"A Little Learning is a Dangerous Thing": The Use and Abuse of the Greeks and Romans in Later PeriodsCourse taught by: Robert ChenaultColloquium Associate: Lauren Burchinal
Ancient Greek and Roman history and culture have long provided powerful ideas and images that have been used in later periods for both good and ill. This course provides an introduction and orientation to some of the key themes and texts from Greek and Roman antiquity as well as to some of the ways in which "the classics" have been used and misused in later eras, and why they continue to be both so relevant and so fraught. Topics to be discussed include politics and government; war and conquest; slavery, race, and gender; and the role of art, architecture, and public monuments. We will explore the enduring power of these classical legacies and why they have been so frequently appropriated to sponsor nationalist, fascist, and alt-right agendas. Can the Greeks and Romans be redeemed? Should they be? How can we come to terms with these ancient legacies that we still live with today?
Ancient Greece and Rome in the MoviesCourse taught by: Ortwin KnorrColloquium Associate: Charlotte Holmes
Some of the most spectacular films in 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 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.
Artist as AdvocateCourse taught by: Katherine SkoviraColloquium Associate: Celeste Gutentag
Artists’ work often addresses societal issues and challenges to achieving equity and inclusion; it can even affect cultural political shifts. Advocates’ work frequently crosses over the line from advocacy into artistic expression. Where do these boundaries between art and advocacy lie? Are they solid or permeable? What sort of challenges do artist-advocates assume when they engage across this boundary? The course will highlight leaders in the arts world and advocacy world such as blogger Amanda Baggs, visual artist Paul Rucker, photographer Samantha Spirit, writer Rania El Mugammar, and opera singer Jessye Norman. As a class we will select a shared social concern and craft our own creative response. All backgrounds and forms of art expression are welcome.
Body ModsCourse taught by: Jonathan ColeColloquium Associate: Cameron Cole
This course will delve into the cultures surrounding tattooing, piercing, scarification, suspension and body modding in the United States and world wide. Participants will investigate the histories, origins, and current expressions of these art forms, as well as their intersection with contemporary performance. Topics to be discussed include cultural appropriation, self-expression and aesthetics, as well as portrayals of the cultures and sub-cultures surrounding artists, clients and advocates for these practices. Finally, relevant media samples, from silver-gelatin prints to television series (Inkmaster, et al), film and social media will be examined as we look at the complicated portrayals of these art forms in current culture. Together we will consider: to whom might these art forms belong? How is meaning made, when the body is the site of art-making? How, and to what extent, must the personal views and practices of the artists/practitioners be considered when offering up one’s body as canvas? And, what are the ethical and ethnographic implications of adapting culturally significant practices into pop culture of the moment?
Camp for the POMO/HomoCourse taught by: Rachel Kinsman SteckColloquium Associate: Teaguen O'Fallon
"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 Partick 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?
Chinese Myths and Tales in FilmsCourse taught by: Juwen ZhangColloquium Associate: Brianna Kurtenbach
This course will explore how various tales embody the cultural values, maintain local traditions, and express regional and national identities throughout Chinese history. We will examine recent films such as Mulan and Over the Moon as well as myths from two thousand years ago and tales like Yexian (Cinderella) from the ninth century. We will discover how folklorists analyze folk and fairy tales, jokes, and rumors, and study how media representation plays a role in drawing boundaries and stereotypes between us and them in our current global communication. Included in our comparative studies are tales from the Brothers Grimm and Disney films. We will also learn the magic formula as we engage in writing our own enchanting tales.
Crossroads of Religion and Culture: The Camino de Santiago PilgrimageCourse taught by: April OverstreetColloquium Associate: Madolyn Kelm
In the early 9th century, remains believed to be those of the apostle Saint James were discovered in Compostela, Galicia where a cathedral honoring Santiago became the destination of catholic pilgrims or religious travelers from all over Europe who followed various routes across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. In this colloquium we will explore the concept of pilgrimage itself, a spiritual journey involving not only individual religious experience but also complex religious, linguistic, cultural and social interchanges. We will examine in particular the interplay between change and continuity, as millions of diverse travelers wearing the traditional shell of the Jacobean pilgrim have followed the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James over the past 1200 years and have impacted both the route and pilgrimage culture surrounding it. Key questions to address include: what role did the Camino play in the medieval struggle between Muslims and Christians for dominance in the Iberian Peninsula? In what ways has the route and the infrastructure it necessitated shaped patterns of growth along it? To what extent has the Camino helped inform the construction of a Spanish national/ist identity? Finally, how have foreign pilgrims on the route contributed to Spain’s multicultural society, and in turn, how have their experiences been represented in literature, film and art up to today?
Enemies, Friends, Allies? The Path of Nonviolent ResistanceCourse taught by: Jeanne ClarkColloquium Associate: Anna Seahill
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 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.
