2019-20 Pomona College Catalog 
    Aug 03, 2020  
2019-20 Pomona College Catalog

Seminars for 2019

Seminars for 2019

  1. Archaeology: Fact and Fiction. Ms. Blessing. This course will examine how archaeologists and archaeological sites are represented in popular narratives and scholarly publications. Cities such as Troy and Machu Picchu are locations shrouded in mystery and thoroughly examined archaeological sites. Imaginary sunken cities such as Atlantis spur imagination, while underwater archaeology offers insights into trade and travel that are just as exciting. Lara Croft and Indiana Jones are movie archaeologists whose exploits are a far cry from fieldwork. Historical individuals such as Cleopatra and groups such as the Vikings are the subject of fantastic tales on film, but what is their story as it comes to light in historical sources and excavations? Students will engage with a range of sources ranging from movies to magazines, from biographies of historical figures and archaeologists to these archaeologists’ work on the sites that they have excavated. Comparisons and contradictions between these various narratives will allow us to understand how archaeology forms a substantial part of our contemporary understanding of the past.

  2. Iconic Iconoclasts: Lorca, Buñuel, Dali. Mr. Cahill. A cut eye; flying tigers on a poster; poems about gypsies and themoon. FedericoGarcíaLorca,Luis Buñuel,and Salvador Dalí all simultaneously represent Spain’s artistic mastery in the early to mid-twentieth-century and, at the same time, embody the boundary-pushing force of the avant-garde. In this seminar, we will explore what it means for poetry, plays, paintings, and films to be iconic and iconoclastic, controversial and co-opted at the same time. How does the success of particular artists overshadow their political, social, and aesthetic complexity? How does a film commissioned by the Spanish government end up being banned in Spain? Examining the literary, visual, and cinematic works of these artists in detail, we will consider how all three push aesthetic and social boundaries within and beyond Spain’s borders, exposing the margins of society, the self, and our sensory perceptions of the world. In research papers, students will be able to explore and frame works from multiple artists in depth; the final paper provides the occasion for you to imagine and design an exhibit of all three artists and their work 

  3. Tolkien. Mr. Chinn. This course considers some of the major works of J.R.R. Tolkien, the “classic of the 20th century,” from a variety of perspectives. For example, we will examine Tolkien’s narrative technique, his use of visual description, his invented languages, his legendarium, his ethics, as well as the historical context of the works. Writing assignments will include explanatory commentaries and interpretive essays based upon these commentaries. The final assignment will be a short (ca. 5 page) research paper based upon one of the interpretive essays.

  4. I Disagree. Mr. de Silva. The most important skill in any relationship—personal, professional, political—is knowing how to disagree. Why? In this seminar, we consider the problem of living with difference. What does it take to be the one juror out of twelve who votes innocent? What are the dangers of living with people who agree with you? How does a scientific community confront troublesome new ideas? A religious community? Is it weak to compromise? Do you enjoy being right? Do you prefer being wrong? It is an unfortunate fact that the word “disagreeable” is usually taken to mean “unpleasant.” In this seminar, we will rehabilitate the word and revive the noble art of disagreement. Participants will be expected engage with the wider college community as we grapple with these questions.

  5. Language and Gender. Mr. Divita. In this course, we will seek to answer the following question: how do patterns of speaking reflect and construct our experience of gender? We will begin by exploring foundational research on language and gender within the field of sociolinguistics, tracing its development from the 1970s to the present. We will examine the linguistic resources through which individuals perform gender identities today; we will also consider the ways in which grammar constrains how gender may be invoked, and how such constraints vary across cultures. Throughout the semester we will engage with current debates about linguistic phenomena—such as uptalk, vocal fry, and the use of “like”—that are often gendered by popular media in problematic ways. We will also analyze how language can be used as a means of challenging gender norms. During the course, students will collect original language data, which they will analyze in light of the concepts and issues examined in our readings and class discussions.

  6. Utopian/Dystopian Literature. Ms. Eisenstadt. The course is built around three questions. (1) How are descriptions of utopia dependent on the politics of the period in which a book was written? (2) What is the relationship between utopia and dystopia? And (3) Why is dystopia a dominant theme in recent young adult novels? We will read work by T’ao Yüan Ming, Aristophanes, Francis Bacon, Thomas More, Margaret Cavendish, H.G. Wells, Lois Lowry, Octavia Butler, Dave Eggers, and M.T. Anderson.

