List of First-Year Seminars 2013
Each new first-year student's fall schedule includes a first-year seminar. For course requests, list 10 seminars you are interested in taking. Students in the Honor Scholar Program do not request first-year seminars because they are assigned to their seminars.
Descriptions of First-Year Seminars 2013
Check for updates to this list before you finalize your course requests in June.
For humans, non-human animals are the closest living beings with minds that are still fundamentally different from us. Human beings have evolved side by side and in constant contact with animals. Throughout history, cultures have tried to make sense of the human condition through our relationships with animals. In this course we will study a number of literary, scientific and cinema texts that depict these relationships from ancient times to the present. Texts may include Kipling's Jungle Book, Wu Cheng En's Monkey, H.G. Wells's The Island of Doctor Moreau, poems by Pablo Neruda, Barbara Gowdy's The White Bone, and Kirsten Bakis's Lives of the Monster Dogs.
What did you have for lunch today? What can personal and cultural food preferences and traditions tell us about ourselves and others? How can handmade pottery contribute to a discussion about food and community?
We will address these questions and much more in this class by reading about handmade objects and mealtime culture, interviewing local residents about their relationship to food and community and making handmade pottery that is inspired by your research into these ideas. The critical thinking and problem solving skills that are regularly cultivated in a studio art class will be informed by related reading and writing assignments, and vice versa. Through this combination of traditional coursework (reading, writing, discussion) and studio projects (learning to make functional pottery), you will be able to practice your skills as an astute observer, generous collaborator and thoughtful maker. This course is based on community-engagement and collaboration, so bring your interest in cooperation and communication to make this course a success.
No previous art experience necessary.
Comic books have been a part of U.S. culture for nearly a century. They have a notorious reputation of being seen as “kids’ stuff” or “low art.” In this seminar we will take an analytical look at comics, examining them as social, historical, literary, and artistic texts that portray and critique real and serious themes.
The goal of this course is to examine the ways in which comic books and graphic novels portray gender and sexuality. We will begin by learning the language of comics through Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and move on to examine superheroes through a gender lens of hegemonic masculinity and idealized femininity. The majority of the course content will analyze gender and sexuality from different perspectives through graphic novels that may include Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, Chester Brown's Paying For It, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and Craig Thompson's Blankets.
Throughout the course we will practice writing and drawing skills so that you are prepared for the final assignment: creating a comic book of your own.
This course offers an introduction to the fields of women’s studies and art history, as well as the art history of Japan with a focus on the beautiful, as well as its opposite, the vulgar. We begin in the 7th century and proceed chronologically to contemporary Japan, examining religious objects, shrine architecture, illustrated handscrolls, large-format paintings, gardens, tea ceremony wares, manga, anime, and film. Along the way we will interrogate the societal position of women, the ways in which women are represented in art, and how concepts of beauty, as well as vulgarity, relate to both. The course investigates two themes in particular: the supernatural in all its frightening ugliness and the idealized natural, from the beautiful seasons to the beautiful people who enjoyed them.
Chicago has drawn to the shores of Lake Michigan men and women with tremendous appetites for life - for wealth, for power, for a more just society, for artistic greatness. Far more have simply sought dignity, a leg up, or a little adventure. In this deeply American metropolis, migrants from around the nation and the world have inscribed their stories on the city's streets, discovering individual identities apart from and yet fused with their fellow citizens. Through a variety of readings, we will encounter the surging ambition of politicians, the crusading impulses of reformers, the sharpened pens of poets, and the rough dreaming of Chicago characters that great writing has brought to life.
In a giant mural titled, "Arnoldo’s Brother," a Los Angeles art teacher and her students produce a vivid image of what Chela Sandoval calls a “modern day Chicano cyborg”—a boy who is a blend of humanity and technology, who acts as a witness and testifies on behalf of the Chicano communities he comes from.
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 that young people struggle to understand, 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 seminar we will explore the cyborg by looking at works of fiction, film, theory, and art that play with and explore 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, creating movement, art, and writing that challenges boundaries and wrestles with contradiction.
