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Making Powerful Arguments

GENS 176: Making Powerful Arguments teaches students to write and speak persuasively, with the support of rigorous, research-based evidence. You get to choose a course that interests you, and participate in thought-provoking debates guided by our expert faculty.

About registration: Students will register for their spring seminar before registering for the rest of their spring courses. On Thursday, October 12, students will be emailed a survey asking for their top 5 ranked choices. The survey will remain open for one week before the registrar starts placing students in sections on Friday, October 20.

Queer Bodies

M Acuff
Section A: T, Th 2:30-3:50 p.m.

The course Queer Bodies examines the ways queer bodies are represented, mean and/or defy meaning, become legible and/or wonderfully obscured, in and across various recent artistic and literary forms. From the photographic to the novelistic, the philosophical to the poetic, we will examine films, memoirs, YouTube videos, Instagram feeds and written essays in which queer bodily identities signify and are negotiated. We will look at how the range of aesthetic and rhetorical moves leverage and mobilize distinct possibilities and meanings, i.e. make arguments and proffer evidence for ongoing queer proliferation. The first part of the semester will expose students to a wide range of forms and texts, some canonical, others born at the cultural edges, all viable ways of constructing knowledge within a vibrant liberal arts tradition. The second half of the semester will explore students’ formal tendencies and experiments in service of building dialogs with the larger queer multiverse of texts, treatises and ideas.

Content warning: no discussion of queer life could possibly do justice to its subject without some depiction of the violence (literal, legislative and otherwise) historically and contemporarily inflicted upon queer bodies; we will do our best to manage the sometimes stressful effects of taking in traumatic experiences rendered in literary fashion.

Monsters and Monstrosity

Aarón Aguilar-Ramírez
Section B: T, Th 11:30 a.m-12:50 p.m.

The study of monsters, what they are and what they mean, dates back thousands of years. Asa Mittman proposes that a monster is just that which “should not be but is,” something that challenges the sense of normal or quotidian. The Latin word “monstere,” itself derived from “monstrare” and “monere,” also suggests that monstrous figures arise to show, warn, or foretell against an array of potential ills or evils. In this class, we will examine popular monsters or ideas of monstrosity, and reflect collectively on the myriad forces – economic, social, ethnoracial, historical, ecological—monsters represent, challenge, subvert, or forewarn. We will advance powerful arguments about how monstrous figures stress or reinforce a society’s norms and values, its views of self in relation to the “other,” and its perceptions of significant historical events. Our exploration of monstrous figures will take us around the globe, across the cultural geographies of England, Japan, South Korea, Nigeria, the United States, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. We will analyze diverse media forms, including short stories, novels, films, television, graphic novels, newspapers, television newscasts, video essays, and academic articles.

Note: Some of the texts we will read in this class contain elements of horror or adjacent genres, and contain strong depictions of violence, including sexual violence. We will engage these subjects responsibly, but I encourage you to contact me (aguilaa2@whitman.edu) with any questions about whether the class is the right fit for you.

Dark Tourism

Shampa Biswas
Section C: T, Th 10-11:20 a.m.

The phenomenon of travel to sites of disaster is described as "thanotourism" or “dark tourism.” The purpose of this course is to help us make sense of the allure of sites and experiences that represent danger, death, and misery. What do we learn from such visits and exercises? Do they generate awareness and empathy for the predicament of others or do they offer simple, digestible forms through which to consume difference? What kinds of representational challenges do such experiences pose for providers, recipients, and activists? What kinds of feelings are evoked by such experiences, and what kinds of politics can be mobilized from those feelings? This course will grapple with these kinds of questions through a survey of various forms of tourism (broadly understood) – visits to genocide memorials, tours of nuclear sites, representations of hunger and famine, etc. Throughout the course, students will be asked to engage with these questions by critical consideration of different forms (texts, graphic novels, film, etc.) and different registers of engagement (cognitive, visual, aural, etc.).

Ocean Odysseys: Writing Culture, Politics, and the Environment from the Sea

Aaron Strain
Section D: T, Th 2:30-3:50 p.m.

Oceans occupy 70 percent of the earth’s surface, regulate the climate, and are the source of most of the oxygen we breathe. For millennia they have connected (and divided) people and empires, facilitated global trade, and fed billions. They’ve filled us with dread and wonder, inspiring everything from creation stories to horror movies, beach vacation fantasies to haunting memories of the Middle Passage. And yet, in proportion to their scale and importance, we know very little about oceans. Natural scientists have better maps of Mars than the bottom of the ocean. Social scientists have long treated oceans as backdrops for land-based politics and society, rather than vibrant forces worthy of study in their own right. Even our language of learning is decidedly land-centered: we study “fields” and “ground” our arguments. “Seminar,” as the FYS program website notes, comes from an old word for an agricultural plot.

