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Featured Courses

The College of Arts and Science is featuring several new, exciting courses that provide students with an opportunity to engage with some of the biggest and most pressing issues of our time. Taught by A&S faculty who are leaders in their fields, many of these courses bridge disciplines to spark unique perspectives and challenge students to solve problems in new and unexpected ways.

Spring 2023 Featured Courses

Instructors: Mario Rewers (Senior Lecturer of American Studies), James Sasser (Research Assistant of Political Science)

Elections are the foundation of American democracy but they could also be undermining the democratic experiment from within. Jumping off from Alexis de Tocqueville's observation that presidential campaigns increase "intrigue and agitation" and divide citizens into "hostile camps," this course examines the often divisive yet still unifying role political campaigns have had on American culture. In addition to reading historical accounts of past national campaigns, students will have the opportunity to engage with the mixed media of the modern American political process (ranging from audio recordings dating from the dawn of the radio era to contemporary social media) and to interact with individuals orchestrating todays campaigns. Surveying the past, present, and future of American political culture, and covering both theory and practice, this course is aimed at students interested in political science, public policy, and modern U.S. history.

Instructor: Caroline Williams (Writer in Residence of Medicine, Health, and Society)

Writing the Blues - Blues Narratives and the Written Word: This course will explore the tradition of blues literature. How do we define the blues and its work? What is a blues poem? A blues novel? Over the course of the semester we will seek to navigate the liminal spaces between the blues as a feeling (I have the blues), the blues as a genre of music inspired by said feeling, and the rich body of literature inspired by the intersection of the two.

Instructor: Pengfei Li (Senior Lecturer of Asian Studies)

Being the most revered form of art in China, Chinese calligraphy is an essential part of the Chinese culture. This course introduces students to the historical development and aesthetic principles of Chinese calligraphy, Chinese ancient calligraphers and their masterpieces, and calligraphy’s close relationships with seal, painting, and poetry. In addition to hands-on experience in performing Chinese calligraphy in various scripts, students also have the opportunity to create artistic projects that connect Chinese calligraphy to their personal life. 

Instructor: Karan Jani (Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy)

This course will provide an overview of black holes as well as explore the historical development, astrophysical origins, and gravitational-wave discoveries. 

Instructor: Cesar Ignacio Ruiz Cortez (Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media Arts)

This course explores how cinema and other modern technologies produce race as an object of knowledge and control, covering the concept of race across Hollywood cinema, independent film, contemporary art, television, social media, and surveillance networks. Students are required to attend one weekly film screening, Wednesdays at 7:30PM in Buttrick 103. 

Instructor: Courtney Travers (Senior Lecturer of Communication Studies)

What makes the suburbs "safe," the city "progressive," or the country "idyllic?" In this course, we examine the idea that material spaces often influence our social “places” and that these spaces are historically and rhetorically constructed. We will shift between learning about (a) key moments in (mostly) American history where spaces helped establish people’s social places and (b) how media challenge or affirm our perceptions of those histories, stories, and people.

Instructor: David Weintraub (Professor of Astronomy)

This course explores the interdependence of cosmological theories and religious teachings from the eighth century BCE to the end of the seventeenth century. It examines scientific works and religious texts, including those of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Copernicus, Luther, Galileo, and Newton.

Instructor: Paul Durst (Assistant Professor of the Practice of Biological Sciences)

This course covers major advancements in genetics and genomics and their impacts, including: an examination of scientific practices to critique both the scientific literature and the popular coverage of this work; and recognizing how science produces new questions, not definitive answers, and how these questions emerge in the context of the societies that produce them.

Instructor: David Wright (Professor of Chemistry)

Science and technology intersect with many areas of public policy. Think of the regulatory failures behind patient deaths from Vioxx; water quality in Flint Michigan; the debate over the reality and extent of climate change; widespread public perception of eroding American research and development competitiveness in a globalizing world; and the public health failures during the COVID pandemic. This course examines such questions by surveying the interactions between science, technology, and policy. Over the course of the semester, the assignments will focus on the challenge of reorganizing the CDC into a modern, responsive public health resource. 

Instructor: Samuel Dolbee (Assistant Professor of History)

The course gives perspective on the fossil-fuel-driven crisis of climate change today by looking at the long legacy of how climate has shaped human history, and how people have understood these processes. A central premise is that there is no such thing as a “natural disaster”—that all cataclysms and their unequally borne consequences are a reflection of human politics.

