A Sample of Lawrenceville’s 2019-2020 New Courses
HI528 (Figueroa-Ortiz): Civil Rights and the American Constitution (S)
This spring, David Figueroa-Ortiz P ’18 will teach Civil Rights and the American Constitution, a V Form history elective open that follows the expansion of equal rights across American history. Although Figueroa-Ortiz currently teaches Civil Liberties and the America Constitution, this class will differ from other classes because unlike Civil Liberties, which “[allows] individuals to pursue what they want irrespective of what the rest of the group wants,” civil rights are “what societies must guarantee its members and involve enlisting the group towards achieving the individual’s wants.” The class plans to cover topics from Women's Suffrage to Black Lives Matter to Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark Supreme Court case guaranteeing same-sex couples the freedom of marriage in 2015.
For Figueroa-Ortiz, the process of designing this course stems from students in his Civil Liberties class asking questions about topics that he could not cover in Civil Liberties due to a lack of time and conceptual space. After coming across the book Race on Trial by Annette Gordon-Reed, a collection of essays that demonstrates how race has changed over time in American law, he realized he needed to put this in front of students. He described the process of designing the course syllabus as examining a chronological history of pivotal moments in American history. “From the Amistad Case in 1839 to the Dredd Scott Case, Plessy v. Ferguson, I created a chronology of law and race across American history and then the same thing with women’s rights and the same thing with immigrant’s rights. Where do those chronologies meet, and where do they divulge? It’s cause and effect, understanding what brought about a particular change,” Figueroa-Ortiz said. The syllabus will include an examination of Supreme Court documents alongside Gordon-Reed’s book, but Figueroa-Ortiz also anticipates a film series that runs parallel to the course open to the entire Lawrenceville community for those who might be interested in these topics but are not enrolled in the class.
Figueroa-Ortiz believes this class is important because it’s a meaningful step in the direction of “diversifying the curriculum, whether it is for covering topics beyond the traditional narrative that we cover or covering populations we don’t typically cover.” He explained how Lawrenceville almost never covers Civil Rights within the curriculum, aside from a few rushed moments exploring Reconstruction and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in U.S. History. According to Figueroa-Ortiz, Civil Rights and the American Constitution is a complex, deeply-engaging topic that “deserves a more in-depth understanding” than the few days it is currently afforded at Lawrenceville.
EN568 (Findlay): Found in Translation Comparative Literature (W)
“When you are translating, you are not just losing things, you are also adding things,'' said English Master Rebecca Findlay, who created the course Found in Translation Comparative Literature this year. Although she is associated with the English Department, Findlay has always had a keen interest in literature of different languages. Having studied diverse languages and linguistics, she naturally became fascinated in translation as a bridge between language and literature. According to Findlay, Translation is not simply a substitution of words but “is the most analytical process of understanding literature,” as authors thoughts’ and intentions occur between the lines. At the same time, she also hopes to bring attention to the students themselves at Lawrenceville. “The reason I am a teacher [at Lawrenceville] is because I love the diversity, and one of the aspects of diversity that I love is linguistic diversity...however [students] don’t get to express that unique understanding of position that they are in [in English]. ” The blend of this diversity and her new course will offer an opportunity to “engage with literature in a new way.” The course will look into “how cultures share literature and inspire one another” as well as in a theoretical framework. As Findlay mentioned, “if students are interested in literature,...doing cross cultural literature, and...doing creative writing, there are lots to offer.”