Spring 2021 Topics

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

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    Cunningham, Sojourna Guss, Samantha

    This course aims to create a discussion-based community that will examine the creation, consumption, and dissemination of information. We will explore themes such as inequity, surveillance, privacy, power, and the societal forces that influence who gets to be seen as an expert. Using a mix of scholarly and popular sources, including works drawn from critical race scholarship, information and society, information technology, and library science, students will seek to understand their own information seeking behaviors, think about biases, and ultimately begin to place themselves as both consumers and creators of information.


    Pelletier, Kevin

    Why are Americans so preoccupied with fantasies of apocalypse? What is an apocalypse, for that matter? What do we really mean when we describe some event as "apocalyptic?" Does an apocalypse have to be a religious event? And if so, why is the apocalypse often invoked to describe natural disasters (like the flood in Indonesia and Hurricane Katrina), global warming (as in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and James Hansen's Storms of My Grandchildren), wars, economic crises (like the financial collapse of 2008), epidemics (like AIDS), and terrorism? This course will explore the figure of the apocalypse and its place within American history and culture. We will consider how it has been imagined and is continually reimagined within different historical and political contexts. We will survey a variety of apocalyptic representations, beginning with the New England Puritans and continuing to the present moment. We will read a Protestant sermon, nineteenth-century short fiction, and a variety of twentieth- and twenty-first century literature. We will screen a film and a television episode, explore a comic book, and enjoy a wide range of apocalyptic music. By examining the apocalypse within these diverse contexts, we will establish a better understanding of what is at stake when the apocalypse is invoked and why it has enjoyed a central presence in America's cultural imagination.


    Méndez, Mariela

    This course traces the social reform work of three black women in Virginia from the post-Reconstruction period into the early twentieth century and the role the press played in providing a forum for the articulation and dissemination of their ideas. Many African American women chose careers in teaching and social work after the Civil War and embarked upon a leadership that significantly impacted early care and education, health and labor reforms, correctional educational work, and even later voting campaigns for the African-American population. This course sets out to show how Janie Porter Barrett (1865-1948), Rosa Dixon Bowser (1855-1931), and Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934) were not just institution builders, but, most importantly, they were public thinkers on race questions whose thought has not earned the same credit and prestige as that of black male thinkers. In highlighting the role Barrett, Bowser, and Walker played in shaping black intellectual thought through their advocacy on various periodicals, this first year seminar aims to underscore both their role as producers of knowledge and the role of the press in constructing black intellectual history. The overarching goal of this First Year Seminar is to examine how these three women thinkers transformed both intellectual and physical spaces in the service of their social reform projects, and part of the coursework will involve students examining both the connections of these women with key figures in UR's history and the comparable work performed by female students/activists through various university publications.


    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 acts of transgression and retribution, two long-standing preoccupations in Russian culture. It offers an interdisciplinary investigation of how writers, artists and directors have depicted the changing boundaries of propriety and criminality since the early 19th century. This course surveys not only short stories and novels, but also poetry, theater, opera and cinema. 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.


    Winiarski, Douglas

    Witches and heretics, religious prophets and confidence men, Native American captives and murdering mothers, cat massacres and slave conspiracies: these are the subjects of "microhistory," a distinctive approach to the study of the past that seeks to reveal broader forces of historical change through detailed stories of obscure individuals and unusual events. In this First-Year Seminar, students learn how scholars research and write these gripping historical narratives. We will probe beneath the grand narratives of conventional history textbooks and develop theoretical and methodological competencies in the subfield of cultural history. The seminar will provide opportunities to read and analyze a challenging array of primary texts, from newspapers to private journals to early American court records. Toward the end of the semester, students research and write their own microhistories based on rare archival sources documenting the lives of the first converts to Shakerism, one of the most unusual religious communities in American history. The hybrid class format accommodates remote students. Class meetings feature a mix of in person and Zoom seminar discussions, writing tutorials, and research workshops.


    Summers, Carol

    Smallpox, malaria, yellow fever, lungsickness and other maladies both spread and have been managed through imperial conquests, colonialism, and new systems of biomedicine and modern public health. And changing diseases remain part of newer global debates over the politics and cultural challenges of cholera, polio, HIV/AIDS, Ebola and COVID-19 viruses. Using varied case studies, this seminar asks how have illnesses mattered during the years of imperial conquest and globalization? Why did they happen then and what do they mean now? How have people re-make themselves and their societies to cope with the changing disease environments? What are the challenges of today's global public health interventions, and how can new policy benefit from historical insights?


    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.

