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First Year Seminars Fall 2017



America and Vietnam: History, Culture, Memory
Anime! Japanese Culture Exposed
Born to Run: The Science of Running
British Empire and Sport
Campus Sustainability 101
Climate Change and Philosophy
Collaborative Leadership
Cultural Stuff: Art, Material Culture, and Museums in Anthropology
Culture, Social Structure and HIV/AIDS in the United States
The Cyborg and the Trickster: The Human Educational Machine
Deconstructing DePauw's Farmhouse
Disruptive Technologies and Music
Elemental Theatre
Germany Through Film
Get Some Culture!: Arts Patronage, History and Current Practice
Globalization, Globalism, and Culture
History of the Italian Renaissance
How to Write Everything
Imagining the Exotic in Western Music
Liberty and the Role of Government  (Cancelled)
"Like a Movie": Writing the Film Adaptation
Mathematics: It Might Not Exist, But it's Crucial
Microbes and Human Health
A More Perfect Union
Nero and Seneca: The Tyrant and the Philosopher
Obsession
On the Move: Migration and Culture
Portable Power: The Technological Revolution Sparked by the BatteryReading and Writing the Holocaust
Seduced by a Machine
Shock Value: Controversy in Contemporary Art
Skepticism and Belief
Space and Time
Strangers in 20th/21st Century Fiction and Film
Studies in American Song
Urban revolutions: Space, capitalism, and social change


America and Vietnam: History, Culture, Memory

Sarah Rowley 

The Vietnam War was the longest war in U.S. history, and its legacy has continued to affect American politics and culture for the past half century. This class will take a historical but interdisciplinary approach to understanding how the war has reverberated in recent American collective memory. This is not a course on military history or foreign policy. Instead, we will consider questions such as: How do we know what we think we know about what the war meant? Has the meaning varied for different groups of Americans? How have later political motivations shaped Americans’ collective memory of the war and the antiwar movement? How has that memory shifted over time? How have race, gender, and class shaped how we think about the war over time? Fiction, memoir, and popular film and song, as well as historical scholarship on the themes of American national identity and political division will provide our foundation for thinking deeply about the war in American culture.

 

Anime! Japanese Culture Exposed
Pauline Ota 
Hiroko Chiba

This course will introduce students to Japan and Japanese culture through the lens of the popular media form, anime (animated film).  Besides anime viewings and seminar-style class meetings, the course will also include demonstrations, events, and possibly a field trip or two.  Students will learn to visually analyze anime, situate anime within a specific historical moment, identify artistic/literary/religious/linguistic traditions referenced in anime, and consider anime critically using methodological approaches gleaned from key readings.  This class, therefore, will foster students’ ability to articulate analysis of the animated art form both verbally and in writing.

Born to Run: The Science of Running
Pat Babington 

This is not about Springsteen’s music, but it is about everything related to running.  The ability to run long distances may have been important in human evolution.  Running on two feet allowed humans to cover greater distances in the search for food.  Today it is a source of competition and a method to improve fitness and health. Using the story of the Tarahumara Indians as a guide, we will explore the biomechanics, physiology, nutrition, and the evolution of running.  Many of the topics we discuss will also be measured in a weekly hands-on laboratory.

British Empire and Sport
Bob Dewey 

Organized sports are frequently described as one of Victorian Britain’s most enduring global legacies. This course will consider the historic development of organized sport in Great Britain and the British Empire through case studies analyzing rugby and cricket. Central themes will include the codification of games in the 19th century, the emergent Victorian sporting ethos, amateurism/professionalism, and debates over gender roles and social class in a sporting context.

Of particular interest are the cultural and sporting ties that spread to the Dominions and Crown Colonies of the British Empire through formal and informal means. The course will highlight the ways in which sport illuminated broader imperial developments including those that secured ties to Britain but simultaneously fostered resistance and emerging national and postcolonial identities. The geographic range of the class will include cricket in the West Indies, Australia and South Asia and rugby football in New Zealand, South Africa and the Pacific Islands.

