VLPA Courses

Spring Quarter 2020 VLPA courses

Class times, locations, fees, and course descriptions may change.  Please check the time schedule for updates before enrolling in any course.  

For more VLPA courses, see the Time Schedule search page at:  http://www.washington.edu/students/timeschd/genedinq.html.

African-American Studies

Afram 330 – Music, Folklore, and Performance in Black Society (5 credits)
TTh 2:30-4:20
Instructor: Brukab Sisay
Focuses on cultural expressions created by people of African descent in the Unites States in the twentieth century, with an emphasis on music, folklore, dance, and humor.

Afram 337 – Popular Music, Race, Identity, and Social Change (5 credits)
TTh 1:30-3:20
Instructor: Sonnet Retman
Diversity credit

Focuses on popular music, shifting formations of race and identity and social change in various cultural, historical, and political contexts. Explores popular music as a tool for social change, a vehicle for community-building and a form of political and aesthetic expression.

Asian-American Studies

AAS 330 – Asian American Theater (5 credits)
TTh 10:30-12:20
Instructor: Vincent Schleitwiler
Diversity credit
Covers drama from the 1970's to now, in historical contexts. They study of drama is dialogical, through dialogue. Themes are contested among the characters. Our studies participate, with the plays, in questioning race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class. Includes students' performances of dramatic readings. No prior experience in theater is required.

AAS 402 – Contemporary Asian American Literature (5 credits)
TTh 1:30-3:20
Instructor: Vincent Schleitwiler
Diversity credit

Examines Asian American literature from the 1950s to the present that require analyses of structures of power and possibilities for empowerment of an American "minority" group. Multi-ethnic focus, including Filipino American, Japanese American, Chinese American, Korean American, Vietnamese American, and South Asian American subjects.


Anth 233 – Language and Society (5 credits)
MWF 8:30-9:20
Quiz Th, times vary
Instructor: Betsy Evans
Diversity credit
Introduces the study of sociolects, the varieties of language that arise from differences in cultural and societal groups, often reflective of power inequalities. Raises awareness of the role that society and the individual play in shaping sociolects via the systematic observation and critical discussion of linguistic phenomena. Offered jointly with COM 233/LING 233.

Art History

Art H 212 – Chinese Art and Visual Culture (5 credits)
MW 10:00-11:20
Quiz Th, times vary
Instructor: Haicheng Wang
$30 course fee
Writing credit
Surveys the highlights of Chinese visual arts from the Neolithic to the present. Studies jade, bronze, lacquer, silk, Buddhist sculpture, ceramics, calligraphy, painting, architecture, film, and installation art forms at a moment in Chinese history when work in those media was especially innovative and important.

Art H 273 – History of Photography (5 credits)
Online course. See time schedule for details.
Instructor: Kolya Rice
$30 course fee
Survey of photography from its beginnings in the early 19th century to the digital imaging of today. Study photography as an artistic medium, a social text, a technological adventure, and a cultural practice. Key photographers, cultural movements and recurring themes will be explored with close attention to the social and cultural contexts in which photographs were produced, circulated and consumed.

Art H 311 – Art of Imperial China (5 credits)
MW 12:30-2:20
Instructor: Haicheng Wang
$30 course fee
Introduces the role of painting in the history of Imperial China from the fourth to the seventeenth century. Topics for reading and discussion include political forces, regional geography, social structure, gender, traditional philosophies, and religious and spiritual influences.

Art H 312 – Art and Empire in India, 1750-1900 (5 credits)
MW 10:30-12:20
Instructor: Sonal Khullar
$30 course fee
Surveys the transformation in the visual arts between the Mughal and British empires in India. Topics of learning and discussion include changes and new developments in artistic production, patronage, viewing publics and protocols, technology, roles of art institutions, and exchanges between media.

