Spring 2020 First-Year Seminars


What Now:  South African Life Histories (CZ, SS, EI, R, W)

Explores the last century of South African history through the lens of biography and autobiography. Protagonists range from little known South Africans like the sharecropper Kas Maine, an African prophetess, and the self-styled godfather of Soweto to political artists and writers, and will include some of the country's most famous citizens like Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko and Helen Suzman. Readings are a mix of scholarly and non-scholarly writings. Some of the issues we will discuss include the ways in which segregation and apartheid affected people's daily lives, ideological and programmatic opposition to white supremacy, and the AIDS epidemic. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Karin Shapiro

Karin Shapiro, Ph.D. (Yale University), is an Associate Professor of the Practice in the Department of African and African American Studies. Her expertise includes American social and southern history, as well as South African history.




Adaptation: Cinema and Lit (ALP, CCI)

From Homer’s Odyssey to Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” great literary works have influenced films in a variety of ways, providing plots, phrases, background, points of reference and challenges. This course explores texts and films that have fascinated readers and viewers, as well as changed ideas about the meaning of and connections between literature and cinema. Instead of focusing on faithfulness, we discuss the relationships between literature and cinematic adaptations, the competition between the arts, and the works on their own terms. Students watch Apocalypse Now, Throne of Blood, Contempt, and Blade Runner, read works by Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and Conrad, among other films and texts.

Professor: Saskia Ziolkowski

Saskia Ziolkowski, Ph.D. (Columbia University), is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Italian in Romance Studies and affiliated faculty with the Center for Jewish Studies. She primarily works on the cultural and literary connections between Italy and German-language countries, Jewish studies, the novel, animal studies, world literature, modernism, and issues of identity. 




Why Art: at the Intersection of Human Minds, Cultures and Societies (Codes Forthcoming)

“Why art” is one of the biggest question in the history of the human being and particularly in the evolution of the Homo Sapiens Sapiens.  Is art a genetic, cultural or biocultural human attitude? When and how does it start and co-evolve in human societies? What is it? How do we recognize artefacts and artists? Do we need art? This course discussed all these and other questions according to an anthropological and cognitive perspective. Art in caves, art in the earliest tools but also in the classical world, in the Giotto’s, Magritte’s and Van Gogh’s minds, art and authenticity in the digital era. It will be a long trip in the in the complexity of art and artistic performances. The relationships/affordances among art and mind, minds and artefacts, art and space, material culture and societies will be studied also in conjunction with the last experiments in neuroscience and cognitive sciences.

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.




The Archaeology of Death: Ritual and Social Structure in the Ancient World (ALP, CZ, CCI, EI)

Historically contextualized study of how the dead "lived" in the ancient Roman world, in funerary practices and traditions. Topics may include: funerary rituals; ritual distinctions between the space of the living and dead around cities and in the countryside; ancestor cult; monumental and not-so-monumental tombs; grave offerings and grave assemblages; public personae and funerary iconography tied to gender, age, and occupation. Course will compare death-practices between ancient Rome and other regions and periods.

Professor: Alicia Jiménez

Alicia Jiménez, Ph.D. (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Classical Studies. Her expertise includes archaeological theory and Roman visual and material culture, especially in the western and central Mediterranean in the period 218 BCE-200 CE.





How Molecules Produce Life: Discussion and Laboratory for the Unfamiliar (NS)

How do incredibly tiny things like membranes, proteins, RNA, DNA, look, act, and produce life? You will explore through discussion and hands-on experiments how life's molecules are born, shaped, and work. You will create membranes from their components, unwind and rewind DNA, unfold and re-fold a protein. You will connect molecular structure with self-assembly and function. You will "see" DNA replicate inside cells, DNA make RNA, and RNA make protein, the foundations of all life. The ideas learned are used to discuss origin-of-life scenarios. Grading is based on interest and occasional written tests. Available if you have not yet taken Bio 201/202 and if you don't have Bio 20 or 21 (AP) credit.

