Spring 2024 Thematic Seminars
List subject to change before registration begins
Abbott F 11am-1:50pm
This course is intended to show you how to use a digital camera to photograph everything from insects to elephants. The techniques from this class will equip you to extend beyond nature to product photography and other print-quality images. By the end of this course, students will be able to make publishable quality photographs for use in biological research, communications, and creative/artistic applications. This course will focus on using digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras, DSLR-related equipment, field and studio techniques, post-processing, and photographic workflow. Equipment can be rented from the library if you do not already own a camera or can borrow a camera from a friend or family member, or check one out from the digital media center.
West African Music and Culture
Caputo TR 9:30-10:45am
“Kiniwe? (Are you ready?) This seminar will combine hands-on musical performance* with academic readings, multi-media presentations, and critical discussions. We will examine West African culture through music and dance with a focus on the country of Ghana in sub-Saharan Africa. The course will begin with a brief overview of music and culture in Africa and quickly delve into music and dance traditions of selected countries and ethnic groups in West Africa. As we progress through the semester, we will explore ways in which West African music and dance have influenced performing arts beyond the continent.
*You do not need previous experience in African dance-drumming to do well in this course.*
Afrofuturism & Octavia Butler
Green TR 2-3:15pm
Octavia Butler came of age after the United States and Russia became the two most powerful countries in the world desiring to conquer new frontiers in outer space. Such a place was also on the radar of Butler, a once-shy African girl in southern California with ancestral roots in the American South. The Civil Rights movement was behind her formative years, but she deflected the sometimes-dreary conversations concerning race. After working odd jobs for years, she became a sci-writer who placed people of African descent in fantastical narratives, making some of them appear larger than life. She is now known is the Mother of Afrofuturism, a concept that captures how she and other writers as well as artists produce work addressing black pain alongside the hope that good can happen in some distant future for black folk, This course investigates her writings, biographical accounts of her life, and growing attention to her place in the literary pantheon and even Hollywood projects. Why Butler and why now?
Paleontology & Society
Klompmaker F 9-11:50am
In this course, we will explore the relationship between paleontology and our civilization. In addition to gaining a basic understanding of paleontological principles and its interdisciplinary nature, we will discuss how the ever-growing knowledge of ancient life is used in our society today, why paleontology is important, how it is communicated, how paleontology has influenced society and vice versa, ethical considerations involving fossils, the role of movies, and how paleontology in the media compares and contrasts with paleontological research. An emphasis will be placed on the roles amateur/avocational paleontologists and museums have. Activities outside the classroom will include a trip the exhibits of the Alabama Museum of Natural History, a trip to the extensive fossil collections of the UA Museums, and field trips to 2-3 fossil sites, including the famous Harrell Station Paleontological Site.
Sustainability as Relationship
McLelland MW 3-4:15pm
This seminar will introduce students to the breadth of Sustainability as a subject and will serve as a vehicle for further student research into specific topics within the context of Sustainability. Students will become acutely aware of the presence of connections, systems, interrelationships, and flows at all levels, from the very smallest to the very largest scales.
This course is about exploring the meaning of our humanity. Fundamentally, this course will present and explore the idea that humanity, as species and as idea, emerges from and exists within relationship. Embracing that understanding means coming to grips with a paradigmatic shift that recognizes humanity’s place within the Earth system. It means recognizing both that we belong and that we bear enormous responsibilities to all the communities — human and non-human — of which we are a part.
Like every other species on the planet, we are biological creatures. Alone among all our kin, however, we have evolved the kind of individual and collective consciousness from which civilization emerges. The power of that emergent phenomenon, and the suddenness, in evolutionary terms, with which it developed has allowed us to see ourselves for nearly all of our history as a species apart, masters of a world we live on, not in. The challenges we now face — both the existential threat of climate change and the unprecedented opportunities for transformation that that threat offers — flow directly from the urgent need to understand what it means to be responsibly human.
The nature of these questions and concerns are fundamental to all of us and cut across all disciplines and all courses of study. This seminar will strengthen students’ ability, regardless of their majors, to recognize and appreciate the power of connection, and will encourage them to be empowered by complexity, rather than overwhelmed by it.
Recipe for an Autobiography
Minicucci TR 11am-12:15pm
What is your relationship with food? What might seem like an easy question engages with questions of social, cultural, geographical, and economic identity, and asks you to consider where you’re from, the construction of your family, and the habits of food you grew up with. In short, it’s the culinary story of your life. In this class we’ll explore, investigate, and write about food, health, and history, and we’ll do through a lens of inquiry about the complications/missteps of thinking of food as monoculture in a country where immigration, diaspora, and cross-cultural connections are fundamental to its origins. We’ll be examining food from personal, historical, and investigative perspectives meant to give you a better grasp on your own relationship with the topic, your own writing about the topic, and a fundamental grasp of the breadth of American food writing.
