Liberal Studies Program > First-Year Program > Course Descriptions > Focal Point Seminar

Focal Point Seminar

Spring 2019

Updated 1/24/2019
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LSP 112

Jaime Waters, Catholic Studies
LSP 112-301 LPC TTh 2:40-4:10

What do Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have in common? Among other things, these religions share Abraham as a foundational figure within their traditions. This course will examine Abraham: the man, the myth, the legend. Often called prophet and patriarch, Abraham is recognized for his special status and divine selection in each faith. In this course, students will read texts from the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Quran to explore how Abraham is remembered and characterized in religious literature. Students will also read secondary theological and philosophical texts and examine artistic representations to explore how later interpreters reflect on Abraham's significance. The course will consider Abraham's lasting legacy and significance to the Abrahamic faiths.​
Michael Tafel, History
LSP 112-601 Loop TTh 10:10-11:40

The ancient Mediterranean World has had a profound impact on the culture of our modern world. With civilizations like Egypt, Greece and Rome along with the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam that are so prevalent in today’s world, the ancient Mediterranean world has a lot to tell us. In classic history courses we would read an ancient history textbook but in this Focal Point Seminar we are also letting the ancient Mediterranean world speak for itself. Students will be challenged to understand and bring to life the ancient Mediterranean world by reading, interpreting and discussing a variety of primary and secondary sources relating to the era. This course will approach the ancient Mediterranean World through the disciplines of Art History, History and Philosophy.
Geoffrey Farina, School of Music
LSP 112-302 LPC TTh 2:40-4:10 ​

This course centers on the history and impact of the twentieth century's most influential collection of American music, The Anthology of American Folk Music, originally compiled by the artist Harry Smith in 1952, and rereleased to great acclaim in 1997. Smith's idiosyncratic collection of mountain, gospel, ragtime, hillbilly, blues, and other sacred and secular songs recorded between 1927-32 originally confounded folklorists like Alan Lomax and Sam Charters, who noted its lack of historical context, its sequential discontinuity, its cryptic documentation, and that much of its content was originally commercial music considered to be nostalgic when it was originally recorded. That the Anthology is more art than scholarship belies its immeasurable influence on the two generations of scholars and folklorists who followed its cues down rural backroads in search of the last remnants of an authentically American music. More visibly, the Anthology provided the songbook for Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, and their generation, and the 1997 rerelease inspired a vast and diverse American roots music revolution that is still growing today. This course traces the steady transformation of "folk music" from a practice of preserving the past into one of defining and legitimizing the present. It begins in the 1920s when the Anthology's music was originally recorded, and continues through the 40s folk revival, Smith's own midcentury collage and anthologizing practices, the Anthology-inspired folk groups of the 1950s, Dylan's polarizing 1965 electrified Newport Folk Festival performance and the concomitant Basement Tapes, the "American Primitive" movement of John Fahey and his contemporaries, and finally the "New Weird America" inspired by the Anthology's 1997 re-release. Through each of these periods, we will address what Robert Cantwell calls "the tireless and futile search for an original and authentic text" at the center of American roots music.
Clement Adibe, Political Science
LSP 112-303 LPC MW 11:20-12:50

As we reflect upon the last century from the vantage point of the 21st century, apartheid stands out as one of the most intriguing and oppressive political ideas and practices of the 20th century. Developed by the Afrikaners of South Africa, apartheid emphasized the “separateness” of races as the organizing principle of social, religious, economic and political life in a multinational state. For nearly half a century, apartheid was enforced through a combination of laws, religious indoctrination, socialization and, above all, the pervasive use of coercion. In 1994, following several decades of sustained domestic and international opposition, the policy and practice of apartheid officially ended in South Africa. This course will focus on two important areas of inquiry. The first is how to explain the emergence of apartheid as the predominant form of political organization in 20th-century South Africa. The second focus of the course will be on the lessons humanity can draw from the apartheid experiment as we continue our prolonged quest for meaningful and harmonious co-existence of peoples and cultures within the framework of one political entity.
Anthony Ippolito, Biological Sciences
LSP 112-901 LPC T 6:00-9:15PM

Human behaviors and activities have repercussions and resonate with other living things, including humanity, and affect their existence. A leading driver of environmental degradation, land transformation, and species extinctions is producing food to feed the over 7.6 billion humans on the planet. All food production methods require energy, chemical input, and land use. Few people, if any, realize that when they are slicing a banana onto their breakfast cereal, the banana was grown on a plantation where lush, species rich, rainforest used to thrive and flourish. Or the corn in your corn chips was grown where a temperate hardwood forest used to stand. In other words, regardless of we eat, we are eating (at the expense of) other species but also, other humans. Humans need to eat, but the ecological impacts differ depending on what we choose to eat. We will explore the impacts of food choice and production methods and their impact on ecosystems and the other species in which we share the planet. Does the human appetite have to come at the expense of biodiversity or are alternatives to a more sustainable, environmentally friendly, agriculture possible?
Jason Winslade, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
LSP 112-304 LPC F 12:00-3:15

The Transformational Festival scene is a thriving and growing subculture in America. At its head is the Burning Man Festival, held yearly in the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada, boasting an attendance of over 65,000 people. Representing a hybrid of spiritual, cultural, and political philosophies, Burning Man features an entire week of art, performance, ritual, community, and extravagant display, centered on a gargantuan wooden effigy that is burned at the festival’s climax. The festival and its participants promote an ethos that emphasizes radical self-expression, decommodification, and conscious awareness of cultural and environmental impact, embodied in the principle of “leave no trace.” These principles have permeated contemporary festival culture and spread to urban communities in cities like Chicago. In this class, we will investigate the transformational festival scene in America, including Neo-Pagan, New Age and other spiritually-based festivals, and the ubiquitous music festival, placing them in a cultural and historical context, and discussing the socio-political movements and communities these festivals have spawned outside festival space. In this course, we will attempt to address how festival culture either subverts or reinforces mainstream cultural values and how participants at these festivals and in these communities strive to create unique socio-political, spiritual, and artistic identities.

Li Jin, Modern Languages
LSP 112-305 LPC MW 2:40-4:10

This course is designed to develop students’ intercultural knowledge and critical thinking skills to understand how and why China is portrayed distinctly in Chinese and American media. Students will read select materials about China from books, American media, and the translated version of Chinese media, with a view to understanding what is happening in contemporary Chinese society, how and why salient social issues in China are reported divergently in state-run as compared to unofficial media (e.g., social media) in China and in media based in China as compared to those based in the U.S. Drawing on the reading materials, students will participate in active class discussions to deepen their cultural understanding and share critical views. The focus of the course is Chinese philosophy, sociology, and journalism in China as imperative forces shaping how Chinese media report on social issues in China.

Li Jin, Modern Languages
LSP 112-305 LPC MW 2:40-4:10

This course is designed to develop students’ intercultural knowledge and critical thinking skills to understand how and why China is portrayed distinctly in Chinese and American media. Students will read select materials about China from books, American media, and the translated version of Chinese media, with a view to understanding what is happening in contemporary Chinese society, how and why salient social issues in China are reported divergently in state-run as compared to unofficial media (e.g., social media) in China and in media based in China as compared to those based in the U.S. Drawing on the reading materials, students will participate in active class discussions to deepen their cultural understanding and share critical views. The focus of the course is Chinese philosophy, sociology, and journalism in China as imperative forces shaping how Chinese media report on social issues in China.

Justin Staley, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
LSP 112-306 LPC TTh 1:00-2:30

More than any other sport, baseball has inspired writers to try to capture the essence of the game, as well as those who play and watch it. Beyond the staples of baseball journalists and essayists such as Roger Kahn, Roger Angell, and Bill James, writers as diverse as novelists Nelson Algren, Sherman Alexie, Annie Dillard, John Updike, and Philip Roth, and poets William Carlos Williams, Amiri Baraka, May Swenson, Carl Sandburg, and Robert Frost, have explored the nuances and intricacies of the game, as well as how emotionally loaded racial, social, political, and economic issues are historically and indelibly woven into it. In this course, students will read and analyze writing about baseball through poems, fiction, personal essays, and arguments, exploring such themes as baseball as myth, as both game and business, and as a cultural institution in America and abroad. In doing so, we will discover how larger social issues impinge on the sport, and what they reveal about our changing society.

Lin Kahn, Psychology
LSP 112-307 LPC MW 9:40-11:10 ​

This class will strengthen creative resources in response to life’s universally shared experience of adversity. Through the lens of psychology, religious thought, and the fine/performing arts, we will look at the stories of well-known artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Beethoven, Mozart, Baryshnikov, and Copeland who sublimated adversity into creative greatness. Students will examine personal adversity in relationship to unrealized creativity through an in-depth look at the nature of creative thinking, blocks to this natural resource, creativity related to a thought provoking psychological model and religious view, and Freud’s positive healthy defense mechanisms. The interdisciplinary course culminates in a self-designed transcending work of art through any medium.
Margaret Workman, Environmental Science & Studies
LSP 112-308 LPC MW 4:20-5:50

This course is set at a time when science and technology were undergoing rapid expansion in their influence on all sectors of modern life in the western world. Great Britain was experiencing the aftereffects of social turmoil caused by the rising importance of newly rich industrialists and men of commerce and the growth of a class often referred to as the laboring poor. Both groups threatened to change what had been a relatively stable social structure. In addition, British authorities were rapidly expanding the second empire, extending their cultural, economic and political influence around the globe. People everywhere were affected by these forces either through parallel developments within their own cultures or through colonial intrusions by Europeans. Understanding the nature of science became an important question for consideration as was the relationship between “pure” science and its technological application. Additionally, just as science became more specialized and its theories less accessible to ordinary persons, its results became more a part of their daily lives. The impact of science and technology on society remains a major issue in sociology, history, ethics and other fields. The tensions between science and religion, not nearly so evident in the previous century, surfaced with increasing force in the wake of Darwin’s book. This tension continues to spur creative conflict and has implications for psychology, philosophy, political science and other disciplines. Systematic exploration of the original debate over natural selection and random variation will enrich student understanding of science both as a cultural artifact and as a catalyst for social change. For example, literary movements such as realism and naturalism should be viewed in the context of the new science.
Carolina Sternberg, Latin American & Latino Studies
LSP 112-309 LPC TTh 11:20-12:50

