University Seminars (USEMS): Spring 2017

America through Russian Eyes (USEM 1570-008)

3 Credit Course
Monday, 3:30 – 6:00 PM
Clemmons, Room 322
Yuri Urbanovich, School of Continuing and Professional Studies

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.

Australia (USEM 1580-001)
2 Credit Course
Thursday, 4:00 – 5:50 PM
Pavilion VIII, Room 108
Mark Thomas, Professor of History

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.

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 filmmaker.

Dying, Death and Bereavement (USEM 1570-005)
2 Credit Course
Thursday, 3:30 – 5:20 PM
Pavilion VIII, Room 108
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.

Genocide and Mass Killing (USEM 1580-003)
2 Credit Course
Tuesday, 2:00 – 3:50 PM
Pavilion VIII, Room 108
Jeffrey Rossman, Associate Professor of History

One of the defining features of the 20th century was the repeated use of genocide and other types of one-sided mass killing by states against internal and external populations. In this seminar, we will explore these phenomena from a theoretical and historical point of view, with particular attention to ethnic and racial genocides (e.g., Armenia, the Holocaust, Yugoslavia, Rwanda) and the mass killings that occurred under Communist regimes (e.g., Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia). While the experience of victims will be of central concern, we will also examine the experience and motivations of perpetrators, the explicit and implicit goals of the genocidal state, and the response -- or lack of response -- by the international community. Requirements include readings of about 150 pages per week, active participation in class discussions, two four-page analytical book reviews and a final eight-page analytical review essay.

Issues in American Education (USEM 1570-002)
2 Credit Course
Monday, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
New Cabell Hall, Room 064
Stephen Plaskon, Associate Professor of Curriculum, Instruction & Special Education

The course will explore contemporary issues in American Education PreK-12 in a novel and unique way.  Using film, video, personal storytelling, interviews, discussion, debate, and with the addition of an actual school visit, the instructor will expose the class to some of the major issues facing public education in America today.  After learning about major issues facing American Education today, participants will be assigned issues to explore and research.  Students will present their assigned issues reading and research in the weekly class sessions.  The class as a whole will discuss and debate each issue and offer solutions and suggestions as to how each issue might best be addressed.

Journeys through Hell (USEM 1580-002)
2 Credit Course
Monday, 3:30 – 5:20 PM
New Cabell Hall, Room 064
Dariusz Tolczyk, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature

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.  This course will also include a strong experiential element.  The students will meet and talk with Mr. Julian Kulski, a survivor of Nazi camps, a veteran of the World-War II anti-Nazi resistance, and the author of The Color of Courage: A Boy at War.

Les Misérables Today (USEM 1580-004)
2 Credit Course
Wednesday, 2:00 – 3:50 PM
Rotunda, Lower West Oval Room 102

Why does Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables resonate so much with so many today?  In this highly interactive course, we will explore how that epic novel and the renowned musical it spawned lead us to consider a remarkable variety of ethical dilemmas, from the personal to the international, with a strong emphasis on social justice for the economically disadvantaged—the “wretched.”  Your personal interests will help define our discussions and will prompt your final project on the relevance of Les Misérables today. This semester we will have the extraordinary opportunity of talking in person with the creators of the musical Les Misérables, Claude-Michel Schönberg (composer) and Alain Boublil (librettist), who will be UVa artists-in-residence. We will also have direct access to the world's first exhibition of Hugo’s novel in caricature from the private collection of French Hugo scholar and Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, Gérard Pouchain.

Nurses and Global Disasters (USEM 1570-006)
2 Credit Course
Wednesday, 3:30 – 5:20 PM
Arlene Keeling, Professor of Nursing
Barbara Wall, Professor of Nursing

Using a global, historical perspective, this course introduces the student to nurses’ response at the local, regional and federal level to select man-made and natural disasters that occurred from the late 19th century to the present.  It analyzes the nurses’ role as part of a collaborative, medical and public health response, situating the response in the context of race, class and gender and within the larger social, political and economic context.  The course also introduces students to the use of primary source data historical research.

Preventing and Responding to Gender Violence (USEM 1570-004)
2 Credit Course
Monday, 2:00 – 4:00 PM
Shannon House, Room 108
Kathryn Laughon, Associate Professor of Nursing

This class is organized around three big questions:  What do we know empirically about gender violence and how does that compare to popular depictions of such violence?  Who is at risk for gender violence and who does that compare to news reports and fictional accounts of violence?  How do our current laws and policies fit with what we do and don’t know about best practices to prevent and respond to gender violence?  We will explore how we define violence, what the experience of violence is for woman and girls, and how this experience intersects with race, class, sexual orientation and other characteristics.  We will contrast what the data tell us about how girls and women experience violence across their lifespan with how female-directed violence is depicted in newspapers, magazine and entertainment media.  We will critically examine how current policies related to violence against girls and women serve victims of violence.  Students will work with the Sexual Assault Resource Agency to carry out projects to further the work of the local Sexual Assault Response Team.  Course materials include academic journal articles, newspaper articles, fiction, websites, and movies.  Students will have the opportunity to observe court cases and meet with a prosecutor, judge, victim advocates, and a sexual assault nurse examiner.

Righting Unrightable Wrongs: Repair and Reconciliation (USEM 1570-001)
2 Credit Course
Friday, 2:00 – 3:50 PM
Pavilion VIII, Room 103
E. Franklin Dukes, Distinguished Institute Fellow, Institute for Environmental Negotiation

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 that 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 theme of the class will be the question of the legacy of slavery and segregation at the University of Virginia and its impact on the surrounding Charlottesville-Albemarle community. This year, the class will work with the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights to help develop an equity audit protocol that would be used on a voluntary basis by organizations that wish to understand how dynamics of race manifest themselves, as well as ways to improve racial equity.

The Cultures of Outer Space (USEM 1570-003)
2 Credit Course
Tuesday, 3:30 – 5:20 PM

Lisa Messeri, Assistant Professor of Engineering and Society

The night sky is through to be the home of aliens, gods, or nothing at all.  This class considers how outer space, at different times and for different people, reflects back aspirations and anxieties.  This class draws on ideas in anthropology and science studies to examine the extraterrestrial.  We will read social science texts alongside scientific and fictional accounts of space science and exploration.  By studying outer space we will in fact be studying ourselves.

The Ukraine Crisis: East and West (USEM 1570-007)
3 Credit Course
Tuesday, 3:30 – 6:00 PM
Clemmons, Room 322
Yuri Urbanovich, Lecturer

The Ukrainian former president’s (Victor Yanukovych) decision in November 2013 to pull out of an association deal with the European Union sparked massive street protests that eventually led to his downfall. In March 2014, Russia reacted by annexing the Ukraine’s autonomous republic of Crimea and unrest erupted in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian sentiment is strong. The Ukraine crisis has brought relations between the West and Russia to their lowest level in a quarter century. This USEM course investigates domestic political, social and economic questions, including issues of identity based on historical glories and traumas; foreign policy orientations; relations with NATO, U.S. and the EU; the influence of Russia; and possible solutions to end the crisis in the near future.