MLAS 6100-01: Seminar in the Humanities:
Adaptation: Across Media, Genres, Eras and Cultures
Prof. Judy Klass , Departments of English and Jewish Studies, College of Arts and Science
Course Description: In this course we will look at the stories that have been told and re-told, across the centuries in some cases, in vastly different places and cultural contexts, often re-cast for newly invented genres and media, and often resonating in new ways. We will consider questions of why adaptations are made and what is lost and gained in the process. We will look at faithful adaptations, playful adaptations, parodies, adaptations in conversation with the works they derive from, adaptations intended in some sense to “deconstruct” the original works, and adaptations that say interesting things about the age and culture of the adaptation, in terms of how it contrasts with its source. What changed when Hollywood drew on Kurosawa’s film Seven Samurai and made The Magnificent Seven? Did the Hollywood version of the story say anything about how the US saw Mexico and the rest of the world in the years before the US went into Vietnam? How did Jane Austen’s Emma turn into Amy Heckerling’s film Clueless? Can either be regarded as a feminist work? Do artificial people signify the same thing in Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner that they represent in Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Should Alice Randall’s novel The Wind Done Gone, which draws on Gone with the Wind, be regarded as a parody? Harsh satire? Deconstruction? There will be discussion of sociological, political, literary and film theory; the main emphasis will be on contextualizing and analyzing the works we encounter – allowing room for different interpretations.
(Fine and Creative Arts, Literature and Creative Writing)
MLAS 6100-02: Seminar in the Humanities:
Suffering and the Self: Ancient
Prof. Chiara Sulprizio , Department of Classical and Mediterranean Studies, College of Arts and Science
Course Description: In this course we will read (in English translation) the major works of the tragic poets Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides and examine the development of Greek tragedy from its origins to the last extant plays of the fifth century BCE. As we analyze each play, we will consider structural features like plot, character and staging, and we will explore the mythical and historical background that serve as their settings. We will delve into the thematic concerns that tend to dominate in the tragic realm: fate and freedom; citizenship, familial ties and the state; violence and heroism; gender and status differences; and reversal and recognition. We will also devote our attention to the broader Athenian political and religious contexts in which the plays were performed. Finally, we will engage with modern scholarship on Greek tragedy, and we will consider how modern adaptations continue to make an impact on audiences in the present day.
(History, Literature and Creative Writing)
MLAS 6300: Seminar in History:
Labor and Migration in US History
Prof. Mark John Sanchez , Department of Asian Studies, College of Arts and Science
Course Description: This course will focus on 19th- and 20th-century histories of labor and migration in the context of United States history as a way to examine the roots and routes of immigration discourse in the United States today. Together, we will examine works that discuss labor and migration through race, gender, class, and nation. We will also engage in a methodological conversation, seeking to locate the possibilities and perils in migration and labor history offered by methods including oral history, social history, cultural history, and others. In drawing attention to the circulation of people, ideas, and objects, this course will ultimately explore the proportional importance of the United States in world history. Our conversations will focus both on the imperial and international histories that conditioned many forms of labor migration as well as the ways that immigrant communities engaged and/or contested these histories of power.
(History, Social Science)
MLAS 6100: Seminar in the Humanities:
Popular Music and Social Change in France and the Francophone World
Prof. Paul Miller , Department of French and Italian
This course aims to immerse students interested in French and Francophone culture and history in the popular music of France and the Francophone world. Beginning with the historical significance of “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem, and its pivotal role in the French Revolution and the republican national formation that emerged from it, we will listen to, read about, analyze and discuss popular musical production in France throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries but especially beginning with the 1950s and “La chanson française,” a pioneering genre of popular music in France that placed heavy emphasis on lyrical content as well as the social role of the singer/songwriter. We will also study popular music in French in Canada, Haiti and the Caribbean, the Maghreb and Africa. In addition to granular analyses of the musical and lyrical content of this music, we will especially study how popular music both spearheaded and reflected social issues and change in these countries, especially beginning with the 1960s. No knowledge of French is required.
