From Food to Violence to Theory and more: Some of Our Fall 2013 Course Offerings

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SS 330: Cultural Studies - 3 credits
Professor B. Ricardo Brown

This course will explore the relations of cultural practices to their various social contexts in the contemporary world. Culture is understood as the material expressions and images that people create and the social environment that shapes the ways diverse groups of people experience their world and interact with one another. Various forms of media, design, mass communications, arts, and popular culture will be subject to critical analysis.

SS 355: Mass Media & Society - 3 credits
Professor Ivan Zatz Diaz

An examination of the psychological impact of the modern mass media. Basic models of communication, persuasion, motivation, and attitude formation are presented and applied to the study of the effects of the media on mental and emotional development and on the formation of social attitudes. The course also examines the social implication of the effects of commercial and political propaganda and the “marketing” of political figures as well as the social consequences of the development of a “post-literate”society.

CH 450: Women in the “Arab Spring” - 1 credit
Professor Kumru Toktamis

Do the images of Arab women taking part in political upheavals and social turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa challenge the conventional constructs in Western media that has been presenting them as repressed sexual victims or misguided fanatics for centuries? In this one-credit course we are going to collect and analyze data that represents diversity of women in Arab Spring as artists, union activists, intellectuals, politicians, mothers, daughters in order to capture how women shape and are shaped by times of social change, and have impact on possible outcomes.

SS 490: Introduction to Queer Studies - 3 credits
Professor Kim Cunningham

This course examines issues raised by LGBTQ, both as an historical movement and a method of critique in cultural studies. We will examine the regimes of knowing the "truth" of sexuality in given time periods, and how LGBTQ experiences and movements were shaped by these forms of knowledge and categorization. We will ask: How have LGBTQ populations been controlled, managed, and disciplined by science and medicine? What changes in our assumptions and theories of the social life when sexuality and gender categories are understood as social constructions? Does identifying as queer represent a refusal to consent to "know" oneself using the identity categories of the culture? Along with theoretical discussion, our work will include the analysis of films, art works, maps, television clips, and works of literature that illuminate key issues in the study of sexual identity and lgbtq experience. In taking a queer studies approach, our questions will lead us toward central questions in cultural studies across all categories of knowledge, identity, and selfhood.

SS 490: Philosophy Through Film and Literature - 3 credits
Professor Lisabeth During

Philosophers worry about what we can know about consciousness, personal identity, and memory: without memory, is there a self? What holds our experiences together? Who is speaking when I say ‘I’? And is it possible to know anything about the mind of another? Philosophers also worry about moral questions, like the difference between justice and revenge, and whether we have an obligation to forgive. Movies and literature turn these topics into stories, and make intricate and imaginary narratives out of the puzzles of identity, memory, scepticism and ethical passion. Films we will watch include Memento, Waking Life, Inception, The Matrix, The Return of Martin Guerre and The Eternal Sunlight of the Spotless Mind. From the literary archive we will read stories by Franz Kafka, Heinrich von Kleist, Leo Tolstoy and Virginia Woolf, along with plays by Shakespeare and Aeschylus.

SS 490: Animal Ethics - 3 credits
Professor Kathleen Campbell Kelley

Debate is ongoing as to how we should behave towards animals and why. Is it wrong to eat them, or to test medicines on them? Can we do moral harm to animals or only physical harm? If we do think we have moral obligations towards animals, what is the ground for these obligations? The first part of the class will pursue these questions through various ethical positions, considering Kantian, utilitarian, and other arguments on the moral and cognitive status of animals. But the persistence of these questions reveals a deeper unease about our relationship to animals: a sense that we, as human animals, are very much like them, but at the same time that they are radically other, incomprehensible to us.  The second part of the class will focus on this unease, and look at thinkers who claim that our relationship to animals demands a new kind of moral thought—one perhaps closer to literature than to traditional ethical philosophy. We will read, among others, Singer, Korsgaard, Winch, Gaita, McMahan, Hearne, Coetzee, Diamond, O’Neill, and Derrida.