This class proposes turning toward the ocean in all its facets as a way to explore some of the most pressing issues of our time: climate change; racial colonial capitalism; struggles over natural resources; humans’ relationship to the more-than-human world; and the place of beauty, awe, horror, and the sublime in a time of crisis and disaster. Taking a cue from ever-flowing ocean worlds, the course explores ways of knowing and writing that tack between the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences, with an emphasis on writing for both academic and general audiences.

Not Just About Us: Humans and More

Sally Bormann
Section E: T, Th 10:00-11:20 a.m.
Section EE: T, Th 1:00-2:20 p.m.

What does it mean for humans to radically replace themselves, rather than taking center stage? Does it open up possibilities for human agency and change? For agency of a “more than human” world? Humans have frequently turned to fables and allegories to speak to and about power, a topic in our first unit. It is dangerous to talk about limiting the king’s power but not to tell a story about putting a bell on a cat so prey can escape. Unit two includes how humans have looked outside their everyday experience to the supernatural and the super powered. In the Chinese text Journey to the West, a human-like divine is transformed into Pigsy but super-powered Monkey King glories in his eternal monkey nature. In unit three we will consider the concept of a “more-than-human world” in which plants and animals are subjects with agency and engage in communities of their own, as well as in community with humans. Robin Wall Kimmerer describes a world in which being mentored by plants and belonging to a nation under trees is part of a way forward to biodiversity and ecological hope for the planet.

Language, Community, Ecology

Matthew Bost
Section F: M, W 1:00-2:20 p.m.

Language and symbolic communication have often been held up as a central feature of human identity, a source of community, connection, and ethical relation. In this course, we will explore this assumption by considering the place of language in a more-than-human world that urgently demands greater responsibility and connection between humans and other creatures. We will engage the similarities and divergences between human communication and that of other types of animals, discuss the biological emergence of self and consciousness, and explore the ways that different cultures have considered the relationship between language, community, and human being. We will also consider how these questions might shape contemporary practices of dwelling in the world, relating to others, and responding to global climate crisis. Course texts will include work by Octavia Butler, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Peter Godfrey-Smith. Assignments will include several pieces of short writing, regular class discussion, and a final research project.

Other Places, Other Gazes

Chetna Chopra
Section G: M, W 1:00-2:20 p.m.

This course will study how different people experience places differently. The main question it will ask is the following: What dynamics shape divergent registrations of the same place? Foregrounding this question, we will examine various depictions of places, including intimate spaces such as the home in Alfonso Cuarón’s film Roma, nationally and culturally defined spaces in E. M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India, and an “alien” planet in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. Primarily exploring the role of race in these works, the class will also address linked issues of class and gender as it examines the disparities among such experiences in texts from a wide geographical and cultural range.

The Second Sense: Music, Listening, and Criticism

Amy Dodds
Section I: T, Th 10:00-11:20 a.m.

Listening plays a profound role in how we interact with and understand the world around us. How we listen to music and how others tell us we should listen to music shapes how we understand/interpret that music and the culture(s) that generated it. This course will explore close listening in a variety of contexts. While the primary focus of the course will be on music, both live and recorded, we will also work to become better listeners of nature and artificial daily soundscapes. We will engage with composers, performers, music critics, and broader audience/cultural response. As part of this process, we will pay close attention to the dynamics of power in music criticism and reception, and explore how marginalization both excludes and contributes to new forms of listening.

Mutable Identities

176 J: Brian Dott
M, W, F 11:00-11:50 a.m.

In this class we explore a range of genres in which creators and characters push identity boundaries, seeking physical or spiritual transformation. The fears, desires and hopes expressed in the texts and visual sources will stimulate discussions, analyses and writings. Our exploration of texts is organized around three broad themes. The individual transformation unit includes the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, poetry by Maya Angelou, Percy Shelley, Paul Naruda, and a TED talk/performance by Pages Matam. The unit on spiritual mutability includes writings by early Buddhist nuns from India, ancient Chinese shamanic poetry, and exploration of a Japanese pilgrimage. The unit on socio-cultural identities in flux includes Red: A Haida Manga by Yahgulanaas, and the film All About My Mother by Almodóvar. We will end with the anime Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki to help us draw links across the three themes. Throughout the semester, students will introduce a song to their classmates that they associate with the concept of mutability.