Professor: Daniele Armaleo

Daniele Armaleo, Ph.D. (Duke University), is an Associate Professor of the Practice of Biology. His teaching and research interests include developmental and molecular biology.




What now? Emotion, Evolution, and Ethics (NS, EI)

Fear, love, anger, pride, regret, envy – the emotions seem to play a big role in our lives, as well as in the lives of certain other animal species.  But what are the emotions?  Are they guides to behavior?  Are they judgments, or perhaps biases of judgment?  Are they motivations? Or maybe they are epiphenomenal – mere side effects of other mental processes, essentially irrelevant to proper mental function.  The course explores what the emotions are, what they are for, and how they evolved. We begin with readings of some classic treatments of behavior and emotion in certain animal species, including gulls and chimpanzees. We then consider emotions in humans, reading selections from important works in psychology, neurobiology, and ethics. The central issue in the last part of the course will be the role of the emotions in human judgment, especially moral judgment. Part of the What Now? network of freshman seminars. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Daniel McShea

Dan McShea, Ph.D. (University of Chicago), is a Professor of Biology. His expertise includes hierarchy theory, especially the causal relationship between higher-level wholes and their components.




How Organisms Communicate (NS, STS)

This course will explore the communicative world of animals, from the simplest chemical signals used by slime molds when they aggregate to the complex vocalizations of birds, whales and primates – including humans. We will explore fundamental principles of evolution that shape communication systems, the physics and physiology of different communication modalities, and connections that can be made across very different ways of communicating. Anyone with an interest in how the natural world relates to the human condition will find this class a useful multidisciplinary exploration of how one organism may affect the behavior of another.

Professor: Stephen Nowicki

Stephen Nowicki, Ph.D. (Cornell University), is Bass Fellow and Professor in the Departments of Biology, and in Psychology and Neuroscience in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, and in the Department of Neurobiology in Duke Medical School.  He also is Dean and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. His research interests span behavioral ecology and neuroethology, in particular the structure, function, and evolution of animal communication systems.  In his spare time Steve cooks, plays trombone in the Duke Pep Band, and juggles flaming clubs.




What Now? Borderline Humans (ALP, CZ, CCI, EI)

Explores borders/fronteras as a national metaphor, including examining the U.S./Mexico border as a scar on land and bodies, a wall between friends, a line of demarcation for enemies, a nightmare for policy-makers, a delineation for human rights abuses, a law enforcement nightmare, a pass-through for trade and NAFTA, a catchall for the poor, and a diversion for traffickers.  We will study U.S. border histories, cultures, and policies and we will think and write about how this line serves as a metaphor for other lines: between people representing racial, ethnic, gender, and class boundaries among others.  Includes a significant section on farmworkers. Service Learning course. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Charles D Thompson

Charles Thompson, Ph.D. (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), is Professor of the Practice in the Department of Cultural Anthropology. His expertise includes critical food studies at the nexus where food justice and immigration meet, with particular linkages to Latin America and the U.S. South.




What Now? On Becoming an Ordinary Genius: Introduction to Creativity and Visionary Thinking (ALP, EI)

A recent study from University of Pennsylvania suggests that Nobel Prize winning scientists are 22 times as likely as their peers to engage in dance, theatre or magic. What we often call “genius” is an ability to see possibilities and connections that elude most of us, most of the time. But this kind of creativity can be cultivated. This seminar is an exploration of boundaries, connections, how we see, and what we do. Its structure will encompass multiple forms, including a practice-based studio, outdoor work and discussions. It introduces numerous established and experimental artistic methodologies as tools to aid process of creative, associative thinking and development of new ideas in any chosen field. Through the cultivation of awareness, perception and imagination and the exploration, experience and application of embodied thought, students will gain tools to unlock creative potential and visionary thinking in the personal and social realm. No movement or artistic experience required. Students of all abilities welcome. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Michael Klien

Michael Klien, Ph.D. (University of Edinburgh), is Associate Professor of the Practice of Dance. His expertise includes socio-politically engaged choreography, interdisciplinary thinking, critical writing, curatorial projects, and choreographic works in the Performing as well as the Fine Arts.




