First-Year Preceptorial

Course Descriptions for Fall and Winter Terms 2013-2014

  1. Human / Nature

    Burkett (Fall)

    The categories of “human,” “nature,” and “human nature” are, it is safe to say, extremely complex and interrelated. In this first-year seminar, we will investigate various representations (literary, scientific, theoretical, religious, artistic) of the natural world, on the one hand, and on the “nature” of what it means to be a human being, on the other. While the natural world – the world “out there” – will be continuously set in contrast to the nature of humanity, we will also certainly be careful to explore in our readings and discussions the ways in which these ostensible opposites intersect and overlap. In effect, we will examine the ways that human nature and the natural world are always already deeply interconnected categories.

    In this class you will grapple with these and other related issues both in class discussion and in your writing (and revising) of course papers. Students will submit four (4-5 page) papers throughout the course of the term. Each of these four paper projects asks that you examine a particular critical, theoretical, or historical controversy regarding or in relation to at least one of the fictional texts at hand from course readings. These texts will provide the impetus for your production of a written response to each controversy. One of the controversies involves disagreements about the ways we define the relationship between humans and what may be called “non-humans” (e.g., “androids,” “animals,” or “monsters”). Another involves a controversy about the ways in which human beings interact with the natural world and how humans both shape and are shaped by nature. A third set of texts centers on disagreements about how human beings should properly relate to urban (or “non-natural”) environments. And a final coupling of readings involves the margins or limits to which we may possibly expand the category of “human nature.”

    Class discussions will focus on and rehearse the disagreements that have emerged in both academic and public discourses in an effort to help you to become familiar with the issues and claims that you’ll need to wrestle with as you draft and revise your arguments on these subjects.

  2. Ethics, Rhetoric, and the Environment

    Doyle (Fall)

    What rhetorical strategies do people use to persuade others to rethink their relationship to the environment? In this course we will analyze the tactics employed by modern writers such as Aldo Leopold, Bill McKibben, Ernest Callenbach, Al Gore, and Bjorn Lomborg. As we explore these texts, we will examine the ways that contemporary political, philosophical, and social pressures influence each writer’s strategies. We will also wrestle with pesky questions about sustainability (what is it? how did it develop as a concept?), about the morality that underlies our daily choices, and about the ideal relationship between humans and their natural environment. To what extent are humans ethically responsible for non-human nature? To what extent does global warming trump all other interests? Along the way, students will practice critical thinking and improve their oral and written argumentative skills.

  3. On Suffering

    Tuon (Winter)

    In this class, we will explore the following questions: Why do we suffer? What are the causes of our suffering? Is suffering man-made or divine intervention? Is suffering necessary for our well-being? If suffering is inevitable, how do we cope with it in our contemporary world?

    As a class, we will examine these questions about suffering by reading philosophical and literary texts on the problem and meaning of suffering, religion and spirituality, the relationship between good and evil, morality and ethics, and war and atrocity. Texts may include Thomas Merton's The Way of Chuang Tzu, The Book of Job, What the Buddha Taught, Art Spiegelman's Maus, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, Loung Ung's First They Killed my Father, and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis.

  4. Writing In and Out of Trouble

    Smith (Winter)

    This course will focus on four writers of fiction and non-fiction whose work involves testing the boundaries of self, belief, and ideology and who are willing to put themselves in a state of uncertainty in order to figure out what, if anything, they can trust. We will read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, Joan Didion’s The White Album, James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son, and Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines. Writing assignments will focus on the essay as a form for combining experience and ideas. The class will be run as a writing workshop, with student work submitted for group discussion.

  5. Choices that Matter: Character and Communication

    Mar (Fall)

    A few individuals have used the power of their minds, the strength of their character, and command of the language to change the thinking of the rest of us. In this Preceptorial, we will examine some of the people who have caused paradigm shifts in our ways of thinking and consider how both their character and the ways in which they communicated their ideas made that happen. Through films and readings, we will look at some frameworks of how people make moral decisions as well as strategies for how to communicate ideas effectively to others. We will discuss short works by Ursula LeGuin, Kensaburo Oe, and other writers who challenge readers to consider the competing values that guide individuals as they make moral decisions. We will also consider the non-fiction writings and speeches of Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Rachel Carson, all individuals who changed history through powerfully communicating their values and ideas. We will examine what made their words, which introduced ideas that many at the time found difficult to accept, so very influential in persuading others. Throughout, we will explore moral values as we learn principles of persuasive argumentation that can be applied in multiple contexts as well as in academic course work for any discipline.