Campus Sustainability 101
Jeane Pope 

In a finite world, the needs of our ever-growing population and rampant consumption strain the resources of the earth and threaten the environment.  Due to their complex and global nature, modern environmental problems like climate change, water scarcity, or mass extinctions can be overwhelming and really, really scary.  Many individuals who care about both other people and the planet around them are left wondering:  “what am I to do?”  Fortunately, the practice of sustainability – which balances the needs of people today with those of people in the future – can provide solutions to these challenging problems.

This seminar will explore both the theoretical concepts explicit in different definitions of sustainability as well as consider how to put these ideas into practice.  Because there is no universally accepted definition of sustainability, students will critically examine crucial ideas central to the concept of “sustain” (as in “to make last”) through readings and discussion to ultimately to build a class definition over the course of the semester.  Examples of these ideas include: markers of environmental quality; the role of social justice; and organizational principles of systems thinking.  The seminar also includes an applied aspect in which students will be able to incorporate sustainability practices into their own lives while also learning about how to participate in positive change at a local, regional, and even global scale.

Whether you take it as a blessing or a curse, there can be no doubt that we live during interesting times.  One thing that sets DePauw graduates apart, though, is their ability to think critical, creatively, and compassionately, and therefore do what needs to be done.  As the foundation of a DePauw education, this seminar will both challenge and support students in a balance that will helps them grow into the person they want to be.  

Climate Change and Philosophy
Rich Cameron

​Climate change poses significant philosophical problems. For example, it poses problems in epistemology or the theory of knowledge: what do we know about climate and how do we know it? How do we explain the gulf between the scientific "consensus" on climate change and public skepticism? And so on. Moreover, it raises problems about who we are (e.g., what responsibilities do we have and why?) and what it means to be an educated person in the 21st century. Can we learn to imagine living well yet sustainably, what will we need to know in order to live well in a climate changed world? The course will introduce students to research from a wide range of fields and in both the physical and social sciences and responses to the climate crisis of many forms. But our primary focus throughout will be on climate as posing existential questions each of us needs to grapple with: who am I and what should I do given the world as it is?

Collaborative Leadership
Kent Menzel

What have you done to change the world around you? From leading food drives to organizing earthquake rescue, incoming DePauw students have many stories to tell about work they have done in support of their communities. In this seminar we will examine the theory and research behind community initiatives, including group communication, leadership communication, and high performance teams, By sharpening our knowledge of what it takes to complete a successful project, our goal is to establish a foundation for more and better community change through collaborative effort.

Cultural Stuff: Art, Material Culture, and Museums in Anthropology
Clark Sage 

In the course of their travels and work during the so-called "Age of Discovery” (late 15th to 18th centuries), curious explorers, state and religious officials, and intellectuals (proto- anthropologists/folklorists) amassed collections of cultural curios representative of the new, exotic peoples that they discovered and interacted with. Over time, some of these items were centralized in national museums; among the most notable are Det Kongelige Kunstkammer (Copenhagen, 1650), British Museum (London, 1753), Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (Paris, 1793), Naturhistorisches Museum (Vienna, 1806), Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C., 1843), and Kunstgewerbemuseum (Berlin, 1868). Here, in these and other museums, cultural objects were utilized for the construction of national identities, learning about and comparing cultures, and constructing the identities of the Other. Anthropology as a discipline can be traced back to these centralized sites of cultural stuff, which often formed the basis for the development of sociocultural theory and representation of the Other to a broader public. In time, anthropology cut ties with its interest in material culture, handing it off to folklore. Recently, however, there has been a renewed interest among anthropologists to revisit both material culture, as tangible expressions of culture and knowledge, and the ethnographic collections/museums, as sites of research into past and contemporary peoples.

As a First Year Seminar (FYS), we will work together through in-class discussions and different formats of writing to engage with material culture, art, and museums through an anthropological lens. In doing so, we will explore how these things speak about their creators and collectors and the social, political, and power relationships that are embedded in and surrounding stuff.