  • FILMS OF THE 1960’S

    Schoen, Walter

    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?


    Damer, Erika

    What role can literature from and influenced by the Roman world play in universities in the 21st Century? Roman epics will begin a careful examination of gender, violence, and identity in the Roman world and in the contemporary world. Gender, Violence, Rome will study the ways that ancient stories have offered solace and resistance against gendered violence, and been read as supporting power hierarchies that enable violence against women and men. In this course, students will use intersectional thinking to meet Roman literature, and films, drama, and novels inspired by the tradition of Roman culture in Toni Morrison, Rita Dove, Luis Alfaro, and others.


    Mayes, Ben

    Tracing the voyage of Semester-at-Sea around the world, this course examines how public problems are defined, how different policy solutions are crafted, and the ways in which we judge their effectiveness. As the art of political decision-making, public policy reflects the reality that: (1) penalties and incentives (sticks and carrots) are what primarily drive much of modern life; (2) information 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 normatively (what should be). This course uses the countries we visit in class to illustrate the different ways that people craft public policies, why they do so, and what the tradeoffs and consequences are. 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.


    Delers, Olivier

    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 all over the world. One of the central goals of the course is to expose students to different cultures and to explore complex social, economic, and political issues. Students will learn about specific countries and historical moments through the stories told and characters portrayed in each film. For instance, we might 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, we 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. Students 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).


    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 all over the world. One of the central goals of the course is to expose students to different cultures and to explore complex social, economic, and political issues. Students will learn about specific countries and historical moments through the stories told and characters portrayed in each film. For instance, we might 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, we 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. Students 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).


    Allison, Scott

    This course explores the phenomena of heroism and villainy from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Emphasis is on the critical examination of scholarly contributions from distinguished social scientists on heroism-related topics such as leadership, morality, resilience, courage, empathy, meaning, purpose, altruism, hope, human growth, cooperation, spirituality, health, transformation, and character strengths. The causes and consequences of evil will also receive coverage.


    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 cliche, 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.


    Ashe, Bertram

    Jazz music was born in the United States around the beginning of the 20th century as a creative mixture of African rhythms and European harmonies. But the jazz aesthetic has spread far beyond mere music: American creative writers of the 20th century---particularly those of the Beat Generation---were deeply influenced by jazz in several ways: jazz as subject matter, jazz as formal influence, and jazz as cultural commentary. The chief tension in American jazz has to do with some Americans seeing jazz as a chaotic primitivist release, some Americans using jazz to open cultural space in order to escape middle class values and/or middle America, vs. jazz as a discipline, as a musical art form, and as a valid cultural medium for blues transcendence. This course will address ways that the Beat Generation, among others, responded to jazz and African-Americans, and will also explore ways that the jazz community and American cultural critics responded to the Beats. Ultimately, we will use the relationship between jazz and the Beat Generation to explore the way jazz, musically and culturally, "spoke" to 20th-century America.


    Kelly, William

    Though Judaism and Christianity parted ways in antiquity, these religious traditions share deep roots. They have scriptures and theological ideas in common, but differ in fundamental respects over the interpretation of these traditions. Historically, relations between Jews and Christians have been fraught with difficulty. After the Holocaust, however, Christians have tried to address their role in negative characterizations of Jews and Judaism. This course surveys the history and possibility of dialogue between Judaism and Christianity. How can these traditions find common ground while also taking seriously their differences? In our readings and seminars, we will trace the broad outlines of these two religions, the history of their interaction with one another, and the nature of inter-religious dialogue. Students will build their skills in criticism and research through close readings of a wide range of religious texts, art and architecture from antiquity to the modern day. Using a hybrid class format, this course accommodates remote students. Class meetings will feature a mix of in-person and Zoom seminars, writing tutorials, and research workshops.


    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.


    Dagger, Richard

    In this course, we explore important themes in political and legal philosophy by examining novels, plays, and short philosophical works that pose deep and apparently perennial questions about the relationship of law, politics, and justice. Among these questions are: What, if anything, gives some people authority over others? When, if ever, is breaking the law justified? What distinguishes the rule of law from sheer power? What are rights, and how do we come to have them? Is there really such a thing as the public interest or the common good? If so, do citizens have a duty to promote it? While exploring and trying to answer these and related questions, we will also be working to develop skills necessary to scholarly success, especially those involving close reading and clear writing.


