Fall 2019 Earlham Seminar Course Descriptions, Resources for Faculty Teaching First-Year Students | Earlham College
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Fall 2019 Earlham Seminar Course Descriptions

Most citizens of democracies agree that voting is a civic duty and an important aspect of political participation, so why does voter turnout vary so much from place to place? Should we be concerned about the state of democracy when voter turnout is low? How low is too low? And what measures are best at improving turnout, and what tradeoffs might be involved in taking these steps? If all politics is local, as former US Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill is credited with saying, it is certainly puzzling why so many people avoid their local polling place. This course will explore voter turnout in comparative perspective, and sample what political scientists and politicians (note: these are two very different groups of people!) have to say about voter turnout. We will also take a look at trends in voter turnout in Indiana and our own Wayne County, which has experienced some recent changes that might be expected to increase voter turnout (vote centers and early voting) and some changes that might be expected to diminish it (voter identification laws).

Jennifer Seely, Associate Professor of Politics

China is a country in transition, undergoing tremendous social change. It is home to 1.39 billion people and has the second largest economy in the world. How are the people of China experiencing their new place and power on the world stage? This course will explore some of the exciting contemporary challenges that confront China and the various peoples who live under this government. Using memoirs, films, novels, news media, and academic texts, we will explore how China views itself and how it interacts with the rest of the world. Topics that we may examine include China’s relationship to the environment; how sex and gender are constructed in China; the re-emergence of religious identities in China; and the ways in which minority groups in China struggle to maintain their cultures.

Marya Bower, Professor of Philosophy

This class examines the “culture wars” of the 1980s and 1990s. Anti-racist, feminist, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer activists were changing the way that people thought about love, sex, and family. At the same time, a growing evangelical Christian movement was using “social issues” – opposition to abortion, feminism, and homosexuality – to galvanize its members. The seminar focuses on the ensuing struggle between these movements over sexuality, religion, and art.

Ryan Murphy, Assistant Professor of History

We all eat, and most of us cook (at least something), but do you know the science behind what you do in the kitchen? Why is salt used in cooking? How can you avoid green eggs? Why does bread rise? This seminar will explore the chemical nature of food, including the water, fats and oils, proteins, and carbohydrates that make up what we eat. We will discuss how the properties of these compounds give rise to choices in preparation, preservation, and cooking of foods. We will also consider how food can be central to culture and identity and how lessons learned in the kitchen translate to life off the plate. The course will (of course) involve edible experiments with food.

Lori Watson, Associate Professor of Chemistry

This class explores how computers became such important technologies in our lives and imaginations. It focuses on the social, political, and cultural activities that prompted new ideas, techniques, interpretations, cultures, organizations, and professions of computers and computing from the nineteenth century to the present. This seminar will cover the contributors of modern computing Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, the nature of human computers, the rise of population-census technology in the early twentieth century, the relationship between the demands of war and digital electronic computing research, the introduction of digital electronic computers to Asia, and the historical changes of the interpretations of the Internet.

Hong-Hong Tinn, Assistant Professor of History

Over the past few decades, geologists have found themselves on the front lines of the environmental movement, providing important data on societal concerns ranging from climate change to natural hazard mitigation. In this class we’ll use the Richmond area as a natural laboratory to look at the principles of environmental geology, and how geologists gather data to influence governmental policy, to mitigate natural hazards, and to predict the influences of human activity on the environment.

Andy Moore, Associate Professor of Geology

How do stories teach us to think critically about the world around us? Why are health and care narratives culturally and historically significant? This seminar explores people’s stories about their health experiences, how they live and die in the U.S. healthcare system, and how this has changed over time. Through close readings, reflections, and collaborative research, we will discuss the historical and social contexts of health and well being for differently positioned individuals and communities.

Amanda Gray, Predoctoral Teaching Fellow in Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies

‘Animal rights’ activism sometimes claims that non-human animals should be afforded the same considerations as human animals? Does that mean human animals should cease keeping pets, the abolition of zoos, a moratorium on using mice in scientific experiments; charging people with ‘animal-slaughter’ for killing a mosquitos suspected of carrying the zika virus? This course will read texts in the history of philosophy and literature exploring the complexities of human and non-human animal relations with a view toward assessing some of the ground on which human animals have constructed rationales for such relations. Students will, as well, scrutinize some human attitudes toward non-human animals based upon how non-human animals are treated at animal shelters, horse barns, local farms, and in labs on Earlham’s campus.

