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Choosing a College Seminar

Fall Quarter 2020 College Seminars

The following seminars will be offered in Fall Quarter 2020.  Click on the ">" in front of a title to read the course description. Please confirm class days and times in Caesar when the fall schedule is published on August 10. Please note that all times are CDT. 


Instructor(s): Claire Sufrin

Description: As the course title suggests, when Jews and Christians get together we expect them to joke around about practices like wearing prayer shawls, not eating pork, or abstaining from sex. But what happens when Jews and Christians try to talk together in a serious way about the Bible? Or what happens when we die? Or even about the nature of God? In this class, we will consider whether it is possible for people from different faith traditions to learn from one another in a way that is constructive and meaningful while still respectful of the differences between their histories, their holy texts, and their belief systems. If it is possible, what is the purpose of such dialogue? And what are the best ways to approach it? While our focus will be on Jews and Christians, our texts will include some Muslim writers as well.

In short: this course is a chance to think about how and why to talk about our highest values and commitments with those who don’t agree with us.

A Rabbi and a Priest walk into a bar to talk about God

Instructor(s): Ryan Platte

Description: In this course we will examine, and learn how to write about, the role of Ancient Greece and Rome in American film and culture. Preliminary steps in this study will involve introductions to various historic eras of the ancient Greco-Roman world as well as important elements of ancient culture. Our emphasis will, however, not be analysis of antiquity itself but rather of American engagement with that antiquity, particularly in film. From reflections of ancient Rome in Star Wars to the adaptation of Greek comedy in Spike Lee\'s Chiraq, we will examine not just how antiquity perseveres in American culture, but how popular art creatively and critically engages with inherited Classical traditions. We will also consider engagement with Classical antiquity in some non-cinematic media as well, such as the graphic novel and even the architecture of the city of Chicago. Through writing and research assignments students will hone their ability to interpret and explain the role of Classical traditions in the modern world.

Ancient Greece and Rome in Modern Film and Culture

Instructor(s): Wendy Griswold

Description: This seminar explores the relationship between humans and non-human species from a sociological viewpoint. Topics include: the history of animal-human relations; the moral status of animals; how gender, class, and race-ethnicity impact our dealings with animals; zoos and shelters; the relationship between violence toward animals and toward people; animal rights movements; animal therapy; and the question of whether animals are part of society.

Animals and Society: A Sociological Approach to the Relationships Between Human and Animal Species
TTh 11:20am-12:40pm

Instructor(s): James Hornsten

Description: Though difficult to define and found in many forms, “art” is produced and consumed by people responding to economic forces. We will ponder questions such as the following: Why do artists supply art? Is it easier or harder nowadays for a new ballet dancer or sculptor to attract attention? Is specialized training needed to critique an opera performance or museum exhibit? What explains the amounts paid for a musical festival ticket, screenplay rights, or a famous painting? Should we use tax dollars to develop and support creative industries, or should they rely on charitable donations and ticket sales? How have Internet improvements and digitalization changed the ways that books are published, films are released, and musical artists make a living? Who ultimately pays for television programs that are “free” to stream? Is copyright protection strong enough, and should authors encourage derivative works, such as fan fiction, song sampling, or video game mods? If pandemic concerns prohibit large audiences at Broadway shows or K-Pop concerts, how might promoters adapt? Does art exist in the presentation of culinary dishes or economics?

Art and Economics

Instructor(s): Michael Maltenfort

Description: Who is a mathematician? Who teaches mathematics? Who learns mathematics? Why are U.S. mathematicians disproportionately male and white? How is math education affected by identities such as race, gender, gender identity, country of origin, and socioeconomic background? Students in this class will examine essays, academic writings, and movies in order to collaboratively create an anti-racist framework and use this framework to understand how privilege has shaped society, academia, and mathematics. Can mathematics become a field which is equally open to anyone? If so, how?

Balancing the Equation: Diversity and Inclusion in Mathematics

Instructor(s): Ginger Pennington

Description: In this seminar, we will explore various perspectives on femininity and what it means to be "female," with a particular emphasis on the ways in which modern society exerts influence on the self-concepts of young women. In the wake of such events as the Women's March on Washington, the #MeToo movement, historic election victories for female candidates, record-breaking achievements for female artists, and highly-publicized sexual harassment allegations against major political and media figures, women are confronted with conflicting messages about the nature and impact of "girl power." Do today's young women feel more empowered than previous generations? Does the modern woman have the power to "choose" her own definition of femininity? What forces help shape girls' understanding of their own sexuality, social roles, and future opportunities? We will read work by psychologists, sociologists, journalists, ethnographers, and other scholars who present divergent points of view on gender roles and feminist psychology. Students will be encouraged to engage in the spirited exchange of ideas on these issues and integrate the readings with their own observations and lived experience.

Being Female in the 21st Century

Instructor(s): Melville Ulmer

Description: There are two books to read for this class. These are both Sci-Fi books, but both authors sprinkled in some real astronomy. We will read in parallel the two books for this class. For Gateway, the reading will be about 18 pages/per discussion session. For the Dragon's Egg start with page 1 and read about 21 pages/discussion, except the last one where 6 more pages need to be read. Therefore the required reading is only about 68 pages week. At 1 minute per page, you won't be "hurting." You should spend most of your time that you devote to this class to writing papers. This is not a lecture class devoted to teaching you many detailed facts about compact objects (black holes and neutron stars) nor is the expectation that you spend most of you writing assignment time on researching your topic. Each class will have a student discussion leader. The discussion topics can be science issues, history related (the black hole book), or how you found the writing (e.g. exceptionally good or bad, and give examples and talk about why). At the end of the quarter, the discussion time will be replaced by 10 minute presentations by each student.

Black Holes, Neuron Stars, Pulsars, & all that

Instructor(s): Nicole Spigner


Thanks to the 1980s and 90s, Black women writers have become well known in popular US culture. Specifically, Toni Morrison’s historical Nobel Prize in Literature (1993), the adaptations of novels by Alice Walker, Toni Cade Bambara, and Zora Neale Hurston into film, and the advent of Oprah Winfrey’s book club mark moments where Black women’s fiction moved out of the margins of popular reading culture. While these works became best known at the end of the twentieth century, there is a much longer literary history attributed to Black women writing very layered, intriguing, and beautifully-written fiction, both short and long.

