Dean's Seminars

Spring 2014 Dean's Seminars

ZOMBIE CAPITALISM

  • Professor Dara Orenstein
  • G-PAC: NOT ELIGIBLE
  • AMST 1000.10
  • CRN 94263
  • WF 9:35-10:50 a.m.

The Walking DeadWorld War Z.  “Obama Zombies.”  Why does the figure of the zombie -- the living dead -- loom so largely in contemporary American culture?  What does it teach us about economic apocalypse?  And, for that matter, about the history of capitalism?  How does it relate to the rise of mass production, or to the specter of a social movement like Occupy Wall Street?  In this reading-intensive seminar we will track the idea of “zombie capitalism,” from the Gilded Age to the crash of 2008 and from the sugar plantations of Haiti to the tents of Zuccotti Park.  Our syllabus will range across the humanities, embracing, to cite a few examples, the writings of Karl Marx, the films of George Romero, and the genre of the Zombie Survival Guide.

Dara Orenstein is an assistant professor of American Studies. She received her Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University. Her courses explore the culture and geography of capitalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and she is currently working on a book manuscript about the history of extraterritorial warehousing.

REPRESENTING BLACK MEN

  • Professor Calvin Warren
  • G-PAC: Social Science
  • AMST 1000.11
  • CRN 96783
  • TTH 3:45-5:00 p.m.

Black men are complicated, if not paradoxical, figures in American society. On the one hand, black men are hyper-visible in media/popular culture, as fetish objects of consumption and fantasy; on the other hand, black men are invisible as subjects—their political concerns (e.g. high mortality rates and joblessness) are often underrepresented, disregarded, or unpublicized. This course examines the historical and cultural representation of black men in American society. The following questions will orient the course: What social, cultural, and historical formations sustain the ‘paradox of representation’ (hyper-visibility/invisibility)? What strategies have black men used to challenge these formations? Have representations of high-profile figures like President Obama opened up new representational possibilities for black men or entrenched stereotypical representations? We will grapple with these questions using photography, film, literature, autobiography, and historical documents.

Calvin Warren is an assistant professor of American Studies. He received his Ph.D. from Yale University and teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on African American culture and philosophy. He is currently completing his book manuscript Beyond Death: Antebellum Free Blacks and Political Nothingness.

BLACK CULTURE IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL

  • Professor James Miller
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • AMST 1000.12
  • CRN: 96784
  • W 12:45-3:15 p.m.

Although the 'Harlem Renaissance' has become firmly established as the lens through which many Americans have come to view the first major flowering of African American culture in the 20th century, this perspective overlooks the centrality of Washington, D.C. as an important site of African American life and culture.  This seminar explores depictions of 20th century black life and culture through a close examination of works by Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Sterling Brown; the contemporary fiction of George Pelecanos and Edward P. Jones; as well as music, film, and field trips.  The seminar will conclude with consideration of the 'renaissance' presently occurring in different sections of the District.

James A. Miller is Professor of English and American Studies. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on African American literature and culture. He is the editor of Harlem: the Vision of Morgan and Marvin Smith and author of Remembering Scottsboro: The Legacy of an Infamous Trial, published by Princeton University Press. He has written and lectured on Washington D.C.’s African American community; his article, “Black Washington and the New Negro Renaissance” appeared in Composing Urban History and the Composition of Civic Identities; “The Changing Face of Shaw” appeared in Washington, D.C. at Home. In 2002 he was named the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching District of Columbia Professor of the Year.

MUSEUMS AND THE POLITICS OF REPRESENTATION

  • Professor Teresa Murphy
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • AMST 1000.13
  • CRN: 96785
  • F 2:00-5:00 p.m.

Washington is a city where everything has a political meaning – including culture.  The Smithsonian Museum, with its vast array of artistic, anthropological, and historical collections, is funded by Congress.  As a result, politicians weigh in on exhibits and are not shy about demanding changes.  Donors, who often pay to stage an exhibit, are equally intrusive.  At the same time, these institutions hold vast repositories of information in their collections that are available for scholars to research. This course will examine how curators choose to display many of these objects and will show students how they too can access many of these materials for their own research. Students will visit the museums, meet with curators, and research the rich archival sources that reveal the lively history of cultural display in the nation’s capital.

