University Bulletin 2002-03
University Seminars in Humanistic Inquiries


The University Seminars in Humanistic Inquiries (USEM) are special courses specifically designed for first-year students and intended as a foundation for their studies at Brandeis. The primary objective is to offer a small seminar environment where students, under the close guidance of faculty, can engage major texts from ancient times to the present. The topics and texts of the seminars are extremely broad-ranging and come from every school of the University; such diversity allows students and faculty to focus on subjects in which they have a particular interest. The seminars are also quite consciously interdisciplinary: although taught by faculty from regular departments, the seminars seek to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries and to address important problems from a much broader perspective. That approach is indeed integral to the mission of humanistic inquiry, which seeks to address fundamental and enduring questions of human existence.

The seminars are also skill-oriented. At one level, they seek to develop writing and analytical skills; seminar discussions, under faculty guidance, will help students to formulate key questions and to construct a critical analysis of the author's assumptions, evidence, and argumentation.

University Seminars that are designated as "USEM+W" (e.g. USEM 90a+W) may be used to satisfy Option I of the first year writing requirement. These courses provide an additional hour of writing instruction per week and periodic individual tutorials under the guidance of a trained teaching assistant. This targeted writing instruction should appeal particularly to students who wish to sharpen the writing skills required for academic work at the University, as well as for their later professional careers.

Courses of Instruction

USEM 1b Jewish Literatures in Eastern Europe

Enrollment limited to 17.

The emergence of a modern literary consciousness was one of the results of the breakup of traditional Jewish society. We examine some of the leading Jewish writers in Eastern Europe who wrote in Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, or Russian.

Mr. Polonsky

USEM 2b+W Body Languages

Enrollment limited to 17.

When Madonna asks, "Do you know what it feels like for a girl in the world?", she appeals to the notion that the male body represents the standard human form and experience. But does it? Students examine how the image of the female body in Western literature, art, film, and music has been used in a variety of situations to express a number of ideas, from deference to difference.

Ms. Harder

USEM 3b Color--Art and Science

Enrollment limited to 17.

How do we experience and express color in our own lives and in the natural world, and in painting, literature, music, and language? How do we see, perceive, and describe color? How is this evolving? And is our human experience unique?

Mr. Henchman

USEM 4b Becoming an Educated Person

Enrollment limited to 17.

We read texts about education from a variety of cultures, eras, and individuals in an attempt to help students reflect upon the central issues of their experience at Brandeis. Questions we ask include: How do we learn? What do we learn? Why? Who teaches us? What is the role of writing and the printed word in different educational traditions? Is the purpose of education to transmit or to change culture, or both? Students are asked to define their own educational goals for college and beyond within the context of writings from Plato to Dewey, and from Australia to Senegal.

Ms. Hale

USEM 5b Conceptions of the "Good Life"

Enrollment limited to 17.

Explores competing conceptions of the "good life" and of moral right and how these conceptions vary within different cultural periods in history; it also explores standards for what is good and for justifying claims that one way of life is better than another. Included are conceptions of the "good life" as pleasure (Epicurus), as virtuous activity (Aristotle), as renunciation, as reason (Kant), as utilitarianism (J.S. Mill), as self-assertion (Nietzsche), as faith (Kierkegaard), as aesthetics, and as spirituality.

Ms. Hayim

USEM 6a+W Anatomy and Gender from Antiquity to Modern Times

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Traces changing perceptions of the body and sexual difference from the ancients to Freud and Foucault. Examines relations between men and women, notions of gender and sexualities, and the social construction of decent and indecent behavior in Western culture.

Ms. Kelikian

USEM 7a The Twentieth-Century Political Novel

Enrollment limited to 17.

Novelists have illumined the ethical complexity and the ideological pressures entangled in political choices. Such texts can also be read as showing how political acts are heightened versions of the tragic limitations embedded in social experience.

Mr. Whitfield

USEM 7b+W The Concept of Time

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Explores the changing concept of time from human and scientific points of view. Topics include ancient and medieval view of time, the Newtonian concept of universal time, and changes brought by relativity and quantum mechanics.

Mr. Bensinger

USEM 8a Textual Transformations

Enrollment limited to 17.

Examines how literature responds, internally and externally, to the challenge that change poses for the individual and society. Metamorphosis, the transformation of one object into another, is the primary focus within each text studied, but considerable time is also spent in determining how each text relates to the others with which it shares characters, plots, and themes. As we read multiple versions of a few particular stories, only students with a tolerance for repetition and an appreciation for variation should consider enrolling.

Ms. Walker

USEM 8b Ancient Lives

Enrollment limited to 17.

The lives of others hold for us a compelling fascination, perhaps because others seemed to have solved the problems of identity, of separation from and integration with society and of shaping life into a coherent whole. The readings in this course focus on sharply depicted characters with the dual purpose of understanding how the techniques of literature inform their subject and of learning what ancient authors valued in humanity.