In January 2020, Time said this of Zora Neale Hurston’s short fiction, most of which was written in the 1940s: “Hurston’s short fiction is ripe with imagery and narratives that blend the real and the idyllic, the whimsical and the serious, the natural and the cultural.” Known best for her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston also produced several short stories. This course will explore the long tradition of Black women’s fiction, beginning in the nineteenth century and ending in the present moment, primarily through the short story genre.

In this synchronous class, we will survey a wide range of Anglophone Black Diaspora women authors and primarily concentrate on those from the US. We will interrogate themes, symbols, and forms in short fiction works that extend across the Black Feminine Literary tradition. We will ask how these authors similarly and differently explore Black feminine identity as it intersects at the juncture of unique social, economic, and sexual contexts. What are the unique issues of Black womanhood that they explore? Of what do they attend, outside of Black womanhood? Our authors will include at least Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, and Edwidge Danticat. Assignments will include, at least: regular online discussions, in-class discussion leading, and an individual final project.

Students will be evaluated on their performance in these assignments as well as class attendance and participation. This seminar depends on discussion and participation of every member of the class. Come to class ready to enthusiastically address issues of race, gender, class, and sexuality.

Black Women's Fiction

Instructor(s): Luciana Sanga

Description: In this class, we examine writing and books as “technologies” that not only facilitate communication but also impact the very way we think: through writing, our thoughts become more structured and coherent. We seek to defamiliarize the seemingly trivial object that is the book and challenge Eurocentric histories of writing and publishing. While analyzing the material format of writing, we also consider what makes good prose and hone our academic writing skills.

Book History in Japan: Manuscripts, Maps and Manga

Instructor(s): Henri Lauziere

Description: Six years ago, in June 2014, ISIS formally declared the establishment of a “caliphate” in eastern Syria and northern Iraq. The word was on everyone’s lips that summer, but few had a clear idea of what it meant. Is a caliphate a state or a mere religious office? What is the purpose of a caliphate in the Islamic tradition? How does one become caliph, and what is the role of a caliph anyway? Is it a kind of Muslim pope? Did ISIS’s claim to the caliphate have any credibility to begin with? These are some of the questions we will address by looking at the historical origins and development of the caliphate from the medieval period to the modern era.

Caliphs and Caliphates: From the Prophet's Successors to ISIS

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 Latinx/a/o communities. Students will work with historical narratives, ethnographic texts, nonfiction essays, short stories, and popular culture to question assumptions about how individuals and communities grow up and grow older. 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 Older in Communities of Color
TTh 9:40-11am

Instructor(s): Charles Yarnoff

Description: Coming-of-age novels and memoirs portray the journey from childhood to adulthood. In this course, we will focus on works of fiction and autobiography that pay special attention to the role that college plays in that journey. These works portray the formative childhood influences and conflicts that shape the protagonists. In the chapters on college, they dramatize the different ways that higher education helps the characters navigate the difficult and confusing task of taking control of their lives and coming to a deeper understanding of who they are and what they want from life. In each work, we also get to see the impact of their college experiences after the characters have graduated and entered the so-called “real world.” The works explore such questions as: Does college change who you are or, rather, help you to understand who you are? How does it impact your relationships with your family? What factors contribute to success in college and beyond, and what is even meant by “success”? Through reflection on and discussion, you’ll begin to answer those and other questions for yourself too.

We will read a variety of books that include: Bread Givers, a novel about a Jewish girl struggling with poverty at the turn of the 20th century; A Particular Kind of Black Man, a novel about the child of Nigerian immigrants who faces discrimination not only from white people but from African Americans; Educated, a memoir about a girl who grows up in an isolated, rural community with almost no formal education; and other literary works. In each work, college is a turning point for the main character, helping them to mature and move forward in their lives with clearer self-understanding and sense of purpose. The readings will offer you the opportunity not only to enjoy and discuss some wonderful books but also to reflect on the path that has led you to Northwestern and the ways you hope you will continue to grow and mature while you’re here.

Coming to College, Coming of Age

Instructor(s): Mary Finn

Description: No matter what your major, you will inevitably come across scholarly material that uses specialized vocabulary particular to the methodologies within that discipline. This is true from Anthropology to Statistics. These materials can read to a novice like deliberately confusing jargon. And they can tempt us to reject or gloss over the argument without fully considering its point. We will read a wide collection of such essays to hone your skills in close reading and sophisticated comprehension.

For comparison and contrast, across the disciplines we will also read material considered to be for the “general public” (such as The New York Times, The Economist, Vanity Fair). What is gained and what is lost when a complicated topic is “translated” from “academic speak” to “plain prose”? In many classes you will also engage with primary materials: novels, The Constitution, survey data, a burial mound, and so we will as well in this seminar.

In reading and evaluating all these kinds materials in any class you will need to up your game as you start Northwestern. The goal of this course is to hone your skills in close reading. But what does getting better at "close reading" mean? It means: always understanding new vocabulary; reading carefully at the level of the sentence; tracing the argument through the sequence of paragraphs; identifying the evidence – or lack of evidence – so central to any successful argument in all fields; being able to paraphrase the main thrust of the argument.

This kind of reading enables sophisticated analysis and critique, which is the goal for your writing for the class as well as your contribution to class discussion. As your close reading skills become more advanced, your participation in discussions and your own critical analysis in writing will also advance in sophistication.

We will read across the social science and humanities fields taught at Northwestern, including a number of essays by eminent Northwestern scholars. I have not finalized our selection, but we will read about such things as data and skepticism about data; literature and literary theory; history and the revision of historical truisms; the intersectional categories of race, gender and class… All class materials will be available electronically.

Critical Thinking and the Craft of Close Reading

Instructor(s): Sandy Zabell

Description: Cryptology is the study of secret writing, or more generally secure communication. We will discuss classical methods of cryptography, followed by the use of the German Enigma machine during World War II, and end by discussing modern cryptosystems such as RSA and PGP, digital signatures, and their use in internet security.


Instructor(s): Brady Clark

Description: When academics discuss communication, they tend to focus on ideal uses of language involving cooperative, honest, helpful, and trustworthy speakers. Real-world communication is not like this at all. This seminar examines communication in our non-ideal world. Our focus will be several forms of deceptive communication: lying, bullshitting, and misleading. We will explore a wide range of topics: what are the linguistic cues to deceptive communication, if any? does lying necessarily involve deception? why is there so much bullshit in contemporary political speech? how is fake news related to lying, misleading, and bullshitting? is fake news a useful notion at all? Our goal will be to figure out what tools and concepts we need to understand the varieties of deception that characterize human language interaction.

