Interdisciplinary Honors Seminars

Spring 2014 Interdisciplinary Honors Seminars


*Wonderful Life Genes and Evolution
01:090:251:01 Index #16684
Frank Deis, SAS-Division of Life Sciences
MW 01:40-03:00PM
Allison Road Classroom Room 203
Busch Campus

*Note: This course does NOT satisfy the SAS Core Goal- Writing and Communication in a Discipline, [WCd].

Life appears to have originated on Earth nearly 4.5 billion years ago when the oceans boiled and the atmosphere had no oxygen.  The changing conditions on our planet have defined the parameters within which life has existed.  An increase in the amount of oxygen in the air from 2.5 billion to 500 million years ago eventually permitted “modern” animals to exist.  Massive extinctions (especially at the end of the Permian Period) have narrowed the spectrum of species on the planet.

One theme of the seminar will be the origin of life, early evolution, implications for life in extreme environments, and possible life on Mars.  Students with an appreciation of chemistry will perhaps better understand the concepts in this part of the seminar than those without, but the readings are intended to be non-technical.

A second theme of the seminar is that science, as a human endeavor, is full of disagreements and political axes to grind.  One of the most controversial areas of evolutionary science is the connection between genes and behavior.  We will try to illuminate this controversy through class readings and discussions.

The reading materials throughout the seminar will be enhanced and complemented by materials in other media, especially video and film.  Books by Stephen Jay Gould and other writers on evolution and paleontology will be assigned.  Professor Deis will also bring in appropriate fossils, shells, and minerals from his collection.

Periodic papers will be assigned.  The factual content of the course will require an occasional short quiz.  Attendance and active class participation will contribute to each student’s grade.

FRANK DEIS studied Chemistry at Rice University and the University of Virginia, and Medicinal Chemistry at the Medical College of Virginia.  He has taught Biochemistry at Rutgers since 1977, and is author of Companion to Biochemistry (W.H. Freeman 2006).


Cataltastrophe, Collective Memory and Everyday Life [WCd]
01:090:292:01 Index #16664
Judith Gerson, SAS - Sociology and Women's and Gender Studies
Voorhees Chapel Room 005
Douglass Campus

*This seminar will count as elective credit in the Women and Gender Studies major and minor, Jewish Studies major and minor, and the Social Justice minor.

The scholarship on genocide, natural disasters, war, narratives of survivors and perpetrators, the politics of commemoration, and programs of reconciliation and forgiveness all suggest a growing interest in disaster and recovery as well as our collective memory of a traumatic past. 

This seminar begins with discussion of what constitutes catastrophe.  We examine several occurrences of catastrophes generated by natural and/or human forces, and analyze the similarities and differences between them.  The seminar then considers whether the aftermath of catastrophe is invariably and exclusively traumatic.   Here we concentrate on the consequences of catastrophe in everyday life and aim to develop a multifaceted understanding of the complexities of survival. 

Our work in this seminar is guided by the literature on collective memory—i.e., how people remember the past, in the present, for the future.  The idea of collective memory suggests that although memory is an individual experience, people also remember as members of various groups.  These social relationships influence how people experience, recall, erase, ignore, and transform a catastrophic past.

Readings include primary and secondary source materials, first-person accounts, as well as visual and literary representations of catastrophe and its aftermath.  Students participate in co-facilitating seminar discussions, occasionally work in teams with other seminar participants, and present their work in progress for constructive feedback.  Weekly blog posts, a take-home essay examination, and a final paper using primary sources structure our endeavors.

Judith Gerson is on the faculty of the Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies Departments and affiliated with the Jewish Studies Department.  Currently she is completing a book manuscript titled, By Thanksgiving We Were Americans: German Jewish Refugees during the Nazi Era.  This research has led her to study catastrophe and collective memory, placing scholarship on diaspora and genocide into conversation with each other.   She encourages students from the widest variety of fields of study and areas of interest to register as this diversity will enhance our seminar’s collective learning.

 altThe Aesthetics of Rap [WCd]
01:090:292:02 Index #16687
Carter Mathes, SAS - English
TTH 02:50-04:10PM
Brett Hall Seminar Room
College Ave Campus

