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First-Year Seminars

One of your courses will be a first-year seminar. In your portal you will list eight first-year seminars you are interested in taking. Students in the Honor Scholar Program are assigned first-year seminars so they do not need to request one.

Each first-year student’s fall schedule will include a first-year seminar. A first-year seminar is a small, discussion-based class that fosters academic discussions where students are encouraged in the exploration of ideas, careful reading of texts, and critical thinking. A first-year seminar is writing-intensive and serves as the first level of DePauw’s writing curriculum. In most cases, the instructor is also the students' academic advisor until they declare a major.

First-Year Seminars are not intended to be the first step toward a specific major or career. Instead, they are designed to open new areas of interest and to allow students to think in new ways. Most seminars are interdisciplinary, introducing ideas and ways of thinking from more than one discipline (e.g., political science and environmental studies or chemistry and forensics).

For seminar requests, you will list eight seminars you are interested in taking. Students in the Honor Scholar Program do not request first-year seminars because they are assigned to their seminars.

 

Fall 2024 First-Year Seminar Descriptions

 

 

Alternative Autobiographies

Deborah Geis 

What’s your life story? And how do you plan to tell it? We’ve all seen and read conventional stories that go from infancy to old age, with all of the “significant events” in between, and many of these are powerful and inspirational. But what if we go outside the box and consider unconventional ways to narrate our lives? This course is designed to explore alternative memoir methods that have received increasing attention in the postmodern era: short-form memoirs, visual and performance art memoirs, graphic memoirs, food memoirs, and performance poetry. In addition to giving short oral presentations, you’ll be expected to do some intensive writing that uses a variety of approaches, including the personal essay, the research essay, literary analysis, and other forms. 

 

American Stories: Exploring History Through Magazines

Sarah Rowley 

Popular magazines are rich sources for doing history, and in this class, students explore modern U.S. history (focusing on the mid-20th century) by reading old magazines, from glossy lifestyle publications to women’s magazines to radical underground publications. By taking time to carefully analyze editorials, advertisements, articles, and photo spreads, students learn how to place a historical object in its context and how to ask questions for further research. Topics may include consumerism, queer representation, gender roles, sexuality, cosmetics and beauty standards, the Cold War, the culture of work, race and ethnicity, dating, youth culture, and the nature of celebrity. This is a hands-on course that emphasizes primary source analysis, learning to ask questions like a historian, writing, and intellectual curiosity. 

 

Art, Education, and Revolution: Sensations of Struggle

Derek Ford 

What might be the relationships between art, politics, and education? What makes art political or educational? What exactly are art, politics, and education? In this course, we’ll collectively study these questions from two angles: 1) the framework of capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, and  their forms of oppression like racism; and 2) the context of actual struggles against these various systems, some of which have failed or succeeded and others of which are still in progress. To do so, we’ll examine each as economic, social, and political systems as educational and aesthetic orders. In other words, we’ll study how they’re reinforced or challenged based on what and how we do—and don’t—sense ourselves, others, and the world, and imagine other ways of sensing. As it turns out, these systems aren’t merely “ideas” but are ideologies, or collective “sensual orders” in which certain things, well, just make sense. 

 

The Art of Living Well

Amity Reading 

For millennia, the greatest thinkers and writers in human history have grappled with the question “what does it mean to ‘live well’?” For Greek and Roman philosophers, the question was centered on the concept of “the good life” or “the examined life.” But what is “goodness”? What needs to be known or practiced to live well, and how does “examining” our lives lead to fulfillment? For some, living well means living with restraint and moderation, seeking to limit bodily pleasure in order to purify the heart and elevate the mind. For others, living well means quite the opposite: getting the most out of our short time on Earth and seeking pleasure wherever it can be found. For secular activists as well as devout practitioners of many world religions, living well requires working actively to improve the lives of others instead of focusing solely on the self. In today’s world, we are often told that “happiness,” “balance,” and “wellness” are central to a life well lived. But what is “wellness” as we use the term today, and how should we process the reality that our physical bodies will inevitably become old, unwell, and broken over the course of our lives? This course explores all of these ideas and more as we seek to define for ourselves what it means to “live well.” Course readings will come from a variety of textual traditions across the globe and throughout human history, and will include selections from philosophical, religious, and literary texts. Authors and texts will range from the famously canonical (Plato, Cicero, Augustine, Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Du Bois, Morrison, selected Buddhist k艒ans and sutras, excerpts from the Tao Te Ching and the Quran, excerpts from the Viking Eddas) to the commonplace (present-day podcasts about daily gratitude exercises, American self-help books like Brianna Wiest’s The Mountain is You, record-breaking bestseller The Fault in Our Stars by John Green). 