Teresa Murphy is an associate professor of American Studies. Terry Murphy's work focuses on the relationship between gender and culture in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. She is particularly interested in how women manipulated gender conventions in roles of social activism and how ideas about gender evolved and were contested during this time period. Her broad fields of interest for both teaching and research are US Cultural History in the pre-twentieth century and US Women’s History. Currently, Dr. Murphy is completing a book on the emergence of women’s history as a genre during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Tentatively entitled Angels of History, The Creation of Women’s History from 1770-1860, her study examines how this branch of domestic literature was deeply engaged with debates about woman’s rights and women’s status from the late colonial period through the early woman’s rights movement in the 1850s.

PATHWAY TO A RENEWABLE CHEMICAL ECONOMY

  • Professor Stuart Licht
  • G-PAC: Natural or Physical Lab Sciences
  • CHEM 1000.10
  • CRN: 96994
  • WF 9:35-10:25 a.m. (lecture)
  • W 10:45 a.m. -12:35 p.m. (lab)

Billion dollar meteorological disasters are occurring at a record rate. We will explore pathways to avoid a reoccurrence of possibly climate-change linked events, which in 2013 have included: flood, famine, tornados, hurricane, drought, sea level rise, and species loss. Instead of generating electricity, this seminar will explore options to provide society’s current needs such as iron, cement, bleach fuels, clean water and plastics production using renewable energy and sustainable resources. Topics covered: how much electricity is sufficient, batteries, fuel cells, solar cells, solar thermal, solar chemical, nuclear, wind, water, and fossil fuels.

Stuart Licht is a Professor of Chemistry and former program director at the National Science Foundation. His research group at GW is working intensively to lower carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to pre-industrial levels.

READING RALPH ELLISON'S INVISIBLE MAN

  • Professor James Miller
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • ENGL 1000.10
  • CRN: 94356
  • MW 12:45-2:00 p.m.

During the year commemorating the centennial of Ralph Ellison's birth, we will read (and re-read) the novel widely regarded as a classic of 20th century African American and American fiction, within its historical, literary, cultural, political, and biographical contexts--and against the backdrop of Terry Eagleton's "How to Read Literature." 

James A. Miller is Professor of English and American Studies. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on African American literature and culture. He is the editor of Harlem: the Vision of Morgan and Marvin Smith and author of Remembering Scottsboro: The Legacy of an Infamous Trial, published by Princeton University Press. He has written and lectured on Washington D.C.’s African American community; his article, “Black Washington and the New Negro Renaissance” appeared in Composing Urban History and the Composition of Civic Identities; “The Changing Face of Shaw” appeared in Washington, D.C. at Home. In 2002 he was named the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching District of Columbia Professor of the Year.

THE ASSASSINATION OF LINCOLN                           

  • Professor Thomas Mallon                                          
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • ENGL 1000.12
  • CRN: 95461                                           
  • MW 2:20-3:35 p.m.

In this seminar, students will examine the immediate historical context of Abraham Lincoln's murder, and use the assassination as a window through which to observe various aspects of 19th-century American culture. These will include theatrical taste, portrait photography, historical painting, and literary elegy. Visits to Ford's Theatre and other sites associated with Lincoln's murder will allow students to see the assassination as a part of local history. In addition, we will work at developing critical perspectives on the long-term effects of the assassination on American political psychology, including ideas about martyrdom and conspiracy. Students will write several short papers and sit for both midterm and final examinations.

Thomas Mallon, professor of English, is the author of eight books of fiction, including Henry and Clara, Bandbox, Fellow Travelers and Watergate: A Novel. He has also written volumes of nonfiction about plagiarism (Stolen Words), diaries (A Book of One’s Own), letters (Yours Ever) and the Kennedy assassination (Mrs. Paine’s Garage), as well as two books of essays (Rockets and Rodeos and In Fact). His work appears in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Book Review and other publications. He received his Ph. D. in English and American Literature from Harvard University. The recipient of Guggenheim and Rockefeller fellowships, he was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

HAMLET AND MODERN CULTURE                           

  • Professor Patrick Cook                                
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • ENGL 1000.MV
  • CRN: 94357                                        
  • WF 1:00-2:15 p.m.

Hamlet and Modern Culture will consist of two related parts. In the first half we will intensively study Hamlet as an Elizabethan performance text, examining Shakespeare’s use of sources and his dramatic techniques as well as the play’s multiple texts, cultural contexts, and contemporary reception. The second half will examine the play’s remarkable afterlife, studying the changes and continuities of its reception across four centuries as Hamlet established itself as arguably the most studied, performed, adapted, sampled, appropriated, translated, parodied, spun-off, and quoted literary text both within and outside the English-speaking world.