    Nousek, Katrina

    Translation may seem straightforward, but actually has many applications and meanings. In this course, we will explore how translation affects the ways ideas travel across languages, cultures and time. In the process, we will investigate how translation requires sensitivity to linguistic nuance, social mores, cultural values, historical understanding, political organization and hierarchical power relations. Where are the points of cohesion and collision in cross-cultural and cross-linguistic encounters? What can mistranslation reveal about social values? How are translators/interpreters perceived under conditions of colonization and conflict? What are the methods and goals of translation, and how does it forge connections among language, culture and history?


    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?


    Stubbs, Jonathan

    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 have 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, class members will be called upon to consider broader questions about what constitutes good leadership.


    Wight, Jonathan

    The 2008 global economic crisis was--before the coronavirus recession--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?" "Would having more women in finance have reduced the problem?" "Does studying this event help us understand the coronavirus recession?" Early readings emphasize the work of Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics, and J M Keynes, who studied aspects of human irrationality in financial markets.


    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.


    Linask, Maia

    This is a companion course to Principles of Microeconomics. While you study the workings of prices and markets in the economics course, in this course we will examine how government policies are applied to markets through topics such as health care, substance abuse, homelessness, and unemployment. Our examination will focus on the tension between equity and efficiency and will include an exploration of the definitions and interpretations of equity and efficiency. You will gain insight into current policy disagreements and into the interactions between markets and government policies.


    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, enslavement, 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 may follow a Koru Mindfulness curriculum during part of the semester.


    Kahn, Michelle

    Should we open or close our borders? Are immigrants beneficial or detrimental to our economies, societies, and cultures? Do we have a responsibility to help people escaping war, persecution, and humanitarian crises? Which groups should we let in, and which should we keep out? As these heated debates rage on, immigration has undoubtedly become one of the most significant global issues of our time. In this course, we will examine immigration from both historical and contemporary perspective, focusing on Western Europe (specifically Britain, France, and Germany) from the end of World War II in 1945 until the present day. Our discussions will center on how Europeans have dealt with different immigrant groups, how immigrants have experienced their new societies, how ideas about assimilation and multiculturalism have changed over time, and how learning about the past can help us better understand today's world. We will especially emphasize how immigration has been intertwined with the creation of racial categories, and how reactions against immigration have often promoted racism, xenophobia, and discrimination. Finally, we will pay special attention to how immigrants? lives are shaped by their intersectional identity categories such as gender, sexuality, religion, socioeconomic status, and age. To investigate these issues, we will examine a wide variety of sources, including but not limited to: government documents, newspaper articles, images, memoirs, diaries, novels, films, soccer games, and hip-hop music. As the major project of the course, which we will work on gradually throughout the semester, students will choose a topic of their own interest related to immigration in Europe and use primary sources to write an original research paper.


    Drell, Joanna

    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," and "memory" when examining such texts as Virgil's Aeneid, Beowulf, The Song of Roland, the lays of Marie de France, Arthurian Romances, Dante's Inferno, and others. A central question will be how historians can use narratives to understand the cultures we study.


    Achter, Paul

    Today almost every domain of American culture--whether it is music, gaming, fashion, television, or sports--overlaps in some way with military culture. Real and perceived threats of terrorism alter not just our politics, foreign policy, economics, but even the "fun" spaces of our social relations, eroding the boundaries between military life and civilian life. Americans, by and large, have "supported the troops" with their votes and embrace of the military, even as American-led wars resulted in ambiguity or failure. Why do we support the troops, or war generally? In this course, we will examine how the encroachment of military culture into everyday life shapes our attitudes toward terrorism and war.


    Singal, Jack

    Scientific knowledge and advancement underlie every aspect of contemporary life. Yet in many ways the misunderstanding of science and the acceptance of anti-scientific ideas have never been more prevalent. We will journey across modern society to explore the issues at the heart of this paradox: What defines science? Why is science beneficial? Contemporary manifestations of pseudoscience and anti-science What are the limits of science? Can science address morality? Why do pseudoscience and anti-science have the wide appeal and traction that they do? How are conspiracy theories at the intersection of anti-science and politics?


    Schwartz, Louis

    This course will introduce students to the Modern Lyric Love Poem as it has developed over the past 500 years, focusing on a sequence of poems closely related to one another by a web of allusions and thematic concerns (some explicit and some more subtle or implicit). Students will learn how to read, analyze, contexualize and write about lyric poems, examining how the genre has changed over time as new generations of poets have picked up on a set of basic motifs, topoi, themes, and structures, appling them to new purposes in new cultural and historical contexts.


