New Expos 20 Courses in Spring 2019

Engaged Scholarship Expos Courses, New in Spring 2019


Engaged Scholarship Expos courses give first-year students an exciting chance to connect the “theory and practice” of academic research and writing. Supported by Harvard's Mindich Program in Engaged Scholarship (MPES), these courses "challenge students and faculty to integrate scholarship with community perspectives, knowledge, and expertise to have impact within and beyond the academy" (MPES). In Engaged Scholarship Expos courses, students go outside the classroom into neighborhoods and organizations to see real-world issues up close. By the end of the semester, students will have used writing and speaking as crucial tools for developing evidence-based arguments about those issues--and for communicating their thinking with audiences well beyond the classroom.

(Engaged Scholarship Course, New in Spring 2019) 
Expos 206, 207
Sarah Case
MW 1:30, MW 3

Spring 2019 Course Syllabus

From Boston Common to the Charles River Esplanade and the Arnold Arboretum, Boston boasts many beautiful green spaces. Closer to home, the leafy lawns of Harvard Yard provide a respite in a busy urban environment. With over half of the world’s population living in cities, urban green space is more important than ever. The value of public parks to those fortunate enough to live near them is considerable, whether the reduction of the negative effects of climate change, improved public health, or ample opportunities for residents to connect with and appreciate the power of the natural world. But as cities boom and prices skyrocket, access to spaces like parks is increasingly expensive and exclusionary. This course will consider a series of related questions: What exactly are the benefits of resources like public parks? Should urban green space be considered a right of every citizen? Has access to green space in cities become a privilege of the elite? We will explore these questions, thinking about why access to green space matters in an increasingly urbanized world. 

Our first unit will focus on the green spaces of Harvard’s campus. You’ll question the role that access to nature plays for the Harvard community by touring campus and choosing a site to study. We’ll then move to examine questions of public access to parks through the case study of Boston Common, America’s oldest urban park. We’ll think through the thorny relationship between public and private green space for urban communities by working with the Friends of the Public Garden and reading an increasingly influential essay on the fate of public space, “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Our third unit will provide you with a unique opportunity to explore how academic research on questions of environmental access is playing out on the ground through a partnership with Groundwork, a community organization in neighboring Somerville. Groundwork works to build community and environmental health through projects such as urban gardens and youth education. You will consider the relationship between urban green initiatives and the residents who benefit from them while learning about Groundwork’s urban farming initiatives in conjunction with your research. Students will have a chance to present their innovative ideas and research from their writing at a capstone fair at the end of the semester. 

There will be three outside-of-class activities students will be asked to attend at specific times, and for which they should plan to keep their schedules open:

  • Friday March 8, 3:15-5:30 p.m.—A discussion with Elizabeth Vizza, Executive Director of the Boston Friends of the Public Garden
  • Wednesday April 3, 4:30-6 p.m. – A panel discussion with the Groundwork Green Team
  • A capstone fair during Reading Period (Time and Date TBA)
(Engaged Scholarship Course, New in Spring 2019)
Expos 204
Willa Brown
TTh 12

Spring 2019 Syllabus

Each year over three million visitors walk Boston’s Freedom Trail, learning a curated story of how this country came to be. But whose story is it? This engaged scholarship course will leave the Yard in order to think about how the stories we tell shape the city we live in. In the wake of the riots in Charlottesville over the removal of a statue dedicated to Robert E. Lee, Americans are embroiled in a debate long familiar to historians: what do our monuments say about who we are? Maybe more importantly: how do those messages change the way we interact with each other? This course will explore these questions in the context of the city you have come to live in for the next four years. We will begin by critically examining the story visitors and residents learn when they walk the Freedom Trail—whose stories are told? What do those narratives say about what this city is? We will be part of the debate about what it means to be represented (or not) on the city landscape. This course will teach you to see the cityscape as a book to be read—a book whose meaning you can shape. After examining these questions, we will make our own decisions about what stories need to be told: the course will culminate in creating a digital map and our own walking tour presented to the public.

