All Courses

Courses that significantly embed intersectional studies of varied axes of identity, including race-class-gender-sexuality, are highlighted  with an (*).

The William Sloane Coffin ’42 Colloquia Series

For more information about the Coffin Colloquia Series, please click the link above.

Berlin: From Imperial Capital to Weltstadt

This course is designed to combine the study of the German language with the study of German culture and history. The language classes will focus on the integration of immigrant youth in today’s Berlin. The course materials, a 2010 documentary titled Neukölln-Unlimited, related newspaper articles, and music selections will provide students with the grammar and vocabulary that will enrich their understanding of the city’s transformation from an imperial capital to a multicultural world city.

The history classes will be taught in English and use Berlin as a lens through which to study some of the most transformative moments in German history: the unification in 1871, the First World War, the Weimar Republic, the rise of fascism and the Second World War, the post-war division of Germany, and finally the reunification of a divided Germany from 1989 to 1990. Readings will combine historical narrative with cultural studies of the art and architecture that form the Berlin landscape in order to understand how the city on the Spree was shaped by shifts in the nature of German national identity. Successful completion of this course satisfies the diploma requirement in German.  May be taken as either a German or Interdisciplinary course.

Special Topics in Video: Dance on Camera

Students will explore the possibilities of dance as a subject for video, and the camera as a tool for choreography. All participants will be encouraged to spend time shooting and editing video as well as moving for the camera. We will view a broad span of historical and contemporary experiments with dance, performance, and video, potentially including surrealist films by Maya Deren, Jacolby Satterwhite’s use of dance and animation, Wim Wenders’ film about Pina Bausch, Jennifer Monson’s traveling ecological dances, early video-performance art, music videos, viral YouTube dance videos, and more. Students will learn a range of techniques for shooting in different indoor and outdoor environments; we will explore a wide range of approaches to editing including close attention to soundtrack, experiments with post-production effects, and various montage strategies. We may engage with lighting and projected video for live performance as well. This class will be open to beginner, intermediate, and advanced video and dance students. (Mr. Kelman and Ms. Wombwell)

Environmental Science: Food, Agriculture, and the Future

This course examines agriculture as a major driver of global environmental change and public health trends. We will explore the demands placed on food production by population growth and a dietary transition, the chemical origins and ecological impacts of fertilizer, and the implications of limited resources of water, land, and oil. The course will integrate fundamental environmental principles of nutrient cycling and energy flow, provide an introduction to environmental economics and policy, and examine how agriculture affects land use, climate change, and biodiversity. We will explore public health impacts of agriculture including food safety, antibiotic resistance, and the rise of obesity and diabetes. Finally, we will consider the future of agriculture and food. Readings will include original scientific literature, nonfiction books and essays, text excerpts, and news coverage. Students should be prepared to undertake a term project.  May be taken as either a Science or Interdisciplinary course. (Mr. MacKinson)

Environmental Science: Global Climate Change

This course prepares students to grasp the science behind the politics. The course begins with an overview of climate science, including atmospheric composition, major biogeochemical cycles, principles of energy conservation and flow, the greenhouse effect, atmospheric and oceanic circulation, and natural climate variability. We then investigate recent anthropogenic climate change, examining both causes and consequences. We will primarily consider impacts on ecological systems, but also assess impacts on public health, economics, and global justice. The second half of the course will address the response to global climate change by investigating mitigation strategies. Students will analyze current and potential future sources of energy, both nonrenewable and renewable. Readings will include original scientific literature, nonfiction books and essays, text excerpts, and news coverage.  May be taken as either a Science or Interdisciplinary course.  (Mr. MacKinson)

Water and Humanity

This course examines the dynamic and tenuous relationship between water resources and human development. Exploring water from a multidisciplinary, project-driven perspective, students will think critically about the central role water has played and must continue to play in the viability and vitality of all civilizations, as well as the many challenges that people face in sustaining, protecting, and gaining access to usable fresh water. Students will encounter diverse materials, use holistic approaches, and engage in innovative project planning to consider, understand, and propose solutions to complex water issues. Using blended methodology involving online videoconferencing and learning, face-to-face conversations and lessons, research and project development, this course will focus on the value of water and on the issues that water scarcity presents within the contexts of such elements as religious belief and practice, the human-water relationship in fine art and architecture, national and imperial infrastructure, and industrial development. Students also will think about the role of water in their own local, regional, and global communities, while researching and proposing their own solutions to complex multidisciplinary water issues.  May be taken as either a Science or Interdisciplinary course.  (Mr. MacKinson)

Histories of Art *

Michelangelo’s David. A three-second Snapchat. The Rothko Chapel. Video of a police officer shooting Tamir Rice. O’Keeffe’s flowers.

Images constantly and incessantly bombard us, yet how do we process, deconstruct, and understand them? How do we place them in larger cultural, political, and social contexts? How do we wallow in beauty and magnificence? How do we discern a variety of meanings and best ensure we are not victims of ideology?

