The Bald Soprano and Rhinoceros: Two Plays by Ionesco—How Absurd!?: Are these plays nothing but nonsense? If so, how does anyone make sense of the non-sense? And why bother? In this course, we will discover answers to those questions and others that will help us wonder significantly about the language we use to make meaning matter.
Myth-Making in Ancient Rome: Mythology is a powerful tool to explain human experience. Arya Stark vs. the Night King, Beowulf vs. Grendel, Simba vs. Scar—myth allows us to wrestle symbolically with deep questions about our customs, values, and the origin of the world around us. In the course, you will study the many myths cataloged by the Roman poet Ovid in the Metamorphoses, a poem that uses the theme of change to trace the origins of ancient Rome up to its height of power in the 1st century C.E. While learning about the major Roman myths, you will apply critical approaches to understand the underlying messages that myths held for the Romans, and that they still hold for us.
Environmental Ethics: It has always been hard to forget natural calamity hitting close to home. If you live in the American South, it’s becoming just as hard to keep them all straight. A new friend tells me her family’s saga in the Houston flood, and my brain retrieves images from the Louisiana flood. Oh wait, were there two enormous floods so close? Yes. And there were fires and droughts and snowstorms and hurricanes and mudslides. Overwhelming is what the news now often is. Science tells us the natural calamities are the consequence of human industrialism. If the news is dreary, there’s much to learn and perhaps more options than ever for human connection, caring and creative responsible living, all major themes in the discipline of philosophy. Topics include food and farming ethics, ecosystem endangerment, local versus global economies, and the climate effects of deforestation and fossil fuel consumption
Redacted: Censorship in American Film & Media: The history of censorship in the United States is far more than a collection of municipal codes, state laws, and court decisions. It is also a history of the dynamic socio-political forces and institutions that shape life in America. Mass communication mediums, from early cinema to social media, have sparked debates about their role in society because of the threat they posed to the genteel class, the education system, state-sponsored religion, and the consciousness of the individual. This course attempts to understand the notion of censorship and its manifestations by using primary historical documents and critical histories to examine such topics as regulatory practices, the cultural politics of media, and audiences that comprise a wide spectrum of American society. Through Hollywood movies, documentaries, and media, we will seek to uncover the silenced voices and overlooked interests of those under the guise of dominant censorship discourses.
Music Sucks; I Hate It: Is there a genre of music that you absolutely despise? Why? What kind of music do you love to listen to? Why? “Music Sucks; I Hate It” is designed to get us thinking and writing thoughtfully about music; to recognize that the story of our preferred music is broad and interconnected; and to help us become active listeners, capable of bravely seeking out new music while understanding the features we are drawn to, or ones we shy away from. By familiarizing ourselves with the elements of music we can begin to make cross-genre correlations and to develop an appreciation of music that sucks and that we hate.
Apocalypse How? The Stories We Tell about Our Potential Futures: We live in a moment of great uncertainty about our future; everything around us appears to be changing at a rapid pace, and there doesn’t seem to be the possibility of anything slowing down enough for us to catch our breath. In this class we’ll explore fictional and poetic interpretations of possible human futures alongside studies of narrative and genre to see what our stories past and present might tell us about our future. Potential texts include Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1931), Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993), Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), and Jacques Lob’s Snowpiercer (1984).
Tarzan to the Black Panther: Images of Africa in Film and Fiction: To help us understand the hopes and impediments that affect the lives of Africans today, this section of Connections will focus on novels by Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and Nnedi Okorafor as counters to the images portrayed in popular films about Africa and Africans, including Tarzan of the Apes, Something of Value, and the Black Panther. Each of these competing visions will raise issues which will be the focus of our investigation: the legacy of colonialism, the clash of cultures, nation-building, political instability, and individual responsibility and accountability, and visions of our common future.