  6. What We Know … or Think We Know: The Marketplace of Ideas

    Brennan (Fall)

    The vast networks (traditional and electronic) which provide news, intelligence, perspective, and gossip enlighten our lives, and we believe that what we know (or think we know) provides a critical foundation for how we live. Information drives society today unlike ever before and the free exchange of information, uncensored expression of beliefs, and open competition between perspectives (i.e., the “marketplace of ideas”) is essential for an energetic democracy like the United States. Today, however, the “marketplace of ideas” is endangered by the variety of perspective, the speed of information exchange, the drive to limit access to certain information, and the rhetorical transformation of the marketplace to talking points, headlines, and slogans. Teaching ourselves to read beyond the “lede” has perhaps become more important than ever. While inclined to view this as a modern phenomenon, information's use (and misuse) has a long and rich lineage. This course will use a variety of texts to study several critical past events and to examine what people knew, how they knew it, and evaluate the reliability of the information on which they depended. We will then use that knowledge to seek a better understanding of information’s application in our own lives.

  7. Other People's Religions

    Solovieva (Fall)

    The image of a “global village” has become a standard description of the ever-smaller world in which we live today, pointing to our economic, ecological, political and cultural interdependence. In religious terms, this means that we encounter new, once unfamiliar traditions with much greater frequency and in more direct ways than before. Mass communication technologies make us aware (if not necessarily well-informed) of various “exotic” religious practices and ideas; even more importantly, our encounter with other people’s religions is also taking place right here in our own neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. This intimate encounter with people of other faiths can be both unsettling and rewarding, for it inevitably challenges and transforms our understanding, not only of the “other” but also of ourselves. What kinds of images and (mis)conceptions do we have of other people's religions, and how do they affect our relationships with them? How does one sympathetically understand a radically different worldview? Are all religions valid paths, or is our way the only way? What does it mean to be a Christian who practices Buddhist meditation? What would a Buddhist make of a Jewish vision of “God”? Does one’s participation in interreligious dialogue detract from one’s religious commitments or give an opportunity to deepen them? What challenges do other people’s religious traditions pose to American society, and how are these traditions themselves challenged and changed by their new socio-cultural context? What does “religious freedom” mean, and what does it entail? In this course we will discuss these and many other questions arising from the interaction of diverse religious traditions, with a primary focus on the American religious scene. Our sources will include a book by a renowned scholar of religious pluralism Diana Eck, writings by Native American activists and scholars, personal accounts of encounter between the Buddhist and Jewish traditions, scholarly and fictional works detailing the appropriations of the “Eastern wisdom” by the American counterculture and pop-culture, written and visual accounts of American Muslims’ experiences, and other texts and films.

  8. What is the Avant-Garde?

    Troxell (Fall)

    Perhaps the most famous piece of avant-garde art is Marcel Duchamp's Fountain, which was just a regular urinal displayed as art. This intentional transgression of the "normal" boundaries of art is at the heart of the avant-garde. But what exactly are these boundaries, how do they get established and what does it mean to transgress them? Over the course of the term, we will explore the transnational, interdisciplinary aims of the avant-garde, focusing on the avant-garde's rhetoric of shock and its critical stance towards the culture industry.

  9. E. Pluribus, Pluribus: An Examination of the Divided States of America

    Brennan (Fall)

    Especially in times of national disaster (Pearl Harbor, September 11th) or national distress (Great Depression, JFK’s Assassination), United States’ citizens embrace the notion of national unity and appeal to the strength which that unity provides. Despite this inclination, there is good reason to assert that our history more accurately reflects a country which began and remains divided, and which, more truthfully, is a collection of well-defined (and separate) nations – defined largely by regional patterns and ideology. At a political level, some recognition of this division can be seen in the Red and Blue election maps drawn after every national election cycle; however, the reality arguable is much deeper and built on a more historical foundation than our modern two-party political bifurcation suggests. From the earliest days of colonial America, the land was divided: Yankee Puritans in New England, Dutch entrepreneurs in New York, Quaker pacifists in Pennsylvania, and Aristocratic Anglicans in the Tidewater. In the Revolution, unity was more an accident of circumstance and convenience than a willful decision to merge as one nation; the causes and meaning of the Civil War are still debated. This course will require students to examine an alternate perspective of United States history. We will use a collection of readings and extensive class discussion to survey and evaluate the existence and influence of national divisions in our supposed “United” States of America. The extent to which these (and newer) divisions remain constant and endure offers considerable challenges for the future of our country.