Domestic workers, the army of housekeepers, caregivers, and nurses, enable millions of Americans to go to their jobs every day. Yet, despite constituting this needed and growing workforce, they suffer from few labor protections and abusive working conditions. Drawing on theoretical debates as well as recent case studies from the US and around the world, this course will examine: a) the contemporary processes of globalization and economic restructuring that enable this type of work, b) the nature of this type of employment, and c) the issues and challenges faced by domestic workers as well as nascent organizing efforts and legal solutions to problems this pool of workers face daily.
Justin Maresh, Chemistry
LSP 112-310 LPC MW 1:00-2:30

Drug use, either directly or indirectly, affects everyone. Very few topics generate as much debate as the role of drugs in our society. For example, should drug abuse be prevented by increasing enforcement of drug laws or by making young people more aware of the potential dangers of drugs? Is drug abuse caused by heredity, personality, or the environment? Is drug abuse a medical, legal, or social problem? Are the dangers of some drugs over-exaggerated? Are drugs that treat disease over-prescribed and over-marketed? Three million children in the US take stimulant drugs to help them focus; do these drugs actually help? There are no clear answers to any of these questions, yet the positions we take as a society have profound effects on our safety, health, and economy. This course will guide students in deciphering controversies surrounding drugs and society; locate and evaluate sources of information; and formulate written and verbal arguments to support various positions.
Ryan Peters, English
LSP 112-606 Loop MW 11:50-1:20 ​

This course will study how selected novels, short stories, graphic novels, and films depict dystopian worlds and apocalyptic events. The dystopian genre has exploded into mass popularity and critical recognition in the past two decades, so much so that it may be the most popular genre of story-telling--from video games to Pulitzer Prize-winning novels--across our culture today. We will explore the ways in which texts use this genre to explore widespread twentieth and twenty-first century anxieties about terrorism, epidemics, globalization, and bioethics. Course texts may include works by Octavia Butler, Paolo Bacigalupi, Suzanne Collins, Alfonso Cuarón, Alan Moore, Max Brooks, and many others. ​
Philip Meyers, Political Science
LSP 112-311 LPC MW 1:00-2:30

When it comes to quadrennial sports celebrations, the modern Summer Olympics paved the way, with nations and competitors uniting to demonstrate great athletic ability for the world to see—and with medals awarded to the best. That wildly innovative idea was quickly and globally embraced, soon thereafter triggering a new “team-sport” entity known as the World Cup. Hosted initially by Uruguay in 1930, soccer’s World Cup was spawned. Its concept followed the Olympics, contested once every four years, and evolved into the planet’s most glorious event. The World Cup is about countries who battle, over one month’s time, to achieve immortal greatness, with an entire nation welcoming 32 qualifying teams within its borders and allowing millions to savor soccer’s different cultures. Students will study the World Cup’s origin, history and future—from a sole soccer festival to a showcase that facilitates players’ careers, endorsements and branding as well. After grasping the tournament’s history, students will delve into both the economics and politics of the World Cup—why host nations are selected, and what are the defining reasons of those decisions. Is it to “expand” the game, or might there be deeper factors? Politics, corruption, racism, sexuality, anti-Semitism and economics are only several factors why a country is granted custodianship of sports’ crown jewel competition. Concluding our study, the class will effectuate a simulated bidding to become a future tournament host, absorbing all the factors learned over the quarter. That exercise will culminate with student submitting a writing that focuses on the effects in that country’s perspective, and soccer as a whole.
Chi Jang Yin, Art, Media & Design
LSP 112-312 LPC MW 11:20-12:50

How do nuclear images affect our daily life and global culture? How does nuclear technology affect the human race? This class uses film and photography to explore the context of the deve-lopment of the Atomic Bomb and the infrastructure of the Manhattan Project, and to examine the response by the public during the Cold War period. Class content includes how photography and film served as documentary and artistic expression during and after the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In all cases, we will focus on how the bomb and its representation were approached from a variety of social, national, political, and aesthetic points of view.
Douglas Long, Communication
LSP 112-313 LPC MW 2:40-4:10 + F 12:30-3:00

The films of Alfred Hitchcock have probably been analyzed, and in more ways, than those of any other director in history. The reason is likely that Hitchcock’s visual and thematic palettes often delved into the deep ravines of the human psyche, causing the audience to self-explore in a way that is, paradoxically, both uncomfortable and exciting. In this course we will approach some of his great works from the perspectives of several disciplines, including psychology, gender roles, and music. We will focus especially on the films The Lady Vanishes (1938), Notorious (1946), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960).

  • This section has a Friday "lab" period for film screenings.
Sarah Richardson, Biological Sciences
LSP 112-314 LPC TTh 11:20-12:50

Climate change is one of the most important environmental problems facing the world today. In this course, we will investigate the strength of scientific evidence that climate change is occurring. We will study evidence for various ways that it is affecting humans and ecosystems, such as how species that live in hot places have been shifting north. We will also be evaluating proposed solutions to the problem of climate change. We will address issues beyond that of scientific evidence. Communication about the issue is important to creating change—how do the news media cover the issue of climate change, and are people becoming informed? Also, how is a person’s motivation to change affected by risk perception and sense of place, phenomena studied by psychologists? Besides the news media, art and literature are important means of communication. What have artists and writers done to communicate their concerns? Can art and literature motivate people to change in a way that merely learning the science can’t? ​​
Melinda Wright, School of Public Service
LSP 112-602 Loop M 9:00-12:15

Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the most famous—and infamous—thought leaders of his time. He broke the box and broke the rules of architecture, and society. This course explores the life, philosophy and work of one of the most creative and distinctive architects of the 19th and 20th centuries. Frank Lloyd Wright had many interesting views of the world that still influence us. The course examines Wright’s formal and informal education and training and how his thoughts on art and architecture influence our present-day homes. We examine how his views on ideal communities are still seen as cutting-edge and how his designs are focused on a deep respect for the environment. We explore how his religious and ethical philosophy shaped the way he lived his life and how this perspective was also shaped by the major historical events of his day. We see several of Wright’s architectural achievements firsthand.
Paul Booth, Communication
LSP 112-650 Loop TTh 3:10-5:00

In 1963, Doctor Who premiered on British television. Over the past half century, the show has changed its focus, style, narrative, genre, and audience multiple times over. For this reason, Doctor Who provides a useful lens through which to view changing patterns of cultural criticism. It is also a program with a huge fan base. But Doctor Who is more than just a television program with multiple books, comics, web series, fan work, games, and physical locations, it is a multi-media experience. In fact, todays Doctor Who brand is one of the most popular and viable across the world. Doctor Who is historical; Doctor Who is contemporary. Doctor Who teaches us about the way the world has changed over the past half century. The study abroad portion of this course takes students to London and Cardiff where Doctor Who is made today to understand better the cultural of production and fandom for the show today. Doctor Who is a British national institution, so we will visit sites both specific to the show and also sites with historical and cultural relevance to aspects within the production of the show. Students will hear from guest speakers and scholars, and learn through the physical location of the show. Given the popularity of Doctor Who both in the US and in the UK, there is no shortage of things to do and see of cultural and historical value that are associated with the show as well. Touring such sites as Shakespeare's Globe Theater, the British Museum, Canary Wharf, Ianto's Shrine, and The Doctor Who Store, students will see the connection between history and culture each of these locations have historical value and have also been heavily featured in Doctor Who. Students will find value in learning about the historical significance of these locations in their own experiences. In turn, this will aid their development as global citizens and informed media viewers. Visiting Cardiff will allow students to get a different perspective on the program and the British community. We will visit the History Museum and the National Museum, which have been used as filming locations for Doctor Who and all of which resonate with cultural history.

  • For full information, click here​.
  • Honors Program students will receive credit for an Honors Fine Arts Elective.
  • This section has an extended class period to accommodate screenings.
Ken Butigan, Peace, Justice & Conflict Studies
LSP 112-950 LPC W 6:00-9:15PM

Saint Francis of Assisi changed his world—and invites us to do the same! In this Focal Point Seminar, students will discover the young man from Assisi, Italy who became a powerful peacemaker and spread a new way of life throughout the society of his time. We will get to know and learn from this spiritual pioneer whose compassion for others, love for the earth, and work for peace and reconciliation has inspired people everywhere for the last eight centuries. Together, we will embark on an exciting pilgrimage—first, by studying the moving life and work of Saint Francis during spring quarter at DePaul, and then by retracing the saint's steps in Italy in June, by visiting places where he built his movement of peace and spiritual transformation, including in Rome and Assisi. Together, students and faculty will visit sites that ring with the spirit of Saint Francis in Assisi and Rome. Students will visit the Vatican, where Saint Francis received approval to establish the Franciscan order. Students will also take the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Italian countryside, just as Saint Francis did. The program will explore the life and world of Saint Francis, study the power of pilgrimage, sharpen our own knowledge and skills as peacemakers, and experience the beauty and excitement of Italy!