Ms. Walker

USEM 9a+W The Wandering Hero in Ancient Literature

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Focuses on the Epic of Gilgamesh. We examine such issues as friendship, social responsibility, the meaning of life, mortality and immortality, the difference between the human and divine. We also read texts from Mesopotamia, Greece, Israel, and Canaan, which intersect literally and thematically with the epic, such as: The Odyssey, Genesis, Aqhat, Ecclesiastes, and selected Sumerian narratives.

Mr. Abusch

USEM 10b Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

Enrollment limited to 17.

Explores the role of mathematics and mathematicians through works of biography, philosophy, popular science, drama, and fiction.

Mr. Diamond

USEM 11a Risk: What Is It and How Do We Deal With It?

Enrollment limited to 17.

Risk has been an important feature of our lives for thousands of years. However analyzing risk in a formal way has been an exercise of the last few hundred years - with most of that limited to the last 50. What is "risk" and how has our understanding changed over the centuries? How are the decisions of individuals, groups, and societies altered in risky circumstances? We look at elementary probability, statistics and decision models, puzzles, and real world applications.

Mr. Dolbear

USEM 11b Exchange

Enrollment limited to 17.

Explores the concept of "exchange", and the different types of exchange encountered in daily life and throughout history--Adam and Eve, Native Americans and early settlers, knowledge, drugs, global exchange, bribery, the stock exchange, free speech, Napster, pollution, trading, and more.

Mr. Erbil

USEM 12a+W An American Tragedy: The Wartime Internment of Japanese Americans

Enrollment limited to 17.

How are we to understand the United State's unconstitutional internment of over 110,000 Japanese Americans in concentration camps after Pearl Harbor? A story that we explore through novels, films, memoirs, poetry, and visual art on the subject.

Ms. Harth

USEM 13a+W America in Black and White: A History of Race in the Workplace.

Enrollment limited to 17.

Examines the relations between whites and African Americans from the earliest colonial settlements to late 20th-century postindustrial society. Special attention is paid to the encounters between black and white women and men in the work place. Texts include autobiographies, novels, and essays, as well as legal statutes, labor contracts, court cases, and government reports.

Ms. Jones

USEM 14a Imagining the Other: Encounters in North America from Columbus to the Revolution

Enrollment limited to 17.

Using North America after Columbus as a case study, we examine the problems of understanding and representing people across cultural frontiers. Focuses on the various ways authors have explored and defined boundaries of race, ethnicity, and gender.

Ms. Kamensky

USEM 15a+W Journeys to Enlightenment

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Literature often symbolizes the meaning of existence as a journey from error to truth, from affliction to freedom and enlightenment. Works by Dante, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Blake, Baudelaire, Hesse, and Hurston illustrate visions of human existence that have been entertained from the Middle Ages to the present.

Mr. Kaplan

USEM 16a The Art of Scientific Investigation

Enrollment limited to 17.

Explores the scope and methods of science. Is scientific investigation art or craft or methodology? The importance of identifying "right" problems. The role of hypothesis, imagination, intuition, and serendipity. The feeling for order behind natural phenomena. Research strategies. Planning and carrying out experiments. "Chance favors the prepared mind." Observation, reason, and error. The scientific temperament. Examples of classic and romantic scientists. Illustrated with examples of great discoveries. Reading: Selected writing of scientists.

Mr. Lowenstein

USEM 16b Science and Western Culture

Enrollment limited to 17.

The development of science since the 16th century has had a significant influence on Western culture, and Western culture has had a crucial influence on the development of science. We analyze these influences from both perspectives.

Mr. Pendleton

USEM 18a+W Understanding Evil and Human Destiny

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Designed to introduce students to some of the Western classics that deal with the impact of evil on human destiny. Suffering, justice, and death is studied in their relationship with God, the world, and history.

Mr. Kimelman

USEM 19a The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfection of our Nature

Enrollment limited to 17.

Eating is a necessity, yet we are forbidden to eat other human beings. Does this mean biology must admit something "immaterial," like a soul? What is the relationship between bio-logy and onto-logy, (Aristotle) the study of "being-qua-being"?

Mr. Yourgrau

USEM 20a How Do You Know What You "Know"?

Enrollment limited to 17.

I am fascinated by what we "know," but more so by how we know it to be true. We begin with the controversy of creation science versus evolution, two competing "truths." This controversy is all the more interesting because evolution is perceived as confronting religion. How did and do people react? We look at attempts to reconcile the two "truths" and to use the courts to force the issue. We end with what "truth" means.

Mr. DeRosier

USEM 20b Art and the Asian City: Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong

Enrollment limited to 17.

