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2024 Fall First-Year Seminars

1.  Humans & Nature: Fighting for Green in a Gray World             

Nature is supposed to be a “great equalizer” whose resources are free, universal, and all-inclusive. However, there is a multitude of literature on the lack of diversity and inclusion in outdoor spaces, and there is evidence that socially and economically disadvantaged populations have limited access to green space in urban areas. A nature gap clearly exists, and we need to be creative in our approaches to increasing access to nature, especially in urban areas. In this course, we will work to understand the various perceptions of nature and the varying relationships with nature that may occur in our community. We will also work to examine the key concepts concerning nature’s relation to welfare, injustice, and change, to think critically about nature’s role in our daily lives and the urban environment. We will explore these relationships through community walks, field trips, readings, and discussions.

Professor:  Allyssa Decker
Time:  MWF 12:30-1:20

2.  HIP, HIP, Hooray! Crafting Your Future Through Transformative Learning Experiences               

What do you want to get out of your college education? What types of learning experiences do you want to pursue? How can you plan for impactful and transformative learning? Our seminar will explore “High-Impact Practices” (HIPs) in higher education, which include first-year seminars, service-learning, undergraduate research, internships, study abroad, and more. The pursuit of multiple experiential learning opportunities and HIPs can influence a student’s goals, educational gains, and outcomes. Research shows a positive association between HIP participation and student engagement, integrated learning, and gains for all students, particularly among underrepresented, new majority, and first-generation students. But how equitable and accessible are HIPs, and how can students maximize their educational journeys? We will explore the history, barriers, and benefits of HIPs that are “done well.” Students will engage in discussions and presentations, conduct research on HIPs and active learning strategies, connect with professionals and peers, and think deeply about their own experiences and goals. They will complete an interview project with alumni, identify goals, and write an ePortfolio/action plan to reflect upon their personal growth, academic growth, and future pursuits of HIPs across their time at Dickinson.

Professor:  Amity Fox
Time:  MWF 11:30-12:20

3.  Small Screen, Big Picture: Religion on Television

Some of the most popular shows on TV engage themes of religion and morality. Whether we are talking about the overt “televangelism” of the The 700 Club in the 1960’s, the vision of the afterlife imagined in The Good Place, or Ted Lasso’s pandemic-era call to “BELIEVE,” television is a powerful medium for conveying a uniquely American understanding of religion. What religious perspectives tend to be represented on TV? Why are viewers captivated by the “secular spirituality” and redemption narratives that drive so many successful shows? How do religion and politics intersect in these portrayals?  In this seminar, we will study a wide range of programs from the last 50 years that have both mirrored and shaped our understanding of religion in the US. Students will learn to do close analysis of individual episodes and series, guided by readings from the disciplines of religion and media studies.

Professor:  Andrea Lieber
Time:  MW 11:30-12:45

4.  Introduction to Community

What is “community,” and where do you fit in? From 2009 through 2014 Community was a popular television sitcom that presented the trials and tribulations of a mismatched college study group turned unlikely friends. Over six seasons these characters navigated what it means to be a constructive member of a community – not only at Greendale Community College, the fictional setting of the series, but also in relation to larger social systems, within various subcultures, and even across a meta/multiverse. This course consists of four core units with different themes. Alluding to the TV show’s storyline, these sections represent four “classes" and playfully imitate a full-semester course load. The seminar’s units include: “Applied Dungeons & Dragons,” “The Art of Art,” “Carlisle 101,” and “Introduction to Community: The Darkest Timeline.” Although individual projects and discussions will vary according to the topic of each “course,” students will examine the common premise of community engagement and civic leadership through critical thinking and college-level research and writing throughout the semester. This course will require students to occasionally meet outside of class to play table-top games, work on projects in the Dickinson College art studios, and participate in a walking tour of Carlisle, among other activities.

Professor:  Anthony Cervino
Time:  MW 11:30-12:45

5.  The Multiverse of Mythology              

At first glance, the multiverse appears to be a modern construct, a device that allows writers the opportunity to expand the canon of what we know about pop culture. But myths and legends have been changing and morphing for centuries. Minus the time travel, ancient authors have been playing with classical myths and creating their own “reality” of those myths since before the concept of time travel even existed. In this course, we’ll investigate myths and legends from all over the world. And we’ll be looking at how authors were playing with their audience’s expectations long before it was seen as edgy or cool to do so. We will look at how, through adaptation and reworking, mythmakers create meaning by changing key details of the preexisting mythological universe, and how, in other cases, strikingly similar mythological archetypes arise completely independently, as if in parallel mythical universes, driven by the same quasi-biological imperatives. This course will feature various ancient myths through varied media from podcasts (harkening back to the oral origins of the genre) to the written word. In addition to the classical sources, we’ll also be looking toward the future, and thinking about what elements of modern pop culture might eventually reach mythical status.