  7. Los Angeles and the Natural Environment. Mr. Gorse. So you are going to college in California? What do you expect to find there? You are probably asking yourself that, like many before you. This course explores the myth and history of Los Angeles and its relationship to the natural environment by engaging with text, image, film, urbanism and field trips. We begin with Carey McWilliams’ classic, Southern California: An Island on the Land, on this modern “Eden” and its diverse histories. William Deverell and Greg Hise continue with Land of Sunshine: An Environmental History of Metropolitan Los Angeles, taking on the difficultissues of sustainability. Reyner Banham’s Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies takes us on the highways of the motor city; while Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future of Los Angeles delves into the dystopic world of the “City of (Fallen) Angels.” Through film, history, literature, architecture and urbanism, we critically analyze Los Angeles as a metropolis in the sun—past, present, and future.

  8. Building the Future: Revolution, Imagination, Utopia. Ms. Jensen. What does utopia look like? The term “utopia,” coined by Thomas More, puns on the Greek words eutopia (good place) and outopia (no place). This double meaning haunts the utopian project: can an ideal society exist? What happens when utopian dreams go wrong? Our focus will be on Russia and America, two vast lands that have inspired utopian dreaming. In this course, we will explore fictional works that imagine alternate worlds, as well as real-world attempts to build utopian communities (with a special focus on the 1917 Russian Revolution and its legacies). We will consider such questions as: How can everyday life be transformed to create a new utopian society? What roles do science and technology, art and imagination play in these societies? What is the relationship between the individual and the community? What mechanisms of control are necessary to achieve an ideal society? How might imagined worlds offer critiques of the contemporary reality they emerge from? Thinking about utopia and dystopia will lead us to dwell on a range of topics, including science fiction, feminism, socialism, religion, and ecology. Readings may include works by Plato, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alexandra Kollontai, Evgeny Zamyatin, Victor Pelevin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Margaret Atwood.

  9. Math + Art: A Secret Affair. Ms. Karaali. We take these truths to be self-evident: You are a math person or you are not. You are an art person, or not. Some contest these “truths,” but the beliefs persist. If we put these stubborn myths aside, we can see that math and art have many real similarities. Many practice art and mathematics for their own sake rather than their profitable or practical applications. Aesthetic concerns are the main drivers of practitioners of both pursuits. We can trace the effects of the ambient culture in the development of a society’s art as well as its mathematics. Furthermore, math and art have been intricately intertwined in the tapestry that is the collective intellectual and cultural heritage of our species. In this seminar we will explore this tapestry with an eye toward uncovering what for many remains a clandestine affair: math and art together, through the centuries and into the future. Through careful reading of several texts and close engagement with various art works, we will expose the many different connections between mathematics and the arts. We will also reflect upon our own conceptions of mathematics and the arts and aim toward a unified perspective on both as embodiments of our human experience.

  10. The European Enlightenment. Mr. Kates. European society in the eighteenth century was riddled with inequalities of all kinds: religious bigotry and political despotism, as well as new forms of racism, slavery, and class strife. The writers and artists associated with the European Enlightenment suggested radical ways to address these problems. These proposals encompassed both the political and social realms, imagining new forms of friendship and marriage, as if those relationships might constitute analogies to politics itself. In doing so, they blurred the lines between the government and the social, the political and the private, and established a moral foundation for our modern era. Readings will include primary works from the period by such authors as Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu, and Richardson.

  11. The Spell of Reality. Mr. Kirk. There is an ancient saying, found in various forms in every tradition, according to which “reality must be thought of as a magic spell” (as Saraha puts it). If this is the case, the most straightforward way to understand the nature of reality is to investigate means of tricking the senses, technologies for the production of illusions. In other words, the most direct access to reality will be found in sorcery—or in art. This seminar will investigate some or all of the following topics: the origins of tragedy in ancient Greek goat-sacrifice, the seeding of “Western rationalism” by Mongolian shamans, the rise of romantic love as a misunderstanding of medieval mystical song, gay Ouija-board poetry, witches at CalTech, the religion of money, the cult of school, occult cinema, the psychological reality of UFOs, and the transformation of the gods into illnesses. Literature, film, and philosophy will be our sources.

