Spring 2017 Topics
Seminar topics are subject to change every term.
The Search for the Self explores what we mean by a "self." How do we recognize or create one; maintain or develop it through changing time, space, and circumstance; and communicate it to others through our interactions with them and our environment? We will explore these questions and others from many disciplinary perspectives, including philosophy, sociology, psychology, literature, and neuroscience.
In a letter Isaac Newton informed Robert Hooke, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” In a letter Pete Docter, award winning director of Monsters, Inc. and Up, admitted “our [Pixar] films don’t get finished, they just get released.” In a letter Clementine Churchill confessed to her “darling Winston” that “I have noticed a deterioration in your manner; & you are not so kind as you used to be.” This course focuses on how to interpret, craft, and explore the world of letters and ourselves.
This course will combine intellectual and social history, philosophy, and literature, of the period from the eighteenth century to the present. Our focus will be on the extended crisis of faith inaugurated in the West by the Enlightenment, and its ramifications and reflections in literature over succeeding generations. We begin with an essay that presents a poetic version of the philosophical optimism that dominated much of the 17th and early 18th centuries. Pope?s sanguine assessment of the human condition, his unwillingness to recognize impediments to blithe optimism and unbounded faith, are an invitation to the cynical indictments of unreflective belief that will soon ensue.
This course will consider how philosophers, novelists, social reformers, economists, and ordinary people have understood, promoted, opposed, and sought to reform capitalism since the eighteenth century. Focused on the history of the United States, the course will encourage students to think about the social and political implications of capitalist and anti-capitalist ideologies. Readings will examine inequality, work, gender roles, and class and racial hierarchies in the past and today. Authors include Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Franklin Roosevelt, Milton Friedman, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Thomas Piketty.
In this course, students will learn that journalists don't just report the news, they often have a responsibility to tell stories that inspire social change. This course explores the role and power of journalism in identifying social problems and uncovering ways to resolve them.
Rhodes, Mark CRN: 16693, 16694 This course will examine the visual art, poetry and music connected to or inspired by three important and influential world contemplative religious traditions. Though there are, at some levels, enormous differences between Zen, Sufism and Mystical Christianity, there are also surprising similarities in the aims, methods, approaches, and most importantly, the language used by great practitioners of these traditions. We will study a selection of primary texts, and since these texts explore religion at an esoteric level, they are very challenging.
In this class we will be looking at court cases and media coverage of crimes that have become flashpoints in American history?the foci for popular, political and scholarly discussions about what constitutes a crime and what social meanings the event has, as a way of discussing what it can teach us about race, gender, power and class in America. We will also be examining popular fiction and film as way of asking why crime entertains us?and what these entertainments suggest about our cultural obsessions. Texts will include detective novels, graphic novels, films, and cultural criticism.
This course explores the relations between "democracy" and "education." Our primary course texts will be media coverage of present day events--school closures, the Opt Out movement, student protest related to Black Lives Matter etc.-- and classic texts in the philosophy of education by Plato, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Dewey, and Paulo Freire. Special emphasis will be placed on exploring the function and history of the "school to prison pipeline." Students enrolled in the FYS will also complete a minimum of 10 hours of volunteer work in a Richmond school that partners with the Bonner Center's "Built It" program, and will keep journals that interpret what they see in schools in relation to course readings. The capstone project in the course will be group presentations on topics of the group's choosing that explore particular events or topics related to the course's themes. Rather than present "about" democrac! y and education, this project challenges students to enact the relation, designing a lesson that democratically teaches their chosen content. A substantial portion of the grade for this class comes from group projects and papers.
The course will focus on the relation between activism and media in the 1960s. Activists turned to a variety of cultural forms - film, photography, underground press and TV - to build their communities, highlight social injustice, and argue for social change. How did corporate media including Hollywood and the major networks represent activism? How did activists represent themselves and for what ends?
