Spring 2018 :
From Prester John to Marco Polo: Lies, Legend, Politics & Orientalism in the Middle Ages In this course we will explore the Medieval worldview in all its many contradictions, discovering both how disorientingly different and yet uncannily familiar it is. Using Umberto’s Eco’s novel Baudolino as a base text, supplemented by the accounts of Marco Polo and a number of primary sources from Livy to Rabelais to the Sepher Yetzirah, students will be immersed first in the political and intellectual world of the 12th Century Holy Roman Empire, then examine Europe’s relations with the Eastern Orthodox and Ottoman Empires, India, and China. We will find that this history was largely determined by an oral culture in which the distinctions between entertainment, news, propaganda, rumor, and mysticism are rarely clear. We will encounter intricate cultural fantasies and utopias projected by Europeans upon the rest of the world, which are then often used as pretexts for conquest. Perhaps more surprisingly, we will discover that to the medieval consciousness, the very ideas of Truth and Reality, Artifice and Faith, functioned quite differently than they do today – or so we hope.
Golden Age Athens: Theater & Times For nearly the entire one hundred years of the fifth century BCE Athens experienced a “Golden Age.” It overthrew its despot rulers and founded the first Democracy, under which Greek theater, architecture, philosophy and painting reached its zenith. The great playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes were also soldiers, statesmen and social critics that helped hone the democratic functions of their state. During this same 5th century BCE, Greeks turned back two massive invasions by the Persian superpower of their day, created a large and wealthy empire, built a glittering city and spent decades embroiled in a brutal war against Sparta that was to end in the destruction of the Athenian democracy. In this class we will read 10 important plays and place them in the context of their times. We will read Herodotus, the father of history, and Thucydides, the trusted chronicler of the Peloponnesian war. We will look at the politics and ideas upon which the first democracy was built and the economic and military reasons for its collapse. Students will be assigned five plays, which they will read, write careful notes about, and lead class discussion on. Students will also have to present five prepared monologues to the class – one on each play. Students will also be required to write three essays (variations based on the essay prompt provided, or on an approved thesis presented by a student). Students will be expected to take a number of pop-quizzes on the plays and readings throughout the semester.
Immigrants and Outsiders We are faced daily with the explicit contradictions of an immigrant’s “American Dream.” The phrase summons visions of economic success, religious freedom, a flourishing middle-class, and social mobility. At the same time, we cannot help but remember a core of exploitation, discrimination, environmental destruction, and social entrenchment. From either perspective, we are all intimately involved with the ever-developing narrative of immigrant experience and, thus, The American Dream. So, what exactly is this dream? How is it both fruitful and problematic? And who are we who dream it? This class will examine works of fiction, nonfiction, visual art, poetry, and film that speak to the immigrant (and therefore the American) experience.
Jacobean Theater “O Italy, the apothecary of poison, for all nations: how many kinds of weapons has thou invented for malice” (Thomas Nashe). Here is an element on which, according to scholar Simon Trussler, Jacobean tragedy thrives. Malice, revenge, and intrigue! How is it possible that such lyrical soap opera and marvelous farce should dominate the English stage in an era of a King noted for sponsoring a rather conservative translation of the Bible? Why Italy? Following the death of Queen Elizabeth I, England faced radical changes culturally and aesthetically: the Jacobean era brought forth a radically changing geo-political landscape, the expansion of English Colonialism, diverse ideas about religion and tolerance as well as debate about the role of women in society. The theater changes too. Gone are the timeless “folkloric characters one might find in Twelfth Night or As You Like It;” on stage, tragedy grows more vulgar and violent; comedy borders on the outrageous and more often depraved. This course examines dramaturgical ideas by English playwrights active during the reign of King James I (1603-1625). In addition to exploring changes James made in his commissioned Biblical translation, playwrights covered include William Shakespeare, John Webster, Ben Jonson, Francis Beaumont and Thomas Middleton. The semester includes a trip to see the American Shakespeare Center’s production of Macbeth.
Japan, The United States and World War II World War II fundamentally reoriented the global economic and political order of the 20th century, jump-started the atomic age and showed humanity’s capacity for organized mass destruction of life on a scale that dwarfed all previous wars combined. Through the window of cultural and political relations between the Empire of Japan and the United States of America, this class investigates the major factors that brought these nations into WWII, how individual citizens weathered the events of the war, and how they groped for understanding and regeneration in its aftermath. This class will focus on building research and writing skills while also teaching students the broader significance of the war for the major combatant nations and the world at large. Students will give a presentation and write a research paper. Readings of ten to thirty pages can be expected each week.
Leo Tolstoy: Teacher for a Russian Spring To the point: Leo Tolstoy: Teacher for a Russian Spring will touch on what makes Russia such a complicated geo-political landscape. Should this ancient nation fall under the influence of westernization or should it hold on to its ethnic roots, despite the vast diversity within her ethnicity? Leo Tolstoy: Teacher for a Russian Spring examines these swift changes challenging Russian life throughout the 19th century and into the next epoch. Argument: should the Russian people accept Europeanization or maintain a Slavic identity? What should be done with the Serfs? What about the Czar? The Decembrists were a political revolt before a pleasant rock band. In short, this course will examine concepts that have made up Russian identity as well as sample Tolstoy’s prose, which reflects such changes in his homeland.
Meat & Potatoes: 19th Century Irish History and Literature The nineteenth century around the world was a period of social upheaval, civil wars and revolutions. Ireland had more than its share of these struggles at home, but it also provided the manpower and gun fodder for many of the global conflicts as well. One obvious reason that the Irish poured out of their country to fight and die overseas was the human catastrophe of the potato famine. Millions of Irish were faced with emigration or death by starvation, and many of those emigrants became very successful in their newly adopted homelands. Surprisingly perhaps, the nineteenth century was a high point for Irish literature as well. This class will read historical texts, examine famous speeches, listen to ballads, read poetry and short fiction that will help us examine Ireland in the nineteenth century holistically. The class will be assigned weekly readings, and will be required to write three essays (variations based on the essay prompt provided, or on an approved thesis presented by a student). Students will be expected to view a short (4 episode) TV Series on their own time, and will take viewing quizzes on the films we watch in class.