 

Bob Marley Through Different Mirrors: Music, Popular Religion & Expressive Cultures

Leslie James 

Through different mirrors, prisms, lens, this course provides a variety of pathways and interpretation of the iconic Reggae superstar and legend, Bob Marley. It seeks to access the various modes of being, life, religious, artistic, cultural and other imaginaries he offered during his lifetime and the enduring contemporary impact of his musical archive. Through engagement with Marley’s life and work, the course exposes students to the intersections between music, popular religion, and cultural expressions. In addition, it aims to interpret Marley as a significant messenger and vessel who dealt with the complex issues related to religious, political, economic, race, and cultural history in the Caribbean and world through music. 

 

Bold Conversations in an Age of Polarization

Town Oh 

This class will introduce you to a wide range of perspectives on a given issue and encourage honest and constructive conversations with those you disagree with (be the author, other classmates, or myself). The overarching goal is to encourage the freedom of inquiry which is at the heart of a liberal arts education. You should take this course if you are interested in having open, honest and critical conversations about various socioeconomic and political issues that may be contentious and controversial. 

 

Building a Better World: Social Justice Praxis in America

Christina Holmes 

Abolition and suffrage, marriage equality and Janet Mock’s #GirlsLikeUS hashtag activism, DREAMERS, criminal justice reform, climate justice—this course introduces students to some of the most important social movements in the United States. Drawing on the fields of sociology, history, political science, art, and communication, we examine the successes and failures of social movements in their efforts to build a better world for all of us. We bring theories of oppression and justice, identity, and coalition to bear on our in-depth historical review of activism in the twentieth century as well as to our analysis of more recent and emergent social movements. We will look at and practice tactics such as forum theater and culture- jamming art production. Students will leave the course with increased social movement literacy, passion for causes that grab them, and some strategies for becoming change agents themselves. 

 

Campus Sustainability 101

Jeanette Pope 

In a finite world, the needs of our ever-growing population and rampant consumption strain the resources of the earth and threaten the environment. Due to their complex and global nature, modern environmental problems like climate change, water scarcity, or mass extinctions can be overwhelming and really, really scary. Many individuals who care about both other people and the planet around them are left wondering: “what am I to do?” Fortunately, the practice of sustainability – which balances the needs of people today with those of people in the future – can provide solutions to these challenging problems.

This seminar will explore both the theoretical concepts explicit in different definitions of sustainability as well as consider how to put these ideas into practice. Because there is no universally accepted definition of sustainability, students will critically examine crucial ideas central to the concept of “sustain” (as in “to make last”) through readings and discussion to ultimately to build a class definition over the course of the semester. Examples of these ideas include markers of environmental quality; the role of social justice; and organizational principles of systems thinking. The seminar also includes an applied aspect in which students will be able to incorporate sustainability practices into their own lives while also learning about how to participate in positive change at a local, regional, and even global scale.

Whether you take it as a blessing or a curse, there can be no doubt that we live during interesting times. One thing that sets 亚洲麻豆精品graduates apart, though, is their ability to think critically, creatively, and compassionately, and therefore do what needs to be done. As the foundation of a 亚洲麻豆精品education, this seminar will both challenge and support students in a balance that will helps them grow into the person they want to be.