Through the reading of plays and discussion of performance theory in opposition to film and TV, the course provides an historical and cultural framework to understanding such social movements as #blacklivesmatter, or the man sitting with the confederate flag outside of the museum every Saturday. We will read plays from ancient Greece and, in some cases, their reperforomacne in modern contexts, alongside our screening of a movie or two. We will visit local theaters on at least 3 Friday evenings to emphasize our distinction between, on the one hand, life and live performance - and their happy or unhappy accidents - and, on the other, the artful perfection of texts and films. Oedipus the King. Oleanna. Othello. Medea. Antigone. Which character is most like you?
- The student will learn about the history of schooling and education in America.
- The student will be able to analyze the interaction of citizenship and democracy through American education.
- The student should have an enhanced understanding of the concepts and practices of education in a pluralistic and diverse society.
- The student will understand the relationship between school reform and education policy.
- The student should be familiar with the kinds of questions asked by education scholars, policy makers and practitioners.
- The student will examine the importance of schooling in the global marketplace.
This class will focus on how we engage with contemporary art and how we express that engagement, as well as considering what types of art could be described as engaging. Students will learn about and practice different methods of interacting with art, explore different ways of verbally responding to and writing about art, and begin examining how others, specifically critics, historians, and artists, also express their own viewpoints, biases, and insights. As much as possible, students will encounter art in person, utilizing the University Museums? collections, as well as field trips to other museums, galleries, and individual artists? studios. During this class we will ask the following questions: ? What preconceived ideas do we bring with us when we engage with art? ? How can we recognize these ideas as biases or trained responses and either capitalize upon them or challenge them? ? How can we recognize similar agendas or insightful responses in how others, such as critics, curators, historians, and artists, describe their encounters with art? ? How can we express our thoughts and reactions to art in ways that acknowledge these approaches?
We?ll ponder several critical thinking-rich questions in our innovation journey. How do entrepreneurs and innovators with ?unceasing drive and incentive to innovate? create breakthrough ideas that meet the test of the marketplace? How do they commercialize revolutionary inventions and innovations? Why is the nation of Israel itself a role model of a start-up company? Why do nations like the U.S. and Israel have such large, vibrant, small-business start-up cultures? Why does it appear that ?rustbelt? cities are the emerging hotspots of global innovation? Why is economic power dramatically shifting from the producer-in-control to the customer-in-control, and how might that drive innovation and disrupt virtually every industry?
The course will be a critical examination of the main ideas that underlay the expansion, first of Europe into the New World (notably Africa), and then nowadays of China and India into Africa. It will examine the nature of subsequent relationships that resulted from these encounters. The course will look at these ideas as they evolved from the ideals of the Renaissance (humanism) to the conceptual alterations or pushback they led to in the 19th, the 20th and especially the 21st centuries with the rise of new power centers in Asia. The course will start with Montaigne?s ?Of cannibals,? a discourse that ran counter to the main episteme upon which Western society functioned and acted in this endeavor of global explorations. The subsequent texts will be read as arguments between two camps pitting, on the one hand, Europe or Asia as the initiator of the direction of the encounter, on the other hand, a more cautious approach advocated on the ground of ideals of! equality and inclusiveness piloted by the performance on the ground. Mandela?s South Africa will serve as a practical test case.
The decade begins with the first live televised debates between U.S. Presidential candidates. But this election would unleash a decade of turbulence in all facets of American life that made some in this country long for the not too distant past when enemies were clearly delineated and children were, indeed, seen but not heard. Woodstock, Vietnam, assassinations, the Beatles and assorted acronyms like ARPANET, NET, NOW, SNCC, and SDS would become part of the cultural lexicon. And through it all Americans flocked to the movies. But was movie popularity only fueled by the need to escape the unsettled world, as it was presented on television, or were the films of the 1960's a means by which people could somehow deal with the upheavals in their lives?
This seminar will examine the Constitutional Convention of 1787; the ratification debates; and the adoption of the Bill of Rights.