Patrick Cook is Associate Professor of English. He obtained his PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He has taught courses in British literature, epic poetry, film adaptation, Shakespeare, and Milton, and interdisciplinary courses for the Humanities Program in the ancient near east and Classical Greece and Rome. His most recent book is Cinematic Hamlet.

This seminar is offered as part of the Dean’s Scholars in Shakespeare. Students outside of the program who wish to enroll are encouraged to request permission of the instructor.

INTRODUCTION TO JEWISH PHILOSOPHY

  • Professor Eric Saidel
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • PHIL 1000.10
  • CRN: 95356
  • TTH 9:35-10:50 a.m.

The old joke tells us that in every gathering of two Jews, there are three opinions.  Elihu (a character in the book of Job) is a good representative of the Jewish people: he is full of words that he must express.  With those words come many questions.  This is how philosophy begins: with questions.  In this class we’ll look at some of the most basic questions, questions about the relationship between Jews and God and the relationship between Jews and the rest of the world.  What obligations do Jews owe God?  Other human beings?  The natural world?  Ought we make distinctions between obligations Jews have toward other Jews and toward gentiles?  Does God have special obligations toward the Jews?  Do our answers to these questions change if we don’t believe in God?  We’ll start the semester with a careful look at the book of Job, perhaps the oldest book in the bible and a surprisingly philosophical approach to the question of theodicy – the attempt to understand the ways of God, especially in the face of the presence of evil in the world.  We’ll try to figure out our own answers to these questions, using as a guide the work of several philosophers (including Saadya ben Joseph, Moses Maimonides, and Baruch Spinoza).  We’ll also try to figure out what Jewish Philosophy is.  Is it that certain philosophical questions are “Jewish.”  Or perhaps it’s the answers that are particularly Jewish?  Or the approaches to the problems?  Or maybe this is backwards, maybe it’s that Jews approach problems philosophically?  By the end of the term, the progress we’ve made on answering these questions should help us understand what Jewish Philosophy is.

Eric Saidel is Assistant Professor of Philosophy. He is a philosopher who has always taken seriously the idea that “Israel” means “fought with God.”  His main area of research focuses on the contemporary mind-body problem, although he has also published in the history of modern philosophy. When he’s not working, Saidel can be found riding his bike, running, cooking, or listening to music.  Sometimes he does more than one of these at the same time.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

  • Professor Jill Kasle                                       
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • PPPA 1000.10
  • CRN: 94843                         
  • TR 2:20-3:35 p.m.

This course analyzes and explains the American legal system, including institutions (courts and the court system), documents (the Constitution), and processes (how the Supreme Court decides a case).  The course emphasizes the development of analytic skills and communicational ability and, through the use of law school teaching methods and exams, is useful for people who are curious about what law school might be like.

Jill Kasle is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Public Administration. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and Boston University School of Law, and has done almost everything that a lawyer can do; she has been a law clerk to a judge, a prosecutor, a defense counsel, a law school administrator, and a professor of law.

THE FIRST AMENDMENT IN THE 21ST CENTURY

  • Professor Jill Kasle                                       
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • PPPA 1000.11
  • CRN: 97450                     
  • TR 12:45-2:00 p.m.

This course will cover the guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion in the First Amendment.  The course emphasizes the development of analytic skills and communications ability.

Jill Kasle is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Public Administration. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and Boston University School of Law, and has done almost everything that a lawyer can do; she has been a law clerk to a judge, a prosecutor, a defense counsel, a law school administrator, and a professor of law.

POLITICS AND CULTURE                               

  • Professor Harvey Feigenbaum                 
  • G-PAC: NOT ELIGIBLE
  • PSC 1000.10
  • CRN: 95259                                              
  • T 3:30-6:00 p.m.

This is a course that examines a number of the ways that issues of culture and politics intersect. While the subject is vast, and could hardly be exhausted by a single course, the purpose of this seminar is to give the student an idea as to some of the ways in which culture affects politics and in which politics affects culture. The purpose is also to give the instructor some idea of how students see the interaction of politics and culture.

As always in a seminar, there will be no lectures. Rather, we will discuss the readings assigned each week. These readings are varied, starting with classics by Max Weber and Karl Marx, through more recent works on the clash of civilization and the politics of film. Students should have done all the assigned readings for the week before the each class begins. Requirements include a research paper on a cultural policy topic of the student's choosing.