*Please note that SAS Honors Seminars taught by faculty from the Department of English can count as an English elective for English majors and minors. 
In all cases, a student must submit a request to the Department by contacting Ms. Cain at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Over the past four decades Rap music has evolved into one of the most compelling and ubiquitous musical forms across the globe.  This course charts the incredible rise to prominence of the music by closely examining the aesthetic choices that creative artists have made throughout these formative decades in extending the formal and thematic dimensions of Rap through increasing levels of sonic innovation.  We will trace the roots of the music, from blues lyricism and jazz improvisation, to Jamaican toasting and dub production.  We will also pay close attention to the literary and poetic qualities of Rap composition, and to the range of production styles that have acoustically marked its ongoing history.   Our readings will also focus on the social, political, and economic contexts that have shaped the music.  Critical listening and close reading of lyrics will be central elements of our analytical work.  Our reading list will include prose from the RZA, Jay-Z, KRS-One, Prodigy, Tupac, and Chuck D., and critical work from Tricia Rose (Black Noise), Jeff Chang (Total Chaos), and Imani Perry (Prophets of the Hood).

CARTER MATHES is an Assistant Professor of English.  He earned his B.A. in English from the University of Virginia and his M.A. and Ph.D. in African American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.  His book, Imagine the Sound: African American Literature after Civil Rights is forthcoming (October 2014) from the University of Minnesota Press.  His scholarly writing also appears in the journals Small Axe, Callaloo, Contemporary Literature, and the blog Sounding Out.  He is also actively involved in Critical Caribbean Studies at Rutgers, and is working on a book project that focuses on artistic and political exchanges between African American and Jamaican writers and musicians during the twentieth-century.

Jualtng for the 21st Century [WCd]
01:090:292:03 Index #16762
Steven Walker, SAS - Comparative Literature
W 09:50AM-12:50PM
Brett Hall Seminar Room
College Ave Campus

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.


Language, Categories, and Cognition [WCd]
01:090:293:01 Index #16670
Kristen Syrett, SAS - Linguistics
TF 09:50-11:10AM
Brett Hall Seminar Room
College Ave Campus

What role does language play in shaping the way we think about the world? Does it make us to conceptually organize the world in a particular way, or does it serve as a guide, interacting with universal tendencies? In the early part of the 20th century, Edward Sapir argued that humans are “at the mercy” of their “language habits.” His student Benjamin Lee Whorf picked up on this idea and claimed that the concepts we acquire depend on our linguistic knowledge and practices. Since then, researchers across a number of disciplines have argued vehemently in favor of—but probably more often against—these hypotheses. Indeed, these claims stand in stark contrast to Noam Chomsky’s claim that language is a “mirror of the mind” and therefore that speakers across languages and cultures should converge upon similar representations. Perhaps in no area of research is this tension concerning the relationship between language and thought felt as acutely as in language acquisition.

In this honors seminar, we will explore the relationship between language and thought by focusing our attention on process of language acquisition. We will review findings from a number of groundbreaking studies with children 5 months to 5 years of age, which have investigated the influence of language on category formation in the areas of speech perception and word learning. We will complement these studies with discussion of related experiments with adults, shedding light on the degree of continuity or variation cross-linguistically. Our data will cover a wide range of languages.

Students with an interest in linguistic and cognitive development, or in the specific questions addressed above are welcome to attend. No prior knowledge of experimental methodology or linguistic theory will be assumed.

DR. SYRETT is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics and the Center for Cognitive Science. She is the Director of the Rutgers Laboratory for Developmental Language Studies on Busch Campus. In her research, Dr. Syrett investigates how young children acquire the meaning of words like adjectives and verbs, the range of sentence interpretations that older children and adults can access and why, the extent to which prosody informs meaning, and how experimental psycholinguistic techniques can illuminate the way in which we process and represent sentences. In her spare time, she enjoys indoor cycling and yoga, and having adventures with her two children.

altTheories of the Universe:  Creation Myths Through the Ages [WCd]
01:090:293:02 Index #16671
Terry Matilsky, SAS - Physics & Astronomy
MTH 10:20-11:40AM
Allison Road Classroom Room 203
Busch Campus

Every culture in the history of humankind has  explored ideas concerning the "big questions":  How did we get here?  How did the Universe start?  What is the ultimate meaning of existence?

