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Fall 2017 First Seminars

FSNA103 – Energy and Society

Ed Caner, TuTh 2:30PM – 3:45PM, (4th Hour: Monday )

This four-credit-hour course provides an introduction to collegiate writing and to various dimensions of academic life, but will focus on the critical appreciation of the world of energy. Currently, most of the world runs on non-renewable resources; this course is designed to help students develop viewpoints about these issues, and to express themselves in a clear, coherent way. The class will involve both literacy and numeracy, and students will learn to become comfortable handling some of the quantitative measures of energy use. The class will be characterized by intense yet open-ended intellectual inquiry, guided by reading, lectures and discussion, and will include practice in written and oral communication individually and in small groups.

FSNA104 – Archaeoastronomy: Monuments and Ideas

R Luck, TuTh 1:00PM – 2:15PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday )

The unifying theme of this course is how astronomical practice and knowledge is central to ancient civilizations and how that emphasis continues today as manifested through scientific endeavor and also as strongly through the power of unifying myth.

FSNA111 – Chemical Aspects of the Aging Mind

Michael Zagorski, TuTh 4:00PM – 5:15PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday )

This seminar will focus on three age-related neurological disorders: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington disease. These diseases pose enormous social and economic impact, and current drug-based therapeutic approaches are limited and may not be suited to deal with the imminent problems. The seminar will examine lifestyle changes (i.e., diet, exercise, vitamins, and other habits such as reading) that are implicated in preventing or slowing down these disorders. The focus on a medical topic with important socioeconomic ramifications will provide a novel approach to enhancing critical thinking and communication skills.

FSNA113 – Facts and Values in Environmental Decisions

Beverly Saylor, TuTh 2:30PM – 3:45PM, (4th Hour: Friday )

This four-credit seminar will guide students to critically evaluate the evidence, uncertainties, and value judgments pertinent to some of the world’s pressing environmental issues. We will begin by studying climate change. Students will decide the topics of exploration to follow. Through reading, field trips, discussions and writing we will investigate natural environmental processes and how they have changed with the growth in human population and technology. Students will learn about the scientific process and will consider the roll of science and technology and their limits in making decisions about shared resources.

FSNA116 – Cities (Under Construction)

Bernard Jim, MWF 11:40AM – 12:30PM, (4th Hour: Friday )

Based on the premise that cities are never “finished,” and constantly being remade, we will look at the technological and cultural history of cities from the ancient world to the present day. Students will explore the history of building materials–wood, brick, steel, concrete, and glass–used in the construction of cities. We will also trace the development of city infrastructure such as water and sewage systems; streets, bridges, and subways; electricity, telephone and the internet. Specific technological innovations, such as the elevator and the automobile, will receive special consideration. We will move both geographically and temporally to visit the world’s great cities, Athens, Mexico City, Tokyo, and New York City. As we do, we will study the examples of significant building projects, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Chicago World’s Fair, Washington, DC’s Metro, and Cleveland’s first skyscraper, the Rockefeller Building. The course will cover the history of the professions–engineering, architecture, and urban planning–that have contributed to the construction of cities, and will review the works of these practitioners, as well as that of artists, reformers, and utopians that have imagined new directions for the city. We will also explore first person narratives of the city, the impact of the city on personal and collective memory, and the possibilities and pitfalls of the “virtual” city. Through lecture, discussion, textual analysis, computer simulations, and writing assignments, Cities (Under Construction) will help students gain a deeper understanding of their role in remaking and sustaining the built environment.

FSNA120 – The Impact of Materials on Societal Development

Peter Lagerlof, MWF 3:20PM – 4:10PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday )

This four credit-hour SAGES seminar provides an introduction to various dimensions of academic life through open-ended intellectual inquiry and guided by reading from primary and secondary sources. The course will require practice in written and oral communications in small groups. A primary focus of the seminar will be to examine the impact of engineering materials on societal development through human history using a few specific materials of interest as examples: concrete, steel, and semi-conductors. At the conclusion of the course, students will be encouraged to explore the impact of other materials on the development of specific technologies as a group project.

FSNA129 – Engineering Design for the World’s Poorest

Daniel Lacks, TuTh 10:00AM – 11:15AM, (4th Hour: Wednesday )

Almost half (47%) of the people in Africa have incomes less than $1.25 per day. Most of these people live as subsistence farmers in small villages with no electricity, running water or automobiles (but with cell phones). Through readings, group discussions, writing assignments, and open-ended experiential learning activities, the course will address ways that engineering solutions can improve peoples’ lives within these severe economic constraints. A hands-on component of the course will involve designing and building affordable devices to meet specific needs. We have developed interactions with villages in Senegal, Malawi, and Botswana, and the engineering solutions will be explored within the context of these villages.

FSNA133 – Engineering Innovation and Design

Gary Wnek, TuTh 10:00AM – 11:15AM, (4th Hour: Monday )

Innovation and design are cornerstones of the engineering profession and are responsible for many of the improvements in the quality of life that have taken place over the last century. Innovation is also viewed as the essential skill that will drive economies and solve many of the challenges facing societies around the globe. This seminar-based course will provide a disciplined approach to engineering innovation and design. The course requires students to engage in written and oral communications as well as working in small teams to complete open-ended design/build-related assignments. The course will culminate in the design, fabrication and validation of a prototype product to meet an identified need. The design, fabrication and validation of these products will be carried out in think[box] 1.0 (Prentke-Romich Collaboratory), and the Reinberger Design Studio.

FSNA134 – Fuel Cells

Robert Savinell, MW 4:50PM – 6:05PM, (4th Hour: Monday )

Fuel Cells convert hydrogen and other fuels directly to electricity and are viewed as a key technology for non-polluting, oil-independent energy in the future. In this course, we will study and critically analyze the prospects, technical and economic barriers, and impact of broad implementation of fuel cells, focusing on the transportation sector and portable power. Major topics of the course include: (i) World and US energy outlook; (ii) Potential role and impact of fuel-cells; their advantages, principles of operation, design and materials issues, limitations and prospects for improvements; (iii) Special focus on details of a polymer type fuel cells (PEMFCs) for transportation and portable power; (iv) Modeling fuel cell performance and evaluation of controlling mechanisms that limit performance. The course is designed for students from all disciplines. Students will be expected to read assigned texts and articles and critically analyze statements and points of view presented. Quantitative analysis will be encouraged and developed. Student teams will develop a hypothesis to improve fuel cell performance by modifying the design of a component of the fuel cell. The new component design with then be fabricated and tested in an operating prototype fuel cell. Data analysis, hypothesis conclusion, and reporting of results are expected.

FSNA135 – BioDesign Basics: The Art of Finding Patient Needs

Colin Drummond, MWF 11:40AM – 12:30PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday )

BioDesign basics explores the art of finding patient needs. No prior clinical or medical education is required, as we focus on acquiring and refining the underpinning critical thinking skills needed to identify and articulate unmet clinical patient needs in contemporary healthcare settings. Many–if not a majority of–ideas leading to healthcare innovation are derived from issues that arise during the daily activities of caring for patients. Whether it is frustration with the use of a specific surgical instrument, processes that interfere with health care delivery, better waiting rooms for the family, designing more comfortable hospital gowns, or materials inadequate for intended outcomes, patient needs cover a broad range of physical and emotional states. Many students find the idea of identifying a “patient need” quite ambiguous at first, but the BioDesign process for defining patient need is a widely use national model developed at Stanford University that the student will find contains easy-to-follow steps that are simple and appealing.