Harvey Feigenbaum is a professor of political science and international affairs. He is also director of the Film Studies Program at GW. Feigenbaum is a specialist in comparative politics with expertise on Western Europe and France. His current research examines the political consequences of America's dominance of pop culture. In the course of this work he has been a participant observer in the film and television industries of Britain, France, Korea, Australia, and especially, Hollywood. Feigenbaum received his BA from the University of Virginia, the Diplome en Relations Internationales from Sciences Po in Paris, and received an MA and PH.D. From UCLA.

PUBLIC OPINION AND U.S. FOREIGN POLICY

  • Professor Rachel Stein                                            
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • PSC 1000.11
  • CRN: 95260                           
  • MW 11:10 a.m. -12:25 p.m.

What do Americans know about U.S. foreign policy? Do they care? How do their opinions influence the foreign policy-making process, if they do at all? This course will explore how the public, the media and political leaders interact to shape U.S. foreign policy. We will consider these relationships in several different policy areas including the use of U.S. military force, international trade, foreign aid and environmental protection. The class will introduce students to established theories about public opinion and foreign policy, as well as cutting edge research. Course assignments will focus on developing students’ critical thinking skills and using evidence to assess competing arguments.

Rachel M. Stein is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science. Originally from Colorado, Professor Stein received her Ph.D. from Stanford University, where her dissertation research focused on the moral foundations of popular support for war. More broadly, her research interests include the causes of violent conflict, the domestic sources of foreign policy, and the role of moral values in shaping public opinion.

THE UNITED STATES AT WAR: FROM WORLD WAR II TO AFGHANISTAN

  • Professor James Lebovic
  • G-PAC: Social Sciences
  • PSC 1000.13
  • CRN: 97043
  • F 11:10-1:00 p.m.

This class is designed to help students appreciate the challenges that U.S. leaders and society encounter in war by focusing on the major conflicts in which the United States has engaged since its emergence as a global power. By examining the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan in successive weeks, the class will show that these wars were conducted at two levels: U.S. leaders were concerned both about conducting the war abroad and keeping the U.S. public committed to the war effort. Readings and class discussions will focus, then, on the external dimension of these wars – their origins, U.S. wartime strategy, and the outcomes – and their internal dimensions – public support and perceptions of these conflicts. To give students a better understanding of the societal aspects of these conflicts, the discussion of each war will be paired with a movie (or two) that captures the public sentiment of the period and a trip to a relevant memorial or museum in Washington, DC.

James H. Lebovic is professor of Political Science and International Affairs at The George Washington University. He teaches undergraduate and graduate classes on political methodology and national and international security. He has published widely on defense policy, deterrence strategy, military budgets and procurement, democracy and human rights, and international conflict. He is the author of four books including Deterring International Terrorism and Rogue States: US National Security Policy after 9/11 (Routledge, 2007) and The Limits of US Military Capability: Lessons from Vietnam and Iraq (John Hopkins University, 2010). He has just completed a book on the United States and strategic nuclear arms control.

IMAGE OF THE JOURNALIST IN POPULAR CULTURE

  • Professor Nikki Usher
  • G-PAC: Humanities
  • SMPA 1000.10
  • CRN: 97037
  • M 12:45-3:15 p.m.
  • W 12:45-2:00 p.m.

Where do our images of journalists and journalism come from? Most of us have never stepped foot inside a newsroom, but all of us are exposed to news in some way every day, be it spoof news on The Daily Show to The Hatchet to The Newsroom to articles or blogs we may read see on the Web. We may claim that the news is biased, or we may feel that mainstream journalists simply don’t understand the real story or real importance of the issues at hand. But what is guiding our assessments of journalism?

Our images of journalists are shaped and formed by the popular culture and mythologies surrounding news that we see reflected in Hollywood, on the big screen and on the little screen. This is not a new phenomenon, in fact, the history of journalism has been bound up and characterized by film since the early 1930s. This class aims to offer a comprehensive look at how news is portrayed in popular culture, balancing what we see in the movies with the actual history of news at that time. From this class, you will get a wide-ranging view of the history of journalism and and its depiction in the movies. You will see the developments of the news production process from giant machines to the speed of the web, and you will learn about some of the ethical dilemmas facing journalists. 

Nikki Usher is an assistant professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs. Her research and teaching interests focus on the transforming world of digital media, from journalism to big data to information and communication technologies (ICTs). Her background in media theory and effects, sociology, and communication has given her an appreciation of the wide-range of possibilities for discussing and analyzing today’s media environment—from the changing nature of politics and social media  to open government to hacking to the challenges and opportunities facing today’s news landscape.