This course examines the theme and role of friendship in Early Modern European culture, especially in Renaissance Italy, and the way in which friendship informed and inspired intellectual and artistic collaboration and conviviality. Texts from both Greek and Roman antiquity and the European Renaissance on the value of friendship as a source of love, solace, inspiration and delight form the core of the readings, as will works of art that represent collaborations between artists, poets and humanists. Based in conversation, this course in turn considers how conversation between friends, both serious and comical, inspired artistic and scholarly activities.
Students will be introduced to a spectrum of cultural constructions of sexuality, gain awareness of varying ranges of values associated with sexuality in different cultural worlds, and become aware of multiple interpretive lenses through which sexuality can be viewed.
This course examines how societal problems are defined, how different policy solutions are crafted, and the ways in which we judge their effectiveness in the U.S. and around the world. As the art of political decision-making, public policy reflects the reality that: (1) penalties and incentives (?sticks and carrots?) are what primarily drive modern life; (2) information, who has how much of it and when, is key to structuring effective penalties and incentives; and that (3) thinking analytically and empirically, knowing what to measure and how to measure it, is as important as thinking morally. Morality, in so many words, represents the ideal way that people want (usually others) to behave. Public policy?influenced by economics, psychology, philosophy, politics, culture, tradition, and religion?reflects essentially the same aspiration, but is based on the way people actually behave. Also, personal opinions are helpful, but operate better as starting points for creating testable theories and arguments about what the best policies are for, say: improving education, strengthening national security, lowering unemployment, increasing health, expanding employment, decreasing poverty, protecting the environment, preventing crime, and consuming limited resources. In its purest form, the goal of any public policy is to make life better for as many people as possible. What makes public policy so challenging and interesting, though, is that people disagree over what constitutes things such as equality, fairness, effectiveness, and causation.
This course is both a first year seminar and one of the Tocqueville seminars focused on studying the U.S. from a comparative or international perspective. The United States has a more limited and targeted welfare state than most other wealthy, industrialized countries and has stood out as the only country among its peers without universal access to health care coverage. This course will look at the differences in health care policy and politics between the U.S. and countries such as Canada, Japan, and those of Western Europe. It will cover the comparative historical development of various health care systems and the relative role of the private sector and the government in providing, paying for, and regulating access to health care. It will also look at how recent health care reforms in the U.S. compare with the policies developed in other countries and how various political forces such as organized labor, doctors? organizations, and legislative institutions shape policy.
This seminar explores the centrality of the domestic slave trade to the culture and economy of the American South and the U.S. as a whole during the nineteenth century. It also considers the contemporary relevance of the history of the slave trade from two angles: the increasingly prominent, sometimes divisive topic of memorializing the slave trade, especially in Richmond, and the continuities and discontinuities of the trade with twenty? first-century human trafficking.
There are many lenses through which to analyze the human experience. In this seminar, we will examine knowing on the one hand, and various ways of choosing in the face of adversity and uncertainty on the other, as these concepts play out in selected literary and environmental texts.
The 2008 global economic crisis was potentially the worst macroeconomic event in 80 years. We will try to understand its multiple causes, specifically whether it was the result of random events, systematic market or regulatory failings, moral failures, or some other cause or causes. Addressing this question is important if we are to learn from the calamity. Students from all backgrounds are welcome in the course, even those brand new to economics. We will use primary texts and Socratic dialogue to address related and controversial questions such as ?Does the market always self-correct?? ?Is unemployment voluntary?? ?Is greed good?? ?How does the invisible hand work?? Early readings emphasize the work of Adam Smith, considered the founder of modern economics and the most famous user of the phrase ?the invisible hand? of the market. Smith?s meaning is different from modern usage, and provides an important perspective on the economic collapse.