What Now? Why are we here: Finding purpose and meaning in education (SS, CCI, EI)
The aims of education in general - and the purpose of college in particular - often remain invisible to and unexamined by students and faculty. This seminar will examine the multiple functions and purposes education serves - from credentialing to career preparation to finding meaning and purpose in one's life. Students will examine the current scholarship on teaching and learning (SoTL) with a particular focus on emerging trends in progressive education such as self-authorship, integrative learning, experiential learning, growth mindset, and digital innovation. Students will analyze divergent philosophies of education and then develop and articulate their own educational philosophy and statement of purpose. Ethical issues and inequities in educational opportunities will be explored. Students will engage in a service-learning experience focused on development of an initiative aimed at changing campus culture to create a more inclusive and equitable campus community. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: David Malone

David Malone, Ph.D., (Duke University) is a Professor of the Practice of Education. His research and teaching interests are in educational psychology, school psychology, student-centered approaches to teaching and learning, experiential and service-learning, innovative educational approaches in higher education.




What Now? Sticks and Stones:  Free Speech, Resilience and Well-Being (Codes Forthcoming)

Many college students have expressed their concern and actual outrage at the fact that their schools have invited/allowed controversial speakers to visit their campuses. At the same time, the literature is ripe with references to the lack of resilience students exhibit when faced with speech that makes them feel unsafe, uncomfortable or offended. In addition, several universities have engaged in research to determine what factors make some students more resilient than others. Meanwhile, as colleges and universities have been struggling with controversial speakers and trying to learn more about resilience, they have also been shining a brighter light on the health, wellness and well-being of students, staff and faculty. So, the question emerges: Can the results of the resilience research be used in such a way as to bolster today’s college student’s understanding of and tolerance for controversial speech while also enhancing (at least, not diminishing) a student’s well-being? Is there an intersection/relationship between free speech, resilience and well-being? In an effort to explore this question, this course will focus on the history of the First Amendment/Freedom of Speech while also providing an opportunity to engage in resilience-building interventions and to better understand the importance and dimensions of wellness. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Sue Wasiolek

Sue Wasiolek, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania), is Associate Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students. Her expertise includes health administration, law, and student affairs.




Energy & Society (CZ, EI, STS)

This course examines how the production, transmission, and use of energy transform our daily lives. By reflecting on the centrality of energy in humanity's interaction with nature, we will explore questions at the very core of the environmental, economic, political, and cultural dimensions of society. Readings, discussions, hands-on activities, and visiting experts will introduce students to subjects and themes that will include power systems, energy access, energy in pop culture, energy and the environment, as well as topics with contemporary salience such as intensive extraction techniques (fracking, mountaintop removal, etc.), microgrids, energy storage, and the current dimensions of energy consumption on Duke's campus. Through this seminar, students will gain knowledge and understanding of the major connections between energy and society, develop skill in the analysis of secondary sources and current events, and begin to explore the landscape of energy scholarship at Duke.

Professor: Jonathon Free

Jonathon Free is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of History and he works with the Energy Initiative. His research and teaching interests include the history of energy and the modern U.S., with an emphasis on energy, political economy, and the environment.




What Now? Taking Risks and Measuring Up: The Literature of Chance and Fortune (EI, STS)

We all take measured risks—but how do we know if it’s rational to do so? How do we measure successful risk-taking? These questions can be highly personal—what career should I choose?—or reflect global concerns—what interventions will mitigate the effects of climate change? In this course, we will consider how attitudes towards risk-taking and success have changed over time: from early fears that luck, fortuna, was a capricious goddess who could not be understood, to the Enlightenment hopes that the mastering of mathematical probability would give us the tools to solve most human problems. Through attentive readings of literary, philosophical, and scientific texts, we will explore the links between the literature, ethics, and mathematics of measuring every aspect of human life in our attempts to change the odds in our favor. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Astrid Giugni

Astrid Giugni, Ph.D. (Duke University), is Visiting Assistant Professor of English. Her research and teaching interests include political literature of seventeenth-century revolutionary authors, particularly John Milton, and Medieval and Renaissance Studies.