This seminar investigates the so-called “death of classical music” by pondering the formation and continued development of the classical music canon from the eighteenth century through the present day. These writings will introduce students to what the canon is, how it formed and continues to change, and what the current status of the classical canon is in contemporary American society. How has this repertoire historically been important to people? How has it changed? How has it been influenced by popular music? Is it still important today? Students will debate these issues in class and take positions on them in various forms of writing throughout the semester. This course does not require a background in music.
Earthquakes have been a fundamental part of human history since the dawn of hominids. In fact, earthquakes have most likely been a part of planet Earth’s history since the development of a solid crust more than 4 billion years ago. The origin of earthquakes is now well documented, but in ancient history, crustal upheavals were the germ of myth and legend. In this course we will trace the roots of human interaction and response to earthquakes, and how over milennia, modern society has come to develop the majesty of a sophisticated science that strives to understand the origin, distribution, and characteristics of earthquakes. However, the majesty of earthquake science is fraught with both historic and modern travesty at all levels - personal, familial, communal, and societal. Much of this travesty lies in the myth, metaphysical, and some would say, scientific fallacy of earthquake prediction.
We will investigate the majesty and travesty of earthquake science through readings of primary sources, texts, and popular literature. From these readings we will attempt to synthesize an understanding of the cause, distribution, characteristics, and prediction of earthquakes and perhaps begin to understand the majesty and travesty of modern earthquake science.
"Sustainability" is a popular buzzword, but exactly what is being "sustained" and how do we sustain it? We will examine "sustainable" energy production from perspectives in physical science, social science, and philosophy. We'll explore the physical limits on solar, wind, nuclear, and other energy technologies, but not in isolation. We'll also consider the sometimes-neglected relationship between use of that energy and human well-being. Do people who consume more energy live better lives? How can the ideas of ancient Greek philosophers and modern social scientists inform efforts to plan a future in which people do not merely survive, but thrive?
This seminar will explore complex ethical dilemmas through the lens of dramatic literature. From the development of the atomic bomb during WWII in Michael Frayn's award-winning play Copenhagen to the personal ethics of Neil LaBute's The Mercy Seat which takes place in the falling ash from the World Trade Center on September 12th, 2001—our texts will lead us into the profound, and often ambiguous, ethical terrain of our modern world. Other texts may include Winter's Bone (with Jennifer Lawrence), Atom Egoyan/Russell Banks’ The Sweet Hereafter, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, and the 2012 independent film, Compliance. Course work will be comprised of intensive discussion, literary analysis papers, and screenwriting, playwriting and/or performance/production assignments, culminating in a capstone project with both creative and academic components. Out-of-class seminar activities may include visits to events at the Prindle Institute for Ethics and other ethics-related events on campus, especially as pertain to the arts.
How many systems in this world need fixing? With so much that's wrong, where do we even begin? It's easy to become overwhelmed by the scope of what's broken, but it's also very possible to take small steps that add up over time to great change. In the Jewish tradition, the phrase is "tikkun olam" - the mending of the world - and it is looked at as a basic obligation. This is the space in which we will be traveling this semester: the space of thinking about - and then enacting - what it would take to repair, to mend, to fix the areas that we've identified as those in most need of fixing.
We will begin with an exploration of the ways in which the public education system, higher education, and the economy in general have been compromised by the culture of high-stakes testing. As a case study, we will be looking at The Castle, an organization that works to transform the local public school system through arts integration and collaboration among elementary, secondary, and higher education. This will form the backdrop for the second portion of the class, where you will have a chance to design solutions to problems you have identified as central to our society.
How did that broccoli make its way into your kitchen? What government policies affect food production and consumption? How does modern agriculture use energy and what effects does it have on the environment?
In this seminar we will investigate the economic and political forces that shape American and global agriculture today, consider the interactions between agriculture and environment - such as water, biodiversity, air, and soil resources - and examine the role of agriculture in feeding and fueling the growing population on our planet. We will learn from international and domestic case studies, and use site visits and interviews with local agricultural operators to inform our study. This interdisciplinary course also draws on a range of disciplines, including natural sciences, political science, to unravel complex global relationships between food, environment, economics.
