LIBERAL ARTS SEMINAR
Course Offerings
Spring 2010

Animal Matters
Animals are inextricably intertwined with human history and culture. They figure prominently in our folklore, language, families, food, economics, entertainment, and our science. Drawing on the interdisciplinary field of animal studies, this seminar will examine the history and beliefs that have shaped our complicated (and often contradictory) relationships with animals. We will also address some of the issues and questions that such an examination provokes. Of particular interest will be the way we talk about animals—the language, stories, and arguments that we construct about them—and our relationship with them. We will begin interrogating the human/animal divide: What do our language, history, and folklore tell us about our perceptions of animals? What separates us from animals? What qualities do we share with them? We will also explore the topics such as pet keeping; animals as food; animal protection, welfare, and rights; and animals in sport and entertainment.  Dr. Laurie Sterling.  Section B: MWF 9:00AM-9:50AM.  Section F: MWF 10:00AM-10:50AM

Area 51
Why are notions of secret societies, vast cover-ups, highly coordinated cabals, and international puppet masters so intriguing? More to the point, why are so many people willing to entertain their plausibility? How are conspiracy theorists able to maintain their theories in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence? How do we argue against such suspicions when they cannot, by their very nature, be proved wrong? We’ll examine the arguments for cover-ups and the hidden agendas of secret societies ranging from the trivial (Paul McCartney is dead, but Elvis Presley is not) to the repugnant (the US government is behind the 9/11 attacks) and many in between: the faked moon landings; the aliens at Roswell; the suspicious deaths of JFK and Princess Diana; Masons, Skull and Bones, and Opus Dei. Readings will include fiction, film, published arguments for and against various theories, as well as sociological and psychological examinations of the appeal and function of such theories for individual, groups, and communities.  Dr. Michael Little.  Section R: MWF 1:00PM-1:50PM

Baseball and the American Experience
This class will examine the phenomenon known as “Baseball.” This course will use a variety of written material to explore how baseball has paralleled the experience of America.  The course will focus on how baseball was founded, its impact and reflection of various social movements such as the labor union movement and civil rights to modern concepts such as drug use in society (steroids) and capitalism (player salaries).  Texts will include The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn, Baseball and Philosophy, edited by Eric Bronson, and a variety of other sources including selections from the Sporting News. Mr. Michael Berry.  Section I: MW 2:00PM-03:15PM

The Bizarre Brain (and other weird things)
The brain is a funny thing. Hit your head in the wrong spot, and you might perpetually think you are in 1945. Brain surgery to help deal with your seizures might make you act like you are being controlled by two different people. A tumor might make you think your wife is a hat. Temporal lobe seizures might make you “hear God.” In this class we will examine our growing knowledge of the brain, and how it affects our view of the world and ourselves. To begin, we will learn how to think about weird things in general, debunking numerous weird things as we go. Then we will read some of the bizarre cases in the literature of neuroscience and discover that, although they are weird, they are true. This will teach us how the brain works, and allow us to explore the implications of our new knowledge on the self, consciousness, free will, and the possibility of artificial intelligence. Dr. David Johnson.  Section A: MWF 9:00AM-9:50AM.  Section D: MWF 10:00AM-10:50AM

Food for Thought: Cooking, Cuisines and Culture
This seminar will examine the role that food plays in our lives and the implications of our changing attitude toward eating.  Building on the liberal arts tradition, this course will examine food and eating from a variety of perspectives.  The first half of the semester will focus on a survey of the role of food in history from the Crusades to the present. The second half of the semester will focus on the radical shift in our eating habits since the mid-twentieth century.  This shift toward convenience food has long term implications for our health, the environment, the way we eat, and the way we view mealtime. Dr. Jennifer Fry.  Section J: MW 2:00PM-03:15PM

Hey! Watch Your Language
In this seminar we’ll take a close look at the English language—how it is used to convey information, express emotion, influence opinion, and provide entertainment.  We’ll examine the power of language in advertising, politics, and the media and look at how language shapes and manipulates our perceptions and values.  We’ll explore several topics of current interest including political correctness, hate speech, censorship, and whether English should be declared the official language of the United States.  We’ll consider gender differences in language; listen to dialects; look at prejudicial language, slang, and cursing; and examine the variety of English that shows up in text messages and on line.  Readings will include classic and contemporary essays and arguments about the nature and use of language and one novel, Apex Hides the Hurt, by Colson Whitehead.  Dr. James Wallace.  Section C: MWF 10:00AM-10:50AM.  Section G: MWF 11:00AM-11:50AM

The Positive Psychology of Well Being
For the last 50 years psychologists have often focused on what’s wrong with people and which therapy and self-help techniques are effective in improving their ailments.  This course will focus on what positive psychologists have identified through theory and research that help people flourish, lead happy and fulfilled lives, feel a sense of well-being and meaning, optimism, and openness to experience.  We will also peek at some of what filmmakers, philosophers, and popular media have to offer on these topics.  The course is highly interactive and hopefully will contribute to your own well-being and happiness.  In fact, research indicates positive psychology interventions have a positive effect on psychological and physical health, academic persistence, personal relationships, and athletic and work performance. Dr. Jean Obrien.  Section M: TTH 11:00AM-12:15PM

Understanding Our Actions
In this course we focus on questions we ask each other regularly, questions like, “Does playing violent video games lead to violent behavior?” “Do other racial groups all look the same?”; “Can the alcoholic drink socially?”; “Do children raised by gay parents turn out OK?” We will evaluate information on these and many other issues and move toward reasonable and critically-based positions on these questions about everyday behavior. (See g drive “Brooks” for a more complete list of topics.)  Books may include Autism’s False Prophets, byPaul Offit; Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, byMalcolm Gladwell; and How Psychology Applies to Everyday Life, by Charles Brooks & Michael Church.  Dr. Charles Brooks.  Section K: TTH 8:00AM-09:15AM

Unruly Women
Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, Queen Elizabeth, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Medea, Lady Macbeth, and maybe your mom. This course investigates the strong female in literature, history and society and explores the attitudes and anxieties about power that smart, assertive women generate.  Dr. Megan Lloyd.  Section P: TTH 9:30AM-10:45AM.
Section Q: TTH 11:00AM-12:15PM

Urban Tribes: Modern American Indians
Do you know any American Indians?  Would you know for sure if you did?  And if you do happen to know someone with Indian heritage, are they offended by names like the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves?  This class will explore the political, social, and cultural lives of the indigenous people of North America in our own time.  Through an examination of tribal history, political policy, and culture over the last 100 years or so, we will explore such topics as modern tribal culture, reservation life, sovereignty and what that term implies, Indian activism, how modern Indian lives are influenced by the past, and Indian gaming.  Texts will include Native American Voices, an anthology with articles from various scholarly disciplines;  Reservation Blues¸a novel by Sherman Alexie; and Firesticks, a collection of short stories by Diane Glancy.  Dr. Jennifer McClinton-Temple.  Section L: TTH 11:00AM-12:15PM.  Section O: TTH 2:00PM-03:15PM

 

From Woody Guthrie to Woodstock
In this course, we’ll respond to music, film, poetry, novels and critical essays spanning from the Great Depression to the Viet Nam War.  Our group will share the responsibility of contributing to a free exchange of ideas and continue the dialogue with several writers (Woody Guthrie, John Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Thomas Wolfe, Hermann Hesse, Toni Morrison, and more) and musicians (Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Arlo Guthrie, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and more). Research and projects include analytical interpretation and interaction with critical reviews and documentary films.  All research topic selections and some novel selections will be student based.  Mr. Marlon Alber.  Section N: TTH 12:30PM-01:45PM