Professor:  Ashley Roman            
Time:  MF 11:30-12:45

6.  Do Stories Make Us Human?                                               

Stories play a deep and important role in how we experience and interpret our lives. We daydream constantly, weaving stories that envision possible future events, or imagine how things might have turned out differently. We crave to tell others about anything even mildly interesting that happens to us. Politics, dreams, news, and even scientific theories come to us in the form of stories, and those stories can shape the way we experience the world, build communities, and understand ourselves. During this course, students will learn different approaches to make sense of stories in our lives, share their own stories, and consider how story is a core feature of the way we, as humans, experience the world and our role in it. We will think about how stories evolved as an important part of our species, homo sapiens, and how stories imbue our lives with meaning. Using psychology as our primary perspective, we’ll look at how stories can unite and divide us and consider all the ways in which stories are uniquely human.

Professor:  Azriel Grysman
Time:  MW 11:30-12:45

7.  Neither chimp nor computer: What, if anything, makes us human?

Humans use tools and pass down culture to their children. But so do chimps. Humans make art and write poetry. But so can AI. In this class, we will explore what makes us uniquely human by examining that which is almost, but not quite, human. We will interrogate how humanity has historically defined itself, the degree to which other primates think like humans (e.g., does a chimp have empathy, self-awareness, language, or culture?), the legal efforts to grant personhood to animals, the ways people with brain damage or neurodivergent thinking have sometimes been treated as less than human, and how we can know if or when artificial intelligence becomes conscious. During the semester, we will discuss controversial readings, document a semester-long growing relationship with an AI chatbot, host a podcast about human uniqueness, and take a trip to observe other primates at a working primate research facility.

Professor:  Ben Basile
Time:  MWF 12:30-1:20

8.  Race in Brazil: Challenging Discourses             

Coined in the early 1940’s, the term “racial democracy” claimed that Brazil did not have racial discrimination, yet nothing could have been further from the truth. Despite Black authors, intellectuals, and activists immediately refuting it, the term is still being used as an accurate description of racial politics in Brazil and as such, it represents a constant attempt to erase the history and realities of the majority of Brazilians. This seminar then analyzes how Black Brazilians have been represented since the nineteenth century in Brazil and, mainly, how they have represented themselves. It aims to expose and question the power operating behind discourses that refer to slavery, inequalities, marginalization, and the false notion of “racial democracy.” In the seminar, we will read a variety of literary texts (poems, short stories, and a novel) foregrounding how Black Brazilian authors have challenged and resisted racist discourses and structural discrimination.

Professor:  Carolina Castellanos
Time:  MF 11:30-12:45

9.  Ideas that have Shaped the World                                    

Why do ideas matter? What is the relationship between the individual and community? How can we define human nature? What is justice? Are there universal moral principles? Or are our actions considered moral according to the moment and place in which we find ourselves? Explore these and other fundamental issues of humanistic inquiry through a series of compelling and influential texts. Faculty members from several different disciplines will join with students to read and discuss the work of authors as diverse as Homer, Plato, Augustine, Shakespeare, Jefferson, Descartes, Marx, Darwin, Du Bois, Duras, and Achebe, among others. The reading list is focused on the question, “How do the ideas of these authors – all from different cultures and eras -- resonate across time and help us to understand our present experience within a global community?” Furthermore, studying carefully the work of outstanding thinkers, readers, and writers is one of the best ways to learn to read, think, and write well yourself.

Professor: Christopher Bilodeau
Time:  MF 11:30-12:45 

10.  Marginalized Science: The Discoveries of Underrepresented People in STEM             

Embark on a journey through the unexplored realms of the history of “marginalized science,” uncovering the often-overlooked stories, discoveries, and contributions of underrepresented scientists in STEM fields. This course provides a platform for critical examination and exploration of narratives, representation, and historical literature surrounding scientists from underrepresented groups who have made significant impacts on the scientific landscape. Through a multidisciplinary lens, students will delve into the lives and work of scientists who, despite facing adversity, have left an indelible mark on their respective fields. The course not only highlights the achievements of these trailblazers but also seeks to address broader issues of diversity and inclusion within STEM. This seminar goes beyond traditional STEM education, offering a unique opportunity to explore the social and historical dimensions of science. With a focus on inclusivity, this seminar encourages students to critically analyze the past, challenge preconceptions, and contribute to a more equitable and diverse future in STEM.

