University Seminars (USEMs): Spring 2014

University Seminars (USEMS) are designed to give first-year students the opportunity to develop critical-thinking skills and explore new ideas in an environment that encourages interactive learning and intensive discussion. The seminars are based on ideas that have changed the way we think about our relation to the world around us. The seminars are given by prominent faculty in departments and schools across the University, carry two or three hours of credit, and are restricted to 18 first-year students during the initial course enrollment. If space is remaining, second-, third-, and fourth-year students may enroll using a Course Action Form.

Refer to the Student Information System Course Catalog for a list of specific offerings each semester.

America through Russian Eyes
3 Credit Course
Tuesday 3:30-6:00pm
Clemons Library 322A
Yuri Urbanovich, Lecturer

This course explores American-Russian relations in their historical and contemporary perspective. We will employ the skills to tools of the historian, political scientist, geographer, psychologist, and student of culture, including literature and film, to analyze factors that have shaped mutual perceptions and misperceptions.

Australia
2 Credit Course
Monday 4:00-5:50pm
Pavilion VIII 103
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 identity is largely shaped by rural idealism.

To understand contemporary Australia, one must understand its past, both as myth and reality.  This course will look closely at some of the major events in Australian history, from the voyages of Captain Cook and the landing of the First Fleet at Botany Bay, through the excitements of the Gold Rush and Ned Kelly, the traumas of Gallipoli and the Great Depression, to the economic, political and social problems faced in the uncertain world of the new millennium.  We will use both traditional and non-traditional means to understand these events, applying the realist perspective of the historian, the subjective perceptions of the diarist and novelist, and the powerful imagery of the artist and the film-maker.

Clones & Genomes:  The New Biology
2 Credit Course
Thursday 2:00-3:50pm
PLSB 403
Michael Wormington, Associate Professor

Cloning humans, the creation of genetically identical individuals from differentiated adult cells, and once the exclusive domain of science fiction, has moved to the front pages of reputable newspapers and prestigious scientific journals.  In 1997, the first scientifically substantiated report of a cloned mammal, Dolly the ewe, fomented considerable debate and discussion, and evoked vigorous responses from politicians, pundits, professors, theologians, and entrepreneurs alike.  In the past fifteen years, Dolly has been joined by a plethora of cloned mammals.  A comparable method of gene transfer used to propagate these cloned animals has been successfully used to treat female infertility in humans and the generation and exploitation of human stem cells and “therapeutic cloning” continues to raise ethical and science policy issues.  The completion of a “first draft” of the human genome sequence twelve years ago has provided us for the first time with the genetic “blueprint” for our species.  This course will address the fundamental importance of cloning organisms to developmental and reproductive biology and the enormity of the impact of the human genome sequence on human biology.  Students will gain an appreciation for the intellectual and methodological challenges posed by these questions and the experimental approaches employed to answer them.  It is particularly timely, the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to John Gurdon, who pioneered the technology of nuclear transplantation to reprogram differentiated cells, and Shinya Yamanaka, who discovered the ability to directly reprogram somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells by altering the expression of as few as 4 genes.  As such, we will devote a good deal of discussion towards these pioneering achievements.  The applications of these technologies and their moral, ethical, and legal ramifications will be considered and discussed in a variety of contexts.  Topics and assigned readings will be derived from the scientific literature, books, magazines, newspapers and resources available online.

Construction of Self as Art Practice
2 Credit Course
Monday 10:00-11:50am
Pavilion VIII B002
Michele Wampler, Lecturer

This seminar will explore the act on constructing a self, a necessary creative process, and will examine its 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 lie person or event.

Dying, Death and Grief
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 2:00-3:50pm
Brooks Hall 103
Richard Steeves, Professor Emeritus

I have taught this course since fall of 2006.  This 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 goal is to explore different ways of thinking about what may truly be beyond our understanding, death.

Gender, Violence and Culture
2 Credit Course
Monday 3:00 – 5:20pm
Cauthen House  112      
Kathryn Laughon, Associate Professor

Popular discussions about violence against girls and women grossly exaggerate some forms of violence and seriously minimize others.  In this case, we will explore how we define violence, theories and why violence exists, and will contrast what the data tell us about how girls and women experience violence across their lifespan and how female-directed violence is depicted in newspapers, magazine and entertainment media.  We will examine how risk of violence varies according to the type of violence, the type of perpetrator, and the victims’ age, race, and class.  Students will critically examine how and why images of violence are presented and distorted in the news, songs, movies, and other media.  Course materials include academic journals articles, newspaper articles, fiction, websites, and movies.  Students will have the opportunity to observe court cases and meet with a prosecutor, victim advocates, survivors of violence, and sexual assault nurse examiners.

Journeys through Hell
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 6:00-7:50pm
Cauthen House 112
Dariusz Tolczyk, Associate Professor

Extreme experiences of evil and oppression – concentration camps, prisons, mass terror, and other forms of victimization -- have 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 backgrounds 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 Xialniang, Eugenia Ginzburg, Varlam Shalamov, Gustaw Herling, Tadeusz Borowski.  Films “Korczak” (by Wndrzej Wajda), “Life is Beautiful” (by Roberto Benigni), and “Interrogation” (by Ryszard Bugajski) will be viewed outside of class and discussed in class.