As an interactive and “hands-on” course, students will be engaged in discussions, events and activities to promote a first-hand understanding of “needs finding” to support individual mastery of writing and oral presentation skills. The Fourth Hour will be centered on “walking tours” of local medical institutions around University Circle as well as actual use of medical devices (wheelchairs and crutches) on campus as ways to help your efforts identify a patient need based on those observations. In short, you will create your own experiences leading to stories that make writing fun. The course requires students to engage in written and oral communications as well as working in small teams to complete open-ended assignments.

FSNA136 – Saving the World from Poverty, Disease, Injustice and Environmental Exploitation

Andrew Rollins, MWF 2:15PM – 3:05PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

Half of the world’s population lives in poverty. The causes of poverty and injustice are complex and the ramifications are numerous and serious and include grave risk to human health and to the environment. Through reading, analysis, writing, and rigorous discussion the class will investigate issues surrounding poverty and disparities in health and opportunity. We will also explore how innovation and engineering design can help address causes of poverty and disparity and meet needs of people at risk. Design teams will work throughout the semester to identify an unmet need to engineer a solution to benefit an under-served or under-resourced population. Fourth-hour activities will include interviewing knowledgeable stakeholders (locally and abroad via teleconference), learning about and volunteering with service organizations, and visiting local institutions and/or companies addressing these issues.

FSNA144 – Is Mind What the Brain Does?

Lee Thompson, MWF 11:40AM – 12:30PM, (4th Hour: Monday)

Together we will explore the nature of the human mind by asking the question, “Is the mind what the brain does? “Through an exploration of neurological and psychological case studies, empirical research studies, direct experimentation, and readings and films about brain structure and function, we will form hypotheses about the relationship between the mind and the brain and gather evidence to test our hypotheses. Writing assignments will explore ideas about your own mind and brain, examples of other individuals with unusual or atypical brains and minds, and a research topic of your choice.

FSNA150 – Hobbies – Engineering fun

Jeffrey Capadona, TuTh 1:00PM – 2:15PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

This seminar introduces students to the idea that engineering can be found in all sorts of unexpected places, even in our hobbies. To test our hypothesis, we will examine the hobbies enjoyed by the course instructors: baseball and building synthetic coral reef aquariums. Students will then work under the instructors’ guidance to analyze how principles of engineering can be used to understand the successes and failures they have encountered in their own hobbies, with the ultimate goal of developing a proposal for improving their experience of these hobbies.

FSNA154 – The Green Energy Transformation in Germany

Peter Yang, TuTh 8:30AM – 9:45AM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

This seminar introduces students to the development and successes of green technologies in Germany. We will examine the proactive development of renewable energy and energy conservation technologies, commonly referred to as Energiewende, that was started by the German Green movement and promoted by Germany’s innovative renewable energy policies. We will consider such questions as: What are the implications of this German success story, both for the US and the rest of the world? What lessons can be applied to other situations? What factors might limit the utility of those lessons? In the process of our investigation, we will examine such important issues as globalization, resource finiteness, and sustainability challenges, including economic crises, climate change, energy insecurity, and global competition.

FSNA157 – Plastics Recycling: Re-use of Plastic Waste

John Blackwell, MW 3:20PM – 4:35PM, (4th Hour: Monday)

About 300 million tons of plastics are produced globally each year, but only about 10 percent of these products are recycled, despite the fact that recycling uses significantly less energy and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than does manufacture of the virgin materials. This course will address the scientific, economic, environmental, and political issues involved in plastics recycling. Following an introduction to the chemical structures and properties of commodity plastics, we will discuss the actual recycling of plastics in municipal waste including the problems faced in collection and sorting of plastic waste and recycling economics. Then we will address the commercial applications and properties of recycled plastics and why they generally have inferior properties to virgin materials, which significantly reduces their market value. Finally we will look at biodegradable alternatives to oil-based materials as well as some options to plastics recycling, including land filling, burning for power generation, and monomer reclamation.

FSNA158 – What is Making and Manufacturing Today and Why is Innovation Part of the Story?

Lisa Camp, TuTh 4:00PM – 5:15PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

The rise of the creative class into the world of “making” has resulted in new economic models, new definitions of manufacturing, and new ways of working. “Making” is inclusive of a wide variety of activities, from the arts and crafts, to woodworking, to high technology integrating with traditional craftsmanship, to products with embedded sensors in traditional materials, to the use of 3D printing of everything from polymers to metals to chocolate. Within all of these approaches, “innovation” is often the buzzword, the common denominator. What does innovation mean in this context? Are innovators and makers today any different from the innovators and manufacturers of the past? What role does science and math have in making and manufacturing? Through both a hands-on and historical approach, we will explore the commonalities between today’s makers and yesterday’s manufacturers, and arrive at an understanding of innovation and apply this understanding to a project that could continue throughout your time at CWRU.

FSNA159 – Nanotechnology in Medicine: The Fantastic Voyage

Anirban Sen Gupta, MWF 11:40AM – 12:30PM, (4th Hour: Monday)

This course is a freshman seminar designed to introduce students to Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, their application in the world of biomedicine, and the fundamental science and engineering principles that guide the current state-of-art and future approaches. The course will begin with an introduction to the history, science and terminology of `Nano scale’, `Nanotechnology’ and `Nanomedicine’. It will then focus on the historical advancements in the field and describe why and how the field became an exciting component of medical technologies. The course will draw on a variety of texts including book sections, newspaper articles, editorials, scientific journal articles and internet-sourced information to understand the realm of nanoscience and nanotechnology in various STEM areas and their specific application in biomedicine. The course will also correlate science fiction with reality, pertaining to the Nanomedicine area, via two classic movies: Fantastic Voyage (1966) and Inner Space (1987). The students will be asked to interpret components/sections of the movies in terms of `conceptual correctness’, `scientific correctness’ and `challenges in nanomedicine’.

FSNA160 – Technological Development and Popular Perception

Richard Bachmann, TuTh 2:30PM – 3:45PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

The central theme of this seminar is the basic functioning of engineered devices and systems. The devices/systems covered will be 1) automobiles, 2) airplanes, and 3) production of electric power. Material for the seminar will come from a wide range of sources, including a reference book “How Things Work”, historical references, popular pseudo-technical periodicals, and technical journal articles. We will discuss topics ranging from a) how to characterize the basic physical principles at work in the devices/systems to z) how popular opinion can affect the adoption or abandonment of sound technology.

FSNA163 – Design Thinking: Influence of Art and Engineering on Design

Malcolm Cooke, MW 4:50PM – 6:05PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

For designers, the “wicked problem” is the recognition that decision-making is full of contingencies, including multiple perspectives and approaches, and while problems may be solved, elegant solutions are rarely without faults. This course investigates how these contingencies affect the design process in art and engineering, ultimately looking at the overlap between these two disciplines. What are the differences between artistic and engineering approaches to design? How can a hybrid approach that integrates aspects from each discipline solve persistent design challenges? Working with students from the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) in a seminar-studio setting, students will experience firsthand the importance of disciplinary diversity and innovative thinking in the design process. Collaboratively and individually, students will reveal and explore ways of design thinking shared by art and engineering in written, digital, and fabricated assignments.

