Course Offerings

Ortwin KnorrCourse taught by: Ortwin Knorr

Some of the most spectacular movies in film history are epic movies set in ancient Greece and Rome. "Toga movies" such as "Cabiria" (1914), "Ben Hur" (1959), "Cleopatra" (1963), and "Gladiator" (2000) were not only important milestones in film history, but still dazzle their audiences with gigantic sets, huge armies of extras, impressive action scenes, gorgeous costumes, and rousing music. In this course, we will learn to watch these and other "toga movies" closely and analyze them from many different angles, as films with a specific language and tradition, as historical narratives, and as reflections of and comments on contemporary culture.

Karen L. WoodCourse taught by: Karen L. Wood

The Grand Canyon of the Colorado is multi-layered – in many ways.  Geologically complex, historically contested, biologically diverse, it is a place at the center of competing claims and histories.  National park, sacred ground of the Hopis and the Zunis, wilderness area, archeological treasure, tourist attraction, and vital source of water for the desert southwest and beyond, Grand Canyon has historic, symbolic, economic and developmental importance that manifests in clashes of cultures, interests and communities.

This colloquium will explore Grand Canyon in its many aspects, noting its role in the rise of conservation movements, the development of the desert Southwest, and the struggle among various claimants to the land and the water, and will explore the question of how we understand wilderness and its uses.  Through reading, discussion and writing, students will explore questions such as:  What are the competing theories about how the canyon was formed, and why is there no scientific consensus? Which groups should have access to the Grand Canyon?  Tribes whose sacred ground lies within the canyon?  Nature enthusiasts?  Tourists?  River-runners? Commercial outfitters?  How should the fragile ecosystem be protected, while still allowing access?  What is the ongoing impact of mining in the canyon (and on the rim)?  Who owns the rights to the Colorado River, and how does a changing climate impact those water rights? We will explore these questions through texts that include geological studies, maps, archeological materials, conservation and wilderness writings, creation stories of the Zuni and Hopi peoples, virtual hikes, and a new backcountry management plan for Grand Canyon National Park, the first such plan issued since 1988.

Rachel Kinsman SteckCourse taught by: Rachel Kinsman Steck

'Camp' has been characterized as excessive, ostentatious, affected..., gay. It has been described as an aesthetic, sensibility, style, or taste where high art meets popular culture 'in' fashion. Camp is where the Tiffany Lamp meets Lady Gaga, where Judith Butler meets Susan Sontag, or where drag meets Patrick Swayze. Historically speaking, to 'read' camp is to 'know' - to finally be 'seen' within a culture that rarely 'looks.' This colloquium is an introduction to camp in its various forms. Like camp itself, we will bring together high theory and popular culture and explore our own presence and resistance within our readings of identity, performativity, and sexuality We will wrestle with such questions as: Do we always know camp when we see it? Who is able to participate in camp? Is camp always subversive?

Melinda ButterworthCourse taught by: Melinda Butterworth

In this course we will investigate a range of medical conditions classified as Contested Illnesses. Contested illnesses are those, ”where sufferers claim to have a specific disease that many physicians do not recognize or acknowledge as being distinctly medical” (Conrad & Barker 2010). Common examples are Fibromyalgia, Chronic Lyme Disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and disputes over the environmental causes of a number of chronic diseases. But why are some illnesses contested while others are not? What are the experiences of patients living with these illnesses, and how are their lives impacted? Why do some doctors consider these conditions to be bio-medically grounded, while others suggest that the illness has a psychological underpinning? Should an illness only be considered real if it is validated by a physician or laboratory test? How are these tensions ultimately negotiated, and by whom?

We will grapple with these questions by engaging a wide range of sources: academic texts, science reporting, personal blogs, and films. These sources, coupled with class discussions, will force us to consider, evaluate, and respond to multiple competing perspectives surrounding some of the most prevalent and highly debated contested illnesses today.