Baseball is the oldest professional sport in the United States. While its origins are debated, it clearly grew out of earlier ball games played in the U.S. since colonial times. Were we to watch a game of "base ball" played in the 1840's, it would be drastically different from what we see now. Yet the game played 60 years later would look strikingly similar. That early evolution will be the first focus of the seminar. While the play of the game has been fairly constant over the last 125 years, the structure and demographic makeup of baseball has changed dramatically. We will explore those changes while keeping in mind the broader background of American history the game has reflected, from capitalism to corruption and from integration to labor conflict.
Americans are committed to happiness as one of the core values on which our nation rests—as Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, we hold as inalienable rights “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But what is happiness? How has this emotion changed over time? Can we know whether or not it has changed over time if we can’t identify exactly what it is?
This first-year seminar will look at how conceptions of happiness have changed over time from the ancient Greeks to the present day. We will discuss the problems of trying to study an emotion historically, the contradictions in the philosophical conceptions of happiness, and the breakthroughs in our psychological understandings of this transient emotion.
The Iliad and the Odyssey, two of the earliest works of Western Literature, have fascinated readers and scholars for millennia. How were they "written" and by whom? What truth is there to their depiction of the Trojan War?
In this seminar we will study the Iliad and Odyssey in detail and discuss the nature of Homeric “composition” and the question of whether there really was a poet Homer who created these epics. Along the way, we will learn about the early history of Greece and the relationship between Homeric society and Bronze Age society. We will explore the history of the excavations of Troy and other famous Bronze Age sites and study some of the ways Homer has influenced later art and literature. In particular, we will study his influence upon Virgil, the greatest of the Roman poets and the author of the Aeneid.
What is intelligence and what kinds of things can be intelligent? According to one view, intelligence is closely related to logical reasoning and humans are the only kinds of things that can be intelligent. This view is suggested in the work of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, as well as the 17th Century French philosopher Descartes. But perhaps intelligence extends more widely than this. Perhaps animals or even machines can be intelligent. Perhaps there is extraterrestrial intelligence. Perhaps groups of agents can themselves be intelligent. But then again, perhaps not. And even if there could be machine, extraterrestrial, or group intelligence, how would we know if there were?
In this class we will try to clarify these issues by looking at a variety of work from philosophy, psychology, computer science, and physics. At the end of the course we will look at some startling data that suggests that not even us humans are as intelligent as we think.
What makes a friend? What do we owe our friends? Can I be a good friend even if I'm a bad person? What's the difference between a friend and someone I love—or are they two ways of saying the same thing? When we say "I love you," what exactly do we mean? Why does sex make all this so much more complicated? Why are there so many songs about love?
As we begin our college years, these questions become especially important as we leave old friends behind, make new and different friends at school, and explore new freedom in our selves and our relationships now that we're (finally) out of our parents' house. We will explore the interwoven themes of friendship and love from philosophical, historical, literary, and sociological perspectives—with a hefty dose of popular music from across the decades! We will draw on classical philosophical accounts from, for example, Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, as well as contemporary engagements from figures such as Erich Fromm, Michel Foucault, and Andrew Sullivan. We will hone our skills as careful readers, attentive listeners and critical, self-reflective thinkers through an emphasis on writing and discussion.
Ludology is the study of games, including their forms, history, and role in contemporary culture. In his book Homo Ludens, the cultural historian Johan Huizinga argues that game play has a central role in the development of civilization. Both games and civilization itself contrive rules of order for human action, structuring experience to make life more meaningful. Play underlies religion, philosophy, literature, art, politics, and warfare. What distinguishes a game from other activities, Huizinga suggests, is the demarcation of a “magic circle,” or sacred space in which special rules apply and play occurs. Huizinga describes these play spaces as “temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart”: a temple, an arena, a stage, a card table, a backyard or a battlefield. But the magic circle is not simply a place where we divert ourselves from the more serious business of life; it is a place where we explore the rules and the meaning of life.
