2022-2023 Pomona College Catalog 
    Sep 25, 2022  
2022-2023 Pomona College Catalog

Seminars for 2022

Seminars for 2022

  1. Pomona and the World. S. Anderson. In its mission statement, Pomona College describes itself as “a small residential community that is strongly rooted in Southern California yet global in its orientation.” Since its founding in 1887, Pomona and its students have been active participants in world history. What connects Pomona to places near and far, from Mexico to South Africa? How does Pomona fit into the larger history of Southern California? To what extent are our current struggles, including Black Lives Matter and the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented in our history? Working with a wide range of historical documents—campus newspapers, diaries, oral histories, and more—in this seminar we will think critically about the complex history of Pomona College, and come to understand its students as historical actors. Through original research, critical analysis, and scholarly writing, students will learn how they fit into the college’s history and will reflect on how they can shape its future.

  2. NFTs in the Age of Digital Reproduction. B. Boyer. Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) operate at the intersection of digital art and speculative finance. In this class, we will learn what NFTs do, why they have become popular now, and what stories people tell about their impact–both good and bad–on the world and its inhabitants. This process will serve as an introduction to the discipline of media studies and its various methodologies. We will discover how a better understanding of the history of media can help us make sense of this emergent phenomenon and find effective ways to share these discoveries in writing. Assigned readings will include such authors as Raymond Williams, Saidiya Hartman, Walter Benjamin, Lisa Nakamura, and Brian Eno.

  3. Tolkien. C. Chinn. Some have described J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as the greatest book of the 20th century. It is certainly true that the book has had a great influence on the fantasy genre in particular and on popular culture generally. This class explores Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion through a variety critical lenses. 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. In addition, we will apply modes of reading Tolkien’s work that emphasize issues of class, race, and gender. We will also examine the various film and television adaptations of Tolkien’s writings.

  4. Cold Places. P. Chu. From snow-covered peaks to the circumpolar tundra, from the Arctic sea ice to the frozen landscapes of Antarctica, cold places evoke images of rugged wilderness and vast spaces. Far from being pristine or empty, however, cold places have been the home of diverse communities as well as the setting for dramatic cultural, political, and environmental encounters. In the twentieth century, they became geostrategic locations and treasure troves of natural resources. In the twenty-first century, they are vulnerable places and indicators of the health of our planet. What makes cold places unique, and how are they changing as a result of global warming? How have cold places shaped cultures and societies? What have been the impacts on cold places of industrialization, colonialism, and modern science and technology? In this seminar, we explore the past and present of cold places through a variety of lenses. Our journey takes place through films and documentaries, fiction and memoirs, and works of history, sociology, and anthropology centered on indigenous livelihoods, science, and the environment. We exercise our creative muscles through critical essays and research into the human dimensions of cold places.

  5. Marhaba Middle East. B. Dahi. This course will take you on a journey across the Middle East and broaden your understanding of the region through the lens of History, Culture, Literature, Art, and culinary traditions. We will start in the oldest current inhabited capital in the world, Damascus, and move through time to modern day Syria and Lebanon. We will discuss major historical events and how religion has played an important role in shaping the identity and cultural beliefs that are still adhered to today. We will also explore the rich fine arts and have a special class session where we will experience some traditional Middle Eastern cuisine. Upon completing this journey, you will have a better comprehension of the complex and diverse culture of a region that has been present since the birth of modern-day civilization.

  6. Punk &c.. K. Dettmar. On November 26, 1976, the Sex Pistols released their first single, “Anarchy in the U.K.” Artistic and cultural movements rarely have a clear-cut “birth” moment, and punk rock is no different; the Pistols, for instance, had already been playing live shows for a year when their first 45 dropped, and in the U.S., the first Ramones album had been out for nine months. But if you want an epicenter, a bullseye for the waves rippling out, 11/26/76 is as good a date as any. Nearly a half-century ago, then, simultaneously in the U.K and the U.S., something called punk not only established itself as a musical force, but also set off a full-blown cultural panic.

    In this course we will study the music and art and film that came to be called “punk,” as well as other musics which were initially lumped in with punk before the differences started to become clear (New Wave, ska, mod, dub, etc.). And punk’s not dead, of course: we’ll consider its many and varied offspring (including pop-punks like The Offspring). We’ll listen to the essential, and many of the inessential, records; watch documentaries; read histories and memoirs; and write about them all.

