Blount 301 Seminars for Spring 2021 

Information Technologies: World Scripts from Ancient Civilizations to Modernity

Tokovivine – MW 3:30-4:45 PM BUI 301-013 CRN 

Few technologies are as central to our modern lives as writing. And yet it is a comparatively recent human invention and many cultures including some great civilizations of the past relied on few written words or none at all. This course explores the tremendous diversity of world writing systems and shares the challenges and the thrill of investigating ancient and not-so-ancient scripts. It reveals how every writing system was embedded in its linguistic, historical, and cultural setting.


Photo by Elti Meshau

American Gothic

Whiting – TR 3:30- 4:45 PM BUI 301-012 CRN 20401

If monsters are a persistent feature of nearly all societies and historical periods, their features and shapes are profoundly variable.  Contemporary American monstrosity finds one of its most compelling forms in a figure that emerged in a variety of legal, scientific, literary, and popular discourses somewhere around the first third of the twentieth century:  the psychopath.  In this course, we’ll read a selection of American novels from the last 100 years, along with a selection of historical and theoretical texts, to see what this distinctively American monster can tell us about the culture in which he was produced.  Among the issues we will take up are:  What are the defining characteristics of the monsters these texts contain?  In what ways are these creatures incompatible with the existing social order?  In what ways do they function (or fail) to establish the boundaries of  “the human?”   How do they complicate abstract and universalizing notions of the human in terms of class, race, gender, and other social and political structures?  The aim of the course will be both to see how the psychopath operates as a cultural production and to take stock of the historical transformations in the concept of the psychopath, and perhaps monstrosity itself, within the last century.

The Politics of Travel and Tourism: Encountering Places, Cultures, and Modernity

Hazbun – TR 12:30-1:45 PM BUI 301-002 CRN 13023

This seminar uses experiences of travel and tourism to explore the politics of modernity and modernization. Why do we travel and what impact does (should?) tourism have on ‘others,’ other places, and ourselves? We trace the development of international travel, the rise of modern mass tourism, and the changing dynamics of mobility and tourist commodity production. We ask how these processes shape cultural understanding, economic development, and relationships of political power. We also examine how travel and tourism frame encounters with ruins, cities, beaches, museums, airports, ‘ethnic’ restaurants, and study abroad programs across a range of cases from Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.



Cinematic Time

Lazer – M 6:00- 8:30 PM BUI 301-006 CRN 10582

What is time? We use it, we measure it, we never seem to have enough of it. But what is it? Does it flow, does it run in a certain direction, does it even exist? We will attempt to tackle these questions and more by delving into the medium of film, a medium perhaps uniquely equipped to answer these questions. Film captures moments gone by, making them both acutely defined and nebulous at the same time. So join me, and help me see what Marty McFly and Andrei Tarkovsky (among others) can teach us about time. I promise it won’t be a waste of your time, if only because we don’t know whether time is a thing you can waste, or if it exists (tardies still count, though).

Intermedia Intersections in the Arts

Dewar MW 10:00- 11:15 AM BUI 301-009 CRN 15023

This interdisciplinary course discusses intermedia intersections in 20th and 21st century art and music through lectures, discussions and interactions with visiting artists. We will examine the cultural and historical roots of intermedia art, the outpouring of experimentation in the 20th century avant-garde, and the postmodern pastiche of the digital realm in the 21st century. Spanning work created for galleries, to art and music from urban streets and rural villages, we will explore examples from the visual arts, dance, music, film and architecture to learn how and why artists work with and combine different media. In addition to engaging with a variety of artistic works, we will discuss the cultural, philosophical, theoretical, and compositional issues that meet at intermedia junctions.


Photo by Maryia Plashchynskaya

A History of Feminist Political Thought

Gallagher – MWF 10:00-10:50 BUI 301-003 CRN 10563 

The history of political thought has long been equated with the history of men’s political thought, with women excluded from the intellectual and public spheres. Yet it would be a grievous mistake to assume that women (including all who identify as such) were not actively engaged in debating issues of gender, sexuality, race, and class before the advent of modern feminism. Indeed, one of contemporary feminist scholars’ greatest tasks has been to recover a long and rich history of ideas and texts written by and about women. This course utilizes primary materials and focuses on women’s contributions to the history of political thought between 1400 and 1950. Questions to be considered include: to what degree are ostensibly personal concerns – such as the relationship between a wife and husband or reproductive health decisions – also political concerns? How have women of color in particular navigated the intersecting political effects of gender and race? How have feminists understood the impact of class on women’s opportunities? How has the movement for women’s rights interacted with other struggles for liberation? And how does the history of feminist political thought continue to reverberate in our current political moment? Authors may include Christine de Pizan, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Olympe de Gouges, Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, and Anna Julia Cooper.


Photos by Adonyi Gábor;Brandon Phan

Insect decline and climate change | What is really happening?

Abbott – TR 9:30- 10:45 AM BUI 301-010 CRN 15024 

Insects have evolved and diversified for over 400 million years of Earth’s changing climate. However, shifts in temperatures and precipitation along with anthropogenic changes do seem to be affecting insect populations. This class will review the history of climate change and dive into what we knew/know and when we knew about climate change and then explore what we actually know about insect decline. Usually climate research takes decades of long-term studies to monitor effects of climate change so we will take a look at what the research on insect decline is really telling us! This class will be filled with insect diversity, some live insects and of course a LOT of discussion on what we know about the effects of climate change on insects. At the end of class, we will discuss topics and museum exhibits that would effectively communicate what we have learned!

Photo by Francesco Ungaro

History of Strategic Intelligence

Schwab – TR 11:00-12:15 BUI 301-004 CRN 10578

This course will evaluate the historical importance of strategic intelligence.  It will also examine the extent to which world leaders have utilized or ignored intelligence in shaping diplomatic and military policy.  Various uses of intelligence—collecting information, analysis, counterintelligence, and secret operations—will be explored with an emphasis on the period from the American Revolution to the modern era.

The objective of this course is to provide students with insights into the effect of the intelligence process on policymaking throughout the world.  By examining case studies through history, the interaction between collectors and producers of intelligence and those who use the material will become clearer.  Espionage, counterintelligence, secret operations—to include commando operations and covert actions—will be viewed in a historical context to provide students with a new way of looking at well-known events.  Each student will write two short papers—each 4 to 6 pages in length—one due before the mid-term, one due at the time of the final.  Each paper will focus on the analysis of primary and/or secondary sources, and other materials (including videos) which the student will be exposed to in class.

Photo by Alejandro Quintanar

Paleontology and Society

Klompmaker – M 2:00-4:00 PM BUI 301-011 CRN 19672

In this new 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 society today, why paleontology is important, how it is communicated, how paleontology has influenced society, ethical considerations involving fossils, and how paleontology in the media compares and contrasts with paleontological research. Activities outside the classroom or an online learning environment will include a trip the exhibits of the Alabama Museum of Natural History, a trip to the collections of the UA Museums, and a daytrip to a famous Cretaceous-aged fossil site in Alabama.

West African Music and Culture

Caputo – TR 9:30-10:45 AM BUI 301-005 CRN 12826 

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 history of the region and quickly delve into music and dance traditions of selected ethnic groups. As we progress through the semester, we will explore the many ways in which West African music and dance have influenced performing arts beyond the continent.

*Prior music performance experience is not required to enroll in this course.