Class Sessions

Session 1

10:00 – 11:15 am


"Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures Without Losing Yourself in the Process"

Andy Molinsky
Associate Professor, Brandeis International Business School

What does it mean to be a global worker and a true "citizen of the world" today? It goes beyond merely acknowledging cultural differences. It means being able to adapt your behavior to conform to new cultural contexts without losing your authentic self in the process. This is a difficult and frightening prospect for most people as it takes them outside of their comfort zone. But managing and communicating with people from other cultures is an essential skill today. Most of us collaborate with teams across borders and cultures on a regular basis, and therefore we need a critical new skill: global dexterity. In this session, Professor Molinsky, author of a book by the same title, offers the tools needed to simultaneously adapt behavior to new cultural contexts while staying authentic and grounded in your own natural style.


"One Clove Away From a Pomander Ball": The Subversive Tradition of Jewish Women's Comedy

Joyce Antler '63
Samuel B. Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture and Women's and Gender Studies

From vaudeville and burlesque, to radio, TV, films and stand-up comedy, Jewish women have helped to shape American comedy. The laughter they engender has often been distinct from male comedy. This survey of Jewish women's comedy takes us from Sophie Tucker, Gertrude Berg and Molly Picon, in the immigrant generation, to Elaine May, Joan Rivers and Gilda Radner, in the "Second City" generation, and to contemporary comics Sarah Silverman, Judy Gold and Jackie Hoffman. Professor Antler will explore the female tradition in American Jewish comedy and explain why it has been so powerful and subversive.

Session 2

11:30 am – 12:45 pm


Sovereignty and Sexual Rights in the Age of Globalization

Faith Smith
Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies and English

The global image of the Caribbean as a laid-back paradise lies in stark contrast to another image, that of fundamentalist and sometimes violent challengers of individual rights that are taken for granted elsewhere. There are important connections to be made between tourism as a source of income and anxieties about cultural values and sexual stereotypes. Why would the request to remove capital punishment and nineteenth-century "buggery" laws be perceived by postcolonial states as undue pressure from Europe and the U.S.? What do IMF and World Bank agreements have to do with harsh penalties for so-called "sexual deviants"? Professor Smith will explore these questions through analysis of the lyrics of popular Reggae songs; theories of legal scholars, feminists, historians and others; theories drawn from cultural studies; and feminist theories of the state.


"Singin' in the Rain" and Four Myths of Hollywood Movie Musicals

James Mandrell
Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies, Comparative Literature, and Film Studies

"Singin' in the Rain" (1952) is one of Hollywood's iconic movie musicals, in which song and dance serve to tell a story that is both about a particular moment in film history – the introduction of sound in motion pictures – and seemingly timeless, with the love story. "Singin' in the Rain" is also instructive with respect to movie musicals as a genre and the myths upon which their appeal rests. Professor Mandrell will explore some of these myths, as well as a strange blind spot in the movie, which tells a slightly different story about the origin of musical film.


1:00 – 1:45 pm

Session 3

2:00 – 3:15 pm


Making and Breaking Connections in the Developing Brain

Suzanne Paradis
Associate Professor of Biology

How is the brain put together to control the most basic functions of the human body? How are we able to move our arms and legs, to learn and remember, to see and hear? The adult human brain contains a massive network of neurons that communicate with one another to control these tasks. Neurons talk to other neurons through synapses, specialized sites of cell-to-cell contact. The billions of neurons in the human brain form trillions of synapses, ensuring proper information flow in the brain.

Many disorders of the nervous system – for example, epilepsy and Autism Spectrum Disorders – occur when neurons fail to form appropriate synaptic connections or when communication between neurons breaks down at the synapse. To understand what goes awry in these disorders, we must first understand how synapses are assembled in a typically developing nervous system. Professor Paradis' lecture will explore synapse development and how disruptions to this process might underlie human neurological disorders.


The Great American (Television) Novel

Thomas Doherty
Professor of American Studies

video-box"Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," "Downton Abbey." The long-running, quality television series seems to be supplanting both the novel and Hollywood cinema as the most rewarding popular art in American culture. By all accounts, we are in the midst of a glimmering Golden Age of American Television. In this session, Professor Doherty will examine the new genre of "Arc TV" — series that follow long, complex arcs of development and that are, at their best, as exquisitely calibrated as the social matrix of a Henry James novel. Click on the image from "Mad Men" to hear Professor Doherty preview his session in a brief video.

Session 4

3:30 – 4:45 pm


"Lincoln and the Jews: A History"

Jonathan D. Sarna '75, MA '75
Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History

While it might be hard to imagine that there is anything new to say about Abraham Lincoln, Jonathan Sarna and Benjamin Shapell discovered that his relationship with Jews has hardly been explored. In this session, Professor Sarna will share what he learned in writing the new book, "Lincoln and the Jews: A History." Who knew that over the course of his tragically foreshortened life, Lincoln interacted with Jews, befriended Jews, admired Jews, commissioned Jews, trusted Jews, defended Jews, pardoned Jews, took advice from Jews, gave jobs to Jews, extended rights to Jews, revoked an expulsion of Jews and even chose a Jew as his confidential agent? The fact that Jews today are insiders in America has much to do with Abraham Lincoln and the legacy that he left.


Hell and Back: Greece, Rome, Myth and the Movies

Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, P'07, P'10
Professor of Classical Studies

In the Brandeis course "Greece, Rome, Myth and the Movies," students explore the characters, plot structures and seminal mythic themes from classical texts and consider the strong connections between antiquity and society through the lens of modern film.

In this session, Professor Koloski-Ostrow will pick one powerful classical myth – that of going to the underworld and surviving, the so-called katabasis. She will explore what the story might have meant to an ancient audience and how our fascination with this storyline has manifested itself in films such as "Orfeo Negro," "Midnight Cowboy," "Deconstructing Harry," "Cherry 2000" and "The Usual Suspects," to name a few. Professor Koloski-Ostrow will show how the themes from classical mythology, a staple of cinema since its beginning, still resonate strongly and are transformed in modern film for our own cultural needs.