Fall 2009


Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-25


Martha M. Umphrey (Section 01)


Broadly stated, the "right to privacy" can be understood as a "right to be let alone."  But that language of rights tends to universalize and decontextualize a concept that has a traceable history and that exists within particular social landscapes.  In this seminar we will examine the idea of "privacy" and the values protected by it, exploring how the very idea of the "private" developed and how it has been represented in literature and culture in shifting ways.  Drawing upon novels and films, historical studies, philosophical texts, legal cases, and political/cultural debates, we will consider, for example, the relation between privacy and property, the emergence and development of individual self-consciousness, the conflict between sexual privacy and state police powers, and the redefinition of privacy  through technology.  Who has the privilege of privacy, and how does access to privacy inflect social identity?  How and why does law either protect or puncture private spaces in liberal democracies?  Given the power and lure of technology in contemporary society, has  the idea of privacy been emptied of meaning? 

This seminar is writing attentive, engaging  students in frequent writing assignments, both imaginative and expository. 

Fall semester.  Professor Umphrey.


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2010