Miho FujiwaraCourse taught by: Miho Fujiwara

In order for us to effectively communicate cross-culturally, we must possess more than language skills. This course focuses on cross-cultural communication between Japan and the US to explain the similarities and differences between communication patterns in both countries. First, we will explore to what extent the differences in human behavior (specifically, language use) and perception is based upon culture. We will discuss how people view other cultures through the lens of their own cultural biases. Second, we will closely examine how Japanese cultural aspects affect their language use and communication styles, which may or may not be shared with Americans. We will study some Japanese cultural characteristics: the concepts of amae (self-indulgence), uchi-soto (insiders-outsiders), collectivism, and horizontal and vertical relationships in Japan. Then, we will learn how these concepts affect Japanese language and communication styles in terms of the use of honorifics, conflict management, back-channeling, underspecificity and indirectness. While examining these characteristics, we will also discuss how these communication styles could possibly influence cross cultural communication between Japanese and Americans.

Allison HobgoodCourse taught by: Allison Hobgood

What is “disability”? Why does defining disability matter, and how do we go about doing it? How is disability socially constructed? What is disability identity? How did the disability rights movement evolve? This colloquium explores growth over the past 20 years of U.S. disability rights and studies, and considers how cultural notions about dis/ability have shaped literature and been shaped by it as well. Literature consistently is obsessed with the disabled body, both as metaphor and actual subject—a testament to the degree to which disability has loomed in our larger cultural imaginaries in one way or another across centuries. Rather than merely cataloguing examples of disability in literature, we will use disability studies as a framework through which to examine core questions about disability, literature, culture, and the problems and opportunities arising at the intersections of all three. Readings and conversations will help us reframe our ideas about disability and disability history, question socially defined categories of normalcy and ability, and explore “disability culture,” especially as it is evidenced via art and literature.

Sandra BoteroCourse taught by: Sandra Botero

A Utopia is a vision of an ideal society with no crime, conflict or injustice--an imaginary good place in which the government, laws and social conditions are perfect. A Dystopia is the exact opposite: an imaginary dysfunctional society where fear and dehumanization are often the rule. Dystopias—like a zombie apocalypse or planet Earth after a hostile alien invasion—are often intended as a warning to the present and posterity. In this course, we will explore the ways in which science-fiction writers and filmmakers have imagined and represented dystopian societies. How do dystopias draw our attention to issues within our contemporary society? What can we learn from them about the positive and negative impacts of social inequalities, gender, race, technological change or nature and its transformation? To explore these issues, we will read, watch and engage with different dystopian science-fiction texts: from classics like Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” to the more contemporary “Mad Max: Fury Road”.

Haiyan ChengCourse taught by: Haiyan Cheng

The rapid emergence of the Internet and development of computing and information technologies have brought with them many new ethical issues. How do ubiquitous computing and networking affect our sense of moral responsibility in society? What does ethics require of us as computer users and developer of programs and internet content? In this course, we will study topics including ethics in information technology, computer and Internet crimes, privacy and anonymity issues, freedom of expression, and the impact of information technology on productivity and quality of life. Our collective goals will be to develop our own ‘Ten Commandments for the Digital Age.’ We will use Ethics in information technology by George Reynolds along with other scholarly articles and case studies such as wikileaks to explore the topics and questions raised.

Jeremy MillerCourse taught by: Jeremy Miller

When asked to consider the relationship between science fiction and psychology, Isaac Asimov wrote that “In science fiction, human beings are pictured as facing unusual situations, bizarre societies, unorthodox problems. The effort to imagine the human response to such things may cast light into the shadows in a new way, allowing us to see what had not been clear before.” This course will follow Asimov’s suggestion by exploring the intersection between science fiction and the science of mind, brain, and behavior. Broadly, we will explore the ways in which popular works of contemporary and classic science fiction can help us to understand human behavior and its causes. Along the way, we will look at examples of science fiction across media: from novels like “A Scanner Darkly” by Phillip K. Dick, to movies like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, to episodes of TV shows like “The Twilight Zone” and “Futurama”. In each case, we will examine a work of science fiction that poses an important question about human behavior (for example, “How would society change in a world with no genders?”). We will then discuss modern scientific approaches to answering these questions and attempt to integrate knowledge gained from science fiction’s speculative treatment of the question with a scientific approach to examining mind, brain and behavior.