Instructor: Nicole Hemmer (Associate Professor of History)

The election of Barack Obama represented a dramatic change in U.S. politics: not only was he the first Black president, but he was the first Democratic president to win a majority of the popular vote in over 30 years. This course will explore the historical forces that forged the Obama presidency: the experiences that brought Obama to the White House, the party transformations that made his candidacy possible, the policies his administration enacted (and failed to enact), and the grassroots movements that shaped his eight years in office.

Instructor: Christopher Loss (Associate Professor of History)

This course will explore the role of U.S. colleges and universities as key sites of state-building, citizenship training and professionalization, identity formation, and national belonging and exclusion. Using lectures, readings, discussions, group projects, and writing assignments, we will study the history of American higher education from a range of different perspectives that consider the triumphs, sacrifices, and injustices that are part of this story. 

Instructor: Laurel Schneider (Professor of Religious Studies)

Religious and scientific visions and fears of the future have shaped human horizons and social movements in multiple ways throughout history. Through engagement with critical theory, religious writings, literature, speeches, artist renderings and cinematic accounts, this course examines the influence of future imagining (utopic, positivist, dystopic) on critical appraisals of the present and possibilities for creative social change.

Fall 2022 Featured Courses

Instructors: Gilman Whiting (Associate Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies), Michael Dyson (University Distinguished Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies)

The author through literature, art, film, politics, and place. Five places critical in his artistic evolution: Harlem and Greenwich Village, New York; Paris and St. Paul-de-Vence, France; and Turkey. Film recreations of his life and writings. [3] (INT)

Instructors: Gilman Whiting (Associate Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies), Michael Dyson (University Distinguished Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies)

Will explore central themes of Black existence by wrestling with the possibilities, conflicts and contradictions of popular articulations of Black identity glimpsed in iconic figures. Course will feature in-person and virtual visits by figures like Nas, Al Sharpton, Common, Joy Ann Reid, William Barber, Ben Crump, and many more.

Instructor: Clarence Stauffer (Adjunct Assistant Professor of American Studies)

This course will analyze the role and influence of Jesus in American culture. The course is geared for both religious and non religious students. For many, Jesus is their lord and savior. For others, he is a moral exemplar. How do the teachings of Jesus continue to impact American life? How have we Americanized Jesus in this country? What can we learn about morality and ethics from his teachings and parables? Why do so many Christians fail to follow Jesus teachings? Themes will include - love, peace, hope, forgiveness, joy, morality, mercy, and compassion.

Instructor: Danyelle Valentine (Senior Lecturer of Gender and Sexuality Studies)

How does the past inform the present? What role does one’s geographic location and culture play in the monetary success of their country? And in shaping their political and religious beliefs? From exploration to the process of colonization American society continues to be driven by a lust for Gold, a religious faith in God, and a yearning for Glory. In this course we will trace the emergence of religious communities and trade relations in America’s nation building efforts.

Instructor: Mario Rewers (Lecturer of American Studies)

From the sixteenth century to the present, using feet, hooves, and wheels, driven by curiosity, fear, or desire, men and women have traveled across North America while documenting their experiences in text, image, music, and film. Discussing Spanish explorers and French philosophers, eighteenth-century scientists and modern-day hoboes, this course asks what accounts of travel and movement reveal about American nature, culture, and politics.

Instructor: Tiffany Saul (Lecturer of Anthropology)

Forensic scientists have played an important role in human rights investigations and prosecutions since the 1970s. This class will address the practical, ethical, and theoretical implications of scientific work in the human rights arena, with an emphasis upon the work of forensic anthropologists. A broad overview will be provided, followed by in-depth case studies that will illustrate the complexity of human rights-oriented forensic science work. Through these case studies, the course will address topics related to practitioners, victims, survivors, and perpetrators of human rights atrocities. Additional topics will include tensions between evidentiary procedures and community needs, inequality in access to forensic resources, local involvement as opposed to the exclusive utilization of outside expertise, and ethical implications of data collection during human rights investigations.

Instructor: David Wright (Stevenson Chair of Chemistry)

Science for Everyone focuses on the great ideas of science to help students become fluent in the way science touches our everyday lives. Science is hierarchical in nature, and these great ideas form the framework of our understanding of the universe across all disciplines of science. The goal of this course is to prepare students to use these ideas in their future role as citizens, allowing them to participate in the public discourse that is the fabric of our democracy.

Instructor: Dusan Danilovic (Senior Lecturer of Communication of Science and Technology)

An examination of ethical questions that might arise upon the First Contact between humankind and extraterrestrial sentient entities, as found in science fiction literature. Focus on events that emerge from ineffective communication. The potential influence of these questions and novels on modern society. Satisfies the advanced science communication skills requirement for the CSET major and the CSET minor.