Professor:  Crystal Reynaga
Time:  MW 11:30-12:45

11.  You Contain Multitudes: The Microbiome in Human Health and Disease      

There are currently trillions of microorganisms in, on, and around your body. Some of these microbes are pathogenic and can make you sick, but many are neutral or even beneficial. This sea of microbes that you inhabit is known as your microbiome, and it plays an important role in many aspects of human health, including metabolism, neurological function, and immunity. However, the importance of the human microbiome is sometimes misrepresented or exaggerated. In this seminar, we will investigate studies of the human microbiome that have revealed new insights into evolution, human health, and disease, and we will learn how to critically evaluate these reports of scientific research. Utilizing different readings, video clips, and guest speakers, we will engage in informed discussions, develop academic writing skills, and analyze the significance of the human microbiome.

Professor:  Dana Somers
Time:  MW 11:30-12:45

12.  Reading on the Edge of Your Seat: The Art of the Short Story

What makes a great story? What are the building blocks of the short story, and the techniques writers employ to bring readers to the edge of their seats and keep them reading? Students will explore answers to these questions as they read a wide variety of short stories and critically analyze them and how they are constructed. They will also apply what they learn as they craft their own short stories and critically evaluate them.   

Professor:  Elise Bartosik-Velez
Time:  MW 11:30-12:45

13.  The Uses and Abuses of Photography                           

Since its invention, the camera has often been regarded as a scientific instrument that objectively transcribes what appears before it. Yet as early as the Civil War, when the bodies of fallen soldiers were staged by photographers to enhance the narratives around their deaths, the notion of photography as a record of unmediated truth has come under doubt. This class begins with key readings on the nature and history of photography before examining some of the ways the medium of photography lays claim to “truth.” We will consider how photographs participate in power structures and institutions of authority, with an emphasis on how the camera has been used to shape not only public opinion, but also policy and law around areas of gender, race, and ethnicity. Students will also work with photographic collections at the Dickinson Archives and The Trout Gallery during the semester and learn about historic photographic practices through darkroom facilities on campus.

Professor:  Elizabeth Lee
Time:  WF 11:30-12:45

14. Cancelled

15.  Good and Evil in the Human Imagination: Ethics in Fiction                  

This seminar’s topic investigates fictional representations of ethics. It asks what makes fiction such a good vehicle for the exploration of ethical dilemmas. One reason is that morality tales and voyages of discovery can help us in the quest for identity. They help us to think about how to lead a good life, how to find ourselves, and how to be a part of a community, bound to families, friends, and commitments. In this class, we will explore these issues by considering moral and ethical theory through major works of contemporary fiction, in both film and book versions. We will consider the vision of society and of individual responsibility in these works, apply these examples to approaches to ethics in contemporary philosophy, and compare the depictions of ethics across different genres such as fantasy, mystery, and science fiction. Students will have the opportunity to develop a research project on their own favorite work of fiction.

Professor:  Toby Reiner
Time:  MF 11:30-12:45 

16.  Civil Disobedience in History                                            

This seminar will discuss and define the concept of “civil disobedience” based on the writings of theorists such as Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr. We will analyze case studies of civil disobedience in action, including Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha (non-violent resistance) in South Africa and India; sit-ins organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); and the occupation of federal land by the Standing Rock Sioux and allies to block the Dakota Access pipeline. Our focus will be on non-violent disobedience, but we will also explore whether violence is ever justified. Students will research, write, and produce a podcast showcasing an act of civil disobedience.

Professor:  Jeremy Ball
Time:  MWF 11:30-12:20

17.  Fear Factor: A Multi-Disciplinary Exploration                                            

Famed author of twentieth century horror H.P. Lovecraft wrote that “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear...”. And indeed, from Aristotle to Dante to Alfred Hitchcock, the exploration of fear underlies a large swath of cultural and personal expression. In this seminar, students will confront some of humanity’s most anxious concerns. Borrowing from multiple disciplines, including religion, philosophy, literature, art history, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and more, students will consider fear in both individual and collective contexts. We will ask such questions as: What is fear? What purposes does it serve? How have humans expressed, interpreted, and cultivated the experience of fear in meaningful ways? We will consider “low-stakes” examples like the common fear of public speaking, as well as more complex existential fears, such as the fear of death. We will consider tools and mechanisms that people have developed in order to cope with or counteract fear, as well as cultural products and art that grapple with the theme conceptually. Primary documents will be drawn from myriad sources including classic literature, modern horror film, and religious art. Students should be prepared to engage with sensitive topics ranging from (but not limited to) violence, racism, sexuality and gender, and religion.