Gatsby’s Great Rivals (ALP, CZ, CCI, EI)

Why read when there is so much else to do? What is there in a novel, a poem, an essay to hold our imagination captive? to make us smarter, wiser, braver? to bring us closer to each other and the world, its wonder and its terror? How are we to know "it" when we see it; get there when we're not; speak of it when we are? These questions are the biggies--the overarching, meta-issues of bloody demanding, fiercely intelligent, achingly beautiful reading. But, speaking practically, how to begin? I promise to gather great stuff, modern U.S. novels especially, treating matters of universal interest: the individual self-making of “the American Dream,” as you have probably learned, which is almost always knee-deep in transgressive sex, crisis of faith, and redemptive violence--which you likely have not. We will take character to heart, query idea and plot, describe the sound, vision, even feel of language. We will ask each text to tutor us on how it wishes, in particular, to be read. And we'll work methodically on our game, catching tone and drama, cross-interrogating part with whole, and cultivating self-reflexivity--in which what is going on in a text is seen to be at stake in how, separately and together, we discuss it. The ultimate goal is to be able to inhabit a text in its own terms, so intimately that it lives in us; to analyze it so cogently that it, in effect, analyzes us. No prerequisites, but curiosity, persistence, and élan, to be much appreciated!

Professor: Thomas Ferraro

Thomas Ferraro, Ph.D. (Yale University), is a Professor in the Department of English. He is an aficionado of the great American stuff—Emily Dickinson, Edward Hopper, the Marx Brothers, and Nina Simone—who writes on literature, film, and the performing arts.



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).



Environment in Big-Data Era (NS)

A revolution in how we understand environmental change is underway, from the types and amounts of data that are available to the ways in which they are synthesized and interpreted. The training needed for the next generation of scientists, engineers, and decision makers includes a blend of modeling, computation, and the capacity to exploit large data streams, often accessed through the internet. Students will be introduced to some of the sources of data, their strengths and limitations, and interpretation through readings and discussions of scientific literature and data exploration. Examples will introduce basic concepts in R software applied to climate change, human impacts, and biodiversity loss.

Professor: James Clark

James Clark, Ph.D. (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities), is Nicholas Professor of Environment Science and Professor of Statistical Science. His research and teaching interests includehow global change affects populations, communities, and ecosystems.



What Now? The Examined Life (EI)

Provides opportunity to ponder, critique, and reflectively engage diverse perspectives on persistent questions related to the concept of a life well-lived. Includes such topics as purpose, vision, direction, passion, creativity, courage, determination, accomplishment, success, failure, death, virtue, character, habit, friendship, and community. Readings, exercises, and discussions encourage students to examine how these topics intersect with their own lives and those of others. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Alex Hartemink

Alexander Hartemink, Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is a Professor of Computer Science and Biology. His research interest is the development of new algorithms in statistical machine learning and artificial intelligence, and on the application of those methods to complex problems in computational genomics. 




What Now? What We Owe to Each Other (CZ, EI)

What obligations do we have to each other? Do we have different obligations to friends, family, and strangers? Is loyalty a moral value or is impartiality more important? We will consider whether social life is necessary for or an impediment to the best human life. In particular, we will focus on altruism--giving to others with nothing expected in return--and on collective moral obligations. When a moral problem, like alleviating global poverty or remedying climate change, is solvable not by individual action, but by coordinated, collective action, does that morally obligate each of us individually? Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Jesse Summers

Jesse Summers, Ph.D. (University of California at Los Angeles), is an Academic Dean and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Philosophy. His research in philosophy is on the ethical implications of various forms of irrationality.