This course will require an out-of-class workshop in April (date TBD) and participation in the capstone public tour on Saturday, May 4th 

Additional New Courses in Spring 2019

(New Course in Spring 2019)
Expos 228, 229
Shannon Monaghan
TTh 10:30, TTh 12

Spring 2019 Syllabus

While it is perceived today as one of the greatest aberrations in human society, warfare has also been one of the most common experiences in human history. Yet popular conceptions of the history of warfare are often limited to the myth of completely separated soldiers and civilians. This has not, historically, been so: there is a reason that we call the “home front” a front. We begin by looking at the idea of “total war” within the context of several modern case studies. We will question and examine the roles of women and children, as agents and as targets, in these conflicts. We then move to thinking about the memory and meaning of war through the art and memoirs of the great German printmaker and sculptor Käthe Kollwitz and the intellectual polymath (and French Resistance member) Marguerite Duras. What do the histories and stories that we tell about war, about resistance and about patriotism, particularly stories told by those not in uniform, add to the national and cultural understanding of a conflict? In the final unit, students will choose their own historical research subject from a variety of options. They might investigate conflicts and wars ranging from the recent (the “forever wars” of Iraq and Afghanistan) to the nineteenth century (the U.S. Civil War); from the modern and industrial (the Second World War) to the guerrilla, civil, and anti-imperial (the Spanish Civil War and the Algerian War of Independence). Further research options include different types of participants in conflict (from forcibly recruited child soldiers to anti-war activism) and different ways to pressure an enemy (food policy and blockade). Students will analyze the conflict in their chosen subject through the lens of the unexpected agent in modern warfare: the woman and/or the child. Throughout the course, we will ask what it means to be a “soldier” or a “civilian” in modern conflict, pondering the nature of the distinction.

(New Course in Spring 2019)
Expos 251, 252
Lusia Zaitseva
TTh 12, TTh 1:30
Spring 2019 Syllabus 

Cultural attitudes toward childhood have long been complex. Novelists, poets, and philosophers alike have espoused the virtues of cultivating cherished qualities of childhood: the playfulness, authenticity, and boundless curiosity of children unburdened by the stifling responsibilities of adulthood. But, as educators and political commentators remind us at every turn, childhood is also a condition to be overcome, a state of unsophisticated lack of discipline and immaturity that our leaders should avoid. These tensions have made children—so often spoken for and about on the page and screen, but rarely speaking for themselves—into vessels of meaning for a wide variety of purposes, from rallying cries urging military involvement abroad to immigration reform at home. In this course, we’ll consider what representations of childhood can tell us about the adult world and childhood itself. What is the root of adult anxieties about children? And what are the moral and practical costs of upholding certain images of childhood—for example, its innocence—to both adults and children themselves? We’ll begin our exploration of these questions by attending to the imagined worlds of authors from several different cultures: British science fiction author Brian Aldiss and contemporary writers Ludmilla Petrushevskaya and Lesley Nneka Arimah of Russia and Nigeria, respectively. What deeper meanings, we will ask, can be uncovered by attending to representations of children and the child’s point of view in their works? Next, we’ll shift our gaze to the highly controversial photographs of Sally Mann as we question the limits of acceptable representation of childhood. In the third unit, students will have the opportunity to conduct their own original research as we explore how childhood figures in a range of recent debates from climate change to slacktivism.

Engaged Scholarship Expos Courses Introduced in Fall 2018

(New Course in Fall 2018)  
Expos 228, 229
Margaret Rennix
MW 10:30, MW 12

Spring 2019 Syllabus

Note: This Expos course requires participation in some activities outside of normal class hours.

Immigration has become an increasingly divisive topic in U.S. politics, as thousands of people fleeing violence and poverty in Central America have arrived at the nation’s border. While conversations about immigration tend to focus on its economic and cultural implications, the specific experiences of immigrants can get lost in the political shuffle. Who are the people who are coming to the U.S. border? What has motivated their journeys? Once they arrive, what happens to their individual stories and experiences? Who receives those narratives? How are they used? In this course, students will try to answer these questions, grappling with one of the most pressing moral and social issues U.S. lawmakers and citizens are confronting today. But rather than just approaching the complexities of immigration using academic literature, students will engage actively with how narratives of immigration are told and transformed, especially as individual experiences get processed into legal asylum cases. Students will have the opportunity to meet with and pose questions to lawyers and law students from the Harvard Law School Immigration Clinic, as well as lawyers working on the border at the U.S. family detention center in Dilley, Texas. They will also exit the gates of Harvard to attend immigration court proceedings, visit local immigrant neighborhoods, and talk with activists about their hopes and frustrations regarding immigration reform. This course aims to be a multifaceted intellectual experience, allowing students the opportunity to witness directly how academic arguments can affect human lives. And students will be asked to participate in this process, offering their own claims about how immigration policy should be shaped based on what they learn over the course of the semester. In Unit 1, we will start by looking at concepts of nationhood and community, asking students to critique arguments for and against open borders—including those by political philosophers Richard Carens and David Miller, and economist Bryan Caplan. In Unit 2, we will turn to the self-articulated experiences of immigrants to the United States, reading Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends and a number of redacted affidavits from asylum seekers, to consider how “tricky” cases—like those involving minors who have complicated relationships with gangs in their homelands—ought to affect how asylum cases are made. Finally, in Unit 3 students will write a research paper in which they will use an immigration story of their own choosing to argue for changes in United States policy. They will write this paper in conjunction with creating a capstone project: a five-minute video on a specific immigration issue that will then be shared with the community partners they’ve engaged with throughout the course.