Norse Mythology In the beginning a gargantuan cow licks the primordial ice and frees a giant named Ymir. The gods kill him and carve up his body to make the worlds, which eventually end after hounds eat the sun and the moon during an epic duel of monsters and gods. Why are people shaped by centuries of science and organized religion still fascinated by tales such as these? The written and archaeological evidence points to their authentic, if unstable, role in the lives of Germanic people. And their continuing ability to entertain and inspire, to be recast and told in new ways, may tell us something about the ancient and recent pasts they echo. This class will investigate Norse myths in their earliest known written versions and highlight and compare various treatments and adaptations old and new. Students will explore the myths both as creative works and reflections of the people who shared and upheld them, the Scandinavians that gave shape to Europe from the 8th to 11th centuries – the so-called Viking Age – and revivalist movements of modern ages. Students will read from Snorri Sturluson’s Edda the ‘Gylfaginning’ and significant portions of ‘Skaldskaparmal’, read many works from the Poetic Edda, write one critical essay and complete a creative project.
Old Testament The Old Testament is one of the most explored pieces of literature in the western world. Its influence is vast and an understanding of the text will help students feel more culturally literate. With a close exploration of the Pentateuch, students will consider the ties between Judaism and Christianity and examine the use of different hypotheses in establishing origins of the texts. We will also look into the Historical, Poetical/Wisdom, and Prophetic Books of the Old Testament to consider how the sections work. The students will also be exposed to other works to see the impact of the Old Testament on art.
20th Century Korean Literature & History The Korean peninsula endured a series of profound transformations in the twentieth century. Throughout the century Korean writers have, consciously or not, helped socialize generations of Korean readers into the harsh realities of the nation’s modern history. This course will focus on Korean Literature in translation, which examines this portion of Korean history which is so rife with conflict: colonization, territorial division, civil war, military rule, and the strains of headlong industrialization. Students will also be introduced to Korean culture, a glimpse of its rich past and an overview of the current events and nuclear tensions that threaten the world today. Students will read and discuss short fiction each week, and will choose an additional novel which they will present to the class late in the semester. Students will write one or two multiple draft essays with the option of entering their work in the Sejong Culture Society essay competition early next year.
African American Studies: Booker T. Washington through the Harlem Renaissance In African American Studies, we will explore the impact of African American thought and art on the United States as a whole. We will be discussing racism, equal rights and progress as we examine the works of thinkers and artisans alike. Starting with Booker T. Washington’s seminal text Up From Slavery, we will begin to peel back the push and pull of equality, progress and the growth of thought as we continue through the semester to the Harlem Renaissance.
American Civil War Poetry American Civil War Poetry examines the horrific events and conflicts that made up this four-year long slaughter and the poems both Northerners and Southerners composed in response. These poems are not only reactionary works to the horrors of the war but also came as calls-to-arms in verse. Beginning with the more contemporary works of Robert Lowell and Allen Tate, American Civil War looks at the debates that split the Union and percolate even now. In addition to examining accounts of battle and historical documents regarding the formation of the Confederacy and the like, poets will include Melville, Whitman, Dickson, Whittier, Longfellow, Bryant, and Julia Ward Howe, as well as lesser-known writers driven to express the war experience through verse.
Graphic Novels as Literature L’Association, a French artist-run publishing cooperative founded in 1990, radically restructured the popular concept of the comic book. In many ways, the small press and independent comics movement have their origins in the expressions of the guiding principles espoused by the L’Association: establish a clear break from the commercial comics industry, publish only important books, and present comics as a legitimate cultural form that operates beyond the demands of the market. This class will focus on graphic novels by artists that belong to, or have a strong connection with, L’Association. The goal of this class is to heighten students’ visual and critical literacy though improving skills in in reading, deciphering and decoding the visual language of comics. Students are expected to write three complete drafts of one long research paper, in addition to weekly presentations and participating in daily discussions and critiques. Copies of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics are available for every student, and there is a small selection of graphic novels available for students in the school library. It is recommended that every student should possess a valid Roanoke City Library card as the downtown library has a number of graphic novels of value to this class.
Introduction to Western Philosophy While in Introduction to Western Philosophy, students will study various schools of philosophy, read works by an assortment of philosophers from Plato to Kant, and learn the importance of thought in forming an argument. They will use the knowledge acquired to form an argument within a modern ethical situation. They will frame logical responses to writings found about these situations by using critical thought to analyze the work and respond. This course will deviate from the norm at Community High School by leaning more towards survey, though keeping the school’s philosophy by embracing discourse and inquiry instead of lecture.
Piracy, Plunder and Property The concept of piracy in popular culture is bursting with vivid yet contradictory stereotypes: murderous criminals, heroic underdogs, drunken ne’er-do-wells, expert seamen, cowardly smugglers, misunderstood freedom-fighters. We will examine these stereotypes, the history and theories of piracy, and explore many of the forms piracy has taken, from Viking raids to the Buccaneers to pirate publishing and intellectual property to piracy along the coasts of contemporary Africa. In the process, we will find that history and legend cannot always be distinguished, and that our subject raises important and thorny questions about historical methodology and the status of historical Truth itself. Behind the legends, we will look at the economic and political dimensions of Piracy, and the important roles it played in defining, through opposition, the modern concepts of Property and the Nation-State. We will be presented with a tricky paradox: on one hand it will be confirmed that most pirates have been motivated by self-interest and many have been guilty of murder, rape, and sometimes torture to remarkable degrees; on the other hand, we will find that most pirate communities were democratic long before “legitimate” society, and that at many times and places in history, pirate society has offered a refuge to those marginalized or brutalized by mainstream society, offering degrees of social, racial, and political justice unrivaled in the world of Law. Together we will explore what these paradoxes can tell us about history, society, economics, and human nature itself.