This seminar begins with Huizinga’s notion that games can serve as a lens for understanding civilization and culture. We will consider their distinct forms and genres and survey a range of game types, including the board and table games, sports, role-playing games, and digital games. We will consider games as a mode of public discourse, a medium for promoting religious, ethical, and political ideals. We will also consider the relation between games and literary forms such as drama, poetry, and fiction. Our reading will cover a spectrum of disciplines and will be supplemented with game play and exercises in game analysis and game design.
In this seminar we will examine how the greatest authors of the Italian tradition have written about love. We will consider questions of gender and emotions, the feminine figure and her role in the economy of love, as well as the rise of the woman’s consciousness in the twentieth century. Students will acquire vocabulary appropriate to literary analysis of poems, short stories, novels, epistolary, and diaristic writings as well as film. By evaluating the strength of a literary argument, investigating the multiple possibilities of interpretation, and by learning how to formulate hypotheses, theories, and questions that can generate debate, students will learn how to read a literary text.
C.S. Lewis claimed that our contemporary cult of romantic love was invented in the Middle Ages. What led him to this conclusion? What did people in the Middle Ages think about love and friendship, and how did they understand the relationship between individuals, communities, the cosmos as a whole, and God? In this course we will explore the theme of love and friendship in medieval literature, as we read and discuss the writings of knights and ladies, troubadours and poets, secular writers, theologians, and mystics.
In the first half of the course we will take a journey through the famous narratives of chivalry and courtly love, including short stories or “lays” that examine the relationship between romance and chivalry from a woman’s perspective, as well as two Arthurian romances, one French and one German, that recount the adventures of the knights of the Round Table and the quest for the Grail. We will then examine the love poems of the Provençal Troubadours and Trobairitz (women Troubadour poets), and Dante Alighieri’s youthful autobiography the "New Life," which gives a unique example of a fusion between courtly ideals and contemplative love. We will turn next to the reflections of a Cistercian monk on “Spiritual Friendship” (a Christian re-thinking of Cicero’s influential dialogue on friendship and virtue), and we will conclude with one of the classic works of mystical literature, "On Loving God.” Some of the questions that we will explore include how the concepts of eros, ethics, and contemplation are defined and intertwined: the conflicts they present, but also some of the surprising ways that they mix and blend.
Students will be introduced to fundamental concepts in the intellectual, literary, and religious history of the Middle Ages, and will also consider how some of our contemporary ideas and values may be shaped by a medieval heritage.
This seminar explores the influence of gender in the creation, performance, and consumption of popular, folk, and art music. We will investigate and answer questions related to these genres and traditions, including how music can reinforce or subvert cultural conceptions of gender, how "masculinity" and "femininity" affects performance tradition, and how listeners' consumption habits reflect and sustain gender stereotypes. Students will study research and writing methods while answering questions related to the intersection of music, gender and sexuality.
Music critics can be objective reporters, giving only the facts of a concert or recording as descriptively as possible. They can also be cultural gatekeepers, expressing firm opinions on what is good and what is bad. This seminar will explore what it means to be a music critic. We will critically listen to live and recorded music from classical and popular music styles and write reviews in a variety of styles. We will also locate ourselves in musical culture, writing a musical autobiography towards the beginning of the semester that will then be expanded and revised for the end of the semester.
According to one view, human beings are immortal, embodied souls with a burning desire for - as well as the capacity to attain - knowledge of unchanging, eternal truths ("the Forms"). According to another view, human beings are bipedal apes, cousins of chimpanzees and bonobos, born with minds pre-programmed by haphazard evolutionary forces. The first view is suggested by the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato; the second view emerges from contemporary cognitive science, primatology, and evolutionary psychology. Is one of these views correct? Or might the truth combine elements of both views? What are we, after all? We will approach these questions through a careful reading of some of Plato's most important dialogues as well as the work of the primatologist Frans de Waal and psychologist Steven Pinker. In addition to learning a lot about the ideas of Plato and the contemporary scientific view of humanity, we will learn something about ourselves.