Studies the evolution of the urban environment in three modern Asian cities and its impact on the visual arts. Examines the city as the financial and cultural hub of the nation, as well as the site of clashing cultural identities, personal anxieties, and civic crises.

Ms. Wong

USEM 21b Language and Identity

Enrollment limited to 17.

Explores how who we are is reflected in the language we use and examines the ways in which language influences our perception of ourselves. Topics include the role of metaphor in the expression of identity, issues related to bilingualism, cultural identity, gender, and language.

Ms. Chevalier

USEM 22a+W Right and Left in Europe from 1900 to the Present

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Reviews the main political families of 20th-century Europe and their 19th-century ancestries. Using original texts, novels, and documentaries to examine the ideas and followers of each movement, it introduces the participants to analytical tools as well as to modern history.

Mr. Jankowski

USEM 23a Opera as Drama

Enrollment limited to 17.

Explores the literary, theatrical, and musical dimensions of opera. The course may be organized in one of several ways, e.g., by historical period, by thematic considerations, by composer or group of composers, by librettist or librettists, or by literary sources.

Mr. Keiler

USEM 24a Greeks Bearing Gifts

Enrollment limited to 17.

Offers a metaphorical journey through several major literary works of the ancient Greeks to discover their artistic and philosophical contributions to Western thought. We focus on humanity, morality, and the enduring significance of these texts for our own moral consciousness.

Ms. Koloski-Ostrow

USEM 25a+W Reading Between the Lines: Freedom of Conscience and Persecution

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Traces different cases of intellectual expression exercised under illiberal conditions of censorship and persecutions. Organized chronologically, beginning with Plato's account of his teacher's execution under Athenian democracy, and closing with 20th century reassessments of the freedoms of conscience and expression.

Mr. Sheppard

USEM 26a Property in the Information Age

Enrollment limited to 17.

Examines the history and future of such concepts as copyrights, copylefts, patents, licensing, public domain, fair-use, interfaces, caching, framing, work-for-hire, joint tenancy, digital cash, software freedom, upgrades, wares, electronic read-once books and DIVX movies, in a collective effort to understand what, exactly, is the information age doing to the core human idea of property.

Mr. Pollack

USEM 26b Everyday Activity

Enrollment limited to 17.

Examines various frameworks for describing everyday activity. "Everyday activity" refers to such common behaviors as riding a subway, attending a movie, buying groceries, playing a CD, doing the laundry, and carrying on a conversation. Focuses on models of skill acquisition and problem-solving, the nature of activity and planning, and the role of culture in everyday activity.

Mr. Alterman

USEM 27b Coming into One's Own: Sources of the Self in Modern Literature

Enrollment limited to 17.

With the collapse of the old imagery of hierarchy and harmony, individuals who have been cut loose from their social moorings require new images and symbols in order to orient themselves in the world. Explores problems of acting in a world where the outward signs denoting inner life are no longer believed to be adequate and where definite limits and fixed principles are missing.

Mr. Teuber

USEM 28b Exploring the Boundaries of Identity: Family, Society, and the Construction of Selfhood

Enrollment limited to 17.

Examines the family as an "embattled paradise": a site for the expression of love and power. Relationships between family members (parent and child, husband and wife, siblings) are examined historically and across the life cycle. Intersections between family and society in fostering and constraining autonomy are highlighted.

Ms. Antler

USEM 29a+W The Jewish Family: Past and Present

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Examines the transformation of the Jewish family in four different settings (Europe, America, North Africa, and the Middle East) from medieval to modern times, focusing primarily on the internal dynamics of family life and interaction with majority cultures.

Ms. Freeze

USEM 30b Development of Play, Art, and Creativity

Enrollment limited to 17.

Gives students a sense of how psychological theory and research can help them understand creativity in art. The students are encouraged to analyze and to integrate principles of human development and intrinsic motivation toward an understanding of how artistic creativity develops. Some classic writings regarding the theories and functions of play, intrinsic motivation, and the development of art are included, as well as writings on artistic creativity.

Mr. Watson

USEM 31b Religion and Society in the Modern Middle East

Enrollment limited to 17.

Examines the relation between Islam and society in the Modern Middle East through reading and discussion of the writings of prominent Muslim thinkers and leaders. The focus is on Islam's reaction to modernity and on some social, economic, and political issues facing Islamic societies in our times.

Messrs. Levy or Nakash

USEM 32a Images of War in the Twentieth Century

Enrollment limited to 17.

War is what young boys glamorize, old men remember, poets celebrate, governments rally around, women cry about, and soldiers die in. The class investigates war and the vision of war at the front and on the homefront by looking at oral testimony, contemporary journalism, poetry and novels, still photography, cartoons, painting, sculpture, architecture, film, and music.