  12. The TV Novel. Mr. Klioutchkine. How does a television series relate to our everyday experience and to our understanding of the culture we live in? How did a nineteenth-century serialized novel relate to its readers’ perception of the world around them? What can these genres tell us about ourselves? In this seminar, we will explore these questions as we understand the links between the serialized novel and the original television series, the novel’s present-day popular incarnation. We will read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot (1867) before focusing on the television series Mad Men.

  13. The Private Life of American Politics. Ms. McWilliams Barndt. How do American political rules and culture shape the ‘private’ lives of people in the United States? In this course, we approach that question by focusing on themes such as: community, alienation, love, sex, neighborhood, family, religion, media, technology, bureaucracy, and work. Readings will include works of fiction, journalism, memoir, political theory and will include authors such as Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, WEB DuBois, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, James Madison, and Alexis de Tocqueville.

  14. Mirroring Japan/ese America. Ms. Miyake. In this seminar, we will explore what Japan and/or Japanese America looks and feels like to a series of writers, dramatists, manga and anime writers and artists. You may be surprised by what you encounter; you may disagree with what they reveal; or you may resonate with what they say. In this course, we will read a range of texts, asking questions about how they represent the spaces and identities and Japan/ese America. Have you ever read a work by Murakami Haruki, Oe Kensabuto, or our own Pomona graduate Garrett Hongo? Or has the manga by CLAMP, Cardcaptor Sakura, “captured” your imagination? What about The Grave of the Fireflies? In addition to addressing issues of gender, sexuality, and orientalism, we will also consider what difference medium makes: do traditional literary forms, such as novels and plays, treat these questions differently than popular forms, such as manga and anime?

  15. Color and Its Affects. Mr. Mukherjee. Whether scooped up off the palette, deployed as propaganda, or opening doors of perception and sensation, color is central to art. This course will explore the aesthetic, cultural and philosophical meaning of color to artists within the broader context of culture. From the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, from scarlet women to punk’s industrial pink, we’ll consider the surprising histories of color across fashion, politics, art and war. We will also think about the politics of chromophobia—a fear of corruption or contamination through color—in the history of color and culture. This is apparent in the many attempts to purge color from art, literature, and architecture by making it the property of some ‘foreign’ body: the oriental, the feminine, the infantile, the vulgar or the pathological. The course will also look at various incidents in the long and troubled history of art and race in postwar America as it relates to the idea of “Whitewalling: Art, Race and Protest.”

  16. Genetically Modified Organisms: Public Perception, Public Policy. Ms. Novarro. GMO crops in some form—from the first ripening-delayed tomato, to pesticide resistant corn, to bruise-proof apples—have been in production in the US for over twenty years. While the FDA has deemed these food products safe for consumption, many consumers are not convinced. Self-appointed right-to-know groups fight for mandatory reporting laws. Other anti-GMO groups fight for a ban on GMOs altogether. In the wake of this consumer skepticism, several food chains and manufacturers have begun voluntarily marketing their products as non- GMO. Advocates for GMOs, meanwhile, argue that GMO crops can help save the environment and feed the world. Are GMO skeptics simply ignoring scientific evidence? Or are GMO advocates in the pockets of big industry? How can society weigh the right to have information about our food against the costs, both monetary and otherwise, of labeling? What would be the consequences of mandatory labeling or GMOs bans on developing nations struggling to feed their populations? And why have so many European countries decided to ban GMO products altogether? In addition to studying these issues related to GMOs, this class will touch on the tensions between food safety and public perception in other areas such as in irradiating food, pasteurization, and a fluoridated water supply. Our readings will focus mainly on public policy issues with some time devoted to understanding the science behind GMOs and the treatment of GMO themes in fiction.