In this three-term interdisciplinary course, students explore images and objects as primary sources unveiling the values and ideas of the society in which they were produced. Particular attention is paid to the effects of class, economics, gender, national identity, politics, race, religion, sexual orientation, technology, and urbanism on art and visual culture. By focusing on both form and context, students foster a visual literacy that will serve them well for a lifetime. Although the course focuses primarily on the traditional “fine” arts, students develop the skills and dispositions to navigate varied elements of contemporary visual culture, including Snapchats and amateur videos.  May be taken as either an Art or Interdisciplinary course.  (Mr. Fox)

FallBeginning with art as mimesis—as representation of “reality”—in Greece, this course concludes with the further development of art during the Renaissance in Italy. Along the way, students encounter creators such as Giotto and Leonardo and explore many topics, including the development of organized labor, the economics of the Medici Bank, the evolution of the social status of some creators from craftsman to artist, the devastation caused by the Black Death, the gendering of different media (e.g., tapestries versus sculpture), and the power of monarchy and papacy.

Winter—This course stretches from the Reformation through Impressionism. Students examine themes throughout, including the evolving tension over the obscuring of boundaries between the wonders of art and the wonders of nature; the gradual shift of sovereignty from pope and king to individual and from patron to artist; the development of photography; the prevalence of rape imagery; the changes in social regulation, spectacle, and exhibition; and the rise of “globalism” in London and Paris. Students study artists such as Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Bonheur, Courbet, and Monet.

SpringCovering the end of the 19th century to the present day, students in this course encounter a range of artists, including Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Käthe Kollwitz, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, El Anatsui, and Banksy. Among other topics, students explore the fragmentation and disappearance of mimetic art, the global catastrophes of depression and war, the development of the cinema, the feminist art movement and the challenges of intersectionality, the solidification of art as commodity (i.e., the economics of the contemporary art market and the politics of museum display), and the postmodern dismantling of the Eurocentric tradition that permeates contemporary visual culture.

Law and Literature

Fall—Exploring Narrative. This course explores the role of narration and storytelling in law, politics, and literature. It begins with a study of what narrative is, drawing from readings in literature, philosophy, and psychology. Equipped with a working definition, students will then investigate the narrative form in action across the disciplines of law, politics, and literature. What role does storytelling play in our law and politics? How do the stories of literature impact our understanding of law and politics?

Winter—Exploring Metaphor. This course explores the power and role of metaphor in law and literature. Drawing from interdisciplinary sources, students will study competing theories on the nature of metaphor and its particular importance in the disciplines of law and literature. Along the way, students will grapple with two works of literature where the nature of metaphor is on display: Vladimir Nabokov’s enigmatic novel Pale Fire and the poems of Wallace Stevens in The Palm at the End of the Mind. Some questions we will struggle with include what is the relationship between metaphor, truth, and literal meaning; how do metaphors generate their meanings; and how, if at all, might metaphors expand or contract our understanding and experience of the law, the world, and ourselves? Student work will consist of the analytical essay, discussion board writings, and some introduction to the practice of legal writing and advocacy.

In both terms, readings will draw from a wide range of disciplines and genres, including legal opinions; cultural, political, and philosophical essays; poems; a novel; and/or a play. May be taken as either an English or Interdisciplinary course.  (Mr. Calleja)

The History and Literature of the Haitian Revolution

Few events have been as transformative and far reaching in effect—yet so untaught and unlearned across the humanities—as the Haitian Revolution, which occurred from 1791 to 1804. This interdisciplinary course will investigate the revolution and its legacy and attempt to address, at least in part, the monumental significance of the only successful large-scale slave rebellion in the Atlantic World. By 1804, the newly independent Haitians, freed by their own hands, had won for themselves a unique inheritance: theirs was a society born of the Age of Revolutions and animated by the Enlightenment-inspired language of liberty, but equally theirs was a society deeply rooted in African and Afro-Caribbean slave culture. In its independence, Haiti became the center of a transnational black diaspora as it defended its existence at a time when the United States and European colonial powers viewed racial slavery as the pillar of their burgeoning capital economies. This elective aims to explore these complicated ideas through a variety of texts, digital archives, fiction and nonfiction, literature, and history.  May be taken as an English, History, or Interdisciplinary course.  (Ms. Curci and Dr. Jones)

Astrobiology: Life Among the Stars

We invite you to embark on a journey to explore the field of astrobiology, the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe, on and beyond planet Earth. We will begin our exploration by studying the fundamentals of relevant sciences—physics, astronomy, chemistry, and biology—and will then apply these sciences to understand the potential requirements and limitations of life on Earth as well as on other planets and moons in our solar system. As we learn about historical and current efforts to detect life on these bodies, we will consider objects resident in our own solar system, including Mars, the moons of Jupiter, the moons of Saturn, and other solar system bodies such as Ceres and Pluto. Next, we will expand our view to include other possible abodes of life outside of our solar system as discovered by modern astronomers and modern instrumentation (i.e., the Hubble and Kepler space telescopes). Finally, we will examine the role of fictional alien biology on the human imagination through literature, film, and music.  May be taken as a Physics or Interdisciplinary course.  (Dr. Hagler and Ms. Odden)

Natural Causes: How Climate Change Wrote History

The impact of human activity on the behavior of the earth’s climate has become one of the overriding concerns of the modern world, making climate change the central environmental problem of our time. Anticipating the impact of climate change on modern civilization, however, is not an easy exercise. Past climate change can help us to understand it as a catalyst for change that humans were not aware of, and can then help us to decide the role humans have played in the current environmental situation.