This course will emphasize writing and arguing mathematics. Contrary to popular misconceptions, mathematics is not about computing but about struggling with abstract mathematical concepts and arguing as to what makes them true. The venue for this will be a selection of fascinating abstract mathematical topics from Greek antiquity to the Millennium problems such as: infinity of the primes, bisecting and trisecting angles, Euler's characterization of polyhedral solids, regular polyhedral solids, Fermat's last theorem, the four and five color problems, set theory, notions of infinity, and Goodstein's theorem. We will also discuss questions such as (i) Are mathematical concepts invented or do they already exist and we just discover them? (ii) Who has the burden of proof in a mathematical argument, the author or the reader? (iii) Are some proofs better than others? (iv) Do computer calculations give a satisfying mathematical argument? How do we know the computer was programmed correctly? (v) Does mathematics need to be practical? Since this course emphasizes mathematical writing and arguing, and will not depend on any prior knowledge of calculus or statistics, it will be open to all first-year students.
This course explores accounts from history, literature, and science about ways animals have improved our lives by protecting us, working for us, and serving us as sources of comfort, recreation, and entertainment. It also examines the problems and conflicts that can arise with reference to our responsibilities to animals (e.g. in terms of their rights, their welfare, and their health). Our study will be guided by questions such as the following: What do we know about animal nature and intelligence and how do we know what we know? What do we get from our relationships with animals? What are the relative influences of training, instinct, and intelligence upon animal behavior? What are the implications of this knowledge for our relationships--both with animals and each other?
What are we to make of the sentence "I am lying now" or the possibility that there is an infinite amount of stuff in the universe or that if backward time travel were possible, it seems you could prevent your father from ever meeting your mother? This course will explore potential solutions to these conundrums and the methodology of producing solutions. Other problems tackled may include puzzles concerning reference, ambiguity, infinity, causation, freedom, reasoning, and probability.
This course is an in depth analytical look at the various socioeconomic, cultural, racial, musical, artistic, and historical dynamics that have had a hand in the creation, imagery, and performance of Rio de Janeiro?s "carnaval". Through critical readings of various texts (investigative journalism, fiction, film, historical analysis, etc.) the course explores the image of Brazil ?specifically Rio de Janeiro- as a place of ?perpetual? revelry, taking the often violent socioeconomic processes it has undergone, and still struggles with, as a starting point to study and understand the complex fusion of factors that produce one of the most massive cultural performances in the world.
In this course, we will study the history of civil rights in Richmond, visit several Richmond museums and library special collections), gather materials and then curate a digital exhibition centered around an aspect of this important story. The exhibition we make will become an important part of the permanent digital archive, The Fight for Knowledge: Education and Civil Right in Richmond, VA. As a culmination of the course, we will be joining faculty and students from Syracuse University and VCU to create a pop-up archive based on our walking tours of Monument Avenue and the Richmond Slave Trail.
Hugh West CRN: 16182 An investigation of the meaning of, relationship between, and practical value of two prominent, but apparently contradictory precepts of Western moral thought: one which asks us to realize our fullest potential as unique individuals; another which commands us to sacrifice ourselves to some greater good. To achieve this we will (except for the Greeks, where the procedure is reversed) follow a pattern of reading a theoretical statement on one side of the other of the question, then following it with consideration of works, mostly fictional, that test the applicability of such principles to life. Authors to be considered will include Homer, St. Paul, Goethe, J.S. Mill, and Camus.
Students will explore five important topics in American history from an economic perspective while reading associated classic American novels. Our subjects will include: the gold standard, immigration, technology and regulation, the Great Depression, and discrimination and civil rights. Our books will include: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, My Antonia, The Jungle, Grapes of Wrath, Black Boy, and The Warmth of Other Suns. This course would be an especially good complement to students taking Principles of Macroeconomics.