Post WWII Countercultures The decades following the end of WWII witnessed dramatic shifts in United States domestic and foreign policy, coinciding with rapid upheaval of social and cultural norms that fell largely on generational lines. A blossoming of social and political movements both responded to and greatly influenced these radical changes. The Civil Rights Movement, Anti-Nuclear Movement, Anti-War Movement, American Indian Movement, Black Power Movement, Mexican American Movement, Second Wave Feminism, Gay (LGBT) Liberation Movement, Environmental Movement and responding conservative and traditionalist movements, to name a few, fought for change during these tumultuous decades, a period sometimes referred to as a second civil war. Often at the vanguard of these movements were countercultures that sought radical changes not only in US policy, but in our nation’s fundamental values and ways of life. This class will focus primarily on US countercultures from the Civil Rights through the Vietnam era. Students will explore the roots of countercultures in reform and resistance movements prior to WWII; the major domestic and world events that influenced these movements; how their art reflected their values and strategies; how change differently manifested in their political activities, worldview and lifestyles; and their reach and memory within society today. Class content will be offered in packets of primary source material, media sources available on the web, lectures, and research projects. Students will compose one research paper, a creative project, weekly class activities and regular written responses to text and media sources.
Vietnam: Colonialism, Nationalism, Immigration The story of Vietnam as a nation tells of people in constant pursuit of an independent self-determined country. Therefore, Vietnam: Colonialism, Nationalism, Immigration takes as its focus events that have impacted a country from the years following World War II to the present. Starting with the reemergence of French colonialism, the course will examine how and why the United States became entangled with this corner of the world. With readings from novelists, playwrights and poets as well as non-fictional accounts, the course will explore the impact decades of war had on those who lived there and those who found themselves in a foreign land fighting in the midst of another country’s civil war. The course concludes with a look at Vietnamese immigration to America and exploring their lives through fiction and poetry as well as a look at the loves of Americans impacted by what was once America’s longest military engagement.
War Trauma: On the Battlefield and at Home Battle heart, shell shock, nostalgia, post-traumatic stress disorder; many are the names for the lasting damage that war experience imposes on its survivors, a spectrum of reactive conditions researchers and caretakers are still grappling with fully understanding. In this class students will investigate war trauma from the perspective of the individual, with a special focus on late 20th and early 21st century U.S. conflicts. Students will explore issues of honor, duty, war culture, class, and training that impact the soldier’s circumstances; the experience of combat trauma, as told through eyewitness accounts, which results in the unique mental and physiological damage in survivors of war; the role technology plays on the battlefield; the history of popular and specialized understandings of these conditions; and the unique problems of war trauma and its treatment in the home and community upon a soldier’s return to domestic life, as well as medical treatment. Core texts will be The Things they Carried, On Killing, No More Heroes, and Redeployment.
Courses offered before Fall 2017:
19th Century France What does “Liberty” mean? In the one hundred and eleven years from the French Revolution to the end of the Belle Epoch, the world was profoundly transformed from agrarian serfdom into the recognizably modern world of popular culture and flying machines. This course brings together artifacts and original source texts, anthologized by the instructors, from the domains of politics, literature, history, philosophy, and art to present an introduction to the dramatic and hotly-contested progress of French society as it entered, and helped to create, the modern age. Deep reading, debate and critical writing are required.
African American Studies African American Studies will examine the importance and impact of African peoples in the U.S. from 1513 through the new millennium, and contemplate the reasons as to why African American Studies is a crucial field of study. Students will look at artistic and cultural information, as well as historical and philosophical works, to help them better understand the importance of the ideas presented in this course. Texts include: Gates’ Life Upon These Shores, Washington’s Up From Slavery, DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folks, Wright’s Black Boy, Toomer’s Cane, and Hamilton and Ture’s Black Power: the Politics of Liberation.
American Romanticism American Romanticism is an examination of writers creating the first distinctly American literary voice for a young country. Esteemed literary critic, F.O. Matthiessen, referred to this period as the American Renaissance. It was also a voice questioning that young country’s values and political decisions; a war with Mexico, the Dred Scott case and the Fugitive Slave Act were but a few landmark events that brought these writers to write in protest against a young nation imperfect and heading for a horrific civil war. Exploring the works of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Fuller and Whitman, among others, this course will examine the impact American Romantics had on social and political scenes as well as explore the elements that separate this literary movement from its European “cousins.”
Ancient Roman History This course will trace the development of Ancient Rome as a civilization from the traditional date of monarchy (753 B.C.) through its decline in the 5th century A.D. This course addresses the rise of Roman dominance in Italy, the foundation of the Republic, the conquest of neighboring civilizations, the reign of Caesars and construction of the Empire, and the spread of Christianity. Through intensive reading (of both primary and secondary sources), class discussion, research, written work and creative projects, students will investigate various aspects of Roman politics, culture, warfare, engineering and the arts.
Anthropology This course will serve as a basic survey of Cultural Anthropology. Through the use of journal articles and anthologies normally intended for introductory college classes, students will explore the intellectual concepts underpinning the field, including, but not limited to, fieldwork methodology, Whorfianism, ethnomusicology, culinary anthropology and the studies of kinship, gender, power, change and magic. Examples will be taken from cultures diverse in area, population and structure, but the primary focus of the class will be on Cultural Anthropology as a mode of inquiry. What questions does Cultural Anthropology ask and how does it go about answering them? What is naive realism, and how does it shape the way we all see the world? In addition to participating in discussion and reading, students will be expected to read works of ethnography of their own choosing and to conduct their own basic fieldwork.
