Fall 2020 First-Year Seminars


First-Year Seminars Connected to the What Now? Network of First-Year Seminars

The first grouping of seminars are part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars. What Now? courses contain a shared “wellness lab,” offering opportunities to engage with faculty and students in other participating seminars. Register for this .5-credit component of the program by adding Ethics 189 to your schedule. Scroll down for the full range of first-year seminars offered this fall. 




What Now? Discovering the Tree of Life (NS, EI)
Course Modality: In Person and Online

55 years ago Zukerkandl and Pauling discovered that genes behave much like a ticking clock, with mutations marking the seconds as they pass. The longer it has been since a species is formed, the larger percent divergence is observed between the DNA in its genes and its closest relatives. The improvements at sequencing DNA starting in 1980 has allowed Scientists to discover the “family tree” of much of Life’s Diversity, coming close to achieving a “Holy Grail” for Evolutionary Biologists. In this seminar, we will begin by exploring the amazing story behind confirming the closest relatives to humans — a story which includes data falsification and the destruction of hopes and careers.  We will have regular debates, and use as our guide David Quammen’s new book “The Tangled Tree”. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Clifford Cunningham

Cliff Cunningham, Ph.D. (Yale University), is a Full Professor of Biology, one of the pioneers of using DNA to discover the “Family Tree” of animals. His interests include the “Trans-Arctic Invasion” of Pacific marine animals into the North Atlantic after the first opening of the Bering Strait. He likes to promote scientific synthesis and sing 70’s style folk music. 





What Now? Education as Liberation: Ethics, Organizing, and Equity (CZ, SS, CCI, EI)

Course Modality: Online 

How do communities, schools, and neighborhoods organize for social change? How do individuals organize their own commitments and energies to change themselves and the world around them? This course examines education as a component of collective liberation in the contemporary United States through themes of ethics, community organizing, and educational equity. It will introduce central philosophical and practical approaches to political organizing, help students develop skills in understanding and critiquing school segregation and resegregation in the US, and enable students to locate their own commitments, callings, and aptitudes within a variety of liberative accounts of social change. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Adam Hollowell

Adam Hollowell, Ph.D. (University of Edinburgh) serves as Senior Research Associate at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and Faculty Director of the Benjamin N. Duke Memorial Scholarship Program. His teaching and research focus broadly on ethics, religion, race, and public policy. 




What Now? Hip Hop, Civil Rights, & the Pursuit for Purpose (ALP, CZ, EI, CCI)

Course Modality: In Person and Online

This course will investigate Hip Hop’s ascension to the number one musical genre in America, the ensuing societal implications, and its origins in the Civil Rights Movement. Students will also analyze lesser known Civil Rights Movement history and historical figures. Lastly, students will use the medium of Hip Hop and Civil Rights to scrutinize, ascertain, and search for the purpose of life. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Martin Paul Smith

Martin P. Smith, Ph.D. (The University of Texas at Austin), blazed his own path by first fusing his passion for education and sport at the University of California at Berkeley. He earned his bachelor’s (‘06) and master’s (‘07) degrees in education while playing basketball for the Golden Bears. At Berkeley, he won the 2006 Jake Gimbell Award which honors the student most committed to academic and athletic excellence. In pursuit of his passions, Dr. Smith has traveled extensively, directing basketball clinics in China, the Philippines, and Panama. Furthermore, he was the Lead Teacher’s Assistant at the University of Cape Town, South Africa facilitating a course examining the effects of apartheid and American segregation on contemporary Black, urban economic development. He then conducted post-doctoral research in Spanish at the Mesoamerica Center in Antigua, Guatemala, studying the amalgamation of race, culture, education, and athletics before joining the faculty at Duke University. His work has been published in The Journal of Urban Education and The Journal of Race, Gender and Class. Dr. Smith’s research interests include racial, academic, and athletic identity, and he is passionate about examining how identity contributes to and influences social change.



What Now? Finding Yourself, Your Voice and Your Community (While Being Resilient and Well) (SS)

Course Modality: In Person and Online

College students have expressed outrage when their schools have invited controversial speakers to campus. Colleges justify these speakers as contributing to a free exchange of ideas while preparing students for the “real world.” At the same time, colleges encourage students to develop resilience, focusing on well-being, and prioritizing physical and emotional health. Can institutional goals related to speech and well-being be reconciled with your expectations and values? What does it mean to have a voice within a community? This class will provide an opportunity to answer these questions, decide what really matters to you and position you to make better choices while at Duke and beyond. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Sue Wasiolek
Sue Wasiolek, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania), is Associate Vice President, Student Affairs. Her areas of specialty include new student orientation, judicial affairs, residential life, parent programs, fraternity and sorority life, disability services, leadership development, student health and wellness, counseling and psychological services.