In this course, we will take a historical approach to these queries, from the Babylonian and Judeo-Christian religious perspective, down to our current "scientific" understanding of the Big Bang and the expanding Universe.  What do all these ideas share in common?   How do they differ?   Why do they differ?  Can any conclusive statements actually be made with respect to these issues?

We will explore these ideas together, and students will be expected to make oral presentations as well as submit essays addressing  substantive questions that we raise as a class.

TERRY MATILSKY has been a member of the Department of Physics at Rutgers for over 35 years.  He directed the Rutgers College General Honors Program for 7 of those years, and initiated several popular courses, including "Physics and Photography", which he taught for over two decades.  In 2012, he was awarded the Emmons Prize from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for lifetime contributions to the teaching of college  astronomy for non-science majors.

altMaterializing the Sacred: Medieval Art Between Visible and Invisible [WCd]
01:090:293:03 Index #16672
Erik Thuno, SAS - Art History
TH 09:50AM-12:50PM
Brett Hall Seminar Room
College Ave Campus

In this seminar we will examine the power of medieval art to bridge the earthly and visible world with its heavenly and invisible counterpart. We'll be looking at a wide range of objects such as illuminated manuscripts, preciously crafted reliquaries in gold and silver, painted icons from across the Middle Ages and focus on the church building as a sacred space which through its colorful frescoes, dazzling mosaics and sumptuous liturgy worked to unite man with God. This journey into the religious function of medieval art and its interaction with its viewers will take us to the majors artistic centers of the medieval world (i.e. Rome, Paris, Constantinople, Aachen, Hildesheim) from the early Christian period to the Late Middle Ages. We will read and discuss a combination of historical and modern scholarly sources and go on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. Students are expected to prepare oral presentations on assigned readings and a research paper on a self-chosen subject.

ERIK THUNO is associate professor of medieval art in the Department of Art History at Rutgers. He has taught a variety of courses on medieval art and published on subjects including early medieval reliquaries, icons, inscriptions, miracle-working imagery, and mosaics. Professor Thuno has just finished a new book on the early medieval apse mosaics in Rome which will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2014.


altThe Meaning of the 21st Century [WCd]
01:090:294:01 Index #16673
Matt Matsuda, SAS - History, SASHP
TH 04:30-07:30PM
Brett Hall Seminar Room
College Ave Campus

In 2005, Mr. James Martin, a prolific author and information technology visionary, gave Oxford University the largest gift in its 900-year history to establish the Oxford Martin School, an interdisciplinary center to study the future. A year later he published The Meaning of the 21st Century: A Vital Blueprint for Ensuring Our Future, in which argued that “The 21st century is an extraordinary time—a century of extremes. We can create much grander civilizations or we could trigger a new Dark Ages.”

A year ago, he began a teaching project with Rutgers—and Honors students—to explore issues of planetary destruction, future energy and healthcare, avoidance of the giga-famine, paradigm shifts in war, new concept cities, trans-humanism and intelligent robots, rich and poor worlds, managing the cyber-planet, new corporations and work, and the infinite renaissance of virtual creativity and leisure. 

Just as the project began, Mr. Martin unexpectedly passed away. His estate has allowed Rutgers to go forward and imagine what his “Meaning of the 21st Century” might have looked like if he had lived. This class, developed with the original project students, will explore the great issues cited above, and focus on what Mr. Martin did not address with his Oxford colleagues: how students, and ordinary people, can make global change. Participants will not only study and report on issues, but develop social innovation projects to confront selected issues raised.

MATT MATSUDA is the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program as well as College Avenue Campus Dean.  He teaches Asia-Pacific and Modern European studies in the History Department, and social entrepreneurship and social innovation through the School of Arts and Sciences. His current research is on the impact and bioethics of genetic genealogy science on cultures in Oceania and Asia, and he is interested in all dimensions of global modernity. He is the author of the books The Memory of the Modern; Empire of Love; Pacific Worlds; and the general editor for a multi-volume series on Pacific history.