Asian Language and Literatures

Asian 201 – Literature and Culture of China: Ancient and Classical (5 credits)
MW 1:30-3:20
Instructor:  William Boltz
In this course, students will learn about important ideas from Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, and how they shape the concept of a moral person in Asia. Iconic figures will be introduced through literature and film. For example, we will look at Confucius’ teachings by reading the Analects and watch a modern day movie about him. We will discuss the paradox of wen  (cultural refinement) and wu  (raw power), and the choice an educated person has to make between the word and the sword to solve a problem or resolve a conflict. Additionally, we will explore fascinating questions regarding cultural exchange and knowledge transmission among Asian countries and regions such as, how did an Indian child god become popular in China? How did a Chinese court lady married to a Xiongnu chieftain for peace-making gain eminence in Japan?

Asian 206 – Modern Literature of South Asia (5 credits)
TTh 2:30-4:20
Instructor: Jennifer Dubrow
This course introduces the modern literature of South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.) from the eighteenth century to the present. We will read a selection of novels, short stories, and poetry drawn from the diverse literary traditions of the region. Major readings include Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, short stories about the partition of India and other topics, Umrao Jan Ada, a novel about a nineteenth-century courtesan, and ghazal poetry. All works will be read in English translation. At the end of the course, we will have a class musha'irah (poetry recitation), in which students will present their own original English ghazals.

Asian 263 – Great Works in Asian Literature (5 credits)
TTh 1:30-3:20
Instructor: Collett Cox
Selected major works of Asian literature. Taught on a rotational basis with the literary traditions of China, Japan, India covered in successive years. Content varies depending on specialization and interest of instructor. Primary emphasis on literary values of works and their tradition; attention also given to historical and social contexts and the thought and value systems of the culture involved.


Clas 122 – Gateway to the Ancient Greco-Roman World (5 credits)
Group start online course. See Time Schedule for details.
Instructor: Catherine Connors
Introduction to Greek and Roman ways of understanding and shaping the world. Art, architecture, literature, science, and religion are used to examine ancient ideas about the relationships between man and woman, free person and slave, native and foreigner, civilization and the natural world, mortal and divine.


Com 220 – Intro to Public Speaking (5 credits)
MW 10:30-11:20
Quiz TTh, times vary
Instructor: M. McGarrity
Designed to increase competence in public speaking and the critique of public speaking. Emphasizes choice and organization of material, sound reasoning, audience analysis, and delivery.

Comparative History of Ideas

Chid 250C – Political Prisoners and Prison Notebooks (5 credits)
MW 8:30-10:20
Instructor: C. Knapp
Writing credit
How does someone become a “political prisoner”? How has this term been deployed differently across time and to what ends? How is it racialized and gendered? This course explores histories of political struggle in the U. S. from the perspectives of political prisoners themselves. It pays particular attention to the repressive function of political imprisonment as well as the disruptive potential of claiming the status of “political prisoner” for radical purposes. A core objective of the course is to examine writings by political prisoners in order to understand how these writers have theorized history, politics, state power, racism, revolution, and culture.

Cinema and Media Studies

CMS 302 – Media, Arts, and Culture (5 credits)
TTh 10:30-12:20
Quiz F, times vary
Instructor: Stephen Groening
$10 course fee
Open to all students on 3/2.
Examines cultural expressions and aesthetic formations across media forms, with an emphasis on electronic and digital media. Media arts analyzed vary, including but not limited to comics, cell-phones, mash-ups, games, electronic literature, video installations, photography, and soundscapes.

CMS 315 – History of New Media (5 credits)
MW 12:30-2:20
Instructor: Mal Ahern
This course surveys the history of several technologies we now consider to be “new media”: computers, video games, the Internet, and digital photography. It will also examine several older media, such as cinema and television, at the moment of their emergence. By looking at old technologies when they were new, what can we learn about today’s “new media?”

CMS 320A – Cinema and Nation: Cinemas of South Asia (5 credits)
TTh 12:30-2:20
Instructor: Sudhir Mahadevan
$10 course fee
Examines the cinema of a particular national, ethnic or cultural group, with films typically shown in the original language with subtitles. Topics reflect themes and trends in the national cinema being studied.

Comparative Literature

C Lit 210 - Literature and Science (5 credits)
TTh 10:30-12:20
Instructor: Gary Handwerk
Introduces the rich and complex relationship between science and literature from the seventeenth century to the present day. Students examine selected literary, scientific, and philosophical texts, considering ways in which literature and science can be viewed as forms of imaginative activity. Offered jointly with Chid 250E.


