University Seminars - Fall 2019 Listing

America through Russian Eyes
USEM 1570 001
T 3:30-6:00 PM Shannon House Room 108
Yuri V. Urbanovich

This course explores American-Russian relations in their historical and contemporary perspective. We will employ the skills and 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. My teaching philosophy is based on the old wisdom that “a student is not a pitcher to fill, but a torch to light up.” I believe that an atmosphere of freedom, mutual respect and action propelled by thought rather than habit, promotes learning. I therefore place high value on critical thinking, and as a teacher, I view my role to be a catalyst for creativity by making the classroom an engaging, relevant, and transformational place for my audiences. Students will be encouraged to develop their own answers to the many riddles of this ambiguous and never indifferent love/hate relationship between the two countries. The course should leave students with broad factual knowledge of American-Russian relations and certain interdisciplinary clues to an understanding of them as well as an appreciation for the issues in today's headlines.

Death, Dying and Bereavement
USEM 1570 002
T 3:30-5:00 PM Shannon House Room 107
Richard Steeves

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 about those who have thought about our mortality seriously and extensively.

Falling Fron Infinity
USEM 1570 003
W 3:00-4:50 PM Minor Hall 130
Michael Plamer

This thing we call infinity fills our dreams and sparks our imaginations, yet it lies just beyond our reach, lurking in the shadows, evading our questions. Our curiosity compels us to ask: what is infinity? Whether it is something innumerable, something vast or eternal, it shapes our philosophies and religions, influences our arts and literatures, and drives our mathematics and sciences. William Blake sees infinity in a grain of sand; Vincent van Gogh glimpses it in starry nights; Gregor Cantor proposes infinities within infinities; and Stephen Hawking finds it in the dark corners of our Universe. In this class, we will explore the infinite and the infinitesimal by looking through the eyes of these and other great thinkers.

Trauma, Accountability and Healing
USEM 1570 004
T 3:00-4:50 PM Claude Moore Nursing Education Building 3020
Kathyrn Laughton

Gender violence is as much a public health problem as a criminal justice problem. Living with trauma has substantial, enduring and perhaps multi-generational effects on physical as well as mental health. As the magnitude of the problem of gender violence has gained prominence, much of our national discourse has focused on criminal justice and similar solutions: increasing prosecutions, adjudication within schools, and use of civil processes to hold offenders accountable. Yet, all objectives measures suggest that these remedies are ineffective and perhaps actively harmful, particularly for marginalized communities and communities of color. Many offenders are never held accountable and many survivors find the adjudication processes traumatizing. It is reasonable to consider that the police intervention and incarceration of offenders may contribute to community trauma that engenders more violence. In this course, we will use fiction, scholarly works, and other writings as well as field trips and guest speakers. Over the course of the semester, we will examine the trauma resulting from sexual and intimate partner violence and the ways in which is embedded in other forms of racial, social and historical traumas. We will explore how institutional betrayal sometimes replicates and sustains that trauma. We will think about the criminal justice system and explore alternative ways to address perpetration, include the controversies surrounding the use of restorative practices for addressing gender violence. Finally, we examine what it means to “heal” as individuals and communities.

Journeys Through Hell
USEM 1580 001
T 5:00-6:40 PM Cocke Hall 101
Dariusz Tolczyk

Extreme experiences of evil and oppression – concentration camps, prisons, mass terror, and other forms of victimization – have often been presented as opportunities for personal growth and moral 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 historic evil 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 interdisciplinary seminar, we will explore and discuss diverse cultural, religious, and intellectual roots of the conviction that extreme oppression can ennoble us. We will confront these traditions with survivors’ writings about twentieth-century totalitarian atrocities. In our explorations, we will ask some profound questions: What motivates human being under extreme conditions? Are human beings good by nature? How does mass-scale evil originate in history? How do totalitarian ideologies motivate and justify atrocities? 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. Reading 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 Xianliang, Eugenia Ginzburg, Varlam Shalamov, Gustaw Herling, Tadeusz Borowski. Films “Korczak” (by Andrzej Wajda), "The Killing Fields (by Roland Joffe), and “Hotel Rwanda” (by Terry George) will be viewed outside of class and discussed in class.

Contemporary Perspectives on Social Justice Movements, Action & Change
USEM 1580 002
T 3:30-5:20 PM New Cabell Hall 068
Lisa Speidel

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 citizenbased responses to injustice and inequality. This course uses feminist theory to focus on the concept of systemic oppression, intersectionality, agency and resilience and the ways in which seemingly divergent populations of people have utilized various strategies for achieving societal 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 as agents of social change, 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.