Arabic Literature and Culture This course will focus on the literature and culture of the Arab World. Students will be introduced to various aspects of Arab culture and will read works of literature by writers from different Arab countries. Our discussions will focus on the history of colonialism, the struggle for independence, and the political and cultural transformations taking place in the Arab world today. Special attention will be placed on literature by women whose writing examines culture, religion, and politics through an exploration of gender relationships. The course will begin with an introduction to various aspects of Arab culture, such as language, music, dance, and clothing, followed by reading and discussing literary texts from several Arab countries, and ending with an overview of the Arab American experience. Through this course, students will develop a knowledge and appreciation of Arab culture and improve their ability to understand and analyze literary texts within a historical and political context.
Barbarian Europe Intertwining with the slow fall of Mediterranean dominance in Western Europe during the 1st Millennium CE was the continuing influence and movement of Germanic people from the north. The Greeks and Romans lumped them in with other outsiders, labeling them “barbarians.” As these folk imprinted themselves and their ideas on the world they inherited from the Roman Empire, they would forge the foundations of modern states that eventually created global empires of their own. This course focuses on barbarian political, social, and cultural change from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages. An outline of major historical events and trends will accompany close study of their literary legacy and material culture. Because barbarians wrote little about themselves, students will use period sources, from Strabo to Jordanes, early medieval verse, and archaeological and philological evidence to investigate their world. The semester will end with a look at barbarians in their modern context as political symbol, creative inspiration, and cultural identity. Students will read and discuss 25 – 50 pages a week. Primary texts will be Beowulf, The Nibelungenlied, and The Song of Roland. Students will write two papers and complete a creative project.
Charles Dickens: Writing in the Shadow of an Empire The course is first and foremost a study of the fiction and non-fiction compositions of the great English author and an examination of the social and political ideas he shared through his treasured works. Along with studying Dickens’ Humanistic ideas in the face of the Industrial Revolution and British Colonialism, this course will also examine Dickens’ critique of a young America—a country he both adored and loathed for its vulgar practice of slavery.
Communism Communism at different times has been defined as a form of government, an economic philosophy, and a utopian philosophy. These multi-faceted views of it have caused ripples in the clarification of what it actually is. The course’s goal is to obtain a stronger understanding and placement of communism in its early stages. Students in this course will explore these concepts by delving into Marx and then looking at Eastern European Communism through the rule of Stalin. Not only should they have a grasp of the historical placement of communism, but also of its effect on art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Texts include: Tolstoy’s The Cossacks, Marx and Engles’ The Communist Manifesto, and Platinov’s The Foundation Pit.
Dante and Milton
Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes’ book Don Quixote was written at a time of great, deep-seated change in European society, and had a great impact not only on the future of literature, but how people view the relationships between the individual and society, reason and imagination. It is also one of the great comedies in history, and is still constantly parodied in cartoons, movies, and books today. After thoroughly sampling the medieval literary genres which Don Quixote ridiculed, we will explore all of Part I and parts of Part II of the novel in-depth. We will see how the book reflects Spain’s rich medieval society, the unique effects of Islam and Judaism on Spanish culture, and the rapid political, social, and intellectual changes that were shifting Spain and Europe into the beginnings of the Modern age. We will also see how Cervantes responded and shaped the literary forms that he inherited, to create what is often considered to be the first modern Novel, and apply some of those lessons to create parodies of contemporary genres.
English and American Literary Forms English & American Literary Forms is a discussion-based exploration of various styles and genres of poetry, fiction and drama. The course will explore and identify literary expressions in the historical and social context in which they were written. In addition to a dialogue about the assigned works, students will develop skills in writing “critical” essays, finding patterns of meaning through biographical, historical and contextual analysis. This is a yearlong course, with the first semester devoted to examining poetic forms and short fiction from the 19th and 20th centuries. The semester concludes with a look at Thornton Wilder’s masterpiece, Our Town, examining how a work written expressly for the stage qualifies as literature through its own unique and excellent dramaturgy.
English Renaissance The English Renaissance and Reformation is a semester-long examination of the political, social and cultural changes impacting English and world communities, beginning with the Tudors and ending with the beheading of Charles I and the rise of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans. The course will explore how concepts such as Humanism and renewed ties to Classical learning impacted the progression of the English Reformation, from Henry VIII through the Jacobean era. Students will engage in both literary analysis and historical investigation—including analyses of 16th and 17th century letters, diaries, land grants, census documents, woodcuts, proclamations and early newspaper reports in addition to the expected famous plays.
Expository Writing Expository Writing will focus on developing persuasive writing skills—using various rhetorical tools in order to express and defend ideas and theses. Beginning with a look at specific syntax issues and moving on to paragraph development, students will simultaneously develop an intellectual curiosity about a subject, create purposeful questions about the subject and work to find meaningful material on the subject. Students will work on finding and using secondary sources as well as reading and interpreting primary sources. Along the way students will workshop pieces in order to examine sentence and paragraph structure, strengthen their use of punctuation and syntax, build awareness regarding semantics and argumentative writing. It is the goal to help each student to begin writing persuasive essays with clarity, precision and strength. Students will explore skills that will help them write compelling, argumentative essays that they write for readers as well as for themselves. Students will be encouraged to write to make a point, and will learn that writing is not something to be feared but can be an enjoyable challenge.
First Master of Oil – Jan Van Eyck Paintings can be important historical texts, and in this humanities class students will learn how to view and read these incredibly rich and intricate visual documents. The focus for this class will be the work of Jan van Eyck, whose great “visual texts” include The Ghent Altarpiece (the most stolen artwork in history), and The Arnolfini Wedding Portrait (perhaps the most enigmatic painting of the early Renaissance). Students taking this course will gain an understanding of the history, culture, politics and economics of the Northern European Renaissance. Reading for this course will be relatively light, and essays will be of intermediate length. This is an humanities class, and differs significantly from art history classes. An emphasis will be placed on developing critical thinking in class discussion and effecting employment of persuasive argument in debate and essays.