 

Controversy and Contemporary Art

Lori Miles 

This course will investigate ways to approach and interpret contemporary artworks that are shocking or controversial in nature--art that surprises, confronts, angers, or repulses the viewer. After introducing the aesthetics and ethics involved in making meaning of difficult images, we will begin investigating the purpose of "shock" in contemporary art. Through case studies and discussion, we will examine works that are controversial by their context; placement, site, or timing of installation.  We will, of course, also discuss content-driven controversies; those artists who intentionally choose to work with difficult, often shocking subject matter. Topics covered in these discussions will include obscenity, racism, violence, blasphemy, and politics. During the semester, we will be discussing various social, aesthetic, and legal issues that shape our understanding of shocking imagery in order to define the role of controversy in contemporary art.  

 

Creating Community and Building Belonging

John Mark Day

Belonging - the feeling of being accepted for being your authentic self - is a basic human need. People will do a lot to find it, in both healthy and unhealthy ways. Rather than waiting for belonging to find you, in this course we'll work together to build belonging. We’ll evaluate the science behind belonging, authenticity, and connection; understand the ways that communities are built and grow; and create strategies to build our own belonging and provide it for others at DePauw.

 

Discovering Human Performance: A Research Experience in Kinesiology

Brian Wright 

Kinesiology is a young academic discipline which involves the study of physical activity and its impact on health, and human performance. If you enroll in this course, you will become a member of a team that seeks to acquire usable knowledge through the act of  “doing.” Our team (i.e. our class) will use the disciplines of human physiology, biomechanics, and psychology to thoughtfully design and perform research within the field of kinesiology. To accomplish our investigation activities may include, but are not limited to identifying problems in the field of kinesiology, developing research questions in human performance, creating testable hypotheses, thoughtfully planning methods for data collection, exploring techniques used to analyze information we collect from participants, formulate conclusions from our results, and communicate our findings to others on campus. We will also devote time in this course towards discussions and activities that address how to effectively work with others and explore how to be successful navigating 亚洲麻豆精品as a new student. Note: students should expect to participate in physical activities (i.e. moderate exercise) as part of our process. 

 

Entrepreneurship and Trade in Africa

Aldrin Magaya 

The rise of entrepreneurship in Africa has been phenomenal in recent times, and it has caught the world's attention. The Fintech, renewable energy, e-commerce, health tech, and agribusiness sectors have grown significantly. Africa's young, growing, and innovative population has played a substantial role in this development. This demographic sector also serves as an expanding market for local and international goods and services. However, is entrepreneurship a new occurrence on the continent? What role did women play in creating and managing businesses? This course will cover the history of production, commodity consumption, and business practices in different African communities. We will also learn more about Africa's expanding market for local and international goods and services. 

 

French Short Stories

Carrie Klaus 

What is a short story? A piece of fiction that can be read in a single setting? That focuses on one moment or a unified set of actions? Something else? We’ll begin this first-year seminar by talking about different ways of thinking about stories and by sharing some of our favorites. We’ll spend the rest of the semester reading lots of stories originally written in French (we’ll read English-language translations), from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first. We’ll read stories about love, religion, science, fairies, giants, ghosts, motorcycles, and more. You’ll do lots of writing, both informal and formal, and, at the end of the semester, will have the opportunity to write and share a story of your own! 

 

Harm Reduction: HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and the Opioid Epidemic

Alicia Suarez 

Should people with HIV/AIDS be legally required to wear a tattoo showing their status? You may be shocked that this question was ever seriously discussed by lawmakers in the United States. How has the stigma of HIV/AIDS and HCV affected the experience of people with it as well as public and health care responses? Has criminalizing substance use disorder (as we have done since the 1980s “Drug War”) worked? What is harm reduction? How might a harm reduction approach be a better approach to these issues? This course will challenge you to think critically about these issues in a way that you have likely not considered before. 

In this course, we will use a socio-cultural approach to understand HIV/AIDS, HCV, and the opioid epidemic with a specific focus on the United States. We will use a sociological and historical frame to explore the rise of patients and people who use drugs as activists/experts, the role of sexual and religious politics and moralism, and public health versus criminal approaches. The role of public sentiment in perpetuating stigma and discrimination towards these issues is a prevalent theme in the course. For example, how does race, class, gender, and sexual identity shape the changing meanings, experiences, and public/political responses? A course goal is for students to understand the role of how social structure and culture affect the construction of these issues. 