Professor:  Jodie Vann
Time:  WF 11:30-12:45

18.  The 2024 US Presidential Election: Is Dialogue across Difference Possible?

This seminar looks at the upcoming US Presidential election and asks, amid a siloed media environment, highly partisan politics, and disagreement over truth itself, whether dialogue across differences is possible in our current moment. Although we will be immersing ourselves in the political coverage of the US election, this seminar is neither about the “horse race” of the election, nor the underlying political forces at play. Rather, we will be learning how to listen to those with whom we disagree, examine the barriers to mutual understanding, and practice skills to dialogue across difference. Our primary texts will be the media coverage of the 2024 US presidential election in which students will read and view media from a variety of sources reflecting a range of ideological commitments. We will examine and analyze the examples of popular political media that students bring into the class, learning and using tools that allow us to grapple in meaningful ways with viewpoints that differ from our own.  Importantly, the goal will not be to find a way to “meet in the middle,” but rather for each participant in the seminar to strive to understand the perspectives of those who disagree with them, so that we may complicate our own understandings of the critical and complex issues at stake in this election.  For the final project students will develop a TED talk that captures an aspect of what they have learned about dialoging across difference.

Professor:  John Katunich
Time:  MWF 11:30-12:20

19.  I'm the Universe     

Like most metaphors, “I’m the universe” is a false statement. Then why use this metaphor?  As the seminar title suggests, the study of the ‘I’ will be the focus and the study of the universe will be secondary. Yet by studying the relationship between both, we will better understand the relationship between what we believe we are and how the universe has shaped that belief.  We will ask: What constitutes the universe? Am I part of the universe? What is truth? How did I come to define who I am? These and other questions will be addressed in this seminar through theoretical readings, empirical studies, and artistic expressions across literature, art, film, biographies, and autobiographies. Through this seminar, students will develop the ability to draw analytical conclusions from studying ideas in an interdisciplinary manner, while also dialoguing about them verbally and expressing them in clear writing for academic purposes.

Professor:  Jorge R. G. Sagastume
Time:  WF 11:30-12:45

20.  Collaborative Visual Story Telling

From cave paintings to emojis, our ancestors have always found universal means of communication beyond the limitation of language.  We are constantly (sometimes unknowingly, sometimes secretly) creating, signaling, and expressing to others who we are and how we exist in this world we share.  In this epoch of the 21st century characterized by a dismantling of traditional hierarchies and a rise in collaborative power infrastructures, the myth of the lone genius is finally fading and in its place is a shift to collaboratives and ensembles.  This course embraces this focus on community, exploring the boundaries and impotence of words, in order to delve into alternative forms of expression.  This class will utilize the basic tools of reading and writing to interrogate the power and limitations of language, while exploring the rich history of collaborative visual story telling from ancient symbols to modern comics.    Through hands-on, project-based work, we will transform theory into action.  We will design impactful signage for the Dickinson College Farm, creating a visual dialogue with the land and its stewards.  We will craft posters and stickers that amplify the voices of campus organizations and community initiatives.  And as an ensemble, the class will culminate with a dynamic, performative work, which will be collectively created, fusing visual story telling with the combined student voices and creative energies.   This course is more than just a class; it's a collaborative laboratory for experimentation, expression, and connection. You'll leave with new skills and perspectives, but also a stronger sense of belonging and the power of collective creativity to illicit change.

Professor:  Kent Barrett
Time:  MW 11:30-12:45

21.  Exploring conflict: Events big and small that affect daily life for us all             

Disagreements. Arguments. Fights. Battles. Wars. These kinds of events originate from conflict, which in turn evolves from some kernel of difference: difference of experience, opinion, interpretation, understanding, or agenda. Addressing conflict can occur via discussion, facilitation, mediation, resolution, or diplomacy. Conflict occurs on every scale including and beyond just two people: at the interpersonal, societal, national, and/or global levels. Maybe you have discovered your own conflict style: do you like to argue? Or do you avoid conflict at all costs? Or something in between? In this course we will explore conflict. We will investigate the origins and nature of conflict, and modes for addressing it. We will employ case studies to investigate conflict on different scales, and view conflict in our own lives and on our own campus. We’ll explore conflict to develop skills in the areas of critical analysis, writing, and information literacy. We’ll also explore our own personal conflict styles and identify and practice effective tools to address conflict that is in our own power.

