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Interdisciplinary Honors Seminars

Fall 2015 Interdisciplinary Honors Seminars



core-graphic-smallGenocide In Comparative Historical Perspective [WCd]
*There are two sections being offered for this seminar
01:090:292:01 Index# 15150
M 09:50A-12:50P
01:090:292:AA Index# 19414
W 09:50A-12:50P
Douglas Greenberg, SAS - History
Honors College Rm N104
College Ave Campus

Will Count towards SAS - History Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS - History Minor: yes

This seminar focuses upon a comparison of four twentieth-century genocides: the Turkish Genocide of the Armenians (1915-1917), the Holocaust (1933-1945), the Pol Pot "auto-genocide" in Cambodia (1976-1979), and the Rwandan Genocide (1994). Our aim will be to understand the historical roots, immediate causes, implementation and aftermath of these four acts of collective state-sponsored violence and then to attempt to make comparisons among them.

We will begin with an overview of genocide, including the definitional and theoretical problems it raises, as well an examination of the general history of genocides in the 20th and 21st centuries in societies around the world. We will then turn to an intensive study of the genocides of the Armenians, the Jews, the Cambodians, and the Tutsi (in Rwanda), aiming to understand both the origins of violence on this scale and its consequences for those who survive it.

The course will make use of secondary sources, as well as of memoirs, testimonies, film, and video created by perpetrators and victims. Our main aim is to comprehend genocidal violence both as a particularly vicious form of state policy and also as a human and personal experience of terror and murder. To do so, we will have to confront not only killers and their victims, but bystanders and survivors.

Course assignments include two 5-8 page essays and a 12-15 page final exercise. There will no examinations. This is a discussion course, and class participation will also count significantly in assessments of student performance. An essential component of both written assignments and our discussions will be for us to think not only about the awful realities of genocide but also about how it is represented in the different formats we will be considering (scholarship, fiction, memoir, video testimony, documentary films, and feature films).   As we do so, we will incorporate the perspectives not only of history, but of literary study, art history, cinema studies, political science, anthropology, philosophy, and gender studies. The precise focus of both written work and class discussion in the seminar will be driven mainly by student interest and curiosity.

Two sections of this seminar will be offered in Fall 2015. Readings and other assignments in the two sections will identical. Professor Greenberg will teach both sections.

Formerly Executive Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, DOUGLAS GREENBERG is Distinguished Professor of History in the School of Arts and Sciences. He graduated from Rutgers in 1969 and holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University. Prior to returning to Rutgers in 2008, he was Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute and Professor of History at USC. He has also been a museum director and a non-profit executive and taught history Princeton and Lawrence Universities.

core-graphic-smallThe Formation of Galaxies and Supermassive Black Holes in the Double-Dark Universe [WCd]
01:090:292:02 Index# 15154
Rachel Somerville, SAS - Physics & Astronomy
MTH 10:20-11:40A
Lucy Stone Hall Rm A215
Livingston Campus
Will Count towards SAS - Physics & Astronomy Major: no
Will Count towards SAS - Physics & Astronomy Minor: no

Our current knowledge of the Universe extends mind-bendingly far in both space and time. We believe that the Universe has been expanding for 13.7 billion years -- and we have glimpsed light from galaxies that were born 13.1 billion years ago. We can study in detail the patterns of fluctuations from the cosmic glow arising from just 300,000 years after the Big Bang, long before any stars or galaxies were born. Surveys have mapped the entire sky at many wavelengths. The story that has emerged from the amazing technological accomplishments of modern astrophysics is bizarre and fascinating. We now believe that three quarters of the "stuff" in the Universe is "dark energy", a mysterious force that pushes spacetime apart and accelerates our expansion. Twenty-five percent of the cosmic pie is in the form of "dark matter", almost equally mysterious material that feels the force of gravity but no other forces, and has so far eluded direct detection in our laboratories on Earth. Roughly five percent is made up of "normal matter", i.e. atoms, but of this only about 10 percent has actually been directly observed.

A split second after the Big Bang, tiny quantum fluctuations grew into subtle variations in the density of both the normal and dark matter, and in the meantime, gravity has amplified those fluctuations into vast mountains and valleys.  At the highest mountain peaks, clusters of galaxies form --- the urban centers where thousands of galaxies dwell -- dense enough to form immense "gravitational lenses". In the foothills, disk-shaped galaxies like our own Milky Way live quiet suburban lives. Like humans, every galaxy is unique, but as populations they show interesting trends that are still not completely understood. And many or perhaps all galaxies harbor a dark secret in their heart: supermassive black holes that can contain the mass of millions or even billions of Suns. We now believe that galaxies and their supermassive black holes lead intricately intertwined lives and that this symbiosis may hold the key to many of the puzzling correlations seen in the galaxy population.

In this course, we will learn about our modern, scientifically-based "creation story", from the Big Bang to the present day. We will focus not on learning "facts" but on understanding the process by which this scientific worldview has been constructed, and how progress in science is made. We will discuss a number of the historical "great debates" in astronomy, from Copernicus and Galileo to the Shapley-Curtis debate on the nature of "spiral nebulae" (whether they are contained within our own Galaxy or are their own "island universes"), and the Big Bang versus the Steady State theory, to the ongoing debate about whether Dark Matter and Dark Energy are "real" or whether instead a fundamental revision of Einstein's theory of General Relativity is required. We will also discuss the limits of our scientific knowledge, and the fundamental limitations of the scientific approach. The course will be taught so as to be accessible to students with no college level science or math background. However, interested students will be directed to materials that will allow them to explore the course topics in more detail. Coursework will include weekly short writing assignments, an in-class presentation, and a final paper.

RACHEL SOMERVILLE completed her PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and held postdoctoral positions at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, and at Cambridge University in the UK. She has held faculty positions at the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University. She was the head of a senior research group at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, and on the Science Staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD. She holds the George A. and Margaret M. Downsbrough chair in Astrophysics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rutgers. Professor Somerville won the 2013 Dannie Heineman prize for Astrophysics, awarded by the American Astronomical Society and the American Institute of Physics, and was named a Simons Investigator in 2014. She is a member of numerous observational collaborations, including the Cosmic Assembly Near-Infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS), the largest project ever undertaken with the Hubble Space Telescope. She has published over 100 refereed journal articles, and is in frequent demand as a keynote speaker at international conferences.

core-graphic-smallJung for the 21st Century [WCd]
01:090:292:03 Index# 15157
Steven Walker, SAS- Asian Language & Cultures
W 09:50A-12:50P
Honors College Rm N106
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS- Asian Language & Cultures Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS- Asian Language & Cultures Minor: yes

This seminar will introduce students to a system of psychology that, after having been overshadowed by Freudian psychology in the 20th century, is coming into its own in the 21st. The seminar will present basic principles and paradigms, and will engage students in a number of practical applications in the areas of the psychology of everyday life: the role of mythology in dreams and social life, religion, the analysis of films and literary texts, and self-analysis. No special preparation is needed, but students should come with an attitude of openness towards what may seem at first to be somewhat uncanny and even disturbing aspects of the unconscious mind.

In the area of the psychology of everyday life, Jungian psychology makes its greatest contribution through its dynamic presentation and analysis of the shadow (the unconscious and repressed personality), the anima and animus (the repressed contrasexual personality), and typology (categories of psychological functioning). Students in this seminar should be ready for some creative self-analysis! We will also deal with the disturbing issue of psychopathy/sociopathy as presented by Guggenbuhl-Craig, one of Jung's most original followers.