Instructor: Gabriel Briggs (Senior Lecturer in English)

Studies in intellectual currents that create a group or school of writers within a historical period. May be repeated for credit more than once if there is no duplication in topic. Students may enroll in more than one section of this course each semester. [3] (HCA)

Instructor: Zdravka Tzankova (Research Associate Professor of Sociology)

Scholarship from across the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. History and science of climate change;, the cultural and political-economic systems that shape climate injustice. Challenges and possible solutions to the climate crisis. [3] (P)

Instructors: Jonathan Metzl (Frederick B. Rentschler II Chair), Caroline Williams (Writer in Residence of Medicine, Health, & Society), Celina Callahan-Kappor (Senior Lecturer of Medicine, Health, & Society)

The COVID-19 pandemic set into motion a series of events that will reshape society in lasting ways, from how we live, to how we learn, to the future of jobs and careers, to the issues about which we protest and aim to change, to the movies we watch, the music we hear, and the stories we read. These changes will be shaped by innovations from fields including technology, medicine, architecture, humanities, politics, science, and economics. Ultimately, the COVID-era will affect how we think about ourselves, and our relationships with others, our sense of social and racial justice, and our place in the world for years to come. This interactive new class will explore the pandemics impact on our past, present, and future, as told through the narratives of thought and opinion leaders. 

Role of religion in climate change and as response to planetary catastrophe. Religious and literary texts. Historical, philosophical, and anthropological work. [3] (P)

Instructor: Holly Tucker (Mellon Foundation Chair in the Humanities)

Through an immersive role-playing game, students plunge into the intellectual and political currents that surged through revolutionary Paris in 1791. How does one find a balance between individual desires/goals and the responsibilities of citizenship? Do revolutionaries have a right to use violence to eliminate an oppressive government? Conversely, does a state have the right to employ violent means to suppress rebellion?

Featured Courses - Archive

ANTH 2105: Race in the Americas

Instructor: Lesley Gill (Professor of Anthropology)

This course examines the origins of the concept of race. We will compare past and present racial ideologies and practices in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and explore the intersection of race with gender, ethnicity, class, nationalism, and colonialism.

ASIA-2309W and EES-2309W: Mountains to the Sea: Perspectives on Society, Politics, and the Environment

Instructors: Mabel Gergan (Assistant Professor of Asian Studies) and Steve Goodbred (Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences)

This class will explore how physical environments shape politics, religion, economy, cultural practices, and infrastructure. The class will study climate, soils, natural hazards, transportation, water, food, and mineral resources, as well as contestation over climate change and pollution.

ARTS 3333: Engine for Art, Democracy, and Justice

Instructor: Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons (Professor of Art)

This course will focus on the study of art’s relationship to social justice. It will include visual representation and multiple art forms as means to develop new knowledge, new perspectives, and new practices toward inclusive discussion of cultural interconnections, historical entanglements, and the consequences of geographies, histories, and politics. There will be special attention paid to the expansion of the so-called South and its relations and interdependence with other geographies, as well as historical legacies more generally and their relationships to progress toward more just and democratic futures. The course will include critical analysis and experiential projects and models of innovative art practices.

CMA 3892: The Native Lens: Indigeneity and Cinema

Instructor: Lutz Koepnick (Professor of Cinema and Media Arts)

This seminar engages with films by and about Native Americans, Inuits, Sami, Aboriginal Australians, Moiri, and Pacific Islanders in order to explore different figurations of indigenous life on screen and the place of indigenous filmmaking within the larger history of popular and art cinema. Special attention will be given to the work of indigenous filmmakers and artists that actively challenge the tropes, genres, and narratives mainstream cinema has developed for the representation of indigenous people. We will also read a number of relevant texts drawn from indigenous (media) studies to discuss past and present efforts to decolonize cinema and transform dominant circuits of cinematic distribution, exhibition, and spectatorship.

EES-4891-01: Community Engaged Research

Instructor: Lily Claiborne (Principal Senior Lecturer of Earth and Environmental Sciences) and Jessica Oster (Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences)

This course is designed for active, research-based, learning that places environmental issues in affected communities, particularly those that are under-served. 

GSS 3305: Gender and Sexuality in Times of Pandemic

Instructor: Allison Hammer (Senior Lecturer of Gender and Sexuality Studies)

This course will explore the integration of science and medicine to the social construction of race, gender, and identity. It will cover interconnections with national security, economic growth, and natural risks such as sex, death, and illness; challenges to gender and sexual justice by infectious diseases; historical and literary research; sex, sexuality, and gender during times of dis-ease; and expressions, regulations, and resistance of sex, sexuality, and gender during medical/scientific crises.