Ms. Moeller

USEM 32b+W Crime and Punishment in History

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Examines how America and other Western political communities have defined, represented, and punished crime. Discusses diverse texts--speeches, court cases, memoirs, novels and films--to develop a critical historical perspective on such concepts as evil, responsibility, and justice.

Mr. Willrich


USEM 33b Revisioning the Classics: Then and Now

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Participants read works from the canon of Western civilization and then analyze how these works have been rewritten artistically and reinterpreted theoretically from a 20th-century perspective. It is hoped that, by listening to the dialogue that takes place across the centuries between major texts, students come to a deeper understanding of some of the political, social, and philosophical ideas that have shaped contemporary thought.

Ms. Ratner

USEM 34b Agrarian Ideal and Rural Reality in America

Enrollment limited to 17.

Once, the American farmer embodied economic and political independence. A pastoral impulse persists among urban people. For the last two centuries, however, economic competition and suburban sprawl have undercut country life. Are healthy family farms and attractive rural landscapes mythical, doomed, or an enduring American dream?

Mr. Donahue

USEM 35b Cultural Conflicts Generated by Scientific Milestones

Enrollment limited to 17.

Scientific milestones have generated major controversies throughout history. Delves into conflicts generated by Galileo's dethroning of the earth, Darwinian evolution, the development of nuclear bomb power and the potential uses of the genome project and animal cloning.

Ms. White

USEM 36b Drama and Social Issues

Enrollment limited to 17.

What are the values and purposes of drama? We explore what drama can tell us about violence and sexuality, about political relationships, and about ourselves, through plays by writers from Sophocles to Calderón to Dorfman.

Ms. Fox

USEM 37a Myth and Prejudice: Social Attitudes about Language

Enrollment limited to 17.

As Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle knew well, the minute we speak, we are judged and categorized as to our social class, competence, and even intelligence. We examine the sources of some prevalent beliefs about language and ask whether the value judgments that many of us make on the basis of those beliefs stem from valid assumptions about language or from destructive myths that perpetuate prejudice.

Ms. Maling

USEM 37b Creation

Enrollment limited to 17.

Examines works of art from diverse cultures that reveal mythologies and legends of creation of the planet Earth and of the species Homo sapiens. Then considers works of art that aid us in envisioning the act of creativity within an individual's accomplishments.

Ms. Scott

USEM 38b Beyond Reality: Utopias and Dystopias

Enrollment limited to 17.

Throughout Western history, utopian writing has served as a powerful means of criticizing existing societies. Explores these critiques by considering issues such as the relationship between urbanism and utopia, the idea of the "noble savage," utopian reactions to the industrial revolution, and sexual alterity as imagined in various works.

Mr. Febles

USEM 39a On the Road from Homer to Ridley Scott

Enrollment limited to 17.

The voyage has always played an important role in European and American literature and culture. Analyzes the theme of the voyage as it occurs in written works and in films, pondering questions about why the trip is made and what the "road" in the trip means. Why, for example, does Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey embark on his trip? Or why do the title characters in Ridley Scott's film Thelma and Louise set off on theirs?

Mr. Randall

USEM 40a The Future of the Book

Enrollment limited to 17.

Is there a future for the book? Will the Internet destroy printing as we know it? Popular wisdom now claims that linear narrative is yielding to hypertext, and that books will give way to comic-book screenshots and virtual picto-novellas. This seminar suggests otherwise. We study the history of the book and the social and linguistic transformations accompanying print in society. We trace these revolutions, giving the student a greater understanding of how digital technologies create possibilities and their social and cultural consequences.

Mr. Pustejovsky

USEM 40b The Origins of Language

Enrollment limited to 17.

Where does language come from? We look at the origin and evolution of linguistic abilities in humans. Students consider evidence from psychology, linguistic theory, the cognitive neurosciences, comparative psychology, and computational modeling of evolutionary processes.

Mr. Pustejovsky

USEM 41b The Romantic Rebellion

Enrollment limited to 17.

During the Romantic period in England the values of the pastoral ideal and individualism were seen by many literary figures of the time to be in peril as a result of the industrial revolution and the creation of the urban consumer society. The ensuing Romantic Rebellion, fought in print and in the streets, is followed from its inception 200 years ago up to the present and beyond.

Mr. Canter

USEM 42b Experiencing Statistical Thinking

Enrollment limited to 17.

Uses reading, writing, and discussion, on the one hand, and experimentation, on the other, to delve into the role of statistical thinking in current life. Throughout the semester, we experiment with materials whose analysis and description require seminar participants to develop statistical concepts for themselves.

Messrs. Fraden or Lange

USEM 43b Speaking Truth to Power?: The Intellectual and Social Responsibility.

Enrollment limited to 17.

Study of key 19th- and 20th-century intellectuals and their precursors from classical antiquity and after, in terms of questions of commitment, responsibility, and complicity. Special one-time offering.