SS 490: Philosophy and Literature - 3 credits
Professor Kathleen Campbell Kelley

In this course we will enter the lively borderlands between literature and philosophy, where we will begin to explore questions of good and evil, motivation and freedom, chance and time, power and performativity, language, subjectivity and memory. Through readings of literary texts from Greek tragedy to postmodern fiction - and philosophy ranging from structuralism to phenomenology, systems theory and psychoanalysis - we will map out some of the vexed relationships between truth and rhetoric, author and audience, sense and nonsense, argument and image, text and contest, the fake and the authentic.

SS 490: The Creative Impulse: Making Art Mean - 3 credits
Professor Josh Blackwell

“Art is not an object, but experience.” - Josef Albers
Behind the impulse to create is a search for meaning. Therefore, when we make something (a painting, a photograph, a dress, an advertisement) we are literally constructing its meaning. This course will focus on the methods, techniques and processes of making things and their underlying rationales. How does the artist’s intimate knowledge of craft inform the way s/he looks at objects? What are our responsibilities as makers? Does art exist in a world of its own or can it be used as a tool to think about the world around us?
Divided equally between making, reading, and analysis, the class will investigate construction from both practical and theoretical perspectives. Extensive class discussions will focus on weekly assigned projects ranging from critical responses to texts, studio projects, and creative problem solving. Critiques will examine the ways and means of making, from inspiration to final product. Topics considered include: the value of skill, materials and their meaning, amateur versus professional, and the differences between art and design. Considering historical instances such as the Arts and Crafts Movement in England, the pedagogy of the Bauhaus, and the interpretation of Minimalism will provide further context for discussion.

SS 490: The Art Museum: Theory and Practice - 3 credits
Professor Corey D’augustine

This course will provide an insider’s view of contemporary museum practice, concentrating on several key areas, including exhibitions, conservation and education. In addition, we will examine the changing role of museums in the arena of artistic and cultural production. Once associated only with warehousing cultural patrimony, contemporary museum practice is vibrant, diverse and at times controversial. The goal of the course is to provide a nuanced understanding of the theories underlying museum practice and how museums function within the context of the art world, and also within the broader context of the city, the country and the world. Students will meet with curators, educators and conservators to learn about the different facets of museum practice. Students will also have opportunities to visit commercial galleries, alternative spaces and artists' cooperatives, and to compare and contrast with a host of museums in the city. Classroom lectures on the Brooklyn campus will be supplemented with mandatory lectures and tours at various museums.

SS 490: Art & Activism - 3 credits
Professor Barbara Esgalhado

In this course, we examine the role of the artist as social activist from theoretical, artistic, aesthetic, and practical points of view. We study the interplay between the artist and social, historical, and political events – past and present -- and attempt to locate ourselves in the social and political concerns of our present day lives in meaningful ways. The emphasis of the course is on the examination, exploration, and development of the artistic, aesthetic, and political agency of student’s work. Students read and critically examine written and visual texts, write, take field trips, and individually and/or collectively conceptualize and create artwork and/or project(s) that attempt to create personal and social change.

SS 490: Visual Culture of Violence - 3 credits
Professor Matt Carlin

This class is a conceptual introduction to the visual culture of violence that covers a range of media including drawings and paintings, photography, film, video, television and the internet. Students will engage with and critique various theories of violence and media reception. Discussion will focus on the impact and meaning of the visual culture of violence in the context of visual imagery as well as the practices of showing and seeing.

SS 490: Culture of Food - 3 credits
Professor Josh Karant

More than mere sustenance, food offers a source of identity, community and tradition, and a catalyst for innovation, exploration and exchange. Looking at its role in history, philosophy, economics and daily life, we will examine food as narrative: one that elucidates tensions between business and pleasure, tradition and originality, diverse cultural melting pots and distinct indigenous patterns. In addition to focusing upon specific countries (Italy, France, America) and innovations (the Restaurant, the food “industry”), we will explore contemporary issues such as the cult of celebrity (chefs) and Slow Food. To supplement course readings, we will take field trips to two of New York’s unique culinary epicenters – Jackson Heights (Queens), and Little Italy (Manhattan) – and eat local delicacies. Please note that this course is reading and writing intensive (there is a mandatory weekly paper), and that a one-time Lab Fee of $60 is due by Week 2 of class to be applied towards field trips.

SS 490: Fashion & Modernism - 3 credits
Professor Josh Blackwell

Considering the intertwining of art and fashion throughout the 20th century, this course examines various movements and moments including the Ballets Russes, Futurism, Constructivism, Surrealism, Pop, Op, Conceptualism, and Feminism through the lens of fashion. Emphasis is on artists as designers and their particular or peculiar takes on the garment as a means of perpetuating political and social ideals. For the final project, students will create original garments.

