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Sophomore Residential Seminars - Course Descriptions

Find your course of interest below, and apply for this truly immersive experience by January 31, 2016.

Challenges of Modernity: Istanbul (CORE 152)

Professor David McCabe - Philosophy

The challenges of modernity are often seen in terms of a set of sharp contrasts: West versus East, equality versus hierarchy, secularism versus religion, and so on. While these dichotomies can sometimes be helpful, they are overly tidy and potentially misleading. This section of Core 152 explores the challenges of modernity by concentrating on the city of Istanbul, a city that straddles Europe and Asia and is today the object of a self-conscious attempt to modernize (economically, politically, culturally) without diluting its distinct identity and traditions. It thus offers an especially interesting prism through which to explore the familiar tensions that mark modernity. Turkey's relation with Islam also offers an opportunity to think through the relation between norms of liberal democracy and claims for religious distinctiveness, an especially important question today. 

Spain (CORE 191)

Professor Doug Hicks - Religion

Spain has been a vibrant crossroads of cultural encounter, and of contested identity, for at least two millennia. Recent debates over immigration, the indignados movement, Spain’s role in Europe, and regional autonomy highlight the ongoing struggles regarding communities and identities in Spain. This course covers diverse aspects of “Spanish” society, religion, politics, and culture, past and present. Tracing Spain’s cultural self-image and national identities through its encounters with war, fascism, democracy, and societal transformations during this global era, students explore its place in the world, its collective struggles, its encounters and negotiations of diversity, and how these have been understood and contested by local people themselves. This course examines the cultural, political, religious, and social dimensions of Spain through texts, film, art, music, social media, and—importantly—by travel to multiple regions of Spain in January 2017.

Temples, Caves, and Stupas: The Art & Architecture of India before 1300

Professor Padma Kaimal - Art & Art History

Humans fill our world with visual signs that carry meaning.  Some may be instantly legible, some are deliberately disguised (think of viagra ads), and some are unintentionally obscure because they function at a cultural or chronological distance.  This course teaches methods for crossing those distances by becoming visually literate in South Asian contexts. As an SRS, this course will let students cross cultural distances in actuality during January, exploring the sculptures, rock-cut caves, and Hindu temples at Mahabalipuram in Tamilnadu and Bhubaneshwar in Odisha (Orissa), and nearby the Buddhist stupa, rock-cut edicts from the 4th century BCE, and a temple dedicated to yogini goddesses.

Focus in the Fall will be on South Asia’s sacred architecture from the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim traditions from prehistoric times to 1300, and also its sculpture which has taken the human body as its primary expressive vehicle. The objects and readings and discussion topics in this course explore lively current debates about primitivism, religious conflict, gender, power, colonialism, and stereotypes. Indian art history has been a site of radical critique for the past two decades. Class conversations and individual research topics will lend themselves to cultural critique, compassion, and self-reflection. Experiencing those together will help us forge community together.

Crete: Imaginary Pasts (CLAS)

Professor Naomi Rood - Classics

This course focuses on the Greek island of Crete to consider how the construction of identity depends on an imaginary past. One needs to know one’s past, to some extent, in order to understand one’s present. But the past is always mediated through memory, narrative, and images – and thus becomes at least in part imaginary. Both a person and a people necessarily construct for themselves such a past. In this course, we will look at how ancient Greece, in its growing pan-Hellenic identity, posited for itself an even more ancient past located on the island of Crete. The myths and stories sited on Crete (e.g. the births of Zeus and Hera, the stories of Daedalus and Icarus, Pasiphae and the Minotaur, Theseus and Ariadne) ponder the nature of the divine, the polity, creativity, and eros – topics crucial to the fashioning of a self. While the course will focus on this imaginary past place, a goal of the course is to form an awareness of how we also – individually and communally and politically – construct necessary imaginary pasts. Course readings include selections from Hesiod’s Theogony, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Xenophon’s Symposium, Plato’s Laws, Euripides’ Hippolytus, Euripides’ Bacchae, Diodorus Siculus’s Library, and Plutarch’s Lives. We will also look at ancient and modern imagery. In January, we will visit Crete to gather a sense of its varied geography and landscape – coastline and interior, mountains and gorges – that allowed for its varied stories. In addition to visiting the ancient palace sites, we will also consider the later history of Crete – its Roman, Arab, Venetian, Ottoman, and modern pasts.