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

Focal Point Seminar

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Spring 2020​ 

Note: Courses tagged GL (Global Learning) or GLE (Global Learning Experience) may be counted toward DePaul's Global Fluency Certificate​.

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LSP 112

Margaret Workman, Environmental Science & Studies
LSP 112-339 Lincoln Park MW 4:20-5:50

This course focuses on the tensions between science and religion that surfaced in the wake of Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species. The scientific debate also percolated through a host of related issues, including the implications of Darwinism for social reform, racial theories, and women's rights and the evolving concept of causation in science and its implications for public policy.

The course uses the “Reacting to the Past” philosophy. Reacting to the Past is a series of historical role-playing games. After a few preparatory discussions, the instructor becomes a Gamemaster (GM), and the students become important figures in a highly-charged moment in history. During the game, students strategize with teammates, work to defeat opponents, engage in negotiations, give speeches and participate in debates, and write essays and position papers. In this particular game, students are divided into 3 main factions: the Natural Theologians, the Naturalists and the Social Reformers.

Heather Easley, Sociology
LSP 112-338 Lincoln Park TTh 9:40-11:10

This course explores Scotland’s rich history, beginning with the Jacobite Uprising of 1745. We will discover how the failed uprising led by Bonnie Prince Charlie impacted the Scottish people in the 18th century and how that impact reverberates across Scotland's cultural and political landscape to the present day.

Salli Berg Seeley, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
LSP 112-335 Lincoln Park TTh 9:40-11:10

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 aeans 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.

Carolina Sternberg, Latin American & Latino Studies
LSP 112-337 Lincoln Park 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.

Michael Tafel, History
LSP 112-336 Lincoln Park TTh 4:20-5:50

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 Machiavelli’s 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, intellectual and historical influences, we will also observe how ancient Rome affected the art of later generations as well as our ideas of modern society and culture.

  • This course was to have been offered as part of the FY@broad program, but the Study Abroad component has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak in Italy. So the course is now being offered as a regular Focal Point Seminar.

Jaime Waters, Catholic Studies
LSP 112-301 Lincoln Park 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.

Geoffrey Farina, School of Music
LSP 112-302 Lincoln Park MW 11:20-12:50

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.

Gazmend Kapllani, Modern Languages
LSP 112-303 Lincoln Park TTh 1:00-2:30

This course will explore representations of borders and walls in contemporary art and literature. We will initially explore from a border-study, topological and historical prospective, how and why borders and borderlines are human inventions and exist in the world only to the extent that humans regard them as meaningful. After framing the discourses about borders and walls within a theoretical context, we will examine how different kind of borders and walls have been represented in contemporary art and literature, focusing particularly on individual narratives, memoires and testimonies.

Terry Fitzpatrick, Biological Sciences
LSP 112-304 Lincoln Park MW 8:00-9:30

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.

Justin Staley, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
LSP 112-305 Lincoln Park TTh 11:20-12:50

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 112-306 Lincoln Park 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.

Rebecca Johns-Trissler, English
LSP 112-307 Lincoln Park MW 2:40-4:10

Since the publication of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley in 1818—the first science-fiction novel in English—the world has been fascinated by the idea of the automaton. Human-looking machines have appeared in works as diverse as Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film Metropolis, Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and David Eick and Ron Moore’s 2003 TV series Battlestar Galactica. This course will introduce students to the relevant historical, religious, cultural, and aesthetic lenses by which we can analyze written and dramatic works that question the role of the automaton in human society. From Frankenstein to The Matrix, students will engage with their own writing through criticism of written and dramatic interpretations of the automaton, coming away with a better understanding of the uncanny machine in literature and film.

Jan Hickey, English
LSP 112-607 LOOP TTh 10:10-11:40

Global Gateway Program:  PERMISSION REQUIRED.  This section is open only to international students participating in the GGP.

This course introduces students to the Gilded Age of Chicago when circumstances, personalities, and influence converged to accomplish a seemingly impossible feat: the construction of the 1893 Columbian Exposition. We will view this vibrant era in Chicago’s history through the lens of the book The Devil in the White City, which captures the ambitious spirit of the city in the telling of the construction of the World’s Fair. We will examine not only the civic leaders and architects who designed the Fair, but we will also explore the literature of the period and how it reflected or reacted to the dynamic forces in society. We will try to answer such questions as: How was the role of American cities changing? What was the effect of urbanization on the common person? Did urbanization increase a sense of isolation among city inhabitants? During the second half of the course, we will investigate how the building of the 1893 Columbian Exposition laid the groundwork for the city we enjoy today.