Parker MW 3-4:15pm
The heart of this course will be the study of the Archetype of the Restless Wanderer in the movies and literature of adventure, with due love for the dead-sea-scroll-gold that is Melville’s “Call me Ishmael,” but with special focus on the words of western wanderers written post shadow-of-death World War I. Bilbo Baggins, for example: “Do we really have to go through?” Gandalf: “Yes, you do.” Samuel Beckett, for antithetical example: “…but with us the last journey is Soon Done. It is in vain you quicken your pace.”
So we will read classic adventure novels such as The Hobbit alongside works that challenge the very idea of ‘adventure’ such as Beckett’s “Texts for Nothing.” How does this literature shape our cultural understandings of the soul’s pilgrimage in modern society? Through a historical and philosophical lens, we will analyze depictions of the social & spiritual Self (C.G. Jung’s personality #1 & personality #2) in these works, as well as in contemporary films such as Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation and Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man.
Fold + Page: Hands on Book Arts
Quezada TR 5-6:15pm
This class is an exploration of book arts as a complete object that integrates content and form through a variety of hand produced mediums such as drawing, stamps, stencils, photocopying, along with computer imagery and text. We will explore a multitude of approaches to book design involving page layout, color, and physical composition of the book. The assigned projects and various classroom assignments will be the points of departure from which the class will examine the basics of bookmaking, page composition, conceptualizing, the nature of paper and folding, and explorations of type and image within these experiments. Each assignment will provide an opportunity to learn a new book structure for various applications.
Gender & the Long Civil Rights Movement
Royster TR 12:30-1:45pm
What scholars have termed the Long Civil Rights Movement, or the Long Black Freedom Struggle, strives to move beyond the classic phase of the Civil Rights Movement (1954-1965) and expand analysis and scholarship temporally, geographically, with an inclusion of lesser studied historical actors and catalysts. In this tradition, “Gender and the Long Civil Rights Movement” will begin during Reconstruction and move through the 1970s while exploring the role of gender within African American civil rights struggles. Though its foundation is in history, the course engages in interdisciplinary frameworks to interrogate gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, and region. The course will complicate traditional master narratives of The Civil Rights Movement and highlight the work of lesser-known women and activists.
Whiting TR 3:30-4:45pm
Few popular aesthetic phenomena have had as far-reaching influence as the mid-century American crime fiction and film collectively termed “noir.” This course is intended as an inquiry into noir fiction’s place in U.S. cultural production. We’ll examine a selection of noir fiction and film from the thirties, forties and fifties as well as a selection of criticism in order to get a sense of the movement’s characteristic formal and thematic elements. At the same time, we’ll concentrate on the ways in which these popular crime novels and films provided a medium for negotiating larger cultural issues and anxieties in pre- and postwar U.S. society. More particularly, we’ll try to chart some of the complex relations between noir’s concern with issues of transgression, deviance, punishment, evidence, and epistemology and the broader cultural concerns of masculine and feminine sexuality, changing class and economic structures, and the often submerged issue of race that are invariably present in noir works.
The Soul & The City
McWaters MW 4:30-5:45pm
In this class we will explore one of the oldest analogies in the Western philosophical tradition: The Soul and The City. Starting with Plato’s Republic and ending with Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, we will attune ourselves to how philosophers and artists have imagined our collective city life and what that has to say about our individual private lives.
• Painter Edvard Munch depicts the emptiness of urban living.
• Poet Charles Baudelaire celebrates how crowds impact his imagination.
• Author Daniel Defoe dramatizes the freedom the city offers people who want to change their identities.
• Author Theodore Dreiser views the city as a huge, brutal, industrial machine that systematically grinds up individuals.
• Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud believes that the city is like the mind: a receptacle for the past, as well as for hidden lives and passions.
Additionally, all students will be required to do a creative final project where they will explore and then write about Tuscaloosa. Let us go then, you and I…
Writing: Alphabets to Glyphs
Tokovinine TR 11am-12:15pm
Abc, Abjad, Abugida, Ogham, Kanji, Woj… Few technologies are as central to our modern lives as writing. Surprisingly, it is a recent human invention. Many cultures including some great civilizations of old relied on few written words or none at all. Billions of people learn to read and write. And yet how exactly writing works to help us communicate remains something of a mystery and a matter of scholarly debates. This course explores the tremendous diversity of world writing systems and shares the challenges and the thrill of deciphering ancient scripts. It reveals how every writing system was embedded in its linguistic, historical, and cultural setting.