  • For full information, click here​.
  • Honors Program students will receive credit for HON 102: History in Global Contexts.​
Heather Easley, Sociology
LSP 112-350 LPC TTh 9:40-11:10

The Jacobite Uprising of 1745 forever changed the people of Scotland—and the course of history. In this Focal Point Seminar, students will study Scotland from its inception through modern day. Students will discover historical lore, fact, and sites, and learn how this rich history impacts politics and culture in Scotland. We will discover this country together, first during our Spring Focal Point, followed by a trip to Scotland in June. We will visit sites central to the Jacobite Uprising, as well as sites that will help us to understand politics in Scotland and the rest of the UK. The Uprising and the Scottish vote for independence will be common themes that run through all of the cities we will visit. Together, we will explore the Scottish Lowlands and Highlands, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, the Isle of Skye, Invergarry, Fort William, Mallaig, and Stirling. Students will visit Scottish Labour and Scottish National Party headquarters to discuss the Yes and No sides of the independence debate. We will witness a session of Scottish Parliament, followed by a visit to the Palace of Holyrood House. We will explore Glasgow Cathedral and Edinburgh Castle. Together, we will embark on a sunset cruise on Loch Ness. Following the theme of the Jacobite Uprising, we will spend a day at Culloden Moor, the site of the last land battle on UK soil and where the English ultimately defeated the Jacobites. We will visit Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, and take a day trip on the Jacobite Express train to visit the Scottish countryside and coastal fishing villages. We will expand our knowledge surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of Scotland!

  • For full information, click here​.
  • Honors Program students will receive credit for HON 102: History in Global Contexts.
Sanjukta Mukherjee, Women's & Gender Studies
LSP 112-315 LPC TTh 11:20-12:50

What do London, Mumbai, L.A., São Paulo, New York, Algiers and Paris have in common? What are the similarities and differences between how a middle-class professional woman in Mumbai, a Latino migrant worker in California, a queer woman in Toronto and an Arab man in Paris experience the city? Some scholars are arguing that cities across the world are becoming increasingly similar due to the cross-border flows of peoples, cultures, media images, money and ideas. At the same time some cities continue to symbolize all that is “modern” and “developed” while others remain associated with “chaos, poverty, inefficiency and corruption.” Based on case studies from across the globe this course will take an interdisciplinary approach to introduce students to the changing role of cities in a globalizing world, new contours of inequalities that have emerged in them and how different people and communities are mobilizing in response to these changes. One of the main questions we will examine is how and why different people based on their social location and identities (in relation to race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, religion, etc.) experience the city differently. We will use weekly class lectures, readings, group exercises and films to critically understand how cities are both shaped by and shape processes of global change, and the specific implications of these changes for particular places, peoples and communities.
Molly Andolina, Political Science
LSP 112-316 LPC TTh 1:00-2:30 ​

This course will explore the much-maligned Generation X (the post-Baby Boomer generation). We will discuss how and why Xers differ from older Americans – and the political, social and economic consequences of these differences. We will review popular conceptions of Xers, which includes reading the book that spawned the name, and take some time to learn about how social science scholars study generations. We will examine the socializing experiences of Xers as youth as well as the impact of such experiences on the attitudes and actions of their adulthood. We’ll end with a comparison of Xers to their successors – the Millennials and Gen Z. Throughout you’ll get a chance to think about how we group people in society and the advantages and disadvantages of these practices.​
Max Samson, Geography
LSP 112-603 Loop MW 1:30-3:00 ​

This course provides an introduction to the some of the ideas behind the practices we understand as globalization. We will consider the ways in which technological advancements and industrial developments have contributed to the creation of a global society, and some of the consequences of this process for societies and people around the world. In particular, the unevenness of the phenomenon of globalization will be examined in terms of factors such as trade, employment, and the environment, with geography playing a central role in understanding relations of power, knowledge, and space. Indeed, if we are to reflect critically on our own world and to intervene responsibly in its future, we need to understand how certain ideas became “globalized,” and the impact of these ideas in the physical transformation of space and society. ​
Lori Pierce, African & Black Diaspora Studies
LSP 112-317 LPC F 12:00-3:15

This course will explore the political, economic and social development of Hawai’i. Although the tourist gaze has long defined Hawai’i as a vacation destination, Hawai’i is a unique example of some of the ramifications of colonialism. The course will examine several moments in the history of Hawai’i by examining a series of Hawaiian concepts: ho’ohuli mana’o (conversion); malama ‘aina (loving and caring for the land); ku’e (political resistance and sovereignty).
Liza Ginzburg, Modern Languages
LSP 112-902 LPC W 6:00-9:15PM

Russian Literature of the 19th century is a panorama of portraits of simple men in the Romantic, realistic, and even existential works of the greatest Russian writers: Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Alexander Karamzin, Nikolai Gogol, Fedor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, and Anton Chekhov, among some others. A simple hero lives in the capital and in provinces; he vainly attempts to become a real hero – and fails, ending as a lonely, insignificant, superfluous man. Instead, a heroine takes the leading place in the Russian artistic works of the 19th century. Reading material of the course includes not only original works of poetry and prose, but also film and theatre versions of the studied texts. Inter-generic, synaesthetic approach, as well as gender study and psychology, enhance traditional interpretation of a literary text.
Susan Solway, History of Art & Architecture
LSP 112-318 LPC TTh 2:40-4:10

This course focuses on the extraordinary life, times, and creations of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), one of the most significant figures in the history of Western art. Sculptor, painter, architect and poet, Michelangelo lived during the so-called Italian Renaissance, an age that witnessed the flourishing of an expanded artistic, scientific, and humanistic culture. His lasting masterpieces include some of the most famous artworks of all times: the Pietà, David, Moses, the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican church of St. Peter’s. Who was this irascible and solitary genius, this devout Catholic and fierce Republican Florentine, who cavorted and lived with popes and princes, and created works that profoundly influenced and transformed Western culture? What cultural forces shaped his thoughts and molded his values? Why has this incomparable individual come to personify his age to the extent that his name has become synonymous with it? Our class seeks to answer these and other questions and to understand Michelangelo as a creator whose brilliant achievements define, reflect, and illuminate the time, place and culture in which he lived. It focuses on a man whose immense and diverse talent, intelligence, and reverence for classical art left a lasting mark on the art of future ages up to the modern period.
Chernoh Sesay, Religious Studies
LSP 112-319 LPC TTh 1:00-2:30

This course examines the life and meaning of Malcolm X in his own lifetime and considers discussions about the significance and impact of his legacy. It will interrogate the idea that Malcolm X/El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz represented a militant black racist who supported racial segregation and sought violent retribution against racist white people. The course will explore Malcolm’s life and legacy by using the tools from three different academic disciplines: literary studies, history, and cultural studies. Students will use biography and literary analysis to investigate Malcolm’s life from his own perspective and they will think about how Malcolm’s religious and political perspectives change in important ways over the course of his rich but short life. Students will consider how historians have explained Malcolm’s importance relative to the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement and African American Islam. This historical discussion that contextualizes Malcolm’s life will allow the class to loop back to biographical and autobiographical questions of Malcolm’s life raised by a literary studies approach. Students will then utilize their biographical and contextual understanding of Malcolm’s life to discuss how films shape the memory of Malcolm and inform discussions about the importance of his legacy for thinking about race, gender, and social activism.
Keith Mikos, English
LSP 112-320 LPC MW 9:40-11:10

Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick is one of the greatest novels ever written. It is also one of the strangest! Never fully appreciated in its day—and harshly criticized for its provocative portrayals of sexuality, religion, and authority—readers now admire the novel’s bold originality, mind-bending meditations, and blasphemous humor. Nearly everyone has heard of Captain Ahab’s quest to kill the white whale, but far fewer know of Ishmael’s quest to understand it. That is our goal in this seminar. We will unify methods of history, literary analysis, comparative religion, philosophy, political science, and ecology to explore the novel from many different and unique angles and to identify its glaring relevance for readers today. We will illuminate Melville’s world by addressing topics such as imperialism, slavery, and orientalism, the rise of industry and scientific thinking, social alienation, and shifts in the visual arts. Readings will draw from Melville’s contemporaries and their sources, including Greek mythology, the Old Testament, and Classical philosophy. We will also discover the novel’s sustained influence by viewing adaptations and contemporary works it has inspired, along with critical commentary addressing race, politics, the environment, and popular culture.
David Maruz​zella, Philosophy ​
LSP 112-321 LPC TTh 1:00-2:30

Could it be easier to imagine the end of the world than fundamental and widespread changes to global capitalism or liberal democracy? This focal point seminar will investigate the revolutionary projects of the 20th century in a variety of spheres: global, revolutionary political movements, as well as similarly revolutionary transformations in music, visual art, physics, mathematics and other domains. In order to understand these groundbreaking events we will also need to think more generally about the notion of revolution, its meaning and its implications—when did the idea first emerge? is the very idea of revolution itself in some sense revolutionary? how are we to think revolutionary change as distinct from mere modification, transformation, or reform? is a revolution always a step forward? or is there something inherently backward-looking or repetitive about revolutions, an aspect of “revolving” or coming back around to a previous state of affairs? what can past revolutionary projects teach us about future possibilities and strategies for revolutionary transformation? We will dedicate 10 weeks to studying the works (philosophical, artistic, political, scientific) of a wide range of figures in order both to understand important revolutions of the past and to produce a theory of these revolutions.​
Lucia Marchi, Modern Languages
LSP 112-322 LPC MW 11:20-12:50

Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro – one of the greatest masterworks of opera – was created in 1785, in the stormy years between the American and the French Revolutions. How much did the ideas of liberty and equality play a role in the opera? And how was the work received by audiences around Europe? This class explores Mozart’s opera and its libretto (by Lorenzo Da Ponte) in the context of the cultural and historical climate of the time. Through the analysis of the aesthetics of Italian opera we will try to under¬stand how a “revolutionary” message could be projected on an operatic stage, and what was the function of opera in promoting political and social change.
John Burton, History
LSP 112-324 LPC TTh 9:40-11:10