The Worlds of Cervantes: Stories of Displacement and Belonging (ALP, CZ, CCI)

The course explores displacement and belonging through the lenses of Miguel Cervantes (1557-1616). Cervantes was a writer, a soldier, and a captive in Algiers. After returning to Spain he was sent on a special mission to Oran (Algeria) to work as an informant to the Spanish Crown. Once back in Spain, he kept writing plays, poems, and fiction as he worked as a purveyor for the navy, and, later, as a tax collector and financial manager. He explored his own experiences of captivity and displacement through the characters and situations he created in his works. By exploring the worlds of fictions that Cervantes set in la Mancha, Algiers, and Scandinavia, the course examines a wider perspective to consider presently the flows of people across North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Readings include sections of Don Quixote and The Trials of Persiles and Segismunda; a Northern Story, plays set in Algiers (The Bagnios of Argel, The Great Sultana), and short stories (The Spanish-English Lady and The Liberal Lover).

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? Family, Identity and Mindfulness (Codes Forthcoming) 

The importance of diversity has gained significant ground at Duke within recent years. Conceptions of diversity, however, typically remain understood through binaries, such as African American-White, Straight (Heterosexual)-Gay, ‘Rich’-‘Poor’, and other binaries that limit our understanding of the truly rich, broad and intersecting identities that All human beings possess. Like diversity, ‘family’ systems are evolving with a multitude of definitions including, but not limited to single parent households, single/dual-earning households, same-gender-loving households and many others. Our understanding of the family has developed throughout history with the influence of social, political, spiritual and economic institutions. This course will survey the evolution of ‘family’ and identity within United States culture through deep reading, critical discussion and analysis of entertainment media. The United States is an appropriate case study not only because living here makes it a salient culture and context, but also because the construction of diversity and the contemporary family has evolved considerably quickly within our ever-changing “multicultural” society. This Family, Identity and Mindfulness “What Now” Seminar will explore the intersections between family, identity and its impact upon the practice of wellness. Pain and suffering are often experienced through unhealthy relationships with identity. The practice and expression of wellness has the power to heal and offer a safe way to explore and experience identity in the world. The practice of mindfulness assists in increasing resilience and therefore is a lifelong tool to be utilized in leading a happy and serene life. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: Nahal Kaivan

Nahal Kaivan, Ph.D. (Washington State University) is a Dean in Trinity College.


What Now? Questions Concerning What It Means to Be Human, or What Are People For? (ALP, EI)

Alasdair MacIntyre has said that the first question of ethics is not “What should I do?” but “Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?” Marilynne Robinson has said, “There is something uniquely human in the fact that we can pose questions to ourselves about ourselves, and questions that actually matter.” This course launches itself from these two proclamations and poses a series of questions designed to help students discern the stories of which they are a part, as a first step toward deepening their reflection about what it means to be human. The driving question in the course is that of the title: What are people for? The goal is not to answer that question but to help students pose it by asking other questions that take the same form, questions like: What are ancestors for? What are stories for? What are questions for? What is grief for? What are cities for? What are hospitals for? What are numbers for? and so on. The course rests on discussion of a wide range of literature, including short stories, novels, memoirs, historical works, and philosophical and theological texts. With regard to assignments, the course places a special emphasis upon the practices of storytelling and upon the crafting of essays, as a specific literary genre. Part of the What Now? network of freshman seminars. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.

Professor: David Toole

David Toole, Ph.D. (Duke University), is Associate Professor of the Practice of Theology, Ethics, and Global Health, and Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Initiatives in the Duke Divinity School. His expertise includes ethics, environmental policy, and global health, particularly on the role of mission hospitals in African health systems, with a particular focus on the countries of the Nile River Basin in eastern Africa.