  17. Imagined Cities. Ms. Nucho. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2030, the UN projects that over 60 percent of people will live in urban centers. As the world becomes increasingly urban, it is ever more essential to study the urban experience and to think more intentionally about the cities of the future. How does the built environment help to shape and reproduce relations of inequality? What are the dreams and dystopian visions of the urban metropolis that influence how people experience the cities they live in, or imagine those they do not? In this seminar we will look at critical readings that center the urban as the object of analysis as well as recent ethnographies of cities all over the world. We will also examine the role of the visual and the sensory in shaping ideas about the city by reading creative works and looking at the role of cinema and art. We will also conduct a walking experiment with the aim of producing our own sensory ethnographies.

  18. Chicanx-Latinx Los Angeles. Ms. Ochoa. This seminar unmasks the glitter, fashion, and exclusionary Hollywood representations of Los Angeles by focusing instead on the often-overlooked Chicana/o-Latina/o identities, histories, inequalities, and communities throughout greater Los Angeles. Beginning with the Pomona Valley, we start the course with a discussion of the historical and structural factors shaping Los Angeles. We then consider legacies of inequality and resistance from the 1960s to the present, including education, criminalization, illegalization, gentrification and community organizing. Along with reading and writing about Chicana/o-Latina/o Los Angeles, we will also learn from local communities by leaving campus several times throughout the semester to extend our learning beyond the classroom walls.

  19. Science and the Public’s Health. Ms. O’Leary and Mr. O’Leary. The relationship between science and health is complicated. Look no further than your refrigerator to find a story that illustrates this point. The development of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by Midgley and co-workers in the late 1920s was a public health advance because these non-flammable and non-toxic compounds provided cheaper and safer home refrigeration. Only fifty years later was the environmental impact of these compounds revealed, when CFCs were identified by Rowland and Molina as causing depletion of global health-preserving ozone in the upper atmosphere. One advance led to a significant downstream unintended consequence. Coincidentally, Midgley was also involved in the development of the gasoline additive tetraethyl lead, an example where science advanced a technology in spite of known adverse health effects. Issues regarding human subjects protection, balancing short-term benefits with long-term costs, individual choice versus the public good and decision-making under uncertainty are key to the development of sound science and effective public health policies. Class topics may include vaccination policy, cancer, pharmaceutical synthesis, HIV/AIDS, antibiotic resistance, lead exposure, and the opioid epidemic. Course materials will include books, journal articles, popular press and video. Critical analysis skills will be developed through close reading, active discussion and presentation, writing and peer review of writing. Specific writing assignments include 1-page responses to the day’s readings, 5-page position papers and a longer research paper.

  20. Climate Communication: From Denial and Delay to Understanding and Action. Ms. Perini. About 70% of Americans now believe that global temperatures are rising, a recent uptick after over a decade of disconnect between public opinion and a near-consensus within the scientific community. This change coincides with a series of unusually severe weather events and raging forest fires. However, many Americans still doubt that there is adequate scientific proof that human activity is the cause of global warming. Among those who accept the mainstream scientific views about climate change there is disagreement about what changes, either in personal behavior or national policy, should be undertaken in order to reduce further warming or mitigate its effects. There is also no consensus on who should bear the costs of policies needed to address global warming. These divisions stand in the way of effective action in response to the urgent warnings stemming from the mainstream climate research community. In this course we’ll expose some under-utilized opportunities to bridge various perspectives concerning the climate, by focusing on some key assumptions about science, the transmission of knowledge, and values like justice and personal responsibility. Once we understand how those assumptions and values can lead to communicative failure, we can develop strategies to avoid those pitfalls. We will make use of a variety of sources in order to articulate the different moral values that are relevant to making good personal decisions, and good policy, in response to climate change. The goal will be to gain a greater understanding of your own commitments, as well as developing your ability to see what moral values underlie the position of someone who opposes a course of action you endorse, a key step to finding a productive way out of a disagreement. Writing projects will include assignments aiming at successful communication about the climate for the general public, as well as essays defending philosophical claims relevant to climate communication, which will allow students to deepen their understanding of the issues at stake.