  7. Democracy: What is it good for? E. Dobbs. H.L. Mencken called democracy “the worship of jackals by jackasses”.  Winston Churchill famously quipped that some might say “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”.  Some critics have even argued that full democracy has never truly existed in many so-called democratic countries – including the United States.  In this class, we will explore democracy’s value.  What does it mean to be a democracy?  How do we know if a country is a democracy or not – can it be measured?  If democracy is so awful - or, as some would argue, non-existent - then why are so many people worried that it is in decline?  Finally, is representative democracy the best way to govern increasingly diverse and complex modern societies – and what might be the alternative? 

  1. The Literary Trial. O. Eisenstadt. Most of the classic western texts that portray legal trials display an uneasiness with the process of law.  In some texts the law is clearly not on the side of moral right; in others the question of moral right is unclear.  This course investigates this unease as it appears in various genres:  poetry, scripture, novels, and plays.  We explore each work on its own, but also try to frame questions about the relationship of law and literature.  Authors include Plato, Shakespeare, Melville, Miller, Koestler, and Kafka.

  2. Investigating Memory, Writing History. E. Garrigou-Kempton. In the decades following the end of World War II, Holocaust survivors have shared their stories and, according to historian Annette Wieviorka, the role of these testimonies has changed over time. Immediately after the war, the first testimonies were autobiographical narratives bearing witness to a world that no longer existed. Then, in the context of Eichmann’s 1961 trial in Jerusalem, testimonies assumed legal value. Later, starting in the 1970s and culminating in the late 1990s, immense archival collections of audiovisual testimonies were created to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust is preserved in perpetuity. Alongside these survivors’ testimonies, and even more so as survivors aged and passed away, their children and grandchildren started exploring their family’s history and attempted to piece together the often-fragmentary memories and stories of their ancestors. The memoirs resulting from their investigations into the past articulate historical and archival sources, family testimonies, and eye-witness accounts and question how the memory of traumatic events is transmitted through generations.

    This course will focus on these investigative processes and analyze both literary investigations lead by descendants of Holocaust survivors and recent historical inquiries to memorialize victims of the Holocaust. We will explore how historical investigations are conducted and what methods and sources are used. We will particularly analyze the role of testimonies in these investigations. Going beyond the context of the Holocaust, and engaging with literary studies, history, international law, memory studies, and contemporary art, this course will interrogate how we remember—and write about—the past and how we memorialize victims of mass violence.

  3. From Liszt to Lady Gaga: Selling Music and Celebrity. M. Givens. Our society is obsessed with celebrity. We consume it on multiple screens, in gossip magazines, and on countess entertainment and reality shows and websites. In the nineteenth century, classical music (or as it was known then, music) was just as fascinated with celebrity, anointing one musician after another as the next big thing. Europe was as obsessed with the performances of Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Liszt as our culture is with Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. Mendelssohn’s appearances on concerts were rabidly covered in the press. Even Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were ardent fans, receiving him in their private rooms. Liszt was a superstar on the order of the Beatles—complete with swooning fans and sexual entanglements. What parallels can we draw between the 19th century culture of celebrity and our own? What roles do the press and marketing play in the vicissitudes of fame? What was it about these performers and their music that was so attractive? Can we use a historical lens to consider today’s pop superstars? We will explore these and other questions by examining contemporaneous documents, the rise of the music business, the flourishing of music publishing, performance culture, the evolution of the permanence of music, and the music itself.

  4. Pomona Goes Green: Campus Planning and Sustainability. G. Gorse. The Earth Charter (2000) states: “We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future.” How do our choices—as individuals in our daily lives, and as members of the planned community of Pomona College—affect this future? How does the concept and goal of “sustainability” unite academic, artistic, pragmatic, and social endeavors? In this course, we will investigate these questions, using Pomona College as our case study: how can we make this a more sustainable “campus,” and how can and should our campus be a model for our global future? In our search for answers we will read authors, including Italo Calvino, Leo Marx, Alan Trachtenberg, and William McDonough; write about campus spaces, student organizations and initiatives; and engage the dynamic interdisciplinary field of “Environmental Analysis.”

  5. Cultural and Biological Evolution of FoodF. Hanzawa. This course explores how the foods humans eat have evolved and diversified over time. Global food cultures have been shaped both by historical and economic forces and by agricultural practices. We will investigate how early farmers altered the nature of key plants we consume today and how later agricultural practices further diversified human diets. The class will examine how trade, migration, and colonization resulted in the alteration of indigenous food cultures and the appropriation native foods by colonizers. Our sources will include scholarly publications, mass media, and web content. We will apply our knowledge of food history to discussion of modern food culture. For example, we will interrogate how the concept of authenticity is defined and applied to contemporary cuisines. Why are certain foods considered to be authentically Italian while containing tomatoes, potatoes, or corn, which are native to South and Central America, whereas other foods are labeled inauthentic or “fusion” cuisine? We will also reflect on the future of distinct food cultures in the age of globalization.