Jungian psychology also values the creative arts, and sees them as performing a remarkable role in the psychic life of the individual and society. Accordingly, we will analyze several narrative and film texts from a Jungian perspective: Toni Morrison's Sula, Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jane Campion's The Piano, and other texts chosen as the occasion arises.

The textbook will be my own recent presentation of the Jungian system and its later developments, Jung and the Jungians on Myth: an Introduction (2002). We will also study Guggenbuhl-Craig's The Emptied Soul and Jung's autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections.

STEVEN F. WALKER, Professor of Comparative Literature, holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin (B.A. in classical Greek) and Harvard (M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature). He teaches in both the graduate and undergraduate programs in Comparative Literature, and he is a direct descendent (really!) of Henry Rutgers. He has been reading Jung voraciously since his undergraduate days.

core-graphic-smallTolstoy's War and Peace [WCd]
01:090:292:04 Index# 18264
Edyta Bojanowska, SAS-German,Russian & Eastern European Languages & Literatures
MTH 11:30A-12:50P
Honors College Rm N106
College Ave Campus
Will count toward Major in Russian Language and Literature: yes
Will count toward Minor in Russian Language and Literature/Minor in Russian Literature: yes

In this seminar we will read closely one big Russian novel – Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece War and Peace (1865-1869) – which describes Napoleon’s failed 1812 campaign against Russia. War and Peace is a sweeping panorama of nineteenth-century Russian society, a novel of profound philosophical questions, and an unforgettable gallery of artfully drawn characters. Reading the novel closely, we will pose the following questions: How does a novel intended to send a pacifist message become a patriotic war epic?  In what ways is it a national and an imperial novel?  What myths does it destroy and construct?  What is the relation of story to history?  What forces drive history, as it unfolds in the present? To what extent do individuals control their own lives and, if they’re emperors and generals, the lives of nations? Finally, a question that is never too broad for Tolstoy: how does one live a meaningful life as a private person and as a member of a society?  We will explore these and other dimensions of this capacious and intricate novel while developing tools of literary analysis and situating the novel in its historical context.  Secondary materials will include Tolstoy’s letters, contemporary reviews, maps, historical sources, political theory, and literary criticism. All readings and class discussions in English. No prerequisites.

EDYTA BOJANOWSKA is an Associate Professor of Russian literature and the Director of the Program of Russian and East European Languages and Literatures at Rutgers. She specializes in nineteenth-century Russian prose. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University and wrote a prize-winning book about another quirky Russian writer, Nikolai Gogol (Nikolai Gogol: Between Ukrainian and Russian Nationalism, 2007). She is now completing her second book, entitled The Colonial World through Russian Eyes, which captures the imperial frontiers of mid-nineteenth century Africa and Asia through the lens of a fascinating Russian travelogue. Professor Bojanowska was awarded the Rutgers SAS Award for Distinguished Contribution to Undergraduate Education.

core-graphic-smallWhy We Play: Play in Children, Animals, and Adults [WCd]
01:090:292:05 Index# 19586
Lorraine McCune, GSE - Education Psychology
MW 09:50-11:10A
Graduate School of Education Rm 347
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards GSE - Education Psychology Major: no
Will Count towards GSE - Education Psychology Minor: no

Play is a part of life among all social animals as well as among humans…In humans play in some form occurs across the lifespan. In the late 19th century Karl Groos wrote about play and instinct in animals, and about teasing and ‘love play’ in humans. In the 1950s psychoanalytic theory developed play therapy as a way of helping children use free activities to express their troubled meanings to a therapist, leading to understanding and cure.

Erik Erikson from the psychoanalytic school, published ‘Toys and Reasons’ in 1977…considering play across the lifespan, following from ‘Childhood and Society’ published in 1950. He quotes the British poet William Blake:

“The Child’s Toys and the Old Man’s Reasons are the Fruits of the two Seasons”

Play begins in childhood, but transforms and has critical import for later life.

Jean Piaget (1963) published Play, Dreams, and Imitation in Childhood, introducing a cognitive theory of play that demonstrates the importance of play for the development of thought.

For generations children’s play at home yielded gently to play in kindergarten… but education is now taking a different tack. Where are the dress-up corner, the play kitchen and the sand table of yore? Today, preschool goals are primarily academic… children polish the early skills for entry into literacy (or are expected to… ready or not!)

If play is children’s primary mode of learning, we are on the wrong path! This seminar offers the opportunity for students to determine their personal perspective on the question of play.

A course in play needs to be playful! But what does that mean? We will explore ‘theories of play’ and read historical and current writings about the nature of play and its role in evolution and development and observe children and animals at play… in video and real life.

Students in the class will have the opportunity to pursue a theme with guidance… perhaps study a particular game for adults or children: Mahjongg anyone? or Monopoly? Or a particular age group… pretend play in 3-year-olds? Or topic…Using ‘games with rules’ for academic learning? Playing online? Or play in a particular animal species. The guided choice will be yours.

Lorraine McCune is a Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology. She studies play and language in young children. She teaches about cognition, language and emotional/social development in young children. Her 2008 book is entitled, How Children Learn to Learn Language, Oxford University Press.

core-graphic-smallThe Bilingual Mind [WCd]
01:090:293:01 Index# 15151
Nuria Sagarra, SAS - Spanish & Portuguese
M 01:10-04:10P
LLB RM 104
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS - Spanish & Portuguese Major: no
Will Count towards SAS - Spanish & Portuguese Minor: no

How do bilinguals handle having multiple languages in a single mind?  Why do adults have difficulty achieving native-like competence in a foreign language? Why do some people learn foreign languages more easily than others? This course introduces undergraduate students to psycholinguistic theories of bilingualism and cognitive factors that modulate how humans acquire foreign languages.  The course combines lectures with discussion of empirical studies. In addition, students will have the unique opportunity to visit laboratories using cutting-edge methodologies in cognitive science, including an eye-tracking laboratory, an event-related potential laboratory, and an FMRI laboratory. Finally, the course straddles the domains of psycholinguistics, second language acquisition, and bilingualism, and is recommended for students with interests in cognitive psychology, linguistics, or language acquisition, but students from other disciplines are also welcome.

NURIA SAGARRA is Associate Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Rutgers University. Her research straddles the domains of cognitive science, linguistics, and second language acquisition, seeking to identify what factors explain adults’ difficulty learning morphosyntax in a foreign language, with the aim of informing linguistic and cognitive models, as well as instructional practices. She investigates these topics using self-paced reading, eyetracking, and more recently, event-related potentials. She is the recipient of a National Science Foundation grant, and has published in notable journals, including Applied Psycholinguistics, Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, Language Learning, Lingua, and Studies in Second Language Acquisition.

core-graphic-smallPhilosophy of Cosmology [WCd]
01:090:293:02 Index# 15158
Barry Loewer, SAS - Philosophy
M 02:50-05:50P
Brett Hall Seminar Room
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS - Philosophy Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS - Philosophy Minor: yes

The seminar will address a number of issues on the borderline between cosmology and philosophy. Among the issues to be discussed are  1. why there is an arrow of time,  2. whether the early universe is fine-tuned and if so can the fine tuning be explained, 3. Whether the universe is infinite in time or space 4.  What is the nature of fundamental laws that describe the evolution of the universe and its contents, 5. Are there reasons for thinking that our universe is one element of a multiverse?  No prior courses in cosmology or philosophy are required (though both would help) but an interest in learning a bit about contemporary cosmology and its philosophical issues is essential.  We will be reading a recent book by the philosophically astute physicist Sean Carroll From Eternity to Here. Participants in the seminar will be required to lead discussions on chapters in the book.  The other course requirement is a 10 page paper on one of the issues we discuss.

