Eleven Must-Take Courses This Fall

BY NOW, it’s a time-honored tradition: the Sphere’s definitive list of the quarter’s must-take classes. Whether you prefer Yugoslavia, linear algebra, or Gloria Anzaldúa, our writers have combed through the darkest & dismalest corners of Carta—DESINST, SCCM, OPHT, sailing the whole of the acronymic sea—for the Farm’s very best. In our oldest recurring feature, we present below an alphabetized list of the most interesting classes of the fall.

AMSTUD 100: Introduction to Asian-American Studies
“Asian-American” is a broad term. After all, Asia is quite large, and its waves of immigration to the United States span centuries. This interdisciplinary class draws upon a variety of texts—historical, creative, and scholarly—to holistically explore the history and possibilities of the Asian-American community. The course is chock-full of goodies—it delves into U.S. wars in Asia, reconceptualizations of U.S. citizenship, and community activism. 

Units: 4-5
WAYS: ED, SI
Reading: Medium
Time: TTh 1:30-2:50

AMSTUD 183: Re-Imagining American Borders
A wall is merely one way to draw a border. In truth, the United States of America is inherently divided—divided by race, divided by gender, divided by faith, divided by class. These kinds of borders are seldom seen on a map, so it’s up to writers, filmmakers, and artists to show us that they exist. Taught by Carolyn Duffey, this course serves as a far-reaching survey of the American experience, drawing on the work of Gloria Anzaldúa, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Layli Long Soldier, Naomi Shihab Nye, Shailja Patel, and many more. America has rarely felt as fractured as it is in the present moment, and in offering a thoughtful look at the shards, AMSTUD 183 invites students to wonder how they may be made whole again.

Units: 5
WAYS: A-II, ED
Reading: Heavy
Time: MW 1:30-2:50

CHINA 111: Literature in 20th-Century China (CHINA 211)

The vicissitudes of China’s twentieth century produced a litany of great writers. Lu Xun perhaps towers above all others; his 1922 short story collection Call to Arms is a devastating critique of traditional Chinese society with a desperate exhortation for revolution. Then there’s Sheng Congwen, with his deeply affecting prose and complex view of modernization, a force that promised to undermine “the old hierarchy of elite privilege, class oppression, and gender prejudice” while also threatening the most profound social bonds of village society. If that’s not enough, you should take the course just for the professor, Ban Wang, a gentle radical with a palpable passion and love for these great works of literature. 

This course is particularly timely given the deterioration in Sino-American relations. With the collapse of the “Kissinger Consensus” of the last few decades, we seem to be in store for a second Cold War—and the rapidly growing red scare (and yellow peril) has even found its way to the Farm. Courses like this are a powerful way of combating the misconceptions at the core of America’s relationship with China. 

Units: 4-5
WAYS: A-II
Reading: Medium 
Time: TTh 10:30-11:50

COMPLIT 128: The Literature of the Former Yugoslavia

The first sentence of the description of Thomas MacDonald’s class mentions Žižek, Djokovic, and FLOTUS Melania Trump. If Stanford has a class to match any type of student—any style, any interest, any literary taste—Complit 128 is the rare class that’s a match for every type of student. (How fitting for a course on the Socialist Federal Republic!) You begin with Ivo Andrić’s history of the Balkans, his The Bridge on the Drina, and you end with one of this recommender’s very favorite films: Underground, Emir Kusturica’s masterpiece. The reading isn’t light but the workload’s on the low end, and the time you spend will be well worth a glimpse into a strange and recent past.

Units: 3-5
WAYS: N/A
Reading: Heavy
Time: TTh 3:00-4:20

CS 206: Exploring Computational Journalism

Taught by a Pulitzer-winning journalist and a MacArthur “Genius,” CS 206 is an interdisciplinary course that actually makes sense. You’ll join a team of techies and journalists to spend the quarter on projects that have ranged in the past from computationally analyzing cable news for bias to measuring the influence of Russian bots in 2016. And if the Sphere is recommending a CS class, you know it has to be good. When else will you have the chance to be taught by alums of Pixar and The Washington Post? (Both! At once!) Application-only, so move fast.