Mr. Sanders

USEM 44a I Spy: Ritual, Spectatorship, and Violence

Enrollment limited to 17.

Focuses on a central aspect of Western culture: the connection between the I and the eye--the need to watch, to see and be seen; to peek and pry, to be a voyeur, to seek pleasure through watching.

Mr. Mandrell

USEM 45b Philosophy and Everyday Life

Enrollment limited to 17.

We think philosophically about moral problems that confront us in our day-to-day lives (something philosophers rarely do). Examples include: racist/sexist jokes, white lies, gossip, sexual behavior, smoking, gambling, downloading MP3s, mutual responsibilities of parents and children, charity, drug use, modesty, and politeness.

Mr. Samet

USEM 46b Cities and Cyberspace

Enrollment limited to 17.

How are cities and cyberspace related? How do anonymity and transiency, characteristics common to both, shape social identity and social relationships? These questions are addressed in an exploration of urbanism and the worlds of computer-mediated communication.

Mr. Jacobson

USEM 47b Growing Up and Growing Old: Concepts of Masculinity and the Adult Life Cycle

Enrollment limited to 17.

Using Erik Erikson's theory of the life cycle, we explore the difficult transitions in adult life and the various roles men play as they mature from adolescence into adulthood and old age. Topics include the creation of the autonomous self; the search for a vocation and success; the patterns of romance, intimacy, and parenthood; the mid-life crisis; old age; and the confrontation with death.

Mr. Holmberg

USEM 48b The Rational and Irrational

Enrollment limited to 17.

Rationality has often been viewed as humanity's most distinctive and prized possession. Reason is said to elevate us above other living things and to make human existence especially valuable. However critics and detractors have held that there is at bottom a core of irrationality that is indispensable to the meaning of our lives. We explore the scope and limits of human reason from the perspectives of philosophy, psychology, and literature.

Mr. Hirsch

USEM 49a+W Text and Subtext

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

A close study of eight classics of Western literature and film that explore how their surface contents connect with meanings that they convey only indirectly. The literary works to be examined range from Sophocles to Ibsen. Two film classics will be analyzed on the same basis.

Mr. Binion

USEM 50b Humor

Enrollment limited to 17.

Often thought of as light reading, humor can also be great literature. We read and discuss humorous works by writers such as Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Molière, and Mark Twain, among others.

Mr. Gessel

USEM 51a Faces: Understanding the Influence of Appearance on Social Perception and Social Development

Enrollment limited to 17.

An interdisciplinary examination of the ubiquity, origins, and consequences of using facial appearance to judge psychological attributes. Attention is given to associations between facial appearance and character in literature and the arts, and to biological, social, and psychological analyses of these associations.

Ms. Zebrowitz

USEM 52a Race and Representation

Enrollment limited to 17.

As readers of literature and as viewers of film, do we have shared assumptions about the racial and ethnic identities encoded in the texts we receive? How do we learn to "read" categories such as "white," "ethnic," or "mixed," and how is this related to our status as citizens? We review narrative and cinematic strategies in 19th- and 20th-century texts, paying close attention to issues of assimilation and marginality, racialized constructions of gender, and the politics of interpretation.

Ms. Smith

USEM 53b Conflict and Concord in Near Eastern Myth

Enrollment limited to 17.

Explores the themes of chaos and order, war and peace, sickness and wholeness, and death and life in various myths and related texts from ancient Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, and Israel.

Mr. Wright

USEM 54a Ideas of Equality, Systems of Inequality

Enrollment limited to 17.

Examines classic and contemporary accounts of equality and inequality in Western and non-Western societies. We first read influential philosophical texts on equality and inequality, and then confront these speculative accounts with empirical evidence from the ancient Near East and from so-called "egalitarian" societies. We locate the origins of an ideology of individual equality in the Western tradition and examine ways that obvious evidence of social inequality is rationalized in contemporary America.

Mr. Parmentier

USEM 55a Tales of Travel

Enrollment limited to 17.

Looks at the way travel creates meaning through writing, images, and film. Examines tales of fictional and non-fictional travelers in order to ponder themes of empire, tourism, national identity, natural history, and scientific imperialism.

Ms. Dávila

USEM 55b Music as Text

Enrollment limited to 17.

Is music a kind of text? We explore ways in which classical music conveys meaning by considering compositions based on other works of art (for example, an autobiography, novel, or painting). We consider the potential of music to narrate a story and investigate ways in which film uses classical music to help tell a story.

Ms. Owens

USEM 56b From Vitruvius to Venturi: Study of Architecture through Texts, Theories, and Treatises

Enrollment limited to 17.

Through texts as varied as the pattern books of Palladio; the memoir House by Tracy Kidder; the film and novel The Fountainhead; the life of Frank Lloyd Wright; the original notes of architects and the reviews by critics; we explore architecture from the ancient to the modern as a metaphor for other humanistic disciplines.

