History students are asked to create meaning from our past and present, developing an ability to understand a historical framework for the world evolving around them. Classes emphasize discussion and oral skills, writing with an emphasis on analytical essays and critical thinking. Students are asked to write history—to formulate, support and document their own views of the past. The use of primary texts is critical in all courses, and student research builds from primary document analysis.
Students in African Studies build better understanding of the challenges of emerging African economic and social structures in the wake of European control and exploitation, with emphasis on how the West has projected European Enlightenment assumptions onto a continent with dramatically different social and political attitudes and traditions. The course will be divided between this topical overview (including the historical heritage contained in the continent, and traditional social attitudes) and independent student projects developing an area of special interest.
Students in Comparative Religion build understanding of the traditions of religious belief and the nature of the divine in history and across cultures. Students will read religious texts in their historical and cultural context. Writing will include both analytic and personal response. Readings include Huston Smith, The World’s Religions,The Gilgamesh Epi,; Herman Hesse, Siddhartha, selections from the Bhagavad Gita, the Old and New Testaments, Dostoevsky, the Koran, Rumi, and the Tao Te Ching.
Introduction to Economics
The term economics is derived from the Greek “rules of the household.” In this course, we look at the way in which economics governs our lives and homes, as well as our political institutions. We will consider the way in which economic actors (ourselves included) make decisions. The course includes a survey of basic economic concepts and terminology. We will take a thematic approach to economics. Articles from the newspaper and news magazines will serve as the backdrop for the class. Students will gain a greater ability to use economic terms and concepts to understand the world. The class concludes with a research assignment in which students design and produce an independent work centered around primary research.
How does a social context shape the way we understand, influence, and relate to ourselves and to one another? How do we understand ourselves? How do we maximize the degree of choice we exercise in our lives? And what are the purpose(s) served by our behavior? The field of social psychology looks at how these questions and their answers stretch when the context shifts from the individual to the group or social level. This course will focus on three core areas: social thinking, social influence, and social relations. The course will begin with a half dozen key research studies in their original form, from which students will weave initial questions and interests. From there, with individual questions in one of the three core areas, students will embark on reading through literature and other studies, teaching one another the key concepts, and building an experiment and research project. Students will build this course working together, sharing skills and interests to animate a seminar that pursues both individual and group goals. While much of of the learning will happen collaboratively, the formal written assignments will be designed as individual assessments. This class satisfies a humanities credit.
The Middle East Cauldron
Today, the Middle East remains a focal point of cultural misunderstanding and conflict. This course seeks a greater understanding of this complex and volatile region. The course begins with a look at the political, economic, cultural, and religious influences in the region, from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire to the present, using both primary and secondary sources. Later the course will consider some selected topics from the history of the region, the Sunni Shiite split, and the growth of Islam. The course continues with the complexity of women’s roles with emphasis on Iran, and concludes with an independent project.
Social Contracts: Democratization and Industrialization in Western Europe
The first trimester focuses on the development of government by individual personality to rational constitutionalism and rule of law in western Europe. Primary emphasis is given to seventeenth-century England and the eighteenth-century France, and the emergence of “The Enlightenment” in Western Europe.
The second trimester focuses on the challenges of citizens struggling to deal with the dramatic growth of industrialization, market and societal forces, mass society, and mass destruction in nineteenth and twentieth-century Europe.
Readings range from textbooks and primary documents to historical literature. Student assignments include papers, library research projects, oral presentations and formal debates. The text used is Dennis Sherman and Joyce Salisbury's "The West in the World". The first term is anchored by Niccolo Machiavelli's "The Prince" and Thomas More's "Utopia" with readings from such thinkers as Hobbes, Locke and the Philosophes. The second term is anchored by Emile Zola's "Germinal" (the 1993 film), Eric M. Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front," and Elie Wiesel's "Night".
Social Documentary Studies
This course is an opportunity to study the way in which art reflects the world around us. Students will study documentary photographers with a focus on specific bodies of work which are central to our understanding of history and have changed our perception of truth. We begin by using documentary photography to look at the self, move on to an exploration of the "other," and end with social issues. We will focus on photography, but complementary materials will include literature, historical texts, census data, video, as well as sound and music. Project-based work forms the centerpiece of this course and students should be prepared to create their own documentary work. Each student will complete a major self-designed capstone piece that combines photography with research. In addition to exploring the world of social documentary photography, we will also have a chance to meet a number of local photographers as well as use local historical resources. This course is intended for juniors and seniors. Students can take this course for humanities credit.
Sociological Impacts of Food
Food is an ever-present part of our daily experience and a medium through which we can examine our individual and collective heritage. In this course, food becomes the basis for interdisciplinary study. The course is broken into several units: Food and Meaning; Food and Ethics; Food and Justice; and, lastly, Food and Culture. Readings will come from variety of disciplines including anthropology, art, literature, psychology, religion, politics, ecology, economics, psychology, and history. In addition to written research-based assignments, our class will involve experiential activities, many of which include a focus on culinary skills.