(Fine and Creative Arts, History, Social Science)
MLAS 6100: Seminar in the Humanities:
Representations of Women in Film, Images of the Nation: Spanish Cinema from Dictatorship to Democracy
Prof. Andrés Zamora , Department of Spanish and Portuguese
One of the most outstanding features of the Spanish national cinema in the last quarter of the 20th century, basically from Francisco Franco’s death to the beginning of the new millennium, was the overwhelming abundance and importance of women’s stories, or, more precisely, stories about women written, directed, and told compulsively by men (Pedro Almodóvar, Alejandro Amenábar, Fernando Trueba, Carlos Saura, Víctor Erice, et al). This course is an exploration of the cinematographic obsession with the feminine subject, object, gender, genre, and sex. Some of the main characters in these myriad cinematic stories about women are the mother, the housewife, the girl, the lover, the angel, the monster, the hooker, the daughter, the researcher, the witch, the killer, the sister, and the porn-star. Among the intentions, functions, or consequences of all these images of the feminine, the course pays special attention to their role in the depiction of, discussions on, and proposals for national identity throughout the last years of the dictatorship, the transition to democracy, and the consolidation of the new political system in Spain. In fact, the course might work as a case study on the topic of the importance of film in national identity building, placing a special emphasis on the use of women’s images towards that end. The course will be organized around two parallel axes: chronology (the historical evolution of the filmic representation of women against the political, social, and cultural developments in Spain) and thematics (the different articulations of women as images of the nation throughout this period).
No knowledge of Spanish is required.
(Fine and Creative Arts, History, Social Science)
MLAS 6300: Seminar in History: American Journeys
Prof. Mario Rewers , Programs in American Studies and Public Policy Studies
From the sixteenth century to the present, using feet, hooves, and wheels, driven by curiosity, fear, and 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 examines what accounts of travel and movement reveal about American nature, culture, and politics.
(History, Literature and Creative Writing, Social Science)
MLAS 7340: Interdisciplinary Selected Topics - Capstone Workshop
Prof. Kate Daniels , Department of English, Prof. Emerita
MLAS 6600: Seminar in Social Science:
Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness
Prof. Ashleigh Maxcey, Department of Psychological Sciences
Course Description: Unlike applications of psychology aimed at raising individuals to typical, or baseline levels of performance, positive psychology is the study of exceeding baseline human potential. In this course we will critically evaluate evidence-based practices believed to increase the capacity for joy, meaning, and hope. We will implement happiness habits outside of class and reflect on their impact in our daily lives.
MLAS 6700 Interdisciplinary Seminar (Core Course):
The United States and the Vietnam War
Prof. Thomas Schwartz, Department of History
Course Description: “From its very beginning the Vietnam War divided Americans.” So wrote the historian Gary Hess in a recent treatment of the war, reflecting the argument that the Vietnam War was similar to the American Civil War in the way it divided and polarized American society. As if to underscore this point, the famous documentary filmmaker Ken Burns produced for PBS a 10part, 18-hour treatment of the war, comparable to his Civil War documentary. This course will examine the history of America's involvement with Vietnam, an involvement which began with a limited commitment to the French war effort in the late 1940s and escalated into a full-scale American war in 1965. Readings will focus on the reasons for the growing American involvement, the question of military strategy, and the Vietnamese response to intervention. The course will also consider such questions as the role of the media, the impact of the antiwar movement, and the war's overall effect on American society. Finally, we will consider the defeat of the American effort in Vietnam, its consequences and legacies, and the many and varied ways in which the Vietnam experience has influenced and affected America’s more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(Core Course or History)
MLAS 6100: Seminar in the Humanities -
Music and Globalization
Prof. Isidora Miranda, Department of Musicology and Ethnomusicology, Blair School of Music
Course Description: This course explores the complex relationship between music and globalization through case studies from selected musical cultures and traditions. We will turn our ears to musical practices that are not only geographically diverse but also rich in historical and social significance. Topics to be considered include the commodification of music, the global mobility of musicians, musical genres, and sound technologies, music in world’s fairs, and the formation of identities through musical performance and consumption. As we listen, view, and discuss, we will take away the knowledge of how music, its production and circulation, is critical to the ways that we understand our interconnected world.
(Social Science, Fine and Creative Arts, History)
MLAS 6200: Seminar in Fine and Creative Arts: Michelangelo's Life and Works
Prof. Sheri Shaneyfelt, Department of History of Art and Architecture
Course Description: This course will focus on the Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1475-1564. We will consider his sculpture, painting, architecture, and drawings, and to a somewhat lesser degree, his written works, including his poetry and letters. Our study of Michelangelo will be grounded in the cultural, historical, and religious climate of his day. Furthermore, we will consider the artistic ambience in Florence at the time of his training, and his profound influence not only upon artists of his generation, but those following. Thus, some consideration will also be given to other artists working in Florence and Rome, including Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael Santi, to provide an understanding of High Renaissance Art in Central Italy as a whole.
