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Choosing a College Seminar

Winter 2022 College Seminars

The following seminars will be offered in Winter Quarter 2022.  Click on the ">" in front of a title to read the course description. Please confirm class days and times in Caesar as there may be some changes.


Instructor(s): Sara Hirschhorn

Description: The 1948 war between Palestinians, Arabs, and Israelis is the first of many subsequent major battles between the Jewish State and her neighbors and is still remembered as the source of what might accurately be seen as an ensuing seventy-plus year war. Yet, the war is not remembered by shared facts – or even similar terminology – one side calls it a ‘War of Independence’ and the other ‘the Naqba’ [The Catastrophe.] How can historians understand both the history and memory of these events between 1948 and 1949 that continue to have such resonance in the present? This course will first examine how these two national communities living in the same space between the river and the sea came into increasing conflict from the late 19th century. We will examine the rise of Zionism, as well as Palestinian nationalism, first under Ottoman, then British rule. The class underscores the role of both individuals and institutions in the building of two proto-nations and their respective positions on the eve of war in 1948 – examining how this shaped outcomes both during and after battle. The course will interrogate the 1948 itself though an inter-disciplinary lens, using both primary and secondary sources drawn from scholarly texts as well as memoir, literature, photography, film, the arts, and other forms of digital history to shed light on these dramatic events from multiple perspectives. Lastly, moving beyond 1948, we will ask how much the past can be left behind as part of a peace agreement of the future.

1948: History and Memory of the First Arab-Israeli War
T/Th2 - 3:20 pm

Instructor(s): Farhad Zadeh


A radio and an optical astronomer go into a bar to resolve their disagreement about the nature of the visible and invisible universe. The human eye can see optical light but is blind to radio signals, including those that provide important clues about the history of our universe. This course discusses the way radio and optical astronomers view the sky with their respective telescopes. In particular, the realm of the invisible which includes the components of a radio telescope, the fascinating history of radio astronomy, and the numerous discoveries over the last 90 years (e.g., pulsars, quasars, signatures of early universe, organic molecules). This course is offered for undergraduate students who have no background in astronomy, physics or radio astronomy. The course assignment involves making posters on different radio astronomy topics. Posters will be exhibited in the main library in the Spring quarter. 

A Brief Journey Through the Invisible Universe
T/Th2 - 3:20pm

Instructor(s): Rebecca Fall


Anxiety about “bad girls” and rebellious women has a long history. But what makes a woman “good” or “bad” in the first place? What is a “bad girl” anyway, and how have our perceptions of them changed over time? This course will explore unruly, cruel, and tough women and femmes as they appear in Renaissance English literature. We’ll study representations of “bad” women by male authors—including the weird witches and murderous noblewoman of Shakespeare’s Macbeth—as well as the work of rebellious women writers themselves, such as Lady Mary Wroth, the heretic Anne Askew, and Queen Anne Boleyn. We’ll also keep an eye our own times by asking what “bad girls” of the Renaissance might teach us about female rebelliousness today, regularly comparing 16th- and 17th-century representations with 21st-century examples ranging from Rihanna’s “Bad Gal Riri” persona, to recipients of the “villain edit” on RuPaul’s Drag Race, to the reimagined lives of controversial Tudor queens in the musical SIX.

Bad Girls in Renaissance Literature
M/W9:30 - 10:50 am

Instructor(s): Kalyan Nadiminti

Description: This reading-intensive first year seminar will consider how colonialism and contagion together produce racialization in science fiction. In the year of the pandemic, European nations voted for strict vaccine export control measures, effectively slowing down access to medications for the Global South. Phrases like “vaccine nationalism” as well as “vaccine passports” have become commonplace. This twilight zone of deepening crises, and the imperial paranoid imaginary of what Neel Ahuja calls “bioinsecurities,” have long been represented by science fiction authors. Keeping a firm eye on epidemiology, race, and imperialism, this course charts a path along genre-bending, speculative fictions that imagine contagion and infection from the late-nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. Contagion emerges not just as a moral panic or embodied paranoia about infection, but as a method of relationality that draws tightly controlled, governmentalized worlds around raced and differentiated bodies. We will think about how these fictional netherworlds produce new subjectivities of life, death, and living death. Alongside science fictional as well as speculative novels, spanning postcolonial as well as US writing, we will also watch films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, District 9, Arrival, World War Z, and Contagion.

