Sunday, January 14, 2007

LA Times, Jan 7/07

I got an A in Phallus 101

The list of the 12 most bizarre college courses in the U.S. includes offerings such as 'The Phallus' and 'Queer Musicology.'
By Charlotte Allen, Charlotte Allen is an editor at Beliefnet and the author of "The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus."

Since the 1960s, the Young America's Foundation has decried what it considers leftist radicalism on college campuses. Last month, it released this academic year's "Dirty Dozen" — college courses it found to be "the most bizarre and troubling instances of leftist activism supplanting traditional scholarship."

1. "The Phallus"

Occidental College
. A seminar in critical theory and social justice, this class examines Sigmund Freud, phallologocentrism and the lesbian phallus.

2. "Queer Musicology"

UCLA. This course welcomes students from all disciplines to study what it calls an "unruly discourse" on the subject, understood through the works of Cole Porter, Pussy Tourette and John Cage.

3. "Taking Marx Seriously"

Amherst College. This advanced seminar for 15 students examines whether Karl Marx still matters despite the countless interpretations and applications of his ideas, or whether the world has entered a post-Marxist era.

4. "Adultery Novel"

University of Pennsylvania. Falling in the newly named "gender, culture and society" major, this course examines novels and films of adultery such as "Madame Bovary" and "The Graduate" through Marxist, Freudian and feminist lenses.

5. "Blackness"

Occidental College. Critical race theory and the idea of "post-blackness" are among the topics covered in this seminar course examining racial identity. A course on whiteness is a prerequisite.

6. "Border Crossings, Borderlands: Transnational Feminist Perspectives on Immigration"

University of Washington. This women studies department offering takes a new look at recent immigration debates in the U.S., integrating questions of race and gender while also looking at the role of the war on terror.

7. "Whiteness: The Other Side of Racism"

Mount Holyoke College. The educational studies department offers this first-year, writing-intensive seminar asking whether whiteness is "an identity, an ideology, a racialized social system," and how it relates to racism.

8. "Native American Feminisms"

University of Michigan. The women's studies and American culture departments offer this course on contemporary Native American feminism, including its development and its relation to struggles for land.

9. "'Mail Order Brides?' Understanding the Philippines in Southeast Asian Context"

Johns Hopkins University. This history course — cross-listed with anthropology, political science and studies of women, gender and sexuality — is limited to 35 students and asks for an anthropology course as a prerequisite.

10. "Cyberfeminism"

Cornell University. Cornell's art history department offers this seminar looking at art produced under the influence of feminism, post-feminism and the Internet.

11. "American Dreams/American Realities"

Duke University. Part of Duke's Hart Leadership Program that prepares students for public service, this history course looks at American myths, from "city on the hill" to "foreign devil," in shaping American history.

12. "Nonviolent Responses to Terrorism"

Swarthmore College. Swarthmore's "peace and conflict studies" program offers this course that "will deconstruct 'terrorism' " and "study the dynamics of cultural marginalization" while seeking alternatives to violence.

(NB. This is only the last half of the article. The first half consists of Ms. Allen making fun of the courses. You can see that here, for a while anyway, until the Times archives it.)

I have comments about a couple of these:

#3 Taking Marx Seriously: Although such a course would undoubtedly have a leftist slant, still, I would think that you'd want to take Marx seriously, since he was one of the most important economic theorists of the last 200 years. His political conclusions may not have borne healthy fruit, but his economic analyses are still powerful.

#11 American Dreams/American Realities: The US has powerful and enduring myths. The current administration is busy creating more. Why wouldn't you want to examine how these influence you?

#12 Non-violent Responses to Terrorism: Duh! If this is leftism, then the US is in a sad state indeed.

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