The Common Curriculum

Scholars Research Seminar 2012

Winter/Spring 2012

  • Baseball and American Character | Professor Denis Brennan

    In a unique way, more than any other sport played in the US, baseball reflects our national character. Why is this so? Walt Whitman’s answer was simple, “Well-it’s our game … America’s game; it has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere.” In this course, students will search for their own answers regarding how baseball, beyond merely being a game, has permeated our national character. The course will link baseball to the social history of the United States as well as discuss myths, rituals, cheating and ethics in baseball, the integration of African-Americans, and women’s quest for acceptance in the game. An equally important objective of this course is to teach the fundamental standards and methods for conducting academic research. Students will study basic research principles, learn how to access a variety of information resources, and construct a research document on a baseball topic of their own choosing. The concepts and skills learned in this course are highly relevant to further academic endeavors, including the Sophomore Research Project and Senior Thesis ... not to mention lifelong learning.

  • Bodies | Professor Michelle Chilcoat

    "Humanness," writes Donald Bakal in Minding the Body (Guilford Press, 1999), "refers in large part to the fact that we are capable of examining and regulating our own inner life and experience," and he goes on to clarify that "the quality of humanness derives from our ability to use words to express what we are observing in the outer world as well as what we are examining in our inner world" (1). This use of words to express as well as imagine bodily experience is what we will be considering throughout this course. I suggest that as our environment becomes more precarious, the attention to bodies becomes more poignant, particularly as we may begin to think more often that human bodies, as well as the environment they live in, need greater protection and care in order to survive. While some imagine ways of recovering what has been lost, others imagine human bodies transforming to adapt to new, perhaps less hospitable conditions. No matter what the outlook, however, there is almost always some element of anxiety that comes with putting (our) bodies under the microscope, so to speak. But this is precisely what the authors we will be reading for this course do, and part of our challenge will be to decipher the messages they are trying to communicate to us in this age that some philosophers and theorists now refer to as "post-human."

  • The Radical Bible | Professor John Cramsie

    The Bible is one of the most radical texts ever created: ruling élites have always understood that and have stopped at little to control and contain its messages throughout history. This seminar will study the radicalism of the early-modern English Bible. We will analyze King James I’s attempt to neutralize Reformation biblical radicalism in Britain by creating an official “authorized” version for his subjects, the famous King James Bible (c. 1611) that celebrated its four hundred birthday this year. We will then consider how, despite this attempt by King James, the Bible played a central role in the revolutionary conflicts in Britain between 1637 and 1660, including the execution of James’s own son, King Charles I, as a godless “man of blood.”

  • Generation X: Global Youth Culture in Fiction and Film | Professor Christine Henseler

    The course examines Generation X fiction and film from around the world. Who are Generation X'ers? And why should you care? Find out what makes X'ers tick and how they have shaped your worlds. In this course you will read novels and watch films by GenX'ers from a variety of countries, including Canadian Douglas Coupland, American Richard Linklater, Spaniard Ray Loriga, Chilean Alberto Fuguet, Bolivian Edmundo Paz-Soldán, Australians Andrew McGahan and Justine Ettler, Icelandic author Hallgrimur Helgason, Chinese writers Mian Mian and Wei Hui, Russian Viktor Pelevin, Czech Republic writer Jáchym Topol, and others. Most importantly, in this course students will cultivate skills of critical and creative thinking, clear and focused writing, convincing argumentation, and a high level of collaborative work and individual research. Note: The material in this course includes explicit adult material concerning the use of drugs, hetero- and homosexuality, and crude speech. If you would prefer not to be exposed to this type of material for moral or religious reasons, please come and see the professor at the end of the first class.

  • A Brief History of Timekeeping | Professor Chad Orzel

    Over the last several thousand years, people have marked the passage of time using an amazing range of technologies, from ancient astronomical "clocks" like Stonehenge to the modern ultra-precise atomic clocks that are the basis for the Global Positioning System. In this course we'll look at some of the major technologies used to tell time, from pre-history up to the modern day, and the science behind them. We'll also talk about historical and modern ideas of time, including some of the surprising predictions of Einstein's general theory of relativity, and the experiments that verify them.

  • Engineered Environment for a Smarter Planet | Professors Ashraf Ghaly and Mark Walker

    Civil engineers are working to develop standards that designers can use to implement green and sustainable features in their designs of facilities in the open environment, just like those that exist for enclosed space. IBM's "Smarter Planet" initiative uses powerful computing and extensive data sets to make systems (in transportation, energy, etc.) "smarter," both to save money and help the environment. Union College and IBM are working together to offer this seminar. A new trend that has been evolving in the building industry for the past few years is the one known as Building Information Modeling (BIM). It is a concept that takes advantage of the full potential of a database-driven virtual model, which captures vital information to help make better decisions for a more efficient building as early as the conceptual and schematic phases of design. This system aims at developing standards that designers can use to implement green and sustainable features in their designs of facilities in the open environment. This seminar will take an interdisciplinary approach to these problems. It will be team-taught by an engineer and a historian, and students from all backgrounds and with all interests are welcome.