Spring 2004

MWF 10 AM, Jacobs 132



Johannes Vermeer The Geographer

Professor Marianne de Laet

Office hours Th 2:45-4:00

1259 Parsons

course website

There is a tendency to understand Europe as a homogenous place; moreover, in the US we tend to look at Europe as the origin of science, art, and cultural identity. But what is this thing we call Europe? How "European" is Europe? And what does it mean to speak of culture and identity? In this class we will explore elements of the European humanistic tradition (art, philosophy, science, and technology) with an eye on the migration of thoughts and things. Where do ideas come from? How do technologies travel? Is there such a thing as a cultural identity? We will consider culture as a mixture of influences, and trace "Europe" to the diverse ingredients of which it is made.

Course goals: By the end of this semester you will have been exposed to current ideas about identity, culture, and self. You will have developed a sense of how self and identity form in cultural environments, and of how culture, identity and self are expressed in cultural facts and artefacts. From our discussions about such ideas and our exploratrions of cultural artefacts, you will have gained analytical skills that allow you to think about self, culture, and cultural diversity in an intelligent and sophisticated manner. You have honed your research and writing skills in your efforts to execute such cultural analysis in journals and term papers. Hopefully, by the end of the semester you will be able to say that your writing and thinking have improved.


Writing: This is a writing-intensive class. You will be accumulating up to 100 points throughout the semester. 90 points and more will get you a grade in the A range, 75-90 yields a grade in the B range, 60-75 in the C’s; below 55 you receive no credit. NB in order to pass the class you MUST submit all three research papers and at least 6 (out of 7)  journal entries.



Journal                                                                                               max 5 points per journal; up to 30 points

2 short research papers (4-6 pages, 2 sources)                           up to 15 points each

Long research paper (10 pages, 5 sources)                                 up to 30 points

Presence                                                                                            0 or 10 points


The journal is an electronic response to the week’s class proceedings and -content; your Word attachment or website address is due on Friday by 5 PM. Your weekly entry should include a brief summary of what was done in each of the class periods; the week’s writing assignments (if there were any); and a brief, thoughtful, and intelligent response to the readings and class discussions. The journal should be well-organized and accessible. You can keep working on, and revising, journal entries until the end of the semester; the complete journal should be printed out, and submitted for grading on the last day of class. In determining the grade I will take into account organization, comprehensiveness, thoughtful processing of class readings and discussions, and writing mechanics and -style.


Short research papers (4-6 pages, 2 references each; first drafts due for peer review 2/9 and 3/8; final drafts due 2/13 and 3/12)

In the first essay you develop a cogent argument about a text or artefact we have discussed in class. You may, alternatively, compare and contrast two different approaches found in the literature. It is imperative that you develop an independent argument that goes beyond the surface of the material we discuss in class. For this paper you use as your sources materials I have assigned.


In the second essay you may do one of two things: a. select a work of art and “unpack” it – that is to say, discuss and analyze its cultural life; or b. discuss the question “Does culture have politics?” In the first case, you describe the object, place it in a context, and use use texts presented in class to analyze the object’s cultural life. In the second case, you use class materials and examples to develop a sustainable argument in support of your answer to the question. Again, in this paper you use as your sources materials I have assigned.


Research essay (10 pages, 5 references, first draft due for peer review 4/21; final version due 4/28)

Advance a thesis that is in any way related to the theme of this class: Unpacking Europe. The paper should include your own argument, based on the discussion of at least 5 sources; data from these sources serve to flesh out your topic and to lend authority to your position. Documentation and bibliography should follow an acknowledged reference format. A brief description of your topic and a research plan are due 4/9 – these will be discussed in class; an annotated bibliography and thesis are due 4/16; the first version of the research paper is due for peer review on 4/23; and the final draft of the paper is due 4/30). Missing any of these deadlines will cost you points.


In all writing assignments you should keep in mind the following. You seek to persuade your reader of your argument. Be certain that your thesis is interesting and provocative; also be sure that you have the materials/information to support it. Refer to Hacker A Writer's Reference (pp. 79-81) to refresh your memory on how to start a research paper and craft a thesis. For your first two (short) research essays you need not look for outside references to support your arguments. You must, however, incorporate and refer to at least two of the texts (articles/chapters) we read in class. References should conform to an acknowledged style format (again, see Hacker). First drafts of essays will be peer edited in class and are due 2/9 and 3/8.


Presence and working knowledge of the readings. Attendance is mandatory and yields and all-or-nothing score. You will gain 10 points if you have no more than three unexcused absences; no points if you are absent more frequently. To gain these 10 points you are, in addition, expected to demonstrate a working knowledge of reading matierlas and previous class discussions; you must make it clear to me that you have thoughtfully processed the materials. This is your responsibility. You can manifest your working knowledge by way of your journals, through class participation, and by talking or writing to me. Throughout the semester I will keep notes on your contributions and I will give you feedback as we proceed.


The Writing Center The Writing Center, located in TG 106 (ext 72177) is staffed by tutors who are trained to help you clean up your writing. Beginning the second week of the semester WC hours are Sunday through Thursday 7:00 to 10:00 PM. For each paper, use of the writing center is mandatory; your work with the writing consultants will show in the quality of your work and hence in your grade.

Policies and rules of conduct: Attendance is mandatory, and late assignments will not be accepted. However, if you have good reason for being late or not present, and notify me in advance, I may excuse you. I take it as a given that all class work is in accordance with the honors code. I can be reached in person during office hours, by email or by phone. Outside office hours you are welcome to stop by my office unannounced but there is a risk that you will be asked to come back at a more convenient moment; it is best to make an appointment. If you send email please do not expect an instant response; it may take a day or two before I can get back to you. I do not always read email on weekends, so make sure you relay urgent matters to me by the end of the day on Friday. When in doubt about logistics or assignments, please check the website before taking up valuable class or instructor time.

I expect that you take an active role in the class proceedings, and that you help me shape the classroom into a positive and encouraging learning environment. This means that you participate in shaping class “content” –  you should be ready to make quality contributions to class discussions and exercises and be prepared in such a way that you can lead a discussion at any time. But it also means that you take responsibility for “process” – that is, you are an active participant from the moment you enter the classroom; you are on time and your contributions are on topic; your arguments are thoughtful and to the point; you are engaged with and respectful of others’ arguments and points of view. I value your suggestions and welcome your comments on the way we collaboratively run this class. Finally, I expect that all interactions, including peer review and commentary on each other’s work, will be conducted in a spirit of constructive collaboration and mutual respect.

You may expect similar things from me: engagement and respect, constructive criticism, prompt (within 1 week) return of papers and assignments, a thoughtful attitude towards course content and class proceedings, and a responsive ear to your questions and concerns.


Course Texts:

Jacques Derrida Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness New York: Routledge 2001

Diana Hacker A Writer’s Reference

Salah Hassan & Iftikar Dadi Unpacking Europe. Towards a Critical Reading Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam/NAi Publishers

Adam Hochschild King Leopold’s Ghost Houghton Mifflin Co. 1999