2014-15 Offerings by Semester

« Winter 2012 Spring 2012 Fall 2012 »


CRN: 22289

The Journey Within

The Journey Within: The Spiritual Pursuit in Literary and Mystical Traditions
A fundamental teaching of the world’s religious traditions is that the source of love, the fulfillment of life, and the treasure of heaven are found within. With texts from antiquity to the present as our guides, we shall explore themes such as the concept of the soul, the discovery of a deeper self, the spiritual awakening, and the nature of the mystical experience. We shall consider questions related to religious and psychological experience such as: Where does the self reside? Why is it important to “know thyself”? What is the state of consciousness described as enlightenment? How does one rise above the sorrows and struggles of the world? Finally, we shall try to understand how turning within does not mean fleeing from the world, but engaging in the world around us in a more profound and meaningful way. Readings will include works from the Upanishads, Plato, Marcus Aurelius, St. Teresa of Avila, Tolstoy, Emily Dickinson, Herman Hesse, and J.D. Salinger. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 22309

Ideas of Friendship

Literature and Philosophy of Friendship
In this seminar, we will explore major works of literature and philosophy from earlier centuries on the topic of friendship to see how they support or challenge our own notions of what defines a “true” friend. What are the obligations of friendship? Is it like love or antithetical to it? How is friendship between the sexes different from same-sex friendships? Can an enemy be a friend? Can only humans be friends? What does our choice of friends say about us? Readings include Aristotle, Seneca, Plutarch, Augustine, Aquinas, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Bacon, Kant, and Emerson, as well as selected texts in non-European traditions. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 22310

Chaos, Complexity, Self-Org

Chaos, Complexity, and Self-Organization
How does the complex emerge from the simple? Can complex phenomena, such as life and consciousness, be reduced to a purely physical description in terms of “fundamental particles” interacting through “fundamental forces”? Are there phenomena so complex that they cannot be reduced to a more fundamental level? Questions such as these lie at the heart of complexity science, a new conceptual framework for understanding emergent complexity in the natural and social sciences. Texts will include James Gleick, Chaos, and M. Mitchell Waldrop, Complexity. Students will learn to write simple simulation programs using Mathematica software. Students with high school algebra, pre-calculus, and some familiarity with computer programming will be comfortable with the content of this course. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 22280


Disability, Difference, and Society
In this course we explore the varied and evolving meanings of disability—as condition, lived experience, and analytical framework—and the contexts that shape these meanings. Dominant issues, including representation, education, employment, bioethics, institutions, community, and policies and rights, will serve as our touchstones for research, analysis, and learning. We will pay rigorous attention to the links between disability and other significant social categories, such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, gender, sexual orientation and identification, and age. While the United States is highlighted in this class, transnational and global components will figure significantly as well. Course materials and assignments offer different disciplinary approaches and writing styles, fostering both individual and collective work. Films, on line exhibits, music, advertising, popular media, and the material world reflect the wide range of sources on which this course draws.


CRN: 22311

White People

White People
White people are often invisible when it comes to having a race. In this course we will begin by considering the formation of whiteness in post-Civil War America. We will read histories of whiteness, such as Grace Elizabeth Hale's Making Whiteness and David Roediger’s The Wages of Whiteness, as well as consider important milestones in whiteness, from the films Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind to the blog "What White People Like." Finally we will use essays, blogs, photographs, and videos to make white people at Middlebury visible by documenting how they represent themselves through belief systems, language, dress, and rituals. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 22312

Values and Objectivity

Values and Objectivity
Objectivity is desirable in many forms of inquiry, including science, law, and scholarship. Many think that objectivity requires that inquirers’ social, political, and moral values play no part in their judgments. But is this the correct link between objectivity and values? If so, how much of our current inquiry is genuinely objective? If not, how would it be possible to speak objectively about values? Does objectivity presuppose its own set of values? Are some social and political arrangements (e.g., democracy) more effective in securing objectivity? 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 22313

The American Art Museum

The American Art Museum
Americans are awash in a sea of art. Only some of it, however, finds its way into museums where it is seen in temporary exhibits or permanent collections. Who decides what gets in or stays out? Why do museums have most of their collections hidden away? What roles do auction houses, art dealers, and collectors play? What determines the monetary value of art? In this seminar we will probe answers to these questions and create an exhibit of objects that tells us much about ourselves but is unlikely ever to be seen in a museum. Our primary text will be The Art Museum From Boullée to Bilbao by Andrew McClellan. 3 hrs sem.


CRN: 22314

From Synapse to Self

From Synapse to Self
The discoveries of psychology and neuroscience challenge long-standing Western conceptions of personal identity, the permanence of the self, and the nature of free will. Can networks of neurons alone store memories and give rise to thought, agency, and moral behavior? Are all thoughts and behaviors biologically determined? Is our sense of a unitary, permanent self an illusion? In this seminar we will explore these questions; examine the relationships between nervous system function, mental processes, and personal identity; and survey the development and influence of "brain science" by reading and discussing the works of scientists, philosophers, novelists, and artists. 3 hrs sem.