  21. Lose Thyself. Mr. Quetin. You have just committed to four years of a liberal arts education, the expressed purpose of which is to free your mind and soul. But what happens if it doesn’t work out that way? Or what if this education serves you too well and your freedom takes you too far? In this course we will explore the art of being lost in the context of classics texts in western literature. We will place ourselves in the midst of the perennial effort to create order and harmony in the cosmos and the natural and societal forces tearing these world views apart. By learning how to communicate our own experiences of being lost we will join a greater conversation with a variety of lost souls over the last few millennia to examine the extraordinary transformations that can occur in those who find themselves adrift. We’ll be immersing ourselves in epic poetry, autobiographical sketches, philosophical essays, short stories, theater and art, as well as learning how to navigate the night sky and explore the origins of the universe.

  22. Music, Movement, and the Sounds of Protest. Mr. Rockwell. How does music move? How does musical motion relate to human emotion? What kinds of political work can music do? Can music convey truth? How have people utilized music as a form of protest? This course will approach these questions by thinking about music from a variety of perspectives: historical, theoretical, cultural, sociological, scientific, and philosophical. Topics will include pre-modern concepts of harmony, melody, and rhythm, music and social movements, American popular music, and the music of the 1960s. Students will write research papers on topics of their choosing, and create their own music.

  23. On Fiction. Ms. Rosenfeld. What is fiction? What does fiction allow us to know that we otherwise couldn’t know? How does fiction allow us to think in ways that would be otherwise inaccessible to us? Spinning off from the annual theme of the Pomona College Humanities Studio, this course will consider the value of fiction in an era of “post/truth.” From Plato’s charge that all poets are liars to the contemporary boom in fictionalized autobiography, this course will ask: Is it appropriate to apply the measure of truth to fiction? If so, how do we evaluate the truth claims of fiction? If not, what are some alternative measures for the evaluation of fiction? Readings will range from Plato and Aristotle to Bruno Latour and Giorgio Agamben and will include studies of Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Writing assignments will revolve around the essay, as a discursive practice of thinking. Additional assignments will include attending public lectures and occasional field trips.

  24. Adventures with Russian Books: Tales of Passion, Crime, Wars, and Revolutions. Ms. Rudova. What is it about Russian literature that has intrigued readers around the world for more than two centuries? Why do the names of Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Bulgakov, Nabokov, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, or Pelevin stir so much passion in generation after generation of book lovers? – This is your chance to find out! The short version: like no other literature, Russian writers go to extremes – and take their characters, plots, and readers along for the ride. In this seminar, we will engage their values, passions, beliefs, dreams, and fantasies and thus find out what makes Russians tick, what makes Russians Russian. We will read select works from Russian literature and analyze the narrative strategies and literary techniques that bring about their stylistic originality. In the process, we gain insight into the relationship between the human condition and art, and dig deeply into the individual, social, and political dilemmas faced by both literary characters and their authors, both in texts and the real life, culture and history of Russia.

  25. Bad Music. Mr. Schreffler. Poets say that music is good for the soul; scientists say it’s good for the brain. In the dominant discourse of our society, music is portrayed, not just as an activity, but even as a force which “cultures” and humanizes people. In accord with these beliefs, people who do not recognize music’s goodness are viewed with suspicion. At best, such people are called “uncultured.” At worst, they may be perceived as inhuman. Media reports of such acts as the Taliban movement banning music in Afghanistan are at once sensational and practically inscrutable to a modern Western worldview. Yet, far from being just a few exceptional cases of philistines and extremists, there are significant cultural spheres in the world in which music, itself, is viewed with skepticism—and for arguably valid reasons. Moreover, even modern Western discourse does not deem all formations of music to be good. The belief in music as something essentially good, in idealized form, is thus contradicted by innumerable scenarios in which people are criticized, shamed, or even punished for engaging with music of certain types or in certain ways. In this seminar, we will explore notions of “bad music” from various ethical and cross-cultural perspectives. Diverse examples of music, of different cultural groups and historical periods, will inspire rigorous critique and self-reflection. In writing and discussions, students will be challenged to go beyond the facile conclusion that judgments regarding music are “all subjective” and of little real-world consequence. Our aim is to articulate and develop our approaches to discussing value—to distinguish what we merely dislikes, what we simply do not understand, and what we may reasonably call “bad” in the multicultural ethical landscape.

