History of Cuban Culture

Dr. Stephen Schwab – TR 9:30-10:45 AM BUI 301-001 CRN 

This course begins with Christopher Columbus’ discovery of Cuba in 1492, but the major focus is on the period beginning with Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain in the 19th century and the U.S. intervention in this struggle in 1898 and the period of U.S. involvement in Cuban affairs to the present day.


Photo by Suzy Hazelwood

Intro to Screenwriting

Dr. Alan Lazer– TR 3:30-6:20 PM BUI 301-011 CRN 49921

Have you ever wondered why some movies make you dream, while others just put you to sleep? In this class, we will seek to answer that question by developing an understanding of dramatic screenwriting. This class will focus on how a scene works by exploring the fundamentals of dramatic storytelling such as conflict, character development, and antagonists. In addition we will develop the ability to analyze creative writing, and improve it through rewriting. Even if you aren’t a film buff or aspiring screenwriter, advancing a knowledge of narrative can be useful in your everyday life: you can figure how to create a more compelling paper or presentation, as well as identify how the stories swirling around social media, the news, and other sources may be squirming their way into your subconscious. There are stories all around you, so how about you try writing a few yourself this coming Fall?

Photo by Bence Kondor

Quest Literature

Nathan Parker – MW 3-4:15 BUI 301-009 CRN 41380

The heart of this course will be the study of the archetype of the hero’s quest in the mythology and literature of adventure. We will read classic adventure novels such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, as well as stories that challenge the very idea of ‘adventure’, such as Samuel Beckett’s “The Expelled.” We will examine the defining aspects of how the literature of adventure shapes our cultural understandings of current society. Through a historical and philosophical lens, we will analyze representations of identity, belief, and class in these novels, as well as contemporary films such as Katherine Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker and David Lynch’s The Straight Story.


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Zen Buddhism and Radical Approach to the Arts

Dr. Hank Lazer – M 2:00-4:50 PM BUI 301-008 CRN 44703

The course will involve an introduction to Zen Buddhism, relying on Shunryu Suzuki’s classic Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, and at least one other book (perhaps Octavia Butler’s Dawn).  We’ll learn and practice zazen (sitting meditation).  Through the lens of Zen practice, we will explore a range of experimental arts/artists, with particular emphasis on contemporary music, performance art, environmental art, dance, conceptual and found art.  Artists we might consider include George Quasha, John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Goldsworthy, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Linda Montano, Marina Abramovic, Javanese Gamelan music, Bill Viola, and Kazuaki Tanahashi.  Students will both discuss the art we examine and make some related artworks of their own.  And we’ll do our best to learn to be present.

Photo by Zachary DeBottis

Sustainability as Relationship

Dr. Jonathan McLelland– MW 1-2:15 PM BUI 301-006 CRN 44464

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, the 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 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.

Contagious Ideas: Epidemics in American Culture

Dr. Mairin Odle– W 3-5:50 PM BUI 301-010 CRN 46385

How has America been shaped by epidemics, past and present? How have contagious illnesses been represented and understood?  In this 300-level course, we’ll focus on the cultural impact of disease, ranging from the smallpox and yellow fever outbreaks of the colonial era to the catastrophic 1918 flu, the AIDS crisis, and the current COVID-19 pandemic. Exploring governmental, medical, and human responses to mass illness, this class will address the relationship between epidemics and cultural change.

The Art of Otherness

Dr. K. Merinda Simmons– TR 2- 3:15 PM BUI 301-005 CRN 43734

This course will survey avant-garde art forms from the 1950s to the present, particularly by black and queer artists and thinkers who staged critiques of dominant ideas about human subjectivity and linear time. We will make connections among what might seem like unlikely conversation partners: Cecil Taylor’s pioneering free jazz and Donna Haraway’s cyborg subjectivity; Sun Ra’s space travel and punk feminism’s zine culture; Jacques Derrida’s archive and Janelle Monae’s queer Afrofuturism. Their formulations of racial and sexual personhood–deemed “other” and situated at the outskirts of the category Human–meld man and machine, offering a radical departure from the man-versus-machine paradigm that is still very much up and running despite our increasingly globalized and interconnected world. These artists and thinkers help us consider how the past gets imagined and how the future gets remembered. Or, as poet Douglas Kearney puts it, “I imagine I been science fiction always.”

Public Trust and the Systems of Science

Dr. Alexa Tullett– TR 12:30-1:45 PM BUI 301-004 CRN 43733

How much should the public trust science? To address this question, this course will focus on the concept of epistemic dependence – the reliance on others, usually those with expertise, as a source of knowledge. We will examine this concept as a spectrum, with unquestioning gullibility at one end, and skeptical paralysis at the other. We will also assess the extent to which systems of science – including incentive structures, publication systems, and academic institutions – warrant the epistemic dependence of the public. Throughout our investigations we will consider widely accepted scientific ideas alongside those dismissed as conspiracy theories or pseudoscience and ask how the public is to distinguish between the two. In a self-reflective manner, this course aims to foster critical thinking about critical thinking by engaging in inquiry regarding the optimal level of skepticism towards science. At a systemic level, it aims to explore the nature of contemporary science, and imagine ways it could be constructed differently.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko


Dr. Fred Whiting– TR 3:30-4:45 BUI 301-002 CRN 43965

Few popular aesthetic phenomena have had as far-reaching influence as the American crime fiction termed “noir.” This course is intended as an inquiry into this fiction’s place in U.S. cultural production. We’ll examine a selection of noir novels from the late twenties, thirties, forties and fifties 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 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 issues of transgression, deviance, punishment, evidence, and epistemology and the broader cultural concerns of changing class and economic structures, sexuality, and race that are invariably present in noir works.

Photo by Marcus Lange

Evolution: WHY?

Dr. Cristina Robins–TR 11-12:15 PM BUI 301-003 CRN 41379

The theory of evolution is the cornerstone of biology and paleontology. This class will explore various adaptations of fossil organisms, both peculiar (8-foot long millipedes?!) and familiar (whales), through the study of functional morphology, fossil reconstructions, and modern biomechanics; we will also discuss how these various adaptations can affect the perceptions we have of the permanent/transient nature of the world. No prerequisites.