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Fall 2016 First-Year Seminar Course Offerings

Days/Times refer to the days and times when the class meets, e.g., MWF = course meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or TR = course meets every Tuesday and Thursday. Notice that the amount of time you spend in class per week is the same but the amount of time you spend in class each day depends on how often the class meets.

Title and Description (NOTE: Honors seminars listed below)


Beautiful Body This course questions and challenges what defines a "beautiful body" both in America and globally. We examine socially constructed definitions of beauty and the ways in which a beautiful body is rewarded and penalized. We consider, through economic, social-psychological, anthropological, and feminist frameworks, why a beautiful body has become so important in modern society. Talukdar J
Contagion This course investigates contagions as they’re depicted in the news, literature, and film. We’ll consider the role of disease in shaping history and political power, reading excerpts from Pandemic and Guns, Germs, and Steel and studying the story of Typhoid Mary. Later in the semester, we’ll look at paranoia surrounding disease, spending a week considering the vaccination debate and two weeks looking at the recent Ebola crisis. A unit on HIV and poetry will help us consider the impact disease has on individuals and relationships as well as the way that stigma shapes our understanding of disease. Finally, the course will end the way the world ends: with the apocalypse. We’ll watch the film 28 Days Later and read a graphic novel about a Zombie Pandemic released by the CDC. Though zombies are fictional, they mirror concerns about infection, control over one’s body, survival, pandemic, and civil liberties. Groner A
Devil's Advocate This class surveys the various ways the Devil has been depicted in literature and film, from the historical development of Satan from Hebrew and Christian Scriptures to popular cultural references from Dante to comic books. The devil, whether as an actual entity or as a metaphor, has historically been used to explain man’s dark side as well as being a signifier for “the other.” The goal is to get students to rethink receive conceptions of the Devil and by extension re-examine any group that is being demonize. Bell R
Diversity in Society As Americans, we pride ourselves on the diversity of our nation. But what do we really mean? With our commitment to diversity as an ideal, how do we reconcile the inequities around us? This course challenges you to think critically about how diversity shapes our identities, our beliefs, and our daily lives. PLEASE NOTE: Service Learning is an optional component of this course. Newman L
Food Justice Food justice encompasses an enormous range of topics, from the global food production and distribution system to individual preferences for foods. The topic of this course will be food justice with a focus on access to nutritional food. We consider the possible social, political, economic, and cultural aspects of the issues and then we critically assess the different dimensions of the contemporary food justice movement. Mennino S
Foodways and Gender This course explores the connections between foodways, the cultural, social, and economic practices related to the production and consumption of food, and gender as a system of inequality. We explore the different possible explanations for those inequalities that might be connected to food, for example, food packaging, food advertisements, and food commercials. We will also look at how gender, in turn, influences the production, preparation, and consumption of food.  Mennino S
Gender, Violence, and Justice This course critically evaluates how violence perpetuates patriarchy across the globe and examines the forms of resistance contemporary feminists employ to terminate the subjugation of women and other marginalized genders. As students work in groups for their final project to develop a feminist manifesto for a specific gender movement, they will experience the cooperation and leadership necessary to design and to present a movement blueprint.  Boyett P
History of the American Dream This course explores the way Americans (primarily) have thought of themselves and their country as revealed in their often conflicting visions of what came to be called the ”American Dream.” Have Americans' ideas of equality, opportunity, democracy, and freedom associated with the Dream been consistent over time? Using primary documents, literature, music, and film, we try to assess if there really is an identifiable “American Dream.” Moore D
iBrains Our technologies are changing everything about the way we live and learn in the 21st Century. We explore how technologies (reality TV, games, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine, Chive, YouTube, etc.) change what it means to be human. We study traditional theories of learning and human development and explore how issues like net neutrality, digital identities, and privacy are complicating notions of the human subject. Petitfils B
A Life in the Life Sciences This course introduces students to the experiences of a field biologist working in academics and/or industry, and the staunch expectations, responsibilities and skills necessary to succeed in life science research.  Using foundational and current hot button environmental and medical issues, students get exposed to a plethora of topics requiring research attention from the bright minds of future scientists.  Bucolo P
Media and the Environment The language we use to talk about the environment shapes our attitudes towards the science, social issues, and politics surrounding environmental questions. The importance of these questions demands that we distinguish responsible communications from "spin." This course helps students think critically about environmental issues and the language in which they are discussed.  Thomas R
Music and Politics Music isn't only entertaining - like all the arts, it can be a valuable political tool. National anthems and patriotic songs create a sense of patriotism, while protest songs unite those in opposition. Rulers and governments from Charlemagne to the CIA have used music to solidify authority and express political values. We investigate music (in conjunction with other arts) from a variety of times, places, and styles, and reflect on how they work within historical and political systems. No special background in music is necessary--just bring your ears! Clark A
Myths: Stories We Live By Myths are much more than mere stories. They are sacred tales which tap into our desires, our fears, our longings, and they provide narratives which remind us what it means to be human. We explore how these powerful stories are shaped by and how they shape the cultures in which they are told, and we will discover that myths can be used to either perpetuate or challenge structures of inequality in these cultures and societies. We analyze both ancient and contemporary myths (from the epic of Gilgamesh to the myth of the American Dream) and in a creative group project, we explore the myths which give shape to New Orleans – what are the stories on which this fascinating city dwells? Gruber J
New Orleans: All That Jazz This course provides an up-close look at the Crescent City – its particular (and curious) history, geography, cuisine, music, and culture. While deeply exploring what makes the city unique in the country and beyond, it  also probes its limitations and enduring struggles – a long legacy of political corruption, racial inequality, and other topics that are often overlooked. In addition to exploring these ideas through fiction, non-fiction, music, TV, and film, this course provides a unique perspective of the city via field visits to cultural sites to nationally-recognized culinary, musical, and cultural destinations. Miron L
Nietzsche & Morality This class offers an introduction to the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, who offered one of the most provocative and original criticisms of nineteenth century European morality. This course introduces students to the central concepts in contemporary moral psychology, an interdisciplinary form of  inquiry which draws on philosophy and psychology as well as neuroscience, sociology, anthropology, and criminology. Leland P
Poetry in Motion Why have poets -- from Romantic-era radicals to hip hop artists today-- responded to urgent social questions through art?  The first third of the course asks this question of three politically-committed poets (P.B. Shelley; Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Gwendolyn Brooks).  The rest of the course focuses on student-selected poetry as we consider a range of critical perspectives on race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and aesthetic responses to real-world events. Allison S
Political Satire Satire as political protest can be traced to the earliest days of American government. This course traces the uses, power, and historical significance of satire from such famous satirists as Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain to the contemporary satire of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Michael Moore, and others. Dynia P
Pursuit of Happiness The pursuit of happiness is a right enshrined in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. But what is happiness? Can it be measured? What can science tell us about the best ways of becoming (and helping others to become) happier? This course explores happiness, what it is, why it matters, and how we can get more of it, personally and collectively. Nichols C
Violent Crime & the Media A few days of media consumption would lead the average person to believe that violent crime is epidemic and that we are all "sitting ducks" waiting our turn to be the next serial murder victim. This course compares media content across a variety of mediums to actual crime rates, dispelling common myths, easing media-driven fear of crime, and cultivating a healthy habit of critical thinking with regard to media consumption. Taylor R

