The Common Curriculum

Scholars Research Seminar 2014

Winter/Spring 2014

  • 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."

  • Anthropology of Addiction | Professor Paul Christensen

    This is a seminar course designed to give you academic competence in the study of addiction, as well as the methods required for designing, researching, writing, and revising a research paper. Addiction, addict, and addicted are terms frequently used in the United States to talk about a wide range of behaviors. At the innocuous end we are casually addicted (or like to say we are!) to coffee, Facebook, or chocolate - and typically suffer few, if any, consequences for such “addictions.” Of greater social and individual concern are addictions to alcohol, tobacco, sex, gambling, or body modification. Finally, the addict/junky exists as a label for individuals whose addicted behavior is understood as destructive, damaging, and likely to eventually end in death for themselves and others. Yet what do we really know about addiction? Especially when its use as a definitional category spans such a range of substances, actions, social positions, generations, and outcomes. This course looks at addiction from a variety of perspectives to better understand this complex term and cultural concept. All enrolled students are required to actively participate in each class session - this includes completing the required readings, coming to class prepared to discuss those readings, and conducting research outside of class for the final paper.

  • Global Remix Culture | Professor Christine Henseler

    We remix. We mash-up. We create, read, and watch a host of sarcastic, parodying, and wildly innovative works uploaded onto YouTube and Facebook every second. Remix culture is all around us. We find it in video and literature, in architecture, fashion sports, food, cars, and any other imaginable field. Its history can be traced to the beginning of the nineteenth century in sound and image collages, cut-up poems and mixed music. What is the history of the remix? How is it shaping contemporary culture and business worldwide? How is it affecting everything from art and engineering, to everyday life? In this class you will learn about the remix phenomenon and its effects on you. You will listen to music, watch remixes, write blogs, share material, and engage in a research project on a global remix phenomenon of their choice. Most importantly, you will remix the syllabus yourself.

  • Drugs and Cultures | Professor Joyce Madancy

    Virtually every society has its favorite drugs. We all consume them – for aches and pains, for pleasure and recreation, to alter mood, to wake us up, to help us sleep, and to mark important occasions, among other things – but cultural, economic, and political factors determine whether those drugs are considered beneficial or dangerous, are freely obtained or regulated, etc. Our goal here is to examine several drugs over time and in particular geographical and cultural contexts to analyze how and why those factors emerged and interacted, as well as how they affected popular attitudes. We will focus primarily on opiates, but will touch on other drugs such as caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.

  • Homer, War, and Religion in Ancient Greece | Professor Hans-Friedrich Mueller

    In this seminar, we will study the evidence provided by Homer's Iliad and Odyssey (in English translation) for understanding ancient Greek attitudes to war and religion. The ancient Greeks thought that Homer wrote history. Most modern readers, on the other hand, might assume that he writes fiction. In fact, Homer's epics offer a curious combination of both. How then do we separate facts from legend and fiction in texts that are almost three thousand years old, and that present a worldview that, if it ever existed at all, was nothing like our own? We shall begin with a close reading of our ancient sources, the Iliad and Odyssey. We will place this ancient evidence in the context of work by modern scholars who rely on this same evidence in their own investigations of Homer's attitudes toward war and religion, but we will also expand our view to include the contributions of ancient historians and archaeologists. With the assistance of the instructor, students will also formulate their own questions (about aspects of ancient Greek war and/or religion), and then delve deeply into finding answers to their questions in light of their own close reading of the sources and in conversation with modern scholarship on related topics.

  • Scottish Witchcraft Trials, 1590-1660 | Professor Steven Sargent

    This seminar will examine the phenomenon of witch hunting in Early Modern Europe through a detailed study of several Scottish Witch Trials between 1590 and 1660. Scotland had no medieval witch trials. Only after the Reformation, when witchcraft became a secular as well as religious crime, did the trials begin. Course readings will include a general history of early modern witchcraft, two early treatises on witch-hunting (the infamous Hammer of Witches [1486] and James VI's Demonology), a collection of original documents concerning the so-called North Berwick Witches (1590-93), and trial records from several seventeenth-century cases. Using these resources, the course will reconstruct the political, social, economic, intellectual, religious, and gender context of the witch trials with the goal of understanding why people were willing to burn their neighbors for crimes they not only did not commit, but could not have committed.