This course examines the belief in witchcraft in early American culture with particular emphasis on the Salem Witchcraft Trials of the late 17th century. Students will examine how various interpretations of the Salem Witchcraft outbreak can be developed using psychological, sociological, biological, political/legal, and feminist interpretations. Students will investigate the trials through primary sources in order to build their own interpretations of the events and seek to discover the role of historical events in the development of American culture, through various literary sources from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Yuki Miyamoto, Religious Studies
LSP 112-325 LPC MW 2:40-4:10

The March 2018 issue of Vogue stirred up controversy by featuring a Caucasian model, Karlie Kloss, donning a kimono-like costume and posing in front of a Shinto shrine and sake barrels. An article in the Huffington Post, “Vogue Celebrates Diversity with Karlie Kloss in Yellowface,” criticized Vogue’s employment of a Caucasian model and the way in which it contradicts the magazine’s cover title, “celebrating diversity.” While the concept of “cultural appropriation” has been much criticized, few critics have discussed the stereotypical and orientalistic depictions of the (supposedly Japanese) culture—mystic, erotic, totally other—represented by Kloss. In other words, would there have been a controversy if an Asian (or a Japanese/Japanese-American) model had been chosen for the photo shoot? This question leads to some larger questions that are worthy of academic inquiry: What does it mean to learn about an unfamiliar culture? How can one appropriately represent a culture that is not one’s own? And, what do we mean by “culture,” considering that the term already reduces rich phenomena to some sort of “representation?” Responding to the critical issues of race, diversity, and multiculturalism, the course will delve into Japanese culture and its representations through the human body—both by themselves and by outsiders. By focusing on the physicality that we all share, regardless of race, culture, and nationality, we will shed light on the significance as well as the ethics of understanding a culture, which in turn will help us understand our own culture.
Marco Aiello, Anthropology
LSP 112-326 LPC MW 1:00-2:30

This course will focus on a specific question regarding human evolution: Who were the so-called “cavemen,” and what is their relationship to modern humans? There are several important reasons for focusing on this particular topic in human evolution. One is to separate myth from reality with regard to these early beings who came to be popularly known as “cavemen.” A second issue is whether these beings are direct ancestors to modern humans, or a side branch that became extinct. A third concerns the issue of human diversity, which, during the last 200 years or so, many scientists have characterized as racial.
Rachel Scott, Anthropology
LSP 112-327 LPC MW 11:20-12:50

This course explores the portrayal of crime scene investigation in popular media and introduces students to the fields of the history of science, forensic science, and media studies. It employs a historical framework, beginning with the depiction of forensic science in 19th-century detective fiction (particularly the Sherlock Holmes stories). For the early 20th century, we focus on the Leopold and Loeb case, a murder that occurred in Chicago in 1924, and consider the ways in which crime and its investigation are represented in the news. Finally, we examine the current popularity of forensic-based television programs and their impact (the so-called “CSI effect”) on the use of forensic evidence in the courtroom and on student expectations in the classroom. Throughout the course, a series of in-class lab activities introduces students to modern forensic methods so that they can compare the depiction of forensic science to its reality. Key questions that we address include: How has the field of forensic science developed over time? What is the relative value of the real and the representational? And what does the portrayal of forensic science in popular media tell us about larger social concerns?
James Halstead, Religious Studies
LSP 112-328 LPC MW 1:00-2:30

On May 4, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order "... promoting free speech and religious liberty." (The order does not define "religious liberty.") In this Focal Point Seminar, students will study 1) the history of what is now in the United states popularly called the "separation of church and state" and 2) the emergence and development of the concept of "religious liberty." Beginning with the Code of Hammurabi, we will examine several understandings of religious and civil authority, appropriate political structures, the relationship between religio-moral and civil laws and various notions of "religious freedom/liberty." After an historical survey, concentration will be on the Constitution of the United States and several Supreme Court Cases that apply the Constitution to particular religio-moral issues (e.g. polygamy, religious faith and fraud, interracial and same-sex marriage, various sexual activities, just and unjust discrimination based on religious belief, etc.). The course will conclude with 1) a consideration of laws regarding physician-assisted-death (PAD), 2) the religio-ethical beliefs that under-gird those laws and 3) the creation of a proposed Illinois statue regarding PAD.
David Lysik, Religious Studies
LSP 112-604 Loop TTh 11:50-1:20

This seminar is a selective introduction to the legal treatment of sexual orientation in the United States. The class will investigate the interaction between the law and broader attitudes about sexual orientation by exploring how social, cultural and political forces shape, and are shaped by, legal doctrine. Students will examine the subject from several legal perspectives, including constitutional, criminal, family, and nondiscrimination law.
Tricia Hermes, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
LSP 112-323 LPC TTh 2:40-4:10

We’ve all witnessed the changes caused by recent social protest movements around the globe. The ideas that are shaped, voiced, followed or refuted echo those from the past. These social movements were and are definitively rhetorical. This course looks at the relationship between rhetoric and social movements from a historical and contemporary perspective. We look at the rhetoric that surrounds these protests—both from the protestors and the resisters, from the text to the technology—and define social movement, watch its progress, and explain the specific rhetorical strategies that movements generally take on. By the end of the course, you should be familiar with several specific social movements and have a better understanding of the rhetorical construction of social protest. We will read and analyze the writings of several authors on different social activist movements throughout history from the Declaration of Independence to the taking down of the Confederate Flag. Students will write and revise several essays, including their own personal protest essay and a medium-length research-based argument on an issue of their choice that draws on both popular and scholarly sources.
Jonathan Gross, English
LSP 112-331 LPC TTh 9:40-11:10

This course on Thomas Jefferson’s Scrapbooks will consider Jefferson’s literary tastes as they reflect his attitude towards nation, family, and romantic love. Jefferson greeted visitors to the White House in corduroys and slippers. How did this ostentatiously democratic style reflect views expressed in his writings? In what ways did Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence” inaugurate a new political style connected to the Republican party he helped found? What was Jefferson’s attitude towards the Supreme Court, Federalism, and his predecessor John Adams? To answer these questions, we will read the scrapbooks he put together for his grand-daughters, focusing on themes of nation, family, and romantic love. Jefferson’s poems about dating, marriage, death, -- his “Ode on Potatoes”, on July 4th, on libertinism, sentimentality, toothaches and even elegies to George Washington and Alexander Hamilton -- give us insight into his sense of humor and the broad range of his interests. We will read poems by Thomas Moore, Peter Pindar, Robert Burns, Anna Barbauld, and Helen Maria Williams to get some purchase on Jefferson’s views on orientalism, race, architecture, democracy and other themes that reflect the transition from the Enlightenment to the Age of Romanticism. One leitmotif of this course is that Jefferson was America’s first Romantic, and the course will investigate the meaning of Romanticism as a critical term that might be applied across the disciplines of literature, architecture, and political writing.
Sarah Fay, English
LSP 112-329 LPC MW 9:40-11:10

In this seminar, you’ll explore the art of conversation. Conversation has served as the basis for human interaction and connection since the ancient Greeks (if not before). If language makes us human, then “talk” defines us. In this class, you’ll examine how conversation dictates the norms, successes, and failures of our society. It serves as the basis for TV talk shows, printed interviews, many novels, some poetry, most music, interpersonal relationships, and social conflict. As in all Focal Point Seminars, you’ll read primary works and secondary sources. You’ll engage in seminar behavior and investigate the art of conversation via a multidisciplinary approach, i.e., through literature, media, visual art, history, journalism, linguistics, music, and pop culture.
John French, Political Science
LSP 112-330 LPC MW 9:40-11:10

This course will explore the ways in which recent and emerging technologies, such as social media, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and the increasing prominence of “big data” have altered, or will alter, the political processes and institutions of democratic systems. Beginning with the fundamentals of democratic theory, we will ask whether the assumptions made by theoretical models still make sense for a society in which these technologies are prominent. We will look at a number of specific issues or problems, (for example, “fake news,” predictive policing, and the “right to be forgotten”) and explore how vital aspects of democracy, like freedom of information, freedom of speech, transparency, and accountability are affected by those technologies. We will also examine how existing political practices, policies, and institutions have been affected by these technological changes, and how they might continue to change in the future (for example, how "big data" and statistical analysis have altered the practices of political campaigns, or the ways in which policing strategies in major cities have changed in response to predictive policing algorithms). This course will use the lenses of political science, philosophy, and science and technology studies to examine these issues. We will look at the abstract theoretical ideal of democracy, the actual institutional mechanisms in existing political systems, and the way in which various technologies actually work (or don’t) in the context of those systems.
David Welch, English
LSP 112-332 LPC MW 2:40-4:10

“True” Detectives juxtaposes fictional (True Detective, season 1) and nonfiction (S Town) mystery narratives in order to explore questions of religion and ethics. Students will be asked to consider the following questions: What is the intellectual appeal of crime narratives? Why does society gravitate toward crime narratives—both fictional and real, especially those involving conspiracy and scandal? Why are these topics worth studying in a scholarly manner? What does it mean to lead an ethical life? How might one live, as the protagonists in both True Detective and S Town suggest, an ethical life without religion? How do the protagonists, and how might we as citizens, engage with this thinking? How do we support and engage with belief systems separate from our own while living ethically in society? What is the relationship between fiction and reality? What are the limitations and potentials of art for exploring these questions?
Heather McShane, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
LSP 112-605 Loop TTh 1:30-3:00

What happens when we go for a walk? What or whom do we encounter? What if we do more than just passively put one foot before the other? What if we consider walking as inspiring or even purposeful? In this course, we will investigate these questions and others as we look at the impacts of walking in literature, contemporary art, and sociopolitics. We will consider the works and actions of such people as writers Guy Debord, Frank O’Hara, Li Po, Robert Walser, and William Wordsworth; artists Marina Abramovic, Janet Cardiff, Tehching Hsieh, Richard Long, Bruce Nauman, Yoko Ono, and Adrian Piper; activists Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.; and oral historian Studs Terkel. We will read from Rebecca Solnit’s seminal book on the history of walking, Wanderlust. As a group and separately, we will walk. Additionally, walking will serve as the basis for a creative project and a research paper.
Laura Durnell, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
LSP 112-333 LPC TTh 11:20-12:50

Many artists and writers have incorporated autobiographical narratives into their work but women often face criticism for it with the common term being “narcissistic.” However, scholars Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson prefer the term “life narrative” instead of “autobiographical.” In their anthology Interfaces: Women, Autobiography, Image, Performance, fellow scholar Domna C. Stanton points out that the autobiographical “constituted a positive term when applied to [male writers and artists], but… had negative connotations when imposed on women’s [work]… and has effectively served to devalue their [work].” Why is that, and is that so? In this class we will explore and discuss your answers to these questions through the art and writing of Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Erica Jong, Francesca Woodman, and Kathryn Harrison. We will also read critical essays about the subjects and confession as an artistic method by both genders while diving into how history, sociology, psychology, religion, and gender archetypes play their part in both validating and invalidating women’s perspectives.