Culture, Social Structure and HIV/AIDS in the United States
Alicia Suarez 

Should persons with HIV/AIDS be legally required to wear a tattoo showing their status?  Most students today are shocked that this question was ever seriously discussed by lawmakers in the United States.  To be sure, most of you have grown up with the specter of HIV/AIDS in the background of your lives.  Indeed, HIV was “discovered” before you were born.  We will explore a host of questions in this course: What is the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States? How did social forces affect scientific discoveries? Who were and are the faces of HIV/AIDS? What were the experiences of HIV/AIDS health care professionals early on in the epidemic? Who were early and contemporary grassroots activists in the fight against HIV/AIDS? How have these social movements been politicized? How can harm reduction address transmission of HIV? We will explore these topics in and outside the classroom as this course includes involvement in HIV/AIDS advocacy in the local area including planning for a campus wide event for World AIDS Day.

The Cyborg and the Trickster: The Human Educational Machine
Rebecca Alexander

In a giant mural titled Arnoldo’s brother, Judy Baca, a Los Angeles art teacher and her students produce a vivid image of what Chela Sandoval has called a “modern day Chicano cyborg”—a boy who is a blend of humanity and technology, who acts as a witness and testimony on behalf of the Chicano communities who have produced him.  The cyborg, part human, part machine, is implicated in multiple educational spaces:  Our learning and teaching lives are increasingly wedded to technology, which becomes both a formal and informal space of learning; the standardization of teaching has caused many teachers to complain that they are being reduced to robots in the classroom; and technology, and social media in particular, have become powerful spaces and mediums of educational protest.  The cyborg also symbolizes hybridity, duality, and multiplicity, the sense of a divided self.  Increasingly this image speaks to the border crossing, mixed race, queer, and contested identities young people struggle to articulate, express and organize around. Sandoval’s figure of ‘the trickster,’ speaks to how to organize, communicate, speak, write, think and be amidst such multiplicity and contradiction.  In this course we will explore the cyborg, looking at fiction, film, theory, and art that plays with and explores the human, the machine, and the border-crosser in educational space.  We will also examine ‘the trickster,’ a figure that is fundamentally about play, mischief, and disruption.  Deploying a trickster methodology, we will play in this class, incorporating our bodies, and creating movement, art, and writing that challenges boundaries and wrestles with contradiction.

Deconstructing DePauw's Farmhouse: An Experiment in the Study of Stuff

Once there was a home in Putnam County on a small parcel of farmland.  Now DePauw owns that property, and the house is beyond repair.  What do you do with a vacant old house that is beyond renovation?  Ordinarily, you tear it down with heavy equipment and haul it away to a landfill.  Or you can take it apart, piece by piece, discovering what it’s made of, where those materials came from, what secrets they keep, what stories they could tell, and what value they might still hold.

In this course, we will both participate in and make a case study of the process of deconstructing the farmhouse situated next to DePauw's campus farm. The first project of its kind at DePauw, this course constitutes a collaboration in which students and professors work directly with facilities staff on the process of physically ‘unbuilding’ or deconstructing a house. We will learn about the green art of rescuing, revitalizing and reusing building materials, and will explore scientific research, scholarship, and artistic works that reconceive the stuff we produce, consume, and throw “away.”   

In the laboratory portion of the course, students will learn to use a variety of techniques and tools to carefully unbuild and disassemble the farmhouse.  The rescued materials will be disseminated to a variety of organizations for reuse, including buildings at the new DePauw campus farm.  Students’ research, writing, and visual records will be incorporated into an institutional history of the old farm house.  

Disruptive Technologies and Music
Veronica Pejril 

From the first use of cast-iron plates in modern pianos to the advent of electronic sound synthesis, and from the birth of sound-recording to ubiquitous streaming music services, technologies play a significant role in the ways we make, share and consume music. Through reading, listening, class discussion and writing, this class will explore those roles and their transformative effects on human musical activity.

Elemental Theatre
Gigi Jennewein

Why is theatre so alluring? Why have humans in virtually every culture throughout recorded history been compelled to both witness and partake in the production of theatrical events? Elemental Theatre will examine this grand art form of our humanity through the various lenses of its many contributors: the playwright; the director; the scenic lighting, sound and costume designers; the actors; the critics; and the audience. Students will study the unique contributions of each in relation to five live productions, including two at professional Indianapolis theatres.

