Fall 2020 Topics

Seminar topics are subject to change every term. Courses cannot exceed 16 students.

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    Vazquez, Karina

    This course is an interdisciplinary and comparative exploration on the representations of live-in maids in social imaginary, with an emphasis on theoretical reasoning about social exclusion and identity. We will analyze the verbal and visual rhetoric that configure the social perceptions of domestic workers and their environment, paying particular attention to the relationship between maids and employers. We will approach the reproduction of material life by shifting attention from what and how maids are, to the interactive dynamics by which their existence fits within particular social and economic orders and symbolic economies. The course will trace and identify the invisible threads of power, violence, and exclusion upon which social class distinction, gender politics, and racialization of work take place. The main purpose of this course is to raise questions about class/gender/race identities from a perspective that focuses on the notion of the body as inherently connected with the environment. The course is an opportunity for students to explore the materiality of the symbolic representations. We will explore the sensorium that underlays the ways in which seeing reproduces discourse and saying enacts ways of looking at.


    Abreu, Dixon

    What can a story tell us about the world, about ourselves, about others like us, about others different from us, about our roles in the world, about the role of stories in the world? There is no better way to explore these questions than reading stories and discussing their values within our own cultural and multicultural moment. Engaging meaningfully and analytically with these texts, as diverse in time/epoch and medium as they are in style and geographical origin, will provide students with the perfect opportunity to reflect upon our fluid global community as they pertain to the most important story of all: the story of us.


    Cassada, Katherine

    Students will explore the complex lives, expectations of, and pressures on middle and high school children, including social, physical, developmental, emotional, and academic challenges that are unique to adolescence. The class will investigate learning styles, autonomy and independence, and expectations for this age group. Students will determine whether they find legitimacy in the popular concept that boys and girls learn and should be taught differently, and how adolescence might influence learning styles and academic success. Students will visit public and independent K-12 schools, and single-sex and coeducational classrooms to develop positions for and participate in debates regarding educational issues that affect adolescents. We will also enjoy studying and creating adolescent literature in a diary format.


    Mancastroppa, Roger

    This seminar glimpses the foundational religious thinking that created our global civilization. We will critically inquire into the structures of societies as they transformed from hunter-gather, and the role of religion in this structural shift toward civilization. We will examine how our cultural and religious concepts shape our understanding of nature and ourselves. We will take a critical view toward the conceptual framework of The Enlightenment and its resulting attitudes toward nature and technology, questioning common perceptions and absolutes and bring openness toward differing world views as we broadly examine the role of religion as it changed structurally over the millennia.


    Yellin, Eric

    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 analyze inequality, work, gender roles, and class and racial hierarchies in the past and today. Authors include historians as well as foundational thinkers like Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, John Maynard Keynes, Rose and Milton Friedman, and Thomas Piketty.


    Mullen, Thomas

    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 responsibility of journalism in identifying social issues and uncovering ways to resolve them.


    Loo, Tze

    This course uses the act of collecting and the institution of museums as lenses to think about something that many people take for granted: how what is accepted as "history" is the result of deliberate processes of collecting facts and representing them in the shape of particular narratives. It combines an examination of the history of collecting with a study of the evolution of institutions of museums as public and often state sponsored attempts to weave a collective national memory. In asking students to analyze how narratives of the past take shape in museums and their material objects, this course introduces students to the power that physical objects possess to tell stories as well as to the implications of those stories.


    Bergman, William

    This is a course about understanding the role digital media and social platforms play in the lives of contemporary college students. A number of subject areas will be studied including the history and generational use of media, the role technology plays in media life cycles, the importance of viral communications, how business adapts to emerging media trends, and the future of digital and social media. There will be a strong focus on how digital communications has shaped and influenced businesses and the economy along with politics and journalism. The course will help students learn how to balance digital communications with more traditional writing and verbal skills required to succeed in today's academic and work place environments. Assignments will utilize digital media and social platforms as part of the learning process. Additionally, there will be a study of contemporary businesses that have successfully used digital strategies to market their products and services. At the conclusion of the course, students will have a greater appreciation for the evolution of digital communications and the role it currently plays in our society and in their own lives.