(Fine and Creative Arts, History)
MLAS 6300: Seminar in History: Gold, God, and Glory in the Making of the Modern World
Prof. Danyelle Valentine, Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies and American Studies
Course Description: 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 the Crusades, to the Silk Road, to the process of colonization, humanity continues to be driven by a lust for “Gold,” a religious faith in “God,” and a yearning for “Glory.” In this course we will follow the emergence of trade relations, religious communities, and nation building projects in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. By examining exactly how "Gold," "God," and "Glory" became a driving forces for the accumulation of wealth, territorial expansion, and social-consciousness we will learn how our world’s past informs the present and future. Be ready to engage in debates on how modern day capitalism came into existence, and participate in intriguing discussions as to how greed, desire, and faith shape societal behaviors and traditions.
(History, Social Science)
MLAS 6100: Seminar In Humanities: Religion and Philosophy in the Ancient Greek World
Prof. Jason Harris, Department of Classical and Mediterranean Studies
Course Description: This course introduces students to the history, archaeology, art, and architecture of ancient Greece through the study of ancient Greek religion and philosophy. Students in the course will read ancient texts in translation, including the epic poems of Homer and Greek tragedy, and will virtually visit many archaeological sites in Greece. Through these sources, we will analyze the development and diversity of the Greek religious experience (gods, rituals, and temples) and philosophical ideas (including Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle). We will evaluate their social, political, and economic importance to the Greeks, especially since no division between church and state existed. We will study how Greek religion both changed and held on to its past links, from the Mycenaean period through the Classical Age to the early years of Christianity, a fascinating continuity of religion for millennia. Furthermore, while the worship of the Greek pantheon was a defining factor for ‘Greek-ness’ in antiquity, the Greeks often incorporated gods from other ethnic groups into their worship. We thus will investigate how this diversity and inclusivity of other cultures within the Greek religious experience transferred to other areas of Greek life.
MLAS 6700: Core Course: Leonardo da Vinci
Prof. Michael Bess, Department of History
Course Description: We will explore the life, ideas, and works of one of humanity’s most remarkable figures, the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci. We will contemplate the full breadth and depth of Leonardo’s achievements, which ranged famously across painting, sculpture, architecture, engineering, botany, anatomy, philosophy, theater, psychology, cartography, mechanics, music, and military technology – to name just the most obvious areas. My goal is for us to come closer to understanding how Leonardo’s mind worked, what made him “tick,” and perhaps most importantly, what we can learn from him that applies to living our own lives today. Is the ideal of the Renaissance Person, of the Universal Mind, hopelessly outdated in our age of hyper-specialized jobs (not to mention research and scholarship)? Or, to the contrary, is that ideal all the more relevant precisely because we live in a world of specialized fields of livelihood and inquiry? What is living, and what is dead, in the example of Leonardo da Vinci today?
Since this has been designated as the core course for the Spring 22 semester, we will spend a portion of our discussions and exercises exploring the nature of interdisciplinary scholarship, as well as the methods that scholars use to ensure integrity, accuracy, accountability, and comprehensiveness in their research and writing. The peer review component of the course will allow students to engage in the fundamental practice of collaborative critique through which scholars compare, evaluate, revise, and strengthen each other’s interpretations of the subject matter.
MLAS 7340: Capstone Workshop
Prof. Mark Wollaeger, Department of English
Course Description: This course provides students with the opportunity to do an independent project that serves as the Capstone to the degree. The project allows students to apply their creativity and analytic skills to an issue or problem of their choice, which may emerge from prior coursework or represent a departure from that work for which their MLAS training has prepared them. The key to a successful Capstone project is getting an early enough start on it. To that end, I will be distributing a worksheet in December that is designed to get you going before our first meeting in January.