Existentialism in Literature: Dostoevsky’s Crime and PunishmentCourse taught by: Randall HavasColloquium Associate: Nick Wilde
What is the difference between being a person and being moss, a bit of garbage, or a cauliflower? What a cauliflower is is fixed, let us suppose, by nature. According to the existentialist, this is not true of the human being. That is, what is true of us is, at least in part, a function of what we say or think about ourselves, how we live our lives. We are, as it is sometimes said, self-interpreting animals; as such, freedom is fundamental to the kinds of beings we are. Consequently, we bear a kind of responsibility for what is true of us that the cauliflower does not, and nothing can disburden us of that responsibility. What, if anything, can have authority for me, in view of my radical freedom? Can anything, and, if so, does nothing? What can authority even mean in such circumstances? What does obedience to such authority look like? In what ways can authority and obedience be deformed? Such questions are not unique to the philosophical movement known as existentialism, but it is characteristic of the latter that it so consistently leaves the asking and answering of them entirely to the individual, particularly concerned as it is with the various ways in which we tend to disown responsibility for asking and answering them ourselves. Existentialist themes are the stuff of great modern literature as well as of European philosophy in the mid and late 20th century. Our colloquium will focus on one seminal example: Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, in which a young and impoverished law student Raskolnikov commits an apparently senseless murder with the aim of determining whether morality is truly binding on him. The bulk of the novel is spent trying to decipher Raskolnikov’s peculiar motivations and to understand the significance of his ostensible failure to “step over” morality. In our Colloquium we will read and critically analyse Dostoevsky’s great novel through the lens of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling and Nietzsche’s The Anti-Christ, with an eye to understanding his conceptions of good, evil, and human agency.
Exploring Mind, Brain, and Behavior through Science FictionCourse taught by: Jeremy MillerColloquium Associate: Bethany Fletcher
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 examine works of science fiction that pose important questions about human behavior. 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. Most importantly, this course is intended to help you develop the skills necessary in order to become a successful student here at Willamette, and a successful problem solver across the course of your life. Toward that end, we will place special emphasis on developing the skills that will prove critical over the course of your time at WU: writing, argumentation, and critical thinking.
Games: Design, Strategy, Philosophy, and SocietyCourse taught by: Josh LaisonColloquium Associate: Angie Wang
Like any creative medium, games combine technical and artistic processes in their design, and can be analyzed and critiqued from a variety of academic perspectives. Game designers use mathematical and computational tools to balance complex interconnected systems of abstract rules, and narrative and storytelling structures to give their designs meaning. Game critics think about games in the context of modern societies, and games succeed and fail in their relationships with player psychologies. In this course, students will design and iteratively redesign their own paper and cardstock games; read and discuss a variety of scholarly works on game design and criticism; and think about experimental games that push the boundaries of the design and play experiences.
The Great American Road TripCourse taught by: Ruth P. FeingoldColloquium Associate:
The open road has long occupied a major role in the American imagination. Travel and exploration—both literal, physical journeys, as well as the inner quests that often accompany them—appear again and again in American literature, film, song, and even video games. What is so American about the road trip? Why do we value it as much as we do? We’ll begin the semester studying the myths and realities of the American frontier, both via classic nineteenth-century first-person accounts, and through later revisions of frontier imagery such as Hollywood westerns. We’ll then move on to works that explore the darker side of the road as a site of escape, exile, and dispossession—texts whose heroes and heroines are runaways, hobos, escaped slaves, or economic migrants. Finally, we’ll encounter works that tap into the popular contemporary notion that outward journeys can be linked to inward discovery. Throughout the semester, we’ll pay attention to the ways gender, race, and ethnicity affect individuals’ experiences of the road.
Imagining Indigenous FuturesCourse taught by: Rebecca J. DobkinsColloquium Associate: Sonia Zand
What might it mean to imagine Indigenous futures? In this learning community, we'll travel on a journey across spacetimelines and explore leading edge speculative fiction and art by Indigenous artists, creative use of gaming and video technologies for Indigenous storytelling and community building, and Indigenous design as a strategy to address climate change. Across the world, Indigenous peoples are leading movements for environmental protection, climate change, and adaptive design. In this highly experiential and place-based course, we will read science fiction by Native writers, engage with multi-media and film, and visit local tribal communities who are imaginatively envisioning a more just future for all people and beings through housing, environmental, and health initiatives.
In Search of LifeCourse taught by: Jason DuncanColloquium Associate: Madeline Pozada
What is life? What does it mean to be alive? Is there, or can there ever be, a universally accepted definition of life? In this course, we will explore and integrate both classical and contemporary perspectives on the nature of life. We will consider the thoughts of philosophers including Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant, as well as physicists, chemists and biologists including Haldane, Schrödinger, Sagan, and Dawkins. We will strive to understand how ideas of what defines life have changed over time, and what factors have motivated or contributed to these changes. We will also analyze case studies that include prions, viruses, and ‘extremophiles’ - life forms that exist in the most extreme environments on earth. We will challenge our preconceived assumptions and biases on what constitutes life, and what it means to be alive.