Winter 2019
Expand selection to view full course description and instructor information.

LSP 112

Mark Pohlad, History of Art & Architecture
LSP 112-201 Lincoln Park TTh 9:40-11:10

This course will examine the production and reception of Hollywood films about Abraham Lincoln including how the films reflect history, how they function as cultural artifacts, their place in the history of film, and their representation of women and African Americans. The class concentrates on four films—D. W. Griffith’s Lincoln (1930), John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), John Cromwell’s Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940), and Steven Spielberg’s recent Lincoln (2012). Films with Lincoln characters will also be considered but with less emphasis, e.g., the Shirley Temple film The Littlest Rebel (1935), and Tim Burton’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012). Through intensive reading, discussion, writing, and group work, students will engage the question: What do Hollywood films about Abraham Lincoln say about American culture—about us?​

Kenneth Krimstein, College of Communication
LSP 112-501 LOOP TTh 3:10-4:40

In many ways the history of advertising, especially in America, is the history of the development of modern technological society in the 20th Century. The move, from the earliest forms of “patent medicine” advertising, seen in “Huck Finn,” or “The Wizard of Oz,” for example, through the Yellow Press ads of the Hearst era, to early radio and mass communication, through mass magazines, television, into the digital age, is a reflection of the people, the times, and the struggle to make sense of the modern world. What worked? What didn’t work, and why? These questions reflect on American history, design, governmental regulation, writing, and creativity. Making connections between historical needs and wants introduces psychology, ethics, politics, economics, and business theory and practice. Through primary and secondary research and sources, as well as group oriented design projects, with a strong emphasis on the development of critical writing that embodies a personal tone of voice, the course will forge critical thinking, case-making, and innovative skills that will form the foundation of being not only a strong student, but also a thoughtful member of an ethical society.​

Laura Durnell, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
LSP 112-202 Lincoln Park MW 11:20-12:50

Our life stories and confessions define who we are and spotlight our aspirations. But most importantly, they can also lead us to discover our real selves and our true vocations. Often when Anne Sexton is mentioned, an individual’s first response to define her is “poet”; however, the study of Sexton offers a deeper understanding into the many concentrations of Liberal Studies and life overall. This Focal Point Seminar does not solely rely on the lens of literature. Instead, it focuses on Sexton’s art and life and questions how one’s life affects vocation and how vocation affects a person’s life as well as the lives of others. Students will be led to contemplate how professions in the arts, business, academics, religions, sciences, and political arenas relate to Sexton’s poetry and life. In addition, students will reflect on and connect their own life experiences and academic studies toward their future vocations. Along with the requirements of the seminar setting, course notebook, and final course essay, students will also have opportunities to present their own stories and confessions through their choice of non-fiction, fiction, visual or performance art, poetry, or music.​

Mary Jane Duffy, Art, Media & Design
LSP 112-203 Lincoln Park TTh 2:40-4:10

We have all heard the terms, “Go green!”, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” and probably even “Sustainable” but what do these catchy phrases really mean? Why are they important? Furthermore, what do these terms have to do with visual art? Our relationship with the environment is complex and becoming increasingly urgent. The field of sustainability is interdisciplinary, but this course will focus specifically on the fields of science, philosophy and contemporary art. We will examine what science tells us about the current and future state of the planet and how sustainability can help. We will consider how our philosophical ideas about nature affect what we do to the environment. We will also look at how contemporary visual art can question, explore and propose answers to problems of sustainability. Finally the class will reflect on an individual's role in the problems as well as possible solutions to sustainability.​

Jeff Carter, Art, Media & Design
LSP 112-204 Lincoln Park TTh 9:40-11:10

This course will examine the presence and impact of technology in modern and contemporary visual art, exploring and defining “technology” from various perspectives and contexts. We will examine how and why many artists have utilized the technologies of medicine, communication, entertainment, industry and the military, how these various and often contradictory paradigms of technology are articulated by specific artworks, artistic practices and art movements of our time, and the degree to which technology exerts an influence over all aspects of visual art, from content and aesthetics to production, presentation, and the viewing experience.​

Salli Berg Seeley, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
LSP 112-229 Lincoln Park MW 2:40-4:10

In Nelson Algren’s long, broken-hearted love poem to the city of Chicago he writes that “[i]t isn’t hard to love a town for its greater and its lesser towers, its pleasant parks… Or for its broad and bending boulevards… But you can never truly love it till you can love its alleys too.” Chicago: City on the Make was published as a slim volume in 1951, in the midst of the Post WWII McCarthy era. The country was rife with paranoia, convinced that Communist spies were lurking around every corner, and Soviet bombs were poised to drop on our soil at any moment. Any individual who varied from the prototype of a patriotic, mainstream American was viewed as suspect. In lyrical slang, Algren wrote his take on the history of Chicago, unearthing the city’s more unsavory past and declaring its present state desolate. He was an unabashed lefty nonconformist during a time in which conformity was not just highly valued, but seen as a means to maintain national security. We will be studying Chicago: City on the Make as a work of prose poetry, subjective history, and a political treatise celebrating nonconformity in a period in American history when submission to social and political conventions was the status quo.​

Two sections offered:

Terry Fitzpatrick, Biological Sciences
LSP 112-205 Lincoln Park MW 8:00-9:30

Jessica Pamment, Biological Sciences
LSP 112-206 Lincoln Park MW 11:20-12:50

Cloning, Gene Therapy, and DNA Evidence are topics frequently in the news today. The goal of this course is to teach the biological underpinning of this field and how this basic biological knowledge has led to the seemingly magical ramifications we hear about in the headlines. Topics to be covered will include: how cells code, decode, and transmit information through DNA; basic methods of studying and manipulating DNA; methods of modifying the DNA of organisms; and biotechnological applications of these principles and their impact and regulation. Source materials will include first person accounts by principal investigators in the field, as well as critical assessments of the risks associated with this new technology.​

Jason Winslade, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
LSP 112-207 Lincoln Park F 12:00-3:15

The culture of comic books, while always popular, has become much less of a fringe phenomenon in recent years, due in no small part to the recent explosion of superhero films and the centrality of Comic-Con in San Diego. In this course, we will look at the history of the medium of the comic book and its influence, both positive and negative, on youth culture in America. We will examine how comics began to be taken more seriously in the 1980s as “graphic novels” and how the popular imagination has since utilized comic book culture as a way to productively fantasize, redefine identity, particularly with regards to gender, race and class, challenge contemporary values and raise issues through readership, creative content, fandom and cosplay. Though we will focus primarily on the superhero genre, we will also examine other genres such as the personal memoir, as well as independent work from prominent authors. Students will be welcome to bring their own preferences and interests to the class to explore more deeply the material that provokes their own fandom, through readings, discussions, creative projects and a field trip to the C2E2 convention.​

Aaron Lefkovitz, History
LSP 112-209 Lincoln Park MW 9:40-11:10

As an industry, Disney has been well placed to meet the needs of contemporary culture as it commands a respectable place in the leisure industry, fulfills consumer demands, provides services people desire, and employs legions of workers. In this course, we will explore Disney as an enterprise, employer, tourist location, progenitor of cultural myths and symbols, and centrality to the transnational cultural politics of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, nation, popular music, and visual culture. A series of key questions will unify our discussion of Disney, including: what does Disney produce, how it can be defined, whether it is fun, and if so, what is the nature of pleasure in contemporary culture, is it good business, and if so, what type of business is it and what makes it good, if Disney is just fantasy, and if so, how does it pertain to the manufacture of reality and fantasy in contemporary culture, if Disney is just for kids, and if so, what is the nature of childhood, what does watching Disney’s visual texts teach us, is watching a form of consumerism, if so, what are we consuming, is consuming a passive act, and if so, why do we spend money on a passive act, and what do we get in return, what kinds of myths Disney sells, do these myths need to be accountable to the broader culture and its histories, and what do these myths say about US and transnational cultures and histories?​

Robert Meyer, English
LSP 112-210 Lincoln Park TTh 1:00-2:30

On June 25, 1876, a pivotal event in American history, and specifically in the history of interactions between Native Americans and Americans of European heritage, took place. On this occasion, the U.S. Seventh Cavalry, commanded by Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, was defeated by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors—led by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, among others—in what is now southern Montana. Sometimes referred to as the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Custer’s Last Stand, or The Battle of the Greasy Grass (a translation of the Sioux name for the location), this incident has been the subject of numerous debates, several films and countless books and articles. In this course, we will examine what is known about the major players, the cultural context and the historical ramifications of this remarkable confrontation. In so doing, we will strive to increase our understanding of 19th century America, and to develop insight about the cultural, political and other forces that shape our views of the past and the present.​

