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First-Year Interdisciplinary Seminar: The Social Construction of Reality

Semester and Year FA 2015
Course Number FIRST-UG32
Section 001
Instructor Stephen Duncombe
Days MW
Time 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


How do we know what is real and what is illusion? From the philosophy of the ancient Greeks to contemporary movies such as The Matrix, this question has haunted humankind. This course begins with the premise that "the real" is something we construct. We create reality through the stories we tell and the stories told to us. Since the most powerful storytellers today are the commercial media, we will pay special attention to the role of entertainment, advertising, and public relations in constructing our reality. Texts for the course include works by Plato, Rene Descartes, W.E.B. Du Bois, Maxine Hong Kingston, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herman Melville, Walter Lippmann, Jean Baudrillard, Slavoj Zizek, Judith Butler, Jonathan Lear and John Berger.


All Syllabi

Course Type

First-Year Program: Interdisciplinary Seminars (FIRST-UG)