Mr. Bernstein

USEM 57a+W Freedom and Repression

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Looks at various models of freedom, as well as at how states engage in repression to preserve systems of privilege. Specific cases examine democracy in the United States, colonialism in Africa, and totalitarianism in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia.

Mr. Cunningham

USEM 57b Tomorrow is Another Africa

Enrollment limited to 17.

Humankind itself was born on the giant continent of Africa. Gloriously varied in background and environment, Africans face difficult challenges. Poverty persists. AIDS spreads. Many institutions are in disarray, the legacy of the slave trade, colonial rule, and of being the last to be incorporated in the world's systems of markets and states. We explore these challenges as Africans build for tomorrow.

Ms. Morgenthau

USEM 58a The Secret Life of Things

Enrollment limited to 17.

What makes us certain of the difference between inanimate things and living beings? We study living or life-bearing objects in texts such as The Aeneid, Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Shakespeare's The Tempest, film such as Fitzcarraldo, and in the theoretical writings of Marx and Mauss.

Mr. Plotz

USEM 58b Animal Kingdoms

Enrollment limited to 17.

The term "animal kingdom" suggests an analogy between the human and animal worlds. We explore the meaning and significance of the analogy--aesthetically and ideologically--in a wide variety of cultural activities and artifacts. We focus on "high" and "popular" cultures.

Mr. Morrison

USEM 59a Majorities and Minorities

Enrollment limited to 17.

Explores how political philosophers and practitioners from ancient Greece to the contemporary era have dealt with the problem of reconciling the rights of individuals, majority groups, and minorities in democratic political systems.

Mr. Burg

USEM 60b Art and the Bible

Enrollment limited to 17.

From prohibition to inspiration, the Bible has had a profound influence on the development of art. Explores the rich and complex relationship between sacred text and image in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic art from antiquity to the present.

Mr. McClendon

USEM 61a Illness Narratives

Enrollment limited to 17.

How do people make sense of illness and caring for sick people through stories? Beginning with a historical overview of Western medicine, we analyze illness narratives as a coping device and a means to restore one's biography. The different viewpoints of health care providers and patients are linked to the broader structural characteristics of the modern health care system.

Mr. Timmermans

USEM 61b+W Stigmatized Identities

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Society creates stigmas that can stain one's reputation. We examine sources and forms of stigmatization and managing stigmatized identities, focusing on deviance, disabilities, and the Hollywood "blacklist." We investigate stigma through text, film, and firsthand interviews.

Mr. Conrad

USEM 62a+W Children's Literature and the Construction of Childhood

Enrollment limited to 17.

Whether children's literature has sought to civilize or to subvert, to moralize or to enchant, it has formed a bedrock for the adult sensibility. Childhood reading reflects the unresolved complexity of the experience of childhood itself as well as larger cultural shifts in values and beliefs.

Ms. Miller

USEM 63a Art and Propaganda: The Persuasive Image

Enrollment limited to 17.

An investigation of the ways in which visual images in all media have been used to persuade the public to accept certain ideological views. What are the various forms propaganda can take, and what are the methods it uses?

Ms. Allara

USEM 63b The Name of This Course Has Two Mistakes!

Enrollment limited to 17.

Figured it out? You will by the end if the course! Covers in outline form a mathematical proof of certain limitations of what we can express in precise formal languages. For students interested in mathematical and logical problems.

Mr. Berger

USEM 64b Madness in Western Civilization

Enrollment limited to 17.

Explores the meaning of "madness" in Western civilization--how its definition changed over time, how societies have sought to address the problems it raises, and how it has been reflected in literature, art, and law.

Mr. Freeze

USEM 65a+W Critique of Erotic Reason

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Perhaps the most prominent literary theme of the last two centuries is love, (especially of the romantic and erotic variety) and marriage. It has amounted to a secular metaphysics of the post-religious age. But is the novel of love still possible in our demystified world? Does it belong to an era and a way of life that has receded into the past? We explore a few classics of this genre together with some philosophical essays from Plato to the present. Works by Jane Austen, Goethe, Stendhal, Flaubert, Musil, Schnitzler, Kundera, Jeanette Winterson and others.

Mr. Dowden

USEM 66b History of Utopia

Enrollment limited to 17.

Why imagine utopias? How and why have utopian ideals changed over time? Students read and discuss Plato's Republic, the Christian gospels (King James version), More's Utopia, Shakespeare's The Tempest, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland, and an additional utopian novel of their choice.

Ms. Irr

USEM 67a Politics as Seen through Fiction

Enrollment limited to 17.