Required Texts:
Bram Stoker, Dracula
Albert Camus, The Plague
Amitav Ghosh, The Calcutta Chromosome
Colson Whitehead, Zone One
Ling Ma, Severance

Bioinsecurities: Race, Empire, and Postcolonial Science Fictions
T/Th2 - 3:20 pm

Instructor(s): Katrina King

Description: Description forthcoming.

Birthright Citizenship
T/Th 2 - 3:20 pm

Instructor(s): Marquis Bey

Description: This course will introduce students to the parameters and textures of black life, trans life, and black trans life. Popular discourse has either depicted black trans people as glamorous superstars or always and already predisposed to death. This course, then, seeks to usefully complicate these narratives and focus on black and trans life. To that end, the course will task students with gaining an understanding of the nuances of black life via its entanglement with the afterlife of slavery and contemporary radicalism; with trans life via its troubling of the gender binary; and black trans life via the ways that blackness and transness interact and converge.

Black Life. Trans Life.
T/Th9:30-10:50 am

Instructor(s): Meaghan Fritz

Description: Get hungry! ENG 105-6 explores the art of composition through writing, reading, and talking about food. From reflecting on personal food memories to crafting arguments about how and why we eat what we do, this course will hone your writing skills in areas crucial to college level writing.

Bon Appetit! Mastering the Art of Composition
M/W/F10 - 10:50 am

Instructor(s): Roberto Rosado Ramirez


Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. The growth of modern cities suggests that humans thrive in urban environments. But cities are a relatively recent phenomenon in history. Further, history demonstrates that cities are not essential for human survival. The question then arises: why cities?

This course is an interdisciplinary introduction to the city. Some of the questions we will discuss in this course include: What is a city? How did cities develop? How do cities function socially, politically, and economically? What are some of the major social issues facing cities in the twenty-first century? In this course we will approach a wide range of cities across time and space. Chicagoland will feature prominently in our discussions. Drawing broadly on scholarship in anthropology and other disciplines, we will examine the characteristics of urban life in human history, from the first experiments with urbanization 6,000 years ago to contemporary global cities.

Cities: Six Millennia and Counting
T/Th2 - 3:20pm

Instructor(s): Sarah Carson

Description: From the changing seasons, to frigid ice ages, to violent cyclones, to global warming, the phenomena of weather and climate have been crucial sites of interaction between humans and our environments. In this first-year seminar, we will ask: how have climatic changes across space and time shaped human societies, politics, and histories? And how have our ways of explaining and predicting the weather reflected changing approaches to nature's uncertainties? Moving from antiquity to the present, we will study the evolution of meteorological science from the study of meteors to variable weather, alongside the conceptual shift from a globe of many climates to a singular, global climate. Using a range of case studies from the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia, and sources including almanacs and weather proverbs, we will explore how in different ways across geographies and cultures, climate functioned both as a force of history and as an object of scientific fascination. By the end of the course, students will be able to situate the current climate crisis in an age many scholars call the Anthropocene within a centuries-long history of adaptations and negotiations with our planet's atmosphere, and with one another.

Climate and Weather in History
T/Th 3:30 - 4:50 pm

Instructor(s): Merida Rua

Description: This first-year seminar foregrounds age as a social and analytical category in examinations of urban life in communities of color, with an emphasis on Latina, Latinos, and Latinxs. Students will work with a range of materials — ethnographic texts, nonfiction essays, short stories, and media and visual culture — to question assumptions about how individuals and communities grow up and grow old. Discussions will consider how the political and economic dimensions of cities have affected life trajectories in certain communities, as well as how other categories of social difference inform ideas about age and age relations.

Coming of Age in the City: Growing Up and Growing Old in Communities of Color
M/W9:30 - 10:50 am

Instructor(s): Lance Rips

Description: Infinity is a central property of most number systems. The natural numbers, integers, rationals, reals, and complex numbers all include an infinite number of elements. People's concepts of these systems would be confused if they failed to grasp the fact that there is no end to these numbers. However, most people have great difficulty understanding infinite sets like these. Are there more positive integers than positive even integers? Are there more rational numbers than natural numbers? Are there more real numbers than rational numbers? You might be surprised at the correct answers to some of these questions. To set the stage, we'll look (informally) at some of the math background on infinity, as developed by Georg Cantor and others in the 19th Century. Then we'll examine some reasons why thinking and reasoning about infinity is so difficult. We'll read some cognitive psychology experiments that address how children first learn about the infinity of the positive integers, how they learn about infinite divisibility, and how older students (NU undergrads) think about number systems in general.