Japan-US Cross Cultural CommunicationCourse taught by: Miho FujiwaraColloquium Associate: Carter Penny
How do people communicate across cultures? What does it mean to speak another language? Is it only a matter of linguistic skill? This course focuses on cross-cultural communication between Japan and the US. First, we will explore to what extent people view other cultures through the lens of their own cultural biases. Second, we will closely look at how Japanese cultural aspects affect their language use and communication styles. The Japanese cultural characteristics include the concepts of amae (self-indulgence), uchi-soto (insiders-outsiders), collectivism, and horizontal and vertical relationships. Finally, we will examine how these concepts affect communication styles in a Japanese company, where English is used as lingua franca (common language).
The Journey to the Self: Narrative and the HeroCourse taught by: Mary R. BachvarovaColloquium Associate: Jessie Radcliffe
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, changing understanding of the relationship to the divine, and 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.
Knitting CultureCourse taught by: David AltmanColloquium Associate: Gigi Hewitt
During the last decade, knitting, crocheting, and the fiber arts in general have experienced a remarkable increase in popularity in the U.S. In part, this is because activities such as knitting have the ability to play many roles and serve diverse functions. Knitting can be practiced as a craft, and it can also be a medium for art and fashion. Knitting can be used to express political views, and it can also simply be a way to relax. And these various facets are not mutually exclusive. For example, if I am knitting a sweater with an American flag on the front, I may be partaking in craft, political activism, and leisure all at the same time.
The goal of this class will be to examine the impact and value of knitting through a multidisciplinary approach, exploring its significance through the lenses of history, fashion, politics, and science. Questions that will be addressed include: What has driven the recent knitting revival? How is knitting perceived, and in what ways is it an effective method of expression? Does hand knitting present opportunities and experiences that machine knitting is incapable of providing? What is the relationship between knit products and social equality? During this exploration, you will also learn how to knit (if you do not already know how).
Knowing Good and Evil: The Myths and Legends of GenesisCourse taught by: Stephen PattersonColloquium Associate: Emilia Kaldis
Cosmologists tell us that the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang, thus freeing us from the burden of reading the Bible as a primitive science book. If Genesis is not about how the world began, what is it about? Long before people had much to say about science, it seems they had a lot to say about human nature. In this colloquium we’ll explore the myths and legends of Genesis as they take us into the heart of human experience—of life, love, desire, murder, trust and betrayal. Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This colloquium is about what came next.
Persian Folklore and Fairy TalesCourse taught by: Saghar SadeghianColloquium Associate: Laney Agodon
Folklore and fairy tales can provide unique insights into a society. In this course, we will closely examine English translations of Persian folklore and fairy tales as we study Iranian society. These amusing stories cover such topics as the environment, class differences, and family structure. Together, we will compare the stories with those from other countries. Students will develop skills and methods to analyze the tales as we learn about historical sources, literature, and cultural diversity.
PlatoCourse taught by: Anthony ColemanColloquium Associate: Amelia Maass
This colloquium is an introduction to the humanities by way of an encounter with the dialogues of Plato. Plato is arguably the most important philosopher who ever lived. His writings stand out not only as paradigms of philosophy but also as wonderful examples of great literature. Even though he wrote thousands of years ago, students of every generation have studied his dialogues as part of a liberal arts education. Indeed, his influence is so profound that some have said that all of Western philosophy consists of "a series of footnotes to Plato." Here are some of the questions we will address in this course: What is the nature of reality? Is there life after death? What does a just society look like? What is knowledge, and how is it different from mere opinion? What does it mean to live an examined life? What is the nature of love?
Power LinesCourse taught by: Nathan Sivers BoyceColloquium Associate: Seth Bell
Electricity is such an integral part of modern life that maybe we take it for granted. It is hard to imagine life without it. We consume it while texting friends, viewing memes, making microwave popcorn, or traveling to work. But where does the electricity we use come from? How is it generated? Whose lives are changed and how as it makes its way to us? Starting from campus, we’ll follow the power lines back to their source. Together we’ll explore the story of electricity generation and consumption in the Pacific Northwest through literature, film and history and use what we learn to imagine electricity in a just energy future.
The Science in the Story: The Crazy Cat Lady and Other Plausible TalesCourse taught by: Melissa MarksColloquium Associate: Michelle Doty
Why do humans tell stories? If you’re human, you are probably familiar with old wives’ tales, urban legends, family customs, traditional folklore, and fairytales that warn of specific dangers, encourage particular behaviors, or otherwise provide guidance in our lives. As humans, we also tell stories to make sense of our lives – these show up in public health and political campaigns, conspiracy theories, fiction, and academic literature. Can these stories keep us safe? Could they put us in danger? Will they guide or 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 seem scientifically plausible or have validated explanations. We will also examine how scientific discoveries and the stories about them influence human health, policy, and science itself.
Course Offerings 2021
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