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Achieving eXcellence in Liberal Education

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First-Year Writing Seminars for Fall 2015

For the most current information on the First-Year Writing Seminars being offered,
please see the Schedule in YES.

(In the "class search" application, type "1111" into the search box.)

Fall 2015


The Conquest of Mexico
The conquest of Mexico set in motion profound changes that would permanently alter both Spanish and Mesoamerican cultures. This course examines the social, political, and economic organization and structure of the Aztec empire on the eve of the Conquest, and Aztec warfare, religion, cosmology, technology, and science. We consider the origins and expansion of the Spanish empire in the New World, the events and processes of the Conquest, and early Colonial-period economics, society, politics, and religion in central Mexico. Materials are drawn from a wide variety of archaeological, historical, geographic, art historical, and ethnographic data. [3] (INT)

Disney in America
Disney has been a major cultural force in America since the early twentieth century. After learning about anthropology as a discipline and exploring the idea of high versus low culture, we will use a combination of texts and films to explore how Disney both impacts and reflects Americans' worldview. Analysis of films such as The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Aladdin will allow us to see how Disney shapes our conceptions of gender, race, family, and class. [3] (P)

Archaeology and Gender
This course surveys many aspects of gender in the archaeological record and in archaeological practice. It utilizes feminist and gender theory to define the term gender. It explores principal archaeological themes relative to gender, such as the delineation of social roles, ideology, human evolution, and representations of men and women. It analyzes ways of knowing and understanding gender in the past, gendered technologies and production, gendered spaces and landscapes, and gender in the public domain. [3] (SBS)

Fashioning Forests, Fabricating Nature
This course critically examines our conceptualizations of the natural world. We will ask how the predominant view in the West -- that human beings exist apart from and above nature -- evolved and spread, and how this has affected politics and individual behavior globally. As a counterpoint we will consider the history of Euro-American environmentalist thinking, then multiple non-Western and indigenous views on nature. Finally we will engage the subject from the point-of-view of current-day academic anthropology. We will understand how all of these voices contribute to the ongoing debate to define our environmental future. [3] (INT)

Art Studio

Walking in Nashville: Art, Landscape, and Urbanism
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, art, architecture, and urban studies have investigated the production of texts and images that shape our experience of large cities. Nashville will be the focus for our aesthetic and personal observations, and walking will be our key form of exploration. We will employ the artistic strategies of the Situationists, urban interventionists, and land artists to expand upon and represent our experience of this unique city. Readings will include texts on the art, philosophy, and history of walking by architects, journalists, theorists, novelists, and artists. [3] (HCA)

Asian Studies

Hollywood Hanoi: Representations of the Vietnam War
American filmmakers, photographers, and novelists have attempted to capture the haunting effects of the Vietnam War. What are the biases and limitations of narratives that attempt to capture a military conflict involving multiple countries and ideologies? How do violent, graphic photographic images affect the everyday lives of those not on the battlefield? This course will examine such issues from different perspectives, beginning with the viewpoints of Vietnamese writers and artists. It will also consider works by writers and filmmakers from Thailand, Hong Kong, France, and South Africa, juxtaposed with Hollywood accounts. [3] (INT)

Biological Sciences

Genes and Society
Our future has changed due to the availability of complete genomic DNA sequences ranging from microbes to humans. With these sequences we have entered a new era that holds the promise of a better world through personalized medicine, gene therapy, cloning, and genetically modified crops. Are we ignoring the dangers that these discoveries pose on our society and planet? We will learn to critique the scientific literature and to discern science from science fiction. However, most importantly, we will begin to understand the limitations of science and explore the possible impact of these scientific discoveries on the world. [3] (P)

Health, Planet, and Evolution
What do biodiversity, antibiotic resistance, and coping with climate change have in common? They are all built on the unifying concept of evolution. In this course, we will explore how evolution illuminates our understanding of our health and our planet by studying Charles Darwin's travels around the world on the HMS Beagle, reading the Origin of Species, and elucidating the impact of Darwin's theory on our knowledge of the Earth's precious biodiversity and the wonders of modern medicine. In addition, we will examine how society has grappled with evolutionary biology over time. Topics will include eugenics, cancer, influenza, HIV, extinction, and global warming. [3] (MNS)