Concepts of Infinity
T/Th2 pm - 3:20 pm

Instructor(s): Robert Gordon

Description: World War II was clearly the most important single event of the twentieth century. However, the seeds for World War II were laid in World War I, making it necessary to study both wars. We will study both why these wars occurred and why they turned out the way they did. In asking why wars turned out the way they did, we will emphasize the size and performance of the economies involved, and such issues as why the U.S. and Soviet Union produced so much while Germany produced so little. In the last part of the course, students will have a chance to do independent research on any aspect of World War II which interests them, economic, political or military.

Did Economics Win the Two World Wars?
M/W3:30 - 4:50 pm

Instructor(s): Elvira Mulyukova

Description: In this seminar, we will learn about some of the most devastating natural disasters in Earth’s recorded history. We will explore the science and the human toll of earthquakes and volcanoes – frequent reminders from our dynamic planet that it has little respect for human life. We will cover current events, as exemplified by recent destructions in Haiti and Spain, as well as historical events such as the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 which kicked off the Age of Enlightenment, and the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 which led to the Year Without a Summer, and which gave us Dracula and Frankenstein. There will be several writing assignments on science-related topics. In the words of Voltaire, bemoaning the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755: “Come, ye philosophers, who cry, “All’s well,” And contemplate this ruin of a world.”

Earth is Out to Kill You: Science and History of Earthquakes and Volcanoes
T/Th12:30 - 1:50pm

Instructor(s): Kathleen Carmichael

Description: Eco-fiction and Human Metamorphosis - We are all familiar with public discourse about environmental concerns: Descriptions of a future where familiar landscapes have been transformed into alien vistas, newly dangerous and hostile to human life. Recent eco-fiction, however, challenges that familiar narrative, proposing ways that we humans may find ourselves transfigured along with the world around us. In this class we will engage with accounts of such human metamorphosis, considering the horror narratives of HP Lovecraft, the hyper-empathy of Octavia Butler, the "new weird" landscapes of Jeff Vandermeer's Area X and other texts. Film viewings will include Pixar's 2008 Wall-E and James Cameron's 2009 Avatar.

Course readings/viewing will include brief readings from literary criticism, selections from NU's One Book, "The Story of More," as well as popular films. We will also consider practical topics such as how University library resources and experts can help students locate and evaluate key sources and develop authoritative arguments. Students will also be asked to consider how these fictional texts help or otherwise influence the broader discourse on conservation and climate change.

Eco-Fiction and Human Metamorphosis
M/W2 - 3:20 pm

Instructor(s): Whitney Taylor


Far off places, daring sword fights, a prince in disguise. Not simply enchanting or magical fantasies, fairy tales emerged from oral storytelling traditions to reflect cultures’ deepest desires and darkest fears.  Fairy tales offer us characters onto whom we can project our own fantasies or anxieties as well as narratives that we can interpret – and reinterpret – across time periods and places to help us understand personal and cultural moments.  This course will investigate the theme of transformation in fairy tales and myths to ask questions about identity, gender, sexuality, and our relationship to the environment.  We will explore not only how fairy tales represent cultural investments, but also how fairy tales cross boundaries to offer critiques of societal norms.  For instance, the genre of “feminist fairy tales” reworks traditional stories to critique patriarchal structures and privilege female agency.  At the same time, we will ask how fairy tales and myths – which so many of us have been immersed in since childhood – shape the lens through which we see the world and the narratives we tell ourselves about our lives.  We will juxtapose modern retellings with traditional tales of transformation from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Arabian Nights, Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen.  And, of course, we will analyze adaptations of fairy tales in film, from Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast and Frozen to The Shape of Water and Into the Woods.

Texts may include: selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights), Roland Barthes’ Mythologies, and fairy tales by Charles Perrault, Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm; Marie de France’s The Werewolf; Anne Sexton’s Transformations; Helen Oyeyemi’s Gingerbread; Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and graphic novel collaboration The Sleeper and the Spindle; and short stories by A.S. Byatt, Margaret Atwood, Naomi Novik, Kelly Link, Kevin Brockmeier, and Joyce Carol Thomas.

