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Featured Courses

Summer 2015

Medieval Worlds
ENGL 421 940

Professor Emily Steiner

We twenty-first century folk pride ourselves on thinking “globally” and having at our fingertips information about all people, places, and times. How did people before c.1600 imagine the whole world? In this course we read a variety of medieval and early modern texts that try to take the whole world into account. We will trace the geographical and cultural imaginations of early writers across different genres, from maps, to Islamic, Jewish, and Christian travel narratives, such as the voyages of Marco Polo; to fictive ethnography, such as the account of John de Mandeville (one of Christopher Columbus's favorite writers); to monstrous encyclopedias and books of beasts, such as the "Wonders of the East"; to universal chronicles and crusader romances. Assignments will include weekly responses and a final project. We will have many opportunities throughout the course to study Penn's collection of medieval manuscripts.

Living History: American History through the Lens of Biography and Autobiography
HIST 560 941
Professor Kathleen Brown

This course approaches the study of the American past through the lives of dissidents, rebels, prophets, and non-conformists. Focusing on a selection of the most interesting figures, we examine both biography and autobiography to gain insight into the following: the times in which these fascinating individuals lived; the issues raised by representing a life through the genres of autobiography and biography; their historical significance. I will lead off each week’s unit with a short lecture presentation to introduce the figure we are studying and the historical context for his or her life. Students are expected to complete weekly reading assignments and to participate in class discussions. Our coverage of each figure will incorporate video footage of documentaries, performance by character actors, and historic film footage whenever such materials are available.

Gender in Performance
THAR 475 941

Professor Rosemary Malague

This course will examine the “performance” of gender on stage and screen, identifying key historical periods in which artists collaboratively created, reinforced, or resisted conventional understandings of masculinity and femininity. We will begin with a study of American Method acting and the “Method masculinity” that emerged in plays by Tennessee Williams, as directed by Elia Kazan, and emblematized by Marlon Brando; we will also look at the so-called “neurotic women” of the period, as well as its victims and sex objects, as epitomized by Marilyn Monroe. Each week we will visit a different moment or movement in American theatre and film; these readings and viewings will be supplemented with critical essays that provide historical and theoretical contexts. As we move forward in time, we will examine queer and feminist challenges to these mid-twentieth century gender models. Works to be considered might include: The Lady in Question, Charles Busch’s drag satire of film noir; Tony Kushner’s epic Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on American Themes; and Paula Vogel’s Mammary Plays (How I Learned to Drive and The Minneola Twins). The class will take advantage of any relevant events scheduled in Philadelphia during the first summer session, including a new Pig Iron theatre piece, inspired by Charles Ludlam (and his own theatrical satires of film), and presented by Fringe Arts. We will also welcome guest speakers when possible.  

Fairy Tales
FOLK 440 940

Professor Linda J. Lee

This course surveys the fairy tale (Märchen) both as an oral narrative genre and in its transformations in literature, sequential art, television, and film. This course will introduce students to the interdisciplinary field of Fairy-Tale Studies. Topics include classic and contemporary fairy tales and fairy-tale collections from Europe, the United States, and beyond; issues of “authenticity” and the ownership of tales; fairy tales as folk performance, postmodern pastiche, material culture, and digital folklore; and the genre’s relationship to gender, power, desire, and the body. Primary texts may include works from Apuleius, Madame d’Aulnoy, Giambattista Basile, Angela Carter, Emma Donoghue, Guillermo Del Toro, Neil Gaiman, the Brothers Grimm, Nalo Hopkinson, David Kaplan, and Bill Willingham. Students will consider range of scholarly perspectives on the fairy tale, including those from psychoanalysis, feminism, postmodernism, queer studies, and disability studies.

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Fall 2015

The Economics of Heritage
ANTH 598 640
Professor Peter Gould

Governmental resources for archaeological and heritage sites are declining worldwide while commercial and economic development initiatives are threatening the fabric of heritage and the larger landscape environment to ever greater degrees.  As a consequence, the competition for resources to protect and preserve heritage is intensifying, as is the challenge of articulating the value of heritage resources vs. competing commercial or public projects. This is the context for understanding the issues surrounding the definition of the value of cultural heritage assets and the tools available for their measurement and management. This course explores in some depth issues relating to the economic analysis of heritage and culture. It is designed to provide students with a foundational understanding of the economics of heritage-related projects, the tools and techniques available for their analysis, and the ethical and practical issues of public policy and private actions that determine the future of heritage resources.  Readings and case studies will explore technical, practical and ethical issues that arise in cultural heritage economics.  Relevant analytical techniques will be introduced and particular emphasis will be placed on commercial, government and community issues unique to heritage-related activities. Special emphasis will be placed upon developing pertinent strategies for the tourist industry. Students will produce one case-study project intended to integrate the technical and practical aspects of the course. 

Philosopy of Science
PHIL 525 640
Professor Michael Weisberg

For the last four centuries, scientific research has provided our most reliable understanding of the world. Although the scientific revolution started modestly with attempts to understand stellar movement, we now know the age and constitution of the universe, the basis of heredity, and we can make and break chemical bonds at will. By all appearances, science seems to have made substantial progress from the scientific revolution to the global scientific enterprise of the 21st century.   This course is about how science has generated this knowledge, and whether it has been as progressive and reliable as it seems. We will consider methodological issues such as the sources of scientific knowledge, objectivity, the growing importance of computation in the natural sciences, and the nature of modeling. We will examine products of scientific research: explanations, models, theories, and laws of nature. And we will discuss questions about science and values, including whether non-scientific values can and should enter scientific research, the relationship between science and religion, and the role of the public in guiding the scientific enterprise. 

Embodied Writing: A Writing Workshop
ENGL 410 640
Professor Rebekah Zhuraw

There is no mind without a body, no words without a mouth to form them, an ear to catch them, a body to play out the tremor of suggested emotion or try on an idea.  Unlocking the meaning of words, the mind taps the physical, re-membering the body. To write is to put keys in the ignition of this virtual reality, and if we want our readers to feel anything—to see it our way—we must pave the way.  This workshop will explore the intersection of writing and the body.  We will examine the issue of embodiment theoretically—philosophically, culturally, politically; we will investigate the body as a subject in the arts; and we will experiment with a variety of embodiment practices to ground us in our senses and see what they might unlock in our creative expression.  But mostly we will write.  Students may focus on one genre or experiment with many.  We will have weekly peer review.  Revision is expected.  This is a workshop that will teach all writers to write persuasively and evocatively.

Hysteria and the Pathologization of the Feminine
GSWS 503 640
Professor Melanie Adley

This seminar traces hysteria as a uniquely female malady from Hippocrates, to nineteenth-century France and Jean-Martin Charcot, from Sigmund Freud in Vienna 1900, to French feminist reflections on hysteria in the 1970s, such as Luce Iragaray’s “La Mystérique,” up until more recent reimaginations of the figure, ending with a consideration of what today's hysteria looks like and the women who are “afflicted.” Through hysteria, we will consider the ways in which illness has been feminized and women have been pathologized not only in the past, but in the 21st century. Furthermore, we will consider the sick feminine beyond gender binaries and consider how that which is sick is feminine—weak, inferior, passive—even when not biologically female. The course will draw from a variety of texts (literary, historical, scientific, and psychological), film, and recent media (from newspapers and magazines to blogs, twitter, Facebook, etc.).

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Individualized Curriculum

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