Through a series of case studies, we will investigate how civilizations have been influenced by weather and climate change. Starting with a historical overview of broad changes in climate, students will investigate specific instances when weather has influenced the course of history. How, for example, did winter weather protect Russia from invasion by first Sweden, then Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany? We will then expand our scope to examine the larger and longer-term influence of climate shifts on the course of regional civilizations such as the Maya in Central America, the Tang Dynasty in China, and the Harappan/Indus Valley civilization. The third group of case studies will examine the impact of global climate shifts on the interaction between civilizations on a continental scale. Examples could include the rise and spread of the Mongol civilization from central Asia to Eastern Europe and eastern Asia. We will end the term by examining the possible consequences of climate change on the future course of modern civilization.  May be taken as a History, Interdisciplinary, or Science course.  (Ms. Doheny and Dr. Hagler)

Art and Mathematics

How can mathematicians use art to create proofs and how can artists use math as a basis for concept and imagery? How can these connections help to clarify or develop both mathematical and artistic processes? Students in this class will be using math to generate designs and structures that will function as the starting point in the creation of unique and expressive works of art. Students can expect to complete three to four projects utilizing mathematical topics. The class will explore mathematical areas such as sequences, geometry, number theory, and transformations along with art studio processes such as painting, collage, folding (origami), drawing, and building with welded wire. On-campus field trips will include the Addison Gallery, the Knafel Map Collection, and the Peabody Institute.  May be taken as an Art, Interdisciplinary, or Math course.  (Ms. Zemlin and Ms. Buckwalter)

Project-Based Statistics

This is a community-based learning statistics course that will enable students to implement learned knowledge to work with communities. This curriculum-driven project contains a civic responsibility component that ties in with the concept of citizenship. Students will apply their knowledge immediately and beneficially as they “bring numbers to life” in colloboration with the PA community and local nonprofit organizations. For instance, students potentially would be able to collect, organize, interpret, analyze, and project data to help the Admissions Office, Dining Services, the Brace Center for Gender Studies, College Counseling Office, Archives and Special Collections, and other departments of interest at PA. Similarly, students can assist worthy causes in the wider community, working with those entities to tell stories with numbers.  May be taken as an Interdisciplinary or Math course.  (Mr. El Alam)

Human Origins

Take a look around. Regardless of where you are, the consequence of three million years of human evolution is evident. This interdisciplinary science course uses insights drawn from history, art, archaeology, and other disciplines to chart the human journey from hominid to the first civilizations that forecast the modern world. Human Origins includes weekly field or laboratory work outside of the classroom; hands-on laboratory exercises emphasize use of Peabody

Museum of Archaeology collections and challenge students to apply ancient techniques to solve daily problems of survival.  May be taken as an Interdisciplinary or Science course.  (Dr. Wheeler)

August Wilson’s View of the 20th Century: His Pittsburgh, Our America *

This course will use a selection of August Wilson’s plays to investigate how our society’s view of race changed during the 20th century. Students will move through Wilson’s plays in chronological order, focusing on the Aunt Ester plays in the Century Cycle in both a literary and theatrical way. This section will give students a glimpse into Wilson’s fictionalized Pittsburgh and insights into a more historically accurate Pittsburgh and America, as well as the man as a playwright. Students will look for connections between Pittsburgh and other American urban environments, examining how cities changed during the 20th century. This course is open to Seniors; it may be taken by Uppers with permission from the department chair.  May be taken as an English, Interdisciplinary, or Theater course.  (Mr. Grimm)

What Is Critique? *


This interdisciplinary course is a survey of questions and ideas about art, literature, and society—their natures, their functions, their meanings, and their values. What about a work makes it look like it looks or read like it reads? What gives a work meaning, and how does it do so? What makes a work good, and how do we justify it as such? What are the consequences of judging some works good and others not, of inclusion and exclusion? Who gets to judge—historically, white men—and how do those judgments establish and reflect the norms and values of societies as a whole? How might we understand and assess “critique” itself as form of empowerment against injustice, as in Michel Foucault’s estimation, an “instrument for those who fight, resist, and who no longer want what is”?

To address these questions and others, we will read the works of many challenging theorists, including Walter Benjamin, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, Sigmund Freud, Henry Louis Gates, bell hooks, Nanette Salomon, and Kathi Weeks, among others, and we will apply their thinking to various art, film, and fiction. May be taken as an English or Interdisciplinary course.  (Mr. Fox)

Foundational Gender Theory *

This course introduces students to foundational texts in intersectional gender theory, including key concepts from gender theory as they are understood and used in critical interdisciplinary studies of gender. We will explore how these concepts are taken up from different perspectives to address specific social problems, particularly rape culture, and the implications of these critical approaches for thinking about and acting in the world. It is most important, independent of degree of familiarity and expertise with this body of work, that you come willing and eager to read texts closely, ask and ponder questions, and engage others in the classroom community as peers worthy of your respect, especially in moments of disagreement. Possible authors include Gloria Anzaldúa, Cherríe Moraga,

Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Kate Harding, Melissa Harris Perry, Patricia Hill Collins, Fatema Mernissi, Laura Mulvey, E. Anthony Rotundo, Gayle Rubin, Hortense Spillers, Audre Lorde, and Kimberlé Crenshaw.  May be taken as an English or Interdisciplinary course.  (Dr. Vidal)

Asian/American Literature and Film *

This seminar explores the literary, historical, and broader sociocultural development of the complex and ever-expanding body of work that collectively (and not always neatly) contributes to what may be called “Asian/American” literature and film. We will engage with a wide range of written and visual texts, including poetry, fiction, memoir, cinema, and television, as well as with scholarly and other artistic forms of production, in order to fashion an analytical framework, informed perspective, and interpretive approach through which to reread and rethink the culture, politics and history of the United States itself. A related goal is to understand the role of literature and other cultural forms in our nation’s struggles over identity, power, and resources. Focusing on the development and representation of Asian/America, we will unpack the social formation of race and the complexity of racial dynamics in the United States historically and today.