Engl 207 – Intro to Cultural Studies (5 credits)
TTh 3:30-5:20
Instructor: Laurie George
Writing credit
Introduces cultural studies as an interdisciplinary field and practice. Explores multiple histories of the field with an emphasis on current issues and developments. Focuses on culture as a site of political and social debate and struggle.

Engl 257 – Asian-American Literature (5 credits)
TTh 10:30-12:20
Instructor: Michelle Liu
Diversity credit; Writing credit
No seniors period I registration.
Examines the emergence of Asian American literature as a response to anti-Asian legislation, cultural images, and American racial formation. Encourages thinking critically about identity, power, inequalities, and experiences of marginality.

Engl 259A – Literature and Social Difference (5 credits)
MW 1:00-2:20
Instructor: Annegret Oehme
Diversity credit; writing credit
No seniors period I registration.
Literary texts are important evidence for social difference (gender, race, class, ethnicity, language, citizenship status, sexuality, ability) in contemporary and historical contexts. Examines texts that encourage and provoke us to ask larger questions about identity, power, privilege, society, and the role of culture in present-day or historical settings.

ENGL 308 – Marxism and Literary Theory (5 credits)
TTh 1:30-3:20
Instructor: A. Weinbaum
Open to all students on 3/2.
This course introduces several key works by Marx and his collaborator, Engels, and the debates that have grown up around them.  At the center of the course is the question of how 19th century writings about political economy (aka economics), history, and philosophy were taken up by 20th century literary scholars, and how a distinct tradition of interpreting literature and culture from a Marxist perspective, using Marxist tools, has developed over time and endured into the present. By contrast to other models of literary and cultural criticism which often seek to find in literary texts transcendent messages and universal meanings, Marxist theory has sought to situate literary and cultural texts within their historical contexts of production and reception, to understand the power dynamics (including dynamics informed by race, gender, and class conflict) that shape textual meaning, and to understand how such conflicts impact meaning, message, genre, style, and form. 

Our study of Marxist theory will involve us in close, intensive reading of dense philosophical texts.  We will also seek to understand how a materialist method indebted to Marxism has emerged as a dominant method within contemporary scholarship, and how diverse critical practices (often given such labels as “critical theory,” “feminist theory,” “critical race theory,” and “cultural studies”) are situated within a Marxist analytical tradition.   Over the course of the quarter we will engage two cultural texts--one filmic and one literary.  We will consider how our understanding of each is shaped by the Marxist frameworks that the course explores, and how each, in turn, may be used to reveal the (in)adequacy of Marxist methodologies. 

Engl 319 – African Literatures (5 credits)
MW 2:30-4:20
Instructor: Laura Chrisman
Diversity credit
Open to all students on 3/2.

Introduces and explores African literatures from a range of regions. Pays particular attention to writings connected with the historical experiences of colonialism, anti-colonial resistance, and decolonization. Considers the operations of race, gender, nationhood, neocolonialism, and globalization within and across these writings.

Engl 352 – American Literature: The Early Nation (5 credits)
MW 6:30-8:20pm
Instructor: Robert Abrams
Open to all students on 3/2.

An introduction to American literature and culture during the decades leading up to the Civil War. This is a period which: 1) struggled with numerous issues of race, slavery, gender, and class; 2) strove to develop a national mythology and identity against the backdrop of shifting national boundaries, increasing immigration, worldwide empire and trade, and a heterogeneous population; 3) tried to salvage religious faith in the wake of modern science and the Enlightenment; 4) and took democracy seriously enough to trace through its implications even to the point where, as in the case of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, such implications start to become startling and strange. The period is much too complex to be organized into a dominant, easily defined thesis or polemic, and in fact the aesthetic strategy of choice for many of the writers whom we’ll be exploring is the ambiguous interchange of perspectives and voices without closure or synthesis. The “question,” as Melville at one point writes of his own literary method, tends to remain “more final than any answer.” Nature itself, as Thoreau emphasizes, becomes a site where perspectives so alter and shift and we can never get any closer than “nearer and nearer to here.” Pre-Civil War literary language in the U.S., I should caution, is dense, complicated, and often difficult to read—although enormously rewarding and eloquent—and students enrolling in this course should be prepared for encountering difficult language, and for reading it closely and carefully, as they explore authors such as Emerson and Melville.