    Brandenberger, David

    "Crime and Punishment in Russian Fiction and Film" examines the acts of transgression and retribution, two long-standing preoccupations of the Russian intelligentsia. An interdisciplinary investigation of how writers, artists and cinematographers have depicted the changing boundaries of propriety and criminality since the early 19th century, this course includes not only short stories and novels, but also poetry, theater, opera and cinema. Indeed, of particular interest in the course is how works of classical literature by authors like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy have been reimagined for performance on the stage and silver screen.


    Snaza, Nathan

    This course will investigate the historical, social, political, and philosophical contexts of U.S. schools and debates about school reform. Through readings, discussions, autobiographical essays, and group study projects, students will explore the complicated—and even contradictory—relations between schooling and democratic life, with a focus on the U.S. and contemporary social justice struggles.


    Sulzer-Reichel, Martin

    Egypt is one of the countries with a written history that reaches back several thousand years. It was its own empire, a province of other empires, a colony, and a nation state within the greater context of the Arab world. Located in northeast Africa and in the heart of the Arab-Islamic world, it ends up being both, Middle Eastern and African, and at the same time doesn't see itself as a part of either. We will study how its citizens see themselves as very unique due to the importance of their country, their long history, and not least as children of the Nile.


    Long, Stephen

    This course examines pressing ethical and moral questions in the arena of international affairs. The main areas of focus will be international conflict, international economics, and intrastate conflict. Course content will include a variety of primary texts, scholarly articles, podcasts, and films revolving around important ethical debates. Students will write analytical papers, co-lead discussions, and participate in in-class debates, all designed to help develop the skills that will help them succeed in the rest of their time at the University.


    Kocher, Craig

    Religious faith is central to the daily life and identity of a majority of the population in the United States. As a result of globalization, individuals and communities with diverse worldviews - both religious and secular - interact more closely than ever before, with results ranging from insightful dialogue to violent discord. Furthermore, religious convictions shape debate about a range of policies in domestic affairs, leading at times to unified action for peace and justice, and at other times to rancor and mistrust. This course will investigate these tensions in light of students' own commitments and beliefs, those of others, and the increasingly diverse society in which we live.


    Lascu, Dana-Nicoleta

    Consumers will play an important role in any career you might pursue; you may refer to them as clients, stakeholders, stockholders, patients, patrons. This course offers an introduction to consumer-related theory and practice in international marketing while presenting a socio-culturally inspired analysis of consumption. The course explores consumer culture concepts that confront today's business at all levels of market involvement. Both cases and a term-long project are used to explore the different dimensions of the problems and opportunities facing the firm as it deals with a changing consumer culture. In this course, you will analyze business cases, and persuasively write about consumption and culture. The course also addresses the impact of globalization on consumers from low and medium income countries, and their consumption as a consequence of and in tandem with consumption patterns and rituals in high-income countries. The course engages in a critical analysis of global consumerism based on readings from industry and from popular culture sources.


    Sulzer-Reichel, Martin

    In "Great Filmmakers of the World", students will watch films from different countries and different time periods with which they are likely not familiar. The course will focus on films from Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. We may also include one or two American films. Each semester, about half the films we discuss will be directed by female filmmakers. One of the central goals of the course will be to expose students to different cultures and to explore complex social, economic, and political issues. Students will learn about specific countries, cultures, or historical moments through the stories told and characters portrayed in each film. For instance, we will discuss filmmaking and censorship in Iran, the issue of migration from a West African perspective, or the human cost of the war against terror. At the same time, students will think about cinema as an aesthetic endeavor in which producing images is an intentional act that exists in parallel to but also independently from specific stories. Students will learn how to read images closely and will be encouraged to think of filmmaking as an art form. As part of a final research project, students will be asked to produce their own short film and to reflect on what they have learned in the course of the semester. They will develop close-reading skills by analyzing films, in groups during class time and individually in academic essays. Each film screening will be accompanied by reading assignments that will give students the chance to observe how scholars and film critics have analyzed the film and to critique their ideas. Finally, this course will be writing intensive. Students will write often and will have the opportunity to practice academic writing as well as other forms of writing (responses, creative writing, project-based writing assignments).


