Interrogating Emotions


Fall 2013 and Winter 2014 quarters

Taught by

social psychology, gender and women's studies
creative writing, moving-image media

What are emotions, sentiments, and feelings? What functions do they serve, both for the individual and for society? In this full-time, two-quarter program, we will use social pyschology, scientific research, creative writing, and literary and film analysis as methods of inquiry into the ways that emotions are connected with cultural ideologies and assumptions. We will study the ways emotions are expressed, avoided, embraced, and rejected according to complex display rules that vary across and within cultures based on gendered, raced, and classed social norms. Underlying all of this discussion will be an analysis of the ways that power operates on and through us to get under our skin and into what feels like our most personal possessions: our emotions. If we read between the lines, what is the subtext of our cultural narratives about fear, love, guilt, anger…? We will look to literature and film for examples of dominant and alternative narratives, and we will experiment with creative writing—fiction, nonfiction, and hybrid forms—as both a mode of expression and a method of inquiry: a way of looking under the surface of our habitual reactions and cultural norms.

Fall Quarter

We'll survey the "big six" emotions: anger, sadness, happiness, disgust, surprise and fear, as well as the socio-moral emotions like embarrassment, contempt, shame, and pride. We will also discuss the field of positive psychology and its analysis of the positive emotions (e.g., joy, hope, interest, love) and the role they play in what positive psychologists refer to as "the good life."  We will consider published psychology research and literature from the field of social psychology, and students will design, propose and lay the groundwork for Winter Quarter research projects. Through analysis of films and literary and critical texts, students will consider how stories convey, evoke, and manipulate our emotions. They will develop fluency with critical terminology and concepts related to narrative, literary and cinematic theories. Through creative writing assignments and workshops, students will cultivate facility with elements of narrative discourse such as scene, summary, description, exposition, and dialogue.

Winter Quarter

Our interrogation of emotions will continue winter quarter with greater focus on independent, in-depth, and finely-crafted work. In addition to continued reading, screening and discussion of literary, critical and research-based texts, students will conduct the primary research projects approved during Fall Quarter, and will work to develop a portfolio of creative work representative of their inquiry. Winter quarter is an opportunity to participate first-hand in knowledge production within the interdisciplinary domain of affect studies, and to engage directly in the contemporary critical/creative discourse as art-makers.

The interrogation of emotions in this program will occur via readings, screenings, lectures, research and creative writing workshops, and student-led seminars. Designed as a two-quarter program, the Fall Quarter will lay the foundation for more in-depth work in Winter. We strongly encourage students to enroll who are interested in sustained inquiry.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

psychology, sociology, mental health, cultural studies, film studies, creative writing, and literature.

Academic Website

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$20 in fall for tickets and registration fees; $60 in winter for tickets, registration fees, and program anthology printing costs.


Date Revision
August 19th, 2013 Winter fee has increased (from $40 to $60).
April 5th, 2013 New opportunity added.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 10265

Go to to register for this program.


Accepting New Students

Signature Required

The program is designed as a two-quarter program, so joining in Winter is tricky but possible under the right conditions. Students should email Laura Citrin or Anne de Marcken to inquire about the possibilities.

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16 credits): 20216
So - Sr (1-16 credits): 20412

Go to to register for this program.

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