FSNA164 – Alchemy: Think Beyond the Possible

David Schiraldi, MW 3:20PM – 4:35PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

Alchemy: one part science, one part religion, one part art. In this SAGES First-Year Seminar we will explore the history of alchemy, untangling its facts from its fictions, to reconsider its contribution to modern science and its commitment to thought innovation. On the surface (according to Webster), alchemy is “a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life.” Taking a long view, we will plumb the archives of alchemy, examine its traditions in art and literature, recover its ancient origins, consider its interdisciplinary roots, and establish its place in the (future) history of science. Alchemy calls its practitioners to think beyond the possible, so we ask: who are the alchemists among us? This course is a First-Year Seminar focused on thinking through the Natural World. Students should be prepared to participate in seminar discussion, fieldwork (fourth-hour excursions), hands-on learning (Think[box]), and intensive writing instruction.

FSNA165 – Silicon and Its Applications

Chung-Chiun Liu/Laurie Dudik, TuTh 8:30AM – 9:45AM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

Silicon is the second most abundant element found on the planet. Over the last century, science has taught us to take this common material and create the products on which our modern society depends. Quantum mechanics gave birth to the electronic age and the computer. The absorption, emission and reflection of quanta of light (photons) underlie solar cells, light emitting diodes, radiation detectors, and optical fibers.

The driving forces behind these discoveries are fascinating. The history of the scientific revolution–the conversion of sand into silicon ingots then into computer chips–is extraordinary. The advancement of computer chips and accessories based on silicon technology now enables your smartphone to direct you to the nearest Taco Bell through its connection to a satellite orbiting the Earth. There are basic processing steps that change an ingot of pure silicon into a practical device such as a chemical sensor or a solar cell. Major topics of this course will include discussion of the history of silicon, from the simple transistor to complex microprocessor, solar cells, and sensors, as well as how the swift changes in computing power and the communications revolution powered by it have impacted our daily modern life. Excellent examples of this silicon-based technology include the use of silicon in solar panels and their place in the green energy revolution, and the expanding role of silicon micro sensors as one of the fastest growing areas of technology, especially in the area of biochips for healthcare.

Students in this class will have the opportunity to design and construct a simple device on a silicon chip for their group project. This course is designed and intended for students of all disciplines, and each student is expected to participate actively in a group project to make a silicon device in a clean room. Students will participate in a laboratory experience where chemicals and reagents will be used for typical silicon technology processing. During Fourth Hour, students will have the chance to visit the University Solar Farm, laboratories at CWRU that are actively involved in silicon research, listen to guest speakers whose research involve silicon, watch films on usage of silicon technology and master oral presentation skills.

FSNA166 – Energy and Materials

Gerhardt Welsch, TuTh 4-5:15, (4th Hour: Friday)

This seminar explores energy in its various forms available to us. It also explores materials and methods by which we can derive energy from its sources and convert it into forms that power our society today and in the future. In our readings, discussion and writing we will consider the following. In the first unit, we will ask what energy is. In which forms is it available to us? How can we grasp or capture it? What forms of energy are useful or detrimental to us? In the second unit, we will consider the purposes, benefits and detriments of energy use. We will initially focus on our own uses, and then consider the wider implications on society. In the third, we will explore energy sources currently and potentially available to us. What are the costs, benefits, advantages and disadvantages? For example, traditional energy sources have been wood, coal, oil and gas, collectively known as fossil fuels. What are the advantages and disadvantages of these compared to “greener” energy sources such as nuclear, sunlight, wind, water and biofuels? Fourth, we will explore materials or material system choices needed to harvest and convert nature-provided energy into user-friendlier forms. Choices are often dictated by the method of energy conversion in which the materials need to sustain high temperatures, pressures, stress or electric fields. What materials are available? What are relative costs and limitations? What opportunities lie ahead? In the fifth and final unit, we will consider material systems or devices that enable energy storage. Why are they important? What storage methods are available? Which may be preferred for certain purposes, e.g. for economy of storage or for rapid energy release to generate power?

FSSO119 – Philanthropy in America

Barbara Burgess-Van Aken, MW 4:50PM – 6:05PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

This four-credit course provides an introduction to various dimensions of philanthropy and volunteerism. Using the seminar format and an array of interactive activities, we will conduct a broad but intellectual inquiry into the systems and ethics of giving time and money to charitable causes. In four units of inquiry, we will consider the giving traditions that have influenced American culture and society since its colonial days. We will examine the role that the Third Sector (also known as the Independent or Nonprofit Sector) plays as an agent of social change in a functioning democratic republic. We will explore the nature of donors and volunteers and take a critical look at the missions and goals of a cross section of nonprofit organizations. We will wrestle with ethical issues related to philanthropy and consider the giving patterns of different social, religious, and ethnic groups. We will also turn our collective thinking to how the nonprofit sector might better serve the social needs of the nation and the world. At the end of the semester, we will reflect on how our ideas about philanthropy have changed over the course of fifteen weeks.

FSSO120 – Poverty and Social Policy

Brian Gran, TuTh 8:30AM – 9:45AM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

This course has two major foci: poverty and social policies designed to ameliorate poverty. Sociologists in the United States and in other countries have made major contributions to studies of poverty. They have primarily focused on income-based poverty, but more recently, have also studied other forms of poverty. In this class, we will examine different conceptualizations and measures of poverty. We will then examine short-term and long-term poverty experiences and their potential consequences. We will then turn to explanations of poverty: why are some individuals more likely to experience periods of low income than others? While the United States will be the focus of the course, we will contrast the experiences of other countries. The second component will be an analysis of social policies designed to ameliorate poverty. In particular, we will examine the development and retrenchment of welfare states and other social policies, the various goals of social policy, and the different impacts social policies have had on individuals, families, other groups, and the country overall. This discussion will reflect on experiences of other countries.

FSSO128-100 – Movers and Shakers: Leadership

Anita Howard, MW 3:20PM – 4:35PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

FSSO128-101 – Movers and Shakers: Leadership

Anita Howard, MW 4:50PM – 6:05PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Mead, 1901-1978).This seminar is about understanding what enables people to make a generative impact on the world. Students will explore the socio-emotional and motivational characteristics of effective leaders and their ability to create positive change. Students will also be encouraged to develop their own theories of leadership and to explore their personal approaches to making a difference. The seminar will profile leaders from different occupations and walks of life. Seminar sessions will feature assigned readings on leaders and change agents, class discussion on what drives movers and shakers, and individual and group presentations on class members’ emergent leadership perspectives.