Enchantments and Transformations: Reading Fairy Tales as Literature
T/Th12:30 - 1:50 pm

Instructor(s): Martha Biondi

Description: Given the many gains of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, what accounts for the rise of #BlackLivesMatter? Why do the police and criminal legal system seem so resistant to reform? What led to ‘mass incarceration’? What has happened to public school systems in the urban North since the Civil Rights Movement? Have electoral politics been responsive to the struggles and challenges in poor Black communities? This seminar examines urban racial conditions since the 1960s and explores the analyses, remedies and solutions that young activists have been formulating to address the challenges of the 21st century. Readings include historical and contemporary studies. A major goal of this class is to sharpen your writing skills. We will balance reading assignments with short writing assignments.

From Black Power to Black Lives Matter
T/Th11am - 12:20pm

Instructor(s): Robin Bates

Description: How have people explained the meaning of their lives?
What historical circumstances have driven them to try?
How have people throughout history understood more abstract features of their societies – including politics, nationalism, religion, gender, sexuality and race – in relation to themselves?
What can we learn about these big, abstract issues by looking closely at the human experience of them in historical context?

To address these questions, we will engage with autobiographical historical sources ranging from medieval love letters to memoirs of the Holocaust; discover experiences of fighting wars, adopting new religions, and escaping from slavery; see what can be learned from lives changed by claiming new identities and reinterpreting old ones.

History of the Self
M/W 3:30 - 4:50 pm

Instructor(s): Mark Alznauer

Description: In this class, we will read two short classics of modern moral philosophy which share the aim of providing a naturalistic account of morality. The first is David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morality (1777), which Hume considered the best thing he ever wrote, and which is now considered a masterpiece of philosophical prose. In that work, Hume argues that the object of morality are mental qualities that are useful or agreeable to ourselves or others. The second is Friedrich Nietzsche’s late work Twilight of the Idols (1888), which is written in a highly polished aphoristic style, and serves as a kind of epitome of Nietzsche’s critique of morality as opposed to nature and hostile to life. We will engage in close reading of both texts, which are short enough that we should be able to read and discuss them in their entirety.

Hume and Nietzsche on Morality
T/Th 12:30 - 1:50 pm

Instructor(s): Jillana Enteen

Description: Much recent fiction, film and theory are concerned with representing the internet and the World Wide Web. Sometimes cyberspace is depicted as a continuation of previous media such as television, cinema or telephone, but often it is envisioned as a new frontier. This course will examine the ways in which virtual media appears in cultural discourses. We consider how technological objects and tools participate in shaping elements of our culture that may appear natural, logical, or timeless. Our guiding questions will include the following: In what ways are these narratives shaping collective perceptions of the internet? How have virtual technologies challenged experiences of language, gender, community and identity? We will focus on social networking, gaming, artificial intelligence, and literary and filmic representations of these. Following a Cultural Studies model for inquiry, this course will be project-based and experiential. Your attendance and participation are mandatory. No experience needed, only a willingness to take risks and share work. There will be writing assignments in multiple formats.

Imagining the Internet: Fiction, Film & Theory
T/Th12:30 - 1:50pm

Instructor(s): Valerie Kilman

Description: Insider’s guide to the language of neuroscience: how to be seen, heard, and understood when communicating science. Are you excited about neuroscience? Maybe you’re thinking about a career in science or medicine. Want to learn about foundational neuro research and how to communicate it? Using historical and modern examples, we’ll learn about important discoveries related to neuroscience and read both professional accounts and public reports. Knowing how to talk about science to other professionals is like learning another language, including not only jargon but patterns of argument, word choice, and social rules that help determine whether you’ll advance and be taken seriously. These rules differ in some ways from how we communicate science with the public, whether it be talking to family, making a Tik Tok, or writing a science column for the local newspaper. Course assessment will include participation in class discussions about how science is conveyed orally, in writing, and other ways, and several written assignments with feedback. There may also be a non-written assignment including oral or video presentation.

Insider’s Guide to the Language of Neuroscience
T/Th3:30 - 4:50 pm

Instructor(s): Barry Wimpfheimer

Description: The Talmud is one of the most important works of Jewish literature. For the last millennium, Talmud study has been a central part of Jewish religious and cultural practice. Despite the splintering of Judaism into different denominations, Jews the world over are unified by their commitment to studying Talmud. The Talmud is an unusual work of literature, and it has been credited as an influence on codes of law, sermons, modern works of Jewish literature, and even Seinfeld. This course will explain the Talmud’s import and durability within Jewish culture while introducing students to the rigors of legal analysis that lie at the heart of most talmudic passages. The course is ideal for those interested in religion, law, logic games and questions of textual interpretation. The course will study the Talmud entirely in English translation; there is neither a language prerequisite nor an expectation of prior experience reading the Talmud.