Osama Bin Laden (OBL) was, perhaps, the “most wanted” and feared terrorist in American history. In the West, Bin Laden is viewed as the perpetrator of the death and destruction at “ground zero”—the man whose hatred of the West translated into an act of wonton and inexplicable violence. For much of the Muslim world, however, Bin Laden is more than just a terrorist; he is also a sign of what went wrong in relations between Islam and the West. Put simply, Bin Laden’s terror is seen as a product of and response to a long history of Western interference in, and domination of, Muslim societies, starting during the period of colonization and continuing today under the direction of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
We will use Bin Laden as a prism to examine the historical backdrop to 9/11 and cultural fallout from the event. His life and legacy will provide us with a jumping off point to explore US foreign policy in the Muslim world, the rise of Islamist radicalism, including al-Qaeda, and the validity of the clash-of-civilizations thesis. The goal of the course is not to rescue OBL or justify his actions, but rather to explore why he has come to symbolize different hopes and fears in the Muslim world and the West. Students interested in international relations, global conflict, religious movements, foreign policy, and cultural studies might consider this course.
In this seminar we will use film and fiction as mediums to help us understand key theories, issues and actors in world politics since September 11, 2001. We will examine core themes in international relations such as trust, encounters with ‘others’, the salience of both interests and identity as an explanation of conflict, peace, and globalization. We will watch films that exemplify core concepts such as the security dilemma, democratic peace, transnational networks and international norms and confront key issues such as insurgency, terrorism and development. We will examine not only the Western perspective but also works from around the world to understand dominant perspectives of international relations as well as areas of ‘silence’ or ignored questions.
Emerging from a mixture of youthful discontent, alienation, economic struggle, and a self-consciousness in art, Punk took many forms; it attracted passionate fans who formed a subculture and it scared a great many others—mostly older generations. This course will focus on Punk—the music, fashion, and culture—and examine some of the ways that subsequent music—sometimes called New Wave, Post-Punk, or today, Alternative or Indie Rock—grew out of it. Our main focus will be Punk as it developed in England and New York in the late 1970s. We will listen to music, read a variety of both scholarly and popular discussions of the era, and focus on how to write by way of Punk as our main subject matter.
This seminar will primarily address the period between 1954 and 1970, broadly encompassing the Civil Rights Movement. We will address the rhetoric that emerged from the period through speeches, propaganda, editorial writing, and symbolic activity such as protests. We will begin with a brief long-scale examination of the race in the United States, with primary textual examination of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. We will engage the work of people like Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as lesser known figures in the movement. We will dwell on both "great event" moments such as the murder of Emmett Till, the Birmingham bus boycott, the 1963 march on Washington, and Selma but also less popularly known events like the emergence of black voting blocs and the Black Panther Party. We will engage with troublesome literature that was part of the segregationist/Jim Crow strategy to maintain oppression in both the South and the North. In addition we will view historic video of the era that will contextualize the struggle for civil rights. Students will be expected to develop a sense of how the arguments for civil rights were framed to address audiences that were often unsympathetic or uncaring about civil rights. A weekend field trip to Memphis, TN is planned for the first weekend of fall break.
Often compared to the legends and romances surrounding King Arthur, the classical Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms has provided ideas, images, and plots for poets, novelists, playwrights, and, in our own time, for Hollywood screenwriters and video game developers.
In this seminar, we will explore this classic Chinese "Romance" (not as a love story, but, in the medieval sense, as a narrative treatment of the heroic, the fantastic, and even the supernatural), learning along the way about the elements of Chinese fiction, ways of reading a Chinese novel, Confucian and Taoist ethics, military strategies, and the tremendous influence Romance of the Three Kingdoms has in the minds of the Chinese people. We will also consider other literary genres that grew out of the novel, such as operas, films, television series, and video games. You will gain insights into Chinese culture and understand certain cultural icons, values, and customs that are directly related to the stories of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
Will gamma radiation make you big and green when you're angry? Can Batman fight a dozen opponents at once? What is “the proportionate strength of a spider" or "spider-sense"? How fast do you need to be to outrun a bullet, and what would happen if you tried? Do human mutants exist and are they the next stage in our evolutionary process?
