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.
Keeping it Surreal
World War I. Two medical students meet in a Parisian military hospital and discover a shared admiration for poetry as "beautiful as the chance encounter, on an operating table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella" (Lautréamont). With a growing circle of friends, the two — André Breton and Louis Aragon — create the most influential international avant-garde cultural movement of the 20th century: Surrealism. An enduring influence that extends not only to literature and art, but also engages fields such as philosophy, science, anthropology and politics, Surrealism is fundamentally concerned with freedom: our freedom to think, to create, and to act.
The Surrealists grapple with basic questions. How do language and culture affect our ability to discover and invent? How do they limit what we accept as "reality"? What is the social role of the artist and intellectual? Discussing these questions, analyzing Surrealist works and essays, researching Surrealist themes, and engaging in our own Surrealist games and experiments, we will embark on our own voyage of discovery.
How We Do Things with Words
This seminar explores the relationship between language and culture. 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.
To what extent does our language affect the way we live in the world? How does the way we describe our world 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 community? What makes a promise something we should keep? 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.