Thematic Option/Dornsife Honors Programs

“The aim of human life is doing something, not just being a certain sort of person.  Though we consider people’s characters in deciding what sort of person they are, we call them successful or unsuccessful only with reference to their actions” – Aristotle, Poetics

Aristotle’s Poetics is the oldest example of literary theory in the West and still influences how literature is both taught and written today (ever heard of tragic flaw, reversal of fortune, or catharsis?). The Poetics is influential not only because it explains what makes a story work well (plot matters more than character), but also because it explains why reading literature is important, both in our private and our political lives.

In this Salon, we’ll discuss how Aristotle’s theory of literature emerges in response to his teacher Plato’s argument that art merely indulges our emotions, is a waste of time, and makes us politically irresponsible. In the Poetics, Aristotle closely analyzes how literature actually works, and in the process, shows that good literature is closer to philosophy than history because it presents what is “necessary” rather than “accidental.”  Literature thus teaches us how “the real world” works and enables us to imagine “what might be possible,” thereby enhancing our ability to engage in political action and be responsible citizens.

Excerpts from the Poetics will be made available ahead of time. Students are asked to come to the Salon with favorite works of literature or film in mind that we can discuss in relation to Aristotle’s theories. We’ll use Aristotle’s ideas to discuss not only how specific novels, films, and TV shows work, but also what they teach us about “the real world” and how we might want to act in it.

To get the most out of the Salon, read this excerpt of  Poetics before you attend.


RSVP Link:

Celebrating the Life and Work of H.T. Tsiang

Kaya Press is re-publishing Tsiang’s final novel — And China Has Hands — this month, and Editor Floyd Cheng, and New Yorker Culture writer Hua Hsu, who recently wrote an autobiography of Tsiang, will be leading a reading and discussion about Tsiang’s work and life.

More about Tsiang: An immigrant from China to the US in the 1930s, Tsiang was self-publishing work as part of the downtown communist scene in New York City–then, later in his life, he moved to Los Angeles and became a Hollywood actor and extra with roles in major television shows like Bonanza and My Three Sons and in films like (the original) Ocean’s Eleven.

This event will take place:
 Wednesday Oct. 19th

2 – 4 p.m.
KAP 445

* Light refreshments will be provided

Book Talk on Souffles-Anfas

Join the Middle East Studies Department and Assistant Professor Olivia Harrison as she discusses her co-edited anthology Souffles-Anfas.

Dr. Harrison and her fellow editor Teresa Villa-Ignacio will discuss this body of experimental leftist writing from post-colonial North Africa.
The event, co-sponsored by the Department of French and Italian and the MESP, will take place on February 10th, 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm in VKC 300A.


The Department of French and Italian

Prof. Alain Borer Presents: Slimane Zeghidour who will speak on:


During Professor Borer’s regularly scheduled lecture Tuesday, 2/2/2016 THH 111

If THH 111 is over-capacity, the Talk will be in THH 118 on the same day: lecture Tuesday, 2/2/2016 THH 111 330-450pm.

Go Abroad This Summer!

If you love to travel, are interested in conducting extra-curricular research, or are just looking for a fun way to fulfill major requirements, the Maymester and Problems Without Passports programs are for you!

Maymester courses are taken as part of students’ spring course load, but are stand-alone offerings that provide exceptional opportunities for experiential learning off campus, throughout the United States, or even abroad.  There are 12 Maymester courses being offered after graduation next May, which come from a variety of majors and travel across the globe.

Problems Without Passports courses tend to be slightly longer travel experiences than Maymesters, and they combine problem-based or inquiry learning research exercises with study in a foreign country. These 16 courses from 12 different majors are offered as part of the summer course load, for 4 units of credit each.

Please see the attached list for all courses offered in 2016, and feel free to contact the professors listed under any courses that catch your eye!

For more information, check out our websites, which will be updated as more information is received:

Paris, Beirut, Ankara: A Roundtable Discussion | November 30 at 5:00pm

Monday, November 30 at 5:00pm

THH 102

USC Francophone Research & Resource Center with the department of French & Italian and the department of Comparative Literature invite you to a discussion and dialogue about the recent attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Ankara. The following researchers will animate this roundtable: Edwin Hill, Veli N. Yashin, Olivia C. Harrison, and Kara Keeling.

For more information, please contact Edwin Hill at

USC Religion T-Shirt Design Contest / Enter to Win $200!

USC Religion is looking for graphic designers who can create an awesome t-shirt design for the Religion department. Please check the attached flyer for the contest rules and submission location.