In this seminar, we will view popular super-heroes and villains through a critical scientific framework to learn where their powers are based in science and where they are pure fantasy. Through examination of origin stories and storylines, we will also look at the culture of science, how super-hero origins have changed, and how this reflects popular conceptions and fears about science, radiation, mutation, cloning, and genetic engineering. We will investigate how super-heroes are “reborn” with new origin stories that reflect changing views of science and learn about real life super-powers in people and in the animal kingdom.
This seminar will focus on several broadly defined subject areas in the sciences: perception, medicine, the environment, and the cosmos. We will read nonfiction essays and book-length studies about the senses, botany, genetics, environmental degradation, the practice of surgery, the ethics of research, and the beginnings of the universe.
As we study our core readings, you will have a chance to practice two kinds of writing: critical analysis of texts and science writing of your own. Some of your papers will explore how science writers organize their material and how they convey complex ideas so that these ideas can be understood by a wide audience of readers. In other writing projects you will explore issues in science, using our readings as models as you attempt to convey ideas to nonspecialists - to readers fascinated by science but not themselves engaged in laboratory projects, field research, or medical practice.
Readings for the course will include books by Alan Lightman, Rebecca Skloot, Atul Gawande, and Michael Pollan, and essays from contemporary scientific journals and popular magazines.
Have you ever had trouble deciding whether to push or pull to open a door? Or finding out how to use some feature in a software system? Or figuring out how to turn on the windshield wipers in a car? These are some of the problems people face when they use everyday objects. Typically, when people have such difficulties, they assume that they are the ones who are "technologically challenged"; however, experts in human factors research and computer usability testing maintain that these problems are caused by designs that do not take into account how people naturally interact with their environment.
This interdisciplinary course will explore the design issues that surround everyday objects (both low-tech and high-tech), including what makes a good or a bad design, how to analyze and develop design principles, and what aspects of human psychology need to be taken into account to produce well-designed objects. We will also consider issues related to designing objects for people who come from different cultures, the constraints faced by design engineers, and accidents that are caused by poor design. In addition we will discuss how designers can take into account the environmental impacts of the objects we use so that we can reuse and recycle rather than putting them in landfills.
Shakespeare is part of our world, not just the world of the seventeenth century, but the world of the twenty-first century as well. In this seminar we will look closely at six or seven plays of Shakespeare, focusing not just on their original versions but on the recent wild and crazy versions as well. The list of the plays and adaptations will likely include pairings such as Twelfth Night and "She's the Man," Taming of the Shrew and "Ten Things I Hate about You" and others. We will also screen the BBC series "Shakespeare Retold" which includes several modern versions of classic Shakespeare stories. We will approach all these "re-tellings" with a critical eye toward what has changed and what is new. Throughout the semester all of us will be searching for references to Shakespeare in our twenty-first century world. We will be on the alert for poems, songs, and stories which re-invent Shakespeare's plays and poetry. The semester will finish with creative projects reflecting our own vision of these great plays.
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.
Achilles, Odysseus, Agamemnon, Aeneas. The names of these heroes evoke tales of a glorious past. The Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid are masterpieces that stretch back to the beginnings of the Western literary tradition. The works of Homer and Vergil rank among the greatest texts ever composed or written and formed the basis of education for centuries. Ancient epic profoundly explores the human condition, the meaning and purpose of life, and the human condition of mortality, the certainty that one day you will die. In addition to Homer and Vergil, we will read the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh and selections from Hesiod, Ovid, and the ancient Indian epic, the Mahbharata. We will focus on close readings of ancient texts in translation and hold constructive discussions of the main problems raised in the ancient texts in an effort to develop critical thinking skills. The topics explored in the course include the warrior ethic, heroic friendship, oral vs. literate poetry, the social function of epic, the historicity of epic, myth and epic, and the changing nature of heroism. We will also consider what makes a literary work a classic while being mindful of the heritage of classical epic in the modern world. Students will gain a thorough understanding of this genre that is so foundational and important for Western Civilization.