How modern fiction helps us understand the dilemmas of politics, the tensions between ideas and actions, social change, leaders and followers, societies in transition and decay, revolution, law, bureaucracy, and ethnicity. We read Koestler, Twain, Sartre, Oz, Solzhenitsyn, Kafka, and Greene. Format will be a highly interactive seminar with several short writing assignments.

Mr. Levin

USEM 67b Political Biography

Enrollment limited to 17.

Examines political leadership as seen through works of biography, autobiography, and biographical fiction. Uses political biography as a source of political ideas and pictures of political and social life.

Mr. Levin

USEM 68a+W Heaven, Hell, and the Space in Between

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Western art and literature have long used heavens and hells in a variety of ways: as symbols for theological beliefs, as expressions of metaphysical truths, as depictions for the individual's psychological ecstasies and agonies, and as allegories for social and political commentary. Spanning antiquity to the present, we examine such heavens and hells as they are viewed from the "space in between," in literature, art, and music.

Mr. Swensen

USEM 69b Beyond Good and Evil

Enrollment limited to 15.

What are the sources of morality…and of evil? Are "good" and "evil" opposed to one another? What is the point of being moral? What is the attraction of "evil"? We explore these questions using texts by Sophocles, Augustine, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Mozart, Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx.

Ms. Rorty

USEM 70a Aliens! Foreigners! Immigrants!: Conflicts and Resolutions

Enrollment limited to 15.

What conflicts are experienced by immigrants and their children? Are these conflicts resolved? How does our society respond to the issues of immigrants? How are these conflicts reflected in the literature of our time and in the popular culture? Through selected texts and interviews with immigrants, we explore the conflicts of language and culture, of generational differences, and of economics. We also study the ways in which people and our society struggle with these conflicts and how they are portrayed by these texts.

Ms. Older

USEM 71b Right and Society

Enrollment limited to 17.

Explores theories of the best society, the nature of public and private obligation, the authority of law, and the nature of justice. Focuses on a handful of key texts from the classical and modern periods and examines their different visions of the nature of public duty and public life and their different theories of the role of political life in human destiny.

Mr. Burt

USEM 72a Victorianism

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Examines the myths and realities of a cultural concept in its 19th century and in its more recent usage. We examine aspects of Victorian society and institutions; beliefs; science, thought, and education; literature, art, architecture, and music; and humor.

Mr. Black

USEM 73a+W Thinking about Infinity

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Explores the attempts of the finite human mind to think about infinity. Readings in mathematics, history of science, philosophy, literature, and art, including Euclid, Plato, Cantor, Poincaré, Einstein, Pascal, Kant, Hegel, Wordsworth, Shelley, Joyce, Beckett, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, and Raphael.

Mr. Flesch

USEM 74b Population Size and Human Welfare

Enrollment limited to 17.

A debate on the relationship between human population size and human welfare has been in process since at least 1798. Food supply is a major component of welfare, and so we pay special attention to the production and distribution of food.

Mr. Hunt

USEM 75b+W Nature, Art, and Illusion

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

How the physical stimulus, its representation on the eye, and our phenomenal image of it are related, has challenged philosophers, scientists, and artists. We explore this problem historically and in laboratory experiments examining visual illusions in nature and art.

Mr. Morant

USEM 76a+W Law and the Search for Authority

Enrollment limited to 17.

Examines how societies seek to justify their basic legal rules. Readings drawn from political, historical, and philosophical works that search for ultimate legal principles in written constitutions, totalitarian authority, custom and tradition, or the fallible capacities of human reason.

Mr. Gaskins

USEM 77b+W Nature and Your Place in It

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Where do humans stand in relation to nature? Does our environment shape or even determine us physically, culturally, or psychologically? Or is nature merely the helpless victim of our depredations? We look at how our ancestors have answered these questions.

Mr. Hellyer

USEM 78b Jews and Gender

Enrollment limited to 17.

A look at the construction of Jewish sexuality in literature, films, illustrations, caricatures, and posters in the last 150 years as a response to modern theories of race, ethnicity, and nationality.

Mr. Peleg

USEM 79a Environment as Modern Myth: Books, Movies, and Marketplace

Enrollment limited to 17.

What role does the natural environment play in our vision of the world? Is it a warm and welcoming womb; a savage, fearsome force; a worldly embodiment of a higher power; a precious resource needing protection from man's destruction; a convenient source of images for product marketing? We explore these divergent images as portrayed in fiction and non-fiction, film and popular culture; and analyze the relationship between these concepts and our treatment of the natural world.

Ms. Goldin

USEM 80b Memory and Democratic Prospects in State Damaged Societies

Enrollment limited to 17.

Examines the prospects for democratic governance in state-damaged societies. We examine how the social memory of catastrophe (war, famine, repression, and genocide) enables or hinders the process of democratic construction or reconstruction. We explore the applicability of the concept of psychic trauma to state-damaged societies and the formation of collective memory.