HIST 1162: The East India Company, 1600-1858: The Company that Ruled the World

Instructor: Samira Sheikh (Associate Professor of History)

This course will explore the formation of an English joint-stock company to trade in Asia. It will cover the establishment of trading posts (factories); conflicts with Mughals, Portuguese, Dutch, and pirates; the shift from trade to politics; Company government in South Asia; resource extraction; colonialism; the Rebellion of 1857; the abolition of the Company; and how it became a forerunner of modern corporations.

HIST 1383: Slave Resistance in the Americas

Instructor: Jane Lander (Professor of History)

This course will explore slave resistance across North and South America, including slave flight, marronage, and full-blown rebellion. We will study free black towns in Florida, Mexico, Panama, and Colombia created by former slaves; problems of evidence and voice through primary sources of free and enslaved Africans and their descendants; sources by historians and archaeologists; and art and material culture of rebels.

HIST 1665: Capital, Labor and Democracy in the United States

Instructor: Jeff Cowie (James G. Stahlman Chair in American History)

Covering the nineteenth century to the present, this course covers the tensions and connections between capitalism and democracy. It provides a basic introduction to the social and political history of workers, business, politics, and organized labor, and addresses questions of power and economic inequality as expressed in American political culture.

HIST 1710W: Writing for Social Change

Instructor: Paul Kramer (Associate Professor of History)

This course covers the practice of narrative, nonfiction writing for social change. It explores the history of American investigative journalism and scholarship, including interviewing, research, narrative, and revision skills.

HIST 2780: Superhuman Civilization

Instructor: Michael Bess (Chancellor's Professor of History)

This course addresses trends in human biological enhancement through the re-engineering of basic physical and mental traits. It will explore debates over transhumanism, designer babies, neuroethics, technological determinism, and the long-term implications for social justice and human identity.

SOC 1030: Environment and Society

Instructor: Zdravka Tzankova (Research Associate Professor of Sociology)

This course explores inequality, population, social change, technology, and the state. It applies concepts from general sociology and environmental sociology to environmental problems across institutional sectors such as food, water, energy, health, and transportation.

SOC 1111: Mass Incarceration in the U.S.

Instructor: Evelyn Patterson (Associate Professor of Sociology)

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.

SOC 3322: Immigration in America

Instructor: Mariano Sana (Associate Professor of Sociology)

This course focuses on theories of international migration, with an emphasis on migration as a social process. It covers economic and social impact, including assimilation, immigrant incorporation, and the second generation; the migrant experience, including transnational practices; how immigration redefines race, ethnicity, and gender; immigration history of the United States; and current U.S. immigration law and policy. The class will also study the debate on open borders.

SOC 3333: Policing in America

Instructor: Laurie Woods (Senior Lecturer of Sociology)

This course looks at the history of American policing: how and where police derived their power and how that power is sustained. We will trace the roots of police in America and the evolution of police power through unions, public support, and political emphasis. Special attention will be given to police brutality issues, the role of media in framing our ideas of policing, the militarization of police forces, and the relationships between law enforcement and the citizens they are paid to serve. We will try to answer the question: What is the function of police?

AADS 2654: Memoirs and Biographies

Instructor: Alice Randall (Writer-in-Residence, African American and Diaspora Studies)

In this class, biographies and autobiographies are used as lenses for the study of historical trends and events; including the development of gender, sexual, and racial identities in subjects.

AMER 3890-01: Morality and Happiness in Post Corona America

Instructor: Clarence Stauffer (Adjunct Assistant Professor of American Studies)

This class will focus on research done in the field of morality and happiness and how it is relevant to our nation emerging from the Coronavirus Pandemic. It will also explore the implications of living in a “post-truth” culture, where many seem to disregard facts and evidence. How can human beings find meaning and purpose in life in the midst of crisis and struggle? What will be different after COVID?

ANTH 2105: Race in the Americas

Instructor: Lesley Gill (Professor of Anthropology)

This course explores the origins of the concept of race. It offers a comparison of past and present racial ideologies and practices in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and explores the intersection of race with gender, ethnicity, class, nationalism, and colonialism.