Fit to Print?: Investigating “Fake News” and “True Facts” from Plato to Politico: The truth is out there and this class will teach you how to find it. From the art of persuasion to strategies for citing and verifying information, we will study and practice the rhetorical tools necessary to both savvy media consumers and compelling media makers. The internet and social media have made it easier than ever to get a message “out there,” but a culture of information overload also influences where our news comes from, what is newsworthy, and who we trust to tell us about it. By examining long and short form print journalism as well as a range of multimedia platforms from podcasts to TED talks to stand-up comedy, students will learn how to sort fact from fiction in the media, and how to become effective truth tellers themselves.
Money, Happiness, and the College Student: You are in college to get a degree. You want a degree to get a job. You want a job to make money. You want money to buy things. You want things to make you happy. So there is a big Connection between money, happiness, and college. But what exactly is it? How much money do you need to be happy? How much makes you unhappy? What psychological mistakes make you waste or lose money? It turns out that we actually know a lot about all this—what works, what doesn’t, and what kinds of mistakes people make all the time that leave them in debt and unhappy, or even rich and unhappy. In this class, we are going to use classical philosophy and contemporary psychology to understand what happiness is, how it relates to money, how people make bad decisions about money, and what to do to become both financially secure and happy with your life.
Shakespeare’s Renaissance: On stage, on screen, and worldwide, there is more Shakespeare being seen today than at any time in history. While exploring the original, Renaissance context in which Shakespeare lived and wrote, this course will reflect upon the “Renaissance” in Shakespeare production that has been ongoing since the late 20th Century. In the process, we will decide for ourselves whether or not Shakespeare’s plays were, as his great contemporary Ben Jonson proclaimed, “not of an age, but for all time!”
Music as Protest: As Pete Seeger once said, “One of the purposes of music is to help you forget your troubles; another, to help you learn from your troubles, and another to help you do something about your troubles.” This Connections course is about music that calls people to action, focusing on American protest music from the 1930s to the present.
Darkest Hours: Political Leadership in Times of Crisis: Political leaders can rarely predict the types of challenges they will face during their time at the helm. The global coronavirus pandemic has shown us the very different strategies employed when attempting to lead the way through a crisis. This course will examine the successes and failures of various political leaders as they chart a course forward in the darkest hours of their administrations, attempt to rally the public to their side, and work to alleviate the pain of tragedy and catastrophe. Specific attention will be paid to Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression, Winston Churchill standing up to Hitler, Lyndon Johnson and Civil Rights, George W. Bush and Hurricane Katrina, Theresa May and BREXIT, Margaret Thatcher and the Soviets, Jimmy Carter and the Iran Hostage Crisis, and many other important cases.
Jesus Meets with Confucius: Christianity in China: China has become a global power with the second-largest economy in the world, increasing global investments such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the world’s largest population, and more. The earliest presence of Christianity in China dates back to the 7th century and Christianity has been present in China since then in various forms. There are around 100 million Christians in today’s China, yet the relationship between Christianity and China is unstable and strained. This course examines the history of Christianity in China starting from the earliest presence in the 7th century to today. The course will discuss the themes of inter-religious encounters, missionary activities, religious conversion, identity constructions, and inter/intra-religious conflicts, indigenization of Christianity, church and state in China.
Drugs, Druggies, and Druggists: A History of Drugs from Opium to LSD to Weed to Adderall: If you are like most Americans, you “do” drugs: drink tea, coffee, beer, or wine; smoke or chew tobacco; take Prozac, Xanax, or their herbal kin St. John’s Wort and Kava Kava; depend occasionally on NyQuil; or perhaps use illicit substances like marijuana or ecstasy. All are part of America’s long history of drinking and drug use. What is a drug? How have they been used as remedies? How and why have people used them for recreation? Why have some been promoted and others outlawed? How can one era’s “Good creation of God” become another era’s “demon rum” or controlled substance? Using historical methods and sources we will analyze how drugs and their use have evolved in the modern era.