Philip Meyers, Political Science
LSP 112-308 Lincoln Park MW 11:20-12:50 

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 112-309 Lincoln Park TTh 2:40-4:10

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 112-310 Lincoln Park MW 9:40-11:10 + 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 112-311 Lincoln Park 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?

Cathy May, Political Science
LSP 112-312 Lincoln Park MW 9:40-11:10

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.

Melinda Wright, School of Public Service
LSP 112-601 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.

Sanjukta Mukherjee, Women's & Gender Studies
LSP 112-313 Lincoln Park TTh 1:00-2:30

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.

Rick Hudson, Biological Sciences
LSP 112-314 Lincoln Park MW 9:40-11:10

The focus of this course will be on the promise and controversy surrounding genetically modified (bioengineered) crops. Proponents of the technology claim that the way to feed a burgeoning work population is to produce genetically engineered crop plant for higher nutritional and energetic content and disease resistance. Also, genetically modified crops can be used to reclaim polluted lands and water supplies. Opponents insist that scientists are “playing God” with the food source and force these crops on the human population without completely understanding the health or environmental consequences; they believe that agricultural biotechnology companies are not only interested in the profits but are also seeking to control the food supply of developing nations, the citizens of which would benefit the most from the technology. As with many debates of this nature, both sides likely have viable points.

Max Samson, Geography
LSP 112-602 LOOP MW 10:10-11:40

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.

Sheryl Overmyer, Catholic Studies
LSP 112-315 Lincoln Park TTh 1:00-2:30

The question, “How can I be happy?” and the quest to answer that question are our common journey this focal point course. We’ll investigate this question as asked and answered by three different disciplines: psychology, philosophy, and theology. Our central question gives rise to related questions such as: (i) what are the potential constitutive elements of happiness? (ii) is happiness fully achievable – if so, how? and if not, why not? (iii) is happiness subjective, objective, or both? (iv) what does happiness have to do with morality? (v) how do friendship and the flourishing of the social good impact happiness? Students are asked to formulate their own informed responses to the course’s central theme at its conclusion.

Curt Hansman, History of Art & Architecture
LSP 112-316 Lincoln Park MW 11:20-12:50

Sometimes the questions asked by one individual and the paths and patterns of that individual's life reflect those of an entire generation or an era or even a culture. Su Shi 1036 – 1101, better known by his literary name Su Dong-po asked such questions. At nineteen, the age of most people taking this course, Su Shi left his home in Sichuan travelling to the capital to take the imperial examinations which propelled him into life as an official. Su was a Confucian scholar, imperial official, dissident, philosopher, art theorist, poet, painter, husband, father, friend, lover, intellectual, traveler, who lived during the most tumultuous decades of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) one of the richest and most intellectually creative periods in Chinese history. In this seminar we will explore the individual Su Shi and the era in which he lived: we will come to know Su Shi as an individual -- his birth, family, training, political career, poetry and painting -- and then as a shaper of Song society and the Confucian model of government and society. We will engage the major issues of Song political, social, intellectual, and artistic history through the political writings, poetry, and paintings of Su Shi and his contemporaries. The emphasis on analysis and interpretation of many types of primary sources - poetry, political treatises, theoretical writing (in translation); paintings; city planning and architecture - will allow us to think creatively about the nature of historical sources.

Nicholas McCormick, History
LSP 112-603 LOOP MW 11:50-1:20

Drawing upon the disciplines of history, English literature, art history, and anthropology, this course provides a historical survey of the way in which western people, from the ancient world to modern times, perceive and respond to ideas and visions of the future. Often these concerns are rooted in the problems the society is currently facing. This course is concerned with themes such as: utopian thought, robots, social reactions to technological change, science fiction, world’s fairs as cultural optimism, dystopian fears, and apocalyptic predictions and the techniques and literature of contemporary futurists.

Linda Chessick, Modern Languages
LSP 112-317 Lincoln Park MW 11:20-12:50

This course will explore issues of identity in modern Japan by examining a broad range of Japanese cultural products and practices in the 20th and early 21st century, including manga and memoirs, fiction, art and anime. As we consider these works from the perspective of disciplines such as literary criticism, religious studies, film studies and art history, we will pay special attention to the interplay between modernity and tradition, and examine translation as a tool for critical interpretation.

Chernoh Sesay, Religious Studies
LSP 112-318 Lincoln Park MW 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.