Fall and Winter—The syllabus includes works by canonical and popular authors, filmmakers, and content creators. To develop and flex our critical tools and skills of reading, viewing, analyzing, and interpreting these written and visual texts, we will learn about and practice applying fundamental concepts, themes, and critical methodologies of the field of Asian/American literary and cultural studies. Our goal in this seminar is to gain wide exposure to the exciting diversity of Asian/American literature, film, and cultural production.

Spring—This special topics seminar is organized around a broad theme such as Asian/American activism; Asian in the U.S. Literary Imagination; or a specific genre, historical period, or geographic or cultural region (e.g., Viet Nam or Chinatowns). May be taken as an English or Interdisciplinary course.  (M. Martin)

Advanced Topics in Chinese

The goal for the course is for students, regardless of whether or not they are of Chinese descent, to gain a deepened understanding of the experience and the effects of Asian immigration into Northern California and beyond, through bilingual literature, archives, and film clips. As part of the coursework, students will self-reflect on the meaning of racial and cultural identity, especially against the histories of the Asian American experience. This term-based course is also experiential and will culminate in a class trip to the Bay Area or New York City.  May be taken as a Chinese or Interdisciplinary course.

A Room of Their Own: Women’s Studies and Literature *

Fall—Masculinities in Feminist Literature In an interview with The Atlantic magazine, writer Junot Diaz says,

“I think [my character’s] tragedy in a number of places in this book is that he keeps choosing his mask.” Many scholars of gender talk about American masculinity as a “mask,” and as Diaz states, this mask can lead to tragedy: suffering, disconnection, even violence. In this literature course, we will read authors who write toward a feminist view of manhood: one that emphasizes equality of the genders, emotional connection, and healthy relationships. Each writer we will explore puts a masculine character at the center of a novel, short story, or poem that exposes the ways in which gender norms can impede a quest for authenticity, connection, love, and truth. The texts in this course look at themes of friendship and mentorship; identity, race, and class; sexuality; and fatherhood. Together we will consider how these authors can help inform a range of feminist possibilities for men and masculine-identifying people. Authors: Sherman Alexie, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Junot Diaz, Louise Erdrich, Barbara Kingsolver, Yusef Komunyakaa, and others.  May be taken as an English or Interdisciplinary course.  (Ms. Staffaroni)

Winter and Spring—“To be a feminist can feel like being in a different world even when you are seated at the same table,” writes philosopher Sara Ahmed in Living a Feminist Life. In this course, our seminar table will center the voices of woman-identified authors working in all genres of literature. These authors could be called “feminist” writers, for their work somehow calls for, or envisions, a world resistant to sexism. Our writers may all identify as women, but they write from vastly different positions in history, society, identity, and politics. So what is “feminist literature,” and what kind of work does it do in the world? Students should prepare to write critically, personally, and creatively both in and out of class. Authors include: Roxane Gay, Marilyn Chin, Toni Morrison, Marge Piercy, Sylvia Plath, Alison Bechdel, Virginia Woolf, Marjane Satrapi, Kate Bornstein, Margery Kempe, Ursula K. LeGuin, Louise Erdrich, and others. May be taken as an English or Interdisciplinary course.  (Ms. Staffaroni)

Lockdown *

Prisons are a growth industry today in the United States. This course, through a blending of literature, film, and social sciences, will examine incarceration. By reading novels, memoirs, and poetry and viewing a few films, we can gain a greater appreciation of the psychological effects of these institutions and the power of art as a means of coping with them (touching then on witnessing and testimonials). We will ask questions about ethics and justice, about self-expression, and about social control. The course will include some experiential learning in the form of a trip to the Essex County Correctional Facility and to a nearby youth court. Some possible titles may include: Orange Is the New Black, Gould’s Book of Fish, The Trial, Brothers and Keepers, A Place to Stand, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and ZeitounMay be taken as an English or Interdisciplinary course.  (Dr. Kane)

“I See Your True Colors”: Queer Literature *

This course examines poems, plays, and stories that raise key questions about sexuality, gender, identity, and desire. Alongside our core literary texts, we will also consider art, music, and film as well as classic texts in the history and theory of sexuality. Topics may include: gay liberation; AIDS activism; the closet, passing, and coming out; the relationship between feminism and lesbian practice; trans identities and narratives; bisexual erasure; queer communities, spaces, and performance; non-normative love and affinity; law, medicine, psychoanalysis, and religion; homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism; mental health; debates around same-sex marriage and assimilation; and the intersections of sexuality with race, class, age, nationality, and ability. May be taken as an English or Interdisciplinary course.  (Dr. Gardner)