(New Course in Fall 2018)
Expos 236, 237

Sparsha Saha
MW 12, MW 1:30

Spring 2019 Syllabus

The “Engaged Scholarship” components of this course include multiple mandatory activities outside of regular class hours. Dates of the Spring 2019 activities will be announced in the first class meeting.

Today, the United States Congress is 19.4% female. That statistic trails the world average of 23.3%, with Nordic, European, sub- Saharan African, and Asian countries achieving better gender balance in national legislatures than the U.S. Some scholars contend that when women run, they are no more likely to win or lose compared to their male counterparts, though they are simply less likely to run in the first place. Other scholars identify a strong correlation between voting and sexist attitudes, notably in the 2016 U.S. election. But the puzzle persists: what accounts for the persistently low levels of female political representation in American politics, particularly since the United States boasts some of the highest levels of female participation in the labor market, especially in executive positions? Our course explores this question as it examines how prejudicial attitudes about women manifest themselves in American political life and society. In Unit 1, we begin by examining the popular argument that women should have more political representation because they would be better political leaders. In this unit, you will also have a chance to engage in the Harvard community by interviewing peers, neighbors, and other members of Harvard Square to get a sense of beliefs about women in politics. In Unit 2, we turn our attention to recent case studies, including Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to investigate how gender stereotypes may or may not have played a role in the outcomes of their political races. Finally, in Unit 3, you will contribute to the scholarship in this field, by researching the phenomenon that Massachusetts lags behind other states when it comes to female political representation at the state and gubernatorial level. We will partner with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus ( to help them address this problem at the state level by writing a policy paper with recommendations that draw on your research into this issue

(New Course in Fall 2018)
Expos 242, 243
Spencer Strub
TTh 9, TTh 10:30

Spring 2019 Syllabus

Note: This Expos class requires an independent research trip into Boston outside of normal class hours.

In winter 2018, Boston and coastal Massachusetts experienced two “hundred-year floods” in quick succession. Coming hard on the heels of costlier disasters elsewhere, the impassable roads in the Seaport and icebergs in the streets of Scituate were widely understood as a sign of things to come. The changing shape of the New England coastline raises tough questions: how should governments and peoples prepare for, and adapt to, a changing climate? How do we stave off the worst-case scenarios, and how should we mete out responsibility for the damage that’s already been done? And how might our society––our politics, our culture, our sense of justice and our narratives of ourselves––transform in response to the unfolding global ecological crisis?

While such questions are usually left to activists, engineers, and urban planners, this course will ask you to begin to answer these questions using the tools of the humanities. We’ll begin by exploring the way we talk about the world-to-come today, focusing on the writer Elizabeth Rush’s portraits of coastal communities confronting sea level rise and the loss it entails. In the second unit, we turn to questions of ethics and politics. We’ll weigh Aldo Leopold’s foundational “Land Ethic” – which calls for a society that respects an “ecological conscience” – against more recent work on the role that race and class play in exposure to environmental risks. In doing so, we’ll develop richer, more sensitive accounts of the interaction between nature and society. The course ends by considering the case example of Boston itself. In class, we’ll assess Climate Ready Boston’s reports together, analyzing how the city is preparing for “climate resilience.” In a final capstone project and research paper, you’ll prepare your own neighborhood-specific studies that respond to these reports, drawing on our readings in ethics and political thought as well as your own discoveries in the research process – a process that will ask you to survey climate scientists’ projections, delve into the history of Boston, and even walk the shoreline of the city. The goal is to develop and articulate your own vision for a just and livable future for New England.

Required Research Travel:

As part of the research for Unit 3, students will be expected to coordinate with each other and visit a neighborhood in Boston subject to climate impacts. This trip will require taking the T and walking. A response paper recording observations from this trip is due November 9th; the research trip can be made at any point beforehand.