Lucia Marchi, Modern Languages
LSP 112-319 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.

Benjamin Frazer-Simser, Philosophy
LSP 112-320 Lincoln Park MW 4:20-5:50

This course will examine the mystical traditions within the world’s great religions. Whereas there is much to separate the Occidental thought of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam from the Eastern traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism, when the mystical strain within each of these traditions is considered, a surprising similarity of beliefs, practices and experiences become evident. The religious vision and expression of a Christian mystic might appear to be virtually equivalent to that of a Sufi mystic or a Hindu or Jewish mystic. The great mystics of the ages, including Plato, Plotinus, Pseudo-Dionysius, Meister Eckhart, Ruysbroek, St. Theresa, Hadewijch, Julian of Norwich, St. John of the Cross, Rumi, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and Bataille will be examined. This course will examine the history of both Occidental and Eastern mysticism along with its socio-political significance. Seeking to pass over and through the rational and speculative religious thought of the divine, mysticisms enter into an experience with what is often termed the mysterium tremendum, the awe-inspiring mystery. Existing beyond rational discourse, this experience can neither be adequately expressed in nor arise from out from a specific cultural, ethical, and biological background. It has its own structure, which can only be expressed in poetry, music, imagery, or in negative theology. Consequently, we will examine the mystical experience of both men and women from a variety of cultures.

David Maruzzella, Philosophy
LSP 112-321 Lincoln Park 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 112-333 Lincoln Park MW 9:40-11:10

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.

Daniel Rosiak, Philosophy
LSP 112-322 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.”

Ken Butigan, Peace, Justice & Conflict Studies
LSP 112-901 Lincoln Park T 6:00-9:15 PM

The ancient ritual of pilgrimage, found in many cultural and religious contexts, is a meaningful journey undertaken for the purpose of transformation. This course will use the theory and cross-cultural practice of pilgrimage (drawing from a range of religious and non-religious contexts) to: (1) explore how initiatives for peace and justice are journeys for transformation and meaning, and (2) identify and engage tools derived from this framing, which students can use to explore the potential for transformation in the journey of their lives, their communities, and their world. This course will use resources from three disciplines to understand the pilgrimage of peace and justice: ritual studies, religious studies, and nonviolence studies.

Nora Murphy, College of Education
LSP 112-323 Lincoln Park MW 1:00-2:30

This course studies the complexity and ambivalence of happiness by first understanding it's history including but not limited to classical accounts of the good life, seventeenth century writing on affect and the passions, eighteenth century debates on virtue and education, and nineteenth century utilitarianism. The Promise of Happiness also focuses on various philosophical and religious perspectives surrounding happiness, especially as they pertain to finding meaning and purpose in one's life. Lastly, the current understanding of happiness as positive feeling and optimistic character traits as expressed through Positive Psychology and Mindfulness practices will be studied and evaluated through a cultural lens that includes personal experience, historical context, current scientific research in the field of psychology.

Richard Farkas, Political Science
LSP 112-324 Lincoln Park MW 2:40-4:10

Vladimir Putin is one of the key figures in contemporary global politics. Elected four times as president of the Russian Federation, Putin is a lens on understanding the dynamics of international affairs, on the challenges of managing a significant society, on appreciating the balance among economic, political, communications, psychology and culture. Putin's career is insight into how leaders with minimal experience and background "grow" into the imposing breadth of tasks faced by all leaders. Putin's own experience has been charted by an inventory of tests including the Kursk crisis, Chechnya, the Georgian conflict, the Sochi Olympics, Ukraine's Maidan rebellion and civil war, the Russian seizure of Crimea, the Syrian conflict, US and EU sanctions, and the Trump presidency. By examining the varying forces in Russian politics, we will gain perspective on how leaders can and do out-maneuver and weather opposition and congeal legitimacy. Political leaders experience on the job education that, among the most effective, include coming to know what they don't know. The objective is to raise each student's awareness of the complexity of the challenges and influences that stem from any individual functioning in a leadership role. In this way, implications for leadership at all levels and in all contexts will be emphasized. Putin's leadership will likely persist in some form until the year 2030. Given that, students will be rewarded with an understanding that will remain relevant well into their adult lives.

Marco Aiello, Anthropology
LSP 112-326 Lincoln Park MW 2:40-4:10 

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.