A(t) Home in the World? [WCd]
01:090:294:02 Index #16674
Paul Blaney, SAS English, SASHP
W 02:50-05:50PM
35 College Ave 3rd Floor
College Ave Campus

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.


altIntertextuality in Popular Music [WCd]
01:090:294:03 Index #16754
Christopher Doll, MGSA - Music
TF 10:55AM-12:15PM
Mason Gross Performing Arts Seminar Room, Douglass Library
Douglass Campus

From the unconscious borrowing of established pitch and rhythmic patterns, to the deliberate sampling of fragments of older songs, intertextuality is ubiquitous in the world of popular music. This seminar will focus students’ attention to musical details that raise issues of reference, quotation, similarity, and influence. Readings from literary theory and musicology will set the stage for the exploration of songs from all over the popular-music repertory. We will listen to artists such as Elvis, the Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Led Zeppelin, Spinal Tap, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Public Enemy, Danger Mouse, and Coldplay; and we will also watch musically intertextual films such as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Moulin Rouge”.

Assignments will include listening to a large body of music, watching videos and films, and reading scholarship. Classes will consist of lectures, discussions, and student presentations. The semester will culminate with students’ writing a substantial research paper. No musical training is required.

CHRISTOPHER DOLL has taught at Rutgers since earning his PhD with Distinction from Columbia University in 2007. A music theorist and composer, he specializes in the theory of recent popular and art music, especially with regard to tonality and intertextuality. He is in demand as a speaker, having presented his work at Oxford, Princeton, Northwestern, the Experience Music Project (Seattle), and many other prestigious institutions. His book Hearing Harmony is forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press.



Muslims, Christians and Jews: Conflict and Coexistence [WCd]
01:090:295:02 Index #16676
Paola Tartakoff, SAS - Jewish Studies
MW 11:30AM-12:50PM
35 College Ave 3rd Floor
College Ave Campus

This seminar explores the history of interactions between Muslims, Christians and Jews in order to understand what the three groups share, how they differ and which factors have shaped the dynamics between them. In so doing, it will address broad questions about the nature of religious identity and the meanings and consequences of religious intolerance. This seminar will approach these matters through a study of the case of Spain, which famously was home to all three communities during the Middle Ages. Students will survey the complex relations between medieval Muslims, Christians and Jews, which, on the one hand, gave rise to collaboration and camaraderie and to major achievements in mathematics, science, medicine, architecture, philosophy and literature but, on the other hand, led to discrimination, violence, inquisition and expulsion. Students will examine how this history continues to shape Spanish culture – and the present world more broadly – and they will have the extraordinary opportunity to travel to Spain for one week, after the spring final exam period, to experience first hand much of what they will have studied. Over the course of the semester, students will analyze classic and contemporary films, the news media, paintings and other works of art, short stories, poetry, and excerpts from religious scriptures and historical documents.

PAOLA TARTAKOFF is an associate professor in the departments of Jewish Studies and History at Rutgers and the recipient of a 2013 Presidential Fellowship for Teaching Excellence. Her work focuses on the social and cultural history of Jews and Christians in medieval and early modern Europe and is grounded in archival research conducted in Spain. She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, and the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. Her first book, Between Christian and Jew: Conversion and Inquisition in the Medieval Crown of Aragon, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2012.


Climate Change, Justice and Equity: from the Tropical Rainforest to the Jersey Shore [WCd]
01:090:295:03 Index #17393
Melanie McDermott, SEBS - Human Ecology
T 02:15-05:15PM
Hickman Hall Room 129
Douglass Campus

*This seminar will count as a Environmental tracks course for all Geography majors and minors, as per Professor Rennermalm.

The initial premises of this course are that climate change poses a grave threat to humanity, and that those who have contributed least to generating the problem -- i.e., the global poor, future generations, and non-human species, are the most vulnerable to its impact. This interdisciplinary seminar will explore the implications this challenge raises for notions of justice and related ethical concepts.

 We begin by examining the fundamental question, ‘what is justice?,’ and then consider the intersections and distinctions between justice, fairness, equality and equity and how they might be salient to the climate change problem. Our understanding shifts when we focus first on injustice and how it is produced and reproduced in social relationships.  In what ways are inequities among nations and social classes related to the drivers of fossil fuel and forest combustion? How might inequity be exacerbated not only by the direct impacts of climate change, but by policies designed to combat or adapt to them?