We will also focus on the role of social movements, such as ACT UP in the 1980s regarding HIV/AIDS, that have affected change specifically amongst affected people. In this spirit, we will participate in social justice work around these topics. We will do some volunteer work with local organizations and have speakers join our class. This will also provide a glimpse into how non-profit organizations function and center the voices of people with lived experiences. Finally, we will sponsor an awareness campaign on campus for World AIDS Day in December. 

 

History of the Italian Renaissance

Michael Seaman 

Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Machiavelli. These individuals immediately bring to mind the Italian Renaissance, an age that saw an explosion of human ingenuity and creative expression as well as economic development and social experimentation. The period witnessed one of the greatest flowerings of culture and concentration of genius the world has ever seen. In this interdisciplinary seminar, we will uncover the histories of Florence, Venice, Rome, Milan, Urbino, Siena, and other centers of Renaissance culture, read the works of Renaissance writers, and study the artistic achievements of this influential period. In class, we will focus on close readings in translation and hold constructive discussions of the main problems raised in a variety of Renaissance texts in an effort to uncover the principle political, economic, social, literary, and artistic movements that shaped the age. The topics explored in the course include the Florentine republic途 Petrarch and the development of Humanism途 The Renaissance debate over the ideal form of government途 Venice, the Most Serene Republic途 The impact of religious reformation on theology and politics途 The Renaissance Papacy途 Women in Renaissance Italy途 Renaissance education途 Neoplatonist Philosophy, and the end of the Italian Renaissance, to name a few. Students will gain a thorough understanding of the principles of Renaissance humanism and an appreciation for the supreme artistic achievements of the age. No prior knowledge of Italian history or culture is required. Students may wish to enroll concurrently in ITAL 171, First Semester Italian, which fulfills one of the university’s two language course requirements (but are not required to do so). 

 

Medieval Marvels

Lyle Dechant

Monsters! Magic! Witches! Miracles! The medieval world is full of things that make us wonder. This seminar will explore the meanings these marvels had for the people who believed in them, feared them, and told stories about them—but also the meanings they have for us today. Through close reading of source texts, careful study of artworks, and vigorous class discussion, we will work to understand how individuals like Hildegard of Bingen, objects like the miraculous Mandylion, and social movements like the 15th-century witchcraft persecutions challenge our most fundamental categories of identity, community, and reality. As an art history class, students will specifically consider how visual culture both constructs and threatens to upset these categories. Along the way, students will hone their composition and revision skills through a variety of writing exercises, including analyses of primary sources, critical engagements with scholarly articles, formal analyses of works of art, and introductory research assignments.

 

Mexico City

Glen Kuecker 

This course invites students to the world of critical thinking by introducing them to a megalopolis, Mexico City. The foundation of our introduction comes from two texts, Hernandez’ Down and Delirious in Mexico City and Goldman’s Interior Circuit. The chronicles of Mexico City serve as case studies of everyday life in the megalopolis. To analyze these texts, students will learn several core concepts from urban studies that build out from the consideration of everyday life to the larger urban processes that constitute Mexico City as a megalopolis. Students will gain insight about the challenges of 21st century urbanization, which raises the core puzzle for our collective work:  to what extent will cities help or hurt us weather the crises of the 21st century. Exploring what Mexico City teaches us about that puzzle brings us to learning complex systems theory and how it informs our thinking about urban studies but also our interpretation of everyday life in the megalopolis. Finally, we put our evolved thinking about Mexico City into a conversation with ideas from peace and conflict studies, especially the place of non-violent conflict transformation within the processes of 21st century urbanism and everyday life in a megalopolis. Students will produce a semester-long essay that provides their interpretation of the Hernandez and Goldman texts based on their use of concepts from urban studies, complex system’s theory, and non-violent conflict transformation. Students taking this first-year seminar are invited to apply to participate in an Extended Studies course in Mexico City that will take place January tern 2024. 

