Seminars

Fall Term 2015

Financial Crises

Honors 350 CRN 40143

Brandon Dupont, Economics

TR 2:00-3:20

The causes and consequences of systemic financial crises are among the most important issues facing the developed world. In this seminar, we will explore both theory and historical experience to better understand these destructive events. We will begin by examining a range of theoretical explanations for financial crises, from Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis to the Austrian economics analysis of credit booms and subsequent busts. Once we have built a solid theoretical foundation, the seminar will then examine a variety of historical episodes including “Tulipmania” and the South Sea Bubble. Most of the seminar, however, will focus on the American crises of the 19th century (including, but not limited to, 1837, 1857, 1873, and 1893), the 1907 panic that prompted the formation of the Federal Reserve, the Great Depression, and the “Great Recession” of 2007-2008. We will also explore the conspicuous differences between the American and Canadian experiences with financial crises. While a background in basic economics would be helpful, it is not required.

The Time of Your Life: Work, Leisure and a Meaningful Life

Honors 351 CRN 42145

Charles Sylvester, Physical Education, Health, and Recreation

MWF 1:00-1:50

The Time of Your Life: Work, Leisure, and a Meaningful Life will be organized around the central theme of a meaningful life in relation to work and leisure. Drawing from the humanities and social and behavioral sciences, students will be challenged to critically evaluate film, music, and literature on work and leisure, as well as other relevant topics, such as consumerism, social justice, and the environment. Following Michel Foucault’s notion of “history of the present,” students will reimagine constructions of work and leisure for the purpose of creating or discovering a meaningful life for themselves. The appeal of this seminar rests in confronting the what, why, and how of a most precious and non-renewable resource— time. Assignments include an interview, submitting discussion questions, leading a portion of discussion, and keeping a journal. Students will also write an 8-10 page paper that examines and explains their view of a good and meaningful life using a variety of literature from the humanities and social and behavioral sciences. It will not be a conventional ‘term paper’ that gathers information simply for the sake of rearranging the same information. Rather, it is intended to “in-form” students, meaning they will use knowledge to form themselves as individuals.

Women and Gender in the Middle East and North Africa

Honors 352 CRN 42143

Siyamak Zabihi-Moghaddam, History

TR 1:00-2:20

In this course we will study the changing status and roles of women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) from 1800 to the present. We cover theories about gender, including gender similarities and differences and gender inequality, across a range of disciplines, such as biology, sociology, and psychology, and then examine how those theories apply to gender in the MENA region. Our study includes a general historical survey of the topic across the region. We then focus on specific geographic areas and themes. Religious and cultural values and traditions have shaped the position of women in the family and their participation in the life of society in MENA. We give due attention to culture and ethnic, religious and national diversity. Those unfamiliar with gender studies and history will gain a new perspective on social reality and acquire insights applicable in other contexts, including the West. This is an opportunity to see beyond common stereotypes and acquire a nuanced understanding of the range of social positions of women in MENA and the complexity of the issues that shape these. Class work includes a major research paper on a topic of your own choosing. In addition to the assigned readings, you will use at least 300 pages of additional material for this paper.

Winter Term 2016

Transgender Film and Media Studies

Honors 356 CRN 11792

Greg Youmans, English

TR 2:00-3:20

This course investigates the history of transgender media leading up to and culminating in the recent critical and commercial success of movies and television shows such as Dallas Buyers Club, Orange Is the New Black, and Transparent. We will begin with a series of historical essays, theoretical writings, and straightforward documentaries that introduce trans history, the basics of gender theory, and the proper language for engaging in discussions of trans experience. Then we will proceed through a series of case studies, exploring in depth some of the key genres, films, and television shows that have provoked critical debates, theoretical paradigm shifts, and social change. These case studies will provide opportunities for small-group presentations, in-class staged debates, and online discussions. The course will culminate in individual presentations of original research and analysis, and an 8-10 page paper.

Matters of Life and Death: Issues in Contemporary Bioethics

Honors 357 CRN 11527

Paul Dunn, Philosophy

TR 3:00—4:20

Tremendous advances in biomedical technology since World War II have presented individuals and societies with a host of novel and challenging ethical questions about nearly every stage of human life and development. Under what conditions should life support be initiated or withdrawn, and who gets to decide? Should people have a right to terminate their own lives under certain circumstances, and what obligations do medical doctors have to assist or prevent this? Is there a morally significant difference between killing someone and letting someone die in a medical setting? To what extent should parents be allowed to influence the genetic make-up of their unborn children? Do the rights of fetuses trump the rights of pregnant women? How should limited medical resources be allocated in a society or a particular health care setting? How should individual freedoms and responsibility relate to a person’s access to health care and public resources? In exploring these questions we will draw on sources from philosophy, the social sciences, and medical literature for a variety of perspectives. Class work will include short reading response papers, student-led discussions, and a major paper.