The Legend of King Arthur in Literature and Film (ALP, CZ, CCI)

The legend of the “Once and Future King,” Arthur of Camelot, has fascinated poets, artists, writers, and filmmakers.  In this course students will read and view a selection of different versions of the Arthur legend, beginning with the earliest surviving, sixth-century witness to the legend, until, in the final weeks modern films on the legend.  In investigating this body of material, students will engage with its re-creation and transmission over time.  Focusing on the themes of leadership, gender, and love, they will explore how each work understands Arthur and his milieu and the implications of each vision for the political and cultural worlds in which it originates. They will approach these questions through discussions of both content and form, considering the ways in which the formal aspects of the works shape meaning. Students will improve their skills in reading and interpretation by grappling with older texts that challenge modern expectations of fiction; acquire a deeper knowledge of the wealth of Arthurian texts from the past; acquire a more nuanced understanding of the medieval world; and gain an appreciation for the modernity of present-day adaptations on the Arthurian legend.

Professor: April Henry

April Henry is an Instructor in Germanic Languages and Literature.



Black Lives in the 20th-Century United States (CZ, SS, CCI, EI, R)

What does focusing on African Americans help us understand about the 20th-century United States, and what does the history of the 20th-century help us understand about African American lives? By looking at historical monographs, personal memoirs, and works of fiction, this seminar explores how writers both interrogate and craft histories of black life and how it has mattered to modern American history. As a final assignment, students will produce their own piece of historical writing, rooted in primary source research.

Professor: Adriane Lentz-Smith

Adriane Lentz-Smith, Ph.D. (Yale University), is an Associate Professor of History. Her research and teaching interests lie in African American history, twentieth-century United States History, and the history of the US & the World. She is also interested in how African Americans engaged the world in the age of Cold War civil rights, and how their participation in the project of US state and empire set the horizons of their freedom struggles.




Irish Questions (CZ)

Topical introduction to the history of Ireland from its entry into the United Kingdom through the present. Class sessions will be devoted to discussions of questions with global ramifications for our understanding of nationalism and racism, religion and violence, empire and the postcolonial. Was Ireland a kingdom or a colony? What caused the Great Famine? When did the Irish become “white”? Were members of IRA and/or UDI terrorists or freedom fighters? What is the difference between history and heritage, memory and commemoration? What are the prospects and preconditions for “truth and reconciliation” in Northern Ireland today?

Professor: Susan Thorne

Susan Thorne, Ph.D. (University of Michigan at Ann Arbor), is an Associate Professor of History. Her research and teaching interests are most broadly put in the imperial history of industrial capitalism. She is particularly interested in exploring the intersecting histories of poverty, race-thinking, and class formation in nineteenth century Britain. 




The Many ‘Mrs. Maisels’: Jewish Women in American Comedy (ALP, CZ, CCI)

Jewish humor comes by its subversiveness honestly: Jewish theology and culture encourages us to constantly question authority. Male Jewish American comedians like Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl have famously demonstrated these subversive tendencies through their socially and politically critical comedy. This course explores how female Jewish comedians in twentieth-century America have demonstrated the same level of subversive tendencies, albeit not in overtly social or political contexts until the 1970's. Instead, female Jewish comedians showed their subversive tendencies in ways that reveal a great deal about the role and perception of women in a given decade. Early in the twentieth century, when women's identity was primarily rooted in the sexual and domestic realm, they exercised subversive humor by making jokes about these matters. As their political and social identities develop, so too do their socially and politically subversive jokes. This course will examine that progression, paying special attention to pioneers like Sophie Tucker, Fanny Brice, Joan Rivers, Elayne Boosler, and Sarah Silverman.

Professor: Grace Overbeke

Grace Overbeke, Ph.D. (Northwestern University), is the 2019-20 Perilman Postdoctoral Fellow in the Duke Center for Jewish Studies. Her research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of Jewish Studies and Theatre Studies. 



Justice in the Bible (CZ, CCI, EI)

Looking at different texts in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and related ancient Near Eastern literature through the prism of modern theories of justice to tease out the multiple theories of justice found in the Bible.

Professor: Marc Brettler

Marc Brettler, Ph.D. (Brandeis University), is the Bernice and Morton Lerner Professor in Judaic Studies. His research and teaching interests include metaphor and the Bible, the nature of biblical historical texts, and gender issues and the Bible.