Biography of the instructor Barry Loewer:
I am a philosopher who works mainly on issues in philosophy of physics and metaphysics. I am particularly interested in understanding the natures of fundamental laws, causation and objective chance, the direction of time, and the ontology of quantum mechanics. I became a philosophy major at college because when I asked by history professor what causation is (we were discussing causes of the French Revolution) he told me that he could tell me sometimes whether one event caused another but to find out what causation is I needed to go to the philosophy department. I have been thinking about this ever since. During the last few years I have become increasingly interested in cosmology (which has developed enormously in the last few decades) and was the PI of a project on the philosophy of cosmology housed at Rutgers.

core-graphic-smallAnimals, Poets, Philosophers [WCd]
01:090:293:03 Index# 18266
E. Efe Khayyat, SAS-African, Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Literature
TTH 01:10-02:30P
Honors College Rm N106
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS-African, Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Literature Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS-African, Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Literature Minor: yes

This course looks at various ways in which animals figure in human imagination. We focus on the social and political implications of persistent animal figures in literature and philosophy, and explore their significance for imagining the human. What does the animal mean to the human? What kinds of relations with animals are legitimate or illegitimate for humans? How do these relations effect or condition human morals, for instance our thought of violence? What does the animal’s consciousness look like from the perspective of human consciousness? Where do animals stand vis-a-vis human social and cultural universes? Addressing these questions, we will work with ancient epics and contemporary novels, philosophical treatises, films and historical accounts of mass destruction. Readings include selections from epics such as Gilgamesh and Ramayana; from the Bible and the Quran, Laozi and St. Francis of Assisi; poems by Auden, Baudelaire, and Keats, among others; selections from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, Giorgio Agamben’s The Open and Jacques Derrida’s The Animal that Therefore I am; Nobel laureates J. M. Coetzee’s and Orhan Pamuk’s novels; Will Self’s and Victor Pelevin’s short fiction.

Prof. Efe received his PhD from Columbia University, where he studied at the Department of English and Comparative Literature and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Before coming to Rutgers he taught in Frankfurt and Istanbul, Paris and New York, mostly philosophy of literature and religion. He's a member of the founding board of Harvard University's Institute for World Literature, and works mostly with Turkish (Ottoman and modern), Ladino (Judeo-Espagnol), and Italian, also French and German. Originally trained as a historian of European medieval philosophy and an English philologist, Efe's teaching interests range from philosophy and politics of literature to media history and political theology.

core-graphic-smallThe Wonderful World of Opera [WCd]
01:090:294:01 Index# 15152
Alexander Pichugin, SAS-German, Russian & Eastern European Languages & Literatures
W 11:30A-02:30P
Scott Hall Rm 104
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS-German, Russian & Eastern European Languages & Literatures Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS-German, Russian & Eastern European Languages & Literatures Minor: yes
Will Count towards elective credit or Music History for the Music Minor: yes

This interdisciplinary honors seminar is designed to engage students in the discussion and development of writing skills focusing on the connections between music, theater, and history.

In the seminar we will trace the development of the opera as genre from its Italian origins to modern day. The highlights of the course will be the well-known but always new pearls of the European and American operatic repertory, such as Mozart’s Zauberflöte and Le Nozze di Figaro, Verdi’s Aida, La traviata, and Il trovatore, Bizet’s Carmen, Puccini’s Tosca, and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

In listening, watching, and discussing operas, we will concentrate on several aspects of opera as cultural phenomenon, such as its creators (composers, librettists, directors, singers, actors, et al.), the music itself, the elements of stage production, the voice theory, the orchestra, the narrative and dramatic elements of the libretti, and the reception, as well as genres related to and influenced by opera, such as musical, operette, and rock opera. We will also explore cultural and political implications of operas, such as the most recent controversial opera Death of Klinghoffer (2014) that caused public protests in front of the Metropolitan Opera.

Through the analysis of music, text, symbols, and images in these operas, students will deepen their understanding and appreciation of the genre. As a learning outcome of the seminar, students will develop their abilities to approach an opera production both analytically and synthetically, exploring the connection between music, art, theater, as well as the social world in critical and creative ways. As a practical outcome, the students will develop important skills in working with music and text by practicing oral and written interpretation, which will advance their ability to speak and write about music and theater in general.

The seminar is designed to satisfy the Core Curriculum goal “Writing and Communication in the Discipline [WCd]” in all three of its aspects: Effective communication in modes appropriate to the area of inquiry (WCd-t), critical evaluation and assessment of the sources and correct use of conventions of attribution and citation (WCd-u), as well as analysis and synthesis of information and ideas from multiple sources to generate new insights (WD-v).

Dr. ALEXANDER E. PICHUGIN is the Director of German Language and Culture Studies at Rutgers and lecturer in German and Information Science (ITI & MLIS).  He has taught a variety of courses in European languages (German, English, French, Italian, Latin), information science, theater and music, as well as worked as an instructor of European languages for opera and ballet students at a music conservatory, as well as a language consultant for a major opera house in Russia. His academic interests include music, linguistics, cultural knowledge, and languages. In his spare time, he enjoys visiting the zoos and aquaria.

core-graphic-smallReading Redder: Color in Literature, from Poe to Comics
01:090:294:02 Index# 18267
Nicholas Gaskill, SAS - English
MW 01:10P-02:30P
Honors College Rm N106
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS - English Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS - English Minor: yes

Color is at once one of the most common features of our perceptual experience and one of the most puzzling. Is it in our minds or in the world? Do all people see colors in the same way, or do linguistic categories and cultural associations influence how we experience particular hues? How do specific colors become associated with particular identities, such that blue is gendered male and pink female, or that muted colors signify refinement while highlighter tints scream “hipster”? Why, as Goethe put it, do “people of refinement have a disinclination to colors,” and what lies behind this disinclination?

In this course, we will look at how literary writers have taken up these and other questions about the philosophical, cultural, and aesthetic aspects of color. We will ask: what does color allow writers to do? Through what literary strategies have they incorporated its sensory power and cultural complexity into their work? What tensions arise between the linguistic medium of poetry or fiction and the irreducibly visual nature of color? We will consider the links between color and pain, color and sex, color and the spiritual, and color and meaning, and we will trace a literary tradition that uses color to think about the capacities and limitations of writing itself.

Our readings will include texts by philosophers, painters, poets, novelists, and graphic artists. There will be excerpts on color from John Locke, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Wassily Kandinsky, Derek Jarman, and Michael Taussig. Other texts will include: stories by Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft; poems by Stéphane Mallarmé, William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, and Wallace Stevens; Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red (1998); William H. Gass’s On Being Blue (1976); Maggie Nelson’s Bluets (2009); Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage (1895) and The Monster (1899); Nella Larsen’s Quicksand (1928); Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem (1928); Winsor McCay’s early comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland; and at least one contemporary graphic novel, to be determined in conversation with the class.   

Nicholas Gaskill studies nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century U.S. literature, philosophy, and visual culture. He’s currently writing a book on U.S. literature and theories of color perception at the turn of the twentieth century. He is an editor of The Lure of Whitehead (U of Minnesota P, 2014) and the author of several articles on topics such as aesthetics, pragmatism, the poster craze of the 1890s, and turn-of-the-twentieth-century U.S. fiction.

core-graphic-smallJewish Museums
01:090:294:03 Index# 15162
Jeffrey Shandler, SAS - Jewish Studies
MW 02:50-04:10P
12 College Avenue Rm 206
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS - Jewish Studies Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS - Jewish Studies Minor: yes
Will Count towards SAS - History Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS - History Minor: yes

This seminar looks at Jewish museums as a case study of the prominent role that museums play in the public culture of ethnic and religious minority communities.

