First-Year Seminars Taught by UWP Faculty
Bollywood Cinema: Narrating the Nation/Spring 2013
Bollywood Cinema enjoys a national and international audience and is known for its romantic themes and entertainment value. While its stylistic conventions—song and dance sequences, elaborate costumes, and exotic settings—seem to distance it from reality, the ideals of the nation are staged through these conventions as Bollywood cinema struggles to imagine a unified nation. This course invites students to see popular culture—Bollywood cinema, in particular—as a rich site for cultural interpretation in a post-colonial context. Taking a cultural studies approach we analyze constructions of nation, class, gender, family, belonging, and other social issues. Through critical analysis of a popular entertainment form, students develop a keener understanding of Indian culture and the socio-political contexts that shape its values. This course is being offered in Spring 2013.
“So You Think You Can Write?”
This course provides practice in and practical support for students interested in any non-academic forms of writing: poetry, non-fiction, fiction of any kind, or journalism. In a structured and supportive format, we will provide impetus for producing work, although we will be flexible about how much work and of what kind students will produce during the quarter. Guest speakers (local working writers) and readings in Anne Lamott's useful guide to writing (Bird by Bird) will provide advice on the practice of writing. This seminar was offered Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012.
“The Simpsons: Satire and Postmodernism”
This course will investigate the longest running sitcom in America: The Simpsons. As Duane Dudek of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel maintains, "If television stirs primal memories of ancient communal campfires, then "The Simpsons" [is] the cave paintings for our times." We will be social anthropologists, exploring the cave paintings to understand what they reveal about our culture. We will pay special attention to how the show functions as a satire: how it serves as corrective comedy to issues such as consumerism, inequality, and political dysfunction. We will also discuss the show as an example of postmodern literature. Students will collaborate to produce a "mini script" of The Simpsons to demonstrate a mastery of the subject and to discover the intricacies of humor composition. This seminar was offered Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012
Zombies have been a mainstay of the Hollywood imagination since Victor Halperin cast Bela Lugosi in the 1932 film White Zombie. While perhaps best known for their curious appetites, the reanimated dead who feed on human flesh have also gnawed their way into the brains of ethnographers, scientists, philosophers, and cultural critics, who have used the figure of the zombie to ask questions about topics as far ranging as consciousness, free will, racism and immigration. This seminar was offered Fall 2011, Winter 2012, Spring 2012
“Three Poems a Week”
Albert Einstein once said that “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” This poetry workshop will guide the participants in our seminar through a series of take-home and in-class writing assignments that will remind you of your intuition, individuality and creativity. Class participants will focus on avoiding clichés, surprising the reader, and revealing the fresh and stimulating observations and reflections of a bright poet and creative thinker. This seminar was offered Winter 2012.
“The Psychology of Drummers: Rock, Jazz & Blues”
The Psychology of Drummers: Rock, Jazz, & Blues takes a look at what made famous drummers like John Bonham, Buddy Rich, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith tick. With scope narrowed to fans and famous exclusive to rock, jazz, & blues drumming, this freshman seminar takes participants on a 10-week, group-level journey that pursues answers to the preceding line of inquiry. This seminar requires no prior education, experience, and/or proficiency related to drumming for students to participate--only a passion towards drums and drummers and a desire to engage in open-ended research as a team. This seminar was offered Winter 2012.
“Pull Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps: The Self-Made Individual in U.S. Culture”
The United States has long been celebrated as a nation rich in economic opportunities for individuals who are willing to work hard for their success. From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey, U.S. history offers up bountiful examples of self-made individuals. Nonetheless, each of us knows of at least one person who has worked hard and has not met with success. This course will investigate the figure of the self-made individual in history, culture, and politics, and the effect that this figure has had upon our own perceptions of success and failure. We will likewise consider how economic dips, such as the one we are currently experiencing, may impact opportunities for success. Students will collaborate on a presentation about the self-made individual and write a short (3-5 page) paper on the same subject. This seminar was offered Winter 2012.
James Mc Elroy
“Animal Images in a Digital Age”
Animal Images in a Digital Age will explore how our given sense of animals is a social "construct." Students will therefore be invited to look at how animals are represented in modern literature, art, photographic images, digital forms, etc. Starting off with Thomas Gannon's article, "A Most Absorbing Game: The New World Bird as Colonized Other," and how Roger Tory Peterson's text, A Field Guide to the Birds, brings together images and abbreviated texts that are not -- whatever about appearance -- "objective," the course uses Gannon's analysis to look at other animals in a variety of contexts including certain art works, online sites, available videos. The examples of animal images that will be used as weekly modules will be global in outreach including, as example, Cranes in Japanese Culture, the Grizzly Bear in North America, or, common to all, Cats near and far. This seminar was offered Winter 2012.
“IST: Attending and Critiquing the Bay Area Storytelling Festival
This seminar is designed to help students develop a critical appreciation of storytelling as it is practiced and performed by professional storytellers at the California Storytelling Festival in Orinda during spring quarter. This seminar was offered Spring 2012.
Eric Schroeder and John Boe
“DHC: Poetry By Heart”
This course will return to the way poetry has been taught for most of history, memorization (as opposed to analysis). For each class each student will be required to have memorized a poem, a poetic passage, or short poems of twelve or more lines. Class will consist of reciting the poetry and talking about the poem (specifically about what the reciter and the rest of the class liked about it). Each class meeting, each student will be required to speak at least once in response to another student’s poem. The goal of the course is to increase appreciation of poetry by memorizing it, by learning it by heart (as opposed to analyzing it by head). This seminar was offered Spring 2012.