Germany Through Film
Inge Aures 

This writing intensive seminar offers an introduction to 20th and 21st Century Germany through the lens of German film makers. German film has influenced international film makers, but particularly shaped our image of Germany, her history and her people. We will analyze films by such diverse film makers as Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others), Wolfgang Becker (Good Bye Lenin), Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon), Margarethe von Trotta (Das Versprechen), and Sönke Wortmann (The Miracle of Bern). We will be looking at these film makers work within the larger socio-historical context of 20th and 21st Century German history, politics, and culture. You will learn about the fundamentals of film analysis and contemporary film criticism, by analyzing in writing specific techniques in selected film clips (e.g. camera angles, lighting, mise-en-scène, camera movement, sound). The focus of the course, however, will be on specific films and films directors as well as on historical events that marked European history in the 20th Century such as World War II, the depression era, the Cold War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Get Some Culture!: Arts Patronage, History and Current Practice
Ayden Adler

In Europe, from the early church hierarchy through the royal ruling families of the 18th century, access to the so-called “high” arts was typically limited to people of means and power. In the United States, however, significant and enduring cultural institutions, such as museums and symphony orchestras, were established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in a tension between elitist emphases on refinement and good taste and democratizing impulses toward access and populism. Even today, business leaders are expected to serve on boards of museums, symphony orchestras, and dance and theater companies. However, charges of elitism, racism, and lack of relevance beleaguer many of the cultural institutions of our time.

By exploring the historical roots of arts patronage and experiencing the institutions that provide access to art in our contemporary culture, this course explores what it means to be a patron of the arts in 21st-century America.We will use historical documents and historical scholarship as well as the visual and performing arts to develop critical thinking, reading, and writing skills. This course includes a number of fieldtrips to exhibitions and live performances in the greater Indianapolis region.

In lieu of a textbook cost, a course fee of $90 will be charged to cover the cost of materials, tickets and transportation for this course.

Globalization, Globalism, and Culture
Mac Mackenzie

What is meant by the terms “Globalization” and “Globalism”? Do they have primarily to do with international trade, cheap goods, and the loss of American jobs, or with the diffusion of culture in media like “world music,” ethnic food, and international art fairs? Is free trade a good thing or a bad thing? We will examine these questions through the lens of art and visual culture. Global trade and the mingling of world cultures is not new, and has been around for as long as goods like porcelain and silk from China and ivory from Africa elephants and walruses in Greenland have been traded. We will start with these ancient trade routes and then examine the globalization of the modern era, mostly through visual culture. We will also ask how the many cultures of the world have been both enriched and impoverished by the tight web of exchange that has come to embrace them all.

This is not an economics course, but we will examine and question some of the claims made both for and against globalization and free trade in the popular press and media. Mostly we will approach the issue through images of globalism and the strong emotions they provoke, while trying to discover what processes are actually unfolding behind those images.

History of the Italian Renaissance
Michael Seaman

Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Machiavelli. These individuals immediately bring to mind the Italian Renaissance, an age that saw an explosion of human ingenuity and creative expression as well as economic development and social experimentation. We will uncover the histories of Florence, Venice, Rome, Milan, Urbino, Siena, and other centers of Renaissance culture, read the works of Renaissance writers, and study the artistic achievements of this influential period. In class, we will focus on close readings in translation and hold constructive discussions of the main problems raised in the historical texts in an effort to develop critical thinking skills. The topics explored in the course include the Florentine republic; Petrarch and the development of Humanism; The Renaissance debate over the ideal form of government; Renaissance Venice; The impact of religious reformation on theology and politics; The Renaissance Papacy; Women in Renaissance Italy; Renaissance education; and the end of the Italian Renaissance, to name a few. Students will gain a thorough understanding of the principles of Renaissance humanism and an appreciation for the supreme artistic achievements of the age. No prior knowledge of Italian history or culture would be required.

How to Write Everything
Robert Stevens 

In this class, we'll read and write essays, short stories, poems, and short analytic papers in a friendly, welcoming environment that encourages thinking, risk, and play.

"How to Write Everything" focuses on giving students a broad, transferable set of skills that will prepare them for writing in college--and beyond.  Those skills include close reading, organization and "flow," working with quotes, critical thinking, introductions and conclusions.