  10. The Other: A Stranger Among Us?

    Bidoshi (Fall)

    In this course we will discuss the concept of the "other" by examining several narratives centered upon the protagonist's search for identity. Invariably authors introduce these quests through the rhetorical device of the stranger. We will consider the image of the stranger in order to confront the estrangement inherent in family origins, gender and literary acceptance, and the author's unresolved feelings about him(her)self. Frequently the associations of a sense of place are bound together with memory, stasis and nostalgia. What gives a place a unique flavor is the fact that it is constructed out of a specific arrangement of social and physical relations that intersect at a particular point. The works selected center on the theme of alienation seen through the eyes of the stranger. We will discuss the function of this trope on three levels - the spatial, temporal and psychological. Of particular interest will be the disturbing 'falling away' from the family or group, and the movement from unity and acceptance to individuality and denial. Through a close reading of works including, but not limited to: Balzac's The Unknown Masterpiece, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Woolf's A Room of One's Own, Camus' The Stranger, Morrison's Song of Solomon and Petrushevskaia's The Time Night, we will seek to understand the way one is able to construct and manipulate his/her own sense of place.

  11. The Great War and the Birth of Modern Consciousness

    Cidam (Winter)

    The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe marked by death and destruction. It was, at the same time, as the cultural historian Modris Eksteins suggests, a monumental event that gave rise to “our modern consciousness” with its restless quest for liberation, rebellious energy, celebration of life, and perhaps paradoxically, glorification of death for a sacred cause. In this class, we will explore the origins and ongoing influence of this consciousness by focusing on the rapid developments and contentious debates that were taking place in arts and politics at the turn of the twentieth century in Europe. On the centennial of the outbreak of the Great War, we will ask: How did the developments in the field of artistic creation during the early 1900s reflect, challenge, and shape the sexual mores, cultural understandings, manners, and norms in Europe? What were the artistic, philosophical, and scientific responses to the devastating experience of the Great War? And finally, to what extent, does the way we think about our place in the world continue to be shaped by this event? To address these questions, we will critically analyze a wide-range of artistic and philosophical works which may include, among others, novels and/or short-stories by Virginia Woolf, Thomas Mann, and Marcel Proust, selections from the writings of Henri Bergson, Walter Benjamin, and Sigmund Freud, musical works by Igor Stravinski, and paintings by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

  12. Goodness, Happiness and Truthi-ness

    Benack (Fall)

    In this course, we are going to look at the relation of goodness and happiness – does being morally good make a person happy? Or could we be happier if we threw off the chains of moral constraints? We will examine how some philosophers, fiction writers, political theorists, religious traditions, and psychologists have seen the relation of goodness and happiness. At the end of the course, we’ll also turn to truth(-i-ness). Is there “real” “objective” truth? Or is everything a matter of social convention or personal choice?

  13. Artistic Revolutionaries

    Finlay (Winter)

    Who has changed the way we think about our world in terms of “performance”? The belief that Art reflects reality is as old as Aristotle, yet equally persistent is the hope that art might affect reality as well. The special place between the imagination and the external world has always been the home of artists willing to risk everything to attack, to influence and transcend prevalent thought. Through the use of film, attendance at professional productions and assigned readings this class will examine a variety of artists from widely divergent genres, cultures and time periods. From Apollinaire to Artaud, Butoh to Ballanchine and Bukowski to Gomez-Pena all had one thing in common. They gave of themselves totally to their inspiration and made Art/Performances that changed the way we see and think. Hopefully this class will do the same for it’s participants.