Imagining Plato’s Cities

Tim Doyle
Section K: M, W, F 10:00-10:50 a.m.
Section KK: M, W, F 11:00-11:50 a.m.

In order to sketch his philosophical ideas, Plato also sketches portraits of his city, its people, and of Socrates, and invites readers to think with him about a succession of mythical and imagined cities. In this course we will read selections from Plato’s dialogues and other contemporary accounts of Athens and its people, and interpret these ancient accounts alongside more modern attempts to reimagine Plato’s cities. This course is rooted in philosophical and literary examination of platonic dialogues, but also ventures into history, literature, art, politics, and queer theory. While the focus of the class might seem relatively narrow, the historical Athens of around 400BCE and Plato’s various imagined cities are contested territories that are claimed on behalf of conservative political thought, but also by many early activists in the struggle for LGBTQ rights. The story of the decline of Athenian democracy, and Plato’s critique of democracy, inform the foundations of modern democracies throughout the world. Both feminism and traditionalist anti-feminism find inspiration in this moment and these texts. 20th century nonviolent resistance movements across the globe, but also many forms of 20th—and now 21st—century violent political nationalism look equally to these texts and moments to find intellectual ground. So while our focus is narrow in one sense, the broad and conflicted deployment of the intellectual capital associated with Plato’s cities will allow us to peer from strange, new angles at topics of contemporary cultural and intellectual significance.

Science Fair

Kurt Hoffman
Section M: M, W, F 11:00-11:50 a.m.

Does science have a communication problem? Is science represented and discussed in ways that discourage groups of people from pursuing their curiosity to know more about the natural world? Does sharing scientific discoveries with the general public inform or confuse readers? This course will use classic science fair projects to initiate conversations about curiosity, scientific communication, visual representations of information, and the creative aspects of scientific discoveries. We will assemble projects such as volcanoes, basic batteries, and perhaps a hovercraft to build technical writing assignments focusing on clarity, important details, and conveying an interpretation of the results. There will be a research project using the library and information literacy to redraft a class report into a piece intended for the non-specialist audience. In addition, the readings for this class will fall in two broad categories: brief scientific journal articles written for specialists or non-specialists to compare approaches to each audience, and articles and book excerpts focusing on cognition, learning, and rhetoric in the context of scientific curiosity. The course is for students who once liked science and lost that spark of curiosity over time, or who have maintained their wonder of the natural world to explore a science related major at Whitman.

A National Mosaic: Canadian Multiculturalism

Jack Iverson
Section N: M, W, F 9:00-9:50 a.m.

The melting pot and the mosaic are images that have frequently been used to characterize attitudes toward the blending of populations in, respectively, the United States and Canada. While neither notion adequately expresses the complex realities of either country, the difference between these images reflects the existence in Canada of an official multicultural policy recognizing the right of all members of Canadian society to affirm their distinctive cultural traditions. Our task in this course will be to explore this policy and its impacts in Canada, as reflected in a variety of works, ranging from philosophical essays and historical case studies, to literary texts and creative works. Has this official policy been successful in encouraging greater appreciation for and acceptance of diversity in Canada? Has it empowered marginalized populations to affirm their rights? What work remains to be done? And what alternative models have been born of the successes and failings of multiculturalism? Starting from the Ukrainian-Canadian experience and early articulations of multiculturalist policy, we will grapple with texts by Kim Thúy, Jesse Wendt, Tomson Highway, Will Kymlicka, and Neil Bissoondath, as well as a recent feature film and the hit comedy series, Kim’s Convenience. We will also consider recent events in Canada, including the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to address the traumatic legacy of residential school system and continued efforts by French-speaking Canadians to protect their linguistic heritage.

How They Say His Name: Adapting the “Candyman” figure from 1985-present

Chris Leise
Section O: M, W, F 9:00-9:50 a.m.

In 2021, Nia DaCosta partnered with Jordan Peele to right one of modern horror cinema’s wrongs by releasing a new sequel to the classic slasher film Candyman. On its own, the ’92 Candyman delights horror fans; students who recognize the elements of fiction, legend, scholarship, and journalism which influenced the making of that text will likely find it downright astonishing. Almost thirty years later, DaCosta revived the franchise with startling urgency, updating the Candyman tale by fusing it with a tagline from the Black Lives Matter movement, “Say Their Names.” We will study the evolution of Candyman from its origins in a very short story to becoming a four-film franchise. In the process, you will write papers on questions of your own devising, focusing on how these teams of artists blend fiction and fact and to what aesthetic and political ends.