First-Year Seminars for Honors Students Only:

21st Century Slavery & Abolition This First-Year Seminar takes as its case study the issues of modern day slavery and the work people are doing to abolish it. Most readings come from first-person narratives of people who have been victims of human trafficking in the last fifteen years. Some readings will be drawn from secondary sources written by scholars who have studied the problem of modern slavery from a variety of disciplinary angles. Much of our reading, however, touch upon issues of global significance which simultaneously inform and contextualize our discussions of slavery and guide us in discovering what interdisciplinary work looks like. Murphy L
The Bible and the Media In this​ course, students learn how to critique controversial uses of Biblical texts as they appear in two forms of media: web-based news and TV programs. Students apply scholarly Biblical research and Ignatian values to their analysis of media events. Students present their findings through Weebly and Snag-It presentations. Their work critiques the use of the Bible in real world media events. Bednarz T
Mystery, Mud & Madness Religions have been viewed both as cause of our ever-growing environmental crisis ("the madness") and as potential agent of healing for humankind's broken relationship with the natural world ("the mud"). In this course we critically examine both of these views, considering the history of modern environmental destruction in relation to western theology's late-modern disregard for the natural world. Encountering more recent, ecologically-engaged theologies, we re-think traditional theological themes (such as Spirit, Incarnation and Sacramentalism), discerning how they may help us develop integrity within our ecological relationality. Throughout this class we ask, "If theology is communication concerning divine mystery, then how does our 'talk about God' help us to grapple with our unsustainable living practices, teaching us to fully appreciate ourselves as ecological beings?" Daniell A
Persuasion in Public Address This class examines the art of public persuasion in historic letters, proclamations, speeches and videos by identifying rhetorical motives, strategies of argument and style, and the effects of public address on particular audiences.

Klos S 
Rebellion & Revolution in China China is often mistakenly portrayed as a place of conformity and respect for authority. This course shatters that myth by exploring cultures of rebellion and revolution, starting with China's latest uprisings and protests and tracing traditions of disobedience backward in time through music, visual art, literature, artifacts, and historical writing. Much of the course focuses on the modern period, but we also examine the roots of China's cultures of rebellion, which reach back over three millennia. Since China represents one quarter of the world's population, no understanding of the meaning of revolution can be complete without a study of China's revolutionary thought and art. By drawing comparisons with revolutionary traditions from other parts of the world, the course invites students to reexamine their own notion of rebellion and revolution in light of this often overlooked but globally significant tradition. Thum R
Transatlantic Surrealisms "Transatlantic Surrealsims" is an interdiscipinary course that will examine Surrealist aesthetics as a transnational and transcontinental movement. It explores the two-traffic of Surrealist aesthetic ideas and other cultural productions between Europe and Latin America. It studies Surrealist literature an art through art manifestos, essays, films, paintings photogrpahy, and literary texts from the 1920s until the last decades of the 20th century. Durocher I