University Seminars (USEMS): Fall 2015

Australia
2 Credit Course
Monday 4:00-5:50pm
Pavilion VIII,  B002
Mark Thomas, Professor

This course will look at the history, culture and society of the land ‘down under.’  Australia is a land of opportunity and paradox.  It began as a penal colony and became the richest country in the world within a hundred years.  It is a country that has been independent of Britain for a century, yet still has the Queen as head of state.  It is a vast continent of only 15 million inhabitants, yet has remarkable regional diversity.  It has long been among the most urbanized of global societies, yet its cultural identify is largely shaped by rural idealism.

Construction of Self as Art Practice-2 Credit Course
Wednesday 9am-10:50am
Ruffin, Room 103
Claude Michelle Wampler, Lecturer
 
This University Seminar will explore the act of constructing a self, a necessary creative process, and will examine it’s potential as an art practice. We will concentrate on reading closely a select group of relevant philosophy, critical theory, performance theory, poetry and visual studies texts while looking at artists and art works (film, installation work, performance art, fashion design, dance, stand-up comedy, animation, internet-based video…) and discuss the performative nature of an invented disembodied self or art object that stands apart from its creator verses the performance of a live person or event.

Contemporary Perspectives on Social Justice Movements, Action & Change
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 2:00-3:50pm
Shannon House 108
Lisa A. Speidel, Ph.D.

The purpose of this course is to engage students in critical thought and discussion about social justice movements, both well-known and more obscure, which represent community and citizen-based responses to injustice and inequality.  This course uses feminist theory to focus on the concept of agency and resilience and the ways in which seemingly divergent populations of people have utilized various strategies for achieving recognition and change.  The course will incorporate several themes; exploring the role of identity and difference at personal and relational levels, the historical context of these concepts, and theoretical frameworks considered from local and global perspectives.  The aim of the course is to compel students to explore a sense of purpose and plan of action grounded in engaged scholarship and social responsibility.  The structure of the course includes lecture, readings, interactive exercises, films, discussion, guest speakers, critical written evaluation, and personal written reflection of the weekly topics.

Dance as Social Action
2 Credit Course
Monday 2:00-3:30pm
New Cabell Hall 594
Katie Schetlick, Lecturer

This seminar will explore dance's ability-on the stage, across the dance floor, and the street-to mobilize bodies and enact social change.  From Martha Graham and Katherine Dunham to the Lindy Hop and Flash Mobs, dance acts and allows us to experience new and alternative perspectives.  What is the political potential of a body in motion?  In what ways can dance be a catalyst for social progress?  Together through readings, discussions, weekly reflections, research, and group projects we will critically examine the capacity of dance to challenge, resist, and empower.

Dying, Death and Bereavement
2 Credit Course
Monday 3:30-5:20pm
Shannon House 109
Richard H. Steeves, Professor Emeritus

The course is an exploration of thinking about dying, death and bereavement.  Although western culture and American culture in particular has a reputation for being death denying, we do in fact confront images of and talk about death on almost a daily basis.  This course will not be a study about death and dying in the news and popular media, rather it will be about those who have thought about our mortality seriously and extensively.  The course will be divided into three foci:  (a) writers and poets and playwrights, (b) death professionals such as hospice workers, funeral directors and grief counselors, (c) social scientists who study homicide, suicide, bereavement and related topics.  The goals are to explore different ways of thinking about what may truly be beyond our understanding, death.

Journeys Through Hell
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 5:00-6:50pm
Pavilion VIII, 108
Dariusz Tolczyk, Associate Professor

Extreme experiences of evil and oppression – concentration camps, prisons, mass terror, and other forms of victimization – have been often been presented as opportunities for unusual personal growth and spiritual ascent.  From archaic initiation rites of diverse cultures through ancient Greek, Roman, and Biblical wisdom, as well as many literary traditions, the point has been stressed repeatedly that being exposed to suffering and oppression not only can make us better, stronger, and more enlightened human beings but, in fact, tends to be a necessary condition of such profound ennoblement.

Is this true?  Survivors of extreme experiences of the twentieth century, including the Holocaust, the Soviet Gulag, Communist prisons of Eastern Europe, and Chinese mind-reform camps ask this question while describing their own ordeals.  What can we learn from them about humanity, both in general and our own?  In this seminar, we will explore and discuss cultural, religious and intellectual roots of the conviction that extreme oppression can be ennoble us.  We will confront these traditions with survivors’ writings about Nazi and Communist oppression.  In our explorations, we will ask some profound questions:  What motivates human beings under extreme conditions?  Are human beings good by nature?  How does mass-scale evil originate in history?  How do diverse cultural background affect ways in which people react to these assaults against their humanity?  Our discussions will allow us to explore human experiences not directly accessible for most of us, and confront our own assumptions with discoveries of those who lived through extreme experiences.  Readings include short excerpts from the Bible, Plato, Juvenal and some more recent thinkers, as well as prison/camp memoirs by Elie Wiesel, Aleksandr Solzhenistyn, Zhang Eialniang, Eugenia Ginzburg, Varlam Shalamov, Gustaw herling, Tadeusz Borowski.  Films “Korczak” (by Andrzej Wajda), “Life is Beautiful” (by Roberto Benigni), and “Interrogation” (by Ryszard Bugajski) will be viewed outside of class and discussed in class.

The Origin of the Universe
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 2:00-3:50pm
Physics Building 218
Vittorio Celli, Professor Emeritus

Has the universe always existed or was it created from nothing?  Is it finite or infinite in extent?  Until the 1920’s, scientists by and large left these questions to religion and philosophy.  The Hubble found that the universe is expanding, as predicted by Einstein’s theory of General Relativity.  Now we have plenty of evidence that, as far in the sky as our instruments can see, it all started about 13.8 billion years ago with a Big Bang.  But was there something before the Bang, and how did it come about?  And is the visible universe only a minimal part of a much grander multiverse?  We will discuss what is known, what is still uncertain or speculative, and what appear to be the ultimate limits of human ability to know, with readings from Hawking’s “Brief History of Time”, web sites, and current articles in this rapidly evolving field.

