PSU courses with Social Thought Themes

Spring 2014  


Course Description


John Christman

Prof. of Philosophy, Pol. Sci. and Women's Studies

PlSc 583 (Modern Social and Political Theory)

Rawlsian Liberalism and Its Critics


John Rawls has emerged as the most important political philosopher writing in English in the latter half of the 20th century, however one views that standing.  This course will conduct an in-depth analysis of liberal democratic political philosophy by way of an examination of Rawls’s work.  We will look at some of the historical predecessors of political liberalism (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau) as well as Rawls’s commentary on these thinkers.  We will then conduct a detailed examination of Rawlsian moral and political philosophy, from his Kantian constructivism in moral theory, to his masterwork A Theory of Justice, to his “political turn”, and finally to his views on global justice and human rights.

We will also look closely at selected critiques of Rawls, both by fellow liberals as well as feminists, critical race theorists, and critics of the enlightenment humanism on which political liberalism rests.  Here we will consider the work of theorists such as Iris Young, Susan Moller Okin, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Mills, Carole Pateman, Charles Taylor, and others.


Tues: 1-4 p.m.


Matt Jordan

Associate Prof.

Dept. of Film/Video and Media Studies
College of Communications



Comm 597: Media and Culture

R 9:05-12:05
03 Carnegie

This course will provide an overview of the major theorists of mass media whose work offers critical appraisals of the impact of mass media on cultures and the people within those cultures. Students will work toward an understanding of the major theorists and their conceptions of the relationship between media, communication and culture. Each section will offer a particular epistemological or methodological challenge to the social and cultural understanding of mass media, from the seminal thinking of the Frankfurt School - the first thinkers to engage this important field of research - through the theorists of the so-called post-modern turn. Special attention will be paid to examining the ways in which mass media constructs ideological foundations for our understanding of democracy, identity and everyday life.


Alan Sica

Professor of Sociology


Soc 503

Theories of Society II, aka Contemporary Social Theory, from 1970 forward

Shannon Sullivan

Professor of Philosophy, Women's Studies and African American Studies


PHIL/WMNST 538 Feminist Philosophy
Mon 2:30-5:30pm

This course will focus on French and French-inspired feminist philosophy. In the past 20 years or so, feminist philosophy has become a significant component of continental philosophy in the United States. This course is for those who plan to specialize in feminist philosophy, and also those who do not but whose studies require that they be familiar with major figures and themes in continental feminist philosophy. We primarily will cover four main feminist philosophers whose work regularly shows up on programs at SPEP (Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy) and other continental philosophy conferences: Simone de Beauvoir, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and Judith Butler. We will begin the semester with an essay by Christine Delphy to discuss the field of French feminism as a specifically Anglo-American creation, examining why Beauvoir and others such as Delphy are not typically considered a part of the field. We also will discuss why issues of race and racism rarely show up in French feminism. We will end the semester with a short book by Elizabeth Wilson, who combines feminism, psychoanalysis, and the neurosciences to argue that biology has much more to teach feminists than they have been willing to acknowledge. Texts for the course likely will include selections from Beauvoir’s The Second Sex; Irigaray's This Sex Which Is Not One and I Love To You; Butler's Gender Trouble, selections from Bodies That Matter, and perhaps Giving An Account of Oneself; Kristeva's Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection and perhaps Strangers to Ourselves; and Wilson's Psychosomatic: Feminism and the Neurological Body.




Stephen H. Browne

Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences




Communication Arts & Sciences 507
Thursdays, 2:30-5:30 309 Sparks

212 Sparks


Rhetoric, Memory, and Culture examines the role of memory in shaping questions of identity, conflict, and collective life. It operates under the assumption that public memory is never neutral, natural, or without consequence; it is rather constructed to partisan ends, both a process and product of human ambition—in a word, rhetorical. The seminar is designed to engage participants in the theoretical, historical, and critical dimensions of the subject. Readings include work by Maurice Halbwachs, Hannah Arendt, James Young, Edward Casey, Bradford Vivian, and William Faulkner, among others.




Greg Eghigian

Associate Professor of History

HISTORY 524. Deviance, Crime, and Madness in Modern Europe
Tuesdays, 2:30-5:30 pm

This seminar examines the theory and historiography of deviance, crime, and madness in Europe from the 18th to the 21st centuries. Each week, readings from social theory will be paired with a historical work, in order to bring theoretical analysis and empirical disciplinary research more deliberately into conversation with one another. Readings will include, among others, Emile Durkheim's On Suicide, Erving Goffman's Stigma: Notes on the Management of a Spoiled Identity, Janet Oppenheim's Shattered Nerves: Doctors, Patients, and Depression in Victorian England, Norbert Elias' The Civilizing Process, Reviel Netz's Barbed Wire: An Ecology of Modernity, and Jan Gross' Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. Topics will include social control, self-control, marginalization, pathologization, the paranormal, criminalization and de-criminalization, representation, punishment, extermination, and enhancement. Students will be required to write an interdisciplinary research paper, calling on both theoretical and empirical scholarship from multiple disciplines.


