Academic Courses

Does Asian American literature exist? How can this geo-political term be used as a category for poetry, novels, and short stories by authors from such culturally diverse Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, (and other eastern) heritages and histories? To explore the case for a cohesive body of Asian American literature, this course introduces students to themes and forms of what has come to be known as Asian American literature from the mid-twentieth century to the present. We practice close reading while discussing and writing about how these literary works challenge U.S. ideologies such as the melting pot and the American dream as they dramatize Asian American exclusion, incarceration, labor exploitation, discrimination, and diaspora. We will focus especially on coming-of-age stories and lyric poems, exploring their portrayal of familial strife between first and second-generation immigrants and how conflicts also occur within individuals: children are torn internally between their dual cultures while parents feel they are living in the west in body and east in mind. Throughout the semester, our close readings will illuminate how characters’ difficulties with national identity intersect with struggles concerning their assigned gender, sexuality, class, or religion, deepening their sense of public alienation and otherness.
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This one-credit course is designed for newly declared psychology majors. Course content will provide an introduction to the psychology department, an overview of degree requirements, a review of experiential learning opportunities, and discussion of graduate school and career options including subfields within psychology and related fields. Through lectures, guest speakers, in-class exercises, small group discussions and written assignments, students will engage in self-assessment, undertake academic and career planning, develop professional skills and learn to utilize available resources to advance in their careers. To register for the course, e-mail psyadvis@pitt.edu or visit walk-in hours (Monday-Thursday, 10 am-1 pm or Friday 9 am-12 pm in 3113 Sennott Square) with your interest in the course to obtain a permission number. This course is offered in the fall 2017 term.
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Recent global events, as well as the emergence of groups like the Islamic State (Syria and Iraq) and Boko Haram (Nigeria) continue to raise questions about the role of Islam in (state and non-state) conflicts around the world. In this course we will move beyond generalizations and simplistic headlines, and focus on the diversity of Islamic intellectual thought, religious practice, and social and political movements. Using case studies, students will analyze complex historical, political, and theological motivations and justifications for conflict. Drawing on examples mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries, this course will focus on Africa, the Middle East, Asia, as well as Europe and the United States. It will cover intellectual and ideological debates in various Muslim communities across time, the many expressions of Islam, and trace the roots of “political Islam.” Themes will range from conflict in the medieval and pre-modern world, to education reform in the Ottoman empire, from anti-colonial movements in India, Sudan and Libya, to contemporary issues related to the War on Terrorism. Students will gain familiarity with key theoretical and methodological concerns related to the study of Islam, as well as with topics, such as global capitalism, colonialism, modernity, secularism, and nationalism.
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This course will engage with cultural production and critical thinking on a broad range of topics about the Portuguese-Speaking world. It is appropriate for students with an interest in the history, culture, and society of the Lusosphere. Discussions will focus on music and poetry considering historical, social, and political contexts. Exercises of critical reading and interrogation will contribute for analyses of Lusophone culture, while considering, problematizing, and revising questions and themes of nation, race, gender, etc. The works of music and poetry to be considered represent diverse periods in history. Students will write a series of short papers and develop a final project in consultation with the instructor.  Texts, songs, poems and excerpts of documentaries and films will be used as vehicles for a deeper understanding of Lusophone societies. In this course, students will encounter some Portuguese terms, and be inspired to learn (or expand their knowledge of) the Portuguese language.
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In this course we will use the tools of history and philosophy of science to examine the complex and sometime fraught relationship between science and policy in democratic societies. In the first third of the course, we will consider how policy shapes science by discussing the allocation of scientific funding, the distinction between pure and applied science, and the challenges presented by dual-use dilemmas. In the remaining two-thirds of the course, we will focus on how science is brought to bear on policy-making. We will try to answer questions such as: should scientists participate in public policy debates? What does it mean for science to become politicized? Why does public uptake of science sometimes fail? Throughout the course we'll make use of several recent case studies related to climate science, vaccines and public health, and seismology. This course is offered in the fall 2017 term.