Imagining the Exotic in Western Music
Elissa Harbert  

Musical portrayals of “exotic” people and places have been ubiquitous in Western culture from the Renaissance to today, showing up in opera, instrumental music, Broadway musicals, film and TV scores, and in jazz and popular music. Often these portrayals are deeply stereotyped and problematic, especially when considered through our contemporary understandings of race, gender, cultural appropriation, and global inequalities. However, they can also be staggeringly beautiful and have long been a beloved part of Western musical culture. What makes music sound “exotic,” and what relationship does this music have with the far-flung cultures it may purport to represent?

To explore the related topics of exoticism and Orientalism in music of the Western world, we will delve into selected examples from the history of European opera and orchestral music, such as Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio, Bizet’s Carmen, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and more. We will then explore such American Broadway musicals such as South Pacific, The King and I, and Miss Saigon; as well as film and TV music, including Indiana Jones, Aladdin, Slumdog Millionaire, and Star Trek; and American jazz and popular music from Tin Pan Alley to Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj. Through this lens, we will explore such crucial cultural issues as colonialism and postcolonial theory, race, gender, sexuality, and the history of white supremacy, which has led to so many of the most pressing problems in our society. This class does not require the ability to play or read music. Both music majors and non-majors are welcome.

Liberty and the Role of Government (Cancelled)

"Like a Movie": Writing the Film Adaptation
Ougie Pak

This course explores Film Adaptations as a unique art form. We will read various forms of source material, then study each work’s respective screenplay and movie adaptation through a combination of analytical papers and discussion. Students will then complete fiction and non-fiction writing assignments designed to generate effective movie ideas of their own. Finally, students will complete their own screenplay assignments, which will be workshopped in class and revised to completion.

Mathematics: It Might Not Exist, But it's Crucial
Dan Rusu 

How can we follow the most recent achievements in mathematics if we are not mathematicians? Mathematics is so specialized nowadays that typically it is not an easy task for even a mathematician to understand results outside his or her own area of expertise. How would one write about a mathematical or a scientific topic to make it accessible to the non-expert? What is this thing called mathematics? What is mathematics for? What are the big ideas in mathematics? Is mathematics true? Is mathematics beautiful? Is there anything left to solve? Can mathematics predict the future? These are some of the questions that students will try to answer while reading popular science articles about mathematics, writing about their readings, and then writing their own article about a mathematical topic for a layman audience.

Microbes and Human Health
Lynn Bedard 

For much of human history, microbes (bacteria and viruses) have been invisible enemies that medicine has to fight. Recent findings have indicated that, in many cases, bacteria that live on and in our bodies impact our health in many positive ways. Through exploring the human microbiome, the rising problem of antibiotic resistance and selected examples of microbial plagues, students will gain a better understanding of the connections between human and microbes.

A More Perfect Union
Emmitt Riley 

Since the founding of the United States equality has been an essential element in American democracy yet the realization of this equality is not the political, social, or economic reality for many marginalized groups in the United States. This course will examine the dimensions of inequality within the United States. This course will explore some of the problems in American politics by specially examining the economic, social, and political inequalities that exists in the United States. This course will highlight these problems by analyzing the American political system and how its structure facilitates these inequalities. The emphasis in this course will be on the systemic causes, consequences, and the solutions that have been proposed for remediating economic, gender, racial, political and social inequalities.

Nero and Seneca: The Tyrant and the Philosopher
Dave Guinee 

Can one adhere to one’s principles in a time of tyranny, and does doing so produce any good result? Can one be both philosophically committed and wealthy? Can reason and argument overcome passion and the arrogance produced by power?

One of the most important figures in the reign of the Emperor Nero was Seneca the Younger (c. 1 BCE–65 CE). A stoic philosopher, Seneca wrote many letters and, among other works, the treatises On Anger, On the Happy Life, and On Providence. He also penned gruesome and horrific tragedies that have exerted a profound influence on later European theater. Seneca had been Nero’s tutor when we was young and supposedly kept some of the ruler’s worst impulses in check, at least for a while. By the end of his reign Nero was widely considered a tyrant and a terrible ruler who disgraced himself by performing as a musician and actor, “fiddled while Rome burned,” and persecuted the Christians, whom he blamed for the Great Fire in Rome. Nero eventually forced Seneca to commit suicide.