Janelle Walker, First-Year Program
LSP 112-502 LOOP MW 1:30-3:00

The influence of Disney in shaping American culture from the 1950’s onward is undeniable. In this course, we will explore the depths and subtleties of this influence by looking at selected original Disney “texts” – movies, characters, theme parks, attractions, merchandise, and official publications – from the perspectives of several disciplines. Starting from a historical perspective, we will see not only how Disney’s development has been affected by historical and political movements in the US, but also how Disney has portrayed these movements and historical figures, and the complicated relationship between changing times and changing Disney texts. Through the lens of Gender Studies, we will look at Disney’s treatment of femininity, masculinity, and sexuality, while Disney portrayals of race, ethnicity, and world cultures will be examined from a Cultural/American Studies perspective. Readings and class discussions will explore how American worldview in general is shaped by Disney creations. Lastly, we will look at the influence of Disney architecture and design on “real” urban spaces and the built environment. How do “Main Street USA” at Walt Disney World and Disney’s utopian town of Celebration influence our thinking about our own towns and cities? How and why has the Disney model of clean, uncomplicated tourism spread to so many other American sites?​

Mary Jeanne Larrabee, Philosophy
LSP 112-211 Lincoln Park TTh 8:00-9:30

Dreaming is an activity that happens everywhere, possibly to everyone. The course will question the nature of this activity and its relevance in the lives of individuals. It will look at writings from the early Greeks to contemporary writers, drawing from philosophers, religious studies scholars, neuroscientists, anthropologists, and psychological theorists in order to study the many different explanations of why we dream. The course will also raise the question concerning the nature of dreamers, given one’s understanding of dreams: For instance, if we consider dreams to be the result of biochemical events in the brain, does this mean human beings are nothing but biological organisms? The study of dreams through intellectual theories will be complemented by the use of an experiential method for understanding dreams, one rooted in individual experience, called Experiential Focusing; this method will allow us to study the possibly differing results of interpretation through the intellect with theory and through an embodied self.
Sara Pevar, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
LSP 112-212 Lincoln Park MW 4:20-5:50

It feels like we are living in Apocalyptic times—but really, doesn’t it always? In this course, students will explore the ways that human beings have considered, understood, and, especially, written about the end of the world from early recorded history all the way until the present day. This exploration will be organized around a series of texts: books, poems, films, religious documents, and works of art that people throughout history have created to grapple with the means and meaning of our ultimate end. As we discuss each text, we will also draw from the disciplines of history and philosophy to place each one in its proper context—to understand it not only as a work, but as both an artifact of its time and a vehicle for philosophical exploration of broader questions.
Philip Meyers, Political Science
LSP 112-213 Lincoln Park TTh 2:40-4:10

When it comes to quadrennial sports celebrations, the modern Summer Olympics paved the way, with nations and competitors uniting to demonstrate great athletic ability for the world to see—and with medals awarded to the best. That wildly innovative idea was quickly and globally embraced, soon thereafter triggering a new “team-sport” entity known as the World Cup. Hosted initially by Uruguay in 1930, soccer’s World Cup was spawned. Its concept followed the Olympics, contested once every four years, and evolved into the planet’s most glorious event. The World Cup is about countries who battle, over one month’s time, to achieve immortal greatness, with an entire nation welcoming 32 qualifying teams within its borders and allowing millions to savor soccer’s different cultures. Students will study the World Cup’s origin, history and future—from a sole soccer festival to a showcase that facilitates players’ careers, endorsements and branding as well. After grasping the tournament’s history, students will delve into both the economics and politics of the World Cup—why host nations are selected, and what are the defining reasons of those decisions. Is it to “expand” the game, or might there be deeper factors? Politics, corruption, racism, sexuality, anti-Semitism and economics are only several factors why a country is granted custodianship of sports’ crown jewel competition. Concluding our study, the class will effectuate a simulated bidding to become a future tournament host, absorbing all the factors learned over the quarter. That exercise will culminate with student submitting a writing that focuses on the effects in that country’s perspective, and soccer as a whole.
Cathy May, Political Science
LSP 112-214 Lincoln Park TTh 1:00-2:30

This course explores the relationships and connections between food and politics. Politics may be defined as “who gets, what, when, why, and how.” This definition points to the underlying power relationships inherent in the political. To study the politics of food is to study the power relationships involving food. In other words, food may be understood as a type of language, reflecting cultural values, political practices, ideological perspectives, and the socialization process. Through an investigation of food, students will be able to explore the world of politics.
Phillip Stalley, Political Science
LSP 112-250 Lincoln Park TTh 11:20-12:50

STUDY ABROAD: PERMISSION REQUIRED. This is an FY@broad section, taken with a required 2-credit Study Abroad component (ANT 397) during spring break. For full information, visit the Study Abroad website here. APPLICATION DEADLINE: November 1, 2018​.

Since opening its doors to the outside world in 1978, no country has climbed the economic ladder as quickly as China. Although this rapid growth has lifted a quarter of a billion people out of poverty and returned China to prominence on the international stage, it has also placed a tremendous strain on the natural environment. In terms of air pollution, sixteen of the twenty most polluted cities in the world are in China. Over two-thirds of Chinese cities suffer from water shortages. The concern of many both inside and outside of China is that the current rate of environmental damage is not sustainable and threatens to reverse many of the achievements of the recent decades. This program will introduce you to China and, in particular, familiarize you with the causes and consequences of China’s environmental challenge. We will visit Beijing, China’s political and cultural capital, whose rich history dates back more than 3,000 years. During our nine-day stay, we will meet with environmental experts and average citizens so that you can better appreciate the Chinese perspective on environmental protection. We will also explore neighborhoods, visit museums, and tour some of China’s most famous cultural sites such as the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and Summer Palace. You will leave the program with a better understanding of the world’s most important rising power and the challenges it faces as it seeks to cement its role as a 21st century superpower.
  • ​Honors Program students will receive credit for an Honors Approved Elective.​​​​
Barbara Schaffer, Women's & Gender Studies
LSP 112-251 Lincoln Park TTh 5:15-6:45 PM

STUDY ABROAD: PERMISSION REQUIRED. This is an FY@broad section, taken with a required 2-credit Study Abroad component (ANT 397) during spring break. For full information, visit the Study Abroad website here. APPLICATION DEADLINE: November 1, 2018​.

For this program, students will look at the many reasons people travel and write about their experiences. We will read, and of course, write, about the journey we will take to Ireland and the journeys you have taken. Our particular focus will be on travel literature on The Republic of Ireland. What is it that makes people want to travel to there? How is it imagined in our minds, and what do we hope to find when we go there? These are some of the questions we will be asking, as we read classic and contemporary pieces of travel writing during winter quarter. And then, we will experience and retrace some of the very steps of those travel writers, as we explore Ireland on our own. We'll visit sites such as Trinity College, Doolin (the center of traditional music), Sligo (the center of “Yeats country”), and more. We will have guest lecturers, explore remnants of early Irish history, and stay in a castle, to name a few of our activities.
  • ​Honors Program students will receive credit for an Honors Fine Arts Elective.​
Warren Schultz, History
LSP 112-252 Lincoln Park TTh 9:40-11:10

STUDY ABROAD: PERMISSION REQUIRED. This is an FY@broad section, taken with a required 2-credit Study Abroad component (ANT 397) during spring break. For full information, visit the Study Abroad website here. APPLICATION DEADLINE: November 1, 2018​.

The land of Jordan is an excellent case study for exploring the myriad ways we can study the human experience over the long term. While the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a modern development—its borders were drawn, negotiated, and contested in a series of well-known events of the twentieth century—the land area found within these modern borders contains physical remains of many major currents of human history and development. Within these borders, early humans domesticated plants, Bronze-age societies built megalithic burial structures, the early Hebrews caught their first sight of their promised land, the Nabataeans carved enormous tombs into the red sandstone cliffs of Petra, the Hellenistic Greeks and later the empire-building Romans built cities and commercial empires, the Byzantine Christians built churches and monasteries to commemorate the major events and people of early Christianity, the first Muslims conquered and brought Arab-Islamic culture, Crusaders built castles to defend their Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Ottomans incorporated its resources into their large empire, and the modern currents of imperialism and nationalism whether based in currents of Jewish, Arab, or Muslim thought buffeted the region in the twentieth century. After studying this long narrative in our Focal Point Seminar, we will fly to Jordan to explore the locations where these events happened. We will draw upon the disciplinary approaches of Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Art History, Geography, History, and Religious Studies to help us to understand what we are studying, seeing, and exploring.
  • ​Honors Program students will receive credit for HON 102: History in Global Contexts.​​
William Chin, Mathematical Sciences
LSP 112-801 Lincoln Park M 6:00-9:15 PM

Two of the popular played games of chance are blackjack (twenty-one) and poker. These games form the most interesting examples of games of chance where risky decisions can profitably be made based on probability theory and game theory. Of particular interest is the theory and practice of card-counting in blackjack, and the mathematics and psychology of poker strategy. We shall deal with the basics of such analyses and indicate how they have been developed. Some requisite rudimentary probability theory statistics and their foundations will be introduced. The theory shall be reified with examples, concrete problems and live play, all tied in with mathematical and psychological theory. We will examine these and other games of chance, focusing on how they are played with positive expectation (or not). Fallacies regarding gambling and their psychological bases will be discussed in the context of games, and generalized to other decision-making processes. Moral, cultural and legal issues surrounding gambling will also be addressed.
Larry Mayo, Anthropology
LSP 112-802 Lincoln Park T 6:00-9:15PM