Learning Objectives:
Students will understand the origins of Judaism in rabbinic literature and appreciate the ways that both Jewishness and Judaism emerge from the Talmud.

Teaching Method:
Class participation, Films / Video / Media Viewing, Readings, Research project, Seminar, Writing assignment

Evaluation Method:
Class participation, Other (include in the comments at the end), Papers

Class materials (required):
course pack

Introducing the Talmud
M/W9:30 - 10:50 am

Instructor(s): Roberto Mazza


'What is Jerusalem to you?' Asked Bailian to Saladin while surrendering the city in 1187. 'Nothing. Everything', replied Saladin. (Cit. Kingdom of Heaven – a movie with Orlando Bloom - not to be taken literally, in case you have not watched it).

In this freshman seminar students will gain basic knowledge of Jerusalem's past, its religious meanings in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and its role in the modern conflict in the Middle East. Jerusalem is one the most ancient and contested cities in the world, and covering the long history of this city would be both wearing and unrevealing, therefore this course aims to provide students with the tools to tackle the question: how does one study something like Jerusalem?

As we are dealing with a city with a complex history and politics, different meanings for a variety of religious traditions and with different connotations in the respective historical memory of the various national and religious communities, we will study Jerusalem drawing on a number of theories and disciplines. We will engage with traditional historical writings, but we will also rely on art history, political theory, anthropology, ethnography, and media studies. We will also look at representation of Jerusalem around the world, from the replica of Churches and holy places to Biblical theme parks.
Chronologically, we will cover from 1517, when Ottoman forces took the city from the Mamluks, up until 2021. As the Ottomans ruled the city for four centuries, we will look at trends including demography, economics, modernization and cosmopolitanism. The study of the British Mandatory era and of Jerusalem divided between Israel and Jordan, will allow us to look at how the city play into the formation and dissemination of Zionist and Palestinian national narratives. Lastly, a brief survey of the contemporary era will allow us to understand the current politics of the city and the challenges ahead.
While it is true that Jerusalem is at the center of the current Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nevertheless, during this course we will strive to remind ourselves that Jerusalem is a city, populated by individuals who inhabit and interact with that space on a daily basis.

Jerusalem: History and Politics from 1517 to 2021
M/W2 - 3:20 pm

Instructor(s): Robert Gundlach

Description: How do children achieve the remarkable feat of acquiring language - an accomplishment we often take for granted? Which aspects of the human capacity for language are best understood as biological, as species-wide and species-specific? How do families, schools, and communities help shape children's development as speakers and listeners, and eventually as readers and writers? How does learning a first language (or more than one language) interact with learning to think, learning to imagine, and developing a sense of identity? To explore these questions, we will consider studies of children's language development along with perspectives from social policy, medicine, law, education, business and marketing, artificial intelligence, television, theater, film, music, and children's book publishing. Students will have regular opportunities to reflect on their own experience, and each student will be able to select a topic of individual interest for a final seminar project.

Language and Childhood
M/W2 - 3:20 pm

Instructor(s): Michele Zugnoni

Description: In this class, we’ll explore the influence that popular culture exerts on our societal understanding of what it means to be queer. We’ll study queer identities across time and locale, coupling our study with relics of popular culture (stories, TV shows, and films) in an effort to situate the reality of queerness with the underlying current of popular culture. We’ll also take some time to explore the impact of queer representation in popular culture created in the 21st Century. Assignments will include a research paper focused on what it means to be queer in a different time and place; a multimedia Prezi presentation focused on the impact of queer representation in the 21st Century; and a creative primary-research-based piece which gives us the opportunity to add our voices and the voices of others to the relics of queer popular culture. Primary focus will be on popular culture in the western world, predominantly the United States.

LGBTQ in Popular Culture
M/W11 am - 12:20 pm

Instructor(s): Dyan Elliott

Description: What did medieval women think about? What were their hopes and dreams? How close did they come to realizing their dreams and what forces stood in their way? This course will attempt to answer these questions by examining the writings by and about women from different classes, who live in different centuries, and write (or were written about) in different genres. Each of our protagonists will be placed in their proper historical contexts so they can be understood on their own terms. Learn how the high-spirited Heloise had an extra-marital liaison with one of the most controversial intellectuals of Western Europe; how the unflappable Christina of Markyate defied parents and husband to live as an anchoress; how the writer Marie de France was the true forbear of Harlequin romances; how the aristocratic Christine de Pizan defended all women from male slander; and how Margery Kempe, a mystic wanna-be, got rid of her husband and married God.