Though they have only been around for a little more than a century, Jewish museums have become strategic sites for Jews to present their history and culture to a larger public. The seminar will begin with background on the history of private collecting, temporary exhibitions, and the advent of museums as public institutions, positioning Jewish museums within this larger history. The seminar will then examine different kinds of Jewish museums around the world, including art museums, regional history museums, Holocaust museums, and multicultural museums in which Jews figure alongside other peoples. Studying Jewish museums engages a lively intersection of interests: public history, art, architecture, media, urban studies, ethnic studies, modern culture, and memory practices. Our examination of Jewish museums will consider what they reveal about how modern public culture engages issues of history, aesthetics, religion, ethnicity, and politics.

As part of the seminar, students will visit several museums in New York City and meet with people working in these museums. Over the course of the semester, students will be asked to take turns leading class discussions of different museums. Each student will also prepare a curatorial project on a topic of her/his choosing, in consultation with the professor, and will present this work to the class at the conclusion of the seminar.

Note: This seminar does not require any prior experience in Jewish studies. Students should plan on being available for two Sunday visits to museums in New York City during the semester. These visits will be scheduled in lieu of regular class sessions (dates to be determined)

Prof. Jeffrey Shandler has taught in the Department of Jewish Studies for fifteen years and is affiliated with several other departments and programs at Rutgers, including American Studies, Comparative Literature, and German. He studies modern and contemporary Jewish life, focusing on several topics, including visual culture, media, Holocaust remembrance, and Yiddish culture. Prof. Shandler has also curated a number of exhibitions for Jewish museums in New York and Philadelphia on topics ranging from the dynamic relationship of Jews with American film and broadcasting to how Americans formed their understanding of the Holy Land in the century before Israeli statehood was declared.

core-graphic-smallA(t) Home in the World [WCd]
01:090:294:04 Index# 15214
Paul Blaney, SAS - English, SAS Honors Program
W 02:50-05:50P
35 College Avenue Rm 302
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS - English, SAS Honors Program Major: no
Will Count towards SAS - English, SAS Honors Program Minor: no

How do we, as individual humans, describe or define ourselves? To a great degree, our sense of who we are comes from our connections to the world. That world might be a social world—I am part of this family, of this religion, of this social class or profession. Or it might be natural—I am defined by my connection to the natural world, the Earth. Or geographic—I am from this place (house/village/town/city/state/country). Modern life with its movements and migrations tends to undermine all of these connections—to use French novelist Michel Houellebecq’s term, as individual human beings we are ‘atomized’. In a post-religion, post-agrarian, post-class, global society that’s defined by the speed with which it changes, many people are afflicted with a sense of rootlessness.

This seminar will consider the importance of connecting oneself to a specific place as well as to the natural world as a whole. Do we really need to be rooted? (Some have argued that we have more to lose than to gain by the connection.) And, if so, how to attach oneself to a particular place (other than by birth)? By buying/building a house or creating a garden—a human space in nature? By working and caring for the land? By creating art or literature that reflects and deepens one’s connection to (and love for) a place or landscape? By exploring, getting to know a place intimately, by walking?

Principal texts will include works of poetry by Andrew Marvell, John Clare, Edward Thomas, Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, and others. Critical and theoretical reading will include essays by Hannah Arendt, Henry David Thoreau, John Fowles, Catherine Hayles, William Cronon, and Robert Pogue Harrison. We'll also consider the light thrown on the topic by film-makers, artists and architects. Students will be expected to respond both critically and creatively to each week’s material.

PAUL BLANEY is Writer in Residence in the SAS Honors Program at Rutgers University. He also teaches courses in Creative Writing and Creative Non Fiction in the English Department. In 2011 he led Rutgers’ first Creative Writing Study Abroad Program to Lewes, England. Publications include poems, short fiction and the novellas, Handover and The Anchoress. When not at his desk or in the classroom, he’s happiest out of doors, walking or pottering in the garden

core-graphic-smallWho Makes our Stuff? Work and Labor in the Global Economy [WCd]
01:090:294:05 Index# 18268
Kevin Kolben, RBS-Supply Chain Management & Marketing Sciences
W 01:40-04:40P
Business Rockefeller Road Rm 3031
Livingston Campus

Will Count towards RBS-Supply Chain Management & Marketing Sciences Major: yes
Will Count towards RBS-Supply Chain Management & Marketing Sciences Minor: yes

On April 24, 2013 over 1100 Bangladeshi garment workers were killed, and scores more injured when the building in which they were working collapsed. While their employers were Bangladeshi-owned contractors, the buyers of these garments were American and European retailing companies, and ultimately consumers like you and me. This was not a unique event. Every day, many millions of people produce goods and services for the global economy in extremely poor working conditions, largely hidden from public view and scrutiny.

In this course we will learn about the workers are that fuel the global economy and make the things that we use and consume, such as clothing, computers, and coffee. We will examine how globalization has changed the nature of work and given rise to new forms of labor governance. We will ask what ethical and/or legal responsibilities do transnational corporations and consumers have to ensure that labor rights are respected in global supply chains? What are the existing national and international institutions that can address labor rights and standards? How are systems of sourcing and production structured such that they lead to labor rights abuses, and what can be done to change them? How do we balance the economic benefits of job creation with poor working conditions?

We will also pay special attention to the relationships, both real and imagined, between consumers and producers. For example, to what extent and why do consumers care about the working conditions of workers who make the products that they buy? Can there be strong bonds and relationships forged between consumers and producers? Can these bonds lead to new forms of democracy that span traditional political boundaries?

To explore these issues, we will draw on theoretical, empirical, and popular written works as well as other media, and study several industries including garments, electronics, and food.

Kevin Kolben is Associate Professor at Rutgers Business School in the Department of Supply Chain Management. A lawyer, his has written extensively about transnational labor regulation and labor governance in global supply chains. Prior to joining the faculty at Rutgers he worked at the human rights organization, Human Rights First, and he is currently an appointee to the governmental National Advisory Committee for Labor Provision of U.S. Free Trade Agreements. He is currently working on a book length project entitled, The Chains the Bind: Work and Labor in the Global Economy.

core-graphic-smallStories of the Self [WCd]
Emily Van Buskirk, SAS-German,Russian & Eastern European Languages & Literatures
MTh 09:50-11:10A
Honors College Rm N106
College Ave Campus

Will Count towards elective credit SAS - Comparative Literature Major: yes
Will Count towards elective credit SAS - Comparative Literature Minor: yes
Will Count towards literature elective credit SAS - Russian Major: yes
Will Count towards literature elective credit SAS - Russian Minor: yes

We often tell stories in an effort to better understand ourselves.  Different cultures and historical epochs have given rise to radically different concepts of the self.  For example, personal identities have been understood as relatively fixed or as extremely fluid; as dependent on external, social factors or internal, spiritual ones; as attached to the body or to the mind; to the conscious or unconscious.  Meanwhile, diverse concepts of the self have gone hand-in-hand with equally diverse narrative techniques and styles.

In this seminar we will think together about self-concepts and storytelling, as we examine how writers have explored changing notions of the self.   What do literary characters (fictional and non-fictional) tell us about different notions of identity and personality?  How have models for understanding the self traveled from literature and film to life?  

Our texts will include short stories, excerpts from novels, autobiographies, confessions, essays, as well as psychological case studies.  Readings will be selected from writers such as Montaigne, Rousseau, Proust, Sarraute, Sartre, Beckett, Kafka, Freud, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Kharms, Nabokov, Shalamov, and Lydia Ginzburg.  We will compare written imaginings of the self to visual self-portraiture (for example at the Zimmerli Museum) and filmic autobiography (e.g. Tarkovsky’s Mirror).  We will inquire about contemporary models of the self, explored through new electronic and social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter).  We will look here at the dynamics of public and private, of confession and self-exposure.  Finally, we will ask what happens when the self becomes a data point – does it defy narrative understanding?