FSSO143-100 – Living With and Making Decisions Concerning Injustice

Barbara Clemenson, TuTh 8:30AM – 9:45AM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

FSSO143-101 – Living With and Making Decisions Concerning Injustice

Barbara Clemenson, TuTh 10:00AM – 11:15AM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

Injustice. What do you think of when you hear that word? There are all types of injustice in this world, and chances are that during our lifetime we will either find ourselves in a position or system of power, perpetrating injustice on others; or in a position or system of supposed impotence, a subject of injustice. What are our choices? How will we respond? In this course we will examine the topic of living with and making decisions concerning injustice using, as an example, the specific injustice of slavery, examining the lives and decisions of both a famous slaveholder and two not-so-famous slaves; and learning from their lives and decisions how we might, ourselves, live with and make decisions concerning injustices we face in our lives.

FSSO149 – Creativity in the Arts, Sciences, and Engineering

Daniel Melnick, TuTh 10:00AM – 11:15AM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

This seminar will have a focus on creativity in the arts, sciences, and engineering. What are the similarities and differences in the creative process in these three different broad fields? How are the creative products different? What are the creative processes involved in these different domains. Are there differences in personalities between scientists and artists? How can we foster creativity in children and adults in these fields? We all read about and discuss the different dimensions of creativity; what makes something creative; what helps people become creative; the role of cognition and emotion in the creative process in the arts and sciences; and mental illness and creativity.

FSSO152 – Decision Making in Everyday Life

Jennifer Butler, MWF 11:40AM – 12:30PM, (4th Hour: Monday)

Although social cognition allows us to process vast amounts of information quickly, we are not always aware of the subtle forces that guide our decision making. This course will use a seminar approach to explore rational and irrational forces that influence decision making. We will use a multi-disciplinary approach to decision making, including topics such as personality factors, incentive-based decision making, cognitive biases, automatic information processing, and theories of mind. These topics will be explored using class discussion, writings, and student presentations.

FSSO157 – Being in Touch: Animal and Human Considerations

Susan Ludington, MW 4:50PM – 6:05PM, (4th Hour: Monday)

This is a seminar designed to refine skills of critical thinking and reading, listening, learning, writing and verbal presentation while considering the topic of touch. We will consider touch in different situations and for different purposes – touch in child development, touch in socialization, therapeutic animal touch, touch and violence/harassment, touch in the workplace, touch and technology, taste as a function of touch, healing touch comforting and noxious touch, and things we are afraid to touch.

FSSO164 – Social Change, Genes, and Environment

William Dannefer, TuTh 4:00PM – 5:15PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

This seminar will focus on the rapidly expanding understanding of the interaction of biological and social forces–including the interaction of genes and environment. We will explore claims that are made in science and popular culture about the role of genes in development. We will focus on the role that social forces play in shaping the effects of genes in development, and health, through epigenetics and related mechanisms. Adopting a sociology-of-science perspective, we will consider the wider and future implications of gene-environment interactions for politics, the economy, and culture.

FSSO165 – Identities and Social Inequality

Thom Dawkins, TuTh 1:00PM – 2:15PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

In this course, students examine diversity, privilege, and power in US society. Social categories such as gender, heritage, language, race, religion, and sexuality affect the status of both individuals and groups, at times producing unequal distribution of resources and marginalization. No group or individual belongs to one category; therefore, we will also consider how the intersection of these categories produces their own unique effects. Students are expected to analyze and critique social institutions, belief systems, and practices that promote inequality and social justice through data- based dialogue and writing. Modes of inquiry will include quantitative and qualitative research methods and current scholarly literature. This course is conducted in a seminar format that requires students to engage in active, relevant and insightful discussions regarding the course content. Students have the opportunity to hear from guest experts in the field and participate in off-campus learning activities. Reflective and scholarly writing are major components of the course.

FSSO169 – The History of Your Lifetime: Making Sense of the Last Twenty Years

Peter Shulman, TuTh 10:00AM – 11:15AM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

No matter when you grow up, adults make assumptions about what you know, “You lived through certain events, didn’t you? Those events are often very important–the basis of political and policy debates or related to subjects that affect daily life–but it’s often difficult to make sense of history you’ve lived through, but only as children. The usual way we learn about the past–in history classes–isn’t very helpful because this is a time period that usually goes beyond what your teachers have been able to cover.

Even if you could have covered this recent time period in history class, unfortunately, most recent subjects haven’t received much attention from historians; the archives aren’t yet available and we lack much critical distance in making judgments about what is significant and what isn’t. We aren’t yet sure which assumed causes of historical change are plausible and which only seemed so at the time. This time period usually constitutes most of the student’s lifetime–your lifetime.

This class takes these challenges head-on, examining the last 20 years of history. Aside from covering the “what happened” for several selected topics, we will attempt to go further and explore how historians think about contemporary events, place current events into longer historical contexts, develop skills in media literacy to better evaluate the quality of information we receive, and discuss the uses and misuses of historical analogies in public debate. We will also investigate the importance of structural narrative in making sense of historical events and processes: what questions do we ask of the past and why those questions and not others? Why do our questions about the past change over time? How do present circumstances affect our historical work? When do we draw our chronological boundaries; when do our stories start and when do they end?

FSSO171 – Prediction

Justin Buchler, MWF 11:40AM – 12:30PM, (4th Hour: Monday)

This course is an interdisciplinary examination of predictions about social events, how we make them, why they go wrong, and how we respond. While some things, like election results, are easy to predict, dramatic events like wars, depressions, and stock market crashes are harder to predict. The course will begin with the basic elements of probability theory to lay the groundwork for the class. Then, we will examine the psychological research on the types of errors people are prone to make regarding probability and the consequences of such biases in perception and estimation. The course will then move on to discuss predicting specific social events, such as elections and stock trends, comparing the empirical research to conventional beliefs. Then the course will address the role of scholarly research more generally, and the empirical work discussing how political scientists, economists, and other scholars often fail to predict the most significant and dramatic events because of their cognitive styles, which vary in the degree to which they rely on simplified models. Finally, the course will discuss how people respond when their predictions go wrong, and their basic tendency to rationalize away errors.

FSSO172 – Islam in South Asia

Ananya Dasgupta, MW 3:20PM – 4:35PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

There are more Muslims in South Asia than in any other region of the world. But within the region, Islam is far from a monolith. What variety of religious practices and traditions of debate have characterized South Asian Muslims? When meshed with different political projects, how do we understand Islam as a deeply contested ideological field? What roles did Muslims play in the history of South Asia? These are some of the questions we will pursue in the seminar.

The long history of Muslim presence in the region–which now includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan–will offer opportunities for studying them in a wide range of historical contexts: as actors in cosmopolitan, commercial networks of trade; as rulers consolidating states and empires governing large multi-ethnic and multi-religious populations; as “modernizers” and “traditionalists;” as religious minorities and majorities in different nation-states. Additionally, this seminar will explore Islam in an array of modern settings: from a nation-state created as a “Muslim homeland” to a rejection of religion as an adequate basis of national identity; from democracy to military rule; and, from Cold War politics to the “Global War on Terror.”