Medieval Women
T/Th 3:30 - 4:50 pm

Instructor(s): Sara Cerne

Description: From responses to Hurricane Katrina in Jesmyn Ward’s novel Salvage the Bones (2011) and in the music of Mos Def and Beyoncé, to the Flood of 1927 in the blues music of Charley Patton and the poetry of Sterling Brown, this class examines class, race, and environmental issues in literature and culture about the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. We will analyze the representation of the river in 20th- and 21st-century film, poems, literary fiction, cookbooks, music, and environmental photography, exploring texts like Richard Wright’s short story “Down by the Riverside” (1938), Joy Harjo’s poem “New Orleans” (1983), Benh Zeitlin’s film Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), and Richard Misrach’s photographs in Petrochemical America (2012). Apart from introducing you to both literary and cultural analysis, the class will focus on college-level composition skills and provide you with constructive feedback on your writing.

Teaching Methods: Seminar discussion, collaborative group work.

Evaluation Methods: Participation and peer review, in-class presentation, papers.

Texts include: Sterling Brown, selected poems from Southern Road (1932); Richard Wright, “Down by the Riverside” (1938); Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (2011); John Keene, “Rivers” from Counternarratives (2015).

Texts will be available at: Norris Bookstore and on Canvas.

Muddy Waters: The Mississippi R. in Lit & Culture
M/W11 am - 12:20 pm

Instructor(s): Pamela Bannos

Description: This course will explore the history and nature of photographic imagery relating to its capacity for misrepresentation, with emphasis on context and photography as a contemporary art practice. From the work of 19th century daguerreotypists, to conceptual artists of the 1980s and current digital imaging practitioners; from optical lens distortion to post-production manipulation; from re-contextualized art photography to Internet hoaxes; and, from sophisticated HDR compositing, to Instagram filters, we will investigate the age-old issue of truth and its relationship to photography. In addition to more extensive essays, students will write short responses to readings, and produce imagery related to discussion topics.

On Seeing & Believing
T/Th1 - 2:20pm

Instructor(s): Jorge Coronado

Description: The recent proposal to eliminate virtually all humanities majors from the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point (March 2018), one of many such proposals in the last few years, will serve us as an entryway into understanding not just the public university and the humanities, but the modern research university, both public and private, and the mission of the undergraduate liberal arts and graduate education within it. How did the university reach its current manifestation and where does it go from here? Beginning with an overview of its origins in the German Enlightenment, the seminar will then shift to focus on the development of existing departments and programs at the end of the nineteenth century and the disciplinary knowledge which they house nowadays. We will be especially interested in the rise of the research university in the United States after 1945 and its decline some forty years later. We will seek to understand undergraduate liberal arts education and graduate education within the pedagogical and administrative frameworks in which they function. What is their relationship to job markets, and how do different institutions position their students in relation to those markets? We will also study the university’s various members and constituencies, such as students, faculty, and administrators, and their roles. Within this context, we will explore challenges facing the modern research university, including the impact of neoliberal policies and mounting student debt, public vs. private institutions, the decline of academic freedom, the high cost of postsecondary education, the growth of contingent labor, the downsizing of tenure-track faculty, the corporatization of university administration, technical training vs. liberal arts curricula, and the introduction of consumer culture into the higher education, among others.

On the Research University: Its Past, Future and Present
M/W/F10 - 10:50 am

Instructor(s): Brian Odom

Description: The scientific enterprise, over the centuries, has often interacted with human spirituality and religion. This interaction has at times been synergistic and at times antagonistic. This course will focus on recent developments. We will look at relevant writings of influential scientists, including mystics, believers, agnostics, and atheists. We will also look at research probing the physiology of spiritual experience. In-class discussion will at all times be respectful, to allow productive dialogue on these deeply personal topics.