Josh LaisonCourse taught by: Josh Laison

Games are everywhere in the world and pervasive in our lives. Just as we see games in so many different forms in the world, we can think and talk about games through many different academic lenses. From a mathematical standpoint, game designers balance complex interconnected systems of abstract rules, and players use probability and decision theory to plan a successful strategy. From an artistic standpoint, artists design beautiful and immersive graphical worlds, and players narrate stories and act out the characters who live in these worlds. From a philosophical standpoint, designers make their games to be fun, and the need for play is fundamental to our lives. From a societal standpoint, gaming societies reflect many problems that we see in the real world, and also give us tools to solve them. In this course we'll play and analyze complex designs like Agricola and Race for the Galaxy; mathematically strategic games like Backgammon and Hex; storytelling games like Ribbon Drive and But Wait, There's More; world-building games like League of Legends and Minecraft; social games like Two Rooms and a Boom and Space Team; games for change like Fold It and Superbetter. We'll design our own games, and think about what makes a good game, and why we should play them.

Barbara Stebbins-BoazCourse taught by: Barbara Stebbins-Boaz

As with every living creature, human beings grow, develop, and change within an environment that shapes us.   In our case, we are steeped in hidden chemicals that support contemporary lifestyles.  Over 80,000 man-made chemicals in use have never been tested for their effects on our health.  In this colloquium we will focus on those chemicals that mimic the hormones that are essential to development, fertility, immune function, and cognitive development.   Questions that we will address include: How do researchers discover these chemicals? What benefits or risks do they present? How do we know what is safe and what is harmful? What roles do industry, government, communities and the individual play in causing chemical exposures?   What actions can we take to promote environmental health in sustainable ways? We will approach these questions from many perspectives: ethical, economic, behavioral, spiritual, biological, sociological, psychological, political, and the unique experiences you bring to the course.  Our sources will include works such as Carson’s Silent Spring, and Steingraber's Raising Elijah, as well as documentaries such as Men In Danger: Environmental Effects on Fertility.  We will also take a field trip to a local homestead to experience the ethos of long-term stewardship of land and animals.


Stephanie DeGooyerCourse taught by: Stephanie DeGooyer

This course investigates the history of human rights from the perspective of literature. We will explore how rights are represented and narrated in novels such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace and how their founding declarations—famously, the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)—rely on fictional structures. While attending to some of the more politically contentious issues involved with human rights, such as the claim that universal rights lack political and legal enforcement, we will also consider: how does fiction help articulate and represent claims to universality? Why might a political philosopher turn to a work of fiction in order to make an argument about human rights? What can close attention to literary style teach us about the limitations of rights declarations? Authors to be read in this course include: Hannah Arendt, Edmund Burke, Thomas Hobbes, Thomas Paine, Mary Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft. We will also engage with legal scholars and human rights activists in the Salem area.

Cathleen L. WhitingCourse taught by: Cathleen L. Whiting

The extent of U.S. income inequality has become part of public discourse. “The 1% May Be Richer Than You Think,” proclaimed a 2014 Bloomberg News headline. Piketty’s 700-page Capital in the Twenty-first Century was a best-seller on Amazon. The topic is highly controversial. Are the rich the “fittest” in a social Darwinian sense? Are the poor “takers,” as a former Presidential candidate suggested, or do hard-working individuals, for reasons outside their control, lack access to jobs paying a living wage? Does a social safety net encourage laziness or help sustain people until they can get on their feet? This colloquium explores arguments and evidence surrounding U.S. income inequality and the related topic of poverty, and considers the question of appropriate public policy. Students will be introduced to relevant data sources and measures, and asked to use this information to evaluate the “free-market” economic model and its prescriptions regarding the role of government. Class projects will give students experience obtaining and using data to assess a public policy proposal.

