Selves and Others: Representation and Performance

Fall 2015, Winter 2016 and Spring 2016 quarters

Taught by

book arts, literature, creative writing
mathematics, computer science, improvisational theater
sociology, gender studies

Writers, performers, and scholars of social behavior all engage with deep inquiries into what it's like to be a person, what it means to live within a society that made us and yet feels separate from us, and how we shape our lives despite the difficulty of ascertaining purpose or meaning. 

In this program, we'll examine the cultural norms that shape our notions of selfhood and the forces that compel individuals to construct their identities and their bodies in relation to society and ideologies. We won't simply valorize the heroic individual as the victim of an oppressive, alienating society. We'll look for positive potential in relationships between individuals and groups. We'll do this through specific disciplinary perspectives and by synthesizing new ideas across three disciplines: improvisational performance, sociology, and literature.

For us, improvisational theater will open up the imaginative play of everyday life and offer models for complex collaborations. Sociological insights into behavior will focus on individual agency, social expectations, and institutional power structures. Literary explorations of selfhood can lead us to profound skepticism but also toward the value of forming communities of writers and readers. These and other inquiries will inform our collective conversation, student research, and collaborative creative efforts.

Readings will include sociological studies and theoretical texts, a selection of 20th-century literature and theory, and texts on improvisational performance. Research, creative writing, and critical essay projects will challenge students to develop their own inquiries in relation to program themes.

We'll spend the first half of the year learning fundamental skills and concepts of sociology, literature, and improvisational theater through lectures, workshops, seminars, fieldwork exercises, and individual and collaborative projects. Beginning in winter, students will develop major projects integrating what they've learned in all three disciplines, including sociological research and creative writing, culminating in the development of collaborative performance pieces in spring quarter.

This program is not preparatory for studies of or careers in psychology or counseling, nor is it designed as a forum for emotional growth or personal discovery. Rather, we will examine disciplinary perspectives on the idea of the individual in order to understand the makeup and features of the social being.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

sociology, writing, and performance.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$120 in fall, $50 in winter, and $120 in spring for entrance fees and overnight field trips.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter); 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Sophomore; 50% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 60


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 10154
So (16 credits): 10155

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Accepting New Students

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 20083
So (16 credits): 20084

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Accepting New Students

Signature Required

Students must have suitable background in sociology and performance. Contact the faculty to discuss your level of preparation.

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 30052
So (16 credits): 30053

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