Note: Slasher films are violent and gory; furthermore, the production team of the 2021 Candyman invite discussions about anti-Black violence in the contemporary US. If you have questions about whether the content of this course is appropriate for you, please contact Professor Leise at leisecw@whitman.edu.

Framing Movement & Memory

Camilo Lund-Montano
Section P: M, W, F 8:00-8:50 a.m.

What does it mean to move? How can we look at “looking back”? Movement and memory are core concepts which writers and scholars have used to develop stories and analyses. This course will give students the opportunity to explore these two concepts using different theoretical and methodological frameworks. The semester will be divided into three sections: the first will focus on movement, the second on memory, and the final section will explore how we can connect or juxtapose the two. In each section, students will engage with recent and/or canonical texts in various disciplines that have defined and incorporated these concepts. During class discussion, students will discuss and unpack the thesis, evidence, and conclusions of the texts. With these frameworks in mind, students will write an argument-driven short essay for each section and a longer essay at the end of the semester connecting or juxtaposing the two concepts. In addition, the class will visit the library as well as archives and museum exhibits in Whitman and in the larger Walla Walla community, learning about alternative approaches and interpretations on movement and memory.

Music and Expressive Intent in Film

Paul Luongo
Section Q: T, Th 10:00-11:20 a.m.

Music plays an important role in the expressive intent of most films. Even without deliberate consideration from its audience, music shapes the expressive meaning behind a film’s scenes. Through its presence or absence, its deployment within the story’s soundscape or outside of it, and its use of pre-existing works loaded with cultural meaning—to name just a few techniques—music often clarifies and augments the expressive intent of films.

This course will explore the ways in which the film industry has deployed music to its expressive ends throughout its history. As we hone our analysis and argumentation skills, we will learn to analyze these expressive techniques and provide evidence that supports our interpretation of the film's meaning. Drawing from nearly a century of films, we will explore blockbuster hits and independent projects, Disney cartoons and live-action thrillers, and we will foreground underrepresented directorial voices. We will engage with the composers and directors of these films through their own writings as we weigh their conceptions of their work against our own analysis. After learning the varied techniques available to modern film composers, students will

pick their own films for analysis, identifying the expressive techniques in the music that inform and enhance the film.

Content warning: Some films in this class depict violence, including sexual violence. We will engage these subjects carefully and responsibly. It may be possible to avoid certain films and do alternate assignments; however, it is also possible that some will find too much of the content objectionable to adequately undertake this course.


Tim Machonkin
Section R: M, W, F 1:00-1:50 p.m.

We often talk about “pollution” when discussing the environment. But what is pollution, and how does it impact the environment? Is the problem of pollution getting better or worse? What exactly is “better” and “worse”? Arguably, the problem of pollution began with human civilization. But it was in the 20th century, with the development of modern industry—especially the chemical industry—that our modern conception of pollution began, as well as the reaction to it: the rise of the environmental movement. In this course, we will examine the story of pollution from historical, scientific, and political perspectives. We will examine how risk assessment attempts to grapple with “better” versus “worse”; interrogate how government regulations have fared in reining in pollution, as well as how such approaches have impacted marginalized communities within the US and globally; and look to the what the future might hold for pollution, with the emergence of both circular economies and new threats. We will examine these topics through careful reading of texts from science, social science, and journalistic sources. Students will examine how evidence is used to develop arguments, and will engage in writing and library research to develop their own skills in argumentative writing.

Gravity and Grace in Modern Europe

Rob Mottram
Section S: M, W, F 11:00-11:50 a.m.

This course traces the cultural logic of grace and gravity from Shakespeare to the post-WWII era in western European literature, the arts and thought. Through close readings of literary and philosophical works by Shakespeare, Goethe, Nietzsche, and Simone Weil as well as diverse voices outside of the canon, students will explore and critically interrogate the historical stakes of mercy, its internalization as grace, the uses and abuses of forgiveness, as well as gravity understood as both a physical force and a psychological figure. Grace and gravity will be shown to outline a distinctly modern problem informing painting, ballet, the history of science, and film. Interdisciplinary in scope, this course will prepare students to make powerful arguments along the thematic axes of ethics, affect, gender, class and religion as well as the historical axes of the waning power of the aristocracy, the ascendency of the bourgeoisie and the aftermath of WWII.