Mr. Thaxton

USEM 81a The Subversiveness of Asking "Why?"

Enrollment limited to 17.

It is common to wonder why people behave as they do. Less common is consideration of the implications of even supposing that the question might be answerable. We consider causal accounts of human actions, and consequences for notions of responsibility and punishment.

Ms. Herzfeld

USEM 82b+W War in World History

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

How has war affected the course of world history? How different does war look across the ages? How has technological innovation influenced the conduct of war and the evolution of societies? These are the broad questions we address.

Mr. Art

USEM 83a Critical Thinking

Enrollment limited to 17.

We learn how to identify, construct, analyze, and evaluate arguments, as well as the common traps and false assumptions that lead to shoddy thinking. Our primary objectives are to develop the ability to distinguish good arguments from badd arguments and the ability to reason well.

Mr. Petsko

USEM 83b Science in Art

Enrollment limited to 17.

How do we know whether that painting or that sculpture is "genuine"? Usually it's because we take the word of the museum or of the art dealer. But many works of art are discredited every day as new methods are applied to determine the "fine structure" of a particular artifact. We will begin to look at art objects critically, from the point of view of the conservator, who has to determine a piece's value before it is bought or is displayed.

Ms. Ringe

USEM 84a Philosopher's Choice

Enrollment limited to 17.

The students determine the issues they want to discuss, which are selected from the readings, but the instructor chooses the readings. Everyone in the class will bring only their own experience, instead of any expertise, to the material in the readings. Readings will include works by Ryszard Kapuscinski, Philip Roth, Ckournos, Ben Rogers, Jeffrey Toobin, Bob Woodward, Thomas Mann, Alan Dershowitz, Saul Bellow, John Updike, Homer, and Virginia Woolf.

Mr. Greenberg

USEM 84b+W The American Immigrant

Enrollment limited to 17.

The story of America, from colonial days to our day, is the story of immigration. Explores that story using letters, memoirs, fiction, and film. Through these sources, we accompany selected immigrants as they leave home, journey to a new land, secure a job, interact with a new culture, and clash with their Americanized children.

Mr. Sarna

USEM 85b+W Breaking the Rules: Deviance and Non-Conformity in Pre-Modern Europe

Enrollment limited to 17.

Explores the ways in which "deviant" behavior was defined and punished by some, but also justified and even celebrated by others in pre-modern Europe. Topics include vagrancy, popular uprisings, witchcraft, religious heresy, and the status of women.

Mr. Sreenivasan

USEM 86b The Art of Seeing Things Invisible

Enrollment limited to 17.

Our world is largely a creation of vision's capacities. To learn what vision could tell us about ourselves and about other life forms, we explore a variety of perspectives on vision from psychology, art, biology, speculative fiction, comparative zoology, philosophy, and computer science.

Mr. Sekuler

USEM 86a+W What Happened to the American Dream(s)?

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Explores complex goals and paradoxes of American aspirations through four centuries of literature and legal expression, including case law and film. From the "I" of autobiography to the "we" of oratory, it analyzes immigrant dreams, dreams of liberty, individualism, and personal success.

Ms. Davis

USEM 87a Be a Mensch! Write!

Enrollment limited to 17.

Creativity, memory, emancipation: from fairy tales passed on orally to globally communicated cybertales, humans all over the world create, interpret, and critique stories to leave their indelible mark. We investigate the meaning of reading and writing in Homer's Odyssey, Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, and others.

Ms. von Mering

USEM 87b Time

Enrollment limited to 17.

The approach of a new millennium often causes us to reflect upon our understanding of "time." Through readings of ancient and contemporary literary and non-literary texts, we explore the ways in which humans develop, express, research, and project their concepts of "time."

Ms. von Mering

USEM 87b+W Time

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

See USEM 87b for course description.

Ms. von Mering

USEM 88a Islands

Enrollment limited to 17.

Islands are worlds unto themselves, capable of developing singular ecologies and singular "forms of life," yet vulnerable to invasion and swift destruction. We study the wealth and the fragility of islands, as mythical and as actual places.

Ms. Quinney

USEM 88b+W Free Will

Enrollment limited to 17.

Explores the debates over free will and the limits of human choice that have pervaded literary, philosophical, and religious writing since ancient times. Readings include selections from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament; Augustine, Luther; Calvin; Shakespeare; Milton; Locke; Edwards; Dostoevsky; Kafka; Beckett.

Ms. Targoff

USEM 89a+W Modern Ideas and Modern Identities: America in the 1920s

Enrollment limited to 17. Satisfies Option I of the first-year writing requirement. Meets for four hours per week.

Present debates about ethnic and gender identity are only the latest in a long argument about the relationship of individuals to their pasts. We examine some notions of identity in American social thought and fiction of the 1920s.

Mr. Engerman