Global Politics This yearlong course will provide students with an understanding of the world around them and how globalization and conflict link people from different countries, continents, and locales together. Students will use current reportage, capsule histories, and maps to explore political, social, and cultural trends in the world. Original research, close and critical reading, data analysis and basic political geographic mastery will be stressed.
Gothic Literature Gothic Literature is a survey course of some of the best known and not-so-well known works of the genre, and an exploration of what makes a work “Gothic.” Writers for the course will include Horace Walpole, Henry James, Ann Radcliffe, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathanael Hawthorne, Mary Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Louis Stevenson, Algernon Blackwood and Shirley Jackson. Students will also explore how these works have been explored through other media like film and opera (e.g. the Hammer film adaptations of Poe’s tales or Benjamin Britten’s excellent opera of The Turn of the Screw).
Global Surrealism Surrealism is often spoken about as if it were a small, exclusively European movement concerned only with art and literature; but in fact, it was and remains a large global counterculture with active groups in dozens of cities around the world––in Europe, Africa, Asia, and both Americas––and among its most active and important exponents have been dozens of people of color. Moreover, the ‘Surrealist Revolution’ aimed at by these communities encompasses not only the arts, but economics, politics, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and consciousness itself, and the Surrealists were among the first organized intellectual groups to place anti-colonial and anti-racist activism at the center of their activity. We will learn the history and prehistory of the movement, experiment with its techniques, and explore its ideas, literature, and art. While attentive to the European roots of the movement, we will focus on it’s relationship with colonialism, and on Surrealism as manifested outside of Europe. We will read portions of Breton’s Manifesto of Surrealism, all of Aimé Césaire’s Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, and several dozen Surrealist poems, manifestos, and essays. Each student will research and write on the colonial situation of one region in which Surrealist groups were active, and compose a critical essay about a particular Surrealist work, oeuvre, or theme. We will also regularly experiment with Surrealist games, group activities, and writing and mark-making methods, and students will develop pieces from their journals to include in a book to be published at the end of the class.
Gloriana This course will examine the world in the late sixteenth century beginning with the dysfunctional House of Tudor as it emerges from the Middle Ages. Queen Elizabeth fashioned herself into a living symbol out of necessity, and now she can be seen as representing the beginning of the modern world. The Elizabethan era emits all of the “cloak and dagger” intrigue of a Shakespeare tragedy, and yet it also heralds the rise of global trade, the dark shift toward European colonization and slavery. It also exists at a time when international diplomacy was so rife with religious sectarianism that an apocalyptic end for many sovereign states and ingenious people seemed assured. In addition to studying the principle text, students will research and present numerous aspects of Elizabethan life, art and culture.
Grimm Brothers The Grimm Brothers published their Household Tales at a time when the German-speaking peoples were forced to be subjects of Napoleon’s French Empire. Although the brothers’ purpose for these tales was primarily scholarly, they also felt it necessary to add moral instruction and the seeds of national identity to these startlingly brutal tales that bear little resemblance to the Disney movies familiar to us all. This course will look at these tales as coded cultural enigmas to be dissected and interpreted within the socio-historical context of their times, their mythological purpose, contemporary psychological interpretation and we will also look at them through the more recent lens of post-colonial and gender studies. Students will close read the Grimm texts and the class will explore how to compare, interpret and analyze them using a variety of academic.
History of the Cold War This course will provide context to a prominent era in U.S., and global, history. Students will be expected to link the social with the political, propaganda with fear, and art with revolution. During this course, students will gain a more comprehensive understanding of historical research and methods used to decipher the past. In conjunction, they will also be expected to critically understand art as commentary and art as reaction. Texts include: McMahahon’s Cold War: A Very Short Introduction, Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, and Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as well as articles from a variety of contemporary sources.
Introduction to Research This course will provide an opportunity for students to develop or increase their understanding of research methodologies through critical exploration of research language, ethics, and approaches. The course introduces the language of research, ethical principles and challenges, and the elements of the research process within mixed subject matters.
Israel/Palestine: Cousins in Conflict This course examines an aged struggle between two very similar cultures over a relatively small piece of land: the land that has been called Canaan, Palestine, Israel, and now Israel and the occupied territories of The West Bank and Gaza. While this course does not presume to offer solutions to the long-standing conflict over this region, it examines its history, culture and the literary response to the land, and how said disputes have impacted its people. Ideas of Diaspora, Zionism, Intifada, and other related concepts will be explored along with the very conflicting notions about Israel within Judaism initiated by notions of the “messianic.” Authors include Israeli and Palestinian poets and writers: SY Agnon, Nathan Alterman, David Grossman, Amos Oz, Liyana Badr, Ibtisam Barakat, and Mahmoud Darwish, among others. Additionally, a visit to the National Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. will be included as part of the course.
Jewish America during the Great Emigration to The United States Jewish America during the Great Emigration to America begins with the unique year of 1881—following the assassination of Czar Alexander II—which saw the first major pogroms in Russia and throughout Europe. This course examines the existing diasporic Jewish culture in Europe through fictional and non-fictional accounts. Following the mass movement to the so-called New World, the course will focus on the experiences of immigrants in New York and the impact these immigrants would have on American culture and commerce. Additionally, the course will focus on the assimilation process Jewish immigrants either found necessary for survival or refused as some desperately held on to old social and religious customs. The course will look at the Jewish community’s connection to the American Socialist movements of the 1930’s, and conclude with an examination of the impact on American families of the Holocaust. Writers include: Shalom Aleichem, Irving Howe, Emma Lazarus, Henry Roth, Abraham Cahan, Clifford Odetts, Muriel Rukeyser, Barbara Lebow, Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Korea This course provides an introductory overview of modern and contemporary Korean literature in translation. Korea began the hundred years or more covered by this course as a Confucian monarchy content in its isolation, but was forced to experience in rapid succession: western style diplomacy and modernization, invasion, colonization, forced conscription, national division, a devastating war, dictatorships, rapid industrialization, economic success, financial crisis, and global cultural ascendancy. Through close readings of a dozen literary texts, among them Kim’s Your Republic Is Calling You and Kwon and Bruce’s Modern Korean Fiction: An Anthology, we will grapple with some fundamental issues: how were the perspectives of authors changed and affected by external modernizing forces, what happens to national identity after extended occupation and civil war, what do we learn about our culture when we engage a very different culture from ours, and how do we avoid projecting our cultural values when trying to appreciate the literature of Others?