SS 490: The History of The 1970s - 3 credits
Professor Josiah Brownell

This interdisciplinary course will explore the decade's most important political, cultural, social, and environmental trends. Familiar events such as the War in Vietnam, the Munich Olympics hostage crisis, and Watergate will be examined alongside lesser known ones like the "population bomb" and the Angolan civil war. Popular music and film from the era will also be located within a broader context of contemporary world history. By semester's end, the importance of this largely forgotten decade, wedged as it was between the tumultuous '60s and the Age of Reagan, will be more thoroughly understood.

SS 490: The Islamic World to 1800 - 3 credits
Professor Francis Bradley

This course is an overview of the history of the Islamic world from the time of the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca in the seventh century to the eve of European imperialism. The course concentrates on the growth and diversity of Islamic cultural and religious traditions not only in Arabia and the Middle East, but also in North, West, and East Africa, and Central, South, and Southeast Asia.

SS 490: Nomads and Émigrés - 3 credits
Professor Liz Knauer

These days, crossing national borders is a common occurrence, and many of us have the opportunity to be “global nomads” in our educational or professional lives. But what is the impact on our thinking and creativity when we have lived and worked in more than one society? In describing such an individual, Edward Said writes: “he or she has a double perspective, never seeing things in isolation. Every scene or situation in the new country necessarily draws on its counterpart in the old country… from that juxtaposition one gets a better, perhaps even more universal idea of how to think.” This course will explore the ways in which migration is understood in relationship to creative and intellectual work from this “double perspective.” By examining intellectual migration from historical, theoretical, and contemporary viewpoints, we will explore the creative and critical mind working across boundaries.

SS 490: The Civil War, 1863: Emancipation - 3 credits
Professor Ann Holder

Every Civil War buff knows that we are squarely in the midst of the 150th anniversary of the war that cost the lives of more U.S. soldiers than any other in the nation’s history (recently revised figures suggest as many as 750,000) and remade the “United States” of America. Steven Spielberg knows it too. That’s why he directed the film, Lincoln, which follows the political machinations of the 16th President as he tries to get Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. This course will take the opportunity of the anniversary to examine the Civil War from the vantage point of the pivotal year 1863, and to explore the many ways the war is being remembered in contemporary America, 2013.

SS 490: Madness and Modernism - 3 credits
Professor Barbara Esgalhado

In this course we will explore mental illness, artistic practice, and the relationship between the two through critical reading, film, and working at an art collective for artists with mental illness. In addition, required to read, maintain an artistic practice in dialogue with the course material, spend one class period a month at The Living Museum in Queens Village, New York (4 total over the semester; transportation will be provided), and critically reflect and write on their readings, artwork, and art collective experience. In addition to weekly journal entries (visual and written), there will be a midterm and final project. Museum visits are mandatory.

SS 490: Capitalism and Everyday Life - 3 credits
Professor Matt Carlin

This course is designed to introduce students to contemporary issues pertaining to global capitalism. We will take a multidisciplinary approach in analyzing a range of issues related to the capitalist economy as it operates in the scope of our everyday lives and around the world. We will be introduced to various political aspects of the capitalist economy as it relates to the global distribution of wealth; international forms of consumption; the spread of new forms of labor; the health of our environment; the growth of urban spaces; the emergence of new technologies; changing gender relations; emotional health; the development and use of social media; and the rise of new forms of political struggle.

SS 510: Controversies in Cultural Theory - 3 credits
Professor Ivan Zatz Diaz

This is an interdisciplinary seminar that explores theoretical and conceptual issues of common concern to both architecture and the liberal arts. It focuses on bodies of twentieth-century cultural and social theory that can be said to have developed ideology of space, viewed both as a notion of habitat and as a vision of urban utopianism.

SS 537: Globalization/Contemporary Economy - 3 credits
Professor Gabriel Hernandez

Examines the current process and features of global integration and division. It focuses on the emergence, over the past decade of what has been called the “new world order.” Particular attention is paid to the differential impact across regions and nations of international political and economic institutions and arrangements, on work, governments, social movements, and public life.

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