BUSA 3333-01: Leading Business Through Crisis

Instructor: Patrick Leddin (Associate Professor of Managerial Studies)

Leading an organization is tough, especially in times of high uncertainty (e.g. climate change, global pandemic, cultural shifts). Students will explore and discover how organizational purpose, effective communication, and solid planning/execution can inform and dramatically improve a leader's response to events that threaten an organization's very survival. This course is also about understanding and developing individual and organizational resilience - the ability to anticipate potential threats, cope effectively with adverse events when they occur, and adapt to changing conditions, ensuring a viable path forward for yourself, your team, and your organization.

CMA 3892-02: Special Topics in the Study of Film – Race in Film and Media

Instructor: Cesar Ignacio Ruiz Cortez (Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media Arts)

This course will explore how cinema and other modern technologies produce race as an object of knowledge and control: the concept of race across Hollywood cinema, independent film, contemporary art, television, social media, and surveillance networks.

CMST 2850: Science, Rhetoric, and Public Controversy

Instructor: Bonnie Dow (Professor of Communication Studies)

This course explores the intersections of scientific issues, the public controversies around them, and the rhetorical strategies used by the public advocates involved in those controversies. Through a variety of historical and contemporary case studies, we will focus on the clash between different audiences for scientific information, on the different ways of understanding what counts as evidence in the scientific and public spheres, and the varied rhetorical strategies that public advocates use to communicate about scientific issues. Our goal is greater understanding of the problems and possibilities of public communication and deliberation about science.

ENGL 3890W-01: Movements in Literature – Cultures of the US-Mexico Border

Instructor: Carlos Alonso Nugent (Assistant Professor of English)

In recent years, the U.S. has built a multi-billion-dollar wall along the Mexican border. While the wall may appear to be an anomaly, it rests on longstanding legacies of settler colonialism and racial capitalism. In this seminar, we will look at these legacies through the eyes of the Natives, Latinxs, whites, and others who have lived in the US-Mexico borderlands. We will ask such questions as: Are borders physical boundaries, or are they psychosocial conditions? Are nations stable and homogeneous groups, or are they flexible and diverse communities? Ultimately, can human beings be branded as illegal aliens, or do they have inalienable rights?

GER 2432/CMST 2432: Soccer: Media, Art, Society

Instructors: Lutz Koepnick (Gertrude Conaway Professor of German, Cinema and Media Arts), John Sloop (Professor of Communication Studies)

The great Brazilian athlete Pelé once called soccer the “beautiful game”—a sport second to none in inspiring memorable performances, grand passions, deep commitments, potent conflicts, media spectacles, and artistic representations. In a series of cross-cultural case studies, this course will investigate the game's relationship to issues such as political power, globalization, gender, migration, economic and social inequality, national identity, and transnational commerce. It will discuss the history of the game and the development of its tactics, as much as we will study the particularities of soccer in Germany, Spain, England, and the United States. Funds provided through an Immersion Grant may allow us to take 5-6 students to London and Liverpool over spring break 2022 to conduct research on soccer on site as part of an ongoing or future Immersion project.

HIST 4444: The Politics of American Democracy

Instructor: Jefferson Cowie (James G. Stahlman Chair in American History)

The crisis of American political process and policy has a history, it has causes, and it has solutions. This course, presented in conjunction with the Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy, will explore the background of six key issues, read and analyze six books by public intellectuals, debate their content, and discuss the ideas with the authors.

MHS 2020: Health Care in the United States

Instructor: Gilbert Gonzales (Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health, and Society)

This class covers public health and health care delivery systems, and the evolving social and economic climates that shape health. Topics include health care access, cost, quality, and health disparities; trends in health care industries; the global COVID-19 pandemic; and comparative health systems.

MHS 3890: COVID and Society

Instructors: Jonathan Metzl (Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Medicine, Health, and Society), Caroline Randall-Williams (Writer-in-Residence of Medicine, Health, and Society), Celina Callahan Kapoor (Senior Lecturer of Medicine, Health, and Society)

This interactive class will explore how the COVID-19 pandemic will reshape society in lasting ways, from how we live, to how we learn, to the future of jobs and careers, to the issues about which we protest and aim to change, to the movies we watch, the music we hear, and the stories we read. We’ll engage with politicians, artists, protesters, activists, doctors and scientists, educators, musicians, and many others to better understand how the pandemic moment has impacted what they do in their daily lives, and their sense of what the future holds. Along the way, the class will explore some of the deep questions of the pandemic era—e.g., How can we best address racial inequities and structural racism? How can we regain trust in science and in global and public health? How did masks become political symbols? What works of literature and art best capture the moment? How will the pandemic change the future of jobs and careers? What will college look like?