What Now? Virtuous Thinking in an Age of Political Polarization (CZ, EI, W)

Course Modality: In Person and Online

Americans today live in a time of deep political polarization and cultural tribalism. Those with whom we have deep disagreements, assuming we interact with them at all, are often viewed as not just wrong but as irrational, immoral, and untrustworthy. Is this a good thing? What sort of habits of mind (e.g. intellectual humility and charity) and practices should we cultivate in response to this reality? What does it mean to keep an “open mind” with respect to ideas coming from the “other side” in our culture wars? What shouldn’t it mean? Using social and political science literature, this course will examine the current phenomenon of political “partyism” and cultural segregation in our society. Using moral and political philosophy, the class will address the question of the proper ethical response to political disagreements. Special attention paid to the university, journalism, cancel culture, free speech, social media, and identity politics. This course is offered in person. Lively discussion is encouraged. Together, we will learn how to disagree better. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: John Rose

John Rose, Ph.D. (Princeton Seminary), is Associate Director of the Arete Initiative and Instructor at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. His research and teaching interests include the tradition of virtue ethics, particularly Aristotle, and Christian philosophy and theology, with an emphasis on Augustine and Aquinas.




What Now? Composing Oneself: Stress, Identity & Wellness (ALP, SS, EI, W)

Course Modality: Online

How do we find composure amidst countless stressors in our lives? Answering that question well requires inquiry across disciplines as well as hands-on experience. This course offers exploration into the arts and sciences of stress, identity, and wellness: What are structural causes of stress and how do they impact our sense of self and community ethics? What can arts of wellness, including yoga, mindfulness, and art-based therapies tell us about how we experience who we are, how we function, and how we act with others? How does stress impact us physiologically? This course will employ writing both as a method and object of study for the exploration of stress, identity, and wellness. Composing Oneself includes hands-on experience with stress-reducing wellbeing strategies, theoretical and research-based texts, and nonfiction, fiction, poetry, art, and performance. The writing component includes a semester-long blog (visible only to class members) for reflection on wellness practices, a book review about wellness, and a final project about stress, identity, and wellness. Each student chooses their own final project content (i.e., music and wellness; compassion and race; illness and art therapies; Wall Street and mindfulness, etc.) and format (i.e., a musical composition; a visual artifact such as a scrapbook or photographic essay; a research-based essay, etc.). Course includes opportunities to visit relevant art exhibits, attend related performances, and engage in meaningful interactions with other students, staff, and faculty on campus working in associated areas of research and practice. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Denise Comer

Denise Comer, Ph.D. (University of South Carolina), is Associate Professor of the Practice of Writing Studies. Her research and teaching interests include narrative medicine, new media, travel writing, writing pedagogy, and writing transfer. 




A History of Diversity: Race, Language, Culture (ALP, CZ, CCI, EI, STS)

Course Modality: In Person and Online

Starting in the late eighteenth century, Europeans and Americans began to classify global human populations into vast families using two primary systems: the first was race; the second was language families, focused on two they called Aryan and Semitic.  These ideas imposed order on the world, and also violence. Both systems continue to shape our understanding of culture, character, and nationhood, and to affect institutions, politics, and health.  In this seminar, we will read early works that contributed to creating these systems, as well as works of fiction that explore them. We will ask: What assumptions underlie these classifications?  Are the boundaries between races, languages, cultures, and nations mutable or fixed?  What does it mean for a system to be scientific? To be true? How does the idea of “family” on this large scale contribute to the way groups, then and now, relate to each other, feel about each other, and act towards each other?  Authors will include Kant, Goethe, William “Oriental” Jones, Josiah Nott, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Wagner, Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, and Nella Larsen. Texts and class discussion in English. Seminar will be conducted primarily in person and face to face. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Stefani Engelstein

Stefani Engelstein, Ph.D. (University of Chicago) is Professor of German Studies. Her research and teaching interests include the ways Europeans have understood and classified themselves and others in knowledge-systems that span the humanities, sciences, and social sciences, particularly from 1750-1915, but with an eye on current repercussions. Such categories include race, sex, language family, religion, and species. 