Kevin Miles, Professor of Philosophy

One of the distinctive qualities of human beings is the capacity, indeed, the need, to have a sense of self or identity. But our life as an individual almost never happens in a social vacuum. We encounter those who are different from ourselves every day. How can we best engage with the diversity that surrounds us? While it sometimes leads to conflict and oppression, can it also lead to enhancement of our personal identity and enrichment of community? This course will explore the interplay of identity and diversity using texts, videos, Earlham’s Principles & Practices, personal journals, Websites and other sources.

Nelson Bingham, Senior Adviser to the College and Professor of Psychology

Written on the Greek temple of Apollo at Delphi were the words "gnothi seauton" --"Know Thyself." This seemingly simple command raised as many questions for the ancient Greeks as they do for us today: what criteria do we use to define who we are, either as individuals or as a community? how do the boundaries we set for ourselves serve to either connect us with or divide us from others? Our readings focus on the ancient writers who first explored these questions, such as Aristotle, Euripides, and Aeschylus. Using these texts as our starting point, we will explore the relevance of their ideas in our modern lives by discussing notions of personal identity and the way that identity is created and expressed in local communities such as Earlham College, the city of Richmond, and the environs of Wayne County, Indiana.

Susan Wise, Professor of Ancient and Classical Studies

This course will explore the human side of medicine and health care through engaging humanities texts in which patients and health care practitioners confront the biological and existential realities of illness, disease, and mortality. Students will encounter texts which provide personal narratives of individuals seeking healing, wholeness, and dignity in the midst of crisis and vulnerability. This course is especially tailored to students who are interested in being health care practitioners as well as those who want to more fully understand what it means to be human. The course fulfills one of the requirements for the Medical Humanities Integrative Pathway.

Vince Punzo, Professor of Psychology

This course explores the ways that Shakespeare persists in modern stories from The Silence of the Lambs to Star Wars to Fences. Along the way we’ll meet characters who’ve fascinated readers for centuries (like Hamlet, Ophelia, Richard III, and King Lear) and see how they’ve been adapted to modern books, films, and television.

Nate Eastman, Associate Professor of English

What is the knowledge most worth having? Judith Shapiro proposes, "You want the inside of your head to be an interesting place to spend the rest of your life." As compelling as this sounds, it does not seem sufficient. After all, we spend much of our lives interacting with others. This course will explore both what will make our lives inside our heads interesting but also what will make our living with others satisfying. Among the kinds of knowing we will explore are, knowing yourself, knowing the past, knowing beauty, knowing how to find love and friendship, and knowing how to do the right thing. We will even explore knowing what will bring us happiness. Our readings will include Strayed's Wild, Morrison’s Sula, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Morgan's, “Slavery and Freedom: The American Paradox,” and Sophocles’s Oedipus the King.

Steve Heiny, Research Professor of Classics

Which bodies and which lives matter in the world today? Transnational approaches look at the ways different spaces and different forms of identity weave together and interact with forms of oppression. We will read some foundational essays that struggle with how to end hierarchies of oppression and discrimination. We will then analyze novels and poetry from around the world through the perspectives of those essays. We will examine how Richmond and Earlham intersect with the texts and with the world. Students will also gain experience in revising their own writing.

Kari Kalve, Professor of English

Who’s Ur Pop?: Pop Culture and Music of Richmond, IN and the Hoosier State Why do we have preferences? What effect does popular culture have on society? Is past, present and future popularity important to the livelihood and attraction of a community? How does Richmond and the state of Indiana weigh in? In this seminar we study and research preferences, people, places and the music of Indiana- answering the question "Who’s Ur Pop?” Through select readings, discussion, written/in-class presentations and community outreach events, students will gain insight into the rich fabric of pop culture in the Hoosier state. Specific attention will be giving to Gennett Records and the popular icons whom recorded in Richmond during the early 20th century.

Keith Cozart, Instructor of Music

This course is expressly designed for SF/fantasy geeks entering Earlham. In academic terms, we’ll mobilize a conceptual toolkit from media studies, game studies and fan studies. More prosaic, we'll explore what it means to be a first-year college SF/fantasy geek as you build your own "new world" in Richmond, IN. To do so, we'll explore both canonical and fan world-building across SF/fantasy media (e.g. tabletop RPGs, eSports, films, fiction), and in so doing, analyze world-building processes and issues (e.g. constructions of race, gender, the alien). You’ll complete digital media projects and we hope to visit the Ohio Renaissance Festival equipped with theoretical lenses on such sites as built "fan" worlds. Be forewarned: Anyone expecting a blow-off class is in for **epic** grief.

Neal Baker, Library Director

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