New courses serve wide interests across campus

About 40 new classes are being offered this fall

Students have a wide variety of new course offerings to choose from this fall, from discovering America to automated speech recognition to the Mafia and social justice.

One of about 40 new courses to be offered is “Voicing the Outrage of Silence: Social Justice and the Mafia,” FYS 48a, which will be taught by Paola Servino, a senior lecturer in Italian studies.

Students will learn about the political environment leading to the Mafia’s rise in Sicily in the 1860s, when the severe fragmentation of Italian society meant that there was no strong, effective government power.

“Historically, when the government is absent, other forms of power take over,” Servino says.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the murder of Italian justices Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who spent their careers fighting the Mafia, and Servino says students will learn about their work.

While students are generally fascinated by the glorified representation of “The Godfather” books and films, Servino says, “I really want to make the connection between fact and fiction. I want students to see how many people give their lives so injustice doesn’t prevail.”

Though they will examine “The Godfather,” they’ll also explore the topic through other films, novels, articles, guest lecturers and more. Students will read “The Night of the Owl,” by Leonardo Sciascia, which was the first novel written in Italy, and hear from Michael Sandel ’75, the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard, who teaches the popular course “Justice.”

Servino says that while the course will cover the criminal topic, it is really a vehicle to discuss social justice. She wants students to ask themselves: “What kind of individual do I want to be in a society filled with difficulties? Which side do I want to be on?”

Another new course, “Discovering America,” AMST 141a, is offered particularly – though not exclusively – to the growing ranks of non-native English speakers in the student body. The idea originated with staff of the Gateway program, which helps acclimate international students to the United States before they begin their undergraduate careers, and developed by Steve Whitfield, the Max Richter Professor of American Civilization, with the Gateway program.

“The feeling in the Gateway operation was that many of the students might be interested in learning more about the country that they are going to be in for four years,” Whitfield says. “It’s intended to fill a certain vacuum.”

Whitfield says religion, patriotism and democratic culture are among the subjects that most mystify students.

“The piety of Americans is one of the country’s most puzzling features,” Whitfield says, “especially to students coming from China or Western Europe.”

The course will delve into scholarly texts, but will also rely heavily on pop culture sources. The reading level and quantity will take into account possible language barriers. Films like “Inherit the Wind,” a 1960 film that revolves around a teacher accused of teaching evolution, and books like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” which examines the American Dream, will be on the syllabus.

Students can also take a stab at “Automated Speech Recognition,” COSI 136a, with computational linguistics and speech recognition professor Marie Meteer.

Meteer says she’s worked in the field for 23 years, but never seen as much interest as has been generated since Apple’s Siri came on the scene.

“We really think this is the right time” to offer the course, Meteer says.

There are no prerequisites but Meteer warns that the course involves some programming and that students should be comfortable with math and may benefit from first taking an introductory computational linguistics course.

The course first delves into how to build a speech application, taking speech recognition as a given. Then, students will delve into the algorithms that make up speech recognition.

“You can build applications without knowing how the black box works,” Meteer says. “But learning that lets you understand why it sometimes fails.”

The course dovetails nicely with the Applied Voice Input/Output Society (AVIOS) Mobile Voice Conference, in which students independently or in small teams build an application and submit it to a contest judged by industry professionals from companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple. For purposes of the contest, private companies make their tools available to students. Brandeis students have twice won top awards in the annual competition.

“They’ve risen to the challenge every time,” Meteer says, while getting hands-on experience and networking with leaders in the field.

Course number Title Professor
CLAS/FA/WGS 140a Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Greek and Roman Art and Text Ann Koloski-Ostrow
ECON 10 Introduction to Microeconomics Michael Coiner
CHIN 140a Yin Yu Tang Documents, Decoding the Late Qing and Early Republic Writings Yu Feng
AMST 141a Discovering America Stephen Whitfield
HISP 196a Topics in Latina/o Literature and Culture James Mandrell
ANTH/ENG 150a Cases and Clues: Reading Novels and Ethnographies as Cultural Explorations Elizabeth Ferry, John Plotz
ECON 194a Econometrics Research Practicum Rawley Heimer
CHIN 100a Introduction to Chinese Literature: Poetry, Romance, and Fiction Pu Wang
MATH 16a Mathematics and Democracy Jonah Ostroff
RECS/THA 166a Chekhov's Stories on Stage Robin Feuer Miller, Janet Morrison
PHIL 130 Causation and Explanation Jennifer Marusic
COSI 130a Networked Information Systems Olga Papaemmanouil
HIST 134a The History of Great Britain (1756-1956) Ian Hopper
HSSP 118b Viewing Health Policy Through the Lens of Literature Deborah Garnick
PSYC 143a Seminar on Self and Identity Nicole Rosa
HIST 105a Woman's Rights Movements in America from the Revolution Through the 1920s Allison Lange
IGS 130a Global Migration Kristen Lucken
POL 179a China's Global Rise: The Challenge to Democratic Order Ralph Thaxton
CLAS/FA 186a The Art and Archaeology of Korea Andrew Koh
ENG 267a Imagine Freedom in the Caribbean Faith Smith
COSI 136a Automated Speech Recognition Marie Meteer
NEJS 187b Slavery and Concubinage in Islamic History Elizabeth Urban
HIST 185a The China Outside China: Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Diaspora in the Marking of Modern China  Xing Hang
NEJS 154b Israel: Religion, State and Society Yehudah Mirsky
SAS 130a Film and Fiction of Crisis Harleen Singh
HIST 116b The History of Black/Jewish Relations in America Ibrahim Sundiata
MUS 108a Intro to Music Production and Recording Technologies Peter Lane
FYS 49a Justice, Truth Englightenment Edward Kaplan
FYS 45a Divine and Human Justice Marc Brettler
FYS 48a Voicing the Outrage of Silence: Social Justice and the Mafia Paola Servino
THA 145a Queer Theater: Wilde to Fabulous Scott Edmiston
SOC 204a Foundations of Sociological Theory Laura Miller
HIST 149b Russian Women in Politics, Society, and Culture Gregory Freeze
FA 160a Global Surrealisms Lori Cole
ENG 42a The War That Changed Everything: WWI and Literature Margaret Carkeet
ENG 54a Writing Women: Gender & Controversy in the Enlightenment Tina Van Kley
SOC 250a Master's Program Proseminar Wendy Cadge
FYS 33a The Wonders of the Ancient World Andrew Koh
FYS 35a Topics in Drug Discovery and Development Jason Pontrello

Categories: General

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