  14. Dream Cafe: Viewing Culture through Dreams

    P. Culbert (Fall)

    What is dreaming? How do we dream? Why do we dream? How do we define ourselves through dreams? How do artistic and literary representations of dreams speak to our communal understanding? Are the archetypes of our dreams universal? How do artists shape dreams to reflect culture? As we seek answers to these questions, we’ll look at dreams through the eyes of scientists, writers, artists, playwrights, film makers. We’ll view different cultures through the medium of dreams. We’ll research the science of dream theory and look at how the psychology of dreams has shaped how we view dreams. Course readings and writings will encourage critical evaluation of these questions on a personal, individual basis and on a communal, reflective level. Readings, writing projects, presentations, group work and discussions will bring us a wealth of ideas from diverse perspectives.

  15. Poop or Poison: What We Eat and What We Are

    Jenkins (Fall)

    We may be the first culture ever to destroy itself by what and how we eat. Tomatoes that feel and taste like softballs. Meat marbled with hormones and chemicals. Frozen foods manufactured in factories in the Third World, flavored by chemists in New Jersey, and bulging waistlines and stopping hearts in the suburbs. We’ll read about how Jefferson’s dream of a virtuous agrarian republic has turned into a consumer emporium of both abundance and toxicity. We’ll try to be balanced and look at arguments and taste food from both sides, but a fresh, organic meal or two may drive economic logic to the side. Students will also have the opportunity to help out with Union’s organic garden and get their hands really dirty and calloused. And we may take some side trips into rural culture (pickup trucks, country and bluegrass music, evangelical Christianity) as well. All that and learning how to read critically and write well, too.

  16. Literature, Ethics, and the Environment

    K. Lynes (Winter)

    In this course we will consider and explore the intersections of human cultures and the environment, with an emphasis on the social and cultural dynamics of the environment and environmental action. Some questions we will consider: What are the ethical questions that we pose and wrestle with as we interact with and within our environment? What is the place of literature in community, literacy, and environmental activism? To what extent does place matter in our conceptions of what nature is? What are the connections between race, class, and environmental degradation and environmental activism? How do class and gender enter into the nexus of ethical considerations that shape our environment? We will consider both the concept of “nature” as we consider the concept of human culture. How does the language we use when writing about nature affect what we do in, for, and to nature? We will consider both the concept of “nature” as we consider the concept of human culture. This course is collaborative in nature, and as such students should bring their interests, curiosities, and discoveries to add to the mix. A partial list of possible readings include those by Terry Tempest Williams, Barbara Kingsolver, Evelyn White, bell hooks, M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Luther Standing Bear, Running-Grass, Simon Ortiz, Ana Castillo, Wangari Maathai, readings from Orion magazine.

  17. The Rules of Madness

    Singy (Winter)

    You often feel sad – do you suffer from depression? You are obsessed with not eating too much – are you anorexic? You cannot concentrate – do you suffer from ADHD? In the last two centuries, moral flaws, existential difficulties, and idiosyncratic traits have regularly been reinterpreted as psychiatric diseases. But are these diseases real, and in what sense of “real”? Have they been discovered or invented? And how do we draw the line between the normal and the pathological? History shows that this line has been constantly redrawn under the influence of broad cultural changes, business decisions, or personal interests. After a brief general introduction on the history of psychiatry, from Philippe Pinel in the early nineteenth century to the very recent DSM-5, this course will focus on a select number of psychiatric diseases and debate the proposition that they are historically constructed.

  18. Living (critical) Theory

    Mosquera (Winter)

    This is an intensive “species” of First-Year Preceptorial designed to promote critical literacy—critical reading and analysis of a selective variety of expressions through the use and engagement of what we have come to know (misunderstand, malign, fear, and also mistrust!) as “theory.” In Living (Critical) Theory we will take on terms and information as thoroughly as possible and will become knowledgeable of their uses and power to construct what we feel is reality and to modulate or prescribe what—to us—eventually becomes meaningful or “real.” The course is intended as well to improve cultural literacy and argumentative and writing skills. In combination to the latter goal, it helps students to discover, shape, and learn to control a writing voice. The course will develop and hone skills in close reading and analysis of cultural expressions that include, among others, popular culture, philosophy, media studies, film, mass and popular culture, literature, etc. We will explore some key theories and concepts deriving from philosophical, literary and cultural interpretations with the intent of making this complex world a little more translucent and our engagement of it more full of agency and therefore—and hopefully—more significant in our lives.