Science and Math of Cooking (NS)

Ferran Adrià, Joan Roca, and Grant Achatz share more than culinary fame. They use science and math to create gastronomic art that challenges our eating experience. Traditional techniques used to be followed blindly; they are now deconstructed and brought to new heights. In this seminar we will explore the STEM that lies behind this new frontier in taste.

Professors: Ingrid Daubechies and Patrick Charbonneau

Ingrid Daubechies, Ph.D. (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), is the James B. Duke Professor of Mathematics and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Professor in the Department of Mathematics, and Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Her research interests include wavelet theory, signal processing, machine learning, computational geometry, and time-frequency analysis.


Patrick Charbonneau, Ph.D. (Harvard University), is Associate Professor of Chemistry, Physics and the CBB Program. He studies soft matter assembly. His current work combines theory and simulation to understand microphase formation, protein crystallization, magnetic colloid assembly as well as the glass and the jamming transitions.



Applications of Mathematics to Medicine (NS, QS, R)

This seminar uses the Socratic method with discussions of how to apply mathematical and statistical principles to understand human health and disease. Topics include: the heart and circulation, immune system and infectious diseases, precision medicine and big data, cancer prevention and evolutionary game theory in cancer. There will be particular emphasis on the multi-scale nature of human health and disease, from biologic mechanism to clinical management and public health. Students do background reading and work in groups on problem sets, presenting their group work to the class and writing short papers. Each student conducts a research project, gives two 25 minute lectures to the seminar, and writes a 15-page paper in article format. On the final exam students write essays about group work and each other’s projects.

Professor: Marc Ryser

Marc Ryser, Ph.D. (McGill University) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences and the Department of Mathematics. His scientific interests converge at the intersection of mathematical modeling, clinical research and epidemiology. His current research is focused on the management of ductal carcinoma in situ, also known as stage 0 breast cancer.




Drama through Music (ALP)

The popularity of opera has increased and in its repertoire we find some of the most sublime 

artistic expressions known to human kind. This seminar will examine exemplary works in that repertoire with the hope of unlocking some of the mystery, relevance and enjoyment of drama per musica. The essential activities of this seminar include:

1) a group class presentation of at least one hour in length (20%)

2) a research paper (12-18 pages incl. bib.) and its 'defense.' (40%)

3) a listening exam (20%)

4) participation and evaluations (20%)

Professor: Harry L Davidson

Harry Davidson, M.Mus. (Pacific Lutheran University), is a Professor of the Practice of Music and Director of the Duke Symphony Orchestra. He made his major orchestra debut conducting the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He has guest conducted numerous professional and conservatory ensembles, including the Charlotte Symphony, the Akron Symphony, and the Cleveland Institute of Music and Oberlin College Conservatory orchestras. His teaching and research interests include orchestral conducting, opera conducting, and music history.




Discovering Music (ALP, CZ)

An introduction to Western music, tracing its storied history from the Middle Ages to the present. The course begins by considering the elements of Western music and their notation, and then examines the music of the principal historical periods (Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern and Post-modern) by turning to major, celebrated compositions and examining them in their cultural and historical contexts. While focusing on Western classical music, the course also looks at examples of non-Western music and popular music.

Professor: R Larry Todd

R. Larry Todd, Ph.D. (Yale University), is the Arts & Sciences Professor of Music. His research and teaching interests include 18th-20th Century music, music of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, and Beethoven.




The Beatles Duke Ellington and the Magic of Collaboration (Codes Forthcoming)

This course will explore two of the greatest musical collaborations in music history, The Beatles and the Duke Ellington Orchestra.  We will pay close attention to the nature of the collaboration, which was unique in each case, and we will learn about two great periods in the history of popular music, Big Band Jazz from the 1920s through the 1950s and Rock and Roll in the 1950s and 1960s.  Ellington worked with his musicians and with Billy Strayhorn to transform dance music into art music that helped define a modern identity for African Americans. Similarly, the Beatles turned rock into art.  Without collaboration, these musicians would have been good; with it they make claims to the status of genius.

