Spring 2020 Topics

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

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    Skerrett, Kathleen

    We will read and discuss late modern philosophers, theologians, and creative artists, who explore how ethical lives are intricately woven with the challenges that anxiety presents. We will also research mindfulness practices and the contemporary literatures that recommend them. Authors may include Eric Fromm, Paul Tillich, Toni Morrison, Pema Chodrun, Simone Beauvoir, Viktor Frankl, Derrick Bell, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Ruth King. Students will pursue a Koru Mindfulness curriculum for part of this course.


    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.


    Szymanska, Agnieszka

    This seminar examines the lives of Christian ascetics in late antique eastern Mediterranean. In the narrow sense, asceticism denotes various forms of abstinence, including fasting, sleeplessness, and celibacy. Monastic texts portray ascetic practitioners as athletes of piety. They thus allude to classical models of physical and intellectual training. Instead of the well-defined body of Greek and Roman athletes, the monks emaciated bodies stood for spiritual fitness. Students will explore ways in which a system of beliefs can affect the human condition. How do pursuits of an ideal, this seminar asks, shape notions about body, gender, social structures, and built environments?


    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.


    Ashe, Bertram

    Why record a song or make a film that's already been made? Revisions are odd artistic texts: both singular and dual at once. Since the revised text must be either a source or a repetition of that source, each of the literary, musical, filmic, or theatrical texts we will discuss in this seminar will essentially be in flux, either on their way to or having been re-conceptualized: new but also not-quite-new. Like Otis Redding's Respect (1965) and Aretha Franklin's 1967 revision. Or Pablo Picasso's landmark Les Demoiselles D'Avignon (1907) and Faith Ringgold's 1991 revision, Picasso's Studio. We'll discuss why a text is worthy of revision, and the artist's vision of how they've made the new version "theirs," how his or her new artwork must somehow be both similar enough to be recognizable, but different enough that it possesses the artist's own aesthetic stamp. We will identify, parse, analyze and critique these texts for their expansive, revisionary complexity.


    Howell, Yvonne

    What do sustainability, locavore diets, biodiversity, and the concept of the Anthropocene (our geological era, in which human activity is the dominant influence on planetary systems) have to do with Russian literature? Russian culture has been uniquely shaped by the vastness of its landscape (occupying one-sixth of the Earth's landmass), offering a cross-cultural perspective on the relationship of human beings to other animals, plants, food production, climate cycles, and our collective destiny. Readings, films and field trips will provide a thematic introduction to Russian and Soviet history, as well as targeted study of Russia's nuclear industry, melting arctic, and bee-keeping culture.


    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 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.


    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.


    Dagger, Richard

    Students at the University of Richmond have been surrounded by crime throughout their lives. Even those who come from the safest neighborhoods and towns will have been exposed to crime in what they have read (from comic books to mystery novels), what they have watched (in movies, television shows, and the news), and even in what they have played (from "cops and robbers" to video games). There are conceptual and ethical questions about crime, however, that we seldom consider. What, for example, is a crime, or what should count as one? How do crimes differ from other wrongful acts? For that matter, is everything that counts as a crime really wrongful? Is everyone who commits a crime really a criminal? And how should we treat those who commit crimes? On what grounds, if any, can we justify punishing them? Rather than punish criminals, should we make sure that they simply do what they can to repair the injuries to their victims? Or would it be better to treat crime as a kind of disease that requires therapy in order to cure the criminal? These are some of the philosophical but practical questions we will be exploring, and attempting to answer, in this seminar.


    Shaw, Miranda

    Students will be introduced to a range of cultural constructions of sexuality and the spheres of life associated with sexuality in different cultural worlds. As we examine varying views and roles of sexuality through multiple interpretive lenses, students will gain historical background and analytic resources to develop a critical perspective on the gender-coded sexual scripts encountered in popular media.


    Winiarski, Douglas

    Witches and heretics, religious prophets and confidence men, Indian 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 seemingly bizarre events. In this seminar, students learn how scholars research and write these gripping historical narratives and work in teams to develop their own microhistories based on rare archival manuscripts.


    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.


    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.


