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Spring 2017 Honors Seminars

First-Year Seminars

Divided Cities
Melanie Finney
This course is an introduction to some of the apparent, and not-so-obvious, divisions that exist because of geo-political, religious, and ethno-national conflicts in various cities. Through readings, films, and class discussions, we will explore the concepts of identity, shared and separate spaces, borders and boundaries, and contested and shared memory. This interdisciplinary course draws on material from literature, history, conflict, political science, communication, architecture, and sociology. In particular, we will focus on the cities of Belfast, Berlin, and Nicosia as we consider what it means to live in conflicted spaces.

Managing Chinese Empires
Sherry Mou
They lived in an interesting time! And they continue to live in our time after they died!  The emperors, empresses, warlords, military strategists, princes, and persuaders who flourished in many Chinese literary, historical, and military texts come back with sound and fury in films, television, and--to the delight of gamers--in video and computer games. How did China keep its vast land under control before the modern era? Through two Reacting to the Past games, we will unveil the mystery of how to make an emperor, who headed China’s bureaucracy, or the statecraft of Confucianism.
The first game (“Dong Zhuo Dethrones the Emperor”) is set at the end of Han dynasty in the final years of the second century. The state is in dire situation, with half a dozen warlords vying for the throne. Can the emperor be replaced? Who should be the new emperor? Your brilliant counsel is urgently sought after, unless, indeed, you are one of the ambitious warlords and a contender, yourself! 
Fast-forward fourteen centuries. The year is 1587, and you are now a member of the Hanlin Academy. You are a Grand Secretary, a highly-educated advisor to Emperor Wanli (yes, one of you will have the honor of being Wanli himself). Your responsibilities are heavy and serious. Turmoil brews beneath the deceptively calm and decorous surface of the Academy. Secret cliques and the official intelligence machine threaten the normalcy of the governing mechanism. Most importantly, when will the Emperor name his heir? Will the teachings of Confucius continue to form the stable foundation of government and society, or will (Heaven forbid!) China embrace new ideas, both homegrown and foreign, imported from the West? Once again, your sage counsel is urgently needed during this crisis.

Germany and the Legacy of War
Julia Bruggemann
This course will explore the complex historical, moral, and political history of the Holocaust as well as the legacies of the war, dictatorship, and Holocaust for Germany after 1945. We will address questions of guilt and responsibility, victimhood and agency and the ways these terms have been understood over time. Some important questions we will explore are: How can we understand the physical, moral, political, and ethical destruction of the war and Holocaust and how did it influence Germany's reconstruction in the postwar context? How did contemporaries, historians, politicians, artists etc. participate in these processes? How have these discussions changed in recent years as most eyewitnesses are dying and new generations develop their own interpretations? Some of the debates that surround these questions are: Who has the right to remember and be remembered? Who can claim to be a victim, in other words: were Germans victims - or perpetrators – or both? Can a new German state be "normal" and overcome its historical baggage? What's the difference between guilt and responsibility and how does it affect future generations? How have discussions changed over the past decades? 

Mind, Intelligence, and Machines
Douglas Harms
In this seminar we will explore topics having to do with consciousness and intelligence in humans and machines, focusing in particular on the question of whether a computer could ever match the power and flexibility of the human brain. We will examine these issues from various perspectives including philosophy, biology, psychology, and computer science. Students will engage in discussion of course readings and complete a variety of written assignments, journals, and individual and group presentations. The goal of the seminar is for everyone in the seminar (students and teacher alike) to wrestle with the philosophical issues surrounding the topic of computers and consciousness, understand the technical dimensions of the topic, and come to appreciate humankind's role in the grand scheme of things. 

Sexual Misconduct: Laws and Culture
Renee Madison
This course will explore the systems regulating sexual misconduct and the intersectionality and tensions of campus culture, university administrative policies, process and federal responsibilities, criminal laws and civil litigation.  The course will examine and explore the following questions:  How has the definition of sexual misconduct evolved?  What are the values and philosophies reflected in these policies and practices?  Who benefits from these policies and laws?  What are the factors and identities that impact investigations, findings and sentences?  How should sexual misconduct laws and regulations impact culture and society?