PSCI 2213: Democratization and Political Development

Instructor: Keith R. Weghorst (Assistant Professor in Political Science)

This course is a comparative study of political development, with a focus on institutions. It examines the effect of political choices about voting systems, executive and legislative powers, cabinet formation, and other institutions on political competition, parties, and government stability. The class uses cases from established democracies and countries undergoing democratization.

PSCI 2245: The American Presidency

Instructor: David Lewis (Rebecca Webb Wilson University Distinguished Professor)

This course examines the constitutional, historical, and political aspects of the American presidency. It gives attention to electing and nominating the president, presidential leadership and personality, governing, and relations with Congress and the public.

PSCI 3896: Bernie Sanders and His Milieus

Instructor: Robert Barsky (Professor of French, European Studies, and Jewish Studies)

In this course, we will explore the political milieus from which Bernie Sanders has drawn for his “political revolution.” We will explore his own writings, and then undertake a critical engagement with his ‘New Deal’ style liberalism, his ‘democratic socialism,’ and his long-standing interest in Eugene V. Debs’s work as a labor leader and a candidate for office. In so doing, we aim to identify the intellectual and political strands that have informed Sanders’s approach to governing, while at the same time identifying what makes Sanders unique in the history of American socialism.


PSCI 4444: Unity and American Democracy

Instructors: Samar Ali (Research Professor in Political Science and Law), John Geer (Ginny and Conner Searcy Dean of the College of Arts and Science and Professor of Political Science), Jon Meacham (Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Chair in American Presidency)

The United States is struggling amid deep polarization, and the divisions we see today have undermined trust in our political institutions. While disagreement is the oxygen of democracy, not since the Civil War have so many Americans held such radically different views not just of politics but of reality itself. This course seeks to explore how to heal our national fissures and seek a path towards a more united states. Embracing unity is like exercise: a great and noble idea, but difficult and all too easy to forego. Yet the history of American democracy has proven that in extraordinary moments of unity, Americans can accomplish extraordinary things. Our class will examine these moments in history as evidence and focus on evidence-based reasoning to understand and to advance unity.


ANTH/CSET 3333-01: Technology and the Ecologies of Materials

Instructor: Grace Kim-Butler (ACLS Emerging Voices Postdoctoral Fellow in Communication of Science and Technology)

This class offers an interdisciplinary study of technology, material culture, and social and cultural experience. It opens a window into technologies’ effects on the material ecologies of everyday life by examining the experiences of, for example, breathing toxic air, navigating oceans of microplastics, caring for art in museum galleries, and circulating waste in the food system. How does technology affect the material substances of people’s bodies and environments? How do these changes then influence the production of scientific knowledge, and actions to intervene in issues of identity, health, and environment? These questions are explored through historical and ethnographic case studies. This class takes seriously the need for cross-disciplinary exchange among the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. It encourages students to sharpen skills in the critical analysis of science and technology, and to use those skills to forge creative paths in scientific interventions and the public engagement of science. Hands-on activities and a field trip are included in the semester.

ASIA 3333-01: Disaster and Apocalypse

Instructor: Mabel Gergan (Assistant Professor of Asian Studies)

Environmental scientists and scholars are proposing that we have entered a new geologic epoch, the Anthropocene, wherein the current era of planetary history is being shaped by the actions of one species: Anthropos (Greek for Human). This course turns to popular culture and media, particularly Hollywood films, to analyze ecological and cultural anxieties regarding the impending human-induced apocalypse, and analyzes how representations of disaster and apocalypse in American popular culture both reveal and obscure broader cultural anxieties. 

ASIA 3333-02: Overseas Encounters: Reading the World

Instructor: Guojun Wang (Assistant Professor of Asian Studies)

This course focuses on the history of overseas studies and international students. It includes literary materials from different cultural and national traditions and emphasizes the experiences of overseas students in higher education, with a focus on U.S. institutions. Themes include literary exploration of difficulties encountered in a global context, as well as national identities, religious encountering, languages, home, loneliness, and romantic relations. Attention is also given to studying and living in a foreign country and identifying struggles and coping strategies.


Instructors: John McLean (Stevenson Professor of Chemistry), Antonis Rokas (Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in Biological Sciences), Holly Algood (Associate Professor of Medicine, VUMC), Steven Townsend (Assistant Professor of Chemistry)

The COVID-19 global pandemic has dramatically illustrated the importance of science in tackling epidemics caused by infectious diseases. Drawing on COVID-19 and numerous other infectious diseases as examples and featuring an interdisciplinary team of faculty, the course will present a comprehensive view of the topic of contagion. How and why do new pathogens originate? How do we identify them and track their spread? How do we restrict their spread? How do we develop diagnostics? How do we develop therapies? How can we prevent future pandemics? The course is open to all undergraduates.

