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power, capacity 

Critically considering power, knowledge, resistance, and social justice, through the lenses of history, philosophy, and literature.

Co-Directors: Dr. John Mitcham (History) & Dr. Daniel Selcer (Philosophy)

Potentia Learning Community Faculty

(Left to right: Dr. Erin Johns Speese, Dr. Daniel Selcer, Dr. John Mitcham)

Potentia students will study the idea of ‘power' by thinking through the global history of the twentieth century (including histories of democratization, totalitarianism, postcolonialism, and sectarian conflict); philosophical frameworks for critically articulating and responding to inequality (including theories of politics, truth, oppression, and self-formation); and rhetorical and literary approaches to social justice (including considerations of race, class, gender, and sexuality).

Fall 2018 Course Schedule:

Shaping of the Modern World (HIST 151C-01, MW 3:00-4:15 pm), Dr. John Mitcham, History
The 20th century was an extremely volatile period, beset by world wars, political and social revolutions, energy and environmental crises, religious and anti-colonial conflicts, and the threat of nuclear annihilation. It also served as a precursor to our own 21st century, and thus "shaped" our modern existence in ways that most people do not truly appreciate. This course will broaden our historical perspective by providing a general survey of World History from 1900 to the Present. We will analyze the most important developments that occurred in Europe, the United States, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. In keeping with the learning community theme, we will explore the impact of different transnational ideologies, including Liberalism, Imperialism, Communism, Fascism, Existentialism, and Postcolonialism.

Basic Philosophical Questions (UCOR 132C-21, TR 12:15-1:30 pm), Dr. Daniel Selcer, Philosophy
Philosophy is literally the practice of the "love of wisdom", yet what that means can be baffling. In this class, we will consider it to be the art of asking difficult questions and thinking them through. Our ‘hard questions' this semester will be formulated as critical considerations of the nature and meaning of power. We will connect the critique of demagoguery and tyranny in ancient Greek philosophy to contemporary debates about political truth-telling and lying. We will move from early modern reflections on social inequality with nineteenth-century revolutionary theories of economic and political domination as well as twentieth-century reflections on racial inequality. Finally, we will join classical demands for self-reflection with contemporary analytics of power articulated on the basis of gender and sexuality.

Thinking & Writing Across the Curriculum (UCOR 101C-05, TR 1:40-2:55 pm), Dr. Erin Johns Speese, English
UCOR 101 will focus on developing students' writing technique and critical thinking as well as analysis skills often expected at the university level. In order to achieve this task and in keeping with the learning community theme, we will focus especially on analyzing the rhetoric associated with power, specifically through race and gender. In the class, we will be reading a number of secondary researched texts that make arguments so as to illustrate the thoughtful evidence building and analysis expected in argumentative papers. To this end, we will be using Ian Haney López's Dog Whistle Politics as a springboard for our first paper, a rhetorical analysis of how racial rhetoric appears in common media, like speeches, new segments, etc. For our second essay, we will be using Melissa Harris-Perry's Sister Citizen as a springboard for an analysis of media images regarding African American women and the stereotypes commonly associated with them. For the final paper, students will pick any subject of their choice and produce a well-researched and reasoned argument paper that emphasizes the rhetorical and analytical methods we have been learning and discussing all semester. In addition to the book-length texts listed above, we will be reading a number of shorter essays that offer multiple perspectives and viewpoints regarding issues of power related to race and gender.