France - USA
France is the United States’ oldest ally. Both France and the United States share many features: they are modern, democratic societies that face similar economic, social, political, and cultural challenges. At the same time, they are surprisingly different. Why is support for affirmative action typically a hallmark of the the left in the United States, but in France people on the left often argue against what they call “discrimination positive,” while representatives on the right might argue for affirmative action? Why is gay marriage primarily an issue concerning the institution of marriage in the United States but mainly an argument about adoption in France? Why would French politicians consider logical to pay farmers with economically non-viable farms to continue farming?
In this class will examine how common French and American views of self, family, childhood, friendship, community, etc., differ. We will learn how such cultural differences inform approaches to important social issues. Our exploration of these topics will take the form of readings, films, and class discussion.
How We Do Things with Words
This seminar explores the relationship between language and culture. Knowledge of a language is not only a skill and an instrument for communicating thought and information, but language itself is an essential part of our thought processes, perceptions and self-expression. The seminar will explore how language is a complex phenomenon that brings us together with other humans in global societies.
For example, to what extent does our language affect the way we live in the world? How does the way we describe our world affect the ways we perceive, think, and act? Do speakers of different languages have different perceptions of the world? How do the figures of speech and the types of sentences we use affect the assumptions we have about fundamental concepts of living in a community? What makes a promise something we should keep? What makes the words "I do" different from the words "I think"? Can we rely on language to say what we mean? Students will investigate and discuss these central issues of language, discourse and culture as we grapple with the question of how we do things with words.
Place, Identity and Culture
"I am me and my circumstances." This was José Ortega y Gasset's definition of identity. Such a definition suggests that we are a combination of place, our bodies, our relationships, our biological and cultural heritage, and even the language we speak.
Does place — whether a geographic location or a cultural environment — determine a person’s sense of self? Do nationality, language, pastimes, food preferences, and fashion choices affect the way we think?. Students in this coursewill draw on academic readings, popular culture, and personal experience as they explore the intersection of social identity and cultural environment. Are city dwellers fundamentally different than rural residents? Why do we care so much about regional or national differences? Am I a different person when I speak a second language? Is genealogy destiny? And what exactly did Dorothy mean when she said that “there’s no place like home”? These are just a few of the questions we will try to answer as we study the relationships between identity, place, and culture.