Sexuality around the World (CZ, SS, CCI, EI)

Course Modality: In Person and Online

In this seminar, we will ask how global sex relates to pandemics, structural racism, and black lives. This means that, as we imagine sexual travel around the globe, we think about the development of an intimate connection between race, health, and sexuality. We will use this entry point to examine how the current historical moment—an epoch that we did not expect or desire—relates to our own sex lives, desires, and fantasies. In a time of social distancing, our sexual options have changed. In a time of great attention to racist violence, our fantasies about such stock figures as the big black man, the hypersexual black woman, and the always too queer black trans person should come into question more than ever before. In light of COVID-19, I have developed this seminar to be a hybrid course which will incorporate in-person discussions, Zoom seminars, small group meetings, and variety of asynchronous activities, including screening films and videos, interactive blogs, and online discussions and debates. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Peter Sigal

Peter Sigal, Ph.D. (University of California, Los Angeles), is a Professor of History. His research and teaching interests center around the relationships between gender, sexuality, and colonialism. 




Game Theory and Democracy (QS, STS)

Course Modality: Online

What is democracy? More specifically, how does one create rules for elections which have outcomes most consistent with democratic values? The magnitude of the game theory of the single vote ballot in democracies that use it is huge: the two-party system, the need for political primaries, obstacles facing 3rd party candidates, and how voters are “throwing their votes away” when they vote for them. This is not inherent to democracy. This is the game theory of the single vote ballot. Alternatively, using preferential ballots in elections is a natural idea since it allows voters to express a 1st choice, a 2nd choice, a 3rd choice, etc. on each ballot, thereby collecting more information from each voter and creating the potential for an outcome which better represents the voters. However, there are many ways to determine the winner of a preferential ballot election, and each “preferential ballot vote counting method” has its own game theory, both for the candidates and the voters, some better and some worse, and often very different from the game theory of the single vote ballot. So which preferential ballot vote counting method is the best? Does there exist a vote counting method which incentivizes politicians to seek out centrist, consensus building positions and to focus on issues important to voters, more than game theoretic tactics meant to manipulate the electorate? Or is there another goal we should be pursuing? In this course, we’ll use game theory and mathematics to study these questions. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Hubert Bray

Hubert L. Bray, Ph.D. (Stanford University) is a Professor of Mathematics and Physics. His teaching and research interests include geometric analysis, general relativity, and theoretical astrophysics. His interests include black holes, dark matter, and the curvature of spacetime.




What Now? Serious Play (CZ, EI)

Course Modality: In Person and Online

The core disciplines in universities have historically devoted themselves to the study of ‘serious’ things: the origins and nature of the physical universe, the structure of the human mind and the explanation of behavior, the history of civilizations and the foundations of law, the regulation of the economy, the question of the existence of deities, and myriad questions about, literally, life and death. Even when scholars enquired about leisure activities, they tended to focus on the serious ones: drama not humor, ballet not sports, classical music not folk or improvised music, harmony not rhythm, games for childhood development not for fun. In short, until very recently, serious enquiry has almost always looked down on anything involving play or playfulness. This course, in contrast, will be a serious enquiry into the nature and value of play, playfulness, games, sports, humor, magic, and the things that make popular culture pop. As a serious enquiry, the course will also serve as an introduction to philosophical analysis, logical argumentation, critical reasoning, and scientific method. Readings will range from the works of Greek and Chinese philosophers in the 4th and 5th centuries BCE, to Netflix stand-up comedy specials, and the latest theories of neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, and video-game designers. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Wayne John Norman

Wayne Norman is the Mike and Ruth Mackowski Professor of Ethics in the Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Department of Philosophy at Duke University. He specializes in business ethics and political philosophy: his work in business ethics includes critical evaluations of stakeholder theory, corporate citizenship, corporate social responsibility, the so-called “triple bottom line”, and conflicts of interest; and his work in political philosophy includes nationalism, citizenship, constitutionalism, federalism, secession, and multiculturalism.