Critical Race Theory: The American Dream Deferred *

Historically, American society does not recognize race as the language of class. In this discussion-based seminar, students will examine ways in which race and class intersect. Critical race theory eschews the goal of assimilation into current social structure and instead looks at the experience of the “outsider” as a lighthouse that illuminates structural problems within American Society. Students will use Critical Race Theory to analyze historical legal cases—including the nation’s first successful school desegregation in 1931 where Mexican Americans sued San Diego, CA public schools for access and the famous 1957 court-ordered desegregation of Little Rock, AR High school—in addition to contemporary legal cases of “reverse discrimination” such as Fisher v. The University of Texas in 2012. Students will ultimately explore the question, “Is the American dream a structural fallacy that has explanation for success but none for failure?” Assignments will consist of selected readings, reflection pieces, article reviews, and a research paper.  May be taken as a History or Interdisciplinary course.  (Ms. Paulson)

Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies *

Pink is for boys and blue is for girls. At least it used to be. We will explore the ways that our everyday lives are guided by socially prescribed gender norms. Through the study of the historical production and contemporary interpretation of the categories of “woman” and “man,” “female” and “male,” “heterosexual” and “homosexual,” we will seek to better understand how gender-based inequalities have evolved and are both supported and simultaneously contested in societies across the world. In addition, we will seek to gain a better understanding of the ways that gender, sex, and sexuality inform local, national, and global efforts to improve the lives of individuals and to achieve social justice for entire communities. We also will explore the intersection of sexuality, gender, sex, race, ethnicity, class, and other forms of identity. Through a variety of sources—written documents, social media, film—this course will introduce students to a wide variety of issues across disciplines, including historical, anthropological, medical, legal, and popular culture. We also will explore contemporary uses of social media as sites of research, activism, and networking. May be taken as a History or Interdisciplinary course.  (Dr. Ramos)

Being, Thinking, Doing

Through reading and discussing the expression of human values in selected works, students in this interdisciplinary philosophy and literature course explore two broad questions: How do people live their lives, and how should people live their lives? Within this framework, students think reflectively about the beliefs they and their society have developed, and they look at the emergence of different epistemological, ethical, and political ideals and responses to life.

Readings may include Ellison’s Invisible Man, Percy’s The Moviegoer, Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, excerpts from Agee and Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison, and brief selections from Aristotle, Descartes, Epictetus, Kant, Nietzsche, Plato, Schopenhauer, and Spinoza.  May be taken as an English or Interdisciplinary course.  (Mr. Fox)

Women in Antiquity *

The literary woman in antiquity and the actual woman in antiquity are rather different concepts. In classical literature, we can find numerous examples of powerful, erudite, and accomplished women; however, in classical history, these examples are few. In this course, we will look at this variance and try to determine how it came to be, especially in societies whose own deities were often female. We will pay close attention to literary figures such as Helen, Andromache, Medea, Lysistrata, Lucretia, Lesbia, and Dido, and we will examine the life of the actual woman in the classical world in order to see how her experience compares with her literary counterpart. Although not required, students with experience in Latin or Greek may continue working with ancient texts in the original language. This course is open to all Seniors or with permission from the Classics Department chair.  May be taken as a Classics or Interdisciplinary course.

Latino Nation

Take a critical look at the history of immigration, race, and ethnicity in the US and our nation’s responses to the projected shift toward a minority-majority population—one that is predominantly Latino. In this course, we examine the real and perceived impacts of the “browning” of America on our national identity now and in the future, as well as the roles we each play in shaping a just society for all.  Students continue to develop their linguistic competencies while engaging with a variety of texts and other resources that present diverse perspectives on US society, as well as reacting to weekly prompts in discussions, debates, essays, and presentations.  Students complete a research project culminating in a colloquium with members of the local Spanish-speaking community.  This course is open to students who have attained ACTFL’s Advanced-Low standard, or higher. May be taken as a Spanish or Interdisciplinary course. (Mr. Cutler)

The Making of a Latino City

Due mostly to immigration from Latin America, modern Lawrence, Massachusetts, has become the first minority-majority city in New England—a Latino City—though a historical inspection of human migration into and around Lawrence and the greater Merrimack Valley reflects a rich tapestry of cultures that have made this area what we know it to be today. Go through time to peel back the layers of humanity in the region in order to understand better the forces that have shaped our local community, which in many respects is a microcosm of the US. This community-based, interdisciplinary course incorporates weekly opportunities to experience the curriculum beyond the classroom, including engagements with local experts in anthropology, history, culture, politics, social justice, etc. Students capture their learning in field journals, write weekly reflections, and design and execute a collaborative project to promote a deeper appreciation of Lawrence, not only for ourselves but also for other scholars asking the question Why Lawrence? Students are encouraged to participate in a weekly Community Engagement project to gain complementary perspectives on issues that we see in the course. May be taken as a Spanish or Interdisciplinary course. (Mr. Cutler)

Engagement in the Immigrant City: Nosotros, el pueblo

Students continue to immerse themselves in Lawrence, moving from more theoretical themes in SPA502: The Making of a Latino City to practical engagement in this culminating elective. In conjunction with community partners in Lawrence, students document firsthand accounts of life in the Immigrant City through an ambitious video oral history project, Nosotros, el pueblo: Voces de la Ciudad de Inmigrantes. Availing themselves of sophisticated digital tools—thanks to a grant from the Abbot Academy Association—students broaden their understanding of who we are as an immigrant nation, while also leaving a legacy of cooperation, mutual respect, and solidarity between the Lawrence and Andover communities. May be taken as a Spanish or Interdisciplinary course. (Mr. Cutler)

What Is America? What Is American Art?