MLAS 6300: Seminar In Social Science - American Government and the United States Military
Professor Katherine Carroll
Course Description: Polling consistently reveals the U.S. military to be the country’s most trusted and least understood national institution. This course seeks to address that imbalance by providing basic structural, cultural, and operational information about the military that is difficult to assemble outside of military circles. This includes days spent on each service branch, special operations, and the National Guard and Reserves. The course moves on from this base of knowledge to pose key political and sociological questions about the institution for discussion. Is the relationship between elite military officers and civilian political leaders “healthy”? Is civilian control in jeopardy? Is the military sufficiently diverse, in particular, ideologically? Is our military structured and governed in ways that best contribute to national security, broadly conceived? In our final class meetings we will also spend some time exploring the image of the military in popular culture, often citizens’ only contact with the institution. Over the course of the semester we will “demythologize” our military, hopefully encouraging us to be more engaged as citizens and more understanding as individuals of the lives of U.S. service members.
MLAS 6300: Seminar In Social Science - Food, Culture, and Identity
Professor Norbert Ross
Course Description: Eating and food are less about nutrition than about identity, politics, production and profit. While eating together provides a strong bond (companions are the ones we break bread with) any community is also marked by exclusions - who doesn’t get to sit at the table. Hence in this course we explore issues of gender, race, and class and how they relate to food and eating. As part of the course we will explore our own habits as well as the Nashville food scene, visiting local restaurants.
MLAS 6700: Seminar In Humanities - What if Alice was a Refugee in Wonderland? (Core Course)
Professor Robert Barsky
Course Description: This course reviews some of the great books and artworks of the Western tradition, imagining that central characters faced challenges that are similar to those confronted by refugees in the contemporary world. I will discuss everything from the Bible to Alice in Wonderland, from Greek tragedies to Las Vegas representations of them, from Dickens’ Christmas Carol to The Grapes of Wrath. Did Scrooge suffer similar anxieties to those experienced by Latin American migrants who trust their fate to coyotes? Do those who try to help people escape war-torn countries face challenges that resemble those facing Moses as he tries to imagine convincing the people of Israel to flee Egypt? The answers and concordances are surprising!
MLAS 7340: Interdisciplinary Selected Topics - Capstone Workshop
Professor Kevin Murphy
Seminar In Humanities -
Jewish American History through Literature and Film, 1905-1975
Professor Adam S. Meyer
Course Description: This course will describe the chronology of Jewish American life, particularly the experiences of Eastern European immigrants and their families, through the dual lenses of Jewish American literature and film. We will begin with the immigrant generation and move through the tumultuous years of World War II and into the time of the Civil Rights Movement. Authors to be read include Abraham Cahan, Laura Z. Hobson, Arthur Miller, Philip Roth, and Chaim Potok; films to be screened include Hester Street, The Front, The Pawnbroker, and Driving Miss Daisy.
Seminar In Humanities
Fiction Writing Workshop
Professor Judith A. Klass
Course Description: In this creative writing course, students will work on effective ways to write character sketches and to set a scene, engaging the five senses as they describe a place and show (not tell) what it is like. Students will experiment with different point of view choices (reliable and unreliable first-person narrators, first-person main characters and peripheral first-person narrators, objective and selectively omniscient third-person narrators), and they will write dialogue-driven stories, and stories in the form of letters or diary entries. There will be a chance to experiment with plotting -- writing an elliptical story, or a story with an ironic anti-climactic ending -- and a chance to attempt science fiction/horror/fantasy. Throughout the term, we will read stories by great writers who have made use of the techniques and modes that students are using in the stories they write.
MLAS 6300: Seminar In Social Science - Nashville and the Civil War
Professor Robert B. Hulette
Course Description: This Course will examine the American Civil War from the perspective of the Western Theater of Operations generally and Nashville specifically. During the American Civil war, Nashville became the most strategically important city west of the Appalachian Mountains and arguably one of the most important cities of the war as a whole. Because of its transportation links, its strategically important location and its status as the Capitol of Tennessee, Nashville was an early objective for the Union Army in its Western campaigns. Nashville was captured in 1862 after the fall of forts Henry and Donaldson, and remained in Union hands for the rest of the war. The defeat of the Confederate Army of Tennessee at the Battle of Nashville in 1864, right near where Vanderbilt sits today, ended the last major Confederate operation in the west, and effectively ended the war in the Western theatre. Nashville thus brackets the beginning and end of the Civil War.