Mary R. BachvarovaCourse taught by: Mary R. Bachvarova

The modern Western novel, an extended prose narrative telling of a hero's often life-changing experience, has its roots in the Mesopotamian epic of "Gilgamesh", first recorded on clay tablets ca. 2100 BC. The figure of Gilgamesh, a historically attested Sumerian king who chose friendship over family, who failed in his quest to achieve physical immortality but left behind one of the most enduring monuments to man's search for the meaning of life in the face of inconsolable grief, was a major influence on Homer as he composed the story of Odysseus. And, Homer's Odyssey, considered by many to be the "first novel" of Western civilization, has proved to be a formative influence on Western literature. We will explore how the development of the familiar literary form of the novel over the course of millennia was a product of man's developing sense of self, his/her changing understanding of his relationship to the divine and his/her desire to understand the purpose of life, through these two "proto-novels" and a series of key works such as Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment and Hermann Hesse's Rosshalde.

Stasinos Stavrianeas, Ph.D.Course taught by: Stasinos Stavrianeas

The development of the atomic bomb is perhaps the most significant scientific discovery and technological invention in the history of mankind. By focusing on the Manhattan Project, this course will explore the complex processes that underlie advancements in scientific knowledge as well as the political and social forces that shape human history. We will find out about the people whose decisions led to the development and use of the atomic bomb, and the ethical and scientific dilemmas they faced in era of social unrest and global conflict. Students are expected to be active learners by participating in discussions, carrying out small research assignments, and presenting reports on a variety of topics ranging from nuclear physics to world politics to ethical reasoning.

Héctor AgüeroCourse taught by: Héctor Agüero

The role of music in times of war is multifaceted. It has been used to celebrate victories, memorialize fallen heroes, and even protest the atrocities of war.  Through their art, composers and singer-songwriters have left an account of what they observed in their fragile world.  This course will explore music related to World War II, the Vietnam War, and the post-9/11 Iraq War.  One such work, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony can be described as a scream of pain, crying out against a relentless and inhuman force.  How was this composer able to produce such a work, under the severest government censorship, which immediately resonated with the common people and at the same time was praised by Soviet officials? Why do we find so many protest songs during the Vietnam era? What does music by U. S. troops in combat sound like?  All of these questions and others will be discussed in this course, accompanied by guided listening, films and articles on the subject.

Ellen EisenbergCourse taught by: Ellen Eisenberg

The overwhelming majority of Americans are either immigrants or the descendants of immigrants; it is no surprise that we frequently celebrate our identity as a “nation of immigrants.” Yet the social, cultural, economic, and political questions surrounding the arrival of immigrants, their legal status, and their incorporation into the nation have long been hotly contested. In this course, we will use history, social science, and media analysis to examine questions of immigration, past and present. What are the forces that drive individuals and families to leave their homelands? What challenges do they face as newcomers to a foreign land and how do they fare? How do Americans already here respond to newcomers, and how do these responses shape evolving immigration policies? Students will compare contemporary migrations to those of the past, and will engage the political debates on the topic arising during the 2016 election season.

Michaela KleinertCourse taught by: Michaela Kleinert

In this course we will investigate the often strange and sometimes surprising love/loathe/lunch relationship we have with non-human animals. Why do so many people love their pets but hate insects? Why do some people avoid meat for ethical reasons yet still eat fish? Is it even ethical to own pets that require meat to survive? And what would happen if animals gained awareness? These are just some of the questions we will investigate. Our discussions will be guided by the works of experts in the fields of anthrozoology (e.g. Hal Herzog) and animal science (e.g. Temple Grandin), as well as our own hands-on experiences in the field.

