Seminars

Fall Term 2014

Movies, Media, and Modernity in the Middle East

Honors 350 CRN 40146

Kaveh Askari, English

TR 1400-1520 & W 1600-1800

This course on the modern Middle East will introduce students to recent critical theory and the study of moving-image arts in equal measure. We will first familiarize ourselves with key philosophical debates about conceptions of the nation, cosmopolitanism, empire, and the turn to ethics in recent political theory. Then, we will discuss how we can integrate critical theory relevant to the Middle East and North Africa with photographic, cinematic, and web-based works of art. The course gives special attention to cinema, but topics will range from photography in early-twentieth-century colonies and royal courts, to video installation in galleries, to contemporary social media. We will learn how to analyze images, and how to situate them within a historical context that pays particular attention to intersections of art and politics.

Diaspora Identity

Honors 351 CRN 42637

Julie Dugger, Fairhaven

MWF 1500-1550

In a world where people regularly cross geographic and national boundaries, what determines who you are? This course will examine diasporic identity as represented in transatlantic writing from the eighteenth through the twenty-first centuries, drawing on texts that portray migration (voluntary or involuntary) between West Africa, England, Ireland, North America, and the Caribbean. A particular focus of the course will be how race and ethnicity help determine cultural affiliation as people move between different geographic areas. We will consider the abolition movement as a transatlantic phenomenon, looking at how the battle to end slavery (especially in the United States), was worked out not only in the Western Hemisphere where slavery produced goods, but also in European countries that consumed them. We will discuss the role that Irish emigration played in the slavery debates. Finally, we will look at the continuing influence of cultural, racial, national, and ethnic loyalties in transatlantic culture as it continues to evolve under the economic demands of the globalized twenty-first century. Authors we will consider include Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Carlyle, Elizabeth Gaskell, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Jean Rhys, Derek Walcott, Roddy Doyle, and Colum McCann. Written requirements include short reading response papers, formal peer critique writing, and a research paper on a transatlantic text, including a graded proposal, draft, research bibliography, and final paper.

Kafka’s World

Honors 352 CRN 42635

George Mariz, Honors Program

TR 1500-1620

This seminar focuses on the life and times of Franz Kafka, the Czech writer of the early twentieth century, i.e., it will investigate not only the writer and his works but also the larger world of which he was a part. That world was both extremely interesting and quite chaotic, and Kafka’s work mirrors both of these. As a writer obsessed with his craft, he wrote much but published almost nothing during his lifetime, and he may have destroyed much of what he did compose; estimates in this regard vary widely. His many stories and three novels (all unpublished during his lifetime) inhabit a land somewhere between the bizarre and the unfathomable, but all of them are compellingly interesting. His world was topsy-turvy. During Kafka’s brief life, 1883-1924, Europe witnessed the most destructive war in modern memory; the political state in which he passed most of his time, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, ceased to exist; from its wreckage many new nations, including Czechoslovakia, emerged. He spent most of his life in Prague, one of the empire’s most interesting cities, and in its ethnic and religious complexity, a microcosm of that realm. In both of these political worlds Kafka was an outsider, being first an ethnic Czech in a world dominated by Germans (Austrians), and as a Jew in a world in which Christianity, whether Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, was the rule. Though non-religious for most of his life, he became fascinated with Judaism in his last few years, though he was never an observant Jew. We will investigate the many paradoxes of Kafka’s personal history, as well as those of the world in which he lived. Class work will consist of a wide variety of reading, both Kafka’s works and those about his world, student-led discussions, and a major paper.

Winter Term 2015

Cartography of the Body: Figure Drawing & Anatomy

Honors 355 CRN 12606

Pierre Gour, Interdisciplinary Studio Arts-Foundations and Kate Yamamoto, Biology

TR 1130-1420

This seminar and hands-on course designed to enhance the understanding of the human body. It stands to reason that the more we know about the structural anatomy of the human form, the more effectively we can use it as a vehicle for understanding our own bodies. During the course, the student will explore the structural anatomy of the body and become familiar with various materials, techniques, and practices common to the image making process. Beyond this practice, the course will address the figure in the context of history and biology by integrating current ideas of body-culture.

Metagenomics

Honors 356 CRN 12085

Robin Kodner, Biology

MWF 0830—0950

This course will provide an introduction to the field of metagenomics, an emerging, interdisciplinary field that utilizes high throughput DNA sequencing technologies to characterize the DNA of an entire community of organisms, such that we can characterize the diversity and function of a community in a high throughput and unbiased way. This course provide an authentic interdisciplinary research experience, where students work together to define a metagenome project of their choosing, and collect samples, process DNA, run the new DNA sequencer at WWU, and analyze the data using the computer cluster in Computer Science. Students will move from playing with ideas about the hypotheses they can test with their metagenome samples to final data analysis though the course of 10 weeks. Covered topics will include high throughput sequencing technology, data acquisition and management, bioinformatics for environmental genomics, integrating genomic and environmental data, In-silico hypothesis testing, and statistics for environmental, spatial, and sequence data. The students will also learn to communicate this new field of science to their peers though a public group-lecture.

