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Classic Classes Post

November 18, 2014

Karalyn Grimes ’16

Well, midterms have blown by and finals are rushing towards us. Why don't I take a break from my frenzied studying and tell you about what classes I'm taking this semester?

Nature Culture, ENVS 201, Janet Fiskio

This is a required course for all Environmental Studies majors and I'm taking it with my advisor. Janet's method of teaching is phenomenal. She does a combination of lecture and discussion, and she is just the most understanding and kind woman. I feel like I can go to her with anything, class-related or not, and she'll work with me to do what has to get done in a way that I feel really good about. The course itself is a view at human interaction with nature from a humanities perspective. We've spent time this semester defining aesthetics, examining art, and discussing how our Western-dominated understandings of nature permit environmental racism to be enacted. Last week we went on a silent walk and listened to the soundscape of Oberlin. For my final project I'm creating a blog (go figure) entitled Environmental Femme where I'm going to engage with questions around femininity and environmentalism.

Ethnic American Literature, ENG 267, Harrod Suarez

This class is brilliant and so is Harrod. We sit in a circle and our peers present textual-based theories and then we discuss readings. I love English classes that are structured this way. This class's focus is to decenter the narratives of whiteness that are so pervasive in traditional overviews of literature, and to critique texts through intersectional and race-explicit lenses. We are reading incredible novels and having insightful discussions that I'm gaining so much from. So many activists in Oberlin that I respect and admire are in this class and I'm deeply enjoying listening to their insight and knowledge. I cannot praise the books we have read so far enough so I'll just list them here and hope you read them on your own time: We the Animals by Justin Torres, Sula by Toni Morrison, Letters to Montgomery Clift by Noel Alumit, and How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe by Charles Yu.

Politics of Sexual Minority Communities, POLT 206, Harry Hirsch

This course began with pre-WWII gay life and is continuing through Stonewall, the AIDS epidemic, and the fight for marriage equality. It is an overview of queer contemporary life in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and an examination of the development of 'queer politics,' if such a thing exists. The professor is Harry Hirsch, who takes a very hands-off approach in the classroom and lets us roam free with our opinions and ideas. Since this is a politics course and I haven't taken one since my freshman year, sometimes the jargon is a bit over my head. But there's a lot of historical knowledge and great conversation that I'm learning a bunch from.

Latinx in Comparative Perspective, CAST 201, Gina Perez

I think Gina Perez is the best lecturer I have ever had. (And I had a class with T. S. McMillin, so that's saying something.) This course is teaching me so much. I came in knowing very little about the immigration crisis in the United States and I now have a critical understanding of the situation and the discourses surrounding it. In addition to immigration, we have explored Latinx experiences in the reproductive rights effort, education, and the criminal system. This class encourages us to engage with complex and nuanced issues in ways that force us to think critically and stand by what we say. And the readings are amazing. We just finished reading Sacrificing Families by Leisy Abrego, and I recommend that everyone read that book, too.

Overall this semester I have been blessed to have talented, caring, and engaging professors. The readings have been long, the papers have been anxiety-inducing, but it has all felt worth it. It has also felt heavy. The experiences and narratives discussed in my classes weighs deeply on my heart. Unlike my Chemistry class I took last year, my courses this semester discuss human suffering, oppression, and inequality. I often return from class upset, frustrated, and wondering what I can be doing to make things softer for folks.

But I understand it to be crucial to engage with these topics--in an academic setting or not. To not have these conversations is to passively let these things continue to happen. I am privileged enough to be able to learn in the classroom about how to combat systems of oppression that cause this harm and suffering. And I have caring professors and support systems who help guide me as I navigate my emotional responses, my doubts, and my future plans.

I am learning so so much this semester. Intensely, profoundly, and surrounded by people who love me, I cannot put into words how great it is to be a student again.

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