Ann M. NicgorskiCourse taught by: Ann M. Nicgorski

Today’s obsessions with selfies and individual representations in the visual arts and media is but the latest manifestation of the historical genre of portraiture, a distinct phenomenon in art that is especially sensitive to changes in the perceived nature of the individual in society. But what exactly is a portrait? And why are such images so gripping and, at times, unsettling? What is the nature and source of their particular power? This colloquium will address these questions through the study of concepts of representation in the visual arts, theories of portraiture through the ages, and a broad range of images from various periods and places, including paintings, sculptures, prints, cartoons, postage stamps, coins, medals, documents, photographs, and films. We will also read and discuss a number of portrait stories and novels, such as Nikolai Gogol’s “The Portrait” (1835), Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Oval Portrait” (1842), and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). These stories explore the subjectivities of sitter, artist, and viewer in relation to portraits that are shaped by special interests, power relations, gender, and class. Stories such as these also reveal the ways in which portraits can problematize the very act of seeing as well as the way subjectivity is constructed in the field of vision.

Kelley StrawnCourse taught by: Kelley Strawn

“It is the greatest truth of our age: Information is not knowledge.”

― Caleb Carr

In The Information Age, information is all around us and – quite literally – at our fingertips (to which our cell phones are so perpetually attached.) One dimension of this takes the form of a nearly non-stop inquisition about what we believe, feel, opine, or plan “to do:” Product surveys, snap polls, daily trackers, and, innumerable other forms of public survey. This class will focus on how, in U.S. society, we generate and use information and data obtained through public opinion polling and surveys – with a particular emphasis on the salience of this topic in a national election year: Who is producing public opinion polls and surveys? How can we tell the difference between “good” and “bad” information from polls and surveys? How do the media, candidates, and the general public use and consume results differently? How does the daily deluge of new information, particularly in an election year, shape and impact democracy in the U.S.? Most fundamentally, how do we turn this narrow type of “information” into “knowledge” about and “understanding” of ourselves and the societ(ies) in which we live?

Melissa Buis MichauxCourse taught by: Melissa Buis Michaux

Despite having a reputation as the “land of the free,” the United States currently incarcerates about 2.4 million men, women and children. Snapshot statistics like this one, however, do not capture the churn in jails, prisons and detention centers; nearly 12 million people cycle through local jails every year alone. The 2.4 million number also does not take into account how many people’s lives are affected by our extensive system of punishment, including those on parole or probation; children of incarcerated parents; and communities that support prison systems. Furthermore, racial disparities in arrests, sentencing, and prison time call into question our guarantees of equal justice and fundamental fairness. This colloquium explores three critical questions about the American punishment system: Why is the prison population so high? What are the consequences of such a vast system of control? What reforms, if any, should we pursue?

Roy PérezCourse taught by: Roy Pérez

HIV/AIDS appeared on the American landscape in the early 1980s as the syndrome travelled from the country’s racial and economic margins to more visible middle-class communities in San Francisco and New York City. The story of AIDS found a home in the theater, beginning with Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart in 1985, and perhaps no artistic medium has grappled as intimately and openly with the virus. A longstanding haven for LGBT artists and gutted by an incomprehensible number of losses, American theater has served as one of the primary vehicles for mourning, raging, and world-making in the midst of HIV/AIDS. Recent film releases like the major motion picture adaptation of The Normal Heart, staring Julia Roberts and Glee’s Jonathan Groff, urges us to return more attentively and critically to the historical and contemporary staging of AIDS. In this class we will read, view and perform plays that grapple with the drama of AIDS in order to pursue the following questions: What is AIDS and how did it become a “queer” problem? How have artists recovered a positive view of sexuality in the midst of stigma and paranoia? How do the racial, economic, and national backgrounds of writers and characters shape the way AIDS is experienced and staged? How has the staging of AIDS in the United States changed as fear of the virus wanes, associated as it is today with poor, distant, and racially “othered” populations? In our exploration of AIDS through art, we will draw from the field of performance studies, which asks us to see not just how art represents the crisis but how it remakes life with AIDS, transcending mere survival with wit, hope and vitality.