  19. Radical Thinkers

    Kuhn (Fall)

    This course will consider the works of some eloquent advocates of ideas that in one way or another challenge the foundations of traditional Western culture. We will begin with Machiavelli, who argues that the ethical principles of Christianity and Humanism are incompatible with effective political governance. We will read Rousseau, who argues that civilization has led not to progress but to the moral debasement of the human species; Karl Marx, who attacks capitalism and calls upon the poor to revolt and establish a communist society; Friedrich Nietzsche, who assaults (among other things) Judeo-Christian theology and ethics, rejects every form of metaphysics, and substitutes “perspectivism” for eternal truth; and Sigmund Freud, who argues that the price of order and civilization is the purposeful mutilation of our instinctual desire. We will also read the Marquis de Sade who challenged fundamental social mores in his philosophically grounded pornographic writings. We will then look at Edward Abbey, “the desert anarchist,” who mounts a ferocious assault on “industrial tourism” and the development of the national park system, and is accused by some as advocating “eco-terrorism.” We will conclude with Peter Singer, who champions animal liberation, vegetarianism, and voluntary euthanasia, while charging that all excess wealth is criminal.

  20. What's College For?

    Cramsie (Fall)

    Why do colleges and universities exist and why do women and men seek them out? Do they exist to nurture our humanity, moral imagination, and ethical sensibilities? Are they businesses that sell student-customers the essential credentials for lucrative employment in an entrepreneurial economy? Are they institutions that protect and renew essential human qualities against the fads, fashions, and fanaticisms of any particular moment in time? Do they exist to provide a ‘college experience’ in which socializing, career networking, and extracurricular activities are really more important than education? Are they the crucial rung on the ladder of social mobility? Do they exist to serve the public good or simply private, personal gain? Why are you here? We think this is a modern debate, but teachers, students, and citizens have wrestled with similar questions for centuries and they continue to decisively affect colleges and universities around the globe. We can say for certain that the founding principle of colleges and universities concerns education, to teach and learn certain ‘ways of knowing’. So, they exist to educate, but precisely what kind of education, for what purpose, for whose benefit, and paid for by whom? This Preceptorial will debate questions like these. In doing so we will examine how individuals inside and outside colleges and universities have grappled with such questions, from historians and teachers to novelists, playwrights, and filmmakers. We will critically read ‘texts’ (broadly defined), discuss with each other the insights to be found in them, and develop sound evidence-based and aesthetically pleasing written arguments about their meaning and value. Why are you here?

  21. The Art of Persuasion

    Carlos (Fall)

    The art of persuasion through language--what the ancients referred to as rhetoric--has been taught for almost 2500 years. A key reason for the longevity of this art has been its pervasive influence on all aspects of our society and our everyday lives. A politician engaging in a debate, a judge drafting a legal opinion, a scientist presenting findings to a government office, a filmmaker seeking to increase awareness about a social issue, a job applicant writing a cover letter, a college student creating a Facebook page--all of these are examples of rhetoric in action. In this preceptorial, as we consider the fundamental concepts of rhetoric, we will explore some influential examples of rhetorical practice that represent a diversity of cultural perspectives and span a variety of time periods and genres. Some of the larger questions that will interest us include the following: What rhetorical elements are essential in making a text persuasive? What ethical responsibilities do those who wish to persuade have with respect to their audiences? How do non-linguistic discourses (works of art, film) persuade an audience? Ultimately, is rhetoric simply a collection of techniques for "getting what one wants," regardless of what one knows, or might it actually provide us with a way of knowing about the world? Among the authors whose works we will be discussing are Ralph Waldo Emerson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gloria Steinem, Stephen Jay Gould, Chief Seattle, and the filmmaker, Godfrey Reggio.

  22. Environmental Controversies

    Vaz (Fall)

    We are confronted daily with information regarding pressing environmental issues. These issues are often complex, controversial, without clear solutions and involving multiple actors from different backgrounds, cultures and social perspectives. Thus, it is necessary to understand the multiple scientific, social, cultural and economic factors related to these environmental controversies in order to form nuanced opinion and advocacy positions. Moreover, it is fundamental to understand the roles and strategies of different actors - including advocacy groups, lobbyists, politicians, and celebrities - in creating and shaping public opinion. With this in mind, the objective of this course is to prepare students, including non-science majors, to understand and critically analyze important environmental issues currently discussed in major media outlets and among policy makers. This course explores the underlying science and cultural aspects of controversial environmental issues and uses current important issues such as climate change, food security, habitat preservation and geoengineering to discuss these topics. By the end of the term students are expected to be able to: i) convey the main ideas and conclusions from popular scientific literature, ii) distinguish between evidence and uncertainty, iii) form and defend their opinion on these issues. Critical thinking and developing research skills, both useful beyond your academic life, are heavily emphasized. Readings are taken from both scientific papers and books, as well as popular media outlets (newspapers and magazines) and popular scientific publications.