Additional New Courses in Fall 2018

(New Course in Fall 2018)
Expos 230, 231
Kip Richardson
MW 12, MW 1:30

Spring 2019 Syllabus

To many people, the current era seems like a golden age of political satire. Judging solely by the number of viral comedians, late-night shows, humor books, parody websites, and meme generators, the genre certainly seems to be thriving. Yet critics, both liberal and conservative, have raised substantive concerns about this explosion of satirical content, questioning its corrosiveness, its persuasive efficacy, and its contributions to the democratic public sphere. Others, in a rather different vein, have argued that satire is actually dying—or already dead—victim to the surreality and self-parody of modern political life. This course will ask students to weigh in on these questions about the value and viability of social and political satire. In Unit 1, students will consider when, if ever, do jokes go “too far”? Using a recent controversial example, such as the Charlie Hebdo cartoons or Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondents Dinner routine, students will try to theorize whether humor should be held accountable to positive moral standards, or whether it is inherently anarchic and deconstructive. In Unit 2, we will read Paul Beatty’s acclaimed novel, The Sellout(2015), a “tragicomic” satire of race in America, alongside several classical essays in the psychology of humor. Putting these texts in conversation will enable students to think about how satire “works,” how it makes us laugh, and the potential roles it might play in discussions about sensitive political subjects. Finally, in Unit 3, students will be tasked with assessing the real-world effects of political satire, selecting their own historical (e.g., anti-immigration political cartoons from the 1870s) or contemporary (e.g., The Daily Show) case study.


(New Course in Fall 2018)
Expos 211, 212
Margaret Doherty
MW 9, MW 10:30

Fall 2018 Syllabus

“Reader, I married him.” As this famous line from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyrereminds us, writers have long been preoccupied with matters of the heart. Courtship plots are everywhere, from the novels of Jane Austen to the “rom-coms” of the 1980s and 1990s to essays you can find every Sunday in the “Styles” section of the New York Times. For centuries, marriage was primarily an economic relationship, and love outside of marriage ended in humiliation or even death. But what happens when society expands the options for living and loving? What happens to the courtship plot when women choose not to be wives, or when people who once couldn’t marry now can? When couples are as likely to meet through Tinder as they are through mutual friends? In this course, we’ll explore what courtship plots can tell us about changing concepts of gender, sexuality, family, and freedom. We’ll start with fiction by Edith Wharton, one of the American literature’s keenest social observers (and, incidentally, one of the inspirations for the TV show Gossip Girl). By closely reading her accounts of love and marriage in New York’s high society at the turn of the twentieth century, we’ll ask what stories about eligible bachelors and old maids can tell us about a society’s values and beliefs. In our second unit, we’ll turn to more recent courtship plots that trouble traditional conceptions of romance, marriage, and the family. Our texts will include the story “Brokeback Mountain” (and scenes from the Oscar-winning film), short fiction from Pulitzer-prize-winner Jhumpa Lahiri, and the viral New Yorker short story “Cat Person.” Using feminist theory, queer theory, literary criticism, and recent sociologies of dating, we’ll examine what new romantic possibilities—and problems—exist for couples today. Finally, in our third unit, students will pick a modern love story of their choosing—a novel, a memoir, a film—and, drawing on the work of critics and scholars, make an argument about what this story shows us about our society’s sexual mores.

(New Course in Fall 2018)
Expos 221, 222
Reed Johnson
TTh 10:30, TTH 1:30

Spring 2019 Syllabus

During the Second World War, Nazi SS officers executed some twenty thousand Polish prisoners of war, burying their bodies in hastily-dug mass graves in a pine forest near Russia's western edge. In April 1943, news of the atrocity was broadcast over US-government funded radio stations, adding to the long litany of Nazi crimes against humanity. The only problem? The story wasn't true. The mass graves were real, but the Polish prisoners had in fact been killed several years earlier by Soviet officers on orders from Josef Stalin—or "Uncle Joe," as he was known affectionately in the US. In today's parlance, the broadcast was "fake news." Truth, as the saying goes, is war's first victim, and the conflicts of the twentieth century saw the widespread use of propaganda on all sides. But what explains the wide reach of deception and influence campaigns today? How has social media galvanized new tools of mass persuasion, and how has a fragmented and polarized media landscape enabled their spread? In this course, we'll look at the history and current state of propaganda, disinformation, fake news and conspiracy theories. We'll start with a look at online influence campaigns, using a collection of political memes promoted by Russia's so-called "troll factory" to analyze common tactics and rhetorical strategies. In our second unit, we'll shift from images to film with an analysis of the documentary Kony 2012, a video with over a hundred million views on YouTube, and controversies around its adoption of viral marketing strategies for a humanitarian initiative. Our final unit will address propaganda narratives and disinformation—a subject students will explore through a research paper on a contemporary conspiracy theory or mass influence campaign of their choice, illuminating the broader factors attending its emergence and spread.

