Fall 2018 Honors Seminars
Ruin and Re-begetting
HONR 101A: First Year Seminar
Our study of the imagery of ruin and re-begetting will allow us to explore a triple theme--creation, destruction, and re-creation--and to consider how language conveys the human attempt to counter fragmentation, chaos, or oblivion. Reading works by Plato, Shakespeare, Donne, Woolf, Faulkner, Kingsolver, and others, we will explore the longing to triumph over transience, destruction, and death. I hope that throughout this semester you will find that words matter--not only in the texts you read, but also in your own writing--and that as you hone an argument and polish your prose, you will take pleasure in your own creations.
The Black Female Body Before Beyoncé
HONR 101B: First Year Seminar
Following the drop of Beyoncé’s “Formation” video New York Times Magazine writer Jenna Wortham asserted the Lemonade album as a whole, cogently explores themes such as “capitalism, ignoring haters, black beauty, racial pride and family.” Indeed, Beyoncé’s oeuvre, particularly in the last decade, has increasingly merged the private with the public, the cultural with the political. Central to Beyoncé’s power as an entertainer and cultural icon is her strategic use and representation of her body. Yet Beyoncé’s space in the American cultural landscape reflects the long tradition of reading black women’s bodies as a site where discourses about identity, race, sexuality, oppression, power, and agency take place. This course examines representations of black female bodies by American artists, writers, and filmmakers. By critically reading the ways that categories of difference and identity have been inscribed onto the black female body, course texts and discussions will pay particular to popular renderings of racialized, gendered, sexualized, and classed bodies in literature, film, drama, and other visual media, including photography, sculpture, and painting. Course texts include Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Suzan-Lori Parks’ Venus Hottentot, Kara Walker’s black and white silhouettes, Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, and Beyoncé’s Lemonade, to name a few.
Globalization and the Post-American World
HONR 101C: First Year Seminar
The collapse of the Soviet Union brought an end to the Cold War (1945-1990) and a shift from a bipolar to a unipolar world order, with the United States at the apex of economic and political power. Over the course of two short decades (1990-2012), however, the so-called “rise of the rest,” especially China, and American foreign policy missteps have given rise to a new multipolar world, one sometimes labeled the “post-American” era. In this course, we will examine 1) the global forces that have led to this new state of world affairs; and 2) the long-term impact on America’s capacity to effectively implement hard (coercion through economic or military means) and soft (persuading without coercion) power in international relations, and to maintain its economic, social, and political stability at home. We will map out the structural and lived realities of the post-American world by drawing on a diverse range of readings: political science, economics, international relations, sociology, memoir, and literature. The topics covered in this class will appeal to anyone interested in the forces shaping the convergent experiences of what it means to be modern in our globalizing world.
The Making of the Modern Mind
HONR 101D: First Year Seminar
The medieval world was filled with witches, angels, and absolute rulers who justified their authority through religion. Superstition and irrationality reigned supreme. The modern world, by way of contrast, looks to science, evidence, and reason to explain the natural world that surrounds us and to fashion our approach to the pressing political questions of the day, or so, until recently, we liked to think. The seventeenth century was the fulcrum marking the change from the medieval to the modern world view, a century where all previous beliefs were challenged and the groundwork laid for their eventual displacement by new touchstones which would become the centerpiece of the Western worldview—superstition, irrationality, and reliance on religion replaced with skepticism, empiricism, and the reliance on reason.
Through a close reading of the seminal works of seventeenth-century political theorists, scientists, and philosophers, thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton, we will study the new intellectual approach to the world that they created. What characteristics did these thinkers share in their works? How did they challenge the norms and beliefs of their day? What ideas in their seventeenth-century writings can we find in our own intellectual lives?
After reading these foundational works, we will then read contemporary case studies that question how much the thought processes which we think are foundational to the modern Western world view actually guide us in our thinking. Do we really assess all the evidence and make our conclusions from the facts alone, whether in science or politics? How do we actually decide what to believe? Are we really so different, mentally, from medieval thinkers?
The Cyborg and the Trickster: The Human Educational Machine
HONR 101E: First Year Seminar
In a giant mural titled Arnoldo’s brother, Judy Baca, a Los Angeles art teacher and her students produce a vivid image of what Sandoval and Latorre (2008) call 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.
Interdisciplinary AREA Seminars
The Art of Living Dangerously
HONR 300Aa: Humanities
Beth Benedix and Howard Pollack-Milgate
“For believe me! — the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is: to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas! Live at war with your peers and yourselves! Be robbers and conquerors as long as you cannot be rulers and possessors, you seekers of knowledge! Soon the age will be past when you could be content to live hidden in forests like shy deer! At long last the search for knowledge will reach out for its due: — it will want to rule and possess, and you with it!”