Renaissance Art and Science
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 5:00-6:50pm
Cauthen House 116
Francesca Florani

The seminar examines the relations between art and science in the Renaissance, when disciplinary boundaries were not as clearly distinct as they are today.  Interdisciplinary approach, it addresses specifically the work of past artists, architects and scientists who regarded images as fundamental to the observation and conceptualization of natural phenomena and to the transmission of knowledge.  Pertinent case studies include Brunelleschi’s machines, Leonardo da Vinci’s studies on optics, Andrea Vesalius’ book on anatomy, Galileo Galileo’s drawings of the moon, Kepler’s diagram of planetary motions, and Robert Hooks’ microscope.

Righting Unrightable Wrongs
2 Credit Course
Friday 1:00 – 2:50pm
Pavilion VIII 103
Franklin Dukes, Lecturer

From indigenous peoples pursuing a return of lands and sovereignty, to Japanese-Americans memorializing the experience of internment during WWII, to African-Americans seeking redress for slavery and its aftermath of segregation and discrimination, many groups have sought to right past harms and ongoing injustices.  Can individuals, communities and nations ever make right what appear to be irreparable wrongs?  This course examines the question for problems ranging from genocide and slavery to environmental contamination and racial discrimination.  The literature of reparations and restorative justice will be enhanced by examining specific cases within the instructor’s experience.  These include a site affected by severe environmental contamination and Japanese-American internment during World War II (Bainbridge Island, WA); a city coming to terms with killings of labor organizers and civil rights workers through a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Greensboro, NC); and Native American communities in Virginia seeking redress for degradation of traditional cultural properties.

The closing them of the class will be question of the legacy of slavery and segregation at the University of Virginia and its impact on the surrounding community of Charlottesville-Albemarle.

Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union
3 Credit Course
Monday 3:30-6:00pm
Celmons Library 322A
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.

Schools in Film and Practice
2 Credit Course
Monday 6:30-8:30pm
Monroe Hall 111
Stephen Plaskon

This USEM will explore current trends and issues in American Education in two distinct ways:  #1-by examination of film representations of schooling in American and #2-by actual work with students in after school or community agency programs in the local area.  In recent years, a number of significant documentaries have been produced exploring critical issues in American Education.  Films such as “Waiting for Superman”, “Teach”, “School”, and “Children in America’s Schools” have had a profound impact on educational policy and teacher recruitment.  By critically examining these films and linking in-class discussions to actual experiences with children in after school programs or community agencies, students in this USEM will develop an understanding of and appreciation for the complex issues facing public schooling in America.

The History of Books
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 12:30-3:00pm
Pavilion VIII 103
Michael Suarez, Professor

In this seminar, we will study the history of books from the invention of printing to “born digital” materials.  Every seminar will include both a discussion of the week’s required reading and a laboratory component in which students will handle and consider books, manuscripts, and related objects from the Special Collections of UVA and from UVA’s Rare Book School.  We will learn to think about books as physical artifacts, commodities, monuments, sign systems, and agents of cultural and social change.  We will examine the past and think analytically about the future of the book.

The Intersections of Art and Science
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 3:30-5:20pm
Rice Hall 120
Worthy Martin, Associate Professor
Matthew Eisler, Lecturer

What is science?  What is art?  Are they two separate worlds?  Or two cultures in the same world?  Do they divide up this world?  Is there anything outside of these two comprehensive realms?  To get a grasp on these issues, we will read and write about four themes:  Representing Nature and Art and Science, Ethics in Art and Science, Bodies in Art and Science, and Legal Issues in Art and Science.  By taking on specific case studies, including sonification of astronomical research, contrasting models from the 19th century to contemporary three dimensional modeling techniques, NASA images, design noir, and tactical media, this course will challenge the idea that objects and people can be sorted into categories of art/ artist or science/scientist.  By focusing on objects and people that appear to occupy spaces in both art and science or which seem to move between these two worlds over time, we will unpack the categories of art and science.  Guest speakers from the UVA community and beyond, as well as opportunities for hands-on engagement, will be integral to this interdisciplinary course.

The Intersections of Art and Science
2 Credit Course
Tuesday 3:30-5:20pm
Rice Hall 120
Worthy Martin, Associate Professor
Matthew Eisler, Lecturer

What is science?  What is art?  Are they two separate worlds?  Or two cultures in the same world?  Do they divide up this world?  Is there anything outside of these two comprehensive realms?  To get a grasp on these issues, we will read and write about four themes:  Representing Nature and Art and Science, Ethics in Art and Science, Bodies in Art and Science, and Legal Issues in Art and Science.  By taking on specific case studies, including sonification of astronomical research, contrasting models from the 19th century to contemporary three dimensional modeling techniques, NASA images, design noir, and tactical media, this course will challenge the idea that objects and people can be sorted into categories of art/ artist or science/scientist.  By focusing on objects and people that appear to occupy spaces in both art and science or which seem to move between these two worlds over time, we will unpack the categories of art and science.  Guest speakers from the UVA community and beyond, as well as opportunities for hands-on engagement, will be integral to this interdisciplinary course.

Trials of the Century
2 Credit Course
Thursday 2:00-3:50pm
Shannon 109
Jack Ford, Legal Analyst

This course is an examination of a number of the most famous trials of the past century, focusing on the legal significance, historical and political context, social implications, and media coverage surrounding each case.  Course materials shall include selected readings from a number of texts and actual trial transcripts, together with a series of videos providing extensive archival footage of the specific trials studied.  Class sessions shall include discussions of the facts of each case, the manner and impact of the media coverage, and the social, political, and legal consequences of the trial.  Students will be required to complete a mid-term examination representing twenty-five percent of the final grade, together with a final paper (15-20 pages) representing fifty percent of the grade.  The remaining twenty-five percent of the final grade shall be based upon class participation.