Professor: Thomas Brothers

Tom Brothers, Ph.D. (University of California – Berkeley) is a Professor of Music. His teaching and research interests include popular music, jazz, late medieval and early Renaissance music, and African-American music.




Human Nature and Moral Change (Codes Forthcoming)

We are fascinated by individuals who make a dramatic change in themselves for the better.  In the film, "The Lives of Others," an agent for the East German secret police ends up trying to save the people he is assigned to spy upon.  During the Second World War, Oskar Schindler changed from a roguish playboy to an industrialist who sheltered Jews from the Nazis.  C.P. Ellis was a high official of the Ku Klux Klan in Durham who formed a friendship with black civil rights activist Ann Atwater and helped integrate the Durham public schools.  What happened to them?  We will discuss these cases and explore their implications for the possibility of moral change.  What in human nature makes change possible?  Do people come to know something, to see something, that they did not see before, that changes them?  We will read philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch who argues for this view. Does it take events of great emotional impact to bring about change?  We will read David Hume's theory of sentiment as the primary human motivation.  To become a good person, must one already have some goodness that is inborn?  The classical Chinese philosopher Mencius held that there are moral "sprouts" such as natural compassion that can be nurtured and grown.  His theory also raises the question of what environmental, social and institutional conditions need to be in pace for moral growth and conversion to take place.  We will read psychological literature on what makes for a "resilient" person who can overcome early adversity and a disadvantaging environment.  We will also look at psychological studies of human tendencies that might stand in the way of moral change such as the Milgram study of obedience to authority.

Professor: David Wong

David Wong is the Susan Fox Beischer and George D. Beischer Professor of Philosophy. His research and teaching interests include moral differences and similarities across and within societies, the attempt to understand morality naturalistically, and the nature of conflicts between basic moral values.




Special Topics in Nutrition: Analysis of Dietary Trends 

In this course you will get an overview of the basic components of nutrition as well as skills to evaluate your own eating patterns in addition to current popular dietary trends. You will also be introduced to several current topics in nutrition in order to develop a deeper awareness of dietary patterns.

Professor: Sheri Branson

Sheri Branson, M.A. (Meredith College), is a full-time instructor of Physical Education. Her research and teaching interests include promotion of lifelong fitness and wellness; exercise performance, recovery, and restoration; and sports nutrition.




Capitalism, For and Against (Codes Forthcoming)

This seminar compares and contrasts arguments for capitalism (from conservative, libertarian, and objectivist perspectives) and against capitalism (from socialist, environmentalist, and feminist perspectives). Explores historically prominent assessments of capitalism from moral, political, and economic perspectives. Readings from utilitarian, conservative, and liberal proponents of capitalism including Smith, Say, Bastiat, Mises, Hayek, Rand, Friedman, Nozick, Buchanan, and Simon.  Readings from socialist, feminist, and environmentalist opponents of capitalism including Malthus, Fourier, Marx, Veblen, Keynes, Galbraith, Rawls, Nussbaum, Piketty, and Graeber.

Professor: Richard Salsman

Richard Salsman, Ph.D. (Duke University) is a Lecturing Fellow of Political Science. His teaching and research interests are in political economy and political theory.




Beyond Reason: Empathy and Identity (SS, NS, 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%.

Professor: Robert J. Thompson

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.



U.S., China and the Asian Pacific Region (Codes Forthcoming)

The Asian Pacific region is the major center of economic growth in the 21st century.   We can expect a major shift of power and wealth in the world toward this region in the decades ahead.   How the United States and China interact with each other in this region will determine not only peace and prosperity in this region, but also the future of the world. 

Professor: Bai Gao

Bai Gao, Ph.D. (Princeton University), is a Professor of Sociology. His research and teaching interests include economic sociology, political economy, comparative historical sociology, Japanese society, Chinese society, and East Asian capitalism.




Visual Culture of Venice (Codes Forthcoming)

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.