 

Music, Identity, and Culture

Elissa Harbert 

Music plays a vital part in every culture in the world as well as in our own lives. This First-Year Seminar will delve into how music works in society and the roles it plays in constructing personal and cultural identities. We will discuss some of the historical and cultural factors that have influenced musical composition and performance over the past 1,000 years. For example, we will consider how musical traditions shape cultural memory and identity, with case studies including West African Djeli (Griot) tradition, Tuvan throat singing, and American pop music; how popular music and dance styles around the world have upheld and subverted gender norms; and how it has been used in political movements such as the US Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War protests, and the Black Lives Matter movement, among others. We will explore music as a personal, cultural, and political force that both unites and divides. You will develop the skills to listen more deeply, to write and speak fluently about music, and to reflect on music’s roles in your lives and identities. No previous musical experience or ability to read music notation is necessary for this course. 

 

9/11 and the War on Terror

Jeff Kenney 

This course explores the historical and political origins of 9/11 and America’s subsequent global response—the War on Terror (WOT). It begins with the backstory: the rise of political Islam—both moderate and militant—in the Middle East, the militant turn from the “near enemy” of regional governments to the “far enemy” of the West, and the successful Afghan war against Soviet occupation, which served as an inspiration and training ground for al-Qaeda’s global jihad. Then the focus turns to America’s decades-long WOT that resulted in two U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with temporary occupations and faltering attempts at nation-state building in both countries; massive loss of life, especially among local populations; expenditure of trillions of dollars; and the creation of an extra-legal detention center at the Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) to hold “terrorists.” This event history provides the opportunity 1.) to discuss and debate Islamist ideology, the rise of global jihad, and Western foreign policy in the Muslim world; and 2.) to wrestle with some important and uncomfortable questions: Did U.S. foreign policy play a role in 9/11? Was the WOT necessary or legal? Is America safer as a result? Is the Middle East more stable? Has “terrorism” diminished? 

 

The Olympic Games

Robert Dewey 

This class will focus upon the “modern games” developed by Baron Coubertin and first staged in Athens in 1896. Fundamental questions posed by the class include the following: What is “Olympism” and how have its values shifted? In what ways do social class, race, gender and perceived ability intersect with questions of who competes, when and how? How do the Olympics illuminate politico-historical contexts? What are the rituals and meanings of Olympic symbols and spectacle? What is the International Olympic Committee and how has it deliberated over sportsmanship, cheating scandals, athlete protests and the tensions between amateurism and professionalism? What has been the impact of print, broadcast and more recently, social media on the conduct of the games and their meanings? 

 

On the Art of Obsession: An Introduction to Poetry

Eugene Gloria

What are subjects that constantly occupy your attention? This could be mild infatuations to full blown obsessions. Many great literary works were inspired by writers’ obsessions. In discussing her process of writing, Susan Sontag said: “You have to be obsessed. It’s not something you’d want to be—it’s rather something you couldn’t help but be.” In our First Year Seminar, we will harness our obsessions as a catalyst to read and write poems. In order to lend depth and structure for our poems for this course, we will read closely the works of contemporary poets, and from our readings, examine their subjects, writing styles, and how they carefully select their words to express complicated emotions. As a final caveat in further describing our First Year Seminar here’s the poet, Dean Young:

“People use language for two reasons: to be understood and not be understood. Poetry operates within this tension. To be understood yearns for community and adheres to conventions and repeated decorum. That may seem important, but it can also encourage us to push away strangeness and beguilement that often leads to surprising turns and interesting discoveries.”

I think our job is to find ways to surprise not only our readers, but also our self in our writing. Consider this FYS as a college-level introduction to “Creative Thinking” because our course’s allegiance is to the imagination and how to harness that as a necessary component in our college career.

 

Philosophy and Climate Change

Rich Cameron 

鈥婥limate change poses significant philosophical problems. For example, it poses problems in epistemology or the theory of knowledge: what do we know about climate and how do we know it? How do we explain the gulf between the scientific "consensus" on climate change and public skepticism? And so on. Moreover, it raises problems about who we are (e.g., what responsibilities do we have and why?) and what it means to be an educated person in the 21st century. Can we learn to imagine living well yet sustainably, what will we need to know in order to live well in a climate changed world? The course will introduce students to research from a wide range of fields and in both the physical and social sciences and responses to the climate crisis of many forms. But our primary focus throughout will be on climate as posing existential questions each of us needs to grapple with: who am I and what should I do, given the world as it is? 

