The Neuroscience of Altered States
Taught by Blake Jones
January 10-31, Monday/Thursday 5:00-7:00 pm
With over 100-billion neurons, your nervous system is responsible for nearly everything you feel and perceive. Vision, sound, pain, joy, fear, self-recognition, love, the passage of time, and even consciousness itself, are all subjective experiences generated by a 3-pound organ inside your skull. Join us as we make sense of the most complicated network in nature, the human brain. We will learn how neurons communicate with each other to manifest various behaviors, cognitive abilities, and perceptions. We will then build on this knowledge to understand why neurotoxins are so deadly, how psychedelics bend reality, and how psychopharmaceuticals change the way we think and feel. Lastly, we will explore the neurological bases for truly bizarre psychological conditions, such as amnesia, sleep paralysis, face blindness, phantom limb pain, and walking corpse syndrome.
Exploring Otherness and Friendship: HBO's My Brilliant Friend
Taught by Barbara Alfano
January 18-February 1, Tuesday/Friday 7:00-8:30 pm
How do we go about understanding a culture different from ours and removed in time? What questions do we ask and how do we find the answers? The first four episodes of the HBO series My Brilliant Friend are the focus of this course. We watch the two friends Lila and Elena grow up in post-war Naples as they try to figure out how to survive in an aggressive world ruled by men, as they question what it means to be loyal, ethical, and free, all at the same time.
Social Inquiry in an Age of Upheaval
Taught by Noah Coburn
February 8-March 1, Tuesday/Thursday 7:30-9:00 pm
How do the Social Sciences confront some of the most pressing questions of our time? With rising economic inequality, ecological devastation and persistent structural racism, social sciences demand more than a simple neutral understanding of the world. Instead, students must move beyond the simple structured approaches to understanding society of the past. This course looks in particular at the election of Donald Trump and the COVID-19 pandemic to ask, what are the tools available to us as students of the social sciences to make sense of the unprecedented change ahead. The course is structured around a series of conversations with faculty from Society, Culture and Thought, as well as reading from both contemporary and past social thinkers. It will include a mixture of synchronous discussion and asynchronous conversations to bring in multiple perspectives and to explore how Bennington’s interdisciplinary approach to analysis can move us into new ways of thinking and knowing.
Sound and Cadence for the Contemporary Ear/Era
Taught by An Duplan
Jan 11, 18, 25 and February 1, Tuesdays, 4:00 pm
Sounds make us feel things. Sometimes, it even unites us in feeling things. Yet the effects (and affects) of music can also be detrimental. Given the massive affective possibilities of sound, then, poetry has the potential to bring about an essentially limitless world of emotion in its readers. Activating the poetic concepts of metre, intonation, cadence, rhythm, speed, and tonality, we will examine a number of affectively-driven approaches to arranging sound in contemporary poetry. Though our focus will be on reading poetry, we will also read essays by and interviews with writers on the crafting of sound. All together, we will tune our ears to language as a potent mechanism in contemporary creative writing, harnessing our ability to read and interpret sonically complex work.