    Taylor, Porcher

    We'll ponder several critical thinking-rich questions in our innovation journey. How do entrepreneurs and innovators with unceasing drive and incentive innovate and create breakthrough ideas that meet the test of the marketplace? Why is the nation of Israel itself a role model of a start-up company? How did Thomas Edison lay the foundation for America's global leadership in innovation? How can non-conformist thinking gain innovators a competitive advantage? Lastly, we'll explore how innovators can overcome the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration.


    Ross, William

    Most of the plane and solid geometry students learn in high school essentially comes from the same source, Euclid's tour de force book, "The Elements." In this book, Euclid, the famous Greek mathematician, teacher, and cataloger of mathematics, complies and refines much of the mathematics known to the Greeks into one remarkable book that had an incredible journey from ancient Greece to the modern education of most geometry students. In this course, we begin with early results of the Egyptians, Thales, Pythagoras and then look forward from Euclid to Archimedes, Descartes, Euler, and Legendre all the way to modern geometry and topology. This course is designed for students who appreciate mathematics and mathematical proofs. No prior college-level mathematics is required.


    Schoeneman, Andrew

    This course explores the phenomenon of exploitation, why we exploit, the effects of exploitation, and potentially responsive or preventative measures to exploitation. Throughout human history individuals and societies have used power, authority, and coercion to extract value from natural resources, animals, and other human beings for their own benefit. These practices have enabled human and social development, but also caused extreme suffering on a massive scale, and they may imperil life as we know it on this planet in the foreseeable future. This course will investigate the psychology, economics, and religion of exploitation, how it functions, and how it is justified or rationalized.


    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?


    Calvillo, Elena

    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.


    Delers, Olivier

    This course will explore the cinema of the acclaimed German director Wim Wenders. We will use his films to explore different topics: the identity of Berlin as a city filled with war memories and post-modern interrogations in Wings of Desire (1987), the American landscape and the kind of stories it produces in Paris, Texas (1984), Cuban music in Buena Vista Social Club (1999), or moden dance as an art for in Pina (2011), to give only a few examples. Since Wenders has worked with different styles of films, and in different countries, we will also look at what unites his work as a cinematographer, from his recent interest in 3D technology. Wim Wenders' work also offers a systematic reflection on what distinguishes film as a medium from other narrative forms. From his very early beginnings, Wenders dealt with the relationship between film and literature. In 1972, he adapted Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter to the screen and in the same year directed The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty, a film based on a short-story by Peter Handke, with whom Wenders has worked in the decades since. One important aspect of the course will therefore be exploring the role of cinema as an alternative way of telling stories and as a tool for reflecting on the power of language, images, and music.


    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.


    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 uncertainty and 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 and meanings of material space in our individual and our collective lives. Students will learn various ways to analyze spaces and the stories they tell. 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?


    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 things are 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?


    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 define 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.


    Wight, Jonathan

    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, 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.


    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 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 governed 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?


    Cherry, Kevin

    The course will encourage students to read well-known works of literature in order to illuminate and broaden the study of political science. What can reading books tell us about the political climate in which a particular author writes? What can they tell us about human desires and motivations that shape political attitudes and decisions but are not easily studied through traditional social science methodology? What can novelists and poets tell us about the limitations of political institutions in light of human nature?


    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.


    Bonfiglio, Thomas

    This course applies psychoanalytic and Marxist techniques in order to analyze economic inequality and the suppression of the capitalist welfare state in the US. After WWII, democrats and republicans effectively eliminated the communist and socialist parties, suppressed their allied labor movements, and fabricated a false opposition of left and right that does not correspond to political oppositions in the industrialized democracies. Marxist psychoanalysis can explain why Americans vote within a two-party system that neglects the lower classes and why the working class votes against its own interests. Numerous contemporary political issues are analysed through applications of Marxist psychoanalytic theory.


    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, justice, and freedom, by exploring how racial status can empower and entitle some individuals while exposing others to coercion and subjugation. We will read key judicial decisions to identify core political visions and the arguments that advance them. Yet we will also learn how these decisions and their consequences 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 are reflected in historical contests over race matters in the U.S. Students also pursue a Koru Mindfulness curriculum for part of the semester.


    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", "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.


    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.


    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: 1. What defines science? Why is science beneficial? 2. Contemporary manifestations of pseudoscience and anti-science 3. What are the limits of science? Can science address morality? 4. Why do pseudoscience and anti-science have the wide appeal and traction that they do? 5. How are conspiracy theories at the intersection of anti-science and politics?