Chemistry of Everyday Things
The Chemistry of Everyday Things is a course designed to learn about the chemistry of everyday things including beauty products, contraception, food additives, and pesticides, DNA fingerprinting, polymers, and drugs used to cure disease. these topics will be embedded within social, historical, legal, and religious contexts while answering fundamental questions about the role of science in society. Students will explore these topics through readings and discussion, and will demonstrate topic mastery by writing Time magazine-style articles about scientific products within a social context. [3] (P)


Spectacle in the Ancient World
Blockbuster films, sporting events, media and sports stars are commonplace today, but all have precedents in Greek and Roman antiquity. For instance, the professional sports many love today began with the ancient Olympic Games. Gladiators were stars in the Roman world, where the enraged fans of the chariot races battled in many bloody riots. Greek festivals attracted spectators who were enthralled by the mythological figures and amused by the satires of politicians. This seminar will explore ancient spectacle in theater and sport through literary tragedies and comedies and archaeological remains of venues where ancient spectacles were held. [3] (INT)


Comparative Health Care Systems
Comparing the health care systems of other countries with the U.S. system provides insight into the Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, as well as globalization in health care. This seminar considers finance, risk pooling, costs, technology, and service delivery. We will also examine the important issues of equity and access to health care. [3] (SBS)

Education and Economic Development
Economic theory suggests that education is important for economic growth and development. Education increases productivity, but often at high costs. We will explore the net benefits of education through the lens of human capital investment by individuals and government. We will discuss how education can increase economic performance, reduce inequality, and foster social cohesion. Finally, we will analyze whether different policy strategies achieve our education and development goals. These policies include Head Start, charter schools, and teacher performance incentives in the United States along with vouchers, schools for girls, and conditional cash transfers in developing countries. [3] (SBS)

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's best-selling book, Freakonomics, provides examples of surprising incentives and distortions in information that influence economic behavior. Our course will consider these topics in greater depth, including cheating by teachers, sumo wrestlers, and office workers, as well as discrimination by television game show contestants. The authors’ core ideas are applied in the discussion of public policies toward the drug trade, crime reduction, and educational reform. [3] (SBS)


Existential Fictions
D. H. Lawrence suggests that fiction is a laboratory for philosophical problems. This course uses fiction to explore existentialism. Sometimes called a "psychology," existentialism became a dominant post-World War II philosophy, because it directed its concerns to the world of human behavior, rather than a transcendental realm. We will consider the fictions of existentialists, such as Sartre, Beauvoir, and Camus, and the existential ideas of other contemporary authors, such as Murdoch, Atwood, Madonna, and Oe. [3] (HCA)

Foundational Stories of the Western Tradition
This course examines a variety of narratives that have formed the basis of Western literature and culture. Readings include the Old Testament, Acts of the Apostles, Greek tragedy, Aesop, Ovid, Medieval Arthurian romances, The Arabian Nights, and Grimm's fairy tales. No credit for students who have completed HONS 181 section 53. [3] (HCA)

Representations of War
Novels, memoirs, films, poems, and historical writings will provide examples of representations of war beginning with World War I and ending with the war in Afghanistan. Historical events and their representations always contain conflicting truths. The process of identifying and reconciling these truths will be the main focus of this course. Faculty from other disciplines will serve as guest speakers, but students will rely mainly upon their own viewpoints in sifting through complex historical issues. [3] (HCA)


African-American History on Film
Since 1619, African Americans have struggled steadily for civil equality and economic freedom in this country. Along the way, they established social institutions and patterns of resistance to maintain a sense of communal well-being and individual respect. This course uses documentary films and written sources to examine the course of that historic struggle. Key issues and developments in African American history, such as the influence of Africanisms upon American culture, slave resistance, Northern migration, the American civil rights movement, and the evolution of hip hop culture, will be explored. [3] (US)

Nationalism and Nation Building in Africa
This course focuses on the many expressions of anti-colonial and proactive nationalism on the African continent from the late nineteenth century colonization to the 1990s when all African countries had gained independence. This course will highlight the contradictions, successes, and failures of these diverse nationalist expressions and agitations. Major topics include African nationalist resistance to European conquest and rule, Pan-Africanism, white nationalism and apartheid, the challenges of independence, and the politics of African unity. [3] (INT)