Is cultural diversity diminishing as a consequence of globalization? This question will be addressed by attempting to understand cultural similarity and difference between America and Japan; but instead of focusing on traditional cultural themes such as politics, religion or economics, the focus of this course will be on idioms of popular culture. Disciplines through with analysis will be conducted include anthropology, Japanese studies, history, and film studies. The methods of comparing aspects of popular culture from American and Japanese culture will focus on films, monster movies/science fiction in particular.
Christine Reyna, Psychology
LSP 112-216 Lincoln Park MW 9:40-11:10

​This course will explore what many consider the most timeless and universal myth of the “hero’s journey” through the stories of Harry Potter. The Hero’s Journey (Campbell, 1949) is at the heart of most major mythologies and religions the world over. Its universal themes present a roadmap for personal and spiritual transformation from innocence, to call to action, challenge, abyss, revelation, transformation and ultimately rebirth. Through examining and discussing the stories and characters of Harry Potter we will deeply dissect the stages of the hero’s journey and compare these themes with other myths and stories from ancient civilizations, classic literature and popular culture to examine how these themes reflect the human experience in modern times and how they have remained timeless. In this process, students will have the opportunity to explore their own lives and reflect on how literature can serve as a guide to their own personal journey of transformation and initiation. Note: Students are expected to be familiar with the seven books in the Harry Potter series before the start of class.​​
Heather Easley, Sociology
LSP 112-217 Lincoln Park TTh 9:40-11:10

One of the most successful book series of all time is more than just a book series, as we will examine in this course. J.K. Rowling’s masterpiece, “Harry Potter” provides readers with the opportunity to examine a fictional world through the lens of modern disciplines. We will examine our own interpretations of the world of Harry Potter through the disciplines of Sociology, Philosophy, Religion, and Business. As Harry Potter has taken on a life of its own within our Muggle world, we’re able to see the impact such a work has on today’s economic and religious climate. We will also discuss the content of the literature with a focus on gender, family, stratification, poverty, the idea of destiny, love, identity, choice, and the classic and ultimately important, good vs. evil.
Douglas Long, College of Communication
LSP 112-218 Lincoln Park MW 9:40-11:10 plus LAB: F 12:30-3:00

For decades, film writers have identified 1939 as the “greatest year” of Hollywood filmmaking, largely due to the high number of classic films released that year, including Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, and The Wizard of Oz. As scholars, we can use these films as texts to study in a number of ways. From historical perspectives, we can look at these films in relation to the Great Depression that preceded them and the world war which was already brewing in Europe while the U.S. was questioning its neutrality status. From sociological and gender studies perspectives, we can trace the portrayal of non-white and female characters in an era where those social roles were seen much differently than today. And from film scholarship, we can see this as the height of the studio system, where filmmaking was churned out in factories modeled on Henry Ford’s assembly lines and where new technologies like Technicolor were bursting onto the scene. And the “factory” workers included some of the most iconic film actors of all time: Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Greta Garbo, James Cagney, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Laurel & Hardy, W.C. Fields, etc.
  • ​This section has a Friday “lab” period for film screenings.​
Maria Masud, Modern Languages
LSP 112-219 Lincoln Park TTh 2:40-4:10

​The recent history of Latin America has been marked by cycles of political and social repression. The “dirty war” in Argentina, the military coup in Chile, the “death squads” in Central America, and others have generated a rich document¬ation of books, articles, films, and desperate public calls for justice, e.g., the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. These diverse sources seek to explain how those repressive forces overthrew democratically elected governments, and the short and long term consequences of these actions for civil society. Likewise, they document the attempts by groups and individuals in those respective societies to find processes that would bring justice to the individuals directly and indirectly affected by the repression.
Ana Schaposchnik, History
LSP 112-220 Lincoln Park TTh 11:20-12:50

This class will address the academic study of the Inquisition in Spain, Portugal and their American colonies, as well as representations of this institution in literature and film. When was the Inquisition created? For how long were the tribunals active? In what aspect was the Inquisition trial different from a secular trial at the same place and time? What are the differences between Medieval and Modern? Are literary depictions of the Inquisition accurate? What about movies? These questions will be answered in this course, through a combination of readings (primary/secondary sources), discussions, analysis of visual materials, and written assignments.​​​
Daniel Kamin, International Studies
LSP 112-221 Lincoln Park TTh 1:00-2:30

In this course, we will study the conflict between modern Jewish nationalism and Palestinian nationalism in its many aspects by examining issues of roots and causes as well as the prospects for peace. Wider issues involving the Arab and Islamic world and the Jewish community will be explored for their impact on this conflict. Efforts at conflict resolution will be examined through exposure to diverse points of view. The course seeks to synthesize an examination of religion, nationalism, and ethnic identity in order to gain some insight into the possibilities for a peaceful resolution.
Brian Boeck, History
LSP 112-222 Lincoln Park MW 11:20-12:50

​This course is devoted to Ivan the Terrible, the Russian ruler whose reputation for cruelty became legendary. Class discussions will explore both the historical tsar and the mythical figure who casts a long shadow over Russian and European discourse about kingship. Readings will draw upon insights from multiple disciplines (history, folkloristics, psychology, political science and film studies). Students will read Russian primary sources in translation (chronicle excerpts, the history attributed to the renegade prince Kurbsky, and church documents) and primary sources in English (reports of English merchants and travelers in Russia). Secondary sources will be employed to pursue connections to broader themes such as tyranny, reli¬gious authority, autocracy, politics, and violence. The problems of evaluating and interpreting oral, folk traditions about Ivan will also be considered. Finally, Sergei Eisenstein’s classic film about Ivan will be analyzed in the context of a significant reappraisal of Ivan’s legacy in the age of another all-powerful ruler, Joseph Stalin.
David Gardiner, English
LSP 112-223 Lincoln Park MW 2:40-4:10

This course explores the complex relationship between two major writers of the twentieth century, the Dubliners James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. It studies a sample of their works, from critical essays, to short stories, to novels, and plays in order to grasp the continuities and contradictions within both authors’ oeuvres. This course examines Joyce and Beckett’s relationship and the ways in which the two predominantly defined modern and postmodern writing. In addition, we will focus on Dublin at the turn-of-the-century and Paris in the late 1920s and 1940s, a time when both were living as “Irish cosmopolitans” in France. In addition to grasping the absorbing literary cultures of both Dublin and Paris, we will address the significance of both authors’ works – works which question the elevated and the everyday, the difficulty of communication and writing, the habits of our daily life, and the nature of our existence. This intertextual course combines history, biography, literary and philosophical inquiry asking such questions as: What is the nature modern literature? What significance does “exile” contribute to art? What constitutes modernist/postmodern writing? What is the lasting influence of these authors on contemporary literature? Wherever possible, coursework will be sup¬plemented with multimedia materials, including plays, films and interactive works.
Lisa Mahoney, History of Art & Architecture
LSP 112-236 Lincoln Park TTh 4:20-5:50

This class looks at 3000 years of life in the city of Jerusalem. In particular, it looks at major historical moments that occasioned surprising creations in this place. We will begin with great biblical kings, and the city they founded and fortified, moving through the magnificent building campaigns of Roman, Christian, and Islamic rule, and end with the modern religious and political conditions that led to the divided city Jerusalem is today, and the way those conditions map onto this space and motivate artistic output. There are few cities in the world like this one, defined by continuous habitation from the earliest moments of human settlement and by literary and material culture of unsurpassed variety and force. We will understand it as such through a revealing combination of primary and secondary materials belonging to the disciplines of archaeology, history, art history, and literature.​​​
Michael Tafel, History
LSP 112-503 LOOP TTh 11:50-1:20

​Even after the fall of the Roman Empire its influence continues to affect later generations. From the “Holy Roman Empire” to the revolutionary era of Alexander Hamilton and Napoleon, and from the Florentine Republic to Mussolini’s Fascism, Rome’s influence has persevered and still resonates with us today. Students will be challenged to access the magnitude in which ancient Rome really had an effect on these eras through a variety of primary and secondary sources. In addition to political and intellectual influences, we will also observe how ancient Rome affected the art of later generations as well as our ideas of modern society and culture.
Scott Moringiello, Catholic Studies
LSP 112-225 Lincoln Park TTh 9:40-11:10

​If we were to point to what is most important in our lives, we would point to the things we love. Yet we would also be hard pressed to define love. In this course, we will explore love in representative texts from literature, philosophy, and Christian theology. We will also explore how these texts continue to influence contemporary authors.
Caterina Mongiat Farina, Modern Languages
LSP 112-226 Lincoln Park TTh 11:20-12:50

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) is arguably one of the most controversial writers of the Western canon. For example his Discourses, a commentary on Livy’s Histories that praise the Roman Republic in opposition to the later Empire, have been hailed as the forerunners of modern democracy, while his political pamphlet The Prince has been condemned as the ideological root of twentieth century totalitarianisms. According to Albert Russell Ascoli, such polarized readings result from the common mistake of isolating Machiavelli’s writings from their historical context and changing “his always qualified, always historically grounded precepts into abstract, universal rules of conduct.” Through the close reading of a number of Machiavelli’s writings, from his infamous The Prince to his comedy The Mandrake Root, from his Florentine Histories to his Letters, and with the aid of leading Renaissance scholars, this course aims at giving students the opportunity to understand and interpret Machiavelli’s thought in its historical context. Although the course and its texts are all in English, students will have the chance to familiarize them​selves with a few famous terms and passages in the original Italian texts.
Christina Rivers, Political Science
LSP 112-227 Lincoln Park MW 2:40-4:10