  6. Education as Freedom - Education as Capture. E. Hurley. Education is often described as “the great equalizer,” especially in any society that likes to view itself as a meritocracy. It is certainly true that in the United States and elsewhere, some people are able to gain education and leverage that gain into better lives - great lives even. This is the logic of Education for All, a global effort of 164 nations to guarantee every child born on planet earth access to a basic education (currently around 250 million children have no access to schooling at all). On the other hand, some would argue that these same systems of education actually take things from their students, limiting their imaginations, perspectives, culture and even their very identities, in a massive project of forced assimilation and enclosure. Which is it? In this critical inquiry seminar we will explore and examine this question via works in Psychological Science and Ethnic Studies on the role of education in the US and globally.

  7. Why We Remember What We Remember. L. Johnson. Why do certain experiences stand out in our memories, but not others? Why do some facts seem easier to learn? What separates the memorable from the forgettable? This course will address why we remember what we remember, with a focus on cognitive research into the factors that influence how we retain information. We will discuss strategies for optimizing learning through intentional memorization, as well as the formation of incidental memories for events and experiences. Together, our memories and our knowledge constitute a significant part of who we are. The goal of the course will be to develop a better understanding of how our minds construct the memories that become the mental records of our lives.

  8. Math + Art: A Secret Affair. G. 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.

  9. The European Enlightenment. G. 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.

  10. The Spell of Reality. J. 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.

  11. The TV Novel. K. 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.

  12. Animals in Fiction. J. Lethem. Readings in stories and novels featuring animal life. The subject invites consideration of topics of empathy, suffering, and the body. We’ll examine literary methods of allegory, parable and fable. The course will include sections on “Domestication vs. Wildness,” “Evolution,” and “Animal Rights.

  13. History and Philosophy of Human Movement. M. Merrill. The course is designed to examine the history and philosophy of kinesiology (human movement) and how these subjects interact to influence the physical activity experience. The focus is on the development of one’s personal philosophy of physical activity as well as the development of fundamental knowledge of the process of philosophy and how both process and product can influence the physical activity of self and others. Historically, people, places, events, and movements will be examined in relationship to how they helped to shape the philosophy of human movement.

  14. Black Mirror. B. Nasir. ‘Big Brother’ is always watching. We are under constant surveillance whether it be at the airport, walking on the street, or even in our homes while scrolling through an app on our phones. Mass surveillance has successfully penetrated every aspect of public and private life, so much so that we are unable to imagine a world without it. Through critical readings, popular film and television, as well as social media, this course will examine the rise of surveillance in Western societies, as well as political movements that have emerged in response to it. Students will come to understand how modern power works, particularly through the lens of race and class, by focusing on various case studies including: the monitoring of captives in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) targeting of Muslim Americans post-9/11, and the increasing use of “big data” or information technology in local police departments. Students will additionally engage abolitionist methods and theories in critique of surveillance through a series of response essays and the use of social media.

  15. Imagined Cities. J. 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? What are the social, political, economic and environmental impacts of how people imagine cities? 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 looking at the role of cinema and art. You will also complete your own walking ethnography experiment.

  16. Science and the Public’s Health. J. O’Leary and D. 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.

    Class topics may include vaccination policy, the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer, pharmaceutical synthesis, HIV/AIDS, antibiotic resistance, lead exposure, and climate change. 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.

  17. Molecules and the Mind. K. Parfitt. At least one out of six American adults take a prescribed psychoactive medication for treatment of conditions like depression, ADHD, anxiety, or psychosis. Most of these prescriptions are critical for these individuals to function optimally in their everyday lives; all of them come with side effects. Writing of living with bipolar disorder, Kay Redfield Jamison states, “No amount of love can cure madness or unblacken one’s dark moods. Love can help, it can make the pain more tolerable, but, always, one is beholden to medication that may or may not always work and may or may not be bearable.” Many individuals self-medicate with recreational drugs, such as alcohol, marijuana, stimulants, or opioids, sometimes developing addictions to them. In this seminar, we will investigate how the brain works by looking at cases in which brain function has gone awry in ways that can be alleviated or exacerbated by drugs. Reading memoirs from individuals struggling with psychiatric illness and neurodegenerative disease, we will consider such difficult questions as: Are there conditions in which individuals should be medicated against their own wishes? Is there an under-use of psychoactive drugs in our society today? Or an over-use? Is addiction a personal weakness or a disease? In addition to short position papers on the readings, students will be able to closely investigate and write about issues of their choosing.