 

Queer Representation

Victoria Wiet 

Associated with the “closet” and once called “the love that dare not speak its name,” queer sexuality has a long history of being thought of as something that cannot or refuses to be represented. Yet, ever since the term “homosexuality” was coined in the late 19th century, writers and artists have explored how to depict queer desire for the purposes of both self-expression and community building. This course will examine these depictions, paying particular attention to the connections between how queerness has been represented and developments in queer social history in the US and UK from the 1890s through today. The first unit, “Foundational Representations,” will begin with the writing of the so-called “first modern homosexual,” Oscar Wilde, before focusing on the arts and literature of the two capitals of early gay culture, Bloomsbury in London and Harlem in New York. Later units will consider the coded ways queer desire was depicted during the conservative backlash of the mid-20th century, from Hollywood comedy to the elite art world; how writers and filmmakers imagined queer history after the rise of Gay Liberation in the 1970s; and finally, the recent proliferation of queer coming-of-age stories among the shortlists for prestigious literary and film awards, such as the short stories of Carmen Machado and the film Moonlight. 

 

Reading and Writing the Holocaust

Julia Bruggemann 

The Holocaust was one of the defining experiences of the 20th century and the memory of its horrors continues to haunt our imaginations. In this course we will examine the background, development, and the historical and moral impact of the Holocaust in Europe and America. We will use historical documents and historical scholarship, but also literature, autobiography, films, etc. specifically with an eye to developing our reading and writing skills. 

 

Recasting Narratives

Chris White 

Contemporary writers often work in (and from) a number of different genres. Novels, books of nonfiction, and plays are adapted for film and tv; newspaper articles and short stories become plays; and poetry can lead to longer expressions, evolving into drama, prose, or short films. This hands-on writing, literature, and performance course will explore the transformative process that takes place when one form becomes another. Students' final culminating projects may range from research papers/presentations to the creation of short plays or screenplays to the production of short films based on preexisting work.  

 

Seduced by a Machine

Gloria Townsend 

Why are we seduced by a machine? One of the central issues of our age contemplates the allure of an inhuman world, the virtual world of a computer. We will explore answers to the seduction question by traveling four different paths, asking more and more questions before we uncover our informed -- but individual -- answers to the question that includes the course's title.

1) Historical:  How have mechanical advances and technology changed society over the centuries? Is technology our friend or our foe? The central questions we pose in the 2024 seminar lie in a larger context that we will investigate.

2) From Seduction to Obsession:  Why is modern technology seemingly irresistible? 

3) Where are the women?  Why is the IT profession dominated by white males? The FYS now morphs into a service-learning project (we will work with local school children), as we answer the gender question before turning to our last and ultimate question.

4) Will I Be Seduced by a Machine? 

 

STORY MAPS: Dissecting the Structure of the One-Hour Television Pilot

Samuel Autman 

The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that every drama must have a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s the classic three-act structure. Traces of this narratological wisdom is embedded in the stories of the TV pilots that launched such shows as The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and Scandal. The creators of these successful programs all follow a classic story map. Using TV pilots, students will uncover, dissect and analyze these storytelling ingredients that also apply to books, movies and novels. For their final assignment they will map out the structure of a beloved fairly recent TV pilot. 

 

20th and 21st Century Germany Through Film

Inge Aures 

Films and images can have a powerful impact and shape the viewer’s perspective of past and current events. This writing intensive seminar offers an introduction to Germany through the lens of German filmmakers. Can we rely on German films as a "truthful" depiction of past or current events? What is a film’s relation to reality? What do these films want to accomplish? Are we presented with "accurate" portrayals of life in Germany, or do these films create a new reality? How do these films appeal to our emotions? In what ways do these films contribute to our understanding of Germany and her history? 

German film has influenced international film makers, but particularly shaped our image of Germany, her history and her people. We will analyze a wide variety of films, some entirely fictional others based on real events. We will be looking at these film makers work within the larger socio-historical context of German history, politics, and culture. The focus of the course will be on specific films and film directors as well as on historical events that marked German history in the 20th Century such as the Weimar Era, World War II, the Cold War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. To help us understand these events we will read background information on German history and theoretical articles about German film. 