EMILY VAN BUSKIRK is an assistant professor in the Department of German, Russian, and East European Languages and Literatures, and a member of Core Faculty in Comparative Literature.  She earned her PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Harvard University, and her BA from Princeton.  She specializes, broadly speaking, in Russian and Czech prose of the twentieth century.  Her current research on the fragmentary writings of scholar-writer Lydia Ginzburg (1902-1990) focuses on the relationship between literary experimentation and attempts to describe the psychology, behavior, and ethics of a post-individualist, twentieth-century self.  Van Buskirk is the co-editor of two recent books on Ginzburg, and has just completed her first book manuscript, called Reality in Search of Literature: Lydia Ginzburg’s In-between Prose.  Van Buskirk first began studying Russian language and literature in college, having been inspired by a short cultural exchange trip she took as a teenager.  In her spare time, she enjoys music (playing violin, singing) and being outdoors.  

core-graphic-smallBrazilian Culture: Conquest to Contemporary [WCd]
*By Special Permission- This seminar will offer a travel component during Winter Break 2015. Students must apply through Study Abroad. Click here to apply!
01:090:295:02 Index# 13546
Tatiana Flores, SAS - Art History
T 09:50A-12:50P
Honors College Rm N106
College Ave Campus

Will Count towards SAS - Art History Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS - Art History Minor: yes

The course explores key tropes that have informed the formation of a particularly Brazilian identity through the lenses of nature and culture. Though these might seem to be contradictory categories, they nevertheless constitute ways for thinking about Brazil’s unique character. Beginning with texts and images related to the conquest, the course takes a panoramic tour of Brazil, through its cultural products and their relation to place. We will study indigenous cultures of the Amazon; Brazil in the European imaginary; colonial artists in the Northeast and Minas Gerais; the representation of race and class through text and image; the conceptualization of modernity in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Brasilia; and dichotomy of utopia and dystopia that has recurred in the country’s history. Given the professor’s expertise in art and literature in particular, there will be a strong emphasis on these areas, but architecture, urbanism, film, and music will also be addressed.

The course carries with it a one-credit study abroad component in Brazil. An eight-day program is planned for early January 2016, with the dates and itinerary to be determined shortly.

Upon completion of the course, students will:

  • become grounded in the major themes in the cultural history of Brazil
  • gain familiarity with various forms of cultural production in Brazil that derive from Western and non-Western perspectives
  • analyze works of Brazilian art and literature through close readings in order to relate them to their historical, social, and cultural contexts
  • approach Brazilian cultural production through interdisciplinary humanistic methods.

This course satisfies the SAS Core Goal: WCD (t, u, v). Student is able to:

(t)--Communicate effectively in modes appropriate to a discipline or area of inquiry
(u)--Evaluate and critically assess sources and use the conventions of attribution and citation correctly
(v)—analyze and synthesize information and ideas from multiple sources to generate new insights

Requirements and Grading

  • Regular attendance and active class participation, including field trips and/or other extracurricular activities: 10 %
  • 4 short response papers relating to readings, films, or other topics addressed in class: 60%
  • Research paper on a topic related to the curriculum and chosen in consultation with the professor: 30%

Tatiana Flores is Associate Professor of Art History and Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies. A specialist on twentieth and twenty-first century art of Latin America, she is the author of the award-winning book Mexico's Revolutionary Avant-Gardes: From Estridentismo to ¡30-30! Also active as an independent curator, she has organized exhibitions of the work of contemporary Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean artists. Her current book projects include a critical history of modern and contemporary Latin American art and a study on the art and visual culture of Venezuela during the presidency of Hugo Chávez and its aftermath.

core-graphic-smallThe First Three Minutes After The Big Bang [WCd]
01:090:295:03 Index# 13548
Sevil Salur, SAS - Physics & Astronomy
TH 12:00P-03:00P
Lucy Stone Hall Rm A215
Livingston Campus
Will Count towards SAS - Physics & Astronomy Major: no
Will Count towards SAS - Physics & Astronomy Minor: no

Our views of the universe have evolved in recent years by astronomical observations and experimental measurements performed in laboratories. We now have a better understanding of its initial conditions.  In this course, we will be discussing what the universe is made of and what holds it together. Knowledge from various subfields of physics including nuclear, particle, quantum and astrophysics is required to describe the universe, especially its first three minutes. These initial minutes are very important as all major building blocks of our universe e.g., hydrogen atoms were formed during that time. 

Weekly topics will include: Introduction & Scientific Theory, Experimental Methods, The Big Bang, Expanding Universe, Relativity, Curved Space, Particle Era, Quark Gluon Plasma, Era of Nucleosynthesis, Quantum Gravity & String Theory, Universe vs. Multiverse, Future Investigations. The underlying concepts of these topics will be covered at a level that can be followed by non-major undergraduate students with no prerequisite science classes, although prospective science majors are welcomed.   

Dr. Salur is an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rutgers. Since earning her Ph.D. at Yale University, she has studied experimental high-energy nuclear physics and investigated the properties of strongly interacting, very hot and dense matter produced in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, NY. She is a member of the CMS Collaboration at the LHC and the STAR Collaboration at RHIC. The CMS experiment at the LHC is a general multi-purpose detector designed to explore physics at the large (TeV) energy scales. The STAR experiment is one of the two large-scale experiments at RHIC and is designed to measure the particles that are produced in the collisions of protons and gold ions. In the course of her experimental work, Salur explores how matter originally formed.

core-graphic-smallThe First World War: Causes, Consequences, and Controversies [WCd]
01:090:295:04 Index# 18390
Jack Levy, SAS - Political Science
T 02:50-05:50P
Honors College Rm S120
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS - Political Science Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS - Political Science Minor: yes

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson described the First World War as a war “to end all wars” and “to make the world safe for democracy.” Instead, it ended the most peaceful century of the last millennium and gave rise to fascism and Nazism. The Great War was “the primordial catastrophe of the 20th century.” It left ten million dead and perhaps twenty million wounded, marked a revolution in warfare, and culminated in an even more horrific war two decades later. In the process, it destroyed four empires, re-drew the map of Europe, ended the first era of globalization, and marked the emergence of the “American Century.” The Great War ruptured not only a century of relative peace, but also a belief in human progress and a growing optimism about the human condition. was a fundamentally transformative event.