Utilizing the Addison Gallery of American Art’s collection, ART465 students will have the opportunity to learn how aspects of history and culture are portrayed, expressed, and shaped by art and in art collections. This course will guide students through themes in American art from the 19th century to the present and explore the history of the Addison Gallery’s collecting practices, beginning with the gallery’s founding in 1931. ART465 will split time between the classroom and the Addison. In the classroom, students will learn about and discuss historical developments in American art. In the galleries, students will hone their skills in visual analysis while applying historical knowledge gained from assigned readings and in-class discussion to deepen their understanding of objects in the Addison’s collection. Students are expected to engage deeply with the Addison collection, complete all readings and assignments on time, and work collaboratively with their peers.

Students will walk away from this class with a foundational understanding of major themes in American art and an overview of the Addison’s collecting practices over time as well as important and transferable visual literacy skills.

Based on their term-long study of the Addison Gallery’s collection and the history of American art, students will be asked to draft an acquisition proposal for their final project in the class. These final projects will be used by the gallery’s curatorial team to guide future acquisition considerations. May be taken as an Art or Interdisciplinary course.  

This Is America *

“The grand theme here is nothing less than a national existentialism,” David Simon wrote in proposing The Wire to HBO. Seven years and 60 television hours later, he had thoroughly explored the interconnectedness of race, class, social policy, and ethics in modern-day America, and he had done so in a manner comparable to Dickens.

In this course, students will approach The Wire in varied ways: as a work of television, as a work of literature, as a work critiquing social policy, as a work exploring urban life, as a work examining America. Topics will range from heroic archetypes to housing policy, from the failures of the postindustrial economy to the failures of contemporary school reform, from narrative methodologies to urban inequality. By focusing on these topics and other, students will recognize the complexity of key challenges facing America. In Detective Lester Freamon’s words from the first season, “All the pieces matter.”

Readings may include selections from Prudence Carter, Linda Darling-Hammond, Leslie Fiedler, Paolo Freire, Karl Marx, Arthur Miller, Patrick Sharkey, William Julius Wilson, and others. May be taken as an English or Interdisciplinary course. (Mr. Fox)

Youth from Every Quarter *

Decades before the public education reforms of Horace Mann, Phillips Academy was founded as a school that “shall be ever equally open to Youth, of requisite qualifications, from every quarter.” In this colloquium, we will interrogate the three words often omitted from this statement of egalitarian ideal: “of requisite qualifications.” By developing historical and contemporary understandings of Phillips Academy itself, we will explore issues of effort, merit, and privilege. When the Academy was founded, what constituted qualification? Who determined it, for what purposes, and with what consequences? How have answers to these questions evolved during the last 240 years, and why?

Using multiple methodologies and sources, we will generate our own research and observations about Phillips Academy and focus on varied topics, including: the experiences of various historically marginalized groups at the school; privilege; the school’s role in the abolitionist movement and slave trade; the history of Abbot Academy and its acquisition by Phillips Academy; Asian and Asian-Americans and the mythology of the “model minority”; the role of science and technology in fostering inclusion and exclusion, among other topics.  May be taken as an English or Interdisciplinary course.  (Mr. Fox)

Media Studies

Working from the premise that all messages are constructed, we will examine the forces (explicit and subtle) that inform those constructions as well as the ways in which our daily and multiple interactions with various media determine our sense of self, identity, truth, and desire. Students will read a range of media studies theory and then put those theories into practice by examining the language, images, narratives, and truth we encounter in news sources, advertising, television, politics, sports, and other cultural representations. Students will be expected to write every week. Term 1 will focus on the production and consumption of commercial news media, the indeterminate lines between news and entertainment, and the importance of branding and advertising. Terms 2 and 3 will look at contemporary television shows, examining questions of narrative, character, and identity; current critical writing about TV; important aspects of TV production; and thematic treatment of topics such as nostalgia, heroism, or family.  May be taken as an English or Interdisciplinary course.  (Ms. Tousignant)

An Introductory Survey of African American Literature *

This seminar course offers an overview of African American literature through reading and writing assignments, discussions, student-led seminars, and possible visiting lectures on art, music, and history.  May be taken as an English or Interdisciplinary course.  (Dr. Tsemo)

Fall—Origins, Icons, and Abominations. The class will focus on the literature from slavery and freedom, including  captivity narratives and oral tradition, as well as Reconstruction and Post-Reconstruction literature.

Winter—Considering the American Dream. Students read the literature of the Harlem Renaissance and African-American expressions of realism, naturalism, and modernism.

Spring—Centralizing and De-centralizing Black Life and Culture. Following an examination of the Black Arts movement, the course will focus on literature, including poetry and drama, since the 1970s.

Financial Literacy

Students who sign up for this course, “Financial Literacy Seminar,” will be able to utilize their skills, passion, and creativity in a way that will definitely make an impact on the world.  The instructor will present and explore models theoretically and practically to promote fiscally responsible behavior.  Students will read and discuss several short books and research and design collaborative projects to demonstrate proficiency of concepts learned and to help develop a solid foundation of critical financial skills. Concepts will include a wide array of topics, including Budgeting, Writing and Pitching Business Plans, Marketing, Prototyping, Project Planning, Balance Sheets, Income and Cash Flow Statements, Resume Writing, Online Advertising and Social Media Marketing, Graphic Design, Philanthropy, and much more. 