Our reading and discussion will be focused by in-depth consideration of two major case studies, one tropical, the other close to home. The first concerns the various paying-poor-people-not-to-cut-trees policies under the rubric of Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (or REDD), and the second looks at Hurricane Sandy impacts and responses on the Jersey Shore.  Finally, we get very personal. Literature and performance art will help us examine how this crisis makes us feel, and the course as a whole will lead us to confront what we can do about it. Students from green groups and the fossil fuel divestment movement will join us to discuss how Rutgers is responding to the challenge, and what political choices and daily practices we can engage in to try turn back the rising tide.

The seminar will entail weekly readings, a field trip (tentative), and several written assignments.  A presentation and final paper will be based on a critical analysis of literature, an original thought experiment, or (if feasible) guided original research.

MELANIE MCDERMOTT is a visiting research assistant professor in the Human Ecology
 department. With degrees in interdisciplinary social science (PhD, U.C.. Berkeley) and forestry (MSc., Oxford), she has over 20 years’ experience in the U.S., Asia, Southern Africa, and the Caribbean in academic and applied research.  Her work has pursued a number of related themes, among them: the social impacts of climate change mitigation and adaptation; the political ecology of natural resource management, with an emphasis on community forestry; indigenous land rights; and coastal resilience. A focus on social equity crosscuts this diverse field.


 Heaven and Hell in the Western Tradition [WCd]
01:090:296:02 Index #16681
Emma Wasserman, SAS - Religion
TTH 2:15-3:35PM
Voorhees Chapel Rm 005
Douglass Campus

This course will examine the many ideas of heaven, hell, purgatory, and other post-mortem geographies, as they have developed throughout Western history. We will survey a range of texts, artifacts, and works of art from the ancient Mediterranean and Medieval Europe, to the Christian Reformation and early 21st century America. Among our historical readings, we will include theoretical questions regarding cognitive science and the imagining of invisible worlds, the socio-political uses of post-mortem damnation and/or reward, as well as the historical struggle to address human mortality. The aim will be to provide the student with the critical methods for understanding the texts, artifacts, or works of art in their relevant historical, political, and religious contexts.

EMMA WASSERMAN is an assistant professor of Religion at Rutgers University specializing in early Christian history. Her work focuses on Christian origins within the social, intellectual, and religious contexts of the ancient Mediterranean and especially on apocalypticism and cosmology, the Christian appropriation of ancient philosophy, and the social description of ancient intellectuals. Her published work treats intellectual discourses about the self and their use in the letters Paul, our earliest and best sources for Christianity. Her second book, which is forthcoming with Yale University Press, treats apocalyptic expectations in the Paul's letters.

Wasserman holds a Ph.D. from Yale University in Religious Studies and a B.A. from Brown University. Her first book, The Death of the Soul in Romans 7: Sin, Death, and the Law in Light of Hellenistic Moral Psychology (Mohr Siebeck) was published in 2008.


The Biological Basis of Cancer [WCd]
01:090:296:03 Index #16682
Audrey Minden, Pharmacy - Chemical Biology
TH 01:40-04:40PM
Lucy Stone Hall A-215
Livingston Campus

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world and despite advances in treatment it remains one of the most dreaded diagnoses. At the same time studying cancer presents fascinating challenges for scientists. In this course we will discuss the biological basis of cancer. We will discuss basic cell biology as it relates to cancer and how cancer cells differ from normal cells. We will study what kinds of changes cells go through to become cancer cells and what are some of the genes and proteins that are thought to play key roles in the disease. This will include a discussion of tumor suppressor genes oncogenes and tumor viruses as well as changes in cell shape motility and signaling. We will also discuss new advances in cancer treatment and the kinds of roles that both academic labs and pharmaceutical companies play in developing new drugs designed to combat the disease. We will discuss new technologies that may lead to more individualized cancer treatment as well as new ideas in cancer prevention.

The course will include critical analysis of scientific papers as well as lay news articles such as those found in the New York Times Science section. Students are expected to give two presentations based on the topics discussed in the course and to prepare one written report. This course is open to students with and without a science background there are no prerequisites.