Literature and Lunacy This course will explore the ways in which American society has viewed and treated mental illness over the years, focusing on biological and psychoanalytical methods. Once this historical approach has been realized, we will move our focus to the criminalized mentally ill and the current therapeutic environments created to work with this population. In the latter part of the semester, we will read various novels depicting mental illness and appraise them with a critical eye.
Mexico: from Independence to Revolution This course will study Mexican History from 1810 to 1910. The historical events that this course will include are the Mexican Independence Movement, the U. S. – Mexican War, the French Intervention, the U.S. Civil War, and the Mexican Revolution of 1910. It will also include an overview of the Aztec Empire and the Spanish Conquest, both of which are key to understanding all of the above.
Minotaurs & Matadors: The Spanish Civil War The Spanish Civil War has been called a dress rehearsal for the Second World War because German, Italian and Soviet military forces used it as a testing ground for their planes, tanks and battle tactics. It was also a war of ideas and political ideologies that attracted artists, philosophers and fighters from around the world. But the conflict is nevertheless a very Spanish event, with ancient roots and contemporary consequences. Students will select several novels to read independently throughout this course in addition to weekly assigned reading and several research projects on writers, artists and artworks. The objective of this class is to enhance students’ critical thinking skills by emphasizing and improving writing and research techniques.
Modern Irish Literature Ireland has produced some of the most significant writers of the twentieth century, including Joyce, Beckett and Flann O’Brien. Students will be introduced to methods of critical analysis, advanced textual inquiry and a variety of approaches to the development of effective essays with strong organizational thesis. Students will be expected to complete three written assignments: A three to five page literary analysis, a comparative essay and presentation on a work and author from the recommended reading list, and a final long research paper ten pages or more OR a creative paper related to postmodernism.
Mongolian Empire During this course, students will examine one of the most crucial empires in history. Spanning over nine million square miles, reaching from The Sea of Japan into Europe, the Khanate not only acquisitioned land but also ideas, ideologies and culture. Students will study the influences this empire had on Europe, China, and the Middle East. They will also look at the history of the Mongols through the eyes of Europeans, Persians and Chinese to better understand the empire. Texts include: Morgan’s The Mongols, Khan’s Secret History of Mongols: the Origin of Chingis Khan and Genghis Khan and Weatherford’s The Making of the Modern World.
Murder and Mayhem: A Brief Survey of Native American History and Literature This course will investigate Native American history, from the initial European invasion to Indian Removal to current events that impact Native Americans in today’s society. We will use a number of primary source documents to launch this investigation, as well as literature from Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich and Linda LeGarde Grover to supplement our studies. Film will also be used to address stereotypes of Native Americans, in order to give students a multimedia opportunity to approach these subjects.
Opera Opera Studies is a survey of different styles, sounds and images that make up the world of opera. We’ll begin with a look at what makes an opera—how it is different from a musical, an oratorio or an operetta. We’ll get to know the voices and some of the stars and then work our way from the early baroque works of Monteverdi to contemporary composers like William Bolcum, Mark Adamo and John Adams. The fall semester will address what opera is and how it came to be. We’ll then work through the early composers and productions, finishing with the bel canto composers by winter break. Spring semester will look at ideas of Romanticism, Verismo, the Modernists and, finally, contemporary composers. As the year progresses we’ll look for opportunities to see live performances.
Ottoman Empire The Ottoman dynasty governed a multicultural, multilingual empire lasting from the Late Medieval to the Late Modern period. The Ottomans greatly influenced the history of three continents and perceptions of the exchange between East and West, ceding a legacy as complex and dynamic as the diverse people, practices, and cultural forms held in their sway. At once warlike and tranquil, dogmatic and worldly, authoritarian and tolerant, the Ottoman world still ripples in contemporary cultural, ethnic, and geopolitical currents. Students will explore the empire’s roots in declining, medieval Islamic and Christian kingdoms; the changing aspects of its cultural and political life; its unique position as a primary interface of Western and Eastern economic, religious, social, and military spheres; its relationship to Islam as the last Islamic world power; and how the consequences of its buckling to an accelerating modernity still resonate today. Students will complete one major research paper, a research presentation, and a creative project. The class will make significant use of primary sources in their research and class discussion. Students will also read Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, a novel which will serve as a touchstone to Ottoman creative and social practices.
Peoples of Western Latin America Peoples, Cultures and Literatures of Peru presents a wide variety of college-level readings in a cross-curricular manner in an attempt to answer the following organizing question: when presented with a distinct and separate nation, how does one begin to understand it? In seeking an answer, we explore the basic methods of inquiry from archaeology and cultural anthropology, as well as the novels of Mario Vargas Llosa and Daniel Alarcon, the poetry of Cesar Vallejo, and a wide variety of cultural and historical documents contained in Starn, Degregori and Kirk’s The Peru Reader, indigenous music and television.
Pronouns: Female Representations in Literature and The U.S. Feminism Movement This course was designed to address some of the essential questions and issues regarding the feminist movement. The readings include historical texts, sections of the Bible; Rory Dicker’s A History of U.S. Feminisms; a series of novels by noteworthy female writers, including Gertrude Stein’s Melanctha and Toni Morison’s Song of Solomon; and selections of the current discussion resulting from Sheryl Sandburg’s Lean In. The class will examine the historical interplay between biological /sexual differences and culture as well as to consider the forces which have and continue to shape male and female relationships. Students will explore the past and formulate their own views regarding their perspectives on complicated gender issues. Evaluation is rooted in participation and discussion as well as intensive critical and analytical writing and historical research.