  23. I Have a Dream: Visions and Visionaries

    Tongue (Fall)

    Most communities create and maintain infrastructures within their group of individuals, including people they call leaders. Whether they are positional or self-empowered leaders, we will examine vision as a primary technique that some leaders use to influence their constituents and achieve their goals. We will explore the ideas of leadership and followership, the cultural meaning and significance of vision, the role of the visionary in creating and forwarding the vision, and factors that influence the interpretation and vitality of the vision. Throughout our readings, discussions, and class assignments, we will analyze, compare, and debate the ethical uses of three types of visions: fictional visions in a variety of novels, poems and short stories; historic visions in biographies and purportedly non-fictional texts; and religious/spiritual visions from diverse sources.

  24. In Search of Forbidden Knowledge

    Watkins (Fall)

    Are there things humans are simply not supposed to know? What are the limits of our knowledge, who imposes them, and why? What happens when we ‘play God’—and what does that even mean? If knowledge and progress come at a price, is it a price worth paying? These are the questions we will explore as we read and discuss a variety of different works that deal broadly with the theme of ‘forbidden knowledge.’ We will begin our exploration with an examination of these questions as they play out in ancient literature, surveying texts such as Genesis and Greek tragedies like Prometheus Bound and Oedipus the King. Along the way, we will also meet a number characters doomed by their own quests for knowledge – from Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus to Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein. We will end our inquiry with (more) contemporary works that highlight our increasingly complicated relationship with technological progress and its consequences. Selections may include dystopian novels such as Huxley’s Brave New World or the short stories of writers such as Philip K. Dick. As we read about and explore the anxieties generated by the quest for knowledge—from the ancient world to modern times—course assignments will enable students to hone their capacities for oral and written expression. While much writing will take a traditional form, there will also be opportunities for students to produce creative pieces.

  25. Responsibility

    Selley (Winter)

    This multidisciplinary course will explore various kinds of responsibility, including responsibility to oneself, to others, to society, and to the divine. Some works will focus upon one kind of responsibility, while others will focus upon several kinds. In order to prepare students to live in a global society, we will explore works from different cultures, perspectives, belief systems and time periods. Extensive background material will be provided for each work and author in order to establish the appropriate context. We will also study cognitive illusions by reading The Invisible Gorilla so that students can themselves become more responsible decision-makers. The following works, and probably two or three more, will most likely be studied: Handouts of poetry; Matheson, “Button, Button”; LeGuin, “The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas”; Morrison, The Bluest Eye; Sophocles, Oedipus the King (translated by Robert Fagles, Penguin Classics); Spirited Away (film); The Book of Genesis [from the Bible], Illustrated by R. Crumb; Chabris and Simons, The Invisible Gorilla; Vea, Gods Go Begging; and one other work that students will choose from a list (in order to compare it in an essay to Gods Go Begging). If Union invites a noteworthy speaker to campus while the course is being taught, a work by that speaker might also be added to the syllabus. This course will train students for college-level reading, analysis, writing, and class discussion. Students will write approximately five essays, give at least one oral report, and take quizzes and a final exam.

  26. Animals and Humans

    Heinegg (Winter)

    This course is a historical, scientific, and philosophical study of the ways we have thought about and treated our fellow creatures. It focuses in particular on the narcissistic human domination of nature-supported by both religious and secular traditions-that has brought us to the desperate ecological crisis now threatening the world. It reflects on what, if anything, can be done about all this.

    Reading List: Bible readings, selections from Montaigne (hand-outs); Jonathan Balcombe, The Exultant Ark; Marc Bekoff, The Emotional Lives of Animals; Peter Singer, Animal Liberation; Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating; Reg Morrison, The Spirit in the Gene; Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac.