Germany Between East and West
This course examines the history of postwar Germany from the perspective of its unique geopolitical position, stranded in the middle of the Cold War confrontation between the capitalist West and communist East. Starting with the defeat of Hitler's Germany in 1945, we will continue through the period of Germany's division (c. 1949) and re- unification (1990). What different kinds of political, social, and cultural movements developed in the two Germanies? How did the two Germanies affect each other? We conclude with current controversies about Germany's role in the European Union and in the world. [3] (INT)

Galileo, Darwin, Einstein: Lives and Times
Galileo Galilei. Charles Darwin. Albert Einstein. All three men have become icons of the modern age. This class will explore their lives, science, and times to uncover what made their contributions so distinctive and their legacies so enduring. Through the personal and scientific biographies of each man, we will also learn about the particular place and moment each practiced his science, from Renaissance Italy through Victorian England, to twentieth-century Europe and America. [3] (HCA)

History of Art

Ancient Art and Ethics
Who owns the past? Should the British Museum return the so-called Elgin Marbles to Greece? Whatever happened to the antiquities stolen from the Baghdad Museum following the invasion in 2003? This course considers the ethical issues surrounding the visual and material culture of ancient societies, including the looting of archaeological sites, the international antiquities market, the display of artifacts in museums, repatriation of stolen antiquities, and cultural heritage management. [3] (HCA)

American Icons and Monuments
This course will provide an in-depth analysis of icons and monuments in American visual art and culture in an attempt to answer the following questions: Why are certain images of people, historical events, or national symbols revered in the U.S. and renowned throughout the world? What do they say about national identity, historical memory, or
political ideologies? How do they convey a common set of ideals and values that creates an overarching sense of unity and identity in American society? Conversely, how and why do different social groups contest certain monuments? [3] (US)

Art and Controversy in 20th-Century America
Art often mirrors culture, but what happens when art does not reflect the views of the society or culture that produces it? We will study recent and historical controversies concerning the visual arts that address questions of government funding, the role of public art, censorship, decency, morality, and issues of diversity and inclusion. [3] (US)

Other Shores, Other Lands: Islamic Culture and Art in Premodern Travel Accounts
Centering on the travel accounts produced by premodern Muslim travelers as well as European travelers writing about the Islamic world, this seminar will make forays into the composite cultural and artistic fabric of premodern Islam. What insights into premodern Islamic cultures and their artistic production can we gain from these travel narratives? Engaging with excerpts from representative travel accounts, we will assess their content to appreciate the sensibilities instrumental in shaping the understanding of the premodern Islamic world, while foregrounding the art historical information about monuments and cityscapes that they provide. [3] (P)

Jewish Studies

JS 1111, SECTION 1
In a Pluralistic Age: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Spain
Between 711 and 1492, Jews, Christians, and Muslims created one of the richest and most fertile of medieval civilizations. In this seminar, we shall evaluate the settings and conditions for this culture's extraordinary pooling of talent and attachment to tolerance, but also evaluate the reasons for its eventual end. [3] (HCA)

JS 1111, SECTION 4
Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs: Black-Jewish Relations in the 1950s and 1960s
Blacks and Jews have shared a long and varied history, particularly in the American context, due to strong forces pulling the two groups simultaneously together and apart. Through an examination of historical and literary texts and visual images, this course will explore that shared history, focusing on the period of its greatest intensity. Examples of Black-Jewish relations ranging from the heights of utopian cooperation to the depths of dystopian conflict will be explored. [3] (HCA)


Cryptography: the History and Mathematics of Codes and Codebreaking
Mathematics has long played key roles in both sides of the cryptography "arms race," helping cryptographers devise ever more complex cipher systems while also providing tools to cryptanalysts for breaking those ciphers. During World War II, this battle between code makers and code breakers led to the construction of the first digital computers, ushering in an information age in which cryptography makes information security possible, but not always certain. This course will provide an understanding of the ways codes and code breaking have affected and continue to affect history, technology, and privacy. [3] (MNS)

Music Literature and History

Shakespeare and Music
In the last three hundred years, Shakespeare's dramas have inspired literally thousands of musical works, ranging from operas to film scores to Broadway renditions such as West Side Story. They inspired "authentic" music within the plays from nineteenth-century incidental music such as Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream to symphonic compositions such as Tchaikovsky's fantasy-overture on Romeo and Juliet. We will investigate a small cross-section of these self-identified Shakespearean musical compositions to develop familiarity with the musical, theatrical, and cinematographical conventions of different eras and with the kinds of pieces inspired by the Bard of Avon. [3] (HCA)