Both the philosopher and the emperor present real puzzles for us. Seneca, the philosopher who prizes reason and detachment from worldly desires, was one of the wealthiest men in Rome and is closely connected to one of its worst emperors. Nero is widely seen as a monster, but almost all of the evidence we have about him is hostile, and there are signs that he was far more popular with the people than with the aristocrats who later told his story. In this course we will look at evidence from historical accounts, biography, poetry, Seneca’s own writings, and modern scholarship to examine the interactions between the philosopher and the tyrant.

Obsession
Nicole Lobdell 

Writer and director John Waters once said, “Without obsession, life is nothing.” When is obsession a good thing? For Waters, obsession is a necessary part of the creative process, but contemporary society suggests there are strict parameters when it comes to “good" and “bad" obsessions. What are the consequences of having an obsession? In this course, we will use the theme of obsession to explore other processes and desires, such as memory, creativity, genius, madness, infatuation, and power. We might consider the fine lines that distinguish an interest from an obsession, a productive process from a disorder, and a tool from a disability. While our artifacts of study will be primarily literary (short stories, novels, and poems), we will also look at contemporary studies on the nature of obsession and more specifically obsessive-compulsive disorders and hoarding. Readings may include E. L. Doctorow’s Homer & Langley (2009), Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611-12), John Fowles’s The Collector(1963), and Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962), among other shorter works. Student projects may include object memoirs, object lessons, book cover designs, and infographics.

On the Move: Migration and Culture
Theresa Dazey

How and why have people relocated at different points in time? How do these voyages affect how they live and understand their lives, often many generations later? We’ll look at examples of migrations from different historical periods and regions to better understand the forces that have driven these shifts, and we’ll examine how both mobile groups and the societies they encounter in their new destinations influence each other.  Using historical sources as well as film, literature, and music, this course explores human mobility, and the ways it continues to shape our world today.

 

Portable Power: The Science and Some Implications of the Technological Revolution Sparked by the Battery
Bridget Gourley

Battery powered gadgets are ubiquitous in our society, from technology as small as hearing aids or as large as electric cars. Different applications of portable power have differing desires and demands that have led to innovations and disasters. For example, lithium ion batteries revolutionized the cell phone yet, when poorly manufactured, have gone up in flames. Understanding the desires, demands, value and impact of batteries suggests a liberal arts approach.

In this course, we will look at the key scientific advances in the evolution of the modern battery and investigate cutting edge questions in today’s battery research. This will take us on an intellectual journey that will touch on the lives of past and current scientists; ethical dilemmas, economic challenges and political intrigue; as well as on an investigation of critical elements of the periodic table required in both batteries and the gadgets utilizing this portable power.

Through our focus on portable power we will learn to parse lay and technical resources, strengthen our skills as both oral and written communicators, and practice thinking deeply and critically. To better understand the scientific aspects of the portable power we will build some electrochemical cells in the laboratory and dissect a few common batteries.

This course is appropriate for anyone interested in a broader understanding of how portable power was developed and current challenges and opportunities, from a variety of perspectives, scientific, economic, political, ethical, environmental and more.

Reading and Writing the Holocaust
Julia Bruggemann 

The Holocaust was one of the defining experiences of the 20th century and the memory of its horrors continues to haunt our imaginations. In this course we will examine the background, development, and the historical and moral impact of the Holocaust in Europe and America. We will use historical documents and historical scholarship, but also literature, autobiography, films, etc. specifically with an eye to developing our reading and writing skills.

Seduced by a Machine
Gloria Townsend 

Why are we seduced by a machine? One of the central issues of our age contemplates the allure of an inhuman world, the virtual world of a computer. We will explore answers to the seduction question by traveling four different paths, asking more and more questions before we uncover our informed -- but individual -- answers to the question that includes the course's title.

1) Historical:  How have mechanical advances and technology changed society over the centuries? Is technology our friend or our foe? The central questions we pose in the 2017 seminar lie in a larger context that we will investigate.
2) From Seduction to Obsession:  Are we attracted to technology as an outlet for our creativity – or for power and money or as a substitute for friends and family?
3) Where are the women?:  Why is the world of computing dominated by white males? The FYS now morphs into a service learning project (we will work with local school children), as we answer the gender question before turning to our last and ultimate question.