Engl 368 – Women Writers (5 credits)
TTh 1:30-3:20
Instructor: Sydney Kaplan
Diversity credit
Open to all students on 3/2.
Investigates how perceptions of "woman writer" shape understandings of women's literary works and the forms in which they compose. Examines texts by women writers with attention to sociocultural, economic, and political context. Considers gender as a form of social difference as well as power relationships structured around gender inequality.

Engl 479 – Language Variation and Language Policy in North America (5 credits)
MW 2:30-4:20
Instructor: Gail Stygall
Diversity credit
Open to all students on 3/2.
Surveys basic issues of language variation: phonological, syntactic, semantic, and narrative/discourse differences among speech communities of North American English; examines how language policy can affect access to education, the labor force, and political institutions.

Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies

GWSS 241 – Hip Hop and Indie Rock (5 credits)
TTh 1:30-3:20
Instructor: Michelle Habell-Pallan
Introduction to pop music studies. Examines how archives, oral histories, and new media transform stories about music. Traces rhythms, tempos, and genres including blues, gospel, estilo bravio, punk, son jarocho, and disco that influence hip hop and indie rock, contextualizing their relation to gender, race/ethnicity, class, locality, and nation.

GWSS 445 – Feminist Science (fiction) Studies (5 credits)
TTh 10:30-12:20
Instructor: R. Lee
This course addresses science fictional narratives to trouble and transform the human, the inhumane, the scientific apparatus, and the natural world. Students examine gender, race, sexuality, and ability, alongside relevant scientific documents and feminist theory, to better understand both science and fiction through feminist lenses.

History of North America

HSTAA 365 – Culture, Politics, and Film in 20th Century America (5 credits)
TTh 1:30-3:20
Quiz F, times vary
Instructor: S. Glenn
Diversity credit; writing credit
Explores relationship between film and twentieth century U.S. cultural, social, and political history. Examines the ways that films responded to, participated in, and helped shape understandings of modernity, national identity, political power, race and ethnic relations, gender, and crises such as economic depression and war.

Jackson School of International Studies: Area Studies

JSIS A 211 – Fashion Systems (5 credits)
TTh 9:30-11:20
Instructor: Rachel Silberstein
Introduces the historical development of fashion systems in early modern and modern Europe and Asia. Explores topics including: Fashioning the Body; Gender and Fashion; Fashion as Conspicuous Consumption; Fashion as Urban Spectacle; the Politics of Fashion. Offered jointly with ART H 211.

Landscape Architecture

L Arch 322 – Intro to Planting Design (3 credits)
MWF 11:30-12:20
Instructor: Kristina Park
Traditional ways plants are used in landscape design. Composition and design characteristics of plant materials. Technical considerations for selection, climate, cultural suitability, availability, costs, and maintenance. Open to nonmajors.


Ling 200 – Intro to Linguistic Thought (5 credits)
MWF 8:30-9:20
Quiz TTh, times vary
Instructor: Gasper Begus
QSR credit
Not open for credit to students who have completed LING 201 or LING 400.
Language as the fundamental characteristic of the human species; diversity and complexity of human languages; phonological and grammatical analysis; dimensions of language use; and language acquisition and historical language change.

Near Eastern Language and Civilization

Near E 286 – Themes in Near Eastern Literature: the Middle East through Travelogues (5 credits)
TTh 1:30-3:20
Instructor: Aria Fani

Significant and interesting aspects of Near Eastern culture and society as represented by literary themes. Aspects of Near Eastern life and art such as women, minority groups, mysticism, and modern literature. Content varies. May not be taken for credit if credit earned in NEAR E 330.