    Yanikdag, Yucel

    This course explores the history of eugenics, an early-to-mid 20th century movement, which proposed a variety of policies for supposedly improving the hereditary quality of race by controlling human reproduction. It claimed that most problems such as criminality, alcoholism, pauperism, prostitution, insanity, and others were transmitted genetically from parent to child. Eugenicists aimed to reduce the numbers of these defective, or dysgenic people while trying to increase the number of those judged to have good genes, or eugenic people. The course will examine the history of the development of eugenic science, its policies and practices, and connections to other movements and public responses.


    Reynoso Calvillo, Josafath

    "If you are pissing people off, you know you are doing something right", Johnny Rotten once famously said. The idea of an artist constantly pushing boundaries is now almost a clich¿, which is not to say it's not true on some level. After all, when you make a mark on a wall and want it to get people's attention, you have to provoke that out of them. But, what place does the artist-provocateur have in an age where everyone is constantly escalating to keep up with the pace of 4chan? If attention grabbing is a means to an end, then how far is too far? This course presents the student with a number of art works which were (and some continue to be) deemed controversial in their own sociopolitical and historical context. By focusing on the artist as a provocateur, the course dissects the factors that create the controversy around each piece, and sparks a discussion on what we consider unacceptable, politically incorrect and provocative.


    Spires, Robert

    Human trafficking is a social justice issue that has become prominently addressed in the media and through a variety of academic disciplines. However, human trafficking as a construct is embedded in conflicting and problematic paradigms and discourses that manipulate the concepts in political, economic and social ways that may perpetuate the underlying structures and issues causing human trafficking. From humanitarian and development perspectives, to law enforcement, education, policy and social science orientations, the varying discourses related to human trafficking will be explored and students will grapple with challenging questions through a writing intensive approach to inquiry.


    Brown, Mavis

    There are many lenses through which to analyze the human experience. In this reading-intensive course of challenging texts, we will examine knowing on the one hand, and various ways of choosing in the face of adversity on the other as these concepts play out in selected classic texts. In the second part of the semester, we will examine the ways in which contemporary individuals seek to fashion happy and fulfilling lives, as we shift our focus to a 21st century situation of adversity that demands change.


    Holland, Dorothy

    In Belonging: a Culture of Place, bell hooks writes, "Spaces can be real and imagined. Spaces can tell stories and unfold histories. Spaces can be interrupted, appropriated, and transformed through artistic and literary practice." This course explores the significance of space in our individual and collective lives. Students will learn various ways to analyze spaces and the stories they tell, the relations they create. Writings by key thinkers on space and place will provide frameworks for analysis, and kinesthetic engagement with space will enhance spatial awareness. Some of the questions we will ask: How does the configuration of space influence our thinking, our behaviors and our feelings? In what ways does it convey a sense of welcome or exclusion? What stories does it tell? What stories does it conceal?


    Geaney, Jane

    Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, the “Masters of Suspicion,” revolutionized dominant discourses in many fields, including philosophy, religion, history, psychology, and economics. Whether you agree with them or not, they are “good to think with.” This course will examine each figure’s interpretation of “a life worth living,” while taking seriously the compelling questions they raise about power, delusion, and the nature of interpretation. We will pay particular attention to what their texts reveal (sometimes inadvertently) about racism and antisemitism in late modern Europe. This course requires no prior knowledge as it introduces these challenging texts through brief selected segments.


    McCormick, Miriam

    Have you ever wondered what makes a person's life go well? Or have you ever wondered how you might make your own life go well? This course is a quest to identify the features of a good human life. In our quest to unravel the components of such a life, we will also gain some insight into how we can improve our own lives by, for instance, instilling our lives with greater meaning and finding ways to become happier. Some more specific questions we will consider are the following: What is worth pursuing? What is the relationship between a good life and a life of pleasure, happiness and virtue? What are some barriers to living a good life? Could an immortal life be a good or meaningful one? What is the best way to think about death? Is there any meaning or purpose in human existence and can such meaning be found without a faith in God or religion? What role does art or creativity play in finding meaning in life?