With the guidance of the instructor as well as mentors and specialists, students will use the design thinking process to identify a problem of a social nature and follow all the steps necessary to provide feasible and scale-able solutions.  Working to solve a problem creatively and logically will ignite their entrepreneurial spirit.  When possible, field trips might include company tours, shareholder meetings, and visits to brokerage firms.  Guest speakers like financial planners, business leaders, accountants, artists, and actuaries will speak to students and share their expertise.  May be taken as an Interdisciplinary or Math course.  (Mr. El Alam)

Bioethics: Humanity in the Post-Genomic Era

This course examines current biological topics that challenge our understanding of humanity and provides a brief introduction to ethics and philosophical anthropology and their roles in setting public policy. We live in a modern age in which major scientific advances are the norm. Bombarded with stories in the news regarding ethical dilemmas pertaining to novel biomedical interventions, it is often difficult for us to make sense of competing arguments without having a basic command of the biological and philosophical issues involved. Questions to be addressed include: What is a stem cell? When does a developing human being first experience sensation? Show evidence of cognitive abilities? Acquire moral status? How does our modern, post-genomic understanding of human biology influence our philosophical understanding of what it is to be human? Which biological enhancements are ethical? Which are unethical? To what extent (if at all) should the use of biotechnology be regulated in our society? Historical and current readings will be assigned and lively discussions encouraged. Students will be graded through a variety of assessments, including papers, presentations, journals, and class participation. (Dr. Marshall)

Silences and Gaps: the Record of Chinese Students in the Phillips Academy Archives

The official published history of Phillips Academy, Youth From Every Quarter (1978), includes a brief mention of Chinese students during the 1870s and Headmaster Al Stearns’s interest in supporting Chinese students during the 1910s and 1920s (page 287). An Abbot Academy Fund in 1991 enabled completion of a research project about Chinese students at Andover, but it received little attention on campus. Yet, the collection of material about Chinese students at Andover is unusually rich in that there is no comparable material at other archival repositories documenting the education of Chinese students studying abroad at a secondary school sponsored both privately and governmentally in early twentieth-century United States. Why has such a significant archive been so sparsely tapped into? This course examines the “silences and gaps” of the record on Chinese students of Phillips Academy from late 19th into the 20th centuries in order to examine the importance of how primary documents were produced, recorded, catalogued, and left in the annals of history.  Interpretation of sources occurs on a continuum from the creation of the source to its use by the current user/researcher, and includes mediation by archivists. As part of the analysis of available resources in the archives, students will identify, interrogate, and consider the reasons for silences, gaps, or evidence of power relationships in the documentary record and how they impact the research process, historical memory and community remembrance.  Collections in cultural heritage institutions, particularly archives, reflect and reinforce social power structures; thus, archives are not neutral. The power of the archive may be witness to inclusion but also include distortions, omissions, erasures, and silences. Silence is an important exercise of control and power.

Historically, East Asia including China, Korea, and Japan sent education missions to the U.S. and Europe in late nineteenth century in the aftermath of Western encroachment and loss of sovereignty.  It comes as no surprise as Asia’s centuries old dynastic system was on the brink of demise, and missions abroad were supported by modernists in the attempt to reconstruct and rebuild. At the same time that some one hundred Chinese students matriculated into Phillips Academy between 1878 and 1930s, the U.S. established their first blockade of immigration with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Asian Exclusion Act of 1924. Within this hostile historical context, the thousands of documents including letters, pictures, invoices, student accounts, travel diaries, and card catalogues from the respective eras open up the vault to think about history from the micro level of personal and family histories to the macro level of state and society. By re-discovering the archive and addressing the reasons for silences and gaps, yet other stories may reveal themselves about the history of Chinese/Asian students at Phillips Academy.

Religion in America: One Nation, Under God(s)?

In contemporary American public life, religion is everywhere, and the United States is considered one of the most religious countries in the world. This course will examine the role of religion in American history and politics, from colonial times to the present day. Questions to be addressed include: Is America a Christian country? What role did religion play in the founding of America? Did the founding documents seek to create a separation of church and state? How were religious arguments used to justify or challenge slavery? What are the causes of the rise of fundamentalism in the 20th century? What, looking forward, is America’s religious identity in an increasingly diverse and pluralistic society? (Ms. Gavarnian)

Global Islams

With nearly two billion adherents globally, Islam is one of the fastest growing religious traditions in the world today. Yet, with less than 1 percent of the American population identifying as Muslim, it is also one of the most misunderstood here in the United States. What is Islam? Where is it practiced? What do Muslims believe? This course aims to introduce students to the vast internal complexities of the Islamic tradition through a combination of primary and secondary sources in history, scripture, law, art, and popular culture. In addition to exploring the origins of the tradition in the Middle East and its subsequent expansion, students will also examine a variety of contemporary issues, such as the rise of Islamophobia in West; the role of gender, jihadist, and fundamentalist movements; and Muslim immigration in the United States. (Mr. Prescott)

Feminist Philosophies

This course will address feminist moral and political theories. There is no singular ‘feminism’, and feminists disagree with each other on the answers to many of those moral and political claims. We will survey a variety of feminisms, including liberal and radical feminisms, womanism, and others. The course will also cover topics including sex and gender, the nature of oppression, intersectionality (including discussions of race, disability, gender identity, and class), and sexual ethics. Special topics will be chosen by students for further focus, but could include topics such as body shaming, trafficking, or understandings of masculinity. (Dr. Bhardwaj)