Guns: A Cultural Ballistics

Jason Pribilsky
Section T: T, Th 11:30 AM-12:50 p.m.

Anthropologists observe ways societies orient their material and symbolic lives around key objects, be they cattle in eastern Africa, machetes in Melanesia, or salmon among Pacific Northwest Native peoples. In the United States, that cultural object might arguably be the gun. Over 400 million firearms exist in the U.S. – more than one gun per person; And while the country accounts for about 5 percent of the world population, it possesses over 40 percent of global guns. These figures invite a study of the centrality of guns that extends beyond a consideration of their utilitarian value. While attentive to political debates (e.g., Second Amendment protections versus gun control), this course prioritizes the social and material lives of firearms to understand their centrality to a diverse spectrum of Americans. It also addresses the saturation of guns in American thinking about civil rights, security, and individual liberty. By contrast, global gun cultures will be explored to question the uniqueness of guns in the US. Students will engage the topic through a variety of sources: ethnography, journalism, policy briefs, speculative fiction, and film and social media. Assignments will include op-eds, interview analyses, and journaling.

Any exploration of guns in America cannot avoid the difficult and graphic instances of firearm violence. While we'll treat these topics with respect and limit exposure to unnecesssary gratuitous depictions of violence, we will be talking about the ways gun violence profoundly intersects with such issues as suicide, race and racism, and the wounded and disabled body. If you have questions about this course, please email me (pribiljc@whitman.edu).

Data, Decisions, and Equity

Marina Ptukhina
Section U: T, Th 2:30-3:50 p.m.

Data-driven decisions are becoming more and more popular in all areas of life. But should we trust every decision that claims to be based on data? This class will explore the use and misuse of mathematics, statistics, and data science across multiple disciplines. Examples will be studied from theories of randomness, statistical inference, medical decision making, voting theory and equitable political districting. Students will study how their own experience and preconceptions shape their arguments, and how best to address issues of difference and equity in data-driven outcomes.

Creative Influence

Rob Schlegel
Section V: T, Th 1:00-2:20 p.m.
Section VV: M, W 1:00-2:20 p.m.

Some scholars suggest that because Homer had few literary precursors he looked to the stars for inspiration and influence. More recently, poet Fred Moten cites the composer Cole Porter as a source for his poetry collection The Feel Trio. According to Greil Marcus, even the Sex Pistols did not escape the grasp of influence, as he traces the British punk band's influences back to the Knights of the Round Table. Does this suggest there are no authentically original works of art? What does “original” even mean? How do these concerns shape our ideas about creative influence, identity and inheritance? We will use the study of influence as a lens through which to read and discuss poems, music, paintings and film. In the first part of this seminar, we will identify themes and stylistic patterns between works by a variety of writers, musicians and artists. In the second half, students will be invited to create their own self-directed reading list in order to trace thematic, stylistic, and formal influences of one of their favorite texts from outside of class.

The Fairy Tale: Enchantment and Change

Johanna Stoberock
Section W: M, W, F 10:00-10:50 a.m.

The term “fairy tale” gets thrown around in all sorts of contexts, usually to describe something that is so perfect that most of us can hardly dream of experiencing it. But the worlds of actual fairy tales are rarely places we’d want to end up: violence is literal; the vulnerable are targeted; and gaps in logic make it difficult to understand how to navigate life safely. And yet, within the dangerous spaces of these enchanted worlds, those who are most vulnerable resist oppression, finding ways to use magic as a vehicle for social change. We will begin the semester by focusing on the work of the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault in order to consider how the fantastical functions as both enforcer and disrupter of cultural norms. We will then look at contemporary and near contemporary retellings of classic tales and the ways in which adjustments in focus and style allow the tales to become containers for questions that resonate within our current time. Writers will include the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson, Kate Bernheimer, Maria Tatar, and others. Assignments will include essays, a class presentation, and a final writing portfolio.

Note: Fairy tales often ask readers to engage with narratives that hinge on violence, including sexual violence. I encourage you to contact me (stoberj@whitman.edu) should you have questions about this aspect of the tales as you consider choosing the course.

Projecting a Self

Jenna Terry
Section X: T, Th 1:00-2:20 p.m.