    Stubbs, Jonathan

    Modern American Human Rights Lawyers: Leadership and Community Service Modern American Human Rights Lawyers: Leadership and Community Service Many lawyers become leaders and serve in roles ranging from heads of local civic and religious institutions, to President of the United States. This course explores the relationship between the law and leadership. It will challenge students to refine what leadership means to them in theory as well as provide practical experiences for reflection. The specific focal point for such thought and writing will be roles that lawyers have played in addressing social justice issues in America. The course proceeds on the explicit premise that leadership involves service to others for the common good. The students will read writings by and about lawyers who had a significant impact upon American society since the beginning of the twentieth century. The readings will seek to help students appreciate the evolution of American society over that time period, and better understand the context surrounding current controversies involving liberty and equality in America. In addition, they will be called upon to consider broader questions about what constitutes good leadership. These issues will be addressed practically by developing appropriate community service learning experiences through collaboration with the Center for Civic Engagement.


    Johnson, Scott

    "Who am I, and why am I like this?" In "Narratives of Identity & Relationship," we will explore these two questions in depth, using the framework of story to guide our exploration. Stories are central to establishing our sense of identity, shaping our relational choices, and defining ourselves within a complex and changing social world. All around us we hear others telling their stories of gender and sexuality, friendship and family, faith and doubt, race and ethnicity, desire and satisfaction, and over time we come to understand ourselves in and through what we hear. As we interact with others we catch reflections of our own story, glimpsing ways others define us, and drawing what we see into the stories we're always writing about ourselves, whether we know it or not.


    MacAllister, Joyce

    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 with each other?


    Becker, Richard

    This course primarily strives to enhance understanding of the techniques, topics, and evolution of modern poetry. A focus of our work is reading aloud to activate the musical, bodily and rhythmic features inherent in the sound of the course's poetry. The course surveys mostly American verse, from two of its forerunners, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, to early moderns W.B. Yeats and Robert Frost. It will highlight innovations by Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens and Robert Creeley. The course covers revolutionary blues poet Langston Hughes, African American feminist poets, protest poets and beats, concluding with post moderns W.S. Merwin, John Ashbery and Jorie Graham. A secondary idea of the course is to listen to associated classical, blues, jazz and pop and view associated visual art.


    Wittig, Carol

    This course will ask students to think about themselves as information consumers and producers. Students will explore questions of trust across different topics and subjects. Through critical reading, writing, and research, students will be asked to examine questions such as how is expertise determined? Who decides what is expertise and who has it? What makes a source credible? What happens when trust is broken or information disseminated turns out to be wrong? Students will learn how to interrogate the information resources they read and use on a daily basis and ask questions that do not always have easy answers, but that are especially relevant in a constantly growing, media-saturated, information society.


    Skerrett, Kathleen

    This seminar introduces laws and judicial decisions that have defined racial status as the basis for political and social order in the United States. We address issues of citizenship, equality, segregation, and mass incarceration. We will read landmark judicial decisions to identify core political visions and the constitutional arguments that advance them. These decisions were contested at every point, generating persistent, conflicting visions of American democracy. Class members will be required to speak and write about values and policies that matter to American democracy. Moreover, we will consider how our own values and experiences are shaped by historical contests over race matters in the U.S. We follow a Koru Mindfulness curriculum during part of the semester.


    Siebert, Monika

    How does contemporary art, literary and visual, represent refugees? How is a refugee different from an immigrant/emigrant? What is at stake in defining oneself, and others, as refugees rather than immigrants? How does the experience of having to flee from/to/for something shape people as individuals, as communities/nations, as citizens/electorates, as private and public selves, as humans? How are people and communities rooted in place shaped by the forced dislocation of others, whether they witness, welcome, or resist such dislocation and its effects? What local and global forces as well as long historical developments shape forced population movements and in what specific ways? How does art, as opposed to other forms of public discourse, allow us to approach these questions in novel and insightful ways? This course explores the various dimensions--private/public, individual/collective, psychological/political--of the refugee experience through a study of contemporary literature and film. This seminar will be exploratory in nature; it will focus on learning how to pose relevant questions about the materials before us rather than mastering a body of knowledge.