The relationship between humans and technology/machines is a common trope embedded in many of our cultural narratives, yet it is a trope that is often "ad hoc" and fragmented. This seminar is designed to bring several different variants of this trope together into one course of study. It is important to note that this is not just a course of study that examines the human v. machine dichotomy. Indeed, as we will learn, technology (techne logos) is more than just a simple machine, it is a way of thinking. What is at stake in this struggle is nothing less than a battle to control the human body and mind.
Too often the consideration of science within the public sphere fails to draw a necessary distinction between the process of science as means for understanding the world, and the application of science to the crafting of public policy that addresses societal concerns. Consider, for example, climate change. The science of climate change is clear: we know the earth is warming and we know human activity is a significant factor in this warming. Whether climate change is a societal problem demanding our attention is a question of public policy. Although science may help inform the public’s discussion of policies that address climate change, so, too, will considerations of economics, international politics, and social justice.
During the course students will explore science as a process for understanding the world. Among the topics we will explore are the scientific method, including making observations of natural phenomena, proposing explanations for those observations, and testing these explanations. In the process, we will discuss the need for carefully designing experiments and the limits of science. We also will explore the scientist as citizen, considering, for example, ethics and science, and science as community.
The land has long been the subject of artists, poets, scientists and philosophers. This interdisciplinary seminar will introduce you to the creative and conceptual use of writing and visual media in response to walking, exploring, learning and reflecting upon the unique aspects of DePauw University's Nature Park environment. We will explore how viewing nature through different lenses (ecological systems, environmental issues and philosophies, local flora, fauna, history, and geology) continues to impact the scope of creative interpretation.
Research and creative projects will include a field trip to the Eiteljorg Museum or the Indianapolis Museum of Art, library orientation, readings, films, discussion, a group project and presentation, along with camping, wading, fossil hunting, and self-directed exploration toward the end of creating informed visual and written interpretations of place. Additionally, this seminar will provide you with temporal and conceptual space for independent analysis, reflection, and contemplation as an essential part of the creative process. This semester-long process will be documented by incorporating field and lecture notes, written reflections, visual ideas and sketches in a sketchbook/journal.
When you hear the phrase, "women's work," what do you think of? When you picture "the working woman," "the woman worker," who do you see?
This seminar will examine women's paid and unpaid labor, in public and private spheres. How has it changed through history? What different meanings can work have for women of different social classes and races, and in different parts of the world? How is the work women do changing in contemporary societies? In this seminar you’ll have a chance to explore these issues through personal reflective essays, learn research methods like interviewing and observation, analyze and apply economic and anthropological theories, and work out your own position.
The Internet has transformed and continues to transform all our lives. Though the Internet has its origins in the 1960s – the first four nodes of ARPAnet went live in 1969 – it didn’t become a cultural phenomenon until the World Wide Web came onto the scene in the mid-1990s, around the time most members of the Class of 2017 were born.
People who study cultural transformation try to identify the point at which a new technology becomes “ubiquitous” – the point at which it seems to be everywhere at the same time. In this seminar, we’ll be studying how the Internet became ubiquitous and how it has changed how we communicate and especially how we write. It is ironic, perhaps, that we’ll be writing traditional essays with main ideas and arguments supported by evidence about something that has and is changing this tradition so radically. But we will see how many of the new tools available to the writer can be used to enhance written expression.
In the first part of this seminar, we will learn about the fundamentals of the Internet. This is not a computer science course but we will be learning about three big steps in the Internet’s development: Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), online transaction processing (OLTP), and the Google search algorithm. The second part of the course will be devoted to studies of particular themes, such as the hacker in literature and film or the use of big data analysis in consumer profiling.
Lock-Up. Shawshank Redemption. Prison Break. Oz. America’s Hardest Prisons. The Prisoners. Seemingly, Americans have an obsession with the “reality” of prison life. But how accurate and representative are media depictions that we access from our laptops? This seminar will explore this question by analyzing what convicts actually say about their experiences. We will do this by reading, writing about, and discussing contemporary writings of prisoners. After considering various forms of prison writing and the reasons why prisoners write, we will compare their stories to the picture painted about prison by those on the outside. Along the way, we will pause to tour a prison or two, interview a convict author, and hear from anti-prison activists about their work.