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Fall and Winter 2003-04

Program Description
Thad Curtz, Ph.D (Literature and Developmental Psychology)
Nancy Murray, Ph.D. (Molecular Biology)
Charles Pailthorp, Ph.D. (Philosophy and Music)

This full time first year program integrated work in biology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and the humanities to explore the neurological basis of smell, hearing, and vision; their historical and cultural variation; animal sensory systems; and practical and theoretical issues about the interactions between concepts, language, and perception in science, art, and the lived experience of children and adults. Each week, we met for five hours of lecture and workshop, a two hour lab, four hours of seminar discussion, and three hours of film screening and discussion; students also spent three hours a week fall quarter observing in a grade school classroom and did fall independent research on an unusual kind of perceptual experience and winter research on a musician or visual artist, writing a final paper and giving a fifteen minute presentation to the class each quarter.

They wrote two pieces a week - an exercise on the main points or themes of the week’s reading and a three to five page expository paper about it on a topic of their own, as well as a mid-term exam each quarter integrating our work. We studied three essays from Sacks’s An Anthropologist on Mars and “A Dog Beneath the Skin;” Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek; Burr’s The Emperor of Scent; Stoddart’s The Scented Ape: The biology and culture of human odor; Classen, Howes and Synnott’s Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell; Suskind’s Perfume: the story of a murderer; the first half of Ong’s Orality and Literacy; Peters’s Here-Ings: A Sonic Geohistory; Feld’s Sound and Sentiment: Birds, Weeping, Poetics, and Song in Kaluli Expression; Howes’s “Olfaction and Transition;” Schafer’s The Soundscape: The Untuning of the World; Hull’s Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness; Hickey’s “Enter the Dragon: On the Vernacular of Beauty;” Hillman’s “The Practice of Beauty;” Snow’s A Study of Vermeer; Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience; Woolf’s To the Lighthouse; Weschler’s Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees; Mozart’s Don Giovanni; Mann’s Doctor Faustus; half of Cage’s Silence; and Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. In most weeks, we viewed and analyzed a feature film related to our readings; these ranged from The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari to Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil.

For our fall work in epistemology and developmental psychology, students read selections from Descartes and Locke, Piaget’s “How Children Form Mathematical Concepts,” Anderson and Smith’s “Children’s Preconceptions and Content-Area Textbooks” and Roth, Smith, and Anderson’s “Verbal Patterns of Teachers: Comprehension Instruction in the Content Areas,” several chapters on stages from Wadsworth’s Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive and Affective Development, and Perry’s “Cognitive and Ethical Growth: The Making of Meaning.”

We supplemented a weekly lecture on the neurobiology and anatomy of the human olfactory, auditory and visual systems and on animal sensory systems with chapters on neurons, the auditory system, the optics of vision, and color from various textbooks and most of Hughes’ Sensory Exotica. In the laboratory sessions students did experiments and kept a lab notebook exploring sensory phenomena such as olfactory fatigue and afterimages, mapping the somatosensory cortex through two-point discrimination testing, and pigment chromatography. Each student worked in a small group at the end of the program doing three weeks of laboratory research exploring a related topic of their choice and prepared a poster on their work.

The Evergreen State College
Last Updated: 03/20/2004