Interdisciplinary AREA Seminars

Cool Hands to Raging Bulls: New Hollywood Cinema in History
Michael Sinowitz
HONR 300Aa:  Humanities
This course will primarily focus on film and history, examining the relationships between cultural products and the historical and cultural contexts of their creation.  Specifically, we will focus on what we might call the second golden age of Hollywood, a period that spans from the mid to late 60s into the late 70s.  Many have speculated that this period closed with the birth of the Hollywood blockbusters, namely Jaws and Star Wars.  Our readings will be histories of this time period in America, discussions of films and the film industry during this time, and theoretical readings related to historical and cultural approaches to textual analysis.  Some important films from the period that we will watch include Bonny and ClydeEasy RiderPattonFive Easy PiecesThe ConversationTaxi DriverThe G-dfatherOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown, and Raging Bull

The Need for Roots: Gardens and Belonging
James Wells
HONR 300Ab: Humanities
“Garden” as verb rather than noun names the work of creating and curating (from Latin cura “care”) spaces in concert with weather and soil and animals and community. Eden, Aztec chinampas, the Alhambra in Grenada, Ryoan-ji in Kyoto, Versailles, China’s Suzhou, Growing Power of Milwaukee, Wisconsin—this course will look at the history of the garden as figure of literary and artistic imagination and as source of food, work of art, retreat, display of wealth and power, site of meditation and worship, site of resistance. The theory and practice of belonging will anchor these explorations. How do we garden belonging? Accept “style of living in community” as a definition of “culture,” then you might notice how much culture roots into “agriculture,” “polyculture,” “permaculture.” Permaculture, a mashup of the words “permanent” and “agriculture,” seeks to practice a style of living alongside lands and forests and waters that imitates nature’s abundance and resilience. In this course permaculture will enable us to envision how to care for our need for roots.

Nature or Nuture
Lynn Bedard
HONR 300Ba:  Science
This course will introduce students to the fascinating sub discipline of Epigenetics as it relates to how organisms develop over the course of their lives.  We will explore some of the research theories surrounding how environment can influence phenotypic expression, such as whether an organism’s sex is male or female.  The mechanisms by which such environmental agents operate are only beginning to be understood.  Importantly, environment does not necessarily refer to nature or ecology; rather, it can speak to levels of hormones, or the physical surrounding of a cell or tissue.  You will learn relevant concepts in molecular biology and genetics.  These areas of Biology will serve as a foundation for our readings of both primary literature and popular science.  In many cases, fascinating case studies in the realm of epigenetics will be the stimulus for excellent conversation.

African Nationalism
Mac Dixon-Fyle
HONR 300Ca: Social Science
How did Africa come to be so comprehensively subjugated by the West as a continent of "inferior peoples" in the 19th and 20th centuries? How did Europe come by such audacious might? What weaknesses in Africa's precolonial structures enabled this emasculation? What was it that allowed some African groups to resist the imperial onslaught, and with what consequences? And how did Africa transcend her domination to reclaim lost sovereignty in the 20th century?  This course reviews the dynamic of historical change in the nationalist arena as Africa succumbs to Imperialism in the 19th century, endures colonialism into the mid to late 20th century, and fashions a response to reclaim lost sovereignty in the socio-economic and political realms in the last six decades of her evolution.  Using a comparative frame that will address nationalist efforts on other continents, the course will examine the peculiarities of the European intervention on the African continent, the personnel and methodology of proto-nationalist and nationalist resistance, and the imperative of sustaining a nationalist consciousness to meet contemporary challenges of nation-building. 

War and Society
Michael Seaman
HONR 300Cb:  Social Science
"War is the father of all and king of all." With these words, the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus expressed the view that strife was a natural and necessary state of affairs in the world. Indeed, warfare as a deliberate state policy is a theme that runs through Western Civilization, if not world history. War and its consequences were an unavoidable part of daily life in the ancient world. This course is a study of warfare with an emphasis on ancient Greece and Rome. We begin with a brief look at warfare in the ancient Near East, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Assyria. We then shift our focus to the ancient Greek world with studies of the Bronze Age, Homeric warfare, the hoplite phalanx, Sparta, the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars, and the Age of Alexander the Great. Lastly, we look at Roman Warfare from the Punic Wars and Hannibal to Julius Caesar to the Fall of Rome. We look not only at major battles but pay particular attention to diplomacy and the function of warfare in society and its impact on political and social history. Additional topics studied include battle formations, armor, generalship, tactics and strategies, weapon lethality, technology and warfare, siege warfare, civilians in warfare, the economics of war, laws and rules of engagement, and treatment of the defeated. No previous knowledge of the ancient world or of warfare is required.