CLAS/HIST 3333: Pandemics and Society in Historical Perspective

Instructors: William Caferro (Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of History and Professor of Classical and Mediterranean Studies) and Jason Harris (Senior Lecturer of Classical and Mediterranean Studies)

The course examines the religious, racial, political, economic and human (psychological) consequences of global pandemics in the pre-modern world, from Antiquity to the Black Death (1348). There will be a close reading of wide-ranging sources to assess the ways contagion transformed societies and its relation to concurrent issues, including violence and social justice.  

FNEC 3333: Consumer Finance

Instructor: Willis Hulings, Associate Professor of the Practice of Managerial Studies

As the nation grapples with the greatest economic challenge since 2008, the financial strain placed on individuals has never been greater. This course will examine how consumers spend, invest, and borrow funds. It will explore the vagaries of consumer finance, and best practices for managing money and debts when earnings and credit scores get adversely affected. It will look at the benefits of various asset classes, and methods to accomplish optimal asset allocation. It will study how financial institutions entice customers with investment and borrowing products, while analyzing the real cost of using them. It will also assess new payment mechanisms and virtual currencies. The semester will mirror the consumer financial planning life cycle; it will start by discussing borrowing and asset gathering during one’s early years, and will end with strategies utilized by consumers to insure, enhance, and ultimately distribute wealth as they grow older.

ENGL 3333: How to Think about Shakespeare

Instructors: Lynn Enterline (Nancy Perot Professor of English), Peter Lake (University Distinguished Professor of History)

How do we think about Shakespeare? Team-taught by an historian and a literary critic, this lecture course allows you to consider this question from two angles. The readings are arranged chronologically over the course of Shakespeare’s career and cover all genres of his writing. We will read each work in light of contemporary historical events as well as literary history and theory. On one hand, we will examine his work in the context of 16th century religious and political issues as well as the way his contemporaries read and thought about those issues. On the other, we will explore the impact of rhetorical training and ancient literary invention on Shakespeare’s modes of invention as well as his representations of subjectivity, gender, and emotion. Though historicist and literary-theoretical approaches are sometimes thought to be incompatible, this course will encourage students to think how they can be put into conversation.

GER/RUSS 3333: Monuments & Memory: The Art and Politics of Remembering

Instructor: Kathryn David (Mellon Assistant Professor of Russian and East European Studies) and Simone Stirner (Assistant Professor of German Studies)

In this course, we will explore the art and politics of public memory, through monuments, memorials, literature and art: How do societies remember histories of violence? Who decides which monuments are built (and which ones are destroyed)? How do individuals interact with public memorials? What is the role of social media in shaping cultural memory today? And who gets to tell the story of the past in the first place? Case studies take us from the Holocaust memorial in Berlin to statues of Lenin in Ukraine, from the National AIDS Memorial in California to gulag cemeteries in Siberia, investigating the political, aesthetic, and ethical dimension of memory in the public space. Collaborative projects on local public memory in Nashville and the American South as well as digital memorial projects for remote students will provide opportunities for public engagement and learning beyond the classroom.

GER 2444: German Fairy Tales: From Brothers Grimm to Walt Disney

Instructor: Christoph Zeller, Professor of German and European Studies

Fairy tales are central to our shared cultural narrative and have long fueled the imagination of both children and adults. In the past two centuries they have undergone radical transformations in form and meaning. This course focuses on the forces that cause these changes, the reasons for fairy tales’ enduring popularity, and the controversies around the function and value of fairy tales. Students will focus on the collected tales of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, learn about their sources, their heritage, and the many transformations their tales display until today. Students will examine how the Grimm stories became staples of U.S. and worldwide popular culture through movie production, most notably by Disney Studios. At the end of the course, students will be able to identify the characteristics of fairy tales, understand their historicity, determine their sources, understand their meanings according to various interpretative models, and recognize their metamorphoses in different genres and aesthetic forms. We will discuss problematic aspects of original tales such as stereotypical gender roles, lack of diversity, excessive violence, and archaic pedagogical practices. This course is designed to strengthen critical thinking and writing skills and to practice close reading and analysis of literary, visual, and cinematic material. Taught in English.

HIST 1320: The Senses of Happiness: A History

Instructors: Catherine Molineux (Associate Professor of History) and Celia Applegate (Professor of History)

How do humans experience happiness? How has the idea of happiness changed over time? An overview of that evolution from Greco-Roman through modern times will lead to an exploration of various aspects of the experience of happiness through a history of the senses and emotions. Topics include: laughter, ecstasy, tasting and smelling, looking and hearing, prosperity, great outdoors, home and hearth, intimacy, creature companions, and health.