MLAS 6100: Seminar In Humanities - Music, the Arts and Ideas
Professor Stanley B. Link
Course Description: Music, the Arts, and Ideas: An interdisciplinary exploration of how a broad spectrum of cultural sites such as music, painting, photography, sculpture, and film intersect with each other. The course will examine four main topics; mind, body, gender, race, as occasions for art and music of all kinds that make various aspects of human experience visible and audible. Our basic premise will be that making art is a primary, rather than secondary human activity, and that even in its most seemingly entertaining, inert, or even trivialized forms it retains a deeper power not only in expressing or reflecting human identity, but in constructing it as well.
MLAS 6100: Seminar In Humanities - Drawing and Composition for Beginners
Professor Farrar H. Cusomato
Course Description: The beginning drawing student is introduced to traditional drawing materials and techniques while ways of seeing and drawing are explored and developed. This course will demonstrate how to construct basic forms and build on these through various methods of value development. We will cover subjects ranging from still life and botanical studies to landscapes, perspective, and portraiture. Students will also broaden their sense of creativity through a presentation of personalized concepts and ideas while preparing various drawing assignments. Individual instruction and demonstrations will support in-class drawing exercises and will prepare students for homework assignments.
MLAS 6300: Seminar in Social Science-World War II
Professor Michael D. Bess
Course Description: This course focuses on the global conflict of 1939-1945, but it is not a military history course. Throughout the semester I will pay special attention to the complex moral dimensions of the conflict, which constitute an area of particular interest to me as a scholar. The Second World War was a time of extremes. It confronted human beings leaders like Churchill and Eisenhower, soldiers fighting in the jungle, civilians on the home front with desperate situations that required tough moral choices. We will rely partly on films and other audiovisual sources, as well as on regular class discussions. Our readings and assignments will take us into the origins and causes of the war, the six years of military campaigns, the politics and diplomacy of war-making, race as a factor shaping the war in Europe and Asia, the impact of scientific and technological innovations, the social and economic aspects of the struggle, its profound moral and psychological implications, as well as the enduring legacy of this epochal outbreak of violence.
MLAS 7340: Interdisciplinary Selected Topics - Capstone Workshop
Professor Emily Greble
SELECTION OF PRIOR MLAS COURSE OFFERINGS:
Seminar In Humanities - Playwriting and Screenwriting
Professor Judith A. Klass
Course Description: These two kinds of scriptwriting are very different. Playwriting emphasizes dialogue and character development, with scenes that unfold slowly and reveal layers of people and changes in their relationships. Writing for the movies means telling a story visually, usually with much quicker scenes, some with no dialogue, and employing cinematic techniques (match-cuts, montages, inter-cutting, frames within frames) when they enhance a script. We'll read famous stage plays and screenplays, and scenes from others, and watch some works on screen in class -- and students will write monologues for the stage, scenes for two characters, then more characters ... and then short, silent screenplays, "music videos" (writing out visuals to go with a favorite song), and short screenplays with synch sound. We'll discuss Hollywood three-act structure, "road movies," "buddy movies," adapting a script originally written for the stage -- "opening it up" so that it works on screen -- and we'll look at options and choices for both kinds of writers. Ambitious students are welcome to plot and complete full-length plays and full-length screenplays along the way.
Seminar In Social Science - Democracy and Race in America
Professor Megan Gallagher
Course Description: To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, we all think we know democracy when we see it. But when it comes to defining democracy, we are immediately confronted with a wide array of perplexing questions: howshould citizens participate? Does representation fulfill the aims of democracy or corrupt them? Should we be concerned that the “tyranny of the majority” may stifle dissenting voices? And how can democratic decisions be reached in a pluralist society, composed of members with irreconcilable beliefs, interests, and values? This course will examine these questions through a sustained engagement with the complex relationship between democracy and race in the United States from the founding to the present.
Seminar In Humanities - Early Renaissance Florence
Professor Sheri Shaneyfelt
Course Description: This course will focus on major masters and works from Early Renaissance Florence primarily during the Fifteenth and early Sixteenth Centuries, ca. 1400-1520. We will predominantly consider works of painting and sculpture that are part of larger decorative programs, with the inclusion of architectural principles and monuments when appropriate to our topic of discussion. Key masters to be considered during the semester, time permitting, will include Giotto di Bondone, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Donatello, Filippo Brunelleschi, Leonbattista Alberti, Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Andrea del Verrocchio, Sandro Botticelli, and the early artistic careers of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, and Raphael Santi in Florence.