Deceptive Speech

Instructor(s): Deborah Rosenberg

Description: What do we do about a world that doesn’t conform to our expectations? Do we set out to mold reality to our vision or accept it as it is? How do we forge ahead with our dreams if others do not share our values or goals? Cervantes’ Don Quixote tackles these big questions in ways that are both moving and funny as it narrates the adventures of the bedraggled hero--a man driven mad by reading too many fantasy novels--and his earthy sidekick Sancho Panza. The novel contains themes that resonate with our lives today, exploring not only what it means to write--and read--fiction but also asking us to evaluate what kind of person we want to be in the world. In our class, we’ll read the novel closely and debate how its essential questions can shape our personal choices moving forward.

Don Quixote’s World

Instructor(s): Fred Rasio

Description: Right around the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, the first gravitational wave signals from colliding black holes were detected by LIGO. This seminar will explore the history of the birth and development of Einstein’s theory, as well as some of its most intriguing implications. We will read and talk about warped spacetime, gravitational waves, big bang cosmology, black holes, wormholes, and time machines, all at a nontechnical level requiring only basic high-school-level notions of physics and geometry.

Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy

Instructor(s): Susannah Gottlieb

Description: From “model minority” to “enemy aliens,” from fortune-cookie clichés to talk-stories, and from “FOB” to “crazy rich,” the representation and self-representations of Asian Americans weave an ambivalent -- sometimes affirmative, sometimes monstrous -- and ever-changing story. In this class, we will explore works of fiction, film, and other media formats by which Asian American realities are created, disturbed, and otherwise transformed, with a concentration on the themes of speaking, silence, place, displacement, protest, deviance, and exile.

Enter the Dragon: Identity and Representation in Asian America

Instructor(s): Mark Hauser

Description: Did astronauts from another planet establish ancient civilizations on Earth? Were the Americas discovered by Columbus, a Ming dynasty fleet or by Vikings much earlier? Did the Maya Aztec build their pyramids to resemble those of dynastic Egypt? Television is replete with stories of ancient aliens and archaeological mysteries. The impact of such alternative realities on society and history cannot be discounted. They have been used to support nationalistic agendas, racial biases, and religious movements, all of which can have considerable influence on contemporary society.

In this course, we will study "fantastic" stories, puzzles, hoaxes, imaginative worlds and alternative theories. We will learn when, how and what kinds of evidence these alternative theories have used to fascinate the public and illustrate their hoaxes. We will question such theories by using critical thinking and analytical tools to diagnose what is fact and fiction. We will utilize the surviving evidence that archaeologists find to understand cultural contact and interactions.

Fantastic Archaeology: Science and Pseudoscience

Instructor(s): Erin Andrews

Description: American political rhetoric has often taken for granted that women are “too emotional” to make effective leaders. Partially in response to this kind of sexist stereotype, many feminist thinkers have argued that we need more rigorous thinking about the role of emotion in our personal, political lives. How does the U.S. electoral process rely on and shape the feelings of the public, and what does this process have to do with ideas about gender and sexuality? How can appeals to emotion make for effective feminist protest practices and grassroots organizing? How do our most intimate feelings shape our relationships to gender roles and social norms? In this class, we’ll explore how feminist thinkers have answered these questions, and we’ll test out their arguments in relation to a variety of popular media texts. Students will have the opportunity to select a research topic inspired by the course material, which will be developed over the course of the quarter as we explore interdisciplinary research methods and writing practices.

Feminism and Political Feelings

Instructor(s): Jane Winston

Description: Rising seas, extreme temperature variations, and life-threatening storms: these are among the building blocks of Climate Fiction (Cli-Fi)--a new literary genre that takes up the challenge of climate change in the Anthropocene, the proposed epoch in which human beings significantly impact the geological and ecological systems of the planet--, to imagine the future to which climate change might give rise and the human beings who will confront it. Climate change novels ask: how might climate change transform the world in which we live? What will the world be like in the future, and what will it mean to the human beings who live in it? The alternative visions of the future elaborated in the works of Cli-Fi often combine characteristics of science fiction with elements of other genres, including the romance, the thriller, and the adventure tale. In addition to inquiring into the issue of how and with what literary means these novels manage to imagine the future, we will also seek to understand: if and how literature imagines a process as widely taken to be “unimaginable” as is climate change, whether fiction might further human knowledge or awareness or if it might modify human actions in the world. We will engage in close and detailed reading of some of the most compelling contemporary Cli-Fi novels and learn to write critically about them.

Fiction of Climate Change

Instructor(s): Elisabeth Elliott

Description: In this course we will explore some of the sociolinguistic issues in Slavic speaking countries and areas (the Russian Federation, the former Soviet Union, the former Czechoslovakia, etc.) and in Central Europe (specifically, Turkish in Germany). We will look at contemporary issues in Russia and Ukraine, especially the annexation of Crimea, anti-gay laws in Russia, and censorship of Pussy Riot. We will explore language policies, minority language rights, language vs. dialect, language planning, language and identity, and language and nationalism.

From Fascism to Pussy Riot

Instructor(s): Aaron Miller

Description: Recently ideas about the “paleo-lifestyle” have begun to be spread in popular culture, often with prescriptions about how modern humans should conduct their lives in order to achieve better health and well-being. This course will survey some of these “paleo” recommendations and popular conceptions of our ancestors. These popular conceptions will be viewed critically against the evidence for what our ancestors actually did and what, if anything, it means for people living in the modern era. Some of the included topics will include dietary recommendations, exercise/barefoot running, childcare and feeding practices, and pathogen exposure/immune function.

Going Paleo: Ancestral Lifeways and Their Modern Implications

Instructor(s): Jannet Chang

Description: Governments of all levels play an essential role in individual's day-to-day life, such as education, transportation, health and welfare. Some of the questions to be addressed in the seminar include but are not limited to the following: What are the roles of governments? How do government policies impact individual decision making and vise versa? Under what situation is the government intervention desirable? What are the reasons for different levels of governments, such as federal, state, and local governments? The goal of this seminar is to acquaint students with various aspects of government sectors and give students the ability to critically evaluate current policy debates.