Science and Spirituality
M/W1:30 - 2:50 pm

Instructor(s): Michal Wilczewski

Description: In recent years, gender and sexuality have become hot topics in Eastern Europe. In 2013, for example, “gender” was Poland’s word of the year with the country’s leading bishops claiming that “Gender ‘ideology’ [is] worse than Nazism and Communism.” In the same year, Russian leaders passed the so-called “gay propaganda law” stifling Russians’ access to LGBTQ+ affirming education and support services. What informs this hostility toward issues of gender and sexuality in the Slavic world? How and why have sexual minorities become targets of political attacks? And how have attitudes toward gender and sexuality changed over time? This course answers these questions by tracing the history and culture of sexuality in Eastern Europe from the 19th century to the present. We will cover such topics as fin de siècle culture and sexual decadence; the medicalization of sexuality; prostitution and sex-trafficking; sex reform and sexology; the World Wars and sexuality; gender and sexuality under state socialism; and representations of queerness in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. As a First-Year Seminar, this course will help students further develop critical thinking and writing skills and familiarize them with research methods necessary for writing college-level papers.

Sex in the Slavic World
M/W2 - 3:20 pm

Instructor(s): Keith Woodhouse

Description: This first-year seminar will consider the history of the internet from the mid-twentieth century to the present. This will not be a technical history of the computer science or actual infrastructure that constitute the internet, but rather a history of the social and political ideas contributing to a worldwide system of networked computers and protocols. In particular, the course will discuss the culture surrounding the internet – the ways that the Cold War, the counterculture, libertarianism, and environmentalism all fostered a set of beliefs that helped define Silicon Valley and continue to shape companies that call for revolution one day and place their trust in the market the next.

Social History of the Internet
M/W9:30 - 10:50 am

Instructor(s): Daniel Horton

Description: The challenge of sustainability to "meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" has evolved over the past few decades. This course will introduce fundamental concepts of sustainability, consider the application of these concepts in diverse societal, economic, and cultural settings, and explore the potential of climate science and sustainable development to act as forces for environmental and social justice.

Sustainability and Social Justice
T/Th11 am - 12:20 pm

Instructor(s): Shelby Hatch

Description: Environmental (justice) events continuously pepper the headlines - including these from the past week: "Chemical Giant Escaped Paying for Its Pollution", "Dozens Drown in India and Nepal as Monsoon Season Fails to End" and "As Drought Conditions Worsen, California Expands State of Emergency." These occurrences and others - including local ones - will be foregrounded in class readings, discussions, field trips, and assignments. What sustainable solutions are available to mitigate such disasters? What actions can we take to prevent future ones? How can the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry and Engineering be utilized to create a more sustainable future for all? Students will examine behaviors of individuals and institutions, analyzing how those actions contribute to the success or failure of a sustainable and environmentally just future. Students will use various forms of media to communicate their findings to the Northwestern community and beyond, culminating in student-directed projects and presentations.

Sustainability Meets Environmental Justice
T/Th11am - 12:20 pm

Instructor(s): Elizabeth Hurd

Description: This course is a study of the American border, past and present. We pay special attention to the history of the U.S. border with Mexico, indigenous communities, law and the border, sovereignty, and the cultural, environmental, and religious politics of the borderlands. We consider border issues from multiple perspectives, including but going beyond issues of surveillance and enforcement. As a first-year seminar, this course also emphasizes critical research and writing skills to prepare you for college-level research and writing. You are strongly encouraged to consult a peer tutor at the Writing Place ( We will discuss academic integrity and get tips from a librarian on how to make the most of the library’s resources during your time at Northwestern.

The American Border
M/W12:30 - 1:50 pm

Instructor(s): Laurie Shannon

Description: The essayist Michel de Montaigne once observed, “when I am playing with my cat, if I have my hour to begin, or to refuse, so has she hers.” Many of our habits of thought presume an absolute difference between humans and all other creatures. The idea of “the human/animal divide” constantly re-appears, despite the way evolutionary models show community of descent. But a closer look at writers across history shows how a persistent, cross-species curiosity works in the other direction to attribute allegedly human powers to non-human creatures. Are we anthropomorphizing other creatures when we see likeness or symmetry between us? Or are we counting ourselves as an animal among other animals? On the other hand, when we see differences between “us and them,” why should that difference normally be in our favor? This course takes up the core philosophical problem of “self and other” in what may be its most dramatic case. By looking across species – and analyzing human writers who work hard to do the same – we’ll develop interpretive methods to reveal the infrastructure of a given text and to develop strong humanimal readings of our own.

Teaching method: Discussion.

Evaluation method: Active class participation and two papers.

