2014-15 Offerings by Semester

« Winter 2014 Spring 2014 Fall 2014 »


CRN: 22283

Darwinian Medicine

Darwinian Medicine
Is it better to fight a fever or let it run its course? Why do pregnant women get morning sickness? In this course, we will look at modern humans and their health from the perspective of evolutionary biology. Students will be introduced to the basics of evolution by natural selection and will learn to interpret morphological, biochemical and behavioral aspects of humans and their pathogens in this context (such as how and why the level of virulence of a disease changes when human habits change). Readings will include Why We Get Sick, Evolving Health, and numerous papers from the primary literature. 3 hrs. sem./disc.


CRN: 22288

Godel, Escher, Bach

Gödel, Escher, Bach
At the turn of the 20th century, mathematics took an introspective turn when its practitioners attempted to organize reasoning itself into an axiomatic system of theorems and definitions. The results were provocative and ended in a kind of paradox when logician Kurt Gödel proved that all formalized logical systems would necessarily contain some unprovable truths. Reading Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach, we will discover the connections among seemingly disparate fields of mathematics, visual arts, and music. Our journey will pass through the philosophical worlds of Lewis Carroll, Artificial Intelligence, non-Euclidean geometry, Zen Buddhism, and crash head-on into questions about the nature of human consciousness and creativity. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 22265

Holocaust Landscapes

Holocaust Landscapes
The Holocaust was a profoundly geographical event that caused mass displacement and migration, destroyed or fundamentally changed communities, and created new places to control, exploit, or kill millions of people. In this seminar we will focus on material and mental landscapes – the places and spaces – of the Holocaust, particularly as victims experienced these landscapes, and how such landscapes have been selectively re-imagined as sites of memory. History, geography, autobiography, and visual sources will provide material for class discussion, research, and writing. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 22264

Sophocles and Athens

Sophocles and Athens
What can we learn from Sophocles, the tragic playwright whose life spans the Athenian 5th century BCE? Why do his tragedies—composed against the background of Athens’ incredible achievements, its radical democracy, but also its ever more aggressive foreign policy—reflect so poignantly on the human condition? In this seminar we will trace Sophocles’ effort to probe the mysteries of the soul, both of the individual and of the community, and to confront the riddle of human existence. In addition to studying his seven surviving plays in their historical context, we will also consider their profound impact on later thought and art, including opera and film. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 22273

The Ramayana

The Ramayana/: A Tale of Love, Valor, and Duty*
The Ramayana (‘Journey of Rama”) is an ancient, yet still powerfully relevant, Hindu epic that narrates the story of Prince Rama, a divinely human avatar (descent) of the cosmic deity Vishnu. Rama’s ultimate destiny is to triumph over evil, but his victory is fraught with moral dilemmas about fate, loyalty, duty, gender relationships, the definition of an ideal man and ideal woman, and the conflict between good and evil. Close readings, analysis, and discussions of the epic will be augmented with imagery drawn from different media, both historical and contemporary. Connections will be made to contemporary politics and social issues. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 22274

Food Battles

Food Battles: A Critical Look at Food in Our Lives
The development of high yield agricultural practices have allowed people to migrate en masse to cities with the opportunity for different lifestyles. It also meant the birth of “big business food” and some highly unethical practices. In response, the government established the FDA; but does it truly help the health of the nation? In this course we will examine commercial food from field to table, giving special attention to controversies such as genetically modified food, use of pesticides, food additives (including sugar and salt), and animal welfare issues. We will discuss the FDA’s role in safeguarding the public and whether the food industry is anything more than a profit-making business. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 22275

Gender & the Making of Space

Gender and the Making of Space
In this seminar we will investigate the complex relationship between gender and architecture, examining how the design of the built environment (buildings, urban spaces, etc.) can reinforce or undermine ideas about the respective roles of women and men in society, from the creation of masculine and feminine spaces to the gendered nature of the architectural profession. By looking at both visual evidence and textual sources, we will also uncover how the social construction of gender roles and gendered spaces are—and continue to be—inflected by race, class, and sexuality.