Monique BourqueCourse taught by: Monique Bourque

The modernization of Western science since the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century has emphasized accurate observation and the collection of verifiable data. However, the history of nature study abounds with illustrations and metaphors that reflect prior imagination and categorization: for example, Albrecht Dürer's 15th c. engraving of a rhinoceros that appears to be wearing armor, and 20th c. entomologists' descriptions of ants as both the 'perfect socialists' and as vicious and violent 'slave societies'. In this colloquium, we will examine how our expectations about the natural world literally shape what we see when we look at nature. We will use a wide range of primary sources including accounts of European expeditions to the New World, Renaissance and early modern anatomical atlases and medical texts, nineteenth- and twentieth-century field guides, accounts of North American explorations of the continent’s interior after the Louisiana Purchase, twentieth century nature documentaries and more, to explore the complex relationship between our understanding of nature, our passion for arranging nature into categories, and our representation of nature. We will ask, why is narrative so central to the practice of science, and how and why do ‘factual’ narratives reflect our social and political assumptions? How do our technologies affect our actual perception and experience? How do assumptions about human organization impact our appreciation for order and function in nature, and vice versa?

Jeanne ClarkCourse taught by: Jeanne Clark

Gandhi and Martin Luther King demonstrated the power and the perils of nonviolent resistance in promoting political and social change. This course will explore how varied nonviolent resistance strategies have been utilized in a one of the world’s most intractable conflicts, a conflict typically reported in the news as a “cycle of violence,” i.e. Israel/Palestine.  From slingshots to hip hop, tax resistance to tree planting, refusing military service to rebuilding homes, monitoring checkpoints to painting walls, milk production to cultural boycotts, Palestinian and Israeli activists have engaged a range of nonviolent methods to promote what they understand as a peaceful end.  The methods are often controversial; their “nonviolence” is sometimes disputed; their potential for efficacy is uncertain.

Together we will ponder what constitutes “nonviolence” and what may be required for such strategies to work. We will examine media coverage of the “cycle of violence” and consider what a “peace journalism” coverage of events might look like. We will review documentary accounts of nonviolent resistance groups.  We will evaluate the use of the social media by Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent activist groups. In addition to analyzing the nonviolent strategies employed by others, you will develop messages and strategies to promote your own chosen cause through nonviolent resistance.

Maegan Parker BrooksCourse taught by: Maegan Parker Brooks

From catalyst for the modern Civil Rights Movement to contemporary comparisons compelling Black Lives Matter activism, the death of Emmett Till is a rallying point for social change. Following his 1955 lynching in the Mississippi Delta, Till’s mother publicly displayed the battered corpse of her fourteen-year-old son—first through an open casket funeral in Chicago and later through the haunting image of his unrecognizable face circulated both nationally and internationally. Mamie Till-Mobley’s decision to “show the world what they did to my boy,” is credited with stirring the consciousness of a nation and sparking one of the most influential movements in American history. In the sixty years since Till-Mobley’s fateful decision, a wide range of media has kept her son’s memory alive in America’s collective memory. Through engagement with literary works, music, fashion trends, documentary films, as well as journalism and social media, our course will explore diverse artifacts constituting public memory about Emmett Till. Our exploration and analysis of these artifacts will be guided by theories drawn from the transdisciplinary realm of collective memory studies. These theories will encourage us to think critically about the selective and contestable nature of public memory, to consider the complex ways in which contemporary exigencies call forth particular versions of the past, and to recognize how those versions shape our understanding of the present.

William T. SmaldoneCourse taught by: William T. Smaldone

This course centers on the lives of historical figures whose actions transformed their worlds, including Jesus Christ, Martin Luther, Emma Goldman, Rosa Luxemburg, and Ernesto “Che” Guevara.  Using biography, autobiography, film, and other materials we will examine the forces that led these individuals to act in ways that gave meaning to their lives and to the lives of others. Among the questions to be explored are: What factors transform individuals and groups from passive acceptors of their condition or the condition of others into dynamic actors who make it their mission to effect radical change?  To what extent does the example of others drive a person to act?  How do familial and broader social contexts shape a person’s desire to mobilize others?  To what extent can an individual’s urge to transform the world come from within? By addressing these questions as they relate to individuals operating in very different historical circumstances, we will strive to better understand the stuff of which revolutionaries are made.