Seminar In Humanities - “The Global Circulation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin”
Professor Celso Thomas Castilho
Course Description: This course explores how the study of the international circulation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin can help us think more critically about slavery in its cultural and intellectual terms, and about the role of literature in fostering a wider field of global exchange about slavery, race, gender, and empire. That is, through a reckoning with this seminal literary work of the nineteenth century, the political and literary contexts from which it emerged, and its countless and mostly enthusiastic adaptations in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa, I believe that we can start to ask new questions about this text’s meaning in the context of the US. We can also probe the print-culture and performative dynamics that enabled its rapid circulation as a means of bringing into clearer focus the existing, polylingual and trans-Atlantic literary discussions about slavery. Getting at, and analyzing the contours of this field of exchange about slavery promises to reveal greater insight into both the histories of antislavery and the history of slavery’s persistence, which were themselves embedded in the broad and interrelated processes of political-economy, state-making, and literary formations.
Seminar In Humanities - “Genre Cinema”
Professor Lutz Koepnick
Course Description: This seminar explores the role of genre as a powerful means of mainstream cinema to tell compelling stories and structure the viewer’s identification. Even though genres such as the melodrama, the western, the romantic comedy, the musical, the science fiction film, the horror film, or the thriller are often seen as quite predictable staples of dominant filmmaking, they also inspire and allow for considerable formal experimentation and thematic departure. This seminar examines the logic of some of the most important genres of Hollywood filmmaking while at the same time emphasizing the creative possibilities of working with certain genre expectations. We discuss such classic representatives of certain genres as Imitation of Life, Stagecoach, His Girl Friday, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Double Indemnity, and 42nd Street, and then juxtapose these paradigmatic examples with more contemporary films reworking or pushing the limits of the classical genre system such as Far from Heaven, Once upon a Time in the West, Blade Runner, Dancer in the Dark, and Breathless.
Interdisciplinary Seminar - “Modernist Experimentation in Literature and Painting”
Professor Mark Wollaeger
Course Description: What does it mean to perform aesthetic as opposed to scientific experiments? “Modernism” names a massive outpouring of aesthetic experimentation across the arts and across Europe in the late 19th C and early 20th C, and in this course we will study not only major modernist literature (poetry and fiction) by writers such as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and T. S. Eliot but also the broader culture from which modernist writing emerged, paying particular attention to modern painting by Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso. Modernism is a retrospective umbrella term – the writers and artists themselves did not use it before the 1930s, well after some of the chief instances of what are now considered modernist classics were created. Our goal will be to tease out a cultural logic that connects seemingly diverse literature, painting, and “-isms” (naturalism, impressionism, cubism, futurism, etc.) by studying them in the context of contemporary manifestos, philosophy, psychology, and politics. In practice, then, we’ll aim both for a big picture sense of modernism as a set if sprawling, messy movements and for a detailed understanding of representative works. We will also ask how modernism's legacy of aesthetic experimentation continues to inform our culture today.
Seminar in Humanities- Ethics
Professor Robert Talisse
Course Description: What if you could prevent a murder by telling a lie? What if you could save a life by stealing a car? What if you could save five lives by committing one murder? What if you knew you could get away with that murder by telling a well-constructed lie? Would it be wrong to commit the murder? Would it matter if the five you save were close friends, and the one murdered were a cranky stranger? What kind of person would you be were you to murder one to save five others? Can a bad person be happy? Attempts to give coherent and systematic answers to questions like the ones above have resulted in rival theories of morality, each offering different views of what is morally good, worthwhile, permissible, obligatory, and praiseworthy. In this course, we will critically examine the most influential of these theories. Through careful study of key primary texts supplemented with contemporary articles, students will explore the landscape of philosophical theorizing about morality, develop critical thinking and dialectical skills, and evaluate their own moral commitments.
Seminar in Natural Science – “Understanding Natural Disasters”
Professor Garrett Tate
Course Description: Natural disasters seem to dominate the headlines every day, appearing to strike at random and leaving devastating impacts of damage and loss of life. These events and the geologic cycles of which they are part constantly re-shape the world around us, simultaneously contributing to both a habitable and hazardous environment. This course will examine a wide variety of natural disasters, ranging from earthquakes and volcanoes to floods and hurricanes. We will study the causes of each in detail and the settings where they typically occur, as well as preventative measures and predictive capabilities. We will also study important links to human society, including the profound historical impacts of several major events and the human influences on disaster frequency in the present and future. The class format will include readings, discussions, practical exercises, papers, and a group field trip to study local geology in the Nashville area.
