College Courses

Chair: Marianne H. BegemannAssociate Professor: Marianne H. Begemann.

The college course program was established to ensure that students can have direct exposure in their years at Vassar to some important expressions of the human spirit in a context that is both multidisciplinary and integrative. The aim of a college course is to study important cultures, themes, or human activities in a manner that gives the student experience in interpreting evidence from the standpoint of different fields. The courses relate this material and these interpretations to other material and interpretations from other fields in order to unite the results of this study into a coherent overall framework. The interpretations are expected to be both appreciative and critical and the artifacts will come from different times, places, and cultures.

I. Introductory

101a. Civilization in Question (1)

This course undertakes to question civilization in various ways. First, by looking at texts from ancient, medieval, and renaissance cultures, as well as texts and films from our own, it introduces students to major works of the Western tradition and asks how they bring under scrutiny their own tradition. In particular we examine how identity is constructed in these texts and how political and social roles limit and strengthen people's sense of who they are. Second, because the course is team-taught by faculty from different disciplines, we explore the ways a text is interpreted and how different meanings are found in it because of the different perspectives brought to the class by its faculty. Finally, we reflect on the role questioning plays in the process of a liberal arts education and the different kinds of attitudes and intellectual outlooks we learn to bring to the study of any text, which impels us to consider the ways we allow the past to inform and question the present and the present to inform and question our understanding of the past. Readings for the course include: Homer The Iliad , Plato Symposium , Genesis , Exodus , Nietzsche

Genealogy of Morals , Foucault Discipline and Punish , Sand The

Invention of the Jewish People , Walcott Omeros. Ms. Friedman (Classics), Mr. Miller (Philosophy), Mr. Schreier (History).

Open to all classes.

Two 75-minute lecture periods and one 50-minute discussion section.

Not offered in 2011/12

110b. Process, Prose, and Pedagogy (1)

(Same as English 110) This course introduces the theoretical and practical underpinnings of writing and teaching writing. Students interrogate writing's place in the academy, discuss writing process from inception to revision, and share their own writing and writing practices. The course offers an occasion to reflect on and strengthen the students' own analytical and imaginative writing and heighten the ability to talk with others about theirs. Students are asked to offer sustained critical attention to issues of where knowledge resides and how it is shared, to interrogate the sources of students' and teachers' authority, to explore their own education as writers, to consider the possibilities of peer-to-peer and collaborative learning, and to give and receive constructive criticism. Texts may include Roland Barthes' The Death of the Author, Paolo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Stephen King's On Writing, as well as handbooks on peer consulting.

Students who successfully complete this class are eligible to interview for employment as consultants in the Writing Center. Ms. Rumbarger (English; Director, Writing Center)

By special permission.

Prerequisite: Freshman Writing Seminar.

II. Intermediate

284. Shakespeare, Soccer, Ska and Skinheads:Contemporary British Culture and Populist Nationalism (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 284) The course examines the complex cultural and political relationship between British working class and the former colonial subjects in the struggle to redefine “Britishness” in postwar period. It will analyze how Shakespeare, the epitome of British literary culture, soccer, the national pastime, and Ska, a music introduced by Jamaican immigrants shaped the politics of identity, citizenship and whiteness and actions of British National Front, British National Party and anti-racist groups. Soccer, which has been an arena for self-expression and success of Black players, became the recruiting grounds for skinheads, who scream racial epithets at them. The skinheads initially adopted ska as the favorite beat, promoting the infamous comment, "We hate you, but we love your music". From the Black-shirted fascist, Oswald Mosley to War-hero, Winston Churchill, and punk-rock skinheads, the course will discuss how Britain has struggled to define its body politic in the post-imperial age. Readings include monologues from Shakespeare’s Richard II and Heny V, Paul Gilroy’s Ain’t No Black In the Union Jack, Dick Hebidge’s Cut and Mix, and Andrea Levy’s Small Island. Music selections will include ska and 1960s dub. Mr. Reid

III. Advanced

301a. History, Memory, and Legacies of the Holocaust (1)

After WWII the Holocaust emerged as a universal evil that holds lessons beyond the boundaries of Western civilization. While scholars have been relying on different theoretical models to understand the Holocaust, reflection on this unprecedented genocide itself has shifted theoretical discussion in many disciplines. This course looks at the legacies of the Holocaust from a variety of different disciplines by discussing texts, films, and memorials with German students at the University of Potsdam. The exchange takes place at two different levels in the course of the semester: together with their German partners, students discuss readings and work on research projects in the MOO, our online learning environment at Vassar; and in a second phase, Vassar students travel to Berlin and German students to New York to complete on-site research for their projects. Ms. Höhn, Ms. von der Emde, Ms. Zeifman.