--Nietzsche, The Gay Science
Yes! Nietzsche's exclamation will serve as our jumping-off point for this team-taught course that explores a range of proposed ideas for what it means to "live dangerously." In the midst of a world that has seemingly become all-too-dangerous, the writers and thinkers and artists we encounter will help us to navigate the every day, marshall our strength, and live life as a risk-taking work of art.
Ethics and International Relations
HONR 300Ab: Humanities
In an increasingly globalized world, international policies and relations have become ever more important and complicated. While the significance of political, economic, and military factors is obvious, the ethical dimensions and implications of international relations are just as vital, and often ignored in policy discussions and debates. This course will explore the ethical and philosophical dimensions of international policy discussions with the aim of adding philosophical and ethical perspectives to those debates. The course will explore the critical issues that are topics of concern for the United Nations. A significant outcome of coursework will be outreach and service-oriented, and will extend our reach beyond the DePauw classroom. We will work to develop content expertise on the cases that will be discussed at the annual National Model United Nations Conference that is held every March in New York City. Class projects will develop resources for the participants in this conference, and develop strategies to provide conference participants with resources to think about their cases. There may be an opportunity to attend (at no cost to you) the New York conference in March the following semester.
Evolution and Human Nature
HONR 300B: Science
The Philosopher Daniel Dennett once called evolution “the single best idea anyone ever had.” If this claim has any merit, then surely evolutionary perspectives can shed light on important questions about human nature in general, and issues like cooperation, aggression, sex and gender, aesthetics, emotion, cognition, moral judgments, and environmental concerns in particular. We will look at current and historical attempts to develop scientific accounts of human nature, and examine their strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. The course offers an opportunity to explore how the “single best idea anyone ever had” can be applied to human nature and important contemporary concerns.
The Discovery Process In Science and Mathematics
UNIV 150 A & B: Serves as credit for HONR 300B: Science
Faculty from Science and Math Departments
This course introduces students to multiple scientific disciplinary perspectives in the context of exciting discoveries in science and their impacts. The course has multiple modules taught by different faculty members from at least three different science and math departments. Each module examines a disciplinary approach to hypotheses, data collection, and interpretation so students can experience and understand the discovery process. Faculty members coordinate transitions between these modules as well as assessment across modules, and students compare and contrast the disciplinary approaches to gain a more sophisticated understanding of how science is conducted in different fields. The course also emphasizes the relevance of the discoveries to students' lives.
Law and Economics
HONR 300Ca: Social Science
This course revolves around Posner's claim that "the common law bears the stamp of economic reasoning." We will evaluate to what extent the "economic way of thinking" explains legal rules in property rights, torts, and contract law. We will cover concepts such as the Coase Theorem and discuss how economics has expanded into legal theory and law schools. Each student will participate in a moot court reenactment of a constitutional law case.
God at War and Peace
HONR 300Cb: Social Science
Religion can be a call to war and an inspiration for peace. Religion is also the source of most of the world's moral norms about peace and forgiveness, (for good and for ill), and has been an important root for positive social change and nonviolence, through, for instance, the deeply faith-based work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi. As you might guess, religion can be one of the more powerful influences in conflict. In fact, some argue that religion is so often used as an excuse for violence and hatred that ending all religions would significantly reduce incidences of war (Richard Dawkins). Others, however, argue that religion may also be the best way to resolve or respond to some of the deepest and most troubling conflicts of our time. For instance, R. Scott Appleby says that "the parts of Islam and Christianity that speak for openness, diversity, and unity have been ‘a woefully underdeveloped resource in conflict resolution in general.’ ”
The class will explore the underlying questions shaping these debates, including how religious identity, theology, psychology, and religious moral norms are influencing current conflicts, both as a source of inner guidance, and as ideological tools for hegemonic dominance. We will examine various explanations for how religion is being used as a source of division, and why and how that succeeds. The risk or danger is that with increasing success, selective religious interpretations are being used to escalate conflict with a goal of creating new, theocratic regimes and movements.
The positive potential, however, can be seen in social change movements like Engaged Buddhism, which motivated Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist Struggle Movement in Vietnam. We will also investigate how faith is used to support conflict transformation, through preventive diplomacy, education and training, or through withdrawing or providing legitimacy for a government or other legal structures.
We will be reviewing different literatures including Sociology and Psychology, as well as the Religious Peacebuilding literature, and examine different religious traditions and case studies regarding faith and peace and war. We will also examine the claims that science and technology can also be seen as a kind of faith, raising questions about what faith really is and how it affects peace and war. Further, we will connect different kinds of outcomes (stasis, war, negative peace, positive peace) with these differing uses of religion, and discuss how the underlying dynamics fueling destructive conflict can be shifted. One primary example we will study in-depth is the experience of Ed Husain, who came from a democratic, pluralist British background and was drawn into the Islamist movement, eventually becoming one of Britain’s most important student militant leaders, before becoming disillusioned, searching for God, and becoming a voice for peace.