    Weist, Caroline

    A person's physical and mental abilities are highly complex aspects of identity: they change over time, plus they can be linked just as much to biology as to culture. Beginning with the Americans with Disabilities Act, students will combine theoretical texts and cultural products to learn to think critically about the concept of disability. We will look at the world around us, architecture, law, language, medicine, art, relationships, sports, and ask how it both determines and questions what kinds of bodies are able to access education, love, work, and anything else that makes up a human life. Students will learn to use both written and videographic techniques of argumentation to present their answers to that question.


    Herrera, Patricia

    Taking Richmond as its point of departure, this course focuses on places, people and events from before the city's founding to the present day to understand current social and racial inequities. Richmond, as the former capital of the Confederacy, has a fraught history of slavery and racism. Although today Richmond has very high eviction rates, environmental injustice, and inadequate transportation access, as well as health, nutritional and educational disparities, these are not always apparent to the casual observer. Drawing in faculty and staff from across campus as well as activists throughout the city, we will explore the ways that we can make these inequities visible through digital mapping, virtual museum exhibitions, dance, docudramas and other expressive modes of documentation in order not only to call attention to these urgent issues, but to find a way to become engaged citizens in the city in which you will be spending the next four years.


    Browder, Laura

    Taking Richmond as its point of departure, this course focuses on places, people and events from before the city's founding to the present day to understand current social and racial inequities. Richmond, as the former capital of the Confederacy, has a fraught history of slavery and racism. Although today Richmond has very high eviction rates, environmental injustice, and inadequate transportation access, as well as health, nutritional and educational disparities, these are not always apparent to the casual observer. Drawing in faculty and staff from across campus as well as activists throughout the city, we will explore the ways that we can make these inequities visible through digital mapping, virtual museum exhibitions, dance, docudramas and other expressive modes of documentation in order not only to call attention to these urgent issues, but to find a way to become engaged citizens in the city in which you will be spending the next four years.


    Mifsud, MariLee

    We explore in this seminar, through conducting a media audit, contemporary rhetorics of gender violence, resistance, and abolition. Taking a rhetorical approach, we explore the "tropes" of gender violence, the ways in which public discourses turn attention in relation to gender violence. Drawing from ancient Greek rhetorical theories and contemporary feminist theories, we explore how tropes turn attention to definitions, contexts, cases, causes, and effects of gender violence, along with means of resistance to and abolition of gender violence. We bring our explorations to bear on considerations of contemporary gender violence crises in the aspiration of developing a praxis of living that is free from gender violence.


    Kuti, Laura

    There are many aspects involved in learning a second language. How do humans learn a second language? What instructional approach and strategies should be employed and what teaching strategies support second language acquisition? How does one unpack the fine granularity of phonetics, syntax, and discourse within the context of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)? How is American English distinct? What role does sociology and linguistics play in second language acquisition? Given the connections between language and culture, how does one teach the sociological-cultural context along with TEFL and what should be taught? Students will study how languages are learned, and how second languages are taught. The class will investigate important aspects of English language acquisition including general linguistic concepts, applied sociology and linguistics, and the sociological/cultural context of language teaching.


    Fishe, Raymond Patrick

    Methods to summarize information in visual displays are introduced. These tools are used to develop effective visual displays and to increase your knowledge of the factual information and claims provided in such displays. Visual images are studied to dissect what is relevant and to learn artistic methods that create better presentations of this information. Both simple (graphs and charts) and complex (photographs, movies, or multipart graphs) images are studied.


    Simpson, Dean

    Socrates is one of ancient Greece's most famous figures. The dialogues of Plato, in particular, bring us into contact with an extraordinary character whose wit, wisdom and life story make him an archetype for Philosophy as we are likely to think of it. Platonic philosophy constitutes for some Socrates' legacy. Apart from Plato, Greek historians allow us to trace the history of Athens, supplying the context for Socrates' life's work, while other literary sources tell a different story of who Socrates was, what he did, and why he did it. Based on our reading and discussion of historical and literary sources, we will undertake a reassessment of Socrates, whose legacies, we may find, are broader even more important than is generally appreciated.