Punk and Politics
Post-Colonial Indian History and Literature The primary lens for this exploration of the world’s most populous subcontinent is literary, including Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and anthologies containing short stories—predominantly anglophonic—by writers ranging from Anita Desai to Vikram Chandra. In supplement, students will read capsule histories, contemporary poetry and extended passages from significant religious texts, watch films, and conduct independent research inquiries into topics ranging from comparative studies of British colonialism across the empire to the culinary legacy of Mughal rule.
Russian Novels This course is designed to introduce students to Russian Literature. It is by no means a full survey of Russian Literature but rather an eye opener to this particular treasure trove of 19th and 20th century Literature. The books provide excellent opportunities to look at narrative/narrators, voice, and a multitude of memorable characters as well as to discover the landscape and some of personality and feel of Russia before the revolution. The goal is to have the students engage in difficult but extremely compelling writing so that they learn new techniques for reading, thinking about and critically discussing great books. With a little luck they will learn a bit more about themselves as well.
Science Fiction, Colonialism, and Empire Science fiction proposes possible futures and fantasy worlds as critical windows into the present. Its continuing dynamism and significance in our culture is rooted in Western ideologies of progress and reorientation in a world of rapidly diminishing places to discover. In this class we will chart the genre’s origins as a mercurial reflection and critique of its creators and consumer’s prevailing worldviews, colonialism and imperialism. Students will read works by science fiction trailblazers H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, fringe and proto-sci-fi writers of pulp, satire, and speculation. Students will complete a research paper, a critical papers and a final project.
South African History and Theater South African History and Theater is an examination of a nation’s birth and its long chronicle of oppressing its indigenous people. While examining the numerous cultures that make up what has become South Africa (through colonization) this course will take a look at how theater artists responded to the nation’s official laws that became known as apartheid. Following the fall apartheid regime, the course will look at the more recent AIDS crisis and how theater artists responded to this epidemic as well. In short, students will gain a working knowledge of a nation rich in diverse cultures yet troubled by an oppressive past. Simultaneously, the class will examine the fact that the theater (and performing arts) remains a powerful tool to effect change.
The Brontës: A Flash of Brilliance This course is a semester long examination of three English writers who in a very brief period of time turned the English publishing world upside down. Anne, Emily and Charlotte defied norms; they published fantastical poems under a pseudonym and soon produced several powerful and beloved novels. In addition to exploring the poems, this course will also look at three novels, Agnes Grey, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. In addition to reading scholarly essays about the Brontës, the course will take moments to look at the socio-political climate of the early Victorian period. Landscape plays a critical role in our study as in remains a central theme in all three writers’ poems and prose.
The Enlightenment The Enlightenment ushered in a profound shift in the foundations of European and American power, which still shape the world today. The era not only re-invented Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History and Theology, but also ushered in the birth or maturity of new academic disciplines: Science, Sociology, Anthropology, and Fine Art. The promoters of Enlightenment not only valued science over superstition, logic over tradition; they created whole new methods, institutions, and vocabularies to produce and regulate knowledge, and to make that knowledge available to those in power. The new values they were promoted include religious freedom, liberal education, the rule of Science, political equality and democracy – a world “enlightened” by knowledge and led to a more ethical and happy life. Yet the age of Enlightenment was also that of rampant colonialism, racism, persecution abroad, and within Europe was used to justify vast extensions of state power, widening gaps between rich and poor, the destruction of rural lifestyles and economies, and the incarceration of the poor, diseased, politically dissident, and all those considered “mad” by rationalist logic. Paradoxically, one of the greatest tools of this most logical of all movements was humor. Satire was used both to support Enlightenment goals and to critique its failures and excesses, sometimes in the same text; it was also full of the whimsical imagination, laughter, cynicism, passion, and absurdity kept out of the movement’s more “rational” texts. We will use two great Enlightenment satires, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Voltaire’s Candide, to explore how and why this intellectual movement transformed its world – who benefited? Who was exploited? How are we to interpret the contradictions and hypocrisies? Do they continue to exist within our own globalized world, shaped by the world of the Enlightenment?
The Gilded Age In recent years, scholars, critics and political commentators have discussed the parallels between the mid-late nineteenth century and our own era. This course will focus on the culture, literature, and history of the Gilded Age. In particular, we will explore two principal themes: (i) the rise of a decidedly American (and self-conscious) style of Art, Architecture and Literature, and, concurrently, (ii) the development of Federalism and property rights as intertwined dynamic forces in an industrializing post-war age. Topics covered will include Reconstruction, The Development of the West, Industrialization, Immigration, The Rise of the City, 19th Century Architecture and Landscape Architecture, The Rise of Labor, 19th Century Presidential and Congressional Politics and The Dawning of Imperialism.
Trojan Truths and Myths Homer is said to have given the Greeks their gods and Europe its literature. The Iliad is a Homeric epic poem which would take three days to perform, and yet only covers several weeks of the ten year long Trojan War. Students in this class will read the Iliad, learn about the myths that provide the necessary backstories of the Trojan War, and will examine the homecoming tales of some key survivors. Later in the semester the students will read about the discovery of Troy, including the archeological explorations, and the crimes conducted in the name of science. Students will close-read the Iliad, and examine the culture, language, religion and humanity expressed in this epic poem. Students will also read sections from Finding The Walls of Troy by Susan Heuck Allen. The objective of this class is to instruct students in useful close-reading strategies, effective note taking and methods of constructing a persuasive argumentation in ancient Greece and today.