JACK S. LEVY is Board of Governors’ Professor of Political Science. He is a past president of the International Studies Association (2007-08) and of the Peace Science Society International (2005-06). Levy’s teaching and research interests focus on international relations, with an emphasis on the causes of interstate war and on foreign policy decision-making. His books include War in the Modern Great Power System, 1495-1975 (1983), Explaining War and Peace: Case Studies and Necessary Condition Counterfactuals (co-edited with Gary Goertz, 2007), Causes of War (with William R. Thompson, 2010), The Arc of War: Origins, Escalation, and Transformation (with William R. Thompson, 2011), The Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, 2nd ed. (co-edited with Leonie Huddy and David O. Sears, 2013), and The Outbreak of the First World War: Structure, Politics, and Decision-Making (2014, edited with John A. Vasquez). He has published over 100 articles and book chapters. Levy is currently working on book projects on balance of power theory, on the theory and history of preventive war, and on the strategic dynamics of the 1930s. For more on Professor Levy see his website at

core-graphic-smallCivil Society, Social Entrepreneurs and the New Economy: New forms of Organizing for a More Just and Sustainable World? [WCd]
01:090:295:05 Index# 19584
Steven Brechin, SAS - Sociology
T 01:10- 04:10P
Honors College Rm E128
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS - Sociology Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS - Sociology Minor: yes

In this seminar, we will explore a “hidden revolution” now underway. Like all revolutions it means to reorganize society and politics to correct perceived social ills. We begin by investigating the complex and ancient notion of civil society. There are contested conceptualizations on what it is (or is not) but the one we will work with is the idea of civil society as associational life - the space between the public sector (state/government) and the private sector (business/market-based activities). In this conceptualization, civil society is the space where citizens engage each other to promote and protect their interests and rights, more or less separate from the state and the economy. It is often declared the bedrock of democracy. Within the world of organizations civil society is filled with non-profit, social movement organizations, and member-based associations. In our current era of hyper capitalism (neoliberalism) and a growing market society (money reshaping society’s moral values) with its rapidly rising economic inequality and declining global ecological systems, traditional civil society space, I will argue, has been declining under vicious assaults. While civil society space may be declining, new spaces seem to be emerging. People everywhere are demanding new configuration of spaces and new forms of organizing to address our societal and environmental needs. From this context, new spaces appear to be forming that neither are quite civil society nor are they exactly the private sector. These new spaces appear to have new actors such as social entrepreneurs and new organizational forms called B Corps as well as a renewed vision of society and economy known as the “New Economy.” This not the new world of computers and e-commerce but rather one designed to address our social and environmental ills while providing livelihood and greater sense of community and personal engagement, the original role of civil society. What is this “New Economy” and what does it look like and how could it possibly propel us into a more sustainable and just world?

The seminar will be comprised of three parts. The first would explore the varied and largely idealized notions of civil society. The second part would investigate the current state of economy, society and the environment focusing on how our market economy is reshaping our values, growing inequality, and rapidly eroding our planet’s ecological systems. Included here will be discussion on the increasing “corruption” or “abuse” of civil society space by the state, private sector, and from within for either market or political gain. The third part would focus on future possibilities with a rise of a new or resigned space as a possible foundation for a new future world where, social justice, and economic and environmental sustainability would each be achievable. Our time together would be spent understanding and critiquing this “New Economy revolution”.

core-graphic-smallMapping the Brain [WCd]
01:090:296:01 Index# 18270
Arnold Glass, SAS - Psychology
TTH 05:00-06:20P
SEC Rm 210
Busch Campus
Will Count towards SAS - Psychology Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS - Psychology Minor: yes

The theme of this course is functional maps of the brain. Teams of 2 – 4 students will work on a semester – long project to illustrate some functional neural system, e.g. visual system, auditory system, language system, etc. This course will be of especial interest to anyone with artistic ability who likes to draw. This will be an opportunity to use your ability in the service of cutting edge science.

There will be an online quiz before every class and students will participate in class using their cell phones or clickers. If you are not enthusiastic about attending every class then this course is not for you.

Arnold Glass has been on the faculty at Rutgers for 40 years. He is a former Fulbright scholar who has been a visiting scientist at Harvard University, Cambridge University, and the University of Oslo. He is the former Executive Officer of the Eastern Psychological Association. He is well known for his research on language and memory. His new textbook, Cognition: A Neurocognitive Science Approach will be published by Cambridge University Press at the end of the year. He is an avid supporter of all things Rutgers, including football and men’s and women’s basketball.

core-graphic-smallExistentialism in Philosophy, Literature, and Film [WCd]
01:090:296:02 Index# 15155
Martin Lin, SAS - Philosophy
TTH 02:50-04:10P
Honors College Rm N104
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS - Philosophy Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS - Philosophy Minor: yes

In the popular imagination, existentialism was an intellectual fashion that flourished in the cafés and boulevards of post WWII Paris featuring black turtlenecks, red wine and ennui. While there is a grain of truth in this portrait, in this course we will treat existentialism as a broader tendency that finds expression in philosophy, literature, art, and film from the mid-nineteenth century until the present day. The central idea that animates this tendency is that in some sense life is meaningless or absurd. In this course, we will look at how this idea gains expression and development across a wide range of thinkers and artists.

Martin Lin is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy. His interests are mainly in metaphysics and philosophy of mind and his work focuses on these issues in the context seventeenth century philosophers such as Spinoza and Leibniz.

core-graphic-smallAnti-Apartheid and Civil Rights Movements: King and Mandela, Lessons in Leadership Seminar [WCd]
01:090:296:03 Index# 15156
Ronald Quincy, School of Social Work
F 11:30A-02:30P
Honors College Rm N104
College Aven Campus
Will Count towards School of Social Work Major: no
Will Count towards School of Social Work Minor: no

This seminar will examine the strategic ways in which leaders have sought to institutionalize their activism and public dissent. The class will utilize an interactive discussion format. On a macro-level, the focus will include founders of civil and human rights organizations and other social change pressure groups. On a micro-level, we will contrast leadership roles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his co-founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Nelson Mandela and his leadership role in the African National Congress (ANC).

Students will explore a combination of readings of great social movement thinkers such as David Thoreau and draw from original case studies to provide comparative and contrasting ideas of King and Mandela, along with other influencers. The important role of interracial and interfaith groups during these time periods will be explored along with issues pertaining to self-sacrifice and the ethics of movement leadership will also be addressed. Students will conduct as a group an original social scientific research project on aspects of leadership, consisting of on-line survey research, interviews or focus groups.

Utilizing real world interactions with former ANC and civil rights activists, the instructor will facilitate student-led interactions with selected leaders. Students will form in-class role-play debate teams. The Students will develop a comprehensive annotated leadership chronology; and leadership decision analysis matrix for a selected historical figure, or of the students. Students will prepare mock contemporary conversations between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela as they reflect on their historical figure’s political and social change best practices and leadership lessons learned.

RONALD L. QUINCY, PhD (Michigan State University) is currently Director, Center for Nonprofit Management and Governance, and Lecturer (Professor), School of Social Work, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Dr. Quincy teaches courses in the nonprofit and management concentration. His research interests are organizational leadership, governance, community empowerment, and diversity in the human services sector. Dr. Quincy is formerly an associate vice president at Harvard University, where he also served as assistant to the president of Harvard. Dr. Quincy has served two governors as a state cabinet officer in Michigan, Special Assistant to the Secretary, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Executive Director, Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, President of the White House Fellows Foundation, Executive Director/President Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Foreign Affairs Advisor, US State Department, and Director of the Office of Human Resource Policy, State of Michigan. Ron has served on special advisory boards for a number of institutions including MIT, Harvard, and Michigan State. He also served on the governing board of Egleston Children's Hospital (Emory University), Michigan Criminal Justice Commission, Governor's Task Force on School Violence and Vandalism, among others public service agencies. Earlier in his career, Dr. Quincy served as a White House Fellow.

core-graphic-smallCommunication and the Construction of Family [WCd]
01:090:296:04 Index# 18272
Jenny Mandelbaum, SC&I - Communication
TH 02:50-05:50P
Honors College Rm E128
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SC&I - Communication Major: no
Will Count towards SC&I - Communication Minor: no

Even in a time of rapid social change, family remains the primary influence on children’s socialization and development. While ‘family’ is often held up as a core social value, what does the term mean and what are the consequences of types of family configurations, dynamics, and forms of interaction? While some take the view that family structures shape communication, in this course we aim to put communication at the center of the family, and explore how we enact family through communication, while examining the communication challenges that families face in various sociocultural contexts.

