Place, Identity, and Culture
Popeye's favorite refrain was "I am what I am." But what if we changed it to "I am where I am"?
Does place — whether a geographic location or a cultural environment — determine a person's sense of self? Nationality, language, pastimes, food preferences, and fashion trends are just some of the ways our identity and location are linked. Students in this course will draw on academic readings, popular culture, and personal experience as they explore the intersection of social identity and cultural environment. Are city dwellers fundamentally different than rural residents? Why do we care so much about regional or national differences? Under what conditions will contact between indigenous populations and immigrants produce conflict/enrichment? Is genealogy destiny? And what exactly did Dorothy mean when she said that "there's no place like home"? These are just a few of the questions we will try to answer as we study the relationships between identity, place, and culture.
Travel Culture: Art, Food, Politics
If you love food, have appreciation for the arts, and are interested in political aspects of travel, this foundation seminar will take you on a fascinating journey to different continents and different times — from the birth of tourism on the 18th and 19th century Grand Tour to Italy and Greece, to the travels of Marco Polo to China and India, to Sir Richard Burton's sexual mapping of the Near East, exploration of Russia by British and French travelers, to the travels through the small-town America.
The course will explore the perception of the East (including the notion of the Orient) in writings of the European and American travelers to Africa and Asia and that of the West (Europe and Americas) in writings of Asian and African travelers. The course will start with a discussion of students' own experience of travelling to different cultures and places. On the basis of what they perceive as the most important things in their own experience of foreign cultures and places, we will move to an investigation of key philosophical concepts of travel literature: crossing of boundaries, the relationship between the travelled and home spaces, invention of place, language barriers, food as definition of culture, etc.
How We Do Things with Words
This seminar explores the relationship between language and culture. A knowledge of a language is not only a skill and an instrument for communicating thought and information, but language itself is an essential part of our thought processes, perceptions and self-expression.
The seminar will explore how language is a complex phenomenon that brings us together with other humans in global societies. For example, to what extent does our language affect the way we live in the world? How does the way we describe our world with language affect the ways we perceive, think, and act? Do speakers of different languages have different perceptions of the world? How do the figures of speech and the types of sentences we use affect the assumptions we have about fundamental concepts of living in a cultural and linguistic community? What makes the words "I do" different from the words "I think"? Can we rely on language to say what we mean? Through this foundation seminar students will investigate and discuss these central issues of language, discourse and culture as we grapple with the question of how we do things with words.