Atomic-bombing and Firebombing Cities in World War II:  Morality, Science, and Race

Professor Sheldon Garon            

June 2017                                                                      

Course Description

This seminar will consider the transnational, cultural, scientific, geopolitical, and military developments that led to the massive aerial bombardment of cities in World War II—including the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We address a troubling question of modern times: How did nations come to accept the bombing of civilian populations as an unproblematic part of war?  Readings will be supplemented by films about the bombardments and the creation of the atomic bomb.

Seminar discussions will focus on an array of ethical and strategic questions.  Was aerial bombardment effective in bringing about the defeat of Japan and Germany?  Was Japan singled out for atomic bombs because of American racism?  Did the scientists who devised the atomic bomb consider moral questions, and do they bear responsibility?  In particular did the A-bombs end the war with Japan?   Although Americans and others condemn acts of “terrorism” today, how do we judge the Allies’ self-conscious adoption of “terror” to demoralize German and Japanese civilians in World War II?  Can the bombing of cities—then or now--be justified if the cause is just? 



Poetry and Gender in Chinese History

Professor Grace S. Fong and Professor Robin D. S. Yates

May-June 2017

Course description:

Poetry and poetic composition have occupied a central position in Chinese culture and society with multifaceted functions throughout history: as canonical texts embodying moral and ethical values, as a requirement in the examination system and for political advancement, as means of social and political critique, and as medium of self-expression, such as personal records of life histories for special occasions and everyday experience, in both times of peace and war.

This course examines three key developments in Chinese poetry from a gender perspective in their historical contexts from early times to late imperial China: 1) interpretations of the two canonical texts the Book of Poetry (Shijing) and Songs of the South (Chuci); 2) male constructions of the poetic subject; 3) women’s poetic practice.

Issues that will be addressed include: the relation between gender, diction, theme and poetic genres; and the impact of social and historical realities on gendered poetic production.

Method: reading and discussion of relevant social and cultural contexts; close reading and analysis of selections of poetry in translation.



The Last Empires in Asia before the Modern Age: Boundary-Crossing Outlook
Dr. Ori Sela

Spring Semester, 2017

Course description:

This class deals with the history of the last empires in Asia during the early modern period - Tokugawa and Meiji; Ming and Qing; and the Moghul Empire - from a comparative outlook. We will discuss questions regarding the definition of empires, their identity before the nation state, tensions arising from penetration of foreign elements or conquest of foreign lands and peoples, ways of governance and government institutions, as well as the complex transition into the modern period.