FSSO176 – SAVOR: The Ethics and Politics of Eating

Narcisz Fejes, TuTh 4:00PM – 5:15PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

Our food choices affect more than our individual health; what we decide to put into our bodies has important consequences for our environment, the livelihood of farmers, and even the general well-being of a society. These choices also reveal moral, cultural, and religious values we deem important. In this seminar, we will examine the environmental and social consequences of our food choices by interrogating both our individual habits as well as current (often controversial) food policy issues. In line with the requirements of a SAGES First Seminar, this course is designed to improve students’ ability to read critically and interpret moral and political arguments. We will analyze a wide range of writings on food-related issues in order to develop sophisticated perspectives on our food choices. Hopefully, this thoughtful consideration will translate to mindful habits when we convene around food with our friends, families, and communities. Class discussions will be accompanied by class visits to urban gardens, restaurants with a sustainability mission, and farmers’ markets. We’ll also meet representatives of community organizations like the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

FSSO178 – Crafting Your Own Freedom

Jeremy Bendik-Keymer, MWF 2:15PM – 3:05PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

An abiding task of ancient philosophy was to style your life with wisdom. The Greek and Roman schools of philosophy so common to cities around the Mediterranean two thousand years ago developed all sorts of techniques for people to become self-styled sages-in-training. The modern variant, as Michael Foucault and his student Jacques Rancière noted, was to transpose wisdom into a critical attitude where the goal of style was not sagacity but liberation. In this course, we work as in a lab -a modern philosophical workplace- to style your lives critically, articulating stratagems and ideals of liberation. In particular, we focus on becoming a multi-dimensional human, on finding time and space in the midst of work for utopian dreams, on loving relationships, and on education as a developmental experience.

FSSO181 – Bicycles: Technology and Everyday Life

Eric Chilton, TuTh 2:30PM – 3:45PM, (4th Hour: Monday)

For most of us, the bicycle seems a simple, everyday object, perhaps associated with children’s toys or recreational sport. But deeper analysis reveals that the technology of the bicycle has developed in distinct social contexts, and that aspects of its development are closely intertwined with community values. In this seminar, we will trace the history of bicycles in these technological and social contexts. We will note, for example, the importance of bicycles for the feminist movement of the 1890s and beyond. We will also consider cycling in our present environment, paying attention to debates about urban infrastructure as it pertains to cars, bicycles, and pedestrians.

We will engage with popular and scholarly sources, and we will consider the significance of bicycles even for non-cyclists. Topics may include the physics and engineering of bicycle design, the aesthetic aspects of the cycling experience, the role of bicycles in our transportation infrastructure, and the varying perceptions of cycling in cultures throughout the world. We will critically examine claims that increased bicycle use can lead to better energy efficiency, less traffic, improved health, better quality of life, and more fun. Fourth-hour classes will include connections with community cycling organizations, such as Case Cycling and bike advocacy nonprofits. Students will write formal critical essays, exploring topics from readings and discussion in greater depth.

Students need not possess any cycling experience to take this class–only an interest in questions of how technology interacts with social values, and how these values are expressed in our everyday lives. We will use Cleveland and University Circle as a laboratory for understanding the complexity and challenges of managing city infrastructure for different kinds of users. Optional group rides if interest exists.

FSSO182 – Burning River to City Farms: Transitional Urban Environments

Matthew Burkhart, MWF 3:20PM – 4:10PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

How does one live sustainably in an urban setting? This emerges as a vital 21st century question, especially since more than 70% of contemporary Americans live in or near densely populated cities. This seminar examines how people in urban geographies forge meaningful relations with the natural world. Cleveland, a city undergoing cultural and economic redefinition, stands as an ideal place to engage the work of contemporary environmental writers, filmmakers, urban planners, and community organizers. While our field experiences will ground us in environmental transitions taking place in Cleveland, we will consider how similar dynamics play out in other Midwestern cities as well as further-flung locales, such as Havana, Toronto, New Orleans, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Boston. This seminar’s driving questions include: How have people in urban setting–across lines of social class and ethnicity–forged meaningful relationships with the natural world? How do global histories, carried through immigration and refugee resettlement, affect the ways that current communities interact with urban nature? How might privilege and power factor into the greening of blighted city spaces, through practices such as urban farming, ecological restoration, and community revitalization? Our exploration of these questions will help you form a better understanding of what it means to live mindfully at the intersection of nature and culture.

FSSO184 – The Art of Making After the Age of the Machine

Erika Olbricht, MW 8:00AM – 9:15AM, (4th Hour: Monday)

Our seminar will focus on what counts as hand-made in our society, whose hands do the making, and why this making continues to matter. In order to understand that type of making, we’ll investigate the relationship between industry and handicraft, the machine and the human, the mechanically reproduced and the precious original–all expressions of relations among technology, individual bodies, and the imagination. Since the Industrial Revolution, our society has increasingly mechanized its operations to ensure efficient production involving fewer skilled workers. Opposition to industrialization has existed since the earliest moments of the Revolution, expressed both violently by the followers of the mythical Ned Ludd and thoughtfully by people such as Victorian craftsman and philosopher William Morris, who argued for a return to human ingenuity and “handicraft. “Today, craft movements supported by and DIY TV shows like Project Runway continue to inspire ingenuity in both machine and handcraft. To investigate these ideas, we will read texts ranging from early nineteenth-century philosophers to steampunk fiction, experience making things by hand, and travel to local museums and maker-spaces.

FSSO185A – Adulting: Coming of Age in the 21st Century

Karie Feldman, MWF 2:15PM – 3:05PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

This course will explore what it means to grow up today. In industrialized countries 50 years ago, a 22-year-old was married, had at least one child, and was perhaps on the way to owning a home. For the current generation, however, traditional markers of adulthood–leaving home, completing school, becoming financially independent, getting married, and having children–have become increasingly delayed, disordered, or even foregone, both in the US and worldwide. To better understand this shift, we will investigate the changing economic, social, and cultural forces underlying it. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which race, class, gender, and sexuality shape young people’s experiences of, and pathways to, adulthood.

FSSO185B – Writing History in Real Time: Britain’s Exit from the European Union

Luke Reader, TuTh 1:00PM – 2:15PM, (4th Hour: Monday)

On June 23, 2016, British citizens voted to leave the European Union (EU): Brexit. This was quite a surprise. Over a long referendum campaign, politicians, journalists, academics, pollsters, and members of the public generally–even those opposed to the EU–seemed sure that Britain would decide to remain part of Europe.

So why does Brexit matter? One reason is that it gives us an opportunity to see how people and societies respond to and interpret moments of dramatic change. How do we make sense of important events when we do not expect them to occur? Over the semester, we will explore the background to Brexit and follow the history that is being written as Britain begins the process of leaving the EU. What reasons have been offered for Brexit. How convincing are they? What does Brexit say about national identity and culture in Britain? As Scotland again demands an independence referendum, will Britain even exist a few years from now? We will also examine the international implications of Brexit, considering the ways in which the decision of British voters to leave the EU fits into global patterns of populist reaction to immigration and globalization.

FSSO185C – Music and Cultural Anxiety in the 20th Century

Brian MacGilvray, TuTh 2:30PM – 3:45PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

The Paris premiere in May 1913 of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, The Rite of Spring, provoked one of the most notorious crowd reactions in Western music history. The brutally dissonant music and “primitive” choreography scandalized the more conservative attendees, whose protests drowned out the orchestra and threw the dancers into confusion. To its detractors, The Rite of Spring not only threatened the polite domain of classical ballet; it also reaffirmed a view that serious music had gone off the rails and was hastening the moral decay of European society. In this course, the Stravinsky affair will be a starting point for exploring how music in the 20th century reflected and contributed to anxieties about social and political control. What new conditions made those anxieties different from in centuries past? What threats did new music pose, and why? What anxieties today are channeled into making music or reacting to it?

