significant investigation into an interdisciplinary topic. The course culminates in a self-designed project under the supervision of a single faculty member. Here is a sampling:

  • The Life Story. A coherent life narrative can create resilience and meaning for individuals at different stages of development. This course explores adult development through the readings/viewings of memoirs and life story narratives written at different points in development. These writings and films also explore the role that memory processes play in life stories. Additionally, students are paired with older adults from the community and assist them in developing and producing a life story narrative. Professor Stacey Wood
  • Keywords: the words we use and the ways we use them. The first part of the course focuses on “keywords,” that is to say terms which are central to many of the types of debate that we consider in Core I. Students are given an introduction to the methods of “historical semiotics” — a term coined by Raymond Williams to mean an approach based on the idea that the meaning of words is both diachronic and synchronic (that is at once historically associative and dependent on contemporary structures). They are then asked to consider the historical and current meanings of a whole series of significant terms — examples might include “individual,” “rights,” “identity,” “culture,” “society,” “material,” “gender,” “ecology,” and so on. The second part of the course is turned over to the students and involves their identification and analysis of their own “keywords” — the vocabulary they use to describe themselves, their relations to others, and the world they inhabit. Professor Tony Crowley
  • The Arts: Visions of Humanity. This course explores the visual and performing arts as a means of engaging with contemporary issues and debates surrounding themes dealt with in Core I, such as justice, belief systems, equality, rights, freedom, autonomy, and tolerance. The work of 20th and 21st century artists are examined as a way of illuminating concepts about human nature and human difference, both personally and on a more global scale. In the first part of the course, we examine how artists have historically, as well as more recently, responded to these issues. Students have the opportunity to research a particular artist’s work, as well as to create their own art work that focuses on an issue of particular relevance or importance to their own life experience. Class presentations are made on both projects, and students are also expected to lead class discussions with another classmate during the semester, as well as write additional papers on works discussed. Professor Gail Abrams


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