Units: 3
WAYS: N/A
Reading: None (Workload: Medium)
Time: T 1:30-3:20

EE 263: Introduction to Linear Dynamical Systems (CME 263)

Don’t leave Stanford before taking its best introduction to modeling and optimization, created by THE guy in the field: Stephen Boyd. This is the single best step toward becoming a modeling master, and the techniques in this class can be applied to virtually every field. It’ll give you the greatest hits of Math 104/113 for the first couple of weeks before jumping into applications from population modeling to financial derivatives and computer graphics.

Units: 3
WAYS: N/A
Reading: None (Workload: Heavy)
Time: TTh 9:00-10:20

HISTORY 73: Mexican Migration to the United States (AMSTUD 73, CHILATST 173, HISTORY 173)

Mexican immigration to the United States, like all things, has a history. And today, this history is more important than ever. This class with Professor Minian, an expert on the history of Mexican immigration to the United States, will examine if the narratives we tell ourselves about immigration match up with the historical reality. One of the most exciting aspects of this class is the assigned essays: instead of your typical history research papers, the assignments for this class will have you explore your own family’s immigration history and interview Mexican immigrants and their recent descendants. Timely and engaging, this class is a must for anyone interested in understanding the current discourse around immigration.  

Units: 3-5
WAYS: N/A 
Reading: Medium
Time: MW 1:30-2:50

HISTORY 187: The Islamic Republics: Politics and Society in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan

One of Stanford’s most regrettable academic blind spots is the Islamic world. This history course aims to fill it. With a healthy dose of film and fiction to supplement the more standard readings in history and political science, Professor Crews’ course aims to present a holistic view of three Islamic republics and societies: Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Starting in the early twentieth century and ending in the present, this course will discuss, among many other topics, Islamic law and state-building, religious authority, nationalist movements, aesthetic production, and secular and militant challenges to the Islamic Republic. The American government’s blundering and aggressive relations to these countries means that we inevitably receive simplistic, one-dimensional understandings of the governments, societies, and people that constitute them. This class is a significant step toward disbanding these understandings.

Units: 3-5
WAYS: ED, SI
Reading: Medium
Time: TTh 10:30-11:50

HISTORY 237D: The French Revolution and the Birth of Modern Politics (HISTORY 337D)

The French Revolution marked the onset of modernity, ushering into the hitherto feudal world of Europe the forces that would dominate the following centuries, from nationalism to liberalism, class to democracy. This seminal event in world history—for it must be remembered that the French revolutionaries helped spark the first successful anticolonial revolution in Haiti—continues to be fiercely debated, interpreted then re-interpreted by successive waves of conservative, liberal, Marxist, feminist, and even psychoanalytic historians.Few of these historians are better placed to guide you into the world of 1789 than Keith Baker, who has been writing about the revolution for over four decades. Expect a deep dive into philosophical and political writings that shaped the period. 

Units: 5
WAYS: SI 
Reading: Medium to Heavy 
Times: M 1:30-4:20

LINGUIST 156: Language and Gender (FEMGEN 156X)

So, like, oh my god, did you hear, like, about this class? 

You likely read that in what is commonly referred to as “Valley Girl Speak.” However, despite the name, in areas where Valleyspeak is prominent, men, too, use many of the same elements in their speech. So why is it associated with women and unintelligence? Professor Eckert’s class explores how language and gender shape and interact with each other. How does language index gender, and how does gender shape the way we consider and use language?

Units: 4
WAYS: ED, SI
Reading: Medium
Time: TTh 1:30-2:50

PHIL 100: Greek Philosophy (CLASSICS 40)

Have three years of Donald Trump got you longing for a philosopher king? Do you question the essential nature of the soul? Are you living the good life? Travel back to the origin of Western critical thought with Chris Bobonich, one of Stanford’s most delightfully weird professors. If you’ve ever been interested in Plato, Aristotle, and a selection of history’s other most influential thinkers, this is the class for you. For people who lived over 2000 years ago, their words are remarkably relevant (as are they themselves: shoutout to Chrysippus, antiquity’s most brilliant logician, who died laughing at his own bad joke).

Units: 4
WAYS: A-II
Reading: Medium
Time: TTh 10:30-11:50

 

Image courtesy of Anirudh Rao on Flickr.

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