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UC Berkeley Press Release

Spring classes offer fresh looks at Katrina, bears, Vietnam war, Shakespeare and more

– Several courses on Hurricane Katrina's aftermath; another on Cal's mascot and yet another on contemporary interpretations of William Shakespeare are among those being offered to University of California, Berkeley, students starting the 2006 spring semester today (Tuesday, Jan. 17).

Below is a sampler of 10 of many intriguing classes.

Hurricane Katrina

"New Orleans: Its History and Culture" (History 39P)
Hurricane Katrina thrust New Orleans into national consciousness, and a city normally known for drunken revelry, music and spicy foods was revealed as one that is predominantly poor, African American and subject to nature's devastating whims. This course will introduce students to history as a way to understand both change and continuity.
Contact: Jennifer Spear, (510) 642-2495 or jmspear@berkeley.edu

"Disasters and the Law: The Legal Implications of Hurricane Katrina" (Law 510)
The idea behind this law course, says Professor Daniel A. Farber, is that society has been terribly unprepared for disasters, and the legal system is part of the problem.

Students, some who spent their winter break in New Orleans providing legal assistance to victims, will research these issues and prepare a policy paper to be sent to key members of legislative committees, members of the executive branch, and reporters covering these issues. Topics may include 9/11-type compensation funds; improving flood insurance programs; the president's authority to use military and other federal agencies without the consent of a state's governor; the activities of police forces during catastrophic events, anti-discrimination provisions relevant to disaster response and rebuilding; California levee vulnerabilities and potential responses; and preparedness and emergency response issues for projected California earthquakes.
Contact: Daniel A. Farber, dfarber@law.berkeley.edu

"Advanced Creative Radio Production: New Orleans Six Months Later" (J 212)
National Public Radio's "The Kitchen Sisters" - Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva - are teaching a course on the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast. On field reporting trips to New Orleans and its surrounding communities, the class will participate in listening sessions and conversations with master radio producers as well as with journalists who have been covering the Gulf Coast.

It will use creative documentary techniques to keep from listener fatigue and address to what to do when the focus of the media has moved elsewhere yet the need for national attention in the region remain. Students will work with "American Routes" host Nick Spitzer, Vogue & Newsweek's Julia Reed and NPR's John Burnett among others to gather stories about the region's rebuilding.
Contact: Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, kitchen@kitchensisters.org

Politics and Policy

"Gender Matters: Public Policy in America" (Public Policy 290)
This course will look at the gendered origins of American social policies and how ideas and assumptions about gender influence public policy. Students will explore how American women struggled to create new customs and laws, only to ignite a fierce backlash that fueled culture wars and the rise of today's conservative movement.
Contact: Ruth Rosen, rerosen@ucdavis.edu

"Energy Politics" (Public Policy 290)
Loretta Lynch, former president of the California Public Utilities Commission, is teaching this course on the regulation of the energy industry and the development of energy sources. It also will explore the political influences on the industry and the roles of advocates for the consumer, environment, industry and for development of alternative energy sources. The class will explore politics and policies that factored into the state's energy crisis and the interplay between federal and state authorities, as well as with the media, lobbyists and others.
Contact: Loretta Lynch, lmlynch@berkeley.edu

Understanding Cal's mascot

"Go Bears" (Scandinavian R5B)
Except for UC Berkeley's beloved mascot named Oski, bears are among the large and potentially dangerous mammals that have long captured imaginations and spread fear from North America to Siberia. One aim of the class is to understand why UC Berkeley's mascot is a bear. Students will read primarily Nordic folkloric and literary materials ranging from "Beowulf" to "The Polar Bear." They also will visit the UC Berkeley Folklore Archive and The Bancroft Library to bone up on bear stories and their history in California as well as on campus. Graduate student instructor Kendra Wilson says she will teach about wolves as well, because many cultures have stories not only about people who turn into bears, but also into werewolves.
Contact: Kendra Wilson, kwilson@berkeley.edu


"America and Vietnam at War" (History 100.008)
This course will be taught by a scholar of 20th century U.S. history, Kathleen Frydl, and by Peter Zinoman, a scholar of modern Vietnamese history. They say that while most courses taught on this subject tend to emphasize the history of either American or Vietnamese participation, theirs will explore the causes, dynamics and consequences of the Vietnam War.

The professors say that the recent use of the Vietnam War as a rhetorical tool in the debate over Iraq and the presence on campus of a large population of students of Southeast Asian descent factored into their decision to launch the course.
Contact: Kathleen Frydl, (510) 642-1116 or kfrydl@berkeley.edu, or Peter Zinoman, (510) 642-2234 or pzinoman@berkeley.edu

Classic literature and reporting

"Op-ed Shakespeare: Contemporary Political Themes in Renaissance Garb" (J-251)
Orville Schell, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, is teaming up with Larry Friedlander, a Stanford University professor of English literature and theater, to teach this class that combines classic literature with the writing of opinion pieces.

Students will read and watch performances of four Shakespearean plays: "Measure for Measure," which focuses on efforts by a faith-based governmental leader to control the sexual behavior of its citizens; "Macbeth," which deals with a well-meaning leader gone wrong; "Coriolanus," about the Roman general and doomed war leader; and "Julius Caesar," in which an idealistic politician loses his ethical bearings when his republic government collapses into a dictatorship.

"It's important that journalists have some good literature ringing in their ears and that they understand the dimensions of human and political questions that go beyond the purely political," Schell says.

"In many ways, these tragedies are being acted out today in a much broader tableau than during Shakespeare's time. These plays are still so relevant . and continue to speak to our current dilemmas."
Contact: Orville Schell, (510) 642-3394 or schell@berkeley.edu,
and Larry Friedlander, (650) 725-1644 or larryf@stanford.edu

"Dostoevsky: The Novelist as Journalist, the Journalist as Novelist" (J-251)
Students will explore the interplay between journalism and fiction in the early and late works of the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, including "Crime and Punishment," "Demons," "The Brothers Karamazov" and "Notes from the House of the Dead," a non-fiction account of his imprisonment for his involvement in revolutionary politics.

Dostoevsky is credited with developing the "urban novel," which was largely based on the 19th century newspaper genre of sensational crime stories, screeching headlines and an ideological warfare of his era, says Mark Danner, a professor of journalism co-teaching the course with Robert Hass, English professor and former poet laureate of the United States.
Contact: Mark Danner, mark@markdanner.com, and Robert Hass, (510) 642-2746 or bobhass@berkeley.edu