Excavating the Purple Bubble Winter 2020

Cross-listed HIST 11 / SOC 11
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Class Details

People often describe Williams College as an “intense” place–a “purple bubble” with its own peculiar micro-culture. This bubble can be stressful, exhausting, and work-obsessed, but also bursting with creative energy and a determination to change the world, not to mention creating experiences and relationships that become deeply nostalgic and lead to a lasting connection. How have these characteristic structures of feeling been built over time? In this course, we will attempt to build a picture of how the emotional cultures of Williams have evolved by excavating their histories. From the powerful emotions triggered by transitional moments in the College’s history, such as feelings of inclusion and exclusion by women and people of color, to the everyday emotions of friendship, romance, and work stress, students will analyze materials from the college archives, the archive of the Record, and other sources of institutional memory to uncover the social history of emotions at Williams. Depending on enrollments, students will divide into research clusters focusing on particular topics, which might include: stress and work-obsession, turning points and change, wonder and discovery, nostalgias, staff morale, mental illness and wellness discourse, among other possible topics. Students will spend time in class discussing readings and curating a small collection of archival materials to be presented at the end of the course. Outside class, students will spend time in the archives. As a theoretical and methodological guide, we will draw primarily on scholarship from the sociology and history of emotion, including Norbert Elias, Cas Wouters, Raymond Williams, William Reddy, and Barbara Rosenswein.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 20
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: final project or presentation
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: anthropology, sociology and history majors, followed by students' expression of interest
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
HIST 11 SOC 11

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