What Now? Displacement and Belonging: Fiction, Routes, and Roots (ALP, CZ, CCI, EI)

Course Modality: Online

Don Quixote, a novel about a man getting lost, has been one of the world’s great explorations on the meaning of home for over four hundred years. This course will examine what it means to belong, to be rooted, and to be understood through the deep exploration of stories. Cervantes, himself a migrant, believed that we understand each other—and ourselves—best through stories and storytelling. Using his classic novel as a springboard, this course will examine rich and complicated questions of displacement, belonging, and what it means to be (or make) home. We will read a mix of classic and contemporary accounts of migration, examining fictional and journalistic accounts of people as they move into the unknown in hopes of a better life. The course centers on questions that affect campus life just as much as they affect geopolitics: How do we belong? What makes strangers strange? What can others’ stories of home tell us about our own longings and belongings? Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Elvira Vilches

Elvira Vilches, Ph.D. (Cornell University), is an Associate Professor of Romance Studies. Her teaching and research interests include early modern Spanish and Colonial Latin American literature, the rise of capitalism, economic thought, and the making of practical knowledge.




What Now? The Science of a Happy and Meaningful Life (EI, W)

Course Modality: In Person and Online

This course will examine recent discoveries in the scientific study of happiness, and place the idea of happiness within historical and cultural context. The course will integrate findings from sociology, psychology, economics, anthropology and the natural sciences (neuroscience, biology, behavioral genetics) to explore questions about happiness. We will discuss how happiness is defined and measured, and whether and why some individuals and cultures experience more happiness than others. Most importantly, we will try to translate this literature into an understanding that can help class members have more meaningful, happier lives. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Lynn Smith-Lovin

Lynn Smith-Lovin, Ph.D. (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), is the Robert L. Wilson Professor of Sociology. She studies emotion, identity, and action, and is interested in the question of how identities affect social interaction.



The seminars listed above are part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars. What Now? courses contain a shared “wellness lab,” offering opportunities to engage with faculty and students in other participating seminars. Register for this .5-credit component of the program by adding Ethics 189 to your schedule. Scroll down for the full range of first-year seminars offered this fall. 







Body Size in Biology (NS)

The body size of an organism, be it microbe or mammoth, affects every aspect of its life:  its body form, where it lives, how it moves and makes a living, and how (through evolutionary history) it came to be the way it is.  Why can’t ants be gigantic?  Will anyone ever see a mammal the size of a pea? What can we predict about the life of an organism simply from knowing how big it is?  Through readings, discussion, and small projects, with explanations ultimately drawing from ecology, geometry, and physics, we will examine case studies that illuminate general principles about the role of size in biology.

Professor: V. Louise Roth

V. Louise Roth, Ph.D. (Yale University) is a Professor of Biology with a secondary appointment in Evolutionary Anthropology. Her most recent courses have focused on the biology of mammals, biology of bone, and macroevolution. Her research has focused on evolutionary morphology and phylogeny in mammals, and on the functional and ecological implications of evolutionary changes in growth and body size.




Chemistry and Biology of Life (NS, STS)

Presents the science of life processes ranging from communication to health. The molecules behind life functions and managing disease will be discussed. Concepts of drug discovery and management will be introduced. The final project will involve student presentations on a health topic.

Professor: Emily Derbyshire

Emily Derbyshire, Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley) is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry. Her research uses both chemical tools and biological methods to uncover novel aspects of malaria parasite biology with the ultimate aim of identifying druggable targets. 




Ancient Mind (ALP, CZ, CCI, EI)

Understanding who we are now demands understanding where we came from. The study of the ancient mind is thus one of the most challenging and fascinating research activities regarding homo sapiens and human society. This kind of study requires a multidisciplinary approach that involves different disciplines and research backgrounds relevant to understanding how ancient minds thought about the world. This can be possible with a new dialogue between neuroscience and the humanities that, in particular, connects the study of art and material culture with cultural models, cultural patterns, and the evolution of the brain. This course seeks to open new perspectives in the study of the past and in the interpretation of the ancient and modern mind by approaching research questions at the intersection of the brain sciences, humanities, archaeology, anthropology, art, philosophy, aesthetics, and visual studies. 

Professor: Maurizio Forte

Maurizio Forte, Ph.D. (University of Rome), is William and Sue Gross Professor of Classical Studies. His expertise includes digital archaeology, classical archaeology and neuro-archaeology.