What does it mean to create a self? How is a self projected from desire and agency, individual and community, voice and action? How might that creative process and product be given life by and beholden to others? How can impacting a community be expression and nourishment of individual creativity? What happens when the freedom to create is thwarted? Drawing upon Simone de Beauvoir’s “freedom that must invent its goals”, Audre Lorde’s “erotic as power”, and Langston Hughes’s “dream deferred”, this course looks at the challenges, necessities, risks, and satisfactions of project in selfhood. Course texts offer scholarly frameworks and applications for these ideas, as well as narrate a trajectory toward and from awakening desire and selfhood in literature and film. Like many projects which arise from struggle, these texts include reference to and depictions of difficult material; class discussion will address the function of this difficult material directly. The course will center female-authored portrayals from Kate Chopin, Sarah Orne Jewett, Nella Larsen, and Shirley Jackson, among others. Through analysis and interpretation of these texts, students will build evidence-based arguments about the complex relationships between constructions and contexts of the self, presenting to the class an immersive and sustained hybrid written-creative project of their own.

The Problem of the Museum

Jacqueline Woodfork
Section Y: M, W 2:30-3:50 p.m.

Museums are often envisioned as well-established and funded entities that share particularly art and history in ways that inform and educate the public, but underneath this surface, questions of purpose and legitimacy rightly percolate such as how did the museum get this piece or does the museum know what this object truly is? This course will ask questions about and problematize a long-established institution. We will explore the origins and purposes of museums as community institutions, thinking about who is truly served and why.

Justice and Reconciliation

Julia Ireland
Section Z: T, Th 11:30 a.m-12:50 p.m.

Adopting the definition put forward by Hannah Arendt that reconciliation is “a coming to terms with the reality of the past,” this seminar examines the ways we are implicated in history in a manner that extends beyond the categories of victim, perpetrator, and bystander. It starts with the assumption that violence is a central feature of our social world, exploring through a succession of linked concepts and case studies the different ways that individuals, communities, and nations have come to terms with their violent pasts. The seminar explicitly poses the question what the expression “coming to terms with” means –– as justice, as political solidarity or shared responsibility, as repair, and as healing. Drawing from the fields of Comparative Genocide Studies, Transitional Justice, and Peace and Conflict Studies, the seminar incorporates a variety of sources and media –– including popular, archival, and legal –– emphasizing narrative and first-person (witness) accounts to forefront the human cost of violence. The course teaches analytical writing through a process-driven Final Portfolio that includes revision and reflection.


Sharon Alker
Section ZA: M, W, F 1:00-1:50 p.m.

Have you ever been confused? Are you confused right now? Is confusion an integral part of discovering meaning and knowledge, an advanced form of cognition, or merely an uncomfortable and unproductive state? Fictional works, poetry, film, and non-fiction prose are frequently centered on confusion, whether that be exhibited by an unusual narrative structure, confused characters or communities, ambiguous situations, or other discordant features. In this course, we will study such works closely, be they traumatic, triumphant, tragic, hilarious, or eternally bewildering. We will then work to formulate arguments that engage with the depth, origins, and complexity of the struggles we witness in these works. We will engage with historical and other contextual information about confusion, what its causes might be and what its manifestations might look like. This will include considering medical explanations of confusion as well as how diverse cultures interpret confusion. What is the relationship, for example, between power, knowledge, and confusion? Where might it create indecisiveness, and where might it create beauty? How might our particular perspective cause confusion when it comes into contact with the perspectives of others? Our journey will involve considering psychological, sociological, and philosophical theories alongside methods that are often proposed to diminish or regulate disorientation. Our readings will include David Chariandy’s Soucouyant, Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, and Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Language and Power

Dana Burgess
Section ZB: M, W, F 9:00-9:50 a.m.

Who gets to speak? How does language get used to exercise power? How does spoken language work differently from written language? How is reasoned argument different from sarcasm and satire? How does consciously artistic language work differently from consciously direct language? We will read texts from Papua New Guinea, England, Nigeria, Ancient Greece, the United States, Canada, France, The Bronx, Germany, Ancient Rome, Columbia, Chile, and Spain, all of which challenge systems of power and control. We will consider how language can be used powerfully against power so that we can develop our own skills of using language powerfully. Student writing will be shared daily with the group, but always anonymously, helping us to form a community of writers supporting one another’s growth through collaboration, while we get to learn from such powerful writers for change as Achebe, Plato, Twain, Jefferson, Baldwin, Public Enemy, Swift, Wilde, Stein, Tijoux, and Allende. Our readings have been selected with an eye to density of argumentation, and we’ll be working to develop our own skills of concision and precision.

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