(New Course in Fall 2018)
Expos 217, 218
Alexandra Gold
TTh 9, TTH 10:30

Spring 2019 Syllabus

In a powerful essay, the late writer and activist Audre Lorde suggested, “Where the words of women are crying to be heard we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives.” Lorde is not alone in asking us to pay attention to and take responsibility for women’s stories; for centuries scholars and activists alike have championed the words of women, including women of color and queer women, whose stories have routinely gone untold or unheard. Yet if this issue has always been pressing, the call to heed women’s stories seems especially urgent at a moment when such stories have come to dominate the cultural landscape and public consciousness – from news accounts to popular shows, literature to social media. This course responds to this moment by examining how women’s stories are narrated across a variety of media and exploring what impact the sharing of them can have. Our first unit will focus on short stories by contemporary women authors Roxane Gay, Carmen Maria Machado, and Jenny Zhang that raise questions about the body, family, love, and society. Our second unit then turns to television, studying Hulu’s 2017 adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Informed by readings in critical feminist theory, we’ll consider how the show probes the troubling connections between gender, authority, power, and image. Finally, our third unit engages visual and performance art alongside movements like #MeToo and #SayHerName, offering students an opportunity to pursue independent research projects that explore the relations between art, activism, and social media.

(New Course in Fall 2018) 
Expos 248
Eve Wittenberg
MW 10:30

Spring 2019 Syllabus

Please note that on occasion class will meet at the Harvard Global Health Education and Learning Incubator at 104 Mount Auburn St., 3rd floor.

The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any country in the world. What we are getting for all that money? Are we more healthy than all of the world? How would we even know if we were healthier? What “health” is and what it means to be “healthy” are more challenging questions than they may seem. It may be living very long, having healthy behavior, or being happy. It could be a combination of all of these, and it could be different for different people. Understanding what we mean when we talk about health is important to promoting health, so we know what we’re aiming for. This course will explore what health is, what it means to be healthy or not healthy, and how we can improve people’s health. In Unit 1 we will look at definitions of health from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and see how well they work in case examples-- whether, for instance, someone like Stephen Hawking would be considered healthy by these definitions, and what may be missing from them. In Unit 2 we will assess policies designed to improve health, focusing on obesity and weight. We will read conflicting views of obesity as a medical condition or a descriptor of body size, and grapple with a situation where opinions and science point in different directions. The Unit 2 essay will tackle how should we develop policy around obesity in this context of contradicting perspectives. In Unit 3 students will conduct independent research on ways to improve college students’ health, building from the definition work of Unit 1 and the policy work of Unit 2. The materials for the course will consist of medical and public health articles, online health data sources, and videos/TED talks. Students will have the opportunity to participate in “verbal practice” exercises at Harvard’s Global Health Education and Learning Incubator to help them write and communicate to audiences more effectively.

(New Course in Fall 2018)
Expos 251
Rachel Meyer
MW 12

Spring 2019 Syllabus

This course explores the structure and experience of work in the contemporary political economy with an eye toward both its liberating and oppressive potential. How do different forms of work affect our life circumstances, personalities, and connections to each other? In the first unit we will examine jobs—including some professional occupations like physicians and financial analysts—where social class is ambiguous or problematic, leading us to the question of who is a worker. How and to what extent are working class jobs different from professional jobs? In unit two we explore the crucial issue of workers’ control over their own labor and the concept of alienation. We examine accounts of deskilling, the separation of mental and manual labor, and the consequences of these processes for workers’ experience on the job. To what extent does alienation occur in offices versus factories versus service counters? For the final unit we will critically engage in a debate about the development of “flexible” labor and the ways in which workers’ connections to employers, occupations, and locations have become more fluid and transitory. We will explore what flexibility means in a variety of contexts and ask: does flexibility lead to liberation or loss of identity? Does it bring self-fulfillment or insecurity? What does flexibility mean for tech workers in Silicon Valley and bankers on Wall Street? Our texts consist of case studies and ethnographic accounts representing a variety of workplaces along with readings from prominent social theorists who in different ways seek to elucidate the conditions of work under modern capitalism.