    McGraw, Andrew

    We do not have earlids. As compared to vision, our brains receive continuous, sometimes overwhelming auditory input, even during sleep, even before we are born. As a result, we become virtuosic at "tuning out" auditory stimuli. How can we re-awaken our sense of sound? How can we become better listeners and what do we learn about our environment and society when we do? How is hearing different from our other senses? In this class you will: echolocate, meditate on sound, map your soundscape, explore new instruments, analyze your playlists, and research the relationship amongst sound, music, and noise. We will explore how this relationship shapes and is shaped by social structures and customs. (Is my music just "noise" to you?) This course is an introduction to sound and listening, broadly conceived, from a variety of scientific, philosophical, and cultural perspectives.


    Dolson, Theresa

    This course explores the role that stories play in forming our own identity, forming relationships with others, and forming the structures through which we understand our world. Students will grapple with these ideas by participating in community-based learning, story-sharing with local incarcerated youth at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center. All participants in the project collaborate to produce a final creative piece which represents their experience telling stories together. UR students will also read, discuss, research, and write analytically as a way of making sense of their experiences.


    Pappas, Sara

    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 cliched 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.


    Kachurek, Lynda

    This course explores the past, present, and future role of books as a significant part of the world's cultural heritage. As a transmitter of literacy, knowledge, and culture, a book's impact can be profound, but as an object of worth, desire, or artistic beauty, its value extends beyond the text and even the printed page. By exploring the multifaceted history of the book, students will engage in their own exploration of how they interact with books as well as develop an understanding of the complexity, artistry, cultural and technological effects on society and culture.


    Hobgood, Linda

    This course is a semester-long study of the presidency as conveyed by chief executives in their own words, by official statements from those appointed to speak on the president's behalf and by official public announcements. Remarks of first ladies, speechwriter's recollections, and mediated interpretations by members of the White House press corps serve as text for scholarly analysis of presidential discourse. We will explore foundational rhetorical precepts and introduce the nature and practice of rhetorical criticism via the genre of contemporary presidential oratory and commentary. Course objectives include: 1. providing a rhetorical perspective of language, leadership, politics and media; 2. introducing terms and practices fundamental to rhetoric and encouraging confidence in using them; 3. demonstrating the epistemological value of rhetorical inquiry.


    Davis, G.

    An introduction to Tolkien through his work in medieval English language and literature.


    Otero-Blanco, Angel

    A comparative literature course focusing on nineteenth- and early-twentieth century literary tendencies in Spain and the United States. Readings --drawn from romantic, realist, naturalist, and modernist traditions -- will include the work of G. A. Becquer, H. Melville, B. Perez Galdos, E.A Poe, M. de Unamuno, E. Pardo Bazan, and E. Wharton, among others.


    Hodierne, Paul

    In this course you will read contemporaneous newspaper accounts of battles from the American Revolution through the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. By the end of this course you will have an understanding of the impact news coverage has had on the decisions to go to war and on how the wars were conducted. You will also learn about the colorful characters who covered these wars. Finally, you will have an understanding of the historically antagonistic relationship between those who wage war and those who report on them. The professor who teaches this course covered the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.


    Simon, Stephen

    We find ourselves surrounded by physical things: mountains, lakes, chairs, and coffee mugs. In our daily lives we ask countless questions about the reasons for particular things: why is a friend upset, or why is the air conditioner making that clanking noise? But on occasion we cannot help asking a very different kind of question: not why this or that thing behaves as it does, but why are there any things at all. No question about the universe is more fundamental than why there is one in the first place. We will explore competing explanations for the world?s existence, including: the natural laws of science; necessary truths of mathematics; the inherent goodness of existence; and an all-powerful deity. We will also examine responses that deny the world has an explanation or that reject the question as meaningless. By engaging strengths and weaknesses of different approaches, and exploring their wider implications, we will learn more about our own deepest commitments while improving the ability to think through and defend positions on challenging inquiries.


    Keefer, Jeannine

    This course will explore the various roles architecture, building, and design play in shaping how we live, work, play and interact with one another. We will read texts covering a variety or periods and points of view. In reading critical and primary texts students will appreciate the impact design can have on our experience of place. This semester our class will participate in the East End Cemetery Collaboratory with projects exploring not only the cemetery, but also social infrastructure in the city of Richmond. Questions we will address include: What effect does the built environment have on the way we live and how we understand ourselves? What is the role of the architect or planner in shaping society? What are the roles of old and new structures in our understanding of place and ourselves?


    Allred, Stephen

    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.