MGRL 3333-01: Leading Businesses in Times of Crisis

Instructor: Patrick Leddin, Associate Professor of the Practice of Managerial Studies

Leading an organization is tough, especially in times of high uncertainty (e.g. climate change, global pandemic, cultural shifts). Students will explore and discover how organizational purpose, effective communication, and solid planning/execution can inform and dramatically improve a leader's response to events that threaten an organization's very survival. During the course, participants will spend time with C-level executives who have guided their organizations through major disruptions and have lessons to share from their experiences. Students will also learn from their own experiences via case studies that will strengthen their understanding of how to lead in uncertain times. This course is also about understanding and developing individual and organizational resilience - the ability to anticipate potential threats, cope effectively with adverse events when they occur, and adapt to changing conditions, ensuring a viable path forward for yourself, your team, and your organization.

MRGL 3333-02: Corporate Social Responsibility

Instructor: Leonora Williamson, Lecturer of the Practice of Managerial Studies

According to investing website Investopedia, corporate social responsibility (CSR) “is a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable—to itself, its stakeholders, and the public. By practicing corporate social responsibility, also called corporate citizenship, companies can be conscious of the kind of impact they are having on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental.” For over a century, American business practices have focused on the shareholder as the primary stakeholder in companies. Today, we are watching these traditions cede to broader concern for a variety of stakeholders, including employees, the community, and the environment. This course will introduce students to the key concepts and practices of CSR.

PHIL 3333: Racial Justice

Instructors: Paul Taylor (W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy), Lyn Radke (post-doctoral scholar), Sarah Gorman (teaching staff in Philosophy)

What does it mean that a firestorm of anti-racist protests rocked the U.S. during the summer of 2020? Participants in this course will work together to assemble some resources for answering this question. This collaborative investigation will revolve around four broader framing questions:

(1) What does justice mean when it comes to race?

(2) How do questions of racial justice relate to police work?

(3) What do policing and race have to do with the broader distribution of societal advantages and disadvantages?

(4) How do racialized social distributions relate to the history of the American experiment, and to the prospects for conducting the experiment more successfully?

SOC 3333: Policing in America

Instructor: Laurie Woods (Senior Lecturer in Sociology)

This course looks at the history of American policing: how and where police derived their power and how that power is sustained. We will trace the roots of police in America and the evolution of police power through unions, public support, and political emphasis. Special attention will be given to police brutality issues, the role of media in framing our ideas of policing, the militarization of police forces, and the relationships between law enforcement and the citizens they are paid to serve. We will try to answer the question: What is the function of police?  

SPAN 3333: Pandemics in World Literature (taught in English)

Instructor: Benigno Trigo (Professor of Spanish)

A pandemic is a widespread epidemic. The word comes from the Greek Pandemos, meaning “of all the people.” COVID-19 is a pandemic disease because it has spread around the globe. It has affected virtually everybody on earth. What happens when a disease is so widespread that it makes us feel that nobody is safe, that it will contaminate everyone eventually? Does the experience make us more aware of our shared mortality? Does it make us take stock of our vulnerable condition? Does it change our perspective? Do we look differently at ourselves and at others? Does it challenge our illusions of personal invincibility and collective superiority? These are very old questions that writers the world over have addressed in literature. In this course, we will read examples from the literature of pandemics with these questions in mind. We will explore their elaboration, in fiction, of the connection between our shared vulnerable bodies and the illusion of our personal or collective invulnerability. We will explore, again, the lessons that pandemic diseases, like COVID-19, teach us, with a view to develop a different ethical relation to our world and to others.

THTR 3333: Cultural Identity and the American Musical

Instructor: Christin Essin (Associate Professor of Theatre)

This online course engages students in practices of critical spectatorship through an examination of the artistry and cultural history of the American musical. As popular entertainment, the musical has shaped each generation’s perceptions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality; recognizing this influence, this course prioritizes activities that give students familiarity with languages of social identity and ability to "read" musical productions as progressive and regressive cultural influences. Students will view a series of musical performances, recorded live on stage and for film and television, including: The King and IFiddler on the Roof42nd StreetThe WizIn the HeightsNewsies, and Hamilton. Professor Essin will share her current research and expertise on Broadway’s backstage labor in lecture materials, helping students understand the practices behind the creation of musicals and the industry biases that impact onstage and onscreen representations of cultural identity.