Government and You

Instructor(s): Jim Hodge

Description: This writing-intensive course focuses on a number of classics by cinema’s “master of suspense,” Alfred Hitchcock. Films will likely include Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, North by Northwest, and Notorious. The last portion of the class will discuss Hitchcock’s legacy and influence, e.g. Chris Marker’s La Jetée and John Carpenter’s Halloween. The broad goal of the course is to introduce students to textual, theoretical, and historical modes of humanistic evidence-based argumentation and analysis. We will accomplish this by focusing locally on the ways film style affects the treatment of key themes across Hitchcock’s filmography: from mistaken identity and sexual politics to horror and voyeurism. Assignments will include short essays and several digital editing projects including making animated .gifs and supercuts (no technical expertise required).

Hitchcock and Beyond

Instructor(s): Barbara Shwom

Description: Every day on the Internet, on television, on the streets and in classrooms, we hear people expressing opinions about a variety of topics. The people who are most persuasive, however, are those who are most informed. This course is designed to give you the tools to develop an informed opinion about something that is important to you, to present that opinion to others orally and in writing, and to persuade others to consider (and even accept) your point of view. In other words, the seminar is designed to help you make the transition to a college mindset. We will begin the seminar by quickly exploring a few controversial topics, evaluating how well writers in both the scholarly and the popular press support their opinions and persuade audiences. In the process, you will learn how to evaluate sources, read critically, listen and consider opposing points of view, and develop a powerful response. Then you will have the opportunity to select a controversial topic of your choice and research it in depth, using library resources, the Internet, interviews, and surveys. In addition to learning research techniques, you will also learn techniques for presenting your ideas persuasively, both orally and in writing. By the end of the course, you will be in position to discuss your ideas in a thoughtful, authoritative way, becoming a more effective contributor in college classes as well as in conversations with family and friends. In this sense, you will have earned the right to call yourself an expert on your topic.

How to Become an Expert in Roughly 10 Weeks

Instructor(s): Meaghan Fritz

Description: Welcome to Northwestern! Over the next ten weeks, first-year students will experience a flood of transitions as they adjust to college life. In your courses this fall, many of you will experience academic transitions from high-school to college-level expectations of critical thinking, reading, and writing. First-year students experience exciting (and scary!) social transitions. There are financial transitions, family transitions, spatial transitions, and cultural transitions to contend with. On top of all of this, the class of 2024 will be arriving as students at Northwestern during a worldwide transition from our normal ways of life to battling a global pandemic. And in the midst of it all, you’ll be beginning your classes during the fall of an important election year for the United States.

This course aims to ease some of the transitions that you will experience in your first quarter at Northwestern by defining, exploring, discussing, and reflecting on your own experiences. By reading and discussing novels, essays, short stories, and works of journalism that take up the theme of life transitions, we will work together to cultivate productive study habits and to hone your critical thinking, reading, writing, and research skills for Northwestern classes. Our class will serve as a social support system, as we work generously with one another through seminar discussion and a routine exchange of writing. We’ll navigate larger global and national transitions together, compassionately, in real time. And we’ll work to prepare you as you transition out of your first quarter and into the rest of your college career.

I Guess this is Growing Up: Transitioning to College Life
MWF 1:50pm-2:40pm

Instructor(s): Brannon Ingram

Description: This course examines the history, politics, culture and economy of how Islam and Muslims have been represented in the north Atlantic world (the ‘West'). It begins with a brief overview of Western
representations of Muslims during the early modern period, then explores how colonialism shaped the modern history and politics of contemporary Islamophobia. The bulk of the course will focus in depth on the politics, culture and economy of Islamophobia in the United States, aiming to empower students to understand and navigate the contemporary context. The course gives particular attention to ways that Muslims have sought to challenge, complicate and subvert how they are represented.

TTh 2:40-4pm

Instructor(s): Amy Partridge


What does it mean to describe race, gender, sexuality and class as “intersecting” identities or categories? What new forms of knowledge and ways of knowing, political tools and ways of doing politics does this insight make possible? And how can we use these to make sense of and respond to the urgencies of the present moment? In this seminar we will focus on “intersectionality” as a mode of feminist critical inquiry and activist practice (or “critical praxis”) forged by Black feminists. As Patricia Hill Collins explains, “The term intersectionality references the critical insight that race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nation, ability, and age operate not as unitary, mutually exclusive entities, but as reciprocally constructing phenomena that in turn shape complex social inequalities.” Together we will read foundational texts by Collins and other Black feminist scholars and activists to understand and explore this critical insight and the coalitional politics that an intersectional analysis both demands and makes possible. We will pair this work with collective research into ongoing projects that engage this form of Black feminist “critical praxis” to respond to the complex social inequalities exposed and exacerbated in and by this political moment, including Black Lives Matter, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and the Poor People’s Campaign.

Key terms in Gender & Sexuality Studies: “Intersectionality”

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, theatre, 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

Instructor(s): Elizabeth Smith


How do cultural anthropologists create knowledge about people and places? How can we use anthropology’s most famous method, ethnography, to understand community building at Northwestern when the world has been turned upside-down and many basic social practices have radically shifted?  This course introduces techniques such as participant-observation research, interviewing, analysis of written and visual materials, and keeping a weekly fieldnotes journal. Collecting and analyzing this qualitative data throughout the quarter will empower you to make sense of what’s going on around you in this historic moment, turn an analytical eye toward Northwestern University, and critically understand your new role as a college student. Ethnography records and analyzes social relations in the here and now and explores the power of individual narratives. We will pay special attention to how social and economic power structures such as race, gender, sexuality, and economic inequality shape how people understand themselves and their communities.  Course materials include one text for purchase, as well as selections from recent and classic ethnographies, articles, and films/visual material provided digitally on the course site for free. Requirements include participation in synchronous class discussion, a weekly fieldnotes journal, two short writing assignments, and a final presentation on an aspect of college life. 

Local Knowledge: Toward an Ethnography of Northwestern

Instructor(s): Sean Ebels Duggan

Description: Our lives are filled with questions about what is better and worse: Would I be a better person if I were a vegetarian? Would it be better to give money to this person, or a charitable organization? This course isn't about these particular questions, but rather the conception of goodness implicit in them. In particular, the topic is: how is goodness related to what I should do? What draws me to (want to) do good things? Is it love? And how is goodness related to what I am as a person?