Troy: Excavating an Epic (Codes Forthcoming)

Troy is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world—but to paraphrase the Roman poet Lucan, already by the first century CE, ‘even the ruins were ruined’. The site, and the legends that grew up around it, nonetheless played a starring role in the art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, in the imagination of 19th-century Europeans who pioneered ‘modern’ archaeology, and even in contemporary American culture, with retellings of Homer’s Iliad set in war zones like Iraq. In this course, we will work to disentangle the afterlife of Troy and the Trojan War in myth-building exercises, ancient and modern, from the very real life of the city over the millennia. Archaeologists reconstruct nine Troys, built one on top of the other on the hill of Hisarlık (literally “place of fortresses”) in modern Turkey. Which one was Homer’s Troy? When did the ‘real’ Trojan war take place, if ever, and who fought in it? Most of all, why should we, or do we still, care? There will be one required synchronous weekly discussion for this class, which will take place online and in-person in alternating weeks. The class will also include asynchronous online material for all students.

Professor: Kathryn R. Morgan

Kathryn R. Morgan, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania)is Assistant Professor of Classical Studies. She is an archaeologist of the ancient Mediterranean who leads excavations in modern Turkey. Her research and teaching interests include political organization, group identity formation, cross-cultural communication, feasting, craft production, ritual performance, and the intersection of material and textual histories.




The Empire Writes Back: Postcolonial Literature and the Rewriting of the Novel (ALP, CZ, CCI)

Twentieth-century literature from former European colonies often aimed to give life to minor characters or silenced figures who were nonetheless important in the novels of empire. We will read British novels, some of which demonstrate the impossibility of thinking Europe without its relation to the countries it colonized. And we will pair these texts with ones that write back, in creative and critical forms, to tell the other side of the story, or the voices or lives of characters that were not fleshed out in those earlier texts. Do we understand the early novels as representative of a repressed interest in colonized figures, or as an inevitable presence in the fabric of the worlds represented? And is the response combative or demonstrative of literary complicity in the recent history of the novel?

Professor: Ranjana Khanna

Ranjana Khanna, Ph.D. (University of York), is Professor of English, Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, and the Literature Program. Her research and teaching interests include Anglo- and Francophone Postcolonial theory and literature, and Film, Psychoanalysis, and Feminist Theory.




Climate Change: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions (NS, STS)

Climate change is one of the defining challenges facing humanity today. The goal of this first-year seminar is to develop a comprehensive and integrated view of contemporary climate change. The first half of the course will examine our current understanding of the science of climate change, and explore the potential societal consequences of a changing climate. The second half of the course will focus on potential solutions, with a focus on technological, political, and social challenges that will have to be overcome to mitigate and adapt to climate change. More broadly, the course seeks to develop intellectual, academic, and learning skills by engaging students in active inquiry, critical analysis, and discussion of competing ideas.

Professor: Prasad Kasibhatla

Prasad Kasibhatla, Ph.D. (University of Kentucky), is Professor of Environmental Chemistry. The overarching theme of his research is to develop a fundamental and quantitative understanding of the factors that determine the chemical composition of the atmosphere. He is particularly interested in delineating natural and anthropogenic impacts on the chemical composition of the atmosphere, and in exploring the potential for these impacts to affect natural ecosystems. His research involves the use of numerical models in conjunction with remote and in situ measurements of atmospheric composition.




Gulf Disasters and Recovery (Codes Forthcoming)

The Gulf of Mexico is bounded by five coastal states with economic interests in tourism, sport and commercial fishing, and recreation. Explores negative impacts of Deep Horizon oil spill (DHOS) on water resources, migratory fishes and marine mammals; habitats and fauna of coastal states. Examines restoration efforts initiated in 2013. Compares ecosystem recovery efforts related to DHOS and impact of hurricane Harvey. Questions addressed through governance (federal and state) and state of coastal ecosystems prior to event. Using discussions, debates, and focused literature reviews, determine if effective monitoring is in place to provide critical baseline data prior to future events.

Professor: David Hinton

David Hinton, Ph.D. (University of Mississippi), is Nicholas Professor of Environmental Quality in the Nicholas School of the Environment. His research and teaching interests include mechanistic toxicity in all life stages of small, aquarium model fish and in selected species with particular environmental relevance (freshwater and marine).