Tabitha KnightCourse taught by: Tabitha Knight

Most of us grew up watching Disney/Pixar movies and recall with great joy the hours we spent role-playing our favorite characters. These movies did more than just entertain us; they taught us lessons about fairness, determination, and how we should interact with the world. Stories have been told to children throughout human history as a way to socialize the next generation and teach them our values. In this course we will analyze the messages we ourselves have received and those we are passing onto the next generation in the context of children’s movies--including "The Lego Movie" (2014), "Wall-E" (2008), "The Incredibles" (2004), "Beauty and the Beast" (1991), "Despicable Me" (2010), and "Megamind" (2010). We will draw upon works, such as Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom and Karl Marx’s Capital in addition to readings on gender socialization and the hero/antihero to inform our critical inquiry into questions such as: What messages do these films convey about gender roles? How is capitalism portrayed in these films? What do these films teach us about the natures of villainy and heroism?

Sarah Clovis BishopCourse taught by: Sarah Clovis Bishop

In 1939 Winston Churchill described Russia as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”  He was not the first to puzzle over the nature of Russia—a country historically torn between East and West—nor was he the last.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia endured economic disaster and two ferocious internal wars.  The uncertainty of everyday life was matched by a crisis of national identity.  Russians found themselves in a new country, and were faced with pressing questions:  What does it mean to be Russian in a post-Soviet world?  How do you relinquish the security and beliefs of the past?  In the 2000s, the economic and political situation in Russia largely stabilized, but this stability fostered a new paradox—a nostalgia for the Soviet past alongside a desire for a new future.  Russia now faces a new economic crisis and an increasingly strained relationship with the West.  Where is Russia headed?  Back to its Cold War past or towards a new future?  Through a careful investigation of contemporary fiction, essays, and films, we will attempt to unravel this new riddle of Russia.

Melissa MarksCourse taught by: Melissa Marks

Why do humans tell stories?  We are all familiar with old wives’ tales, urban legends, or traditional folklore and fairytales that warn of specific dangers (Hansel and Gretel disobey orders and find themselves in mortal peril), encourage particular behaviors (the Hare is hasty and loses to the Tortoise in the end), or otherwise provide guidance in our lives (chicken soup cures colds). Can these stories put us in danger?  Could they keep us safe? Will they mislead us?  How can we tell the difference?  In this course we will investigate the intersection of storytelling and science.  We will closely read and analyze examples of stories and folklore from around the world and throughout history that now have scientific explanations.  We will also study how the stories of scientific discoveries are told, and how they influence human health, environmental policy, and science itself. 

Ana MonteroCourse taught by: Ana Montero

This seminar will provide an overview of the subjects of sexuality and eroticism in a historic period, the so-called Dark Ages, during which such subjects were prominently expressed in the arts. Adopting an anthropological and historical point of view, we will study sexuality and eroticism as represented in medieval art, literature, architecture, and philosophy, as well as in the private histories of everyday people in medieval Western Europe. Specifically, we will re-examine some of the traditional binary oppositions that modern perspectives impose on the medieval world, such as the sacred and profane, platonic love versus carnal desire, the ideal of beauty and stereotypes of ugliness or monstrosity, and chastity versus lust. Far from being obsolete, these dichotomies continue to have relevance in contemporary culture, especially when issues of censorship and the obscene arise. Ultimately, the aim of the course is to compel us to re-evaluate the stereotypes we hold about the Middle Ages.