Our readings address these questions directly to differing degrees, but they all touch on one or another of them. We'll explore several philosophical traditions: from Augustine (the Party-hard Bishop) in Roman Tunisia, to the Akan in Ghana, to Damaris Masham in Restoration England, to Mencius (Master Meng) in Warring-states China

Love and Goodness from the Party-hard Bishop to Master Meng

Instructor(s): Ricardo Court

Description: Together we will explore the making of the first great political scientist of the modern age starting with a close reading of his secret diplomatic communications, his villainous guidebook The Prince, his licentious play Mandrake, ending with his resigned (and some say cynical) later histories. So much of our exploration of the inner workings of states and regimes begins with Machiavelli, who raised ire and admiration, no less for his willingness to say out loud what others whispered, than for the temerity to show what makes power work.

Machiavelli's Shorter Works

Instructor(s): Benjamin Gorvine

Description: While those going into the field of mental health typically think about it as a “helping profession”, there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to the psychological, economic, and political forces that have defined the development of the field. The course will focus on the contemporary framework for defining mental illness - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (now in its 5th edition) – with a particular focus on some of the problems that have emerged from the disease-based framework utilized in the manual, and the assumptions that it makes about disorders and typical development. As part of this discussion, there will be particular focus on the controversial application of the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Then we will shift to an exploration of the role of state mental hospitals in the U.S. in the early to mid-20th century, and we will examine the political forces that drove the de-institutionalization movement of the 1970s and 1980s, with additional consideration of the contemporary implications of the closing of state hospitals. Finally, the course will focus on the evolution of psychotherapy in the modern marketplace, and some of the challenges posed by the demands of the health insurance industry and academic research. The aggressive way in which the DSM has been marketed internationally and the implications of culture for diagnosis will also be discussed. Along the way, we will explore critiques of the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, and modern psychiatry. Some of these themes will also be explored through analysis of popular films and other media.

Mental Health Diagnosis and Treatment
MWF9:10-10 am

Instructor(s): David Smith

Description: For many, music serves a valuable function in everyday life. Music can serve as a mode of artistic expression, a method of relaxation, a means of influencing mood, and an avenue toward transcendence. This course will focus on the human experience of music by integrating research and theory from cognitive, social, and developmental psychology. Special attention will be given to topics such as the perception of music, the development of musical expertise and creativity, the effect of music on cognition, the emotional impact of music, and effective musical instruction.

Music and the Mind

Instructor(s): Pamela Banos

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 and Believing

Instructor(s): Kevin Buckelew

Description: What does it mean to “pay attention”? What is the history of attention as a concept, and what is at stake when we talk about paying attention? What are the ethical implications of attention and distraction? How have economic conditions, social norms, religious practices, and technological change helped shape ideas about attention and distraction that inform our lives today? In the age of the "attention economy"—when digital technology is blamed for giving rise to a culture of distraction, and collaborations between neuroscientists and Buddhist meditators are credited with heralding the attentional key to happiness—this seminar provides an opportunity to reflect on attention as a key term in history and contemporary life.

Paying Attention

Instructor(s): Sara Monoson

Description: This seminar will guide students in a slow, close reading of a globally significant text from Greek antiquity that has had nearly unparalleled cross-cultural and historical impact on a wide range of areas of human creativity — Plato's Republic. Well-known episodes in this text include the three parts of the soul, ship of state, allegory of the cave and the philosopher-ruler. We will pay special attention to the way its overarching argument about justice unfolds, to the account of links between democracy and tyranny and to the question of whether the discussion of a just soul and city resonates with the contemporary idea of resilience. We will also observe Plato's use of technology (i.e., writing) to conjure for his readers a virtual experience of dialectical inquiry. Requirements include regular, brief written responses and oral reports about the weekly reading and an individual final project on a passage of one’s own choosing. The course requires participation in synchronous seminars and private individual conferences. Recommended summer reading: Edith Hall, Introducing the Ancient Greeks: From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind. Required edition of the Republic: Cambridge University Press, edited by G R F Ferrari, translated by Tom Griffith.

Plato's Road to Resilience

Instructor(s): Paul Caradonna

Description: This course will focus on developing an understanding of the ecology of plants, pollinators, and their interactions. We will build on this ecological knowledge in order to think critically about the conservation challenges faced by plants and pollinators all across the globe today. Topics in this course will range from plant and pollinator life cycles, pollinator behavior, pollination ecology, pollination as an ecosystem services, and conservation. Emphasis in this course will be on the development of skills in critical reading, interpretation, discussion, and writing for the sciences.

Pollination Ecology: Conservation to Extinction

Instructor(s): Marcelo Vinces


The word biology describes both the characteristics and processes of life and living organism, as well as the discipline that studies these. Like all the natural sciences, the study of biology is a data-driven endeavor, concerned with describing, predicting and understanding natural phenomena based on evidence from observation and experimentation. But like all human activities, it does not exist in objective isolation, but rather within a societal context. And biological phenomena, such as infection and disease, interact with non-biological elements of human society. This course aims to contextualize the study of biology towards a better understanding of how social and cultural histories and dynamics have had a profound effect on both biological research as well as biological phenomena, and how social, political and economic parameters influence the impact of scientific breakthroughs and the outcomes of biological events such as epidemics. The topics we will cover, among others: the cultural, political and societal barriers to reaping the benefits of biological research; the damaging legacies of racism, sexism and colonialism on the biological research enterprise; the role of communications in the field of biology; and select biological topics in evolution, genetics and disease. Students will learn from press articles, academic literature and non-fiction books (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot; Pandemic, by Sonia Shah)

Promises & Perils: The Social Reality of Biology

Instructor(s): Brett Gadsden

Description: In the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson signed into law legislation banning segregation, expanding voting rights, and establishing a suite of domestic programs designed to address the problem of poverty. This course thus explores Johnson’s efforts to extend a rights revolution and expand the social safety net that we know as the Great Society. But what of Johnson’s legacy? It then explores the efforts of successive presidents to extend or dismantle Johnsonian liberalism in a broader effort to assess the legacy of the 1960s in the contemporary moment.

Race and the American Presidency

Instructor(s): Stefan Henning


This class will sharpen your writing.  You will write and present a seven-to-nine page paper on civic activism in contemporary China. In the process of writing this paper, you will practice identifying a theme you find interesting, formulating an argument, finding data and source material on the internet from China in English translation, and relating your theme to the scholarly literature we read and discuss together in class. Some of the progress you will make in your writing abilities will be technical – what counts as evidence, what is the difference between data and scholarly texts, how do you cite and give credit to those who preceded you; some will be intellectual – how do you refute and how do you prove, how do you evaluate your own argument to be clear about its limitations, how do you assess the political relevance of your theme; and some of it will be emotional – how do you cope with the panic that is welling up when you are expected to tame the chaos of reality into a tidy argument, how do you cope with disappointment and ire when I tell you that your second draft is not good enough, how do you cope with your self-doubts when you are trying to find a needle of evidence in the haystack of the internet under time-pressure?