 

Understanding Culture Through Play: The Anthropology of Video Games

Angela Castañeda 

Have you ever wondered what video games can teach us about ourselves and the culture we live in? In this course, we will examine video games as complex cultural artifacts that reflect and shape the societies that produce them. Video games are much more than just entertainment, and through an anthropological lens, this course explores how video games encode cultural values, beliefs, identities, and practices. Key questions include: How do video games act as spaces for identity formation, community building, ritual, and meaning-making? How are race, gender, class and other cultural categories constructed and negotiated through gameplay? This course takes an experiential approach - students will actively play games and make connections with key concepts in anthropology. Students will also learn the ethnographic method of digital participant-observation as well as practice taking field notes to research video game culture. The goal is to understand how video games can provide a window into contemporary digital life and enrich our comprehension of culture. No previous knowledge of anthropology or gaming is required. 

 

The Western Film: American History, Mythology, and Ideology

Jordan Sjol 

For over a century, the American West has had a special place in the history of film, as frontier robbers and sheriffs, cowboys and Indians, horsemen and wagon trains filled silver screens. Quickly, a full-fledged genre emerged, with its own forms, expectations, and ideological commitments. Yet, almost as soon as the conventions of the Western were established, they were called into question. Whether in the revisionist “anti- Westerns” that subverted classical traditions; in the Western’s international travel to Italy, Russia, and Japan; or in the recent domestically-minded strain of Neo-Westerns, the genre has been seen as a potent site to negotiate the complex meanings of Manifest Destiny, uncompromising individualism, racial displacement, and American cultural hegemony.

In this course, we will consider Western films as historical documents that reflect profound developments in cultural ideologies around the globe and in specifically American mythmaking. Considering topics including race, gender, class, violence, community, and enterprise, we will discover how struggles over the fate of the genre are also struggles over shared values. We will see what we can learn about ourselves, our cultures, and our world from these movies.

 

Wild Style: Hip Hop Aesthetics

Marcus Hayes

Through reading, writing, and multimedia engagement, Wild Style: Hip Hop Aesthetics, explores the music, dance, and visual culture associated with the Hip Hop genre. This interdisciplinary course seeks an understanding of the subcultural tendencies that led to the creation of Hip Hop as well as the commercial tendencies that transformed it into a global cultural phenomenon. Students will gain an understanding of aesthetic philosophy as it relates to Hip Hop, African Diasporic/African American Music and Dance traditions, and the visual culture of graffiti, fashion, music videos, and films.This course will feature guest speakers from a variety of scholarly disciplines, event and performance attendance, and offers potential opportunities for off-campus field work to experience interdisciplinary work in Indianapolis and surrounding communities. 

 

Writing Human, Writing Well

Lynn Ishikawa

What is the value of learning to write if a machine can do it for you? Since the release of ChatGPT in November 2022, students and scholars alike have been experimenting with the potential of generative AI and grappling with both the value of fundamental skills like reading and writing and with what the use of AI tools portends for education, work, and even the future of humanity. This course explores potential ethical uses of AI tools while also demonstrating the value of human writing as fundamental to critical thought, knowledge creation, learning, and wellness.

 

You and Your Genome

Sarah Mordan-McCombs 

We are all made of 3 billion base pairs of DNA, the blueprint for building an entire functioning human being. How do we know what the letters are, and how do we know what they all do? The Human Genome Project was completed nearly 20 years ago, and in that time our understanding of the human genome has grown immensely. With that knowledge comes technical advances in genetic manipulation, growth of personalized medicine, and huge databases of genomic information. However, we must always stop to consider the ethical implications of this knowledge. In this course we will first learn about the human genome from a technical and scientific perspective, then we will ask ourselves what it means for our entire "blueprint" to be stored in a database and then manipulated. What are the repercussions in terms of medicine and health? What are the social repercussions? Finally, we will investigate how DNA-based techniques are being used to address complex issues of race in American history.