Pamela MoroCourse taught by: Pamela Moro

The things in and around our daily lives shape the way we encounter the world.  They mediate between our senses and the environment, evoke memories, and shape our moods and physical comfort.  This colloquium will explore humanly-made things and our relationships to them from a variety of perspectives.  We begin with scientific background on stuff as physical material, then consider such questions as:  what do objects in our homes say about our relationships to other people?  What can we learn about the past or other cultures by studying material objects?  How might a consumerist economy be shaping our relationship to things, and is this process the same everywhere in the world? Readings will be drawn from such works as:  Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik, The Comfort of Things by Daniel Miller, Coffee Culture by Catherine M. Tucker, Fake Stuff by Yi-Chieh Jessica Lin, and at least one work of fiction.


Alexandra OpieCourse taught by: Alexandra Opie

For nearly two hundred years, artists have used photography for a broad range of creative endeavors, from meditations on composition and the beauty of natural elements to expressions of personal experience and bold social critique.  Bringing together practices of hands-on creative exploration, visual and textual analysis, this colloquium will investigate topics in fine art photography past and present. Within each area of focus, students will learn to analyze composition, technique and concepts involved in creating photographs. Through creative photographic work and critical writing, students will engage in dialogue with the ideas and methods of historical and contemporary photographers. No prior experience with photography or studio art is required though an interest in hands-on work is required.

Catherine A. CollinsCourse taught by: Catherine A. Collins

The campus, the city, the Willamette valley are a memory box of people, and events offering a visual record of who we are, what we have done, and what we value. The course examines monuments, architecture, formal spaces and informal, even temporary, markers of memory whether of achievement, grief, or historical record. We will study historic buildings and memorials, roadside shrines and cemeteries, public art, gardens, and war memorials. These visual stories of who we are celebrate, mourn and record institutions, people and events that mark Salem as place. We explore how memorialization makes space sacred. Visual memory records that we will study may affirm official narratives or offer evidence of a disputed past. By choosing what will be remembered in these ways – whether highly personal or easily forgettable and formulaic – we shape future understandings of who we are, even as we have been shaped.

Janet LorenzenCourse taught by: Janet Lorenzen

We will begin this course with the questions: How do some troubling issues become defined as social problems while others are ignored? Who decides and how are they persuaded?  We will explore current social problems such as economic inequality, institutional racism, climate change, immigration and gun control/rights through the examination of claims made in political commentary, public protests, and bumper stickers. Academic work on framing political ideas, recruitment to social movements, and the social construction of social problems will guide our analysis. This includes an investigation into the way data are used (or misused) to support particular claims. Students will have the opportunity to explore social problems in Salem through pertinent site visits – possibilities include a local homeless shelter, food share, domestic violence shelter, prison, or trash incinerator. In the last third of the course students will develop a summer research proposal that explores a social problem of their choice. Students will have the opportunity to submit their proposal for competitively-awarded funding to carry out their research.

Michael Lockard, Ph.D.Course taught by: Michael Lockard

Diet and fitness are multi-billion dollar industries in the United States that are aiming to profit from America’s increasingly common sedentary lifestyle.  With the bombardment of advertisements, blogs, and “expert” testimonials, it can be difficult to discern fact from fiction, science from pseudo-science.  In order to evaluate these fantastic claims, this course will explore the impact of America’s physical inactivity and growing waistline on people’s personal health and well-being as well as the broader impact on the healthcare system and the welfare of society as a whole.  Students will then investigate the “science” and psychology of diet fads, popular workouts, and popular weight loss programs in order to critique and, in some cases, debunk the alleged scientific foundation of modern snake oil remedies. 

Sally MarkowitzCourse taught by: Sally Markowitz

Since the middle of the twentieth century, a significant number of American visual artists, musicians, and writers have turned to Zen and other Buddhist philosophies to transform their art and lives. What are the sources, significance, and effects of this attraction? And what resonances are there between Buddhist perspectives on life and contemporary Western perspectives on art and aesthetic experience? This colloquium will address these and related questions through exploring the lives and work of several twentieth- and twenty-first century American artists strongly influenced by Buddhism (including, among others, John Cage, Agnes Martin, George Saunders and Ruth Ozeki) along with the texts and practices that inspired them.