The Chinese have achieved enormous economic growth over the last forty years which has dramatically raised living conditions in China. The Chinese Communist Party has steered this economic development through authoritarian rule which denies the Chinese liberties you take for granted. Thirty-one years ago, the Communist Party killed Chinese who demanded these liberties by employing the military inside the country. Since the massacre of 1989, protest in the streets has moved to networking on the internet. You will write your paper about this challenge to authoritarian rule by engaging some of the following questions: How have urban Chinese lived with the trauma of the massacre? What exactly happened in 1989?  Making and uploading videos to the internet is a crucial weapon for activists.  How do you evaluate the power of individual videos to force political change? These videos are documentaries, performance art, interviews, covert recordings of state agents, cries for help of fugitives in real time, and witness testimony. The creators of these videos are prepared to take risks because they feel there is something wrong with China today. These feelings are value judgments, or valuations.  How do you tease out the values by which activists judge the state and evaluate their lives in China? What in turn are the value judgments of American reporters who report on Chinese activism to the American public?  What are the value judgments of American professors who study Chinese activism?  And what are your own value judgments: If it turns out that U.S. capitalism in its combination with democracy cannot economically compete with Chinese capitalism in its combination with authoritarian rule, and you were forced to choose, would you choose capitalism or democracy? What parts of your life would be impossible under authoritarian rule? Which line would populism and neo-authoritarianism in America have to cross for you to fight the government?

Rebellion and Its Enemies in China Today
MW 10:20-11:40am

Instructor(s): Stefan Ionescu

Description: Repairing historical injustices is one of the most debated topics in today’s society in many countries on every continent. Restitution (return of confiscated property), reparations (various forms of material compensation for what cannot be returned physically), and apologies (public recognition of wrongdoing and assuming responsibility for it) are perhaps the most widespread transitional justice methods used to amend the massive breaches of human rights perpetrated by colonial empires, dictatorships, authoritarian regimes, and democracies throughout history. Slowly emerging after World War II, the theory and practice of restitution, reparations, and apologies have developed tremendously especially since the 1990s, even though many governments and citizens are still reluctant to accept them. Which were the most well-known and controversial cases of restitution, reparations, and apologies around the globe during the last 75 years and how were they justified, opposed, and implemented? Is the boom of restitution, reparations, and apologies the sign of a new international morality and democratization spreading worldwide? This course investigates these questions by focusing on theories and cases studies of repairing historical injustices perpetrated by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in Europe (against the victims of the Holocaust and the Gulag), by colonial Empires and settler democracies in the Americas, Australia, and Africa (against Native Americans, African Americans, Japanese Americans, Africans, Australian aboriginals, the Maori of New Zeeland, and Indonesians), by the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II Asia (against the victims of sexual slavery, the so-called “comfort women”), and by the apartheid regime in South Africa (against black Africans).

Repairing Historical Injustices

Instructor(s): Rajeev Kinra

Description: What is the most effective form of resistance to political oppression? Even more complicated, what is the most ethical form of resistance? Is non-violent resistance always the most effective and ethical stance, or are there occasions when violence becomes not only justified but, in some people’s view, morally necessary in forcing systemic change? There are no easy answers to these fundamental questions. But, as a first step in thinking critically about them, this course will begin by introducing students to the writings of two of the twentieth century’s most influential theorists of anti-colonial resistance: Mohandas K. “Mahatma” Gandhi (d. 1948), the famed leader of the Indian nationalist movement who steadfastly advocated non-violent resistance to British colonial authority; and Frantz Fanon (d. 1961), the Afro-Caribbean physician, psychiatrist, and radical thinker who argued powerfully for the inevitable – indeed, essential – role of violence in overturning French colonial authority. Our task will not be to decide who was “right” and who was “wrong.” Instead, in the second part of the course we will examine the fascinating parallel historical legacies of these two foundational thinkers – for instance, in the contrast between the non-violent (and explicitly Gandhian) approach of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr versus the more militant attitudes of people like Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and others who were influenced by Fanon’s writings – both here in the US and around the world, right up to the present day.


Instructor(s): James Druckman

Description: How do political campaigns work? Are voters manipulated by slick media-based campaigns?  What about campaign ads? Do polls help or harm voters? How do we study political campaigns? These are some of the questions that we will explore in the class “Studying Campaigns.” The goal of the seminar is to enhance our understanding of how politicians conduct campaigns, how campaigns and media coverage affect voters, and how we study those topics. We will not only examine the academic literature on these topics, but we also will follow the ongoing events of the 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns.  Through a combination of group projects (e.g., analyzing campaign websites, an exit poll), short assignments, and essays, we will learn what makes a campaign effective and to understand campaigns.

Studying Campaigns

Instructor(s): Megan Geigner

Description: You have come to Northwestern to study, or be a scholar (the word ‘scholar’ means “a person studying at an advanced level;” that is now you!) But what is ‘scholarship,’ and what does it mean study race in the United States?

At the root of scholarship is inquiry, or the questioning and investigation into a topic. We will investigate how different facets of US society have defined and codified race. This seminar builds students’ informational literacy by looking at how to decipher news sources, do college-level research, analyze artifacts of popular culture (song lyrics, short stories, editorials, personal essays, TV and film), and develop expertise. In studying how we define race, we will also consider the intersections of citizenship and immigration, gender and sexuality, and more. This seminar helps students transition into college-level inquiry and into being a conscientious and ethical member of a diverse learning community.

Studying Race: Legacies of Academia, Pop Culture, and the News

Instructor(s): Lisa Del Torto

Description: Scholars of language and writing argue that language and its varieties, genres, modes, and rhetorical strategies are always shifting, flexible, and contested. Thus, sociolinguistic diversity—differences across and within languages and dialects—is inevitable. This seminar will explore how language difference is situated in current US and global discourses, considering language in written, spoken, and signed forms. We will disrupt monolingual ideologies that infiltrate those discourses, focusing on language diversity as an asset to individuals, cultures, and institutions. The course will consider college as one of those institutions and will explore language diversity and linguistic social justice as part of your first-year experience at Northwestern. Using scholarly readings from sociolinguistics and writing pedagogy along with popular non-fiction, the course will consider how we can sustain sociolinguistic diversity, how we can foster equity, access, and inclusion around language difference, and how our sociolinguistic diversity sustains us. You will formulate and explore your own questions about sociolinguistic diversity and social justice in papers, presentations, and class discussions.