Music, Identity, and Diversity
Issues of multiculturalism and intersections with musical expression in America. Cultural determinants, such as race, gender, ethnicity, class, religion, language, ideology, folklore, and history will be studied critically. (P)


Green Cities
Although cities are usually viewed as environmentally problematic due to pollution, overcrowding, and the widespread use of concrete and asphalt, they can help solve regional and global environmental concerns. Some contemporary cities are environmentally sustainable in significant respects, while many other cities can and should take similar initiatives and explore creative paths of their own. Moreover, making cities sustainable is more than just preserving green space or establishing recycling programs, it concerns urban planning and design, environmental justice, and the reduction of a city's ecological footprint. Key topics will include nature, sustainability, urban design, and social equity. [3] (P)

Race and Democracy in the U.S.A
Achieving and sustaining democracy in the United States has been compromised by agendas for social, political, economic, and cultural advantages for one racial group--"white people"--while curtailed or denied for persons of other racial and ethnic groups. Through a historically informed reading of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, we will explore an enduring and vexing challenge of how to achieve a just, "democratic" nation-state with a demographically complex population of similar and different racial and ethnic groups. [3] (US)

Theories of Justice
What is justice? How is it achieved? How does it relate to our personhood and interrelations, or to animals, plants, nature and the environment? How does justice relate to equality, law and liberty, constitutions and constitutionalism? What matters in choosing leaders and setting priorities that affect ourselves and others? Readings include Plato's Republic, Rawls' A Theory of Justice, and Goodman's On Justice. [3] (HCA)

Political Science

U.S. Culture in World Politics
From McDonald's to the popularity of President Barack Obama, many U.S. societal phenomena acquire worldwide recognition and following. Other quintessential U.S. phenomena, such as the World Series and the Super Bowl, however, attract limited interest outside of the United States. Why? In this seminar, we investigate the diffusion of U.S. culture and its worldwide influence, a phenomenon often called "Americanization." Who are the agents that favor cultural diffusion? Who opposes it? What aspects of U.S. culture are embraced? Which are contested? To address these questions, we focus on several areas, including food, movies, sports, norms, and values. [3] (SBS)

A Film Portrayal of African Development
We will explore topics in African political and socioeconomic development through key films in African cinema. Film provides insights into such developments through the eyes and experiences of Africans themselves and constitutes a very different, but very rich, medium for substantive learning. We will focus on the following core questions: What prevents African development, and what propels it? What role have colonial powers played in the past, and what role should foreign intervention play in the future? How may politics help or hinder development? [3] (INT)


Stress, Health, and Behavior
In this course, we will examine the origin of the stress concept as it applies to health and disease. We will investigate how stressful stimulation affects neural, endocrine, cardiovascular, and immune systems, as well as memory and emotions in animals and in humans. We will also consider the ways in which stress affects developing and aged individuals. We will also focus on allostatic load as a new concept in the field of stress research. Readings will be taken from a basic text and from the current literature in the psychological and biomedical sciences. [3] (SBS)

PSY 1111, SECTION 15
Understanding Autism
This course takes a multidisciplinary approach to understanding autism from both historical and contemporary perspectives. We will examine the beginning of autism awareness in Western culture, learn about evolving scientific explanations, and explore autism within current social, medical, and educational contexts. We will make a special effort to integrate the art and the science surrounding the study of autism, while at the same time challenging the myths. Readings are drawn from fiction, history, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience. [3] (SBS)

PSY 1111, SECTION 19
Environment, Behavior, and Health
How do the environment, poverty, crime, culture, and social networks influence eating and exercise? We will study how causal factors interact to influence behavior and health, including the epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Contributions from geography, public health, social science, and epidemiology will be used to understand potential solutions such as environmental design, public policy, social marketing, and individual behavior change. [3] (SBS)