For most Americans, Martin Luther King Jr. symbolizes the non-violent struggle to overcome racial injustice not only in the South, but across the nation and throughout the world. While King was indeed relentlessly committed to racial equality, his views on how to achieve that goal were far more complex than most Americans either realize or remember. For many Americans, Malcolm X symbolized a militant struggle for racial equality and black power “by any means necessary,” including violent resistance. While Malcolm X was initially skeptical about peaceful resistance to violent racial oppression, his views were also more complex than many realize. In order to appreciate both of these leaders as well as their legacies, we must familiarize ourselves with the full scope of their views on dissent, democracy and race – a scope that extends well beyond their most commonly known speeches and writings. This course will concentrate on the evolution of M.L. King’s and Malcolm X’s views on race during the short-but-significant period between the early 1960s until 1968.
Lucia Marchi, Modern Languages
LSP 112-228 Lincoln Park MW 1:00-2:30

Solve a 14th-century mystery with your knowledge of medieval history, politics, philosophy and art! This course is based on world-renowned Italian semiotician and writer Umberto Eco’s mystery novel The Name of the Rose. Written in 1980, the book became an instant best-seller thanks to its intriguing story and the richness of historical, philosophical and scriptural citations. In the class, we will enjoy the unfolding of the plot while also decoding the dense web of references with units on the arts, the idea of sacred and profane love, politics and philosophy in the Middle Ages. After having read The Name of the Rose as a representation of the past, we will also consider it as a product of our own time. As a splendid example of a postmodern novel, the book leaves us with only fragments of truth, which the reader can reassemble according to a multiplicity of interpretations.
Ted Anton, English
LSP 112-238 Lincoln Park MW 2:40-4:10

Where does evil come from? Why does it exist? What is its nature precisely? Why are villains so interesting? The question “does God exist?” precedes only by philosophical seconds the inquiries above. The relationship between these questions invites us to take an analytical scalpel to the social, artistic, philosophical, historical, psychological, and theological significance of evil. In this course, students will analyze and explains texts such as the Bible, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Breaking Bad and Gone Girl, in a quest to understand why good people go bad.
Kelly Tzoumis, Public Policy Studies
LSP 112-230 ONLINE/HYBRID MW 1:00-2:30

The safe disposal of our nuclear waste in the United States has become a NIMBY ("not in my backyard") problem causing a significant public policy dilemma – how should we dispose of nuclear waste in the United States? Nuclear waste is continuously being generated by nuclear power plants, weapons facilities, and other generators like hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and research institutions. This course will explore the public policy problems posed for disposing of this waste and discuss the environmental, safety and health as well as the political and ethical implications. Environmental justice issues impacting Native Americans will be included. Nuclear waste disposal policies that are covered in the course include low-level, transuranic, and high-level nuclear waste. Students will be required to compare information in tone, quality and accuracy from a variety of both primary and secondary sources.
  • ​Thi​s section will meet via video-conference at the scheduled times.​
Gagik Aroutiunian, Art, Media & Design
LSP 112-231 Lincoln Park MW 1:00-2:30

This course will introduce students to Performance Art with a special emphasis on artists whose work has explored the relationship between the body and self. A brief history of Performance Art in the 20th Century will be surveyed in order to provide a context for understanding the main focus of the course, an examination of selected contemporary performance artists who create interdisciplinary hybrid forms (incorporating sound, movement, text, experimental theatre, sculpture, photography, electronic media) that explore the properties and limits of the human body and the self and identity within the context of contemporary social, cultural, political and economic factors. The list of possible subjects for examination includes such prominent artists as Joseph Beuys, Marina Abramovic, Matthew Barney, Orlan, Ana Mendieta, Stelarc, Guillermo Gomez-Peña, and others. Intensive reading, discussions, demonstrations, research papers and a final group performance project will be the components of this class.
Daniel Rosiak, Philosophy
LSP 112-239 Lincoln Park TTh 11:20-12:50

There is a great deal of interesting culture and theoretical problems surrounding the game of chess, and it is beneficial for critical thinking to learn to play the game of chess and to improve one's play. No chess experience is required for taking this course. We will undoubtedly have students in the course at all levels of play (including beginners and some who may be better players than the instructor). In the first week we will learn the basics of the game and also certain techniques for thinking about the game, and we will help each other to improve throughout the quarter. We will spend the first part of each class meeting playing chess, and working on chess problems, “backwards chess” problems, notation, etc. In most classes the instructor will present a brief lecture and guide discussion on some aspect of chess and its relation to philosophical, cultural, and other theoretical questions. Among the theoretical issues we will deal with are chess in relation to artificial intelligence and the nature of computation; some connections between chess and fundamental results in logic and pressing questions in mathematics; some more philosophical questions surrounding the nature of “rule-following”; analogies between chess and military strategies; the history of the game as it relates to certain political and cultural issues and events; comparison to other games (like Go) and looking at their respective “philosophies.”​​​
​​Guillemette Johnston, Modern Languages
LSP 112-232 Lincoln Park TTh 1:00-2:30

With a strong emphasis on a literary approach, this course proposes to analyze fairy tales of diverse cultures in light of their psychological significance. Using theoretical perspectives developed from Jungian and Freudian psychology, we will bring out, on one hand, the basic role of fairy tales in portraying the development of individual maturity, and, on the other hand, the typical though universal themes found repeatedly in tales from different cultures.
Jesse Mumm, Latin American & Latino Studies
LSP 112-233 Lincoln Park MW 9:40-11:10

The Puerto Rican Experience examines the island of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican diaspora through the lens of the unequal colonial relationship, “belonging to, but not a part of, the United States.” We will examine US intervention since 1898, how migration began in the early twentieth century, and what shapes Puerto Rican communities in the US. The smallest and furthest east of the Greater Antilles, Puerto Rico boasts a legacy of African, indigenous and Spanish inheritances—well known, for example, in the global presence of salsa music. We will look at El Barrio in New York City, recent growth in Florida, and showcase how Chicago is a national center for Puerto Rican pride, politics, arts and culture, where gentrification threatens the pedacito de patria [little bit of homeland] on Division Street in Humboldt Park. We examine legacies of political repression and resistance, the current debate on its status and sovereignty, migration history, early settlement, ongoing transnational life, and consider what the Puerto Rican experience means to those who live it.
James Halstead, Religious Studies
LSP 112-505 LOOP TTh 1:30-3:00

On May 4, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order "... promoting free speech and religious liberty." (The order does not define "religious liberty.") In this Focal Point Seminar, students will study 1) the history of what is now in the United states popularly called the "separation of church and state" and 2) the emergence and development of the concept of "religious liberty." Beginning with the Code of Hammurabi, we will examine several understandings of religious and civil authority, appropriate political structures, the relationship between religio-moral and civil laws and various notions of "religious freedom/liberty." After an historical survey, concentration will be on the Constitution of the United States and several Supreme Court Cases that apply the Constitution to particular religio-moral issues (e.g. polygamy, religious faith and fraud, interracial and same-sex marriage, various sexual activities, just and unjust discrimination based on religious belief, etc.). The course will conclude with 1) a consideration of laws regarding physician-assisted-death (PAD), 2) the religio-ethical beliefs that under-gird those laws and 3) the creation of a proposed Illinois statue regarding PAD.​
Ellen Van, Driehaus College of Business
LSP 112-803 Lincoln Park W 6:00-9:15 PM

This course uses an interdisciplinary approach to examine the issues of school choice in American education. We will explore questions/debates regarding school choice from the perspectives of economics, history, and sociology. We will examine the following topics: benefits of education; brief history of U.S. education; current education system; rationale for school choice; types of school choice; and implementation of school choice. For each topic, we will explore relevant theories, methodologies, findings, prospective research topics, and policy implications through readings, students’ writings, and through small and large group discussions and presentations. This class will improve students’ abilities to read about current events in the press and to understand the issues the major debates regarding school choice in education.
Jumana Khalifeh, Public Policy Studies
LSP 112-235 Lincoln Park TTh 8:00-9:30

This course examines two critical concepts: the state and violence. First, we will engage normative debates over the state as defeating or overcoming violence versus the state as normalizing and deepening violence. Second, we will explore two significant labor conflicts/strikes that occurred in Chicago during the Gilded Age (late 19th century): the Haymarket bombing and trial and the Pullman strike. Examining these two events in depth and comparing them with other labor conflicts and protest/events will provide an empirical base for thinking about the government’s use of violence and coercion. The course will conclude with trajectories of state practices, especially current discussions about a transition from sovereign to post‐sovereign modes of ​identity, power, and subjectivity. A comparison of the Gilded Age with contemporary society, with what some commentators have dubbed the “second Gilded Age,” will challenge us to think about our democratic principles; who has benefited from it; and who has borne the costs? What are the similarities and differences in the state’s use of violence and coercion during the two Gilded Ages? We will incorporate historical accounts through both primary and secondary sources; sociological concepts of social order and social control; political science concepts of democracy and anarchy; and legal writings on appropriate government use of violence and coercion.
James Phelps, English
LSP 112-237 Lincoln Park TTh 4:20-5:50

Audiences have always been intrigued by stories of individuals who venture into the wilderness, some never to return. Surveying narratives within the disciplines of literature and film, this course will introduce students to fictional and actual stories of life-and-death struggle in extreme environments. Students will also consider articles from the fields of psychology and risk management to better understand why some people live and some people die in high-stress situations. Finally, students will thi​nk critically about why these often brutal stories of human suffering, success, and failure are a source of entertainment.​​​
David Brenders, College of Communication
LSP 112-504 LOOP MW 10:10-11:40​​

In this course we will investigate a number of fringe or alternative beliefs & how well they hold up under rational or scientific scrutiny. Whether it be alien abduction, satanic cults, fortune-telling, ESP, psychic healing, spontaneous human combustion, or the like, your favorite fringe belief will be discussed. An added benefit of the course will be to show the student how to be a more informed judge of the claims of others.


Course descriptions of recent years' Focal Point Seminars and FY@broad courses in PDF:

Focal Point Seminars: Winter 2018 FPS: Winter 2017
Focal Point Seminars: Spring 2018 FPS: Spring 2017
FY@broad 2018 FY@broad 2017