Near E 308 – Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient Near East (3 credits)
MW 3:30-4:50
Instructor: Gary Martin
Diversity credit
Investigates and critically assesses trends and topics in recent studies of gender and sexuality in the ancient Near East, pertaining especially to texts, artifacts, art and images from ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Levant. Explores ancient Near Eastern taxonomies and functions of gender and sexuality, and examines social, political and religious forces that inform and construct gendered categories of gods, humans, and their worlds. Prerequisite: No prerequisites; recommended: NEAR E 201, Introduction to the Ancient Near East.

Near E 325 – Literature of Emerging Nations: Modern Hebrew Literature in Translation (5 credits)
MW 2:30-4:20
Instructor: Naomi Sokoloff

Hebrew has had a remarkable history in the past 150 years, as it underwent a startling revitalization. A vehicle of expression for persecuted Jews in Europe in the 19th century, Hebrew literature contributed to the inception of Jewish nationalist movements and played a major role in the shaping of modern Jewish identity. Following the establishment of the State of Israel, this literature has served as a central pillar of majority culture but also as an instrument of protest. It has voiced the experiences of Jewish refugees from the Middle East, of Palestinian Arabs, of Ethiopian Israelis, of guest workers, and of other minority groups. Hebrew authors and poets have also made important contributions to American writing. Learning about Hebrew literature can foster understanding of language revivals, contested nationalisms, cultures in contact, relations between highbrow and popular culture, and debates regarding gender and nation. Offered jointly with Comp. Lit 323A. 

NEAR E 330 – Colonialism, Nationalism and the Modern Arabic Novel (5 credits)
TTh 4:30-6:20pm
Instructor: Terri DeYoung
Examines how representative novels from the modern canon in Arabic have both endorsed and critiqued aspects of nationalism and colonialist ideology.


Phil 149 – Existentialism and Film (5 credits)
MWF 10:30-11:20
Quiz TTh, times vary
Instructor: Ian Schnee
What makes life worth living? Is morality just a convenient fiction? What is the nature of the human condition? Is God dead, or just playing hard to get? Investigates the works of several existentialist philosophers, including Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Beauvoir, and uses their works to interpret and analyze the philosophical content of angst-ridden cinema of the French New Wave and Hollywood film noir.

Phil 345 – Moral Issues of Life and Death (5 credits)
MW 2:30-4:20
Instructor: Paul Franco
Writing credit
Examination of such topics as war and murder, famine relief, capital punishment, high-risk technologies, abortion, suicide, and the rights of future generations.

Scandinavian Studies

Scand 100 – Intro to Scandinavian Culture (5 credits)
MTWTh 11:30-12:20
Instructor: Guntis Smidchens

The Scandinavian experience from the Viking Age to the present day; the background for contemporary Scandinavian democracy, with major emphasis on the cultural, political, and religious development of the Scandinavian countries.

Scand 375 – Vikings in Popular Culture (5 credits)
MTWTh 11:30-12:20
Instructor: TBA

Explores media representations of "the Vikings" in popular culture over the past 200 years in Europe and the United States, including advertising, comics, film, literature, music, poetry, propaganda, television series, and video games. Compares these modern artistic productions with their medieval counterparts, and examines how the Vikings have functioned as vessels for a variety of cultural fantasies about gender, class, race, and religion.

Slavic Languages and Literatures

Slavic 370 – What’s in a Language Name? The Case of Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian (5 credits)
MW 11:30-1:20
Instructor: Bojan Belic

The course examines the fates of the language known as Serbo-Croatian, on the one hand, and, on the other, to the languages known as Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian. Concepts such as language death and language birth are explored. The relation between the concepts of dialect and language is analyzed. Notions of language politicslanguage standardization, and language codification in Southeastern Europe are analyzed. Offered jointly with ENGL 407 and CHID 498C.

Slavic 425 – Ways of Meaning (5 credits)
MW 1:30-3:20
Instructor: Katarzyna Dziwirek
Diversity credit
Focuses on the diversity of human experience and the social and cultural conditioning of language use. Language as a mirror of culture and national character. Universal and culture/language specific components in linguistic expression of emotions, courtesy/politeness and rudeness, prejudice and (in)sensitivities, linguistic expression of gender differences in different cultures.