Our focus on Stravinsky and the early 20th century crisis of modern music will culminate with a performance of The Rite of Spring by the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall, where we will ponder the experience of hearing once-radical music in a venue that exudes cultural prestige and conservatism. We will then examine two other disruptive historical moments: first, the use of music as propaganda in Hitler’s Third Reich and the corresponding Nazi ban on “degenerate music” (Jewish music, jazz, and the avant-garde); and second, the ascent of rock and roll in the 1950s and 60s, which involved the white appropriation of African-American music, new anxiety about a “generation gap,” and a new adolescent sense of freedom from authority.\Seminar discussions will be informed by critical readings and videos that are accessible to non-musicians, and by local concerts and institutions such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Students will write short essays in response to each historical topic, which can be related in unlimited ways to present-day concerns, whether individual or social.

FSSY135 – The Rest is Silence

Sarah Gridley, TuTh 1:00PM – 2:15PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

The purpose of this course is to examine a widespread yet under-examined agent of the symbolic world: silence. Without the delimiting, shaping power of silence, language would be a lump of indistinguishable sound. The title of the course comes from Shakespeare: specifically, Hamlet’s last words. As we know, the rest (of Hamlet) isn’t silence: the play goes on for many more lines, beginning with Horatio’s well known valediction, “Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince:/And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!” Hamlet’s last words give us a good view into the ambiguous nature of silence, the strange entanglement it has with boundaries, both formal, and metaphysical. We will study how silence is imbricated in different, even antithetical, practices: in the articulation of creative forms (with special attention to poetry); in methods of religious contemplation and meditation; as agent of ecological and political suppression; as sensory deprivation, or form of torture. Silence continuously challenges and reorients our symbolic projects. As Ana Maria Ochoa Gautier argues, it forces us to question “the binary logic of apparent opposites by dissolving one into the other (presence as absence, emptiness as plenitude, quietness as expressivity, silence as intensity of life).” What we can know or say about silence will emerge from an ongoing discussion of texts that engage its properties–its paradoxes–differently. Our semester-long study (and practice) of silence will draw on your powers of critical inquiry, reflection, and synthesis, as well as your powers of attention and imagination. Seminar-style discussion and writing are the cornerstones of the course, which is designed to help you locate yourself in the surrounding structures and expectations of the academic community, especially its forms of conversation and writing. My hope is that as you explore and refine your relationship with silence, you will begin to identify and conserve it as an important resource in your academic life: as a refuge from information overload, as a ground for ethical decision-making, and as a guide to precision in speech and writing.

FSSY154 – The Imagination Project

Bradley Ricca, TuTh 8:30AM – 9:45AM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

For the first years of our schooling, we are taught to play make-believe. Then, we are taught to understand facts. Whatever happened to the imagination? What is it? What are the theories that help to explain it? And what is its place at a research university?

In this class, we will read, talk, think, and write about the purposes and scope of the human imagination, which is often understood as the symbolic realm of images and ideas that exists as part of our mental life. We will look at how the imagination has been understood by various thinkers and artists, and we will consider how the physical world interacts with the imagination in stories, music, film, and scientific ideas. Even though we may think that imagination means “something from nothing,” it is much more complicated and collaborative than that, as we will see in our examination of larger imaginative projects such as the Sistine Chapel, Star Wars, Legos, and Disney World. We will examine the role of the imagination in as many disciplines as possible, including physics, sports, fantasy, politics, and the media. As we interrogate these sources, we will learn the basic tenets of argument and research that will help you in your upcoming SAGES courses. Are there imaginative practices that can help us succeed here at Case? How can we turn our own imaginations into reality?

FSSY157 – Pursuits of Happiness

Michael Householder, TuTh 10:00AM – 11:15AM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

What is Happiness? And why do Americans consider its pursuit a self-evident, inalienable right? To what extent is happiness a component of the American Dream? How have writers used stories to illustrate the possibilities and limits of this ideal? This course examines the various ways that thinkers have defined happiness, using both theoretical frameworks and literary examples. Students will carefully analyze the validity and utility of these models, selecting elements to construct their own personal philosophies of happiness.

FSSY177 – Cosmic Horror

Michael Clune, TuTh 1:00PM – 2:15PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

Cosmic Horror is the literary genre that most powerfully wrestles with the question of humanity’s place in the universe as revealed by modern science. From its shadowy beginnings in the pulp fiction magazines of the nineteen twenties and thirties, Cosmic Horror has come to occupy the center of contemporary literary culture. Prominent philosophers, ecologists, writers, and programmers have taken inspiration from the genre as they seek to discover meaning in a universe no longer centered on humanity. These works explore a physical world indifferent to human life and human meaning, a world in which human action shrivels into insignificance when faced with the abysses of cosmic temporal and spatial scales. In reading writers such as H. P. Lovecraft and Octavia Butler, and philosophers and scientists such as Eugene Thacker and Carlo Rovelli, we will focus on several key questions. How does “cosmic” horror differ from other kinds of terror? What traditions, beliefs, or practices does modern science threaten for these writers? Why have so many thinkers from diverse fields found themselves drawn to these works in recent years? What resources do these works offer for making sense of the environmental crisis?

This class, like other First Seminars, is writing-intensive and will follow the seminar format. It is characterized by intense yet open-ended intellectual inquiry, guided by reading from primary as well as secondary sources. This interdisciplinary course (investigating intersections of literature, philosophy, psychology, and science) will help you recognize the different perspectives that can be used to enter into a discussion on a subject, and enable you to make sometimes surprising connections across different fields, times, and genres.

FSSY182-100 – Mystery and the Art of Storytelling

Steve Pinkerton, MoWeFr 11:40AM – 12:30PM, (4th Hour: Monday)

FSSY182-101 – Mystery and the Art of Storytelling

Steve Pinkerton, MoWe 8:00AM – 9:15AM, (4th Hour: Monday)

It’s hard to resist a good story, and even harder to resist a good mystery story. What is it about mysteries that makes them so enduringly fascinating, so universal? What might they teach us about the nature of storytelling itself? In this course we’ll discuss and write about how narrative works, taking mystery as our guide. In doing so, we’ll also become better readers, viewers, and interpreters. For these stories make detectives out of us all, demanding that we evaluate textual evidence, seek out rhetorical clues, pay keen attention to detail, and even examine our own frameworks of perception. Engaging both classic and less traditional tales of mystery and detection (including a movie or two), we’ll examine the logic of such narratives, the desires and fears that drive them, and the secrets they tell–or try to keep hidden.