Readings: Ancient materials (the opening chapters of Genesis and selections from Aesop’s Fables); Renaissance writing (essays by Montaigne and Shakespeare’s As You Like It); two short novels (Virginia Woolf’s Flush, a Biography and J.R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip); a memoir (Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk); and contemporary essays in philosophy and animal studies, including Donna Haraway’s Companion Species Manifesto.

The Animal Perspective: Thinking Across Species
M/W3:30 - 4:50 pm

Instructor(s): John Mordacq

Description: We will study the alterations to the genome that are responsible for various human diseases. Students will learn about traditional and potential experimental targeted treatment (gene-editing) of the diseases. We will discuss the impact of these diseases on healthcare as well as their social implications. Discussions will center on scientific studies and literature. The course is structured to increase the basic understanding of human genetics.

The Genetic Basis of Disease
T/Th11 am - 12:20 pm

Instructor(s): Ezra Getzler

Description: You probably voted last year for Class President. Maybe you are voting in the mid-term elections on November 2. Voting is definitely an important part of our lives. The goal of this course is to reflect on the nature of voting in America (and elsewhere), and see how mathematics can be used to illuminate our understanding of the issues. We will be discussing: a) Who gets to vote? A brief history of the franchise in the USA; b) What is a voting system? Differences between single member and multiple member voting; Apportionment; c) The shape of voting districts: Gerrymandering in America. Assessment will be by several short papers and one longer paper.

The Mathematics of Voting
M/W/F11 - 11:50 am

Instructor(s): Rachel Zuckert

Description: In this course we will discuss philosophical questions about the nature of the self, raised and answered in readings from the history of philosophy and contemporary philosophical writings, as well as some artistic representations. Thus we may discuss questions such as: Is self-awareness necessary or sufficient for selfhood? What guarantees the continuity of personal identity over time? To what degree is the self constituted by its social context? Are there good or bad (authentic/inauthentic, alienated, unified, etc.) ways to be a self? As with any first-year seminar, the course will also involve frequent writing assignments, including both informal exercises and formal argumentative papers.

The Self
T/Th 11 am - 12:20 pm

Instructor(s): Ian Hurd

Description: From whales to nuclear weapons to genocide and beyond, much of what people and governments do is defined, regulated, shaped, or otherwise influenced by international law. International law consists of binding commitments made between governments. This seminar examines the key concepts and practices of international law and looks at their connection with politics. The class will cross the line between political science and legal scholarship, and draws cases, readings, and debates from both. The seminar also invests in cultivating good research skills and critical thinking for college and beyond. It develops over several assignments a research project that results in a paper on politics and international law. We also address citation style, avoiding plagiarism, research strategies, and paper structure.

Whales, Bombs, Genocide: The Politics of International Law
M/W11 am - 12:20 pm

Instructor(s): Samantha Botz

Description: Haunting the human imagination, the monstrous eludes precise definition, always standing for something else: something lurking beneath the surface, or just out of sight. How can a term signify the horrific and seemingly inhuman, yet simultaneously be reclaimed as a source of strength and solidarity by the outsider, shunned, and othered? In this course, we will investigate both ends of this equally captivating and complicated monstrous spectrum by reading a selection of short fictions by women that similarly elude genre categorization and delight in the inexplicable and the odd. From the mothers of the Gothic novel, Mary Shelley and Charlotte Dacre, to contemporary masters of unsettling short fictions like Octavia Butler and Carmen Maria Machado, we will trace how women writers have long turned to the supernatural, uncanny, and odd to respond to issues of gender, sexuality, race, class, and ability. In keeping with the length of these texts (primarily short stories and novellas), assignments and essays in this course will be exercises in brevity: how do we convey our ideas concisely and evocatively in a limited space? This work is achieved through drafting and revising, two activities we will do frequently over the course of the quarter as we reflect on how writing—much like Mary Shelley’s iconic monster—is a messy, often unpredictable, but nonetheless powerful act of creation and communication.

Teaching Method: Seminar discussion, writing workshops, and peer review.

Evaluation Method: Essays (drafts and revisions), peer feedback, and participation.

Texts Include: Charlotte Dacre, Zofloya: or, The Moor (1806); Mary Shelley, Mathilda (1820); Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper (1892); Clemence Housman, “The Were-Wolf,” (1896); Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House (1959); Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber (1979); Octavia Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995); Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties (2017).

Available at: Norris; individual short stories and additional readings available through Canvas.

Women's Horror and Weird Fictions
T/Th3:30 - 4:50 pm
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