    Trawick, Matthew

    This course builds an understanding of the logical foundations of Einstein's theory of relativity and its implications for how we understand time, space, speed, length, and various other phenomena in physics. It examines wildly counterintuitive ideas such as objects contracting when they move at high speeds, twins on different spacecraft aging at different rates, and why one cannot even in principle travel faster than the speed of light. We approach the subject quantitatively, first deriving expressions that describe how space and time are transformed for observers moving at different speeds, and then applying them in new situations. Computer simulation and algebraic problem solving play prominent roles in this course.


    Fairtile, Linda

    Opera is more than just entertainment. Like works of literature, operas address the concerns of individuals, families, societies, and nations. They reflect the times in which they were created and the times in which they are performed. This course approaches opera from a thematic perspective, and this semester we will focus on the topic of opera and criminal justice. Through reading, viewing, and discussion, we will explore how blending music and theatre can illuminate questions of justice, power, and equity. Students will learn to decode the language of opera by watching a variety of performances on video. No musical knowledge or experience is required.


    Marsh-Soloway, Michael

    This course examines the humanistic phenomenon of technological development as it unfolds in diverse scientific, artistic, sociological, and philosophical dimensions. Surveying texts, artifacts, and experiments from classical antiquity to the modern era, students will explore how significant advances came to fruition, how associated ideas were depicted in both fictional and non-fictional works, and how individuals and communities voiced reactions to societal changes. Humanity has always had a complicated relationship with machines. While technology generally brings about improved standards of living, and even periods of flourishing, such as the Renaissance and Enlightenment, there are also often unintended consequences, volatilities, dangers.


    Bell, Lloyd

    As photography becomes more ubiquitous in society, the ability to deconstruct how our brain processes images becomes more relevant. By knowing more about the workings of the brain in general and of the visual brain in particular, one can attempt to develop the outlines of a theory of aesthetics that is biologically based. This course uses the core concepts of neuroscience to give students the tools to critically think about the photographic stories they see and share.


    Snaza, Nathan

    This course will examine contemporary practices of sexual education in schools, and the controversies surrounding them, in light of a longer history of sexuality as a concept, drawing on biology, sexology, political history, educational philosophy, and feminist and queer studies. We will track the emergence of "sexuality" as a scientific and political concept in the nineteenth century, and examine how state-regulated institutions (especially the school and the hospital) have operationalized sexuality as a means of regulating the behavior of individuals and the "health" of populations.


    Barney, Timothy

    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. This 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.


    Whitehead, Marcia

    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 social environment? We will explore these questions and others from many disciplinary perspectives, including philosophy, sociology, psychology, literature, and neuroscience. Our readings will include essays, memoir, fiction (both long and short), and articles from both academic and non-academic sources.


    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.

  • THE SPACE RACE: Fact, Fiction, Fantasy

    Essid, Joseph

    The human story of the 1960s race to the Moon rivals the technological struggle to land and safely return. What did it mean to be a man or woman involved in that program as Astronaut, spouse, engineer? That contest with the Soviet Union had some unexpected outcomes and riveting stories: an African-American woman with a gift for mathematics, teaching NASA how to get a man into orbit; a remarkable test-pilot losing his young daughter to cancer, then driving himself to the brink, before taking that first small step on the lunar surface; a brilliant engineer, taking the fall for three deaths on the launch pad, in order to save the Apollo program; a nation grown cynical about space in the 1970s, turning its back on earlier glory; a group of billionaires spending a lot of money today, racing back to the Moon and Mars. And a lone astronaut stuck on Mars, growing potatoes and listening to disco music. We'll encounter that and more in this FYS class, as a prelude to events in space you'll live to witness. With works of nonfiction, fiction, and film, we'll explore the first Moon race and look at what might be the outcomes of our current multinational drive to return to the Moon and that other unmet NASA goal: landing people on Mars.


    Otero-Blanco, Angel

    A comparative literature course on nineteenth- and early-twentieth century Spain and the United States. Readings (drawn from romantic, realist, naturalist, and modernist traditions) will include works by G. A. Becquer, H. Melville, E. A. Poe, M. de Unamuno, E. Pardo Bazan, and E. Wharton, among others.


    Hodierne, Robert

    In this course you will read, analyze and compare 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 beliefs 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?


    Gruner, Elisabeth

    Adolescence (a term first used in the early 20th century to define the "liminal" state between childhood and adulthood) is a time of great physical and mental change. The literature associated with that lifestage, from The Outsiders to The Hate U Give, The Hunger Games to The Poet X to Fun Home, is fundamentally about interrogating the relationship between the adolescent self and the institutions of social power. In this class we'll explore the history of young adult literature and the social issues it engages, taking seriously the notion that YA literature and its readers matter.