St. Petersburg, the Myth and the City in Literature, Painting, and Music? is a cultural study of the germination of beauty in the form of a city, its architecture, landscape and natural environment, the various expressions of which in literature painting, and music articulate not merely Russian aspirations, questions and dilemmas, but also particularly and fundamentally human ones. To Russians, St. Petersburg is much more than just another pretty face. The city lives and breathes the spirit of what makes them and us who we are. Exploring the differences between the myth and reality of Petersburg through the arts locates us in the very place where those differences are born and find expression in the metalanguages of literature, music, and painting. The very process of mythmaking as an alternate reality is where we discover ourselves, our highest aspirations and our darkest fears and the beauty of both.
This course will ask students to think about and investigate scholars and scholarship. We will explore scholarship in the digital age, as well as question what it means to be a scholar. Where does new knowledge come from? What is an academic conversation? How are writing and research distinguished across the disciplines? By examining differences and similarities across disciplines, we will take a broad look at the education, research and commitment required for sustained scholarship and read examples of scholars' work, as well as memoirs and autobiographies by scholars that provide narratives of their research lives.
Historian Jacquelyn Dowd Hall contended, ??remembrance is always a form of forgetting, and the dominant narrative of the civil rights movement? distorts and suppresses as much as it reveals?. Mid-20th century social movements not only repudiated de jure and de facto segregation, organizers sought to raise minorities' standard of living (as the New Deal had for many white Americans). In time, the American civil rights movement instigated a culture of rights that changed the relationship between Americans and the state. Civil rights legislation not only protected African Americans, but also America?s women, impoverished, mentally ill, and physical challenged. Yet, we attribute the movement and subsequent civil rights legislation to a handful of activists and policymakers. This course utilizes contemporary literature from the mid-20th century and recent historical scholarship to question the civil rights movement's chronology, organizational strategies, and outcomes. Ultimately, we will interrogate how popular assumptions about the movement have distorted our understanding of civil rights leadership.
Taking it to the Streets will examine a variety of old and new media technologies. It will review the resources available to public scholars for taking an informative and enlightening message to the general public. The course will elucidate ways in which the humanities will help students master the traditional tools of research and turn them to their advantage for intergenerational education. They will craft accessible messages for a non-academic audience and then deliver them as research dossiers and oral presentations.
What do fantastical stories of heroes and lovers, travelers and monsters tell us about Antiquity and the Middle Ages? This seminar challenges students to consider the meanings of "history", "fact", "fiction", "literature" when using parts or all of the following texts: Gilgamesh, Virgil's Aeneid, Beowulf, The Song of Roland, the Arthurian Romances of Cr?tien de Troyes, and Dante's Inferno. A central question will be how historians can use narratives to understand the cultures we study. In essence, the course introduces students to the power of imagination to shape the past and the present, and asks students to consider how their understanding of the past has been and is being constructed.
Paris is one of the most idealized and romanticized cities in the world. Even for those who have never visited, Paris easily conjures recognizable images and reliable stereotypes, from the Eiffel Tower to the Arch of Triumph, and from famous fashion houses to the typical Parisian cafe. In this course, we will challenge this first clich?d version of Paris by contrasting it with another version: Paris as the space of political unrest, social conflict, and protest. Through literary texts, film, newspaper articles, historical documentation, and essays, we will explore the long history of the double life of Paris.
This course is a historical and critical interpretation of how maps aided and complicated America's rise to international power. The processes, production, display, and circulation of maps gave way to a "geographic imagination" that constrained both policy and popular culture - in turn, Americans saw their place in the world in very spatialized ways. From a rhetorical perspective, maps gave us specific and partial perceptions of the globe and cartographers from a host of different institutions and with various national and international interests (government institutions like the State Dept., the CIA, the Department of Defense, academic institutions like the American Geographic Society, popular magazines like National Geographic and Time, and corporations as diverse as Rand McNally and Google) sketched the contours of American identity in both longitude and latitude. The course teaches students how to critique maps as systems of visual codes and also contextualizes for them how maps are used as rhetorical strategies by American elites and publics; by both the powerful and those challenging the powerful. Not only then is this a course on cartography; it's a course on the wild world-making processes of U.S. geopolitics and international space.