  26. The Art and Aesthetics of the Islamic Middle East. Mr. Shay. What we today term Islamic art did not appear overnight with the advent of Islam as a faith, but rather took several centuries of artists and craftsmen, often non-Muslims, developing and creating designs and elements, largely from the societies that proceeded them, especially borrowing selectively from Byzantine and Sasanian art traditions in order to bring into existence a tradition that we can call Islamic art. Through readings, visual examples found in the readings or other sources, class discussions, videos, and other media, the class will examine the spectrum of Islamic art and architecture to identify elements such as geometric design and improvisation that form the basis for the creation of Islamic Art. Students are encouraged to bring samples of Islamic art or Islamic artistic performances to class to share and discuss with the class. The class will examine in detail, together, art, architecture, and calligraphy, which is perhaps the most important aesthetic form and which constitutes a visual form that creates a great impact on a visitor to a Middle Eastern city as well as related genres like music, dance, and Quranic recitation.

  27. The Sacred Alias. Mr. Smith. Sacred language has long harbored the idea that the personal name is an intrinsic part of the self. As such, its advertisement threatens exposure to forces that might undo its bearer. From Homer’s Odysseus to the Rumpelstiltskin of the Brothers Grimm, from Superman’s Mr. Mxyzptlk to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Sparrowhawk, from St. Olaf’s troll to Ralph Ellison’s Little Man at Chehaw Station, true names and their association to power are of timeless importance. In this seminar, we will explore the (super)natural link between naming and empowerment: How do the weak—through naming work—reverse their condition? Comparing gambits by the socially vulnerable to various games of insight, we’ll seek relationships between the detection of tells in gambling and that of so-called true names within social struggle. Through mystical theology’s and post-colonial theory’s understanding of the use of light to hide things, we will also consider the relationship between concealing and revealing, basic to both tell-reading and true-naming.

  28. Borders and Belonging in Latinx America. Mr. Summers-Sandoval. Frontiers, borders, and walls—spaces of demarcation filled with shifting societal meanings—have played a foundational role in the history the United States. Whether in the US imagination or in the geographic places where those imaginations are made real, these concepts inform our politics, feed ideas of belonging and rights, and shape (and reshape) the lives of migrants from around the world. The history of Latinx America is inseparable from these concepts, yet it is equally entwined with the complicated human stories of integration, home-making, and belonging. Our class will examine these often conflicting dynamics through close readings of works exposing us to the shifting meanings of these concepts and the accompanying stories of Latinx people defining their own lives because of and in spite of them.

  29. Theatre in an Age of Climate Change. Mr. Taylor. What does the theatre have to tell us about humanity’s symbiotic and ever-evolving relationship with the environment? How can the theatre of today help us re-imagine our relationship to and existence in a rapidly changing natural world? And how can the theatre inspire action in our immediate (and urgent) environmental futures? By encountering a broad range of contemporary eco-dramas in reading, writing, and discussions, we will explore possible answers to these and other questions central to the study of theatre in an age of climate change. The course will culminate in the conceptualization of student conceived eco-drama projects. No theatre experience is necessary.

  30. Language, Power, and Community. Ms. Thomas. Language is inherently social—a tool for communication and often a signifier of identity, status, and belonging. Learning language(s) can facilitate effective sharing of ideas and build bonds between people, yet humans frequently employ linguistic discrimination to demarcate in-group and out-group standing and reproduce social hierarchies. A core principle of sociolinguistics is that no dialect is inherently superior to any other. If different groups stigmatize some forms of language as “uneducated” or “ungrammatical,” they marginalize users of those varieties and miss the opportunity to appreciate the creative capacity of language both for the nuanced expression of ideas and the celebration of identity. Certainly, some standardization increases efficiency. We rely on a shared sense of what words “mean” and agreement on basic rules about how we string them together to form more complex utterances. Academia, and more specifically the construct of academic writing, is a fascinating microcosm for exploring the potential of language to facilitate or impede communication and community. What does academic writing—and for that matter, academic speaking or discussion—really involve? Who has power to define it and evaluate others’ attempts at engaging in it? In this course, we will consider how educators and students can co-create inclusive discourse communities.

Other courses offered by the Writing Program