By special permission.

One 3-hour period.

302b. Adaptations (1)

(Same as English and Media Studies 302) If works of art continue each other, as Virginia Woolf suggested, then cultural history accumulates when generations of artists think and talk together across time. What happens when one of those artists radically changes the terms of the conversation by switching to another language, another genre, another mode or medium? What constitutes a faithful adaptation? In this course we briefly consider the biological model and then explore analogies across a wide range of media. We begin with Metamorphoses, Ovid's free adaptations of classical myths, and follow Medea and Orpheus through two thousand years of theater (from Euripides to Anouilh, Williams, and Durang); paintings (Greek vases and Pompeian walls to Dürer, Rubens, Poussin, Denis, and Klee); film and television (Pasolini, von Trier, Cocteau, Camus); dance (Graham, Balanchine, Noguchi, Bausch); music (Cavalli, Charpentier, Milhaud, Barber, Stravinsky, Birtwistle, Glass); narratives and graphic narratives (Woolf, Moraga, Pynchon, Gaiman); verse (Rilke, Auden, Milosz); and computer games (Mutants and Masterminds, Fate/stay night). We may also analyze narratives and graphic narratives by Clowes, Collins, Ishiguro, Groening, Joyce, Lahiri, Malcolm X, Mann, Millhauser, Nabokov, Pekar, Shakespeare, Spiegelman, Swift, Tanizaki, and Wilde; films by Bharadwaj, Berman/Pucini, Camus, Dangarembga, Ichikawa, Ivory, Kubrick, Kurosawa, Lee, Lyne, Mendes, Nair, Sembene, Visconti, and Zwigoff-, remixes by DJ Spooky and Danger Mouse; sampling; cover bands, tribute bands; Wikipedia, wikicomedy, wikiality; and of course Adaptation, Charlie and Donald Kaufman's screenplay for Spike Jonze's film, based very very loosely on Susan Orlean's Orchid Thief. Ms. Mark

By special permission.

One 3-hour period.

Not offered in 2011-12.

362b. The Thousand and One Nights (1)

(Same as Media Studies 362 and English 362) "This story has everything a tale should have," A. S. Byatt has written. "Sex, death, treachery, vengeance, magic, humor, warmth, wit, surprise, and a happy ending. Though it appears to be a story against women, it actually marks the creation of one of the strongest and cleverest heroines in world literature." That heroine is Scheherazade, who for a thousand and one nights told death-defying tales that led to tales that are still being told. This course investigates literary, political, cultural, and historical explanations for the tales' undiminished imaginative power. In addition to Husain Haddawy's 1990 English translation, which attempts to rid The Nights of Orientalist bias and frippery, we read elaboration, analysis, and homage by Shakespeare, Beckford, Coleridge, De Quincey, Dulac, Wordsworth, Poe, Proust, Said, Mahfouz, Rushdie, El-Amir, Barth, Borges, Calvino, Malti-Douglas, Gaiman, Byatt, and Millhauser. We listen to music by Rimsky-Korsakov and Ravel and watch Fokine's ballet, films by Méliès and Pasolini, and Hollywood animations that feature stars ranging from Mr. Magoo to Catherine Zeta Jones and Brad Pitt. We also play Scheherazade's video game and poke around in cyberspace dedicated to her legendary feats. Ms. Mark (English).

One 3-hour period.

384 . Transnational Queer: Genders, Sexualities, Identities (1)

(Same as International Studies 384a and Women's Studies 384a) What does it mean to be Queer? This seminar examines, critiques, and interrogates queer identities and constructions in France and North America. In what ways do diverse cultures engage with discourses on gender and sexuality? Can or should our understanding of queerness change depending on cultural contexts? Through guest lectures and discussion seminars, the course examines a broad range of queer cultural production, from fiction to cinema and performance. Topics include such diverse issues as queer bodies, national citizenship, sexual politics, legal discourse, and aesthetic representation. All lectures, readings, and discussions are in English. Mr. Swamy.

By special permission.

Prerequisites: Freshman Writing Seminar and one 200 level course.

One 3-hour period.