Thomas Krainz, History
LSP 112-604 LOOP MW 8:30-10:00

This course will examine the treatment of refugees using three different academic disciplines: history, journalism, and film studies. The class will progress through a range of primary and secondary sources. Students will grapple with news articles and videos, historical accounts, United Nations’ documents, book-length investigative reporting, and a documentary film. By exploring these different sources, by asking plenty of critical questions, and by thinking about the material through discussions and writings, students will by the end of the quarter have an understanding of the strengths and weakness of each source material and methodology and a better understanding of the complex issues facing today’s refugees. This will be an intensive reading course.

Yuki Miyamoto, Religious Studies
LSP 112-325 Lincoln Park 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.

Brian Maj, Driehaus College of Business
LSP 112-605 LOOP TTh 1:30-3:00

This course examines ethical philosophy, cultural identity, and political theory through the television series Star Trek: Voyager. Voyager was unique in the Star Trek franchise in that the ship was “lost in space” on its first day out, allowing its crew to develop both individual identities and a collective identity through alien encounters and ethical scenarios. How do these scenarios shape how we think of ourselves? How do we tackle emerging identities in a new environment of cultural norms? Students will develop an understanding of the factors that influence our knowledge of our “selves” when confronted with new cultures and politics. Critical thinking, reflective learning, and academic writing are emphasized throughout the term.

Jumana Khalifeh, Public Policy Studies
LSP 112-235 Lincoln Park 9:40-11:10

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.

Heather Smith, Geography
LSP 112-328 Lincoln Park T 2:40-5:50

The City of Chicago has 4,456 miles of streets and 2,131 miles of alleys. How do these public realms or “outdoor rooms” shape the character of the place? What are the ideologies that have shaped these streets over time? What urban design characteristics make these streets successful? What makes them fail? Who is responsible for caring for all of the complex functions that happen in these spaces? Who are the audiences and users? These are some of the questions we will explore in this course, taking a new urbanist approach to street design. We will explore at least three types of streets: the network, the boulevard and the major urban thoroughfare looking at key details of how those public realms or outdoor rooms are shaped employing a multicultural perspective and using a multidisciplinary approach. By the end of this course, students will be able to: understand the history and purpose of traditional street design; understand how Modernism impacted street design and articulate critiques of this movement; identify different types of street networks, boulevards and major urban thoroughfares and articulate their uses and benefits; understand the methodology and practice underlying the last 60 years of transportation planning and engineering; make recommendations for streets that serve a balance of users from pedestrians to cyclists to emergency responders; and see how streets are viewed from a variety of community perspectives.

  • There will be a (non-mandatory) class bike tour.

Eugene Sampson, Modern Languages
LSP 112-329 Lincoln Park TTh 9:40-11:10

Our topic is the practice of translation and its driving tension. A translation needs to grant access to a text and thus must in some way be the same as that text. But in order to be accessible the translation must be calibrated to a readership inherently different from the readership of the original, a new readership separated in varying degrees be language, time, and culture. The translation must be the same but can only be different. The course makes visible the presence of sameness and difference by examining some of Shakespeare’s sonnets from the original edition with those found in subsequent ones, paraphrases aimed at students and other non-specialists, intra-lingual translations (or updates) by contemporary poets and by a modest consultation of criticism of and scholarship on the sonnets. The perceptions of sameness and difference will be documented in class discussion and written reflection. These findings will then be evaluated in light of the understanding of translation as conceived by practicing translator and scholar David Bellos in his primer Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything, and our work here will be to synthesize what we have perceived of sameness and difference with our emerging understanding of how translators work. This will be done in discussions culminating in one explanatory paper. Our attention will then turn to John Sallis’s reading of canonical statements on translation and language from the Western philosophy in his treatise On Translation, which demonstrates that rather than being the fallout from imposing one language on another, the practice of translation is always already at work in human thinking and experience, undergirded by imagination and a sense of boundary. Thus, our task will be to resituate the tension of sameness and difference in the practice of translation as something fundamental to human existence, which will happen via class discussions and a final thesis-based paper.

David Welch, English
LSP 112-330 Lincoln Park TTh 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?

Timothy Elliott, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
LSP 112-606 LOOP MW 1:30-3:00

This course will draw from Chicago history, sports economics, and rhetorics of urban change to explore why the United Center was built and explore who the project helped and hurt on the Near West Side and throughout the city. Students will be encouraged to research and craft their own original arguments about the United Center and a sports stadium construction project of their choice. Our primary course text will be Sean Dinces' Bulls Markets: Chicago's Basketball Business and the New Inequality, but we will be reading from a variety of sources about the history of Chicago, economic rationales for building and maintaining sports stadiums, and discourses that tie cities to their teams and sports stadiums. I will supplement Dinces' text with 7 primary source readings from period appropriate local newspaper coverage of the United Center and the Chicago Bulls.