  27. Living Through Troubling Times

    Sargent (Fall)

    We'll take a close look at how people deal with the big and little disasters of life by examining works of literature from as far back as ancient China (Tao Te Ching) to the futuristic novel Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Winnie the Pooh turns out to be a model Taoist who lets his life be guided by the Tao Te Ching, while Atwood gives us a glimpse of the future we may be creating for ourselves as we try to figure out how much we want technology and marketing to control our lives. Rabbi Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People asks us to consider why people believe in divine intervention in human affairs, and Boccaccio's Decameron gives us entertaining insight into how people dealt with the Black Death in Florence in the fourteenth century. The short stories of Raymond Carver show how easy it is to be overwhelmed by in the modern world and the dangers of isolation, while the contemporary David Sedaris offers humorous takes on serious problems like death and political correctness.

  28. Sex, and Marriage in Contemporary America

    Ellis (Fall)

    Within the last three years, New York has permitted for the first time both no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage. Clearly, expectations for and even definitions of love, sex, and marriage are undergoing tremendous change in New York and the contemporary United States as a whole. In this preceptorial, we will consider in greatest depth such aspects of this wider trend as the rise of the so-called college hook-up culture, the debate over legalizing polygamy, and the controversy over same-sex parenting. Together, we will read, watch, and analyze various depictions of American love, sex, and marriage in the twenty-first century. In the process, we will ponder how the practices and institutions associated with our most private lives have broader, public implications and the extent to which they are natural, innate, and timeless; culturally constructed, externally imposed, and subject to change; or somewhere in between.

  29. Media Accuracy, Credibility, Fairness, and Reliability

    Mafi (Winter)

    According to a published report by The American Society of Newspaper Editors, “Seventy-eight percent of U.S. adults believe there’s bias in the news media.” In order to carry out our social responsibilities, we ought to be able to think critically and evaluate the information we get through the media: radio, TV, Internet, movies, books, newspapers, and magazines.

    In this course, students will:

    • Gain an increased awareness of inaccuracies in the media and be provided with tools to search for different opinions and perspectives

    • Be inspired to critically reflect on increasingly complex social, political, and cultural issues

    • Learn how to read between the lines and form their own independent opinions despite the proliferation of media outlets and PR tricks

    • Be better prepared to identify WMD (Weapons of Mass Distraction)

    • Have ample opportunity to use and enhance their critical thinking abilities

    As citizens and future leaders, our students will be better equipped to protect great values such as democracy, civil liberties, peace and justice if they are well informed.

  30. The Other: A Stranger Among Us?

    Reznikiva (Fall)

    In this course we will discuss the concept of the "other" by examining several narratives centered upon the protagonist's search for identity. Invariably authors introduce these quests through the rhetorical device of the stranger. We will consider the image of the stranger in order to confront the estrangement inherent in family origins, gender and literary acceptance, and the author's unresolved feelings about him(her)self. Frequently the associations of a sense of place are bound together with memory, stasis and nostalgia. What gives a place a unique flavor is the fact that it is constructed out of a specific arrangement of social and physical relations that intersect at a particular point. The works selected center on the theme of alienation seen through the eyes of the stranger. We will discuss the function of this trope on three levels - the spatial, temporal and psychological. Of particular interest will be the disturbing 'falling away' from the family or group, and the movement from unity and acceptance to individuality and denial. Through a close reading of works including, but not limited to: Balzac's The Unknown Masterpiece, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Woolf's A Room of One's Own, Camus' The Stranger, Morrison's Song of Solomon and Petrushevskaia's The Time Night, we will seek to understand the way one is able to construct and manipulate his/her own sense of place.

  31. How do images enhance and influence the understanding of text?

    R. Heinegg (Fall)

    How do images enhance and influence the understanding of text? This class will explore the use of visuals—drawings, photos, and information graphics—to engage readers and convey information. Students will examine works from a variety of subject areas— history, literature (including graphic novels), science, economics, etc.—and study current visual literacy theory. They will participate in class discussions, write critical analyses of selected texts, and present a final document that employs the integration of text and visuals in the domain of their choosing. Theoretical readings will include selections from texts such as: Visual Literacy, James Elkins (ed.); Visual Explanations, Edward Tufte; Understanding Comics, the Invisible Art, Scott McCloud; Photography as Activism, Michele Bogre. However, this class will focus attention on multiple texts that use many different types of visuals.