Dr. Cynthia L. Martin; School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
The central theme of the course is the abiding human propensity to ask questions, to use language to pursue inquiry. To be a “critical thinker,” one must develop the habit and discipline of asking questions — questions about the ideas of others, as well as about one’s own assumptions.
Through a comparative approach to the US and Russian experiences, we will explore the role of the word and its power in different political and social systems. We will explore such questions as: What is the relationship between free speech, political power and dissent? Is the pen still mightier than the sword, even in the nuclear age? Why is free speech so fiercely defended in a democracy and such a threat to totalitarianism? What has shaped our current attitudes toward freedom of expression? How has the concept of political free speech been extended to include freedom of expression in general, such as in the creative arts? What role do new technologies play in the arena of free speech debates?
Using the tools of analysis and interpretation used by scholars primarily in the humanities and social sciences, we will explore how free expression has been defended or its suppression justified in both the US and Russia. We will practice the art of questioning and constructing counter-arguments throughout the course.