Laura Durnell, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
LSP 112-334 Lincoln Park MW 1:00-2:30

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 women such as Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Linda Gray Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Erica Jong, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Marjane Satrapi. 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.

Jaime Hovey, English
LSP 112-332 Lincoln Park TTh 4:20-5:50

This course will look at how zombies are represented in different ways, at different historical moments, in novels, graphic novels, short stories, and films. Although there are several prototypical zombie novels in the nineteenth century, the zombie is a creature of late capitalism, representing twentieth and twenty-first century popular anxieties about immigration, disease, class, sexuality, gender, technology, race, national identity, and consumer culture, among other things. We will look at some origins of the idea of the zombie in Romantic and late Victorian literature, study imperialist accounts of Haitian voodoo that introduced the zombie in 1930s films, trace the evolution of the apocalyptic zombie during the Cold War and Civil Rights era, and analyze how zombie literature, films, and video games operate to criticize capitalism and consumer culture from the 1970s onwards.

Phillip Stalley, Political Science


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.

Margaret Workman, Environmental Science & Studies


The Focal Point component of this course focuses on the tensions between science and religion that surfaced in the wake of Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species. The scientific debate also percolated through a host of related issues, including the implications of Darwinism for social reform, racial theories, and women’s rights and the evolving concept of causation in science and its implications for public policy. The course uses the “Reacting to the Past” philosophy. Reacting to the Past is a series of historical role-playing games. After a few preparatory discussions, the instructor becomes a Gamemaster (GM), and the students become important figures in a highly-charged moment in history. During the game, students strategize with teammates, work to defeat opponents, engage in negotiations, give speeches and participate in debates, and write essays and position papers. In this particular game, students are divided into 3 main factions: 1) The Natural Theologians, 2) The Naturalists, and 3) The Social Reformers.

The Study Abroad component will take the students from the “role-playing” aspect of the course material to the real-life locations in England. They will actually get to see, hear, and touch the objects and locations referred to during the game. Students will learn about the man behind the Theory of Evolution and will get a sense of Charles Darwin— the boy, the student, the geologist, the naturalist, the explorer, the husband, and the father. They will hear from guest speakers and researchers and see first-hand the nature and process of science. By touring the Sedgewick Museum of Earth Sciences and the Zoology Museum at the University of Cambridge and the Oxford Museum of Natural History, they become scientists on The Beagle voyage. By visiting Darwin’s birthplace in Shrewsbury and his family home in Kent, they explore the cultural influences on his scientific career.

  • Honors Program students will receive credit for either Scientific Inquiry (SI) or an Honors Approved Elective.

Michael Tafel, History


There aren’t many cities in the ancient world that have exerted such a cultural influence on our modern world as Rome. This Focal Point Seminar and First-Year study abroad program explores ancient Rome and its cultural legacy throughout history. Rome was not only the capital of a large empire that spanned three continents, it also became the capital of the Catholic Church, as well as the modern day nation of Italy. Even after the fall of the Roman Empire, the city’s influence continues to affect later generations. From the “Holy Roman Empire” of the Middle Ages to the revolutionary era of Alexander Hamilton and Napoleon, and from the Florentine Republic of the Renaissance to Mussolini’s Fascist state, Rome’s influence has persevered and still resonates with us today.

The travel portion of this course will bring students in direct contact with Modern and Ancient Rome, as well the Renaissance city of Florence, a place where the culture of ancient Rome was reborn in the 1400s and beyond. While experiencing all of the charm and buzz of the modern city of Rome, we’ll take trips to the ancient Roman Pantheon, the Colosseum, multiple churches from the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque eras, the Vatican, and the ancient Roman city of Ostia. In the bustling little city of Florence, we’ll visit old palazzos, villas, churches, museums, and the Tuscan hilltop town of Fiesole—to see, not only the views, but also the remains of the old Roman town with a near-perfect Roman theater. Students will use the disciplinary approaches of history, political science, and philosophy to understand how the legacy of Rome has permeated throughout history and still affects us today.

  • This program will involve a good deal of walking in potentially hot summer heat in Italy, so students should be prepared for this. 
  • Honors Program students will receive credit for HON 102: History in Global Contexts.

Heather Easley, Sociology


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!

  • Honors Program students will receive credit for HON 102: History in Global Contexts.