4) Will I Be Seduced by a Machine?

Shock Value: Controversy in Contemporary Art
Lori Miles 

This course will investigate ways to approach and interpret contemporary artworks that are shocking or controversial in nature; art that surprises, confronts, angers, or repulses the viewer.  After introducing the aesthetics and ethics involved in making meaning of difficult images, we will begin investigating the purpose of "shock" in contemporary art.  Through case studies and discussion, we will examine works that are controversial by their context (placement, site, or timing of installation).  We will then move into content-driven controversies, those artists who intentionally choose to work with difficult, often shocking subject matter.  Topics covered in these discussions will include obscenity, violence, and politics. During the semester, we will be discussing various social, aesthetic, and legal issues that shape our understanding of shocking imagery in order to frame the role of controversy in contemporary art. Students will be evaluated on short writing assignments, quizzes, participation in discussions, and studio exercises.  A final project will include a research paper and a class presentation.

Skepticism and Belief
Amity Reading 

This course asks students to think critically about what they believe and why they believe it. We will consider both the things we commonly think of when we think of “belief” (religious faith, atheism, secular morality, scientific fact, truth, politics) as well as the not-so-common things (UFOs, ghosts, true love, lying, psychics, and cryptids). We will explore questions of skepticism and belief through a number of different disciplines as we ask ourselves: What makes us “believe” in something? What is the difference between skepticism and doubt? What evidence informs our beliefs? To what extent are beliefs passed down to us from our families and our social groups, and to what extent do we decide for ourselves what we believe? How do competing epistemologies within our society dictate what we can and can’t believe? What exactly is an epistemology?

These are some of the questions we will be exploring over the course of the semester as we delve into classics like Augustine’s Confessions and Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, as well as pop culture television mainstays like Ghost Adventures and Finding Bigfoot.

Space and Time
Ashley Puzzo

What is space?  What is time?  Does time have a beginning?  Does time have an end?  How old is the universe?  How do we know?  Is there a “center” of the universe?  If so, where is it in relation to us?  Is there a fundamental difference between the Left and the Right?  Is the present metaphysically privileged in some way or is the present just like the past and the future?  Is time naught but a human projection or does it exist independently of us?  Does time actually pass?  Does time have an intrinsic direction?  Is time travel possible?  Are there other, extra-terrestrial civilizations?  Is space substantive like Jell-O, permeating all or is space merely a relation between solid things?  This course will explore these questions and others relating to space and time through metaphysics, science fiction, popular lectures, popular articles, and other media.

Strangers in 20th/21st Century Fiction and Film
Angela Flury 

Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger from 1942 and Kamel Daoud's 2013 The Meursault Investigation are two central texts for us in thinking about a range of literary strangers (as well as a few cinematic ones). We will study global tales engaged with characters who are transplanted, exiled, alienated, foreign, marginal, or unfamiliar. Our readings will take us to Algeria, the U.S., Zimbabwe, Morocco, Canada, Azerbaijan, and Bangladesh as we follow the migrations of literary characters.

Studies in American Song
Ron Dye

In this seminar, students will gain a more informed knowledge of popular music by studying its form and meaning, its methods of composition, its relationship to technology, and its position in the marketplace since the mid twentieth century. Students will exchange ideas with one another regarding what makes for a “good” or “successful” song, and as a group we will examine specific song samples from different decades and various music genres including rock ‘n roll, jazz, rhythm ‘n blues, soul, country and hip hop, among others. Work in the course will include reading and listening, class discussions, an oral history collection and a final research project. Topics and texts may include Rooksby’s Inside Classic Rock Tracks, Marcus’ Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads, and Starr and Waterman’s American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MP3.

Urban revolutions: Space, capitalism, and social change
Derek Ford  

Investigating the intersection between capitalism, urbanization, and social change, this class examines the history, geography, economics, philosophy, and pedagogy of urban rebellions. We will focus on rebellions in Europe and the U.S. from the late 19th century until the present.