FSSY183 – E-Lit: New Media Narrative

Kristine Kelly, MoWeFr 2:15PM – 3:05PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

Imagine a book we might read by touching the words, speaking out loud, choosing among possible narrative paths, or even by allowing our own faces to be part of the scene. Electronic literature, literary works designed to be read or experienced on a computer, often requires exactly such multisensory engagement, asking readers to make unusual connections between words, images, sounds, or movements and, sometimes, to put themselves into the story. In this class, we will read, experience, and think critically about such unconventional electronic literature (and print literature), including works of interactive fiction, the book-in-a-box, cut up and computer-generated poetry, narrative video games, Twitter novels, and online literary performances. The narratives we read present unfamiliar, often non-linear, modes of storytelling that give us insight into how we conventionally “read” our world, our culture, and ourselves and how digital spaces influence how we understand, experience, and respond to ideas, places, people, objects, and issues.

FSSY184 – Doing Lit: Performance Theory and Our Uses of Poetry

John Wiehl, MoWeFr 2:15PM – 3:05PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

Betting. Doing your hair. Praying. Electrocuting a pickle. Reading a poem. Commemorating the dead. Seeing A Raisin in the Sun. Saying “I do.” What do all of these things have in common? Performance theory scholars argue that these are performances: variations on a text or a script that might make or change our identities. This class will investigate performance broadly–focusing on performers, audience members, texts, reception, repetition, etc.–while also narrowly looking at the role literature can play today. We will read classics of British poetry from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries and think through their relevance for 21st century America. A large portion of this class will involve students living their experiences with literature: we will think through the ways religious poetry might sanctify a ceremony, how poetry becomes contemporary film, and what tattoos of words do. We will visit The Cleveland Museum of Art and appreciate art as John Keats did; we will visit Lakeview Cemetery and remember the dead as John Donne did. The class culminates in a student-driven performance project that will be defined by the students together in consultation with the instructor.

FSSY185B – Jazz Attitudes

Paul Ferguson, TuTh 2:30PM – 3:45PM, (4th Hour: Monday)

Despised by the church, reviled by New Orleans society, Jazz was the bad boy music of the early 20th century. But by WWII it was the most popular music style in the US. Since then, jazz has become a minority taste, embraced by the academy, but viewed with an intimidated indifference by the general public. How did this happen? How have views of this odd marriage of European and African musical styles changed through the years? Can jazz regain relevancy? Should jazz musicians even care about relevancy? And if not, what does the future hold for them and their music? In this course, we will examine the history of the development of jazz, what makes the music so important in American culture, and some of the reasons why–despite this importance–few people listen to it anymore. Students need not have prior familiarity with jazz, only a willingness to listen to, and read about, the music.

FSSY185C – Religion and Food

Joy Bostic, MoWeFr 11:40AM – 12:30PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

Around the world, food is an integral aspect of religious beliefs, practices, and rituals. The significance of food is evident in calendars that define periods of feasting and fasting, in rules that prescribe or proscribe certain ingredients, and of course in special meals and dishes that promote feelings of spiritual community. This course explores different religious beliefs, practices, and rituals associated with food. We will search for answers to the following questions regarding food practices in various religious traditions and communities: What foods are associated with religious rituals? What are the rules and practices regarding how certain foods should be consumed and when? What foods are associated with holidays or festivals? What foods or combinations of foods are forbidden in certain traditions? What kinds of foods are set aside for sacred use by divinities and how are they consumed? How do people practicing mixed religions navigate religious food practices and taboos? How do food practices relate to religious identity and validate communities? What rules do certain religious traditions follow when it comes to food preparation and how do people maintain these regulations in different settings? During the 4th hour time slot, we will also go on several field trips to area restaurants and religious institutions associated with food banks or community gardens.

FSSY185D – Medieval Mindsets

Arthur Russell, MoWe 4:50PM – 6:05PM, (4th Hour: Monday)

Forget the so-called “Dark Ages. “Medieval Mindsets is about a vibrant, experimental, and inventive era of thought and technological innovation. Do we get to be modern without first getting a little medieval? This seminar invites students to revalue medieval modes of thinking and making. Over the course of the semester, we will sample innovations of the medieval world, from cycle plays to redesigned maps to eyeglasses. We will take a hands-on approach to our objects of study. Working in special collection libraries and museums, students will learn to decode medieval manuscripts and other cultural artifacts. Accordingly, we will put our medieval knowledge to the test. Working in Think[box], students will manufacture facsimiles of the medieval artifacts we study.

FSSY185E – Literary Servants: From Homer to Harry Potter

John Higgins, TuTh 4:00PM – 5:15PM, (4th Hour: Monday)

Servants have played a surprisingly large role in some of the great works of Western literature, though they often get overlooked in favor of their more noble masters and employers. In The Odyssey, for example, when Odysseus returns from the Trojan War after twenty years at sea, he first gets recognized, not by his son or his wife, but by a childhood nurse who has served in his household all of his life. Similarly, when King Lear gets stripped of his title and identity by his own power-hungry daughters, several servants somewhat surprisingly stay by his side, share his suffering, and help him, temporarily, to regain his health, sanity and his sense of authority. Servants have taken on the role of primary protagonists in many works of 19th and 20th century literature, and have played an outsized role in countless other works. Some of the questions that we will ask in this class include: Why do these characters–who occupy the margins of the household and often perform seemingly mundane jobs–play this role in the literary and social imagination? Do servants have unique identities, interests, and value systems or do they adopt the identities and values of the people they serve? To what extent are servants needed to establish the social positions of patriarchs, monarchs and the wealthy? The class will also explore the forms of power that servants are able to exert over those that they serve, and the extent to which this power both complicates and reinforces more commonly recognized systems of inequality like race, class and gender. Readings will include several classic works of literature, and short selections from historical texts that discuss the nature of service. We will also read some philosophical discussions of class and social hierarchy, watch and discuss some film and television representations of service, and visit the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Historical Society in order to learn about the history of domestic service.

FSSY185F – Religious Belief and Secular Society

Scott Dill, MoWeFr 11:40AM – 12:30PM, (4th Hour: Monday)

Is the United States a secular society? Often the way we answer that question depends on whether we think of secularity as a good or bad thing. Some think that secularity is a political ideal that ensures the equal treatment of all different kinds of people, regardless of their religious identity. Yet others complain that secularization has weakened the moral and religious fabric of the US, contributing to a disheartening cultural decline. While the first position might argue that the US should be secular but isn’t secular enough, the second might argue that the US is already too secular. Is there a way to get beyond this stalemate of different cultural values? Can we imagine a better way to understand the apparently contradictory values of religious belief and secular society?

This course will introduce students to the ways that social scientists, historians, philosophers, and artists help us do precisely that. Religious belief and secular society have a long and surprising cultural history in the US. It is wrapped up in the nation’s idiosyncratic civil religion where the nation exemplifies an exceptional religious story. Yet at the same time the role of religion and secular culture in the US cannot help but be informed and shaped by the contemporary world’s global politics, from the way the French think about headscarves to religious regulations in China to the resurgence of Hindu nationalism in India. This cultural history is worth understanding if we are ever to engage in less divisive and more productive discussions of the place of religion in today’s society. Toward that end, this first-year seminar will require students to read and listen carefully, to debate and discuss thoughtfully, and to write with precision and conviction about a pressing problem for contemporary culture.

