Thematic Option

Print this page

CORE 101 Symbols and Conceptual Systems

Professor J. Jackson-Fossett, Department of English >>
Professor A. Renteln, Department of Political Science >>
Professor V. Schwartz, Department of History >>

 

Professor J. Jackson-Fossett, Department of English

This course will engage with three primary sets of texts-philosophical, literary and cinematic-in order to investigate the central role of the shadow in the forms and technologies of self-representation, especially flowing out of the Enlightenment.  While strictly defined as the "tract of partial darkness produced by a body intercepting the direct rays of the sun or other luminary," the shadow is less a thing and more an effect, an effect of the interplay between darkness and light.  We will investigate the shadow's long philosophical history as ephemeral, its function as proxy for the human soul, portent of death, and symbol of sexual prowess-from Plato's Allegory of the Cave in The Republic (in which incarcerated humans misperceive the shadows cast by other beings as actual substance), the valley of the banquet, the ancient art of shadow puppetry in Asia, the eighteenth-century popular craze of phantasmagoria and the magic lantern, Chamisso's Peter Schlemiel who sells his shadow to the devil, and the daguerreotype and other forms of early photography to the cinematic chiaroscuro of American film noir. This is an interdisciplinary course that will serve as the nexus for a range of fruitful discussions concerning philosophy, art history, literature, photography, film, and technology.

REQUIRED READING
J. M. Barrie.  Peter Pan.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
Michael Baxandall.  Shadows and Enlightenment.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible.  3rd edition.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.  
W.E.B. Du Bois.  The Souls of Black Folk.  New York: Random House, 1986.
E.H. Gombrich.  The Depiction of Cast Shadows in Western Art.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.
Herman Melville.  Benito Cereno.  New York:  Viking Penguin, 1968.
Otto Rank.  The Double.  New York: Other Press, 1989.
Shakespeare.  Macbeth.  New York: W. W. Norton, 2003.
Barbara Stafford.  Body Criticism:  Imaging the Unseen in the Enlightenment.  Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993.
Victor Stoichita.  A Short History of the Shadow.  St. Paul: Consortium, 1997.
Adelbert von Chamisso.  Peter Schlemiel: The Man Who Lost His Shadow.  New York: Fromm International Publishing, 1993.
A course reader will be available in the University Bookstore.

REQUIRED FILMOGRAPHY
The films listed below will be screened throughout the semester:  
The Adventures of Prince Achmed.  Dir. Lotte Reiniger.  University Arts, 1926.
The Third Man.  Dir. Carol Reed.  Rialto, 1949.
Touch of Evil.  Dir. Orson Welles.  Universal, 1958.

 

 



 

Professor A. Renteln, Department of Political Science


Law, Culture, and Identity

This interdisciplinary course examines the ways in which individuals and groups attempt to control symbolic representations of their identities through the law.  As a fundamental question, we ask whether the law can offer any meaningful way of protecting identities.  As various bodies of law provide mechanisms for safeguarding the images and symbols associated with identities, we consider topics from the fields of constitutional law, employment law, intellectual property law, and international human rights law.

 Individuals have challenged the use of their images or those of their relatives through "right of publicity" lawsuits.  They also seek to control the choice of their surnames in court; this has been an issue for women in many countries who are required, upon marriage, to take the names of their husbands.  Criminal statutes on the growing problem of identity theft serve as yet another illustration of the problematic nature of attempting to regulate the use of individual identities through the law.

With respect to the maintenance of groups' identities, we consider controversies over dress codes, English-only policies, foodways, Indian mascots, the cultural defense, and sacred sites.  As part of our analysis of the role of law in influencing collective identities, we also take up laws designed to prevent or discourage the existence of extremist groups.  These include anti-masking laws intended to outlaw Ku Klux Klan marches, anti-sect statutes designed to prohibit "cults" or "new era religions," and hate speech regulations drafted to prevent the advocacy of race hatred.
Among the more important debates we analyze is interethnic conflict in the international arena.  The extent to which groups are willing to resort to violence to maintain literal and figurative borders is a topic of crucial importance in the modern world.  We consider the extent to which individuals are willing to risk their lives to protect national or ethnic identities.  In the final part of the course we study relevant international legal instruments.

Readings for the course include theories of identity for individuals and groups, jurisprudential texts, analytic essays on various policy debates, and court cases.  

REQUIRED READING
Richard Ashmore, Lee Jussim, and David Wilder, Eds.  Social Identity, Intergroup Conflict, and Conflict Resolution.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 2001.
Elazar Barkan and Ronald Bush, Eds.  Claiming the Stones/Naming the Bones:  Cultural Property and the Negotiation of National and Ethnic Identity.  Los Angeles, Getty Publications, 2002.
Frederik Barth.  Ethnic Groups and Boundaries.  Prospect Heights: Waveland Press, 1998.
Jane Caplan and John Torpey. Eds.  Documenting Individual Identity:  the Development of State Practices in the Modern World.  Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 2001.
Alan Dundes.  The Shabbat Elevator and Other Sabbath Subterfuges.  Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.
Martin Dupuis.  Same-Sex Marriage, Legal Mobilization, and the Politics of Rights.  New York: Peter Lang Publications, 2002.
Erik H. Erikson.  Identity and the Life Cycle.  New York:  W. W. Norton, 1994.
Richard C. King and Charles Fruehling Springwood, Eds.  Team Spirits: The Native American Mascots Controversy.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.
Halina Niec, Ed.  Cultural Rights and Wrongs.  New Providence: BPR Publishers, 1998.

 

 



 

Professor V. Schwartz, Department of History


Icons

Marilyn Monroe, the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, John Wayne, and Mickey Mouse.  Few would dispute the notion that the mass visual media have transformed these people, places, and things into "icons." Although these phenomena exist apart from their representation, their cultural significance and importance is attached to their status as pictorial representations that are widely disseminated.   The term "icon" initially invoked an object worthy of religious devotion; that original meaning now denotes an uncritical and popular devotion.  This course poses the question "What becomes a legend most?"  That question, made famous by the Blackglama fur ads, conflated "becoming" in the sense of being visually pleasing with "becoming" a legend, a modern process fueled by image-making.  We will examine basic ways of thinking about visual symbols by learning about semiotics, symbolic and cultural anthropology, and what art historians have called iconology.  This course will trace the interplay between specific icons and the visual culture that made them iconic.  Particular emphasis will be placed on technologies of representation such as photography and film and the vital role they have played in the culture of modern icons.  

REQUIRED READING
Class Field-Trip to Disneyland.

Roland Barthes.  Mythologies.  New York: Hill and Wang, 1972.
John Berger.  Ways of Seeing.  New York: Penguin, 1990.
John Hannigan.  Fantasy City: Pleasure and Profit in the Post-Modern Metropolis.  New York: Routledge,     1998.
Edgar Morin.  The Stars.  Trans. Richard Howard.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.
Donald Sassoon.  Becoming Mona Lisa: Making of a Global Icon.  San Diego: Harcourt Trade, 2003.
Susan Sontag.  On Photography.  New York: Picador, 2001.
Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett.  POPism: The Warhol Sixties.  San Diego: Harcourt Trade, 1990.

 

Core 101: Symbols and Conceptual Systems

Read a Sample Course Description

Core 102: Culture and Values

Read a Sample Course Description

Core 103: Process of Change in Science

Read a Sample Course Description

Core 104: Change and the Future

Read a Sample Course Description

Core 112 Writing Seminar

Read a Sample Course Description