Seminar in Humanities - "Life Writing/Writing Life"
Professor Kate Daniels
Course Description: The literary genre known as autobiography has always been difficult for critics to define, describe, and classify. It is most simply and fundamentally understood as life-writing: the story of a life written by the person who lived, or is living, that life. It is presumed to be true, accurate, honest. Readers typically believe that they are being presented with an accurate representation of the objective realities of the autobiographer’s life story. In fact, of course, there is no such thing as detached or disinterested self-expression or self-representation. As such, autobiographers/memoirists are always straddling a line between fact and fiction. This is part of what makes autobiography such a fascinating genre – both to read and to write. This class combines the study of autobiographical writing as a literary genre with the production of original creative nonfiction writing (aka personal memoir). We will read and discuss several contemporary memoirs and several short autobiographical works, and you will write your own autobiography. In other words, it is both a literature seminar and a creative writing workshop.
Seminar in Social Science - "Kurdistan and the Middle East"
Professor Norbert Ross
Course Description: Nashville is host to the largest Kurdish population in the United States. Approximately 12,000 Iraqi and Iranian Kurdish people call it their home – being displaced by war and violent conflicts in their homelands. This course provides an understanding of the current socio-political situation in the Middle East and Kurdistan. In order to do so we focus on contemporary Kurdistan, both as it relates to the Kurdish Regional Government, KRG (the semi-independent government of northern Iraq), as well as to Kurdish people outside Iraq, namely Iran, Turkey, Syria as well as in European and US diaspora. Understanding Kurdistan and Kurdish people, their history and contemporary struggles will provide us with insights into the volatility of what we know as the Middle East. Being located at important trade routes as well as being the home of rich oil reserves, the area has seen many restructuring efforts (often by means of war), shaping what we see today. As a consequence, our discussion of the Middle East needs to include international politics especially as they relate to England and the United States. The course will integrate discussions, approaches and readings from different disciplines such as Political Sciences, History, Sociology, and Anthropology. It is intended for all students interested in the Middle East as well as contemporary international politics. Given the lack of literature on contemporary political developments, our discussions will include news reports from different outlets. A fieldtrip will be organized to the local Kurdish Culture Center.
Seminar in Humanities - "Impressionism"
Professor Kevin Murphy
Course Description: Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cassatt, Morisot, and the other members of the French Impressionist group pioneered a painting style that emphasized changing atmospheric effects. They focused much of their efforts on capturing the transformation of Paris in the 1860s and '70s under the influence of the Emperor Napoleon III, as well as on the suburbs and rural landscapes. Impressionists stressed the qualities of "modernity"--especially its fleetingness and ephemerality--as defined by poet Charles Baudelaire in the 1860s. This course will examine the work of the French Impressionists from formal, social, political, and intellectual perspectives. In addition, the seminar will consider the international impact of French Impressionism elsewhere in Europe and in North America. Writing assignments will address descriptive, analytic, critical, and historical modes.
Seminar In Humanities - "Printmaking 101: Delving Deep into the Matrix"
Professor Mark Hosford
Course Description: Printmaking was the original mass media technology. Through the use of reproducible images and text, information could be shared and disseminated in unprecedented ways. Prints helped spread the rise of literacy, documented historic events, gave voice to social and political movements, and are even stapled on telephone polls to promote live events. It all began with papermaking and wood block printing in China, but soon evolved into processes such as letterpress printing, etching, lithography, screen-printing, and digital printing. For this course, students will learn the history and evolution of printmaking techniques, by exploring their ideas through various print media. Students will be encouraged to find and develop their artistic voice and aesthetics as they progress through projects, discussions, and critiques. The projects in this course will follow the evolution of the major printmaking principles as they developed through time. Projects will be kicked off by slideshows and demonstrations. We will start with relief printing, where linoleum will be carved in order to print the top surface of the material, creating bold and graphic imagery. We will then move on to metal etching, using copper and acid in order to etch imagery, printing all the lines and material underneath the top surface of the plate. From there we will move to lithography, where a chemical resist between oil and water allows for planography methods of printing. Lastly, we will end with sceen-printing, where photo emulsions are used on stretched mesh frames in order to create stencil printed forms. With equal parts, messy, mathematical, and Methodical, this class will be a truly unique experience, working in a fully equipped printmaking facility. Much like alchemists trying to turn base metals into gold, we will transform the basic materials around us into visual forms of enlightened expressions.