Professor:  Kirsten Guss
Time:  WF 11:30-12:45

22.  Bizarrchaeology: Evaluating What We Believe About the Past                            

Knowing the past is powerful. Archaeologists collect evidence of past human activity so that we can better understand ancient societies and what it means to be human. But new discoveries are made regularly that force us to revise our conventional theories. While archaeology is an evidence-based discipline grounded in practical theories, methodologies, and analysis, romanticized depictions in popular culture skew public perception of how the past is studied. This confusion—alongside over 100 years of archaeological hoaxes and fakes—has generated misunderstanding and conspiracy theories concerning what we know about past societies. This often makes it difficult to distinguish academically supported hypotheses from fictitious facades. How do we evaluate what we know about the ancient past? What is the danger in uncritically accepting hoaxes and misinformation? In this course, we will read scholarship, watch films, and visit a museum to evaluate archaeological knowledge and ongoing debates. We will assess the legitimacy of notable fakes and hoaxes in archaeology, being deliberate or accidental distortions, and how they cloud people’s understanding of the past. By evaluating archaeological fakes and hoaxes, we will critically examine, discuss, and debate what we know about the past, why fantastical claims about past cultures harm present-day people, and how these ideas are relevant to the contemporary world.

Professor:  Matthew Biwer
Time:  MWF 11:30-12:20

23.  Cancelled

24.  War…What is it good for? Absolutely Nothing!         

Recent years have been marked by several armed conflicts around the globe: Armenia, Haiti, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ukraine. With horror, the world watched the Israel – Palestine war unfold, with an unprecedented number of journalists, medical staff, and children killed in Gaza.  This seminar invites students to think about war, shared values, and humanity by exploring veterans’ and civilians’ war narratives. The aim is to study these stories to understand the intersectionality of violence with trauma, gender, and moral values. Some of the questions that this seminar will explore are related to the uses of war: Is war necessary? Can war be just? How do veterans tell their war stories? What is the impact of war on women? To answer these questions, this seminar will explore western and non-western texts and films starting with World War I through today. 

Professor:  Mireille Rebeiz
Time:  MW 11:30-12:45

25.  Prophet and Philosopher: Science Fiction in Multimedia                     

Science fiction often seems to predict the future, a notion exemplified by how we currently live in a world that mirrors many of its forecasts. The 1960s' Star Trek, with its Tricorder, anticipated the advent of today's mobile phones, while 2001: A Space Odyssey foreshadowed video calling similar to FaceTime. Our reality now also includes genetically modified food, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and virtual reality, all once mere figments of science fiction. Despite these advancements, some concepts remain elusive, such as interstellar travel, time travel, consciousness uploading, and robots indistinguishable from humans. Science fiction authors, akin to prophets and philosophers, challenge us to consider the profound impacts of scientific and technological advancements on human society and life. These themes are not just speculative; they are embodied in characters from science fiction literature, like mathematician Hari Seldon from the Foundation series and Sartre in Bao Shu's "What Has Past Shall in Kinder Light Appear," a seminal work in Chinese science fiction. This course invites an exploration of these themes through the analysis of science fiction stories, films, comics, and TV dramas. It will prompt reflection on profound questions posed by these "prophets" and "philosophers": the nature of reality and human agency, the history and future of space exploration, the interaction between robots and humans, the concept of 'bodies of tomorrow' and 'animal alterity', and the essence of time and our identity. This course will delve into how science fiction interacts with traditional academic literary genres as a mass cultural genre, offering a new lens to understand the interplay between fictionality and reality.

Professor:  Nan Ma         
Time:  MF 11:30-12:45

26.  Contested Campus: Key Issues in Higher Education 

Higher education is in a contentious era in which its core purposes and practices are being hotly debated.  The seminar will examine several key issues, focusing on these issues in liberal arts colleges and especially at Dickinson College.   After an introductory discussion of the purposes of a college education, we will turn to questions, such as: What is the role of free speech in an era of cancel culture?  What role should Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts play in higher education?  How is access to college determined?  Was affirmative action a good idea?  How is (or isn’t) artificial intelligence (AI) changing higher education?  Seminar participants will also have an opportunity to explore a key issue in higher education of their own choosing.