It’s Complicated: Jews, Converts, and Apostates (ALP, CZ)

In this course, we will focus on how people in the ancient world moved in and out of Jewish communities and identities, and consider how these ancient ideas color assumptions and discussions down to the present. Conversion to another religion may seem like a marginal phenomenon, the sort of thing that affects only a small number of people within any given religious community. But seemingly peripheral concerns and experiences help define the blurry edges and hard boundaries of communal identity, and the phenomenon of conversation reveals religion to be much more than just what one believes. We will begin by trying to define modern terms like “conversion” and “convert” (and related concepts such as "heretic" and "apostate"). These terms impose binary logics on lives and phenomena -- someone is "in" or "out" -- despite the fact that the lived experiences of people defy any such tidy categorization. The language of “conversion” inherently signals a person’s adoption of a new identity even as it highlights that individual's hybridity. We will also study topics including: modern notions of choice in identity; attitudes towards "converts," including the questioning of their motives and sincerity for adopting a new identity; and the intersections of "conversion," gender, and reproduction.
Professor: Pratima Gopalakrishnan

Pratima Gopalakrishnan, Ph.D. (Yale University) is the Perilman Post-Doctoral Fellow in Duke’s Center for Jewish Studies. Professor Gopalakrishnan is a historian of Near Eastern Jewish communities in the first millennium CE, with particular interests in topics that include free and unfree labor, sexuality, and economic history.




Hot Topics in Health

This course will provide an overview of the components of health and wellness, with more specific topics/current trends or issues being explored within each component.  Emphasis will be on information, resources, and skills to help students achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle, as well as an understanding of the broader health issues facing our current society.

Professor: Janis Hampton

Janis Hampton, M.A. (UNC–Greensboro), is Assistant Professor in the Practice of Health, Wellness and Physical Education. Her fields of teaching and research interest center on developing awareness of health and fitness issues for the general population as well as young adults.




From Quarks to the Cosmos (NS)

The quest to understand the ultimate laws of nature is an ancient one. The roots of our investigations reach back to the first philosophers. At its heart, we seek to answer the questions: what are the most basic building blocks of the observed universe, how do they interact with each other and what is the nature of the space that contains them? Remarkably, the physics of the smallest things we know about is also tied to the cosmology of the universe and the largest distances and structures we can measure. The beautiful theories that describe this physics are the culmination of the work of generations of scientists and are strikingly predictive. However, the picture we have before us today is far from complete. Over 95% of the universe seems to be made of matter or energy we cannot explain. The universe is expanding at a faster and faster rate, creating even more of itself as a function of time. On top of all of this, our world unaccountably seems to exist solely of matter and not anti-matter. How did we come to understand these things about the universe and how are we addressing remaining questions? In this class, we will use lectures, discussions, readings outside of class, quantitative mathematical problem solving, frequent presentations by students, problem sets and projects to learn some of the history and basics of astronomy, modern particle physics and cosmology. We will pay particular attention to the instruments and measurements people have used over time to infer what we know and how and why people finally came to accept results. Students will have the opportunity to study a topic of their choice in further depth with a final project and presentation.

Professor: Christopher Walter

Christopher Walter, Ph.D. (California Institute of Technology), is a Professor of Physics. His research and teaching interests involve particle physics and cosmology. He works to understand both the nature of the neutrino in giant detectors deep underground, and why the expansion of the universe is accelerating using telescopes on top of mountains.




Beyond Reason and Empathy (NS, SS, R, W)

Leadership in the knowledge-based economy and globally interconnected world of the 21st century requires that students develop their abilities to constructively engage ethnic, religious, and political differences and generate and apply knowledge in the service of society. The premise is that developing the capacity for critical reasoning is necessary but not sufficient. It is also necessary to develop a personal epistemology that is, beliefs about knowledge and its justification, and the capacities of empathy that is, the ability to understand and share the feelings, perspectives, intentions, and mental states of another person, and identity, the integrated experience of oneself as a unique individual that includes one's goals, values, and commitments. This seminar takes a developmental science approach to synthesizing and applying the knowledge and understandings generated across the biological and social sciences and humanities about the nature, development, and enhancement of personal epistemology, empathy, and identity. Selected readings are provided for each session. Clinical cases, in the form of videotape, and narratives from literature are utilized to reflect salient issues and processes.  Students write three, 3-8 page, synopsis/application papers based on the assigned readings and a 15-20-page research review paper on a topic of their choice. Students read and respond to each other's work. In individual meetings with the instructor, feedback is provided on the rough drafts of each paper and students submit revised papers as their final product. Grade is based on the quality of papers and participation in class discussion. Each synopsis paper accounts for 15% of the grade, the research paper accounts for 40%; and class participation accounts for 15%. The plan is to conduct the seminar in person and move to online or hybrid format if necessary.