Seminar In Humanities - "Music of the Outliers"
Professor Michael Slayton
Course Description: “To some extent I happily don't know what I'm doing. I feel that it's an artist's responsibility to trust that.” --David Byrne
How does music affect us as listeners? How are musical “standards” created? How does the unorthodox become orthodox? To what degree are composers and artists obligated to move us forward, to “push our buttons”? What constitutes “going too far?” These are the types of questions raised, explicitly or inexplicitly, by concert-goers, educators, music critics, and composers. Perhaps more than any other medium, music has been expected to hold to certain standards of beauty or sensibility, often at the expense of progressive thought. This course, then, will venture into the world of the “outliers,” those composers and artists who challenged the world around them to think about sound in new ways, to listen with unorthodox ears. Much can be learned from their approaches to what music actually is, and what it could be.
Seminar In Humanities - "Socrates, Plato, and The Good Life"
Professor Robert Talisse
Course Description: Plato wrote philosophical dialogues in which a main character, Socrates, engages with a wide range of interlocutors about questions concerning the good life. Famously, Socrates contends that "The unexamined life is not worth living." But Socrates also advances stranger claims like, "Philosophy is practice for death"; "It is better to suffer harm than commit harm"; "No one ever does wrong knowingly"; "I know that I know nothing"; "The body is the prison of the soul"; "Next to Tyranny, Democracy is the worst kind of society"; and (a personal favorite) "Philosophers should rule as kings." Socrates was executed by the Athenians in 399 BCE, in large part for publicly defending claims such as these. In this course, we will read and discuss several of Plato's dialogues. We will begin with the dialogues surrounding Socrates' trial and execution (Apology, Euthyphro, Crito, Phaedo); then we will read a few dialogues especially aimed at questions concerning virtue (Meno, Euthydemus) and then we will read Plato's masterpiece on justice and the good life, The Republic. Throughout the course, we will have ample occasion to reflect on the question of whether the Athenians were right to have executed Socrates. We will also ask ourselves whether Plato and Socrates have any important insights into the nature of justice, virtue, obligation, courage, and the like. But the central question which will loom persistently is the Socratic question, "How ought we to live?"
Seminar In Social Science - "Music and Race in America"
Professor Melanie Lowe
Course Description: Music and Race in America will explore challenging questions about relationships between musical expression, racial construction and identity, and the racial imagination in the United States. Although questions of culture and ethnicity will come into the mix, we will attempt to keep race and racialization as the central issues of the course. Our exploration will center around a handful of select works, including George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, and Tan Dun’s The First Emperor. The work for the course will consist of weekly readings, listenings, viewings, along with some short essays and a final presentation/project.
Seminar In Social Science - "The Historical Faces of Jesus"
Professor Joel Harrington
Course Description: This seminar will focus on depictions of Jesus of Nazareth from his own time to the present. The cultural materials the seminar will examine include popular and scholarly accounts of who Jesus is or was as well as hymns, paintings, and films. Some of the major phenomena to be studied include: contested and competing notions of Jesus’ identity and significance, the relationship between images of Jesus and religious beliefs, and the influence of varying cultural contexts in shaping all of these.
Seminar In Humanities - "Idealists and “Savage Realists”: The American Novel of the Early Twentieth Century
Professor Cecelia Tichi
Course Description: Emerging from the post-Civil War decades of the Gilded Age, American novelists had scores to settle and scores to keep. Male and female, these writers renounced the sentimentalism of the past in favor of sharp-focused engagement in vibrant, turbulent contemporary issues—of class, gender, urbanism, immigration, the industrial system. Major novelists of the new twentieth century include Edith Wharton, Jack London, Theodore Dreiser, Kate Chopin, Frank Norris and others. The seminar will focus on one novel weekly and will emphasize guided discussion along with individual presentations (and archival motions picture footage when applicable). Literary critics’ interpretations of the novels will inform our discussions, as will a weekly 1-2 pp. response paper from each member of the seminar. At one (possibly two) sessions, we will host an eminent visiting scholar of the novels under discussion. Each participant will be required to investigate a special topic of his or her choosing and to prepare an essay for submission late in the term. Time will be set aside for this work and advisory assistance available.