Reading Shakespeare Across Texts and Culture [WCd]
01:090:297:01 Index #16678
Emily Bartels, SAS - English
T 11:30AM-2:30PM
Brett Hall Seminar Room
College Ave Campus

*Please note that SAS Honors Seminars taught by faculty from the Department of English can count as an English elective for English majors and minors.  In particular, this SAS Honors Seminar with Professor Bartels can count as the 300-level Shakespeare course. In all cases, a student must submit a request to the Department by contacting Ms. Cain at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

The purpose of this course will be to see what happens when we put Shakespeare’s plays in motion, within a diverse network of texts that have given and continue to give Shakespeare meaning, across time and cultures  How does Shakespeare translate, backwards and forwards?  What happens to our understanding of a play when we encounter its source, and what happens to the ‘source’ when we read it through the lens of Shakespeare?  Where do we draw the line between the performance and the adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays? What happens when we cross from narrative to drama, drama to film or performance, reader to spectator?  How do we think about Shakespeare’s cultural capital and meaning?  To explore questions such as these, we will look at a number of groupings, including:  The Tempest with William Strachey, A True Reportory of the Wrack and Aimé Césaire, A Tempest;Romeo and Juliet with ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore and Baz Luhrmann, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet; Henry V with Shakespeare, Henry IV, Holinshed, Chronicles, Kenneth Branagh, Henry V, and Oliver Stone, Platoon; Julius Caesar with Plutarch, Lives; Much Ado About Nothing, with Shakespeare, Othello and Caryl Phillips, The Nature of Blood; Macbeth and Akira Kurosawa, Throne of Blood.

Each student will take on a term-long research project (roughly 10-12 pages), drafted and presented in multiple stages. As we workshop these developing projects, we will learn together how to build and present an argument. Creativity welcomed.     

 EMILY C. BARTELS (B.A. Yale ‘79; A.M., PhD Harvard ’87) is a Professor of English (Rutgers) and Director of the Bread Loaf School of English (Middlebury College). She is author of Spectacles of Strangeness: Imperialism, Alienation, and Marlowe (1993) and Speaking of the Moor: From Alcazar to Othello (2008), editor of Critical Essays on Christopher Marlowe (1997), and co-editor, with Emma Smith, of Christopher Marlowe in Context (2013). She can think of (almost) nothing better to do than to talk about Shakespeare.


altBlackness and Visual Culture [WCd]
01:090:297:02 Index #16679
Evie Shockley, SAS - English
T 04:30-07:30PM
35 College Avenue Room 302
College Ave Campus

*Please note that SAS Honors Seminars taught by faculty from the Department of English can count as an English elective for English majors and minors.  In all cases, a student must submit a request to the Department by contacting Ms. Cain at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

In this course, we will engage questions concerning the meaning and operation of “blackness” in the U.S. and other geographically proximate contexts as it has been represented in African American / African diasporic cultural production over the last half-century. We will focus on literary texts that emphasize and make interesting use of visual elements (predominantly, but not exclusively, poetry), as well as visual images that employ text as material. As we contemplate works by black artists, we will develop a contextual framework for thinking about how they have responded to, revised, and manipulated dominant cultural representations of black people and black culture. African American and African diasporic art recognizes and utilizes the power of visual culture to reinvent black subjects and black subjectivity and to challenge and shape the racial politics of white supremacist societies. Working within this complex of cultural issues, members of the class will learn how to use close reading skills and critical analysis in studying both visually rich literature and textually oriented images.

Rather than trying to cover the vast range of images of blackness, the focus of this course is on those works in which the visual and the textual intersect most directly and resonantly. One of the goals of the course is to understand better how discursive representations can produce powerful visual images and how text can communicate in ways that exceed its linguistic functions. The primary texts will illuminate two thematic threads of the course. The first thread concerns black performance and performativity, with a focus on relationships between photography/film and text. What aspects of “blackness” can the lens capture that a literary work cannot? What does textual commentary on embodied, performative representations of “blackness” add to our understanding? Central texts for this unit will include Montage of a Dream Deferred, Langston Hughes; A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White and People Who Led to My Plays, Adrienne Kennedy; Skin, Inc., Thomas Sayers Ellis; Daughters of the Dust, Julie Dash; and photographs from Carrie Mae Weems’ Ain’t Jokin’ and From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried series. The second thread concerns representations of slavery. How and why have black artists, especially in recent decades, represented slavery as a way of interrogating the meaning of “blackness”? Central texts for this unit will include Slave Moth, Thylias Moss; Zong!, M. NourbeSe Philip; Glenn Ligon’s Runaways series; and Beatrice Chancy, George Elliott Clarke. We will ground our consideration of these texts in ideas presented in short theoretical essays about visual culture and visual poetics. And we can look forward to taking a group field trip to New York, where we will encounter Weems’ visual art together in person.