Our seminar will operate as a community that celebrates our diverse language use and as a system of academic, practical, and emotional support as you begin your college experience. Students of all sociolinguistic backgrounds are welcome in this seminar, and our course design will provide direct benefits to students who identify as international, multilingual, and/or native speakers of non-mainstream Englishes.

Sustaining Sociolinguistic Diversity

Instructor(s): William Reno

Description: This course surveys the changing American strategies in the conduct of warfare since the end of the Cold War in 1989. The course opens with a consideration of the massive military buildup and assault on Iraq in 1991. The American military presence in that region never went away. This presence provides us with a framework for analyzing the changing character of warfare. Consideration of the Iraq War (2003-2011) focuses on the development of counterinsurgency and the emergence of multi-domain warfare (i.e., political warfare, information warfare, etc.) and increased reliance on low-profile Special Operations Forces. Our attention then turns to recent challenges of hybrid warfare (i.e., hacking and fake news and their roles in conflicts), and the advent of flexible responses such as increased American reliance on drones and contractors in the conduct of warfare. The course ends with the consideration of several emerging American war-fighting strategies.

The American Way of War

Instructor(s): Owen Priest

Description: In this course we will explore the chemistry and science of nutrition, cooking, food preservation, flavoring, coloring, and aroma. We will explore the science of salt, sugar & high fructose corn syrup, leavening agents, microwaves, proteins, and fats. What is the science behind genetically modified foods and why is it so controversial? What is celiac disease and gluten sensitivity? Is gluten sensitivity real? What does the science say?

The Chemistry of Food

Instructor(s): Carol Heimer

Description: Rights to health and healthcare are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23; adopted by the UN in 1948), in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 12; adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966), and in many national constitutions. Yet it is far from clear what these rights mean. For instance, it is sometimes a right to health that is being asserted and at other times a right to healthcare. It is also unclear how these rights can be achieved in practice. In this course, we will talk about how and why health became a right and what is accomplished by thinking of health as a right. We will be talking, among other things, about how rights to health vary from one country to another and even one disease (or condition) to another. We will also ask what institutions (such as the World Health Organization at the global level) protect and extend rights to health and whether or not they are effective.

The Elusive Right to Health
TTh 2:40-4pm

Instructor(s): Robert Ryder

Description: From automata to cyborgs, this course explores ways in which mechanical devices have served as models to gain a deeper understanding of the human and nature in German literature, philosophy, film, and music. While the course is structured around the short prose and poetry of Eichendorff, Kafka, and Enzensburger, as well as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, we will also read excerpts from significant texts by Descartes, Herder, Heidegger, Benjamin, and Friedrich Kittler. The course material will allow us to ask significant questions that are as historically determined as they are philosophically oriented: how does the eighteenth-century automaton become a central symbol for the debate over the mind/body relationship? What is the relationship between the human worker and the machine, and the machine and the diabolical? In what way does the introduction of the machine redefine both “labor” and “war” in the twentieth century? And perhaps above all, we will look at ways in which the writing process takes on mechanical attributes, from Nietzsche’s typewriter to Kafka’s torture machine.

The Human and Machine in German Culture
MWF 9:10-10am

Instructor(s): Chad Horne

Description: The market pervades every aspect of our lives, and yet its workings are in some sense hidden from view. This perhaps helps to explain the persistence of Adam Smith's metaphor of the "invisible hand" to describe how the market works. Our aim in this course is to make the invisible hand a bit more visible. What does the market do well? What does it do badly? Are there any goods, like sex or human organs, that should not be exchanged on the market? What alternatives are there to the market system? In trying to answer these questions, we will explore texts from economists, historians, and journalists as well as from philosophers."

The Market and Society

Instructor(s): Christine Helmer

Description: This course explores the Nazi Olympics, held in Berlin 1936, in relation to religion, race, and politics. We show how the Nazi Olympics appropriated themes from the ancient Olympics in Greece in order to create a new religious, aesthetic, and political ethos. We also look at the legacy of politics in the Olympics of Mexico City in 1968, with a focus on Black activism in contemporary sports.

The Nazi Olympics

Instructor(s): Larry Stuelpnagel

Description: Presidents, politicians and citizens often claim that the press is either "liberal" or "conservative." But many factors drive what the public receives as news. Those factors include: the economics of the business, information biases that come from striving to be "objective," work routines by journalists, and the need to tell a story in a simple fashion so that readers and viewers can easily understand the subject. This course will critically examine assumptions regarding how news is reported, how politicians attempt to manipulate the news and how this impacts the outcome of elections, policies and the perception of political players.

The Press & the Political Process

Instructor(s): Kate Masur

Description: In this presidential election year – which is also the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment – Americans are intensely debating the vote and its meaning. Is voting a right or a privilege? Who determines who is permitted to vote? Who can be excluded from voting, and on what grounds? What does it mean when people have the “right” to vote but can’t find a way to exercise it? This class will explore all these questions through an examination of the contested history of the right to vote in the United States, from the early republic to the present.

The Right to Vote

Instructor(s): Veronica Berns

Description: Clear and concise communication is highly valued in many STEM fields. Whether conveying the technical details of an experiment for a colleague or translating the impact of a study for the public, scientists need to know how to discuss complex ideas with different audiences. This course analyzes the goals of scientific writing by examining texts that represent different levels of communication, including how to use the visual language of comic books for conveying complex scientific ideas.

The scientist and the science: Exploring effective scientific communication through graphic novels

Instructor(s): Elizabeth Lenaghan

Description: As you are well aware, being young has many benefits and many drawbacks. For instance, the optimism and creativity that often characterize youth can lead to positive social and societal change. At the same time, though, young people often struggle to be taken seriously, even when their actions and ideas are good ones. Through examining several historic and contemporary case studies, this course will explore both the triumphs and terrors of youth (i.e., teens-twenties). What risks are uniquely available to young people? Which ones are rewarded and which end in regret? How might these outcomes be mediated by other factors (e.g., race, gender, sexuality)? Most importantly, what can we learn from the triumphant and terrible behaviors of others? As we explore answers to these questions through discussion, reading, and writing assignments, we’ll also take advantage of your own uniquely youthful status as first-quarter, first-year students. Specifically, we’ll think and learn about how both your transition to college and the years ahead present you with opportunities to both capitalize on your youth and cultivate for you and others (especially those who might disparage Gen Z) a more realistic idea of what it really means to be young these days.