    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.


    Hass, Jeffrey

    What is socialism? This word has been thrown around for over a century. We have seen the rise and fall of supposedly socialist regimes and societies in the former USSR, while China is basically capitalist now. (Is only Cuba truly "socialist" now?) But what is "socialism?" Is it what Marx-ists or Soviet scholars and leaders said it was? Is it what right-wing pundits or left-leaning British trade unionists say it is? What can we add to the debate? And is socialism dead? Socialism is an important topic, in no small part because in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it provided the foundation and rough outlines for an alternative modernity, in which private property and general economic inequality were tamed in the name of human empowerment and progress. The reality of Soviet-style socialism was less than stellar. Although to be fair, there was a baby in the bathwater (e.g. in much education). Whether socialism leads to perdition automatically, or whether the Soviet case was one form of socialism (as there are many forms of capitalism) or berration of socialism, is something that demands serious exploration. And whether socialism as an idea has run its course or can still generate something useful also demands our attention. For socialism was not just an alternative modernity. It was also a sustained critique of Western capitalist modernity as it existed, and as such socialism and socialists did contribute to some of the benefits we reap today but that are under threat from neoliberalism (e.g. labor rights, a fair distribution of wealth, positive welfare provision, etc.). And so, in this course we will ask just what "socialism" was, is, and could be (if it has a future). And in doing so, hopefully we will ask serious questions about modern life and who we are, and what we could be. Which is exactly what early socialists themselves were doing.


    Bunn, Emory

    This course will examine three occasions in the history of Western thought when the conception of the size of the Universe underwent large expansions: 1) The transition from an Earth-centered to Sun-centered view of the Universe, which led to an enormous increase in estimates of distances to stars, and hence in the scale of the known Universe; 2) The gradual understanding, in the early 20th century, of an expanding Universe filled with billions of galaxies; and 3) Contemporary ideas of the multiverse, according to which our observed environment is only a tiny fraction of all that exists. The most extreme and controversial versions of the multiverse hypothesis propose that the very laws of physics vary throughout the Universe, and that the patch we live in may be quite unusual. In the course of examining the amount of space in the Universe, we will examine ideas about the nature of space, which also underwent major shifts during each of these periods.


    Roberts, Daniel

    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 inter-generational education. Then students will build some multimedia means of information dispersal. They will craft accessible messages for a non-academic audience and then deliver them as research dossiers and oral presentations.


    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 the Enlightenment, there are also often unintended consequences, volatilities, dangers.

  • THE FAMILIES: Italian Organized Crime and Its Fictional Representations

    Corradini, Corrado

    This course is a survey of various fictional representations, in literature and movies, of Italian organized crime. In particular, it intends to call students’ attention to the differences between the representations of mobsters in Italy and the United States. We will focus on the historical and socio-anthropological peculiarities of mafia representations in order to explain these differences as we compare fiction and non-fiction sources.


    Knouse, Laura

    Psychological scientists study human behavior and mental processes across levels of analysis from neurons to culture. The dramatic effect of some psychoactive drug molecules on behavior challenges common sense views of human agency while culture plays an enormous role in patterns of drug use and whether users are glorified or vilified. In this course, students will examine drugs and drug use from these diverse perspectives and will apply their developing understanding of the psychology of drugs to key drug-related debates in medicine and public policy. They will be challenged to think critically about the use and abuse of drugs, their benefits and harms.


    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.


    Otero-Blanco, Angel

    Comparative analysis of literary texts from Spain and the United States with a focus on the romantic, realist, naturalist, and modernist traditions.


    Davison, Michael

    Cuba has recently appeared on a US flight map. To be Cuban does not mean that you are an American actor, or the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Cuba is a country, geographically so close, but philosophically and politically so distant. This course will explore the history and culture of Cuba through its music and dance. It will also explore your attitude and beliefs toward Cuba and Cubans. We will read, write, listen, dance and eat Salsa! We will also study and listen to first-hand recordings and videos of Cuba exploring Latin jazz, a blending of American jazz with Cuban rhythms. At the completion of this course, you will know exactly where Cuba is!


    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 Collaboratory with projects exploring not only the cemetery, but also social infrastructure in the city of Richmond. Questions we will address include: Can we fix a broken society through design? 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.