We will explore different definitions of family and the communication issues that couples face upon entering into this social institution. The course will then examine how communication dynamics change as couples become families. Specifically, we will focus on how “family” is enacted through the communication practices of couples, parents and children, siblings, and extended family members. We will also examine how communication impacts interactions with societal institutions (including education, politics, media, technology), and how families are affected by major societal and life shifts (including family health, divorce, immigration, family vs. workplace, and conflict and its resolution).

Learning Goals
By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. understand and articulate the fundamental concepts and theories related to communication in the family.
  2. demonstrate mastery of these concepts by applying them to current social issues and questions related to family life.
  3. demonstrate your ability to gather evidence to explore, understand, and debate possible outcomes of these issues with your classmates.
  4. construct a family tree.
  5. collect video-recorded data using proper research protocols.
  6. develop an independent research project on a family communication practice in which you construct an original argument that integrates and connects the existing scholarly literature with course concepts and materials and your video recording in a formal research paper. As you develop your paper you will produce a rough draft on which you will receive substantive feedback, leading to a polished and substantive final product.

Jenny Mandelbaum (Ph.D. The University of Texas at Austin) is a Professor in the Department of Communication at Rutgers University. Her research examines the organization of everyday interaction, using video- and audio-recordings of naturally occurring conversations as a resource for describing how we use interaction to “do” things – tell stories, complain, blame, offer compliments, make requests and offers, etc., and in so doing construct relationships and identities, and enact family and professional life. She and her students are currently working on a large database of naturally occurring field video-recordings of families interacting. She has received grant support for introducing web-based technologies to the University classroom, and serves as a faculty mentor in the SAS College Honors Program, and as a Master Teacher in the Teaching Assistant Project’s Master Faculty Observation Program. In addition to classes in the Communication major, she teaches Byrne Seminars, SAS Honors Program Interdisciplinary Seminars, and supervises Aresty Undergraduate Research Assistants. Winner of Rutgers’ Warren I. Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2000, she has been a Rutgers Presidential Fellow in the Rutgers (formerly Carnegie) Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Leadership Program since its inception.

core-graphic-smallThe "God Debate:" Modern Doubt Past and Present [WCd]
01:090:296:05 Index# 19585
Lawrence Scanlon, SAS - English
TH 11:30-2:30P
Honors College Rm N104
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS - English Major: no
Will Count towards SAS - English Minor: no

Declining interest in religion has long been taken as one of the hallmarks of modernity, the result in particular of its skeptical, scientific spirit. The past three decades or so have seen an unexpected religious resurgence in the United States as well as many other places in the world. That in turn has prompted the emergence of a trend known as "The New Atheism" and a series of attacks on religious belief that has come to be called the “God Debate.” This course will examine this current controversy and seek to provide students with its larger intellectual background. As works intended primarily for popular audience, these attacks have been noteworthy for their daring, but also for their somewhat reductive account of religion. Some the most interesting responses have been defenses of religion from other non-religious thinkers. We will look at both the attacks, from such writers as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris; and the contemporary responses, from such writers as Terry Eagleton and Slavoj Zizek. For broader context we will also look at some classic discussions of religious faith and modern doubt, including those of Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud, and and the more recent work of Jacques Derrida. Questions to be considered will include: Can faith maintain itself in the face of scientific truth? Is “belief” in scientific truth itself entirely rational? Is faith rational? How should we understand the relation between belief in God or the lack of it and moral, social and political values? Can atheism and faith coexist? Are they actually as distinct as their adherents take them to be?


  1. Regular attendance.
  2. Two short papers (2-3 pp.).
  3. One longer paper (8-10 pp.).
  4. Participation in writing workshops
  5. Short online exercises.

Larry Scanlon is an Associate Professor of English. He specializes in Medieval Studies and Literary Theory.

core-graphic-smallCollecting the World: From Ancient Relics and Cabinets of Curiosity to the Modern Art Museum [WCd]
01:090:297:01 Index# 15153
James Delbourgo, SAS - History
TH 02:50-05:50P
Honors College Rm N106
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS - History Major: no
Will Count towards SAS - History Minor: no

This course focuses on the power of objects. Why do human beings collect things and what do collections mean? What sort of people become collectors and with what motives? We will examine the psychology of the collector and look at different theories about the meaning of objects. We will also look at the history of museums, and ask what are museums?: temples of knowledge and learning or places that mystify objects through class politics, ideology and power? We will debate contemporary controversies about cultural heritage such as: should the British Museum return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece? People destroy objects as well as preserve them: why did the Taliban destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan and why is ISIS destroying collections and ancient sites like Nimrud in Iraq? Topics will be drawn from: collecting and display in ancient Rome; religious icons and relics as sacred objects; wonders and monsters in cabinets of curiosity; global trade and imperialism; the creation of the first public museums; Victorian collections and scientific racism; Nazi art, looting and the occult; the emergence of the modern art museum and the formation of taste in mass industrial society; “hoarding” as a psychiatric disorder; investment capitalism in the global art market; virtual collecting in the age of the digital; and iconoclasm in wars of religion. The class will involve interactions with professional curators on visits to the Zimmerli Museum at Rutgers and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

JAMES DELBOURGO is associate professor of history and is completing a book on the origins of the world’s first free public museum, the British Museum (Penguin and Harvard). He has published widely on science, empire and collecting, and worked for several years in the Sloane manuscripts at the British Library, the object collections of the British Museum, and the Sloane Herbarium of botanical specimens at London’s Natural History Museum.

core-graphic-smallLiterature and Maps: The Cartographic Impulse [WCd]
01:090:297:02 Index# 15159
Anjali Nerlekar, SAS-African, Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Literature
TTH 03:20-04:40P
Lucy Stone Hall Rm A215
Livingston Campus
Will Count towards SAS-African, Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Literature Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS-African, Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Literature Minor: yes
Will Count towards SAS- Comparative Literature Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS- Comparative Literature Minor: yes

There is a notion of scientific facticity and impersonal knowledge gathering in the use of maps in the modern world. People use maps as a way to prove the “reality” of a space, to locate a material space, to reach a goal. But maps have been regularly used to consolidate colonial power as well as to subvert imperial designs. The aim of this course is to show that maps are authored projects, that they are not “factual” but are always selective in their depiction of material spaces. Geographers have known this for a long time now, and as Harley states, maps reflect “values, such as those of ethnicity, politics, religion or social class.” We will take this reading of maps into the interpretations of colonial and postcolonial texts to see how cartography can be variously utilized as a trope to structure the colonial argument for power or the postcolonial reversal of oppressive systems.
The course travels across British, Irish, Indian, and African literature. It examines the political skirmishes between Ireland and Great Britain, India and Pakistan, besides the colonization of Asia and Africa by various European countries.  Besides a detailed look at different kinds of maps over the ages and across spaces, the course looks at the reflection of this in the genres of poetry, drama and fiction as well as in artworks from these spaces.

The course starts by defining what maps are and looking at various projections used in the making of maps, then moves into an inquiry of this scheme of knowledge gathering and its connection to the imperial project, and then looks at the possible ways in which the colonial tools can be used to subvert the power of the colonial gaze. The course is interdisciplinary and involves looking at maps, exploring art works and reading literatures from different genres, periods and spaces. Some of the writers studied in the course include Lewis Carroll, Nuruddin Farah, Amitav Ghosh, Arun Kolatkar and Brian Friel.