Ethics: Medicine

Modern medical research and practice present society with new opportunities and significant challenges. Students in this course will look at various case studies at the intersection of medicine, scientific research, health care, and ethics. Possible case studies may include debates about abortion, euthanasia, animal rights, and broader environmental implications of scientific and material progress in the 21st century. Classical and contemporary philosophers will be read as part of our investigation into these topics. (Ms. Murree)

Ethics and Technology

From the use of fire to written natural and computational languages to advances in agriculture, weaponry, industry, science, medicine, communication, and artificial intelligence, human technologies have transformed our world. They also have added new complexities to the challenge of answering fundamental philosophical questions such as: What can we know? How should we act? For what can we hope? What is a human being? Seminar participants will explore a variety of answers offered by thinkers, past and present, who can help us reflect well on the nature and worth of efforts to extend our understanding and our power through technology. (Dr. Bhardwaj)

Asian History–Reading Against the Grain: a Comparison of History Textbooks Across the Pacific Rim

This interdisciplinary

This interdisciplinary course is a comparison of history texts from Asia and the United States to read “with and against the grain” of national interest. The topical foci will include the Western encroachment into Asia in the late 19th century, the end of the dynastic system in the early 20th century, the First World War, the Pacific War or Fifteen Year War, the Chinese Communist Revolution, and the Cold War. By comparing and contrasting how history textbooks narrate the same moments in history from a nation-centered perspective—in textbooks that are designated by the government for public high school teaching—students will read various contesting and contentious
narratives that bring light to this ongoing debate of history writing into the 21st century.

Why do history textbooks continue to be written and rewritten? To what extent can comparative reading of textbooks from the United States, China, Japan, and Korea in translation as primary sources be helpful in cultivating global Andover students? How can such readings help us envisage a multiply situated Asia, one that brings particular challenges in today’s geopolitical world as China reclaims its hegemony and Japan reignites debates about militarization, all within a region where the only still-divided (post) Cold War nation of Korea becomes a
battleground again? Simply, what are the high schools students in Asia learning vis-à-vis our students in the United States?


This course explores the intersection of writing and performance through an investigation of personal identity and will be taught collaboratively by instructors who specialize in each area. The course will culminate in a performance of a devised theatre piece of the student’s creation before a live audience. Designed for students with acting experience and a serious commitment to the art form, students will build off their existing skills through in-depth character work and scene study, and push their understanding of themselves and acting by exploring their own identity.

Students will be encouraged to “think theatrical,” or think theatrically, engaging in a search for the connection between literary themes,
historical context, and personal identity. Over the term, the class will gain insight into the roles that race, class, gender, sexual orientation,
and faith play in our daily existence and live performance. Lastly, students will experience and examine how live performance interacts with
public discourse, civil disobedience, and art. (Mr. Grimm)

The William Sloane Coffin Jr. ’42 Colloquia Series

Spring 2020


In his study of novelist Ralph Ellison, Berndt Ostendorf writes, “…all American culture is jazz shaped.” In this colloquium, we will explore this remarkable claim, and in the spirit of jazz, we will move among multiple riffs.

Riff 1—Often called America’s original art form, jazz is improvised music. Robert O’Meally, in Seeing Jazz: Artists and Writers on Jazz, describes jazz as part of a supercharged cultural continuum in which musicians, dancers, painters, sculptors, photographers, poets, novelists, and essayists have worked and played to capture the essence of the music.

Riff 2—“Jazz is a story about race and race relations and prejudice, about minstrelsy and Jim Crow, lynchings, and civil rights…Jazz offers the explosive hypothesis that those who had the peculiar experience of being unfree in a free land might actually be at the center of our history.” (Ken Burns, director, Jazz)

Riff 3—“Jazz has an internal dynamic. Jazz musicians, like everyone else, have to make a living. While they are doing that, however, they are expected to extend and recreate the form itself. But there is risk involved in attempting to create art in a popular context, the risk of losing one’s audience if the music goes beyond what the audience understands. This sets up a tension between the acts of performance and the act of creation. This tension is nowhere more evident than jazz, because it is a music where creation occurs during performance. One of the key elements of jazz—improvisation—demands that new melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic patterns emerge in the context of performance. But limits have to be imposed by both audiences and performers. The narrow line between authenticity and creativity must be perceived and manipulated by the good jazz player.” (Charles Nanry)

Throughout the term, we will examine these claims, listen to a lot of music, and explore a variety of other topics and texts, perhaps: theories of improvisation in painting, dancing, writing, and acting; Toni Morrison’s novel Jazz; post-modern philosophy; socioeconomic class, gender, and sexuality; genes/genomics and improvisation; theories of time and other physics of jazz, etc.

Following the model of previous William Sloane Coffin ’42 Colloquia, different members of the faculty will lead each class session.

Abbot Scholar Interdisciplinary Research Seminar

The Abbot Scholar Interdisciplinary Research Seminar is a two-term course for seniors who wish to complete extensive independent,  interdisciplinary research and/or extensive independent research that explores varied intersectional axes of identity, including race-class-gender-sexuality. Permission of the department chair is required. During the first term, students focus on solidifying their self-selected research proposal, planning their work, learning various research methodologies, executing the research, and producing a comprehensive draft. During the second term, each student focuses on revising multiple drafts, producing the final paper, and preparing for, and delivering, a 45-minute public presentation. Throughout both terms, students work independently under the guidance of the instructor and a faculty advisor, and also collaboratively with each other.

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