FSSY185G – The Free Will Problem

William Deal, MoWe 3:20PM – 4:35PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

Concepts such as freedom, choice, moral responsibility, and autonomy are commonly invoked to describe our sense, as human beings, that our actions and thoughts are really our own. This seems like experiential commonsense–when I choose to read a novel instead of a philosophy text it feels like the decision to do so was made by me, that there was no coercion, or other seen or unseen force, that intervened to make me choose as I did. We extend this logic to the judgment of moral and legal responsibility. If you engage in good behavior, you get the praise; if you do bad things, you are blameworthy.

Despite our self-perception that we freely make decisions and choose our actions, we sometimes invoke the notion that certain events are the result of some prior cause or circumstance that determines what occurs in the present. In this instance, we do not appear to be fully free in our choices because we cannot undo the causes that dictate what is taking place here and now. To the extent that we experience current actions as having a cause in the past, we are flirting with the idea that our behavior is not wholly free, but determined or conditioned by what has come before. Determinism, necessity, fate, destiny, predestination: these are terms typically used to describe the sense that our actions and thoughts are the result of circumstances or unknown forces beyond our control.

Although not everyone uses the term “free will,” people everywhere wrestle with the question of whether we are free to act and think as we wish or our actions and thoughts are in some way determined. To help us explore this question, as well as related issues regarding our sense of personal identity and our ability to understand others’ beliefs and behaviors, we will read both classic and contemporary texts. In addition, we will read some short science fiction stories as thought experiments that will help us explore the ramifications of various perspectives on this topic.

FSSY185H – Shakespeare and Violence

James Newlin, TuTh 8:30AM – 9:45AM, (4th Hour: Monday)

Today, Shakespeare’s name is synonymous with high art. Attending a performance of one of his plays can be as formal as going to the symphony or the opera. Yet, in his own time, many people were drawn to Shakespeare’s plays because they were an exciting, gruesome spectacle, with eye gouging, cannibalism, and murder depicted on-stage to the shock (and delight) of the audience. Everybody agrees that Shakespeare’s plays can be violent, but what does Shakespeare actually have to say about violence in the “real” world? As we will consider this semester, Shakespeare interrogates many of the same questions regarding the use of violence that are reflected upon today. When should a nation-state attack another? When should citizens revolt against their own government? How should crime be punished? How do we know when a romantic relationship has become abusive? And, finally, what is an artist’s responsibility when representing violence? Do theatrical performances of violence inevitably glorify actual acts of violence? Can a play be both gruesome and great? In this class, we will consider contemporary, critical examinations of these questions alongside examples from Shakespeare’s drama, exploring the ways in Shakespeare’s treatment of violence relates to our own world. Students will engage these issues in a variety of formats, including traditional writing assignments, presentations, and in a final group “performance,” in which they interpret a Shakespearean text.

FSSY185I – Age of Revolutions: Political, Social, and Scientific Disruption in Britain and America, 1770-1820

Caitlin Kelly, MoWeFr 3:20PM – 4:10PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

The years between 1770-1820 marked a rapid reshaping and modernization of the Atlantic World through political, scientific, and social revolutions. The United States was established, scientific revolutions made possible by new methods and tools changed how humanity and nature were understood, and the social order was overturned as movements for gender equality gained momentum. In this course, we will encounter those revolutions through both non-fiction and fictional texts and explore their legacy. Through our study of these texts, we will examine what defines a revolution and evaluate claims that we are currently in an “age of revolutions.” What do we mean when we call something a “revolution?” How are revolutions begun and how do they end? Who determines what is a revolution and what is not? We will take up these questions and others as we look to better understand the past, the present, and the future.

FSSY185J – Fantasy: Necessary Nonsense?

Mary Grimm, MoWe 3:20PM – 4:35PM, (4th Hour: Friday)

Fantasy literature is often thought of and dismissed as being juvenile, not serious, or even immoral entertainment that diverts attention from the pressing problems of the real world. But as Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, suggests, escapist fantasy serves an important function: “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!” In this course we will explore works of fantasy as part of a genre with a long and respected history which is not only escapist, but offers readers a new way to look at the world and, sometimes, to consider how it might be changed for the better. Does this type of literature hold up a kind of mirror to society? If so, how? In what ways do such works change the way readers see themselves and their world? We will question whether fantasy might have a function beyond fun by considering a variety of fantastical texts, including novels, comics, TV shows, and movies (including works such as those by Neil Gaiman, N.K. Jemison, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip Pullman).

FSSY185K – The Greek and Roman Humanities

Timothy Wutrich, TuTh 4:00PM – 5:15PM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

The civilizations that developed in ancient Greece and ancient Italy are called collectively “Classical Civilization.” The study of the Greek and Roman humanities (languages, literature, arts, history, and philosophy) is known as “Classics.” The Greeks and Romans have had a profound, widespread, and long-lasting influence on many aspects of subsequent Western Civilization, so studying the Classical Humanities is not only a rewarding endeavor in itself, but also can benefit those who want a deeper understanding of the modern arts and humanities. In this seminar we will read and discuss representative works by Greek and Roman authors in translation and look at artifacts produced in the ancient world in order to come to a better understanding of the foundations of the western humanities. We will also study the impact of Greek and Latin on English in order to understand how language can shape thought–an important thing to learn for anyone who is also trying to become a better writer!

The seminar will investigate numerous questions about Classics. Where were the Classical lands? When was the Classical period? Are there connections between Greece or Rome and other ancient civilizations? What were the sounds and sights of Greece and Rome? What remains of the ancient world in terms of language, literature, the arts? How have the Classical Humanities shaped modern concepts and institutions? Where can one find tangible influences of Greek and Roman civilization in modern America? Why and when have modern people turned to Greece and Rome for inspiration?

FSSY185L – Fighting Data with Data in Political Arguments

Benjamin Helton, TuTh 10:00AM – 11:15AM, (4th Hour: Wednesday)

This course is designed to develop quantitative reasoning and persuasion through applications in political argument. By learning how to formulate arguments using data, students will be able to support political positions using numerical evidence. Responsible interpretation of data will be taught through studying the way mathematics has been used dishonestly in the past and present. Students will learn the “dark arts of mathematical deception” in order to identify the tactics when they are used irresponsibly or maliciously. What happens when people cling to numbers too tightly? What happens when numerical arguments are spun maliciously? Are numbers biased?

Topics for the class will begin with discussions about current political arguments being made in the United States. A particular portion of the class will focus on how numerical arguments are used in education and policy. Recent issues in education such as school choice, school funding, Big Data in education, and school effectiveness will be seen through a mathematical lens. What constitutes student learning? How do test scores represent learning? What else represents learning? What’s more important: proficiency or growth?

Another significant portion will focus on the evaluation of data in current political arguments. Interpretive lenses will be applied to raw data to determine if data are valid and trustworthy. Connections between interpreting data and value judgments will come to the forefront of the discussion to determine if a) data are worth interpreting and b) if they were interpreted responsibly. Through discussion of these two pieces of argument, students will learn to evaluate the information around them. Topics will be taken directly from current events.

Science journalist Charles Seife wrote, “Numbers can shatter myths and can disprove falsehoods. They can be turned against their abusers.” Ultimately, this class will arm students with their own “weapons of math destruction” in order to combat the fallacious arguments with measured and calculated reasoning.

Page last modified: August 1, 2017