Spring Term 2016

Authors and Auteurs

Honors 353 CRN 21811

Nicholas Margaritis, English and Honors Program

MWF 2:00-2:50

We will study how one form of art is transposed to another: how masterpieces of literature from ancient times (Petronius) to contemporary (Burgess) have been an inspiration to the evolution of what is, if not the most creative, at least the most distinctive form of art in the 20th century. What are the decisions and processes involved in such transmutation – i.e. principles of selection (of incidents), rearrangement, omission, invention? We will first discuss each novel, story, or play intrinsically as a work of art; then discuss the respective film, both as a work of cinema and in comparison to its literary source. The narrative element common to both allows for coherent comparison, while the differences between a verbal medium and a visual highlight the peculiar and distinguishing elements of each. By what cinematic means does the film “translate” these verbal coefficients into visual ones? Is there a certain degree of untranslatability and, if so, what is its nature? To what degree – if the new organism is to be truly an autonomous work of art standing on its own merits – is the film obliged to be different from the book, or at least from that difference derive its peculiar excellence? It’s crucial to equalize both components as much as possible by ensuring that both book and film are first-rate: this is my main criterion of selection. These are some of the greatest films ever made, among the best films of the respective directors, as the books are among the finest writings of their respective authors. Authors include: Petronius, Shakespeare, Thackeray, Tommasi di Lampedusa, Strindberg. Film directors include: Kubrick, Visconti, Kurosawa, Fellini, Bergman.

Over My Dead Body

Honors 354 CRN 21242

Cornelius Partsch, Modern and Classical Languages

MW 11:00-12:20

The course takes its starting point from a seemingly undeniable fact: crime, criminals, violence, victimization, detection, and various forms of punishment are ubiquitous in contemporary cultural production. These representations of human suffering, criminal pathology, social disruption, and moral conflict appear incessantly and spectacularly on cinema and television screens and in bookstores, both in their fictional and "true" imprints, and therefore significantly inform our present cultural frame of reference. This course aims to provide a framework in which students may engage in a dialogue between their own context and a number of seminal texts on the topic by presenting a genealogical overview tracing the multifaceted and ever-changing discourses that have shaped and modulated the categories of "crime" and "punishment" from the late Middle Ages to the present. We will examine how these categories have been imagined, symbolized, appropriated, controlled, and disseminated and how they continue to inform today’s debates as well as political strategy and policy. We will, moreover, address and survey the “crime complex” from a number of different angles and in different modes, exposing the students to different ways of reading the texts, practices, signs, or events under investigation. We will be using primarily textual and visual forms deriving from disciplines such as literature, philosophy, sociology, biology, political science, and art history, in an effort to throw into relief intersections between discourses, common strategies of representation, and the production of “criminality.”

Metaphors, Memes, Myths and Meaning -- Adventures in Epistemology

Honors 358 CRN 22022

TJ Olney, Finance and Marketing

TR 12:00-1:20

As a meta-class, we will draw from a variety of disciplines to reveal tools of thinking that facilitate new and powerful approaches to problems in any field. Strongly theoretical readings by some of the most important thinkers of the last 40 years will provide the catalyst as we explore the meta-question: "How do we know what we know?" In this Seminar, grounded in systems theory, we will explore the ways in which meaning develops and adheres to events, ideas, and objects. We will consider how conceptual metaphor binds us to certain ways of thinking and how changing metaphors can change everything that we know. We will experiment with turning our ordinary sense of how we come to have ideas on its head as we consider the ramifications of memetic thinking. We will follow meanings as they travel from experience to object and object to symbol, to rest finally in our selves. Finally, we will regroup and attempt to synthesize these seemingly disparate avenues into a better way to understand Universe. For more information, see http://voyager.cbe.wwu.edu/courses/honors The course has a very heavy reading load and an expectation to read and prepare questions for each session from the material for that session. In addition you will write two papers, one very short, 4-5 pages and another (15+ pages) that uses the tools from the course to analyze a social issue. Student comments from similar seminars can be seen at http://voyager.cbe.wwu.edu/courses/honors/evals/index.html

Prowess Unlimited: The Portrayal of Science and Technology in American Media

Honors 359 CRN 22176

Dr. Sheila Webb, Journalism

TR 2:00-3:20

This course is designed for students who are interested in exploring how science and technology have been covered in American media. For most Americans, the reality of science is what they read/see in the press. In concert with the belief that science and technology are central to progress, the media have long glorified science and technology, portrayed scientists and entrepreneurs as exemplary Americans, and presented technology as an expression of American ingenuity. This seminar explores the social, historical, and cultural role coverage of science and technology has played; examines coverage since the Colonial Period to today; describes the narratives used to frame America’s prowess; and addresses the current challenges to America’s role as a leader in science and technology. The class draws from history, science and technology, cultural studies, sociology, and mass media, all explored through the lens of American media, particularly magazines.

Page Updated 05.12.2015