The Terror and the Triumph of Youth

Instructor(s): Luke Flores

Description: In this WCAS college seminar, we will examine recent research on learning and memory through the unique lens of college life. What do we know (or think we know) about how memories are encoded in the brain? How is college a different learning environment than high school? Together, we will review scientific studies on the impact of college life on student academic performance, and correlate those findings with studies of human and animal learning in the laboratory. After taking this course, you will have a foundational understanding of the neurobiological basis of memory, learn how to read scientific literature critically, and develop strategies to improve your study habits and performance here at Northwestern University.

This is Your Brain on College

Instructor(s): Richard Walker

Description: In this seminar we will survey disparate topics in politics, philosophy and economics. Exactly what we end up covering will depend a little on what most interests the group, but provisional topics include include the median voter theorem, the Condorcet paradox, Arrow's impossibility theorem, the trolley problem, Rawls' theory of justice, Peter Singer and speciesism, the ethics of nationalism, the economic effects of immigration, the simulation hypothesis, how economists and regular people think about risk and uncertainty, the economics of healthcare, charter cities, prediction markets and the wisdom of crowds, the pros and cons of a basic income policy. The aim is to find interesting things to read, talk and write about.

Topics in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics

Instructor(s): Stephen White

Description: This course will explore a variety of philosophical and ethical questions about lies and other forms of deception. For instance: When is it acceptable to lie? And when it is wrong, how should we understand the nature of that wrong? Is there such a thing as a right to the truth—even when the truth might be harmful? Is it possible to forfeit one’s right to the truth? Is there an ethical difference between lying to someone and merely telling misleading truths? How should a democratic society that is committed to free speech handle lies and other sorts of dishonesty? Can fiction be honest or dishonest? Is it possible to lie to oneself?

Truth, Lies and Deception

Instructor(s): Joseph Walsh

Description: One of the major challenges of our changing world is the loss of biological diversity. An overwhelming majority of people agree that we should work to save biodiversity, but their views are largely based on vague, positive feelings about nature rather than concrete justifications. This course investigates those concrete justifications. The first half of the course sketches out the argument for preserving biodiversity (i.e., "thinking globally"). The second half of the course focuses on the practice of ecological restoration in forest preserves a few miles from campus (i.e., "acting locally") not merely as a way to preserve biodiversity, but as a path to redefining a sustainable relationship between nature and culture. The readings for the course range from classics of environmental writing to recent research papers in the primary scientific literature. Biodiversity also needs to be experienced directly, so we will take a field trip to a local forest preserve where we will roll up our sleeves and help restore a native habitat and see how much biodiversity means to the people with whom we live and work.

Values of Biodiversity

Instructor(s): Axel Mueller

Description: In this seminar we will examine some of the fundamental ideas and questions behind democracy and provide a reading of their "inventors". Some of the questions are: What is democracy? Is it a form of government, a value, an ideal, a political system, a form of life, a bit of all this? Is democracy always the best political solution (in wartime? general starvation?)? Why should the whole of the people decide and not the specialists in the respective questions? Are all democratically taken decisions automatically legitimate (what about minorities\' rights?)? How should all citizens in a democracy participate in politics? By direct self-government of the people or by voting representatives? Is everything democratically decidable or does the individual have unalterable rights? Is tolerance and/or free speech necessary for democracy and how far can it go?

What is Democracy?

Instructor(s): Sara Hernández-Saborit

Description: In this seminar, we will look into the many different facets of the economics of gender. We will learn about economic decisions that individuals and households face from a unique gender perspective and ask ourselves: do women and men behave differently in economic circumstances? The topics we will cover include, among others: the status of women around the world, education, marriage, fertility, labor supply, bargaining power, and discrimination. For each topic, we will study concrete examples emanating from all over the world. Students will learn to use a wide variety of academic resources (including empirical research articles, ethnographic descriptions, and popular press books) and write different papers, including policy recommendations, multimodal essays, argument essays, and research papers.

Why Gender Matters in Economics

Instructor(s): Tessie Liu

Description: Through the autumn and winter of 1799 in central France, a naked boy was seen swimming and drinking in streams, climbing trees, digging for roots and bulbs, and running at great speed on all fours. He was captured in January 1800 by local farmers and brought to Paris. This “wild boy” from Aveyron became an overnight sensation, the object of curiosity and endless speculations about the relationship between instinct and intelligence and questions about the differences between humans and animals. A young doctor Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard, who undertook the task of socializing and educating the wild child, carefully recorded the boy’s progress. Itard’s work ultimately lead to the transformation of the treatment of mental retardation and to a revolution in childhood education that is reflected in every preschool program in our time. This course introduces students to the philosophical and attitudinal changes regarding nature, childhood, and family life that enabled society to view the “wild boy” not as a freak or savage, but as a person inherently capable of civility, sensibility, and intelligence. The story of the “wild boy “teaches why it is important for humans to treat nature with respect and not fear. In order to protect the human rights of the boy, society must extend protection to the non-human beings among us. The course is designed for students interested in intellectual history, environmental history, psychology, and education.

Wild Child: Are Humans Not Animals?

Instructor(s): Patricia Nichols

Description: Immigration has become one of the ‘hot’ buttons of contemporary social and political dialogue. Through the prism of the Latina experience in the United States, this class will explore causes and consequences of global migration in the 21st century, analyze the marginalization of third-world immigrants in first-world society, and seek to develop an understanding of the evolving ‘face’ of America. Students will further examine how their individual experiences and backgrounds help shape their perceptions of this new world order.

Latina immigrants to the U.S. often leave intolerable circumstances and brave life-threatening border crossings in pursuit of the American dream. Yet, those who succeed in crossing the geographic border almost inevitably find that the marginalized existence they hoped to leave behind takes on an equally powerful form in their new world as they face economic, political, racial, and cultural barriers north of the border.

Women at the Border: The Marginalization of Latinas in the U.S.
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