Religious Studies

Buddhist Literature From Buddha to the Beats
Spanning more than 2000 years, Buddhism boasts a tradition rich in literary expression including works by luminaries ranging from the ancient Indian philosopher Aśvaghoṣa to modern day novelists such as Jack Kerouac and Herman Hesse. But why have these individuals authored narratives and composed poetry to communicate religious messages? What is the relationship between religion and literature? In this course, we will explore these issues through close readings of primary texts such as Life of the Buddha, Journey to the West, Siddhartha, and The Dharma Bums, alongside secondary scholarship from diverse academic disciplines. [3] (INT)


Classic Russian Short Novels
In the nineteenth century, Russia witnessed an unprecedented explosion of literary and intellectual activity, a renaissance yielding some of the masterpieces of world literature. Concentrating on short classic novels, we will examine works by the most prominent authors of this period, putting special emphasis on Russia’s unique handling of the sudden influx of European philosophy and culture. Knowledge of Russian is not required. [3] (HCA)


Controversies in the Practice of Medicine
This course will examine controversies surrounding issues in the field of medicine, including abortion, physician- assisted suicide, organ sales, the ideal physician-patient relationship, health insurance, and medical advertising in the media. We will analyze particularly the role of the pharmaceutical industry and the media in such controversies to gain a unique perspective on the relationship between modern society and contemporary medicine. [3] (SBS)

SOC 1111, SECTION 22
Mass Incarceration in the United States
Why does the U.S. have the highest incarceration rate in the world? We will begin our study of U.S. prisons with the period at the end of the Civil War, and consider several historical eras. We will give particular attention to the period from the 1970s to the present, when rates of incarceration rose sharply, especially among African-American men. Throughout the course, we will examine sociological explanations for the changing role of incarceration in the U.S. and for the effects of mass incarceration on society. [3] [SBS]


Ecocritical Perspectives in Latin American Literature
This course will trace the development of ecocritical perspectives in literature from Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru from pre-Columbian times to the twentieth century. How do matters of environmental health and justice emerge in literature? We will explore literary representations of the natural world, cultural constructions of the environment, and views of Spanish American writers regarding the dynamic interplay between humankind and nature. We will begin with indigenous texts and end with a novel that calls the reader to environmental activism. Knowledge of Spanish is not required. [3] (HCA)


Treasure or Trash: Examining Theatrical Credibility
What constitutes a worthwhile theatrical experience? This course will offer a behind-the-scenes look at the collaborative processes essential to theatrical production. Students will explore aspects of theatrical practice such as design, directing, and acting. They will also explore the nature of theatre and its place in the realm of human experience through readings and attendance at several live performances. Successful students will gain a unique understanding of the individual components of theatrical art from page to stage and from spectator to critic. [3] (HCA)

Visual Storytelling in Theatre and Film
As an introduction to the use of visual design elements in theatre and film productions, we will discuss the artists (directors, actors, designers, cinematographers) who collaborate to create theatre and film and examine their processes for making such visual choices. We will watch plays and films in order to explore and understand the collaborative process. Discussions of these productions and writing assignments will help to develop your understanding of how visual designs are created and how they communicate conceptual ideas to an audience. [3] (HCA)

Women's and Gender Studies

Women in Law and Literature
Feminist jurisprudence provides an analysis and critique of women's position in patriarchal society and examines the nature and extent of women's subordination. It explores the role of law in maintaining and perpetuating patriarchy. This course will trace literary representations of women from classical antiquity to the present, focusing both on how women have been excluded from full participation in the social, political, and economic life of the societies in which they lived, and on their efforts to achieve autonomy. Texts include Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Cleage's Flying West, Euripides' Medea, and Flaubert's Madame Bovary. [3] (P)

Love and Marriage in Literature and Culture
The ideals of love and marriage dominate narratives from Aristophanes' plays to Judd Apatow's comedies. This course examines how different societies construct these ideals in their arts and popular culture, and the effect of those constructions on social behavior. We will analyze the intersection of art and social change in relation to gender, power, and sexuality. Texts will include plays (Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Ibsen), novels (Austen, Smiley), short stories (Faulkner, Oates, Updike), poetry (Yeats, Rich, Dove), and essays by psychologists, memoirists, and humorists. [3] (HCA)

Gendered Lives
This course examines how literary texts represent gendered lives. Using contemporary critical techniques and historical approaches, the course will explore how gender is determined by environment, personal choice, and social expectations. Authors will include Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Kate Chopin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Virginia Woolf. [3] (HCA)

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