Professor: Robert J. Thompson, Jr.

Robert J. Thompson, Jr., Ph.D. (University of North Dakota), is Emeritus Professor of Psychology. His research interests include how biological and psychosocial processes act together in human development; the adaptation of children and their families to developmental problems and chronic illnesses, including sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis; and the assessment of teaching and learning in higher education.




Latin American Cinema (ALP, CCI)

This course offers an overview of key moments of Latin American cinema from the 1960s to the present. The examples are drawn from Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, and Cuba. We will examine landmark films and explore the relationship between socio-historic contexts of production and cinematic genres, styles, modes of production, and aesthetics. The first part of the course focuses on the “New Cinemas” of the 1960s and 1970s and the way in which filmmakers of that period attempted to address the lingering effects of colonialism and major problems of social justice through a cinema that was at once politically committed and experimental in form. In another section of the course, we will examine the cinema of Cuba and its evolving relationship with the Cuban Revolution—including the quest for a revolutionary cinema that followed from the 1959 overthrowing of the Batista regime. The final section of the course will look into the “New Cinemas” of the present, the wave of film production that started in 1990s in several countries and continues today. This recent wave includes transnational filmmakers like Alejandro González Iñarritu (Mexico) and Walter Salles (Brazil) and works that have garnered attention in the mainstream circuit as well as in international film festivals and the arthouse circuit.

Professor: Gustavo Furtado

Gustavo Furtado, Ph.D. (Cornell University), is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Romance Studies. He teaches courses on film studies, Latin American culture, and Caribbean Studies. His research interests include cultural studies, Latin American studies, and cinema.




Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky (ALP, CCI, EI)

The Russians go deep into your soul and discover strange and scary things lurking there. In a year of political upheavals, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are more relevant than ever. They wrote in a time when personal freedoms were under threat; when saying the wrong word could send you straight to prison; when social classes were in conflict and revolution was in the air. They ask: how can God be all-powerful and yet allow suffering? Why do I do evil though I want to do good? Can I understand the soul of another? Above all, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are great storytellers. Taught in English, but you may choose to read the assignments in any language--English, Russian, or any other. The course will be hybrid: in-person and remote. Students are welcome to join in from anywhere in the world.

Professor: Carol Apollonio

Carol Apollonio, Ph.D. (UNC–Chapel Hill), is Professor of the Practice of Slavic and Eurasian Studies. Her teaching and research interests include 19th-century Russian literature, language pedagogy, translation and interpreting theory and practice, Russian post-glasnost prose fiction and Japanese language and literature.




Public Art: Monuments, Murals, Graffiti and More (ALP, CZ, CCI, R)

Monuments, murals, posters, sculptures, and graffiti. Street performances, gardens, and new media platforms. These artistic expressions happen outside museums and galleries. This course invites students to debate them in the context of the shared history of public art across the Americas. How and why do artists venture out of the safe spaces of art institutions? Who funds that art? Who permits or censors it? Students explore the role of public art in political and grassroots movements, and in the stories told about our past. They evaluate radically different responses to public art, from uproar and scandal to its disappearance into the background of everyday life. What communities invite art into their shared spaces? What kind of communities might it produce? In addition to landmark works from across the American continent (North, Central, and South), we look closely at those nearby: on campus and in Durham. Local murals and monuments give texture to these big ideas, and area leaders in the arts offer their hands-on experiences.

Professor: Esther Gabara

Esther Gabara, Ph.D. (Stanford University) is Associate Professor of Romance Studies. Her teaching and research interests include art, literature, and visual culture from modern and contemporary Latin America, especially the relationship between ethics and aesthetics, theories and practices of non-mainstream modernisms, and representations of race and gender.




Visual Culture of Venice (ALP, CZ, CCI, R)

Venice was one of the wealthiest and most powerful states in the Early Modern world (1450-1600). A city whose curved urban form seemingly floated on water, it was experienced, lived, and navigated unlike any in the world. This course entails an extensive analysis of the urban and natural topography of Venice in the Early Modern period, and it investigates the artistic commissions that made the city into one of the most admired and well-visited destinations in the world.

Professor: Kristin Huffman

Kristin Huffman, Ph.D. (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) is a Lecturing Fellow of Art, Art History and Visual Studies. Her teaching and research interests include Renaissance and Baroque Art History.