ANJALI NERLEKAR’S research is in the intersections of literature, urban spaces and multilingual experiences. She is working on a book titled Bombay Modern: Arun Kolatkar’s Bilingual Materialisms and her other areas of study include South Asian poetry with a focus on post-independence Indian poetry, South Asian literature, Indo-Caribbean literature, Translation studies, postcolonial book history, and world Anglophone literature. She is Assistant Professor in the department of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures.

core-graphic-smallDoctor/Lawyer, Artist/Technologist, Programmer/ Poet: How Do We Learn From Each Other? [WCd]
01:090:297:03 Index# 15160
Jeffrey Friedman, MGSA - Dance
W 09:15A-12:15P
Ruth Adams Building Room 110B
Douglass Campus
Will Count towards MGSA - Dance Major: no
Will Count towards MGSA - Dance Minor: no

As a global society, we have complex problems in science and health, communications and technology, immigration and economy, etc. How do we begin to address such overwhelming problems? Interdisciplinarity means gathering information and generating solutions that draw on knowledge from different actors: doctors, lawyers, artists, technologists, activists, and researchers and thinkers of all kinds. Where do you locate yourself? Are you a "Geo-nutritionist"?  A "Bio-acoustician", "Surreal-consumer studies" scholar",  or a "Franco-choreologist"? How do different perspectives inform and, ultimately, transform each other? This course will address the history of multi-, cross- and inter-disciplinary inquiry. How do such approaches lead to new discoveries? New creative expressions, or social and political change? What happens when an engineer works with a dancer? A business student with an environmental scientist? Students will be able to explore areas of concern through reading, writing, and class discussion, and develop collaborative pilot projects that explore their own core concerns.

Jeff Friedman Ph.D is Associate Professor of Dance Studies at Mason Gross School of the Arts.  His background and training in the arts include  instrumental music, visual arts and dance performance and choreography.  He also trained in architectural design at Cornell University and received his 5-year undergraduate B.Arch from the University of Oregon.  Jeff is also a certified Laban Movement Analyst specializing in non-verbal communication, specializing in theories, methods and practices of oral history interviews. His creative work, scholarly presentations and publications includes works in Germany, where he was a Fulbright Senior Teaching and Research Fellow (2010); New Zealand, where he was Lecturer in Dance Studies at Auckland  University (2007); Seoul, Korea; Sydney and Brisbane, Australia; Jerusalem, Israel; Istanbul, Turkey; Vienna and Salzburg, Austria; Leipzig and Frankfurt, Germany; Barcelona, Spain; Amsterdam, Holland; Universities of Coventry, Kent, Bournemouth, and Surrey, UK; Universities of Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa, Canada; Guadalajara, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and throughout the U.S., including Simmons College in Boston, where he was the 2014 Allen Smith Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Program in Library and Information Science.

core-graphic-smallThe Problem of Evil in Philosophy and Popular Culture [WCd]
01:090:297:04 Index# 15161
Edward McCrossin, SAS - Philosophy
TH 09:50A-12:50P
Honors College Rm E128
College Ave Campus
Will Count towards SAS - Philosophy Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS - Philosophy Minor: yes

The "problem of evil," commonly phrased as the question, "why do bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad?," began its life as a theological problem, as far back as the Old Testament's Book of Job, but it's also a modern secular problem, which began its life at least since Rousseau's public dispute with Voltaire midway through the eighteenth century, as Susan Neiman has convincingly argued in her 2002 Evil in Modern Thought ( The secular version poses a threat not to God's standing, but to human reason's—how can we make reasonable sense of the world, if we can't make sense of it teeming with unreasonable suffering?—and yields primarily two competing perspectives, one beginning with Rousseau, insisting that "morality demands that we make evil intelligible," the other beginning with Voltaire, insisting that "morality demands that we don't." The seminar will be devoted to identifying and clarifying the various sorts of evidence of these competing perspectives we find in philosophy, literature, and popular culture.

On the philosophy side of things, we will want to clarify the nature of "Optimism" as a philosophical perspective. On the literature and popular culture side of things, choices will be driven in part by seminar participants' backgrounds and preferences, but will also include at least some of the following: the nineteenth-century Gothic novel tradition (Frankenstein, Dracula, and so on), their many visual interpretations, together with certain twentieth-century additions (The Walking Dead, for example); paraphrases and extensions of the parables of Job and Candide; the dystopian novel tradition, as a whole, but in particular as marketed increasingly to younger audiences (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Divergent, among others); certain combinations of authors (for example, Dostoevsky, Conrad, and Camus), and of works of individual authors (for example, DeLillo's Mao II, Cosmopolis, and Falling Man, Harris' Hannibal Lecter series, Malick's The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life, and To the Wonder, Morrison's Beloved, A Mercy, and Home, and Updike's Rabbit quartet and Terrorist), and how certain of their narratives are being taken up provocatively in serial television (for example, Hannibal and Homeland).

TRIP MCCROSSIN has been with the Philosophy Department at Rutgers for over ten years, working in various ways on the history and philosophy of the Enlightenment, and its legacy in contemporary ethics, politics, and popular culture. He attended college at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and graduate school at Stanford and Yale. He's working on several longish publications on the problems of evil and personal identity, and has essays periodically on these and other subjects in Open Court's Popular Culture and Philosophy series. He lives in Brooklyn with his son.

core-graphic-smallSacrifice, Sorcery, and Society [WCd]
01:090:297:05 Index# 18265
Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi, SAS - Anthropology
M 10:55A-12:15P
Ruth Adams Building Rm 110B
TH 10:55A-12:15P
Ruth Adams Building Rm 109A
Douglass Campus
Will Count towards SAS - Anthropology Major: yes
Will Count towards SAS - Anthropology Minor: yes

This course explores the significance of sacrifice as a variation on the theme of death in ritual, religion, and modern formations such as the nation. In diverse social phenomena such as ritual exchange, initiation, sorcery, various forms of collective violence, and national identification, sacrifice is either a rhetorical device, or, a deep structure of human symbolic action. Sacrifice is minimally defined as the establishment of a loss in order to constitute the sacred of a community. What is the value of sacrifice as an analytical concept? How is it connected to other forms of symbolic expression? When is it heralded and what does it express? The course will engage classic formative texts in anthropological theory, religion and ritual, as well as investigate various ethnographic examples in the contemporary world—initiation in Papua New Guinea, witchcraft in France, sorcery in Australia, spirit possession in South Asia--where magical procedures and sacrificial logics come into play, often connected to a search for immortality. In providing an introduction into magic and ritual technologies, students will learn to identify and critically appraise the deployment of sacrifice and other ritual technologies as rhetoric, metaphor, or logic in non- or quasi-religious contexts.

Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi was born in the former “West-Berlin” in a divided Germany, and spent early childhood in Montréal, Paris, and Berlin. In 1986 he graduated from Priest River Lamanna High-School in Idaho (USA) as a foreign exchange student. In 1988, he completed his Abitur at Schiller-Gymnasium in Berlin (Germany). In 1998, he obtained a Magister in Ethnologie, Soziologie und Religionswissenschaften from the Freie Universität Berlin (Germany). He received an M.A. in socio-cultural anthropology from Cornell University in 2000, and a Ph.D. in January 2006 (USA). He has engaged in ethnographic field research on ethnicity and identification in Gibraltar (1996), Christian religious practices in the United States (1999-2001). He conducted various phases of language and fieldwork studies in Gujarat (India) in 1995-96, 1999, 2000, 2001-2003, 2005, 2008-2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013. He taught anthropology at Princeton University in 2006, held a post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Religion and Media at New York University in 2006-2007, and was a fellow at the Institut d'Études Avancées de Nantes (France) in 2012. He is the editor of (Berg Press, 2009), author of (Editio Cortis Aquilae, 2008), as well as (Princeton University Press, 2012). His most recent research was supported by a grant from the SSRC Study Project New Directions in the Study of Prayer (2012-2014). He currently holds a position as associate professor in Socio-Cultural Anthropology at Rutgers University, NJ (USA). 


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