  18. Southern California Murals. R. Romero. This course explores the creation, culture, and politics of mural art in Southern California, from internationally famous murals at Pomona College to artworks in the greater Los Angeles region and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Through classroom discovery, independent research, fieldtrips to museum sites, and conversations with artists, we will trace the historical and contemporary practice of mural art in the region. We will study how murals represent the creative expression of artists in their time and place, but also how murals represent collaborative efforts to build community, raise awareness, and engage diverse publics. Students will engage in firsthand study of murals on the Pomona campus and in Los Angeles, as well as the rich collection of art at the Benton Museum of Art, Honnold Library Special Collections, and the Claremont Colleges.

  19. Adventures with Russian Books: Tales of Passion, Crime, Wars, and Revolutions. L. 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.

  20. Biblical Beginnings: Race, Gender, Sexuality, and More in U.S. Culture Wars. E. Runions. In the Bible’s first chapter, Genesis 1, God is said to create the world by speaking. The words that describe creation then grew into more words, which grew into texts, and then into traditions, attitudes, and cultural productions. This seminar explores the multiple ways in which cultural truth and authority are constructed and negotiated, in scripture and beyond. We will study the first eleven chapters of the biblical book of Genesis, along with their interpretations in culture and politics. The Bible’s primeval accounts, themselves produced through exchange with other ancient Near Eastern cultures, have been incredibly generative for philosophy, theology, and art. Yet interpretation has narrowed in recent U.S. history to support racism, sexism, homophobia, creationism, and more. We will analyze the interpretive moves that have rendered Genesis 1-11 as significant support for anti-black, heteropatriarchal culture in the U.S, as well as those that produce more resistant readings. To understand the range of possibility for interpretation, we will read precursor texts and afterlives of Genesis, including ancient Babylonian myths, early Jewish and Christian interpretations, early American political debates over race, contemporary U.S. culture wars, and popular culture. We will analyze how these texts have been interpreted, in what contexts, and to what ends.

  21. The Arts and Aesthetics of the Islamic Middle East. A. 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, clothing, 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.

  22. Reasons, Actions and Events. P. Thielke. There seems to be a distinction between actions that are done for a reason—your decision to attend Pomona College, say—and mere events like a landslide striking a tree, or food being digested in your alimentary tract. But what explains the differences between these cases? Are actions free and events causally determined, or are actions rationally grounded while events are not? Are we always aware of the reasons for our behaviors? In this class, we will look at a variety of materials drawn from fields such as philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics, in an attempt to make sense of what, if anything, is distinctive about rational agency, and how it might differ from other events in the world. Topics will include the question of what motivates us to act, whether we have free will, what role moral considerations play in our decisions, moral luck, implicit bias, and to what extent unconscious factors guide our behavior.

  23. Science as a Human Endeavor. S. Urena. The predominant public view of science conceptualizes it as propositional knowledge, typically in the form of laws, principles, and rules, that is, the facts of science. But is science more than encyclopedic contents? Would understanding the fundamental practices of science—how knowledge is produced and assessed, and how science works—add value to the participation of the public in decision-making? To address these questions, this seminar explores science as a human endeavor as opposed to focusing on its contents. We will reflect on science from the perspective of non-scientists (or novice scientists-in-training), and we will research aspects such as the public perception of science, culture of science, science of science, and role of science in modern society and science literacy. Readings from the meta-sciences such as history of science and science education, science communication and similar will strengthen our critical inquiry as consumers of science.

  24. The Right to Choose? Abortion Rights in Latin America and the US. E. Hernandez-Medina. The possible overturn of Roe vs. Wade in the United States has reminded us of the fragility of human rights protections worldwide; particularly, when it comes to women’s and non-binary people’s sexual and reproductive rights. This new course examines recent developments in Latin America regarding abortion rights including the Marea Verde (Green Tide) of young feminists mobilizing across the region defending the right to choose started in Argentina, the uphill battle feminist movements still face in the countries where abortion continues to be illegal under all circumstances (El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Haiti), and the lessons activists, scholars, and others in the US can learn from their Latin American peers in the current political context. The class will feature guest lectures and conversations with feminist activists and public intellectuals from both Latin America and the US.

Other courses offered by the Writing Program