Reimagining the Golden Age and Beyond

Honors 357 CRN 11795

Susanne L. Seales, Honors Program

TR 1200-1320

This seminar will examine the history of children’s literature in the West, within the framework of folklore and fairy tale traditions, and the contemporary issues of each author. Beginning with a theoretical overview of those earlier traditions, and a review of the precursors to the “golden age”, we will go on to analyze a selection of titles from the nineteenth century to the present day, with a focus on British sources. Dissecting each story from its surface through the many layers of its cultural topography, our goal will be to uncover links to archetypes and older themes, as well as “modern” themes that connect to the author’s present day. Overarching this work will be the question “What is children’s literature?” the answers to which will shift as the quarter progresses. Within this context we will consider the wide ranging popularity of this genre across genders and age groups, the inclusion of political, social, and religious commentaries within storylines, and the rise of the child in popular imagination. We will also spend time with the various illustrations, approaching them as another type of textual evidence from which to draw potential answers to our queries. Additionally, as the quarter progresses, we will discuss the notion of redefining the “golden age”, ending with an assessment of the future of children’s literature. Throughout all of this, students will rely on an interdisciplinary approach to the materials at hand, incorporating it into every aspect of the course requirements.

Spring Term 2015

Postmodern Arts

Honors 355 CRN 12606

Bruce Goebel, English

MWF 10:00-10:50

During the past century, the United States has witnessed a series of aesthetic, political and philosophical struggles that have challenged mainstream American society to reexamine its values and its perceptions. From African Americans to beatniks to women to gays and lesbians to the homeless, activists have challenged traditional notions of what is good, true, and beautiful. At the same time, theorists from many different disciplines have engaged in a sustained critique of our claims to objective truth. Many writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers have responded to this destabilizing of truth claims and to the notion of what constitutes American culture, history, and identity by focusing on the personal, appropriating history, and by stretching the formal boundaries of traditional genres and language itself. In this course, we will examine a selection of contemporary literary, filmic, visual, and musical texts from this postmodern perspective, as well as corresponding elements of postmodern theory. In conjunction with a critical exploration of these texts, we will experiment with form and style in the formation of our own postmodern voices. In addition to a substantial reading list, this course requires a great deal of writing, much of it informal, yet nonetheless challenging.

White America

Honors 354 CRN 21385

Professor Vernon Johnson, Political Science Department

WF 1300-1420

Discussions about race in America are invariably conversations about various “peoples of color” (Native, African, Latino and Asian Americans). White Americans are usually discussed in relationship to these other groups in terms of the particular ways in which the historical regime of institutionalized white racism has oppressed or exploited them. But what’s up with White America? How have White people fared socioeconomically, politically and psychologically, as peoples of color have had successes waging the “war of position” for equity in American society? As the demographics of the country shift in this century, does our future prosperity and societal well-being hinge on the continued dominance of the white race that made this country great? Or, can a multicultural America be institutionalized, in which Whites take their place with confidence?

America’s Vision of War: The History and Ethics of Combat Photography

Honors 358 CRN 22442

John Harris, Journalism

TR 1400-1520

Photographs such as the raising of the Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima and the Saigon street execution have become touchstones in American history. At the time those photographs were taken, the media, the military, and the public recognized their power, but both photos have grown in prominence over time. Photographs are static, but the way in which they are appropriated by different segments of society is not. Combat photography is complicated, politically, ethically, and also for those who take the photographs, publish them and view them. This seminar will explore the history of combat photography in the United States through readings and by examining images of war. It also will consider the ethics of publishing photos from the battlefield. The purpose is to provide students a better understanding of why they see the images of war that they see.

Alien Worlds

Honors 359 CRN 22827

Ken Rines, Physics/Astronomy

MWF 1400-1450

Are we alone in the universe? Recent technological progress has transformed this question from a philosophical question to a scientific one. Astronomers have detected several hundred planets orbiting distant stars and found planets and solar systems completely unlike our own. Meanwhile, satellite missions have transformed our understanding of the potential habitability of planets and moons in our own solar system. Astronomers have found evidence of liquid water on Mars and even on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Is life possible in such extreme environments? The seminar will draw from many scientific disciplines. Students will use algebra and trigonometry to gain deeper understanding of planets and moons. Students will see how the scientific approach provides a coherent intellectual framework within which specific theories and models can be falsified with experimental data and new, more accurate models can be developed and tested. By understanding how current discoveries were made, we will explore how current technologies can be used to make additional leaps.

Page Updated 06.17.2014