Professor:  Neil Weissman
Time:  MF 11:30-12:45

27.  African American Food and Identity in American Popular Culture

The recent Netflix docuseries, High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America, investigates the ways in which food not only embodies African Americans’ ancestral heritage, but also marks shifts in Black identity construction historically and contemporarily. This seminar draws on the series' discussions of these culinary phenomena by examining the links between African American foodways and identity as conceived in the American popular imagination from the 19th century to present day.  We will begin by reading the histories of specific foods that are associated with African American culture. Subsequently, we will analyze how these foods have been used to fashion a range of paradoxical racial figures, from the stereotypical Black chicken thief and watermelon lover to the agential soul brother/sister, food rebel, and hip-hop vegan.  In addition, we will consider the popular modes and media that transmit the meanings and controversies engendered by these constructed identities that ultimately become stored in social memory. The popular modes and media on which we will focus include commercial food advertisements rooted in plantation caricatures (i.e., Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben); restaurants and menus; African American soul, blues, and hip-hop music; food blogs; internet memes; short stories; television (The Boondocks); and film (Soul Food Junkies). 

Professor:  Lynn Johnson
Time:  MF 11:30-12:45

28.  The Art of the Detective in Fiction and Film

This seminar will examine the widespread appeal of detective fiction and film.  Characters and plots in this genre are driven by issues of power, crime, and law, as well as gender, desire, politics, class, race, individuality, and society—just to name a few.  At the heart of this literature is the suspense of unanswered questions: Who is it? Whodunnit? How do we know? What do we know? How could we interpret? How should we understand?  These are uncertainties of identity, epistemology, and hermeneutics, and our course will think about what is at stake in asking these kinds of questions.   Through the art of close reading—that is, following the clues left for you in the text— you will become investigators of the cultural messages and constructs presented in detective fiction and film.  Over the course of the semester, we will examine short stories and novels such as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Maltese Falcon, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  In addition, we will consider noir and neo-noir films such as Double Indemnity, Rear Window, and episodes from the Veronica Mars series and the BBC’s Sherlock. Alongside the fiction and film, the class will read critical and philosophical essays that provide clues to historical contexts, theoretical frameworks, and rhetorical tactics used to foster audiences’ experiences of mystery and suspense. 

Professor:  Sarah Kersh
Time:  WF 11:30-12:45

29.  28 N College Street: Political Geography and the Power of Place      

What is the relationship between geographic locations and issues of power, privilege, wealth, and identity? How have governmental policies created and reinforced segregation in the United States? How have people sorted themselves into communities and limited their interactions with people different than themselves? In this class, we will consider how political and social forces both affect and have been affected by the places we live. Together, we will read selections from texts such as The Big Sort, The Color of Law, and The Address Book among others. Students will be asked to think about the places they have lived and how those environments have shaped their views on politics, religion, and their overall lifestyles. In the second half of the course, we will use Carlisle as our laboratory as we visit the Cumberland County Historical Society, learn about the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, experience local government via Borough Council meetings, and engage in walking tours of various neighborhoods adjacent to campus. Throughout the semester, students will gain hands-on research skills as they examine an aspect of the built environment in Carlisle, the political processes that created it, and the human behavior that results from it.

Professor:  Sarah Niebler
Time:  MWF 11:30-12:20

30.  How the US Institutionalized Racism             

In recent years, racial justice activists, journalists and scholars have helped to create a national conversation about institutional, or systemic, racism in the United States. They have highlighted how institutional racism shapes housing, education, the criminal legal system, health outcomes and more. But systemic racism does not just appear; it takes work and intention to create places and systems that work for some and not for others. So, how did the US institutionalize racism over time? How did race get used to shape the places we live and work, the systems and spaces that we move within, and our chances to live economically comfortable lives? In this class, we will explore how racism became institutionalized throughout the 20th century in a number of key American systems related to criminal justice, education, health, work, housing, politics and state welfare. Secondary sources by historians like Ibram Kendi and Carol Anderson will provide broad overviews on the history of these systems. Then, by exploring red-lining maps, voter disenfranchisement legislation, oral histories, and other primary sources, we will work to understand how racism got “baked into” the US’s social fabric – usually without explicit racial exclusion. Our explorations will also take us into local archives, including the Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections. This class will focus on the ways in which institutional racism sought to marginalize or exclude African Americans in particular, yet we will also look at the ways in which it affected a range of other peoples.

Professor:  Say Burgin
Time:  MF 11:30-12:45

31.  Machines Among Us: The Social Life of AI, Algorithms, and Digital Automation         

Artificial intelligence and algorithmic processes were once of interest only