Post-Soviet Political Challenges:  Nationalism, Ethic Conflict, Separatism and Irredentism
3 Credit Course
Tuesday 3:30-6:00pm
322 Clemons Library
Yuri Urbanovich, Lecturer

The end of the Cold War coincided with a wave of national revivals that spread across Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and became one of the notable consequences of the collapse of communist regimes.  This course will focus specifically on the origins of nationalism, separatism, secessions, and irredentist claims in the Russian Federation and other former Soviet republics.

Reading Art
2 Credit Course
Wednesday 2:00-3:50pm
Pavilion VIII, B002
John J. Dobbins, Professor

The expanded title of the course is this:  Looking at, Talking about, and Writing about Art.  The seminar is all about Looking, Talking, and Writing, and these critical activities are focused on art and architecture.  The goal is to enhance your skills in these three important areas because the ability to look carefully, talk coherently, and write effectively will serve you for a lifetime.

Researching History
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 2:00-3:50pm
Byrd Morris Seminar Room 318
Petrina D. Jackson, Head of Instruction and Outreach

This course will open the landscape of academic research to students and show them how to identify, analyze, document, and present primary source materials.  Students will work hands-on in a learning lab setting with rare books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, artifacts and born digital materials that represent a cross-section of themes and collections, such as early exploration in the Americas, the Civil War, World War I, scientific history, U.S. and Virginia politics, the antebellum South, slavery, segregation, eugenics, American literature, U.Va. history, artist books, and much more.  This course will culminate in an outreach program and reception for the U.Va. community, featuring students’ findings in the form of mini-exhibits and digital stories.  At the end of the course, students will have an introductory understanding of unfamiliar handwriting, contextualizing historical documents, reading photographs, properly handling fragile and rare materials, and communicating this understanding of primary source research their peers.  The structure of this course includes learning laboratories, readings, guest speakers, interviews of expert researchers, field trips, group discussion, peer-to-peer learning, and personal written reflections.  All sessions will draw upon the extensive collections of primary sources in the Albert and Small Special Collections Library.

Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union
3 Credit Course
Monday 3:30-6:00pm
322 Clemons Library
Yuri Urbanovich, Lecturer

This course is about Russia and the Soviet Union.  It is designed to explore some of this country’s major political themes of the twentieth century through an understanding of Russia’s history, culture, and politics.

The Science of Learning
2 Credit Course
2 Credit Course
Wednesday and Friday, Pavilion VIII, 108
Michael S. Palmer, Associate Professor

Learning is hard! Meaningful learning-the kind that last well beyond the test-is really hard.  You have to struggle through complex ideas, reconcile misconceptions, take risks, and continually practice the skills you learn.  Thankfully, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, and educational psychologist have done a lot of hard work to figure out how the brain learns best.  In this course, we will explore the brain, how it learns, how it’s motivated, what captures its attention, and why it shuts down, can’t remember, and fails to multitask.  Along the way, you will develop a concrete learning plan to help you successfully navigate even the most complex learning environments.

Storytelling and Women in Graphic Novels
2 Credit Course
Monday 2:00-3:50pm
Pavilion VIII, B002
Shilpa S. Davé, Assistant Dean and Assistant Professor

This course examines the evolution of the comics into the genre of graphic novels and the representation and production of women and their influences on literary and historical narrative, film, television, and new media.  We discuss the complex classifications around race, gender, nationality and “origin story,” with characters such as Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel and stories about growing up as a girl and young woman in historical and contemporary times in ward winning books such as Persepolis and Fun Home.  Using primary comic book texts with supplementary readings related to popular culture and visual studies, we will discuss how graphic novels express and frame cultural productions of femininity, gender, and diversity in contemporary culture.   

Systems Thinking and Sustainable Business
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 6:00-7:50pm
Robertson Hall 227
Mark A. White, Associate Professor

Sometimes we think we’re making the right decision, but that decision has unforeseen and unintended consequences.  Sometimes the collective action of rational and individual leads to irrational outcomes.  Sometimes our experiences blind us to alternative, better solutions.  Systems thinking – a disciplined approach to holistic problem-solving – offers promise for resolving these and other challenges.  As businesspersons in both the developed and developing worlds seek to incorporate sustainability concepts into their planning and operations, an understanding of “the big picture” will be critical.  This course introduces students to the fundamental concepts (mental models, casual loop diagrams, systems analysis) of systems thinking and provides practice in their application to real-world sustainability applications in business.

U.S. Asia Intercultural Relations
2 Credit Course
Wednesday 2:00-3:15pm
Pavilion VIII, 108
Harry Harding, Professor

This seminar explores the intercultural relations between Asia (especially China and Japan) and the West (particularly the United States).  It is not a standard course on international relations, focusing on diplomatic and economic interactions between nations.  Nor is it a typical course on comparative culture, examining the ways in which cultures are similar or different.  Rather, it will address the specific problem of cross-cultural influence:  the ways in which Asia and the West have influenced each other, whether intentionally or unintentionally, from early modern times to the present.

What is Architecture?
2 Credit Course
Monday 3:00-5:20pm
Campbell Hall 108
Lisa A. Reilly, Associate Professor

This seminar will explore the history of the built environment and its role in our daily life.  Seminar meetings will focus on a discussion of selected examples of architecture’s “greatest hits”, such as the Parthenon, the Taj Mahal and Stonehenge as well as site visits to local buildings and meetings with design professionals.