Two Centuries of -Isms Since the French Revolution, scores of intersecting and competing cultural, political, and philosophical movements have shaped Western society and through colonialism and globalization they have come to affect nearly the entire globe. In this course, we will review about 50 “-isms” from the 19th and 20th Centuries. We will examine both the relationships between these movements and their internal dynamics—exploring how small intellectual communities, new ideas, and broad societal change interrelate. The class will culminate in students forming their own small ‘movements’ and sharing their work at an event at the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech. In addition to the ideas and activities of individual movements, we will focus on the dynamics of the Manifesto, the relationships between rhetoric and ideas, and how Western movements have been taken up and altered in colonial and post-colonial regions. Students will be expected to analyze and discuss the interrelations between a wide variety of texts, ranging from philosophical tracts to abstract poetry.
U.S. History In this course, students will examine the history of the United States from the arrival of Europeans and Africans in North America through the Second World War. In addition to mastering some of the basic historical narrative of these United States, to understanding how and why we came to be shaped as we are culturally, ethnically, ideologically and geographically, and to grasping the means and rationale for our mode of government, students will be introduced to the tools and methods used by historians to generate that mastery and understanding, and use those tools during class to ask original questions and do original research. In other words: students should begin to know what History is, and how to write it.
Introduction to U.S. History U.S. History is a broad subject, and at the high school level typically assumes significant prior knowledge of what it means to be an American. This course is meant to assess what students from other cultures know about U.S. History, and to teach that which they may find most useful about U.S. History as they return to their own cultures. Special attention is paid to the events and structures–slavery, immigration, class, natural resource distribution, etc.–that have shaped the inherent attitudes and characteristics of citizens of these United States.
U.S. History for Upperclassmen In this course, students will examine the history of the United States from the arrival of Europeans and Africans in North America to the present day. This is a college level survey. It is not, however, an Advanced Placement course. In order to carry that title, we would have to suspend independent research papers, projects and presentations, all central pillars of college level work, and replace them with drills and timed essays, which are not. If we are to take time to consider anything subtly, or to allow students to explore and research on their own, we have to make choices, and our goals are not the mere regurgitation of facts. In addition to mastering some of the basic historical narrative of these United States, to understanding how and why we came to be shaped as we are culturally, ethnically, ideologically and geographically, and to grasping the means and rationale for our mode of government, students will be introduced to the tools and methods used by historians to generate that mastery and understanding, and use those tools to ask original questions and do original research. In other words: We want our students to begin to know what History is, and how to do it.
West African Theater: Politics and Expression on a Post-Colonial Stage From the great musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti to the Nobel Laureate playwright Wole Soyinka, West African artists have served as leaders of 20th century efforts to express social, political and religious response to tribal conflicts, European colonialism and the creation of national identity. West African Theater: Politics and Expression on a Post-Colonial Stage examines these artists by exploring sample plays and music with the context of regional history and the culture. Countries explored include Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria.
World War I The First World War ushered in the 20th Century with an unprecedented scale of bloodshed and destruction, which brought about a fundamental loss of faith in the ethical foundations of Western civilization, while establishing the geopolitical, technological, and cultural structures that have shaped international relations to this day. We shall investigate the 19th Century roots of the war in nationalism and balance-of-power diplomacy, the culture of European empire-building and colonialism; the ways in which rapidly developing technology, industry, political ideas, economic globalization, gender-relations, and other factors made the war fundamentally unlike all previous military conflicts; the effects of total war on both mainstream society and counterculture in all of the participating nations; and how the results have shaped the geographical and ideological contours of the subsequent century. Students will develop geopolitical awareness, work extensively with primary sources, and explore the tumultuous relationship between sweeping historical forces and artistic activity. They will read and discuss 20-40 pages per week, including Remarques’s All Quiet on the Western Front. They will complete a research essay and a critical essay dealing course material, and will collectively plan and execute a commemorative Armistice Day event with individual contributions.
World War II This course is designed to help students better understand World War II: the causes, the elements of engagement, and its impact on the world that followed. Students will look at the changing political landscape of Europe and Asia as well as the relations between the major world powers. This class will use Roberts’ The Storm of War as a backbone; students will learn how to pull prudent information from a secondary source and drive primary source research. Evaluation will take place through, writing, presentation, discussion, and exams. Other texts include: Slaughterhouse Five and a wide variety of contemporary sources.
Writing for the Stage Writing for the Stage is an independent study of the craft and art of playwriting. Starting with an examination of sample plays, participants will explore various forms of dramatic structure and story telling through dialogue. Participants will keep a journal of observations and thoughts and begin to tackle ideas for the creation of pays. Over the course of the semester, students will complete three projects, including two ten-minute plays followed by a longer one act play, which could be developed from one of the earlier efforts. Participants will explore works from such diverse writers as William Shakespeare, Jean Baptiste Moliere, Anton Chekov, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Wendy Wasserstein, Tony Kushner, August Wilson, and Sarah Ruhl among others. Attending and reporting on area theater productions will also be a part of this course.
Writing Lab Writing Lab is an extensive exploration of research for essay writing and, in particular, persuasive writing. The course’s focus: building greater research skills, developing more complex sentence structure, create an automatic desire for revision and editing and to place an emphasis on semantics. Thesis development and defense are critical components. In total students will be asked to write three essays, seven (7) to ten (10) pages each, with citation in the MLA format.
Young Adult Novels: Children in the Shadow of Conflict Selected Young Adult Novels and Beyond is an introductory course to literary and social science research, interpretation and analysis. Through the reading of works written for or about young adults, the course will examine children navigating their way through unique and often dangerous circumstances. In the process students will examine historical conflicts like the American Civil War, the American Civil Rights Movement, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the Cambodian Genocide during the 1970’s and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Writers covered in the class include Naomi Shihab Nye, Ji-Li Lang, Lewis Nordan, Sherman Alexie and Louisa May Alcott.