Evaluation will be based on class presentations and the development of a research project, with a final goal of a small symposium where we will present papers on the fruits of our semester’s thinking.

EVIE SHOCKLEY is an Associate Professor of English and an actively publishing poet. She earned her B.A. in English with a creative writing concentration at Northwestern University; her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School; and her M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Duke University. Her publications include two books of poetry—the new black (winner of the 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry) and a half-red sea—and the critical study Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry. Her scholarship and creative writing have been supported by fellowships and residencies from the American Council of Learned Societies, the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony for the Arts, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.


Maltolecular View of Human Anatomy: HIV and AIDS [WCd]
01:090:297:03 Index #16680
Helen Berman, SAS - Chemistry & Chemical Biology
Stephen Burley, SAS - Chemistry & Chemical Biology
Shuchismita Dutta, SAS - Chemistry & Chemical Biology
T 01:40-04:40PM
Proteomics Building Room 120
Busch Campus

What do proteins, DNA, RNA, and other biological macromolecules look like? Where do these molecules fit in your body and how do they work? This seminar will introduce you to the basics of structural biology using human anatomy, physiology, and disease as themes. The focus of the course will be to understand the structures and functions of proteins involved in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection leading to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), treatment strategies, and prevention.

In the first half of this seminar, students will learn the fundamentals of structural biology - how proteins, DNA, and RNA are shaped and how their structures are experimentally determined. They will also be introduced to contemporary ideas concerning HIV infection, diagnosis, and treatment of AIDS. Through the second half of the seminar, students will conduct supervised research on proteins related to HIV and AIDS. They will learn to appreciate the molecules from a structural perspective and understand how these structures have played an important role in understanding the disease, developing vaccines and discovering drugs to treat AIDS.

Through the seminar, students will learn to critically read scientific articles, identify molecules related to the assigned topics, analyze them in detail, and write scholarly articles about them. Students will have the opportunity to get their articles reviewed by experts in the field and publish them on an online educational resource. All class related material will be made available online. Students are strongly encouraged to bring in their own laptops to class.

The seminar has no pre-requisites; non-science majors are particularly encouraged to enroll. Students will be evaluated on two written reports and one oral presentation related to structural aspects of the course theme; and participation in class discussions/activities. The main aim of the seminar is to encourage research-based learning and to familiarize students with a structural view of biology at the atomic level.

HELEN M. BERMAN is a "card carrying crystallographer" whose research had focused on the structures of DNA, DNA-protein complexes and collagen. She is  the Director of the RCSB Protein Data Bank (, a member of the world wide Protein Data Bank (wwPDB)  that manages international repository for biological macromolecular structures. Before joining the Rutgers Chemistry Department in 1989, she was a faculty member at the Fox Chase Cancer Center and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Dr. Berman has had a long term interest in the interrelationships of science and society.

STEPHEN K. BURLEY is an expert in structural biology and proteomics, structure/fragment based drug discovery, and clinical medicine/oncology. He currently serves as Director of the Center for Integrative Proteomics Research, Associate Director of the Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics Protein Data Bank, Director of the BioMaPS Institute for Quantitative Biology, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and Member of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey at Rutgers. Before joining Rutgers in 2013, he spent eleven years as a professor at the Rockefeller University and a member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Burley spent another eleven years in the industry dividing his time between SGX Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Eli Lilly and Company.

SHUCHISMITA DUTTA is a structural biologist and educator. Currently she is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers, a senior educational coordinator and senior biocurator at the RCSB Protein Data Bank. Before joining Rutgers she completed her Ph.D. from Boston University and a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Dutta has a passion for promoting a molecular structural view of biology. She has taught audiences ranging from high school students to senior scientists about structural biology and the use of structural data archived in the PDB.