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Ever since the ancients first looked up at the sky, people have asked themselves questions: What are stars made of? Is the universe infinite? Does the evolution of the universe have a beginning or end, or is it eternal? The nature of the universe has been subject to human theorizing throughout history, and these theories have held a central place in the physical sciences. This course is an introduction to the history of cosmology in the West from antiquity to the present day. We will investigate how models of the universe evolved from ancient Greece, through the Scientific Revolution of the 17th Century and the introduction of general relativity in the early 20th century, and into today. This historical survey will inform philosophical reflections, for example on the nature of space and time, and how these view informed thinking about the universe throughout history. This course is suitable for science and non-science majors. HPS 0545 Space, Time, and Matter is an introductory course in History and Philosophy of Science. It requires no prior scientific, historical, or philosophical knowledge.
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Today, we frequently hear that America is a deeply divided nation, torn by ideological and cultural differences that threaten civic life. In the face of this familiar refrain, many of us lose confidence in our capacities to define and help resolve common problems. Additionally, we experience conflict in our interpersonal lives (e.g., when we try to discuss controversial topics with family or workmates) which affects our potential to maintain rewarding relationships and collaborate with others. In short, we find it difficult to speak and act in discordant public and private worlds. This course will equip students with knowledge and skills to help them productively—individually and jointly—respond to public and private conflicts. Students will learn theories of public and private dispute resolution and exercise relevant communication skills, while studying and crafting collaborative responses to public controversies. Course structure will include lecture and small and large group discussions. Students will complete a research-based project preceded by regular progress reports and peer and instructor feedback.
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In 2012, two Bombay High Court judges scolded a woman for refusing to live with her husband while he was stationed in the Andaman Islands; Ajay Singh had filed for divorce on the grounds of desertion. Although Anjali Singh’s lawyer argued that her refusal to live with her husband lay in his mistreatment of her, Justices Mohta and Majumdar referenced the Ramayana, saying “A wife should be like [the] goddess Sita, who left everything and followed her husband Lord Ram [sic] to a forest and stayed there for 14 years.” This reference highlights the blurry lines that exist between the modern legal system and time-honoured customs.

The importance of the Ramayana, an Indian epic first told over two millennia ago, is twofold: for one, it is a living epic, having endured across time to address social, political and religious issues, manifesting in myriad regional, folk and oral Ramayanas. Secondly, the Ramayana has played a central role in the rising tide of Indian ultra-nationalism, with a call for a return to Ram-Rajya's fabled rule. This course will take an interdisciplinary approach to exploring the richness of what scholars have come to call the “Ramayana tradition” and its role in India today.
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This is a beginning Swahili course, intended to introduce the language’s basic communicative situations and basic vocabulary and grammar. The course aims to promote practical application of the skills learned in class in self-expression, description of everyday experience as well as enhancement of interpersonal interaction. The course uses mostly East African texts (reading passages, music and videos) to promote students’ understanding and appreciation of Swahili language and culture. While the main focus will be on enriching the students understanding of African culture through Swahili language, students are expected to relate the Swahili culture with their everyday experiences. Students will be expected to memorize vocabulary and utilize it in both speech and writing. The following types of students will find this course enriching: students looking to complete the African Studies or the Global Studies certificates; those interested in studying abroad in Tanzania; those who wish to apply for a Boren or Critical Language Scholarship or a Fulbright Fellowship; those who seek funding for an entire year of undergraduate education with a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship; those with an interest in East Africa; those majoring in Africana Studies; and those who want to work with East African immigrant and refugee populations in the United States.
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This course seeks to understand contemporary issues and perspectives through an historical examination of Jewish community in the United States. It will focus principally on the 20th and 21st centuries.
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In this class, we will discuss models of bilingualism, and the psycholinguistic aspects of being bilingual. Topics that may be covered include: bilingual memory representation as a function of language proficiency, language learning method, and word/concept type; how bilinguals recognize words (printed and spoken); whether the bilingual's two languages are always "active" to some extent; how bilinguals manage to perform in one language without getting "mixed up"; whether bilinguals have cognitive advantages over monolinguals; and, how speaking two languages influences thought. Discussion will be emphasized during meeting periods, and a final paper will be required. The instructor invites students interested in the course to contact her if they have additional, relevant topics that they would like to discuss in class. This course is offered in the fall 2017 term.
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