Comp Lit Courses (Taught by various Professors;

Submitted by Jonathan Ebourne)

CMLIT 570: Narrative, Embodied Suffering, and Health (Rosemary Jolly). W 3:30pm- 6:30 pm (w/WMST, ENGL, BIOET)
This seminar comprises an introduction to applied narrative studies. We shall look at what narrative can -- and cannot -- ‘do’ for writers, readers, speakers and listeners. To achieve this goal, we in no way jettison the idea of the aesthetics of narrative, but contextualize it as the quality of the interaction between specific narratives, authors, and readers/listeners. Rather than taking a cosmopolitan postcolonial view that both assumes and constructs reading as inherently constitutive of, and good for, positive human relations, this course looks at narrative from the perspective of its role in both constructing and undermining health – the health of humans, non-human animals, and ecological well-being. Readings will include fictional texts; testimony drawn from the South African and Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and the Australian Apology and Northern Territory intervention; interview transcripts and focus group research transcripts from my research into gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS; and narratives constructed by the seminar participants themselves. Our primary goal will be to conclude the seminar with an understanding of how participants can consciously and intentionally use the critical skills they’ve developed in analyzing texts in ways that can actually interact with what we tend to call “the real world”. By the end of the term you will have had the opportunity to develop an understanding of narrative’s capacity for playing key roles in both destruction and creative, or ‘well-‘ being.
This seminar aims to develop a set of skills throughout the course of the semester, including:
• The importance of critical readling/listening skills in understanding the testimony of vulnerable and victimized subjects, who are in positions of multi-generational abuse and deprivation
• An understanding of the role narrative can play in diagnosing human and non-human ill-being,
• Exploring rhetorics of apology, healing and restoration at the limit: do they impinge upon the lived experience of victim-survivors, and if so, with what limitations?
• When and how to make our own storytelling a conscious and explicit process, in research vs. therapy vs. critical responses to narrative
• When it is healthy to make another’s storytelling processes explicit to them, and how to do this ethically
• The capacities and incapacities of literary theory relating to postcolonialism, trauma studies, and critical gender and race theory from the perspective of an applied narrative studies framework
• The role of our bodies in narrative performance: how and what do our bodies mean?
• Familiarity with methodologies for textual analysis, such as phrase coding and other tools for qualitative textual analysis

CMLT 597. The Ends of Postcolonialism (Nergis Erturk) T 3:30 pm -6:30 pm
“What remains of the postcolonial?” asks Robert J. C. Young in a recent article on the state of postcolonial studies. This course will examine the legacies of postcolonial literature and theory, as well as explore the new directions the field has taken in the political conjuncture after 2001. We'll begin with foundational accounts of European colonialism and imperialism (Marx, Lenin and Du Bois), continue with theories of anticolonial resistance (Fanon, Anderson, Spivak, and Chatterjee), and conclude with analyses and critiques of empire in the present (Coetzee, Derrida, Butler, and Balibar). We will ask the following questions: How are modern knowledges, institutions (including those of literature and criticism), and subjectivities shaped by colonialism and imperialism? What are the forms of literary, material, and psychological resistance to empire, and what are the successes, failures, and contradictions of such resistance? How does literature consolidate, mediate, and/or figure (post)coloniality? Other concepts to be discussed include Orientalism and the institution of English and world literatures, colonial translation, (post)secularism, terror, subalternity, and hospitality.

CMLT 506. Diasporic Literature (Shuang Shen). R 2:30pm-5:30pm
Diasporic cultures worldwide reflect artistic sensibilities derived from the unique experiences of migration and settlement, the histories of slavery and colonization, the practice of political and cultural internationalism. The production of diasporic culture, both in terms of targeted audience and social concerns, often goes beyond the boundaries of the nation-state or a singular cultural tradition. Thus, diaspora presents itself as a fertile ground of exploration for comparatists. This course introduces some key theoretical conceptualizations of diaspora (Gilroy, Hall, Spivak, etc) along with select cultural texts from the African, Asian and Jewish diasporas as case study. Juxtaposing diaspora studies and comparative literature, particularly the current discussions of world literature, the course seeks to explore various forms of embedded and embodied comparisons that diasporic subjects and cultures present. At the same time, it also examines the advantages and pitfalls of diasporic claims and investigates the different uses of the diaspora and the "overseas” in specific cultural and political contexts. The course asks questions such as: How do translingual and multilingual practices in the diaspora allow us to reconceptualize the genealogy of national cultures? What roles do diasporas play in contemporary condition of neo-liberal globalization and in the world republic of letters? What contributions do diaspora theories make to the world literature discussions and vice versa? This course is intended to broadly outline some major concerns and debates in recent studies of the diaspora with particular emphasis on the new possibilities and challenges posed by diaspora studies to comparative literary studies.