History lives all around us: on television, in music, in movies, online, at historic sites, in video games, in classrooms, at reenactments, in family lore, and in personal memory. This course will explore that presence of the past, focusing on American history. The class will engage with emerging technologies, current controversies, and popular representations of history. It will address a series of challenges and opportunities that currently confront us, looking for students to contribute fresh ways of thinking.
In this course we will try to answer this question: What sociocultural values and intellectual inquiries were shared by the literatures of Spain and the United States during the nineteenth- and early twentieth centuries? Our search will be based on Spanish and United States literary texts that seem to be interrelated both technically and thematically. We will explore topics such as the romantic, realist, and naturalist traditions in Spain and the United States; fantasy and the gothic as subversions of conventional reality; the relationship between family and money; the rise of the middle class; gender roles; and the ideological rapport between tradition and modernity.
In this course we will study the 'texts' of war produced by rhetorical actors in the news media, politics, and entertainment. How do news and entertainment media use the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as vehicles for story lines and programming choices? How does 'dissent' or anti-war protest rhetoric work in the new century? How are newer media organizations such as Al Jazeera cultivating new audiences and new subjectivities in the U.S.? Over the course of the semester, we'll attempt to answer these and other questions by reading scholarly literature about "militainment," Orientalism, and the rhetorical construction of dominant feelings' anxiety, melancholy and resentment?that perpetuate contemporary war.
This course is an introduction to listening, broadly conceived, from a variety of philosophical and cultural perspectives. How does our aural experience of the world differ from our visual experience of the world? How can we be more fully aware of sound, its meanings, and implications? What is the difference between ?sound,? ?noise,? and ?music?? Why are these defined differently between cultures? How would an ?ethics of listening? differ from an ethics based on speaking, acting or logical reasoning? What is the relationship between sound and emotion, and why does that relationship differ between cultures? Why, for instance, does the angklung music of Bali sound joyful to many Americans but is deeply saddening to most Balinese? Students will have the opportunity to study the traditional musics (on authentic instruments) of several cultures to help illustrate the ways in which the aesthetic ideals of a people are embodied in their music. Ultimately, we will consider the aesthetic, social, and ethical consequences of critical listening. No previous musical experience necessary.
Have you ever wondered why time sometimes seems crawls when waiting for a class to end? Or why it seems to stand still during an important moment, even while your watch is ticking? Have you ever had a memory that unexpectedly intruded on the present, fracturing your sense of continuity? This course explores the nature of time by studying musical works in conjunction with literary, philosophical, and scientific texts.
This course will explore the various roles building and design play in shaping how we live, work, play and interact with one another. We will read ancient, modern and contemporary texts and view/analyze documentaries devoted to the built environment. As students learn to read buildings, plans and even cities as primary texts they will appreciate the impact design can have on our experience of place. Questions we will address include: Can design fix a broken society? What is the role of the architect or planner in civilization? Is one kind of design better than another? Can design overcome government policies?
From sacrificial feasts to private dinner parties, banqueting played a critical role in ancient societies. Food and drink were shared with the gods, the dead, and the living community. Ways of eating and drinking served to construct, define, and negotiate relationships of power, status, and friendship. In this seminar, we will explore the social and cultural significance of banqueting and conviviality in the ancient Mediterranean world, from the Bronze Age through the Byzantine era, using primary ancient sources that depict and discuss eating, drinking, and partying.
This seminar explores the world of work in modern America, using a variety of sources ranging from U.S. Supreme Court opinions to first-person narratives. We will consider workplace questions of rights, social justice, motivation, challenges, social behavior, and economic necessity. Topics include legal foundations of the employment relationship, how that relationship has been modified by the courts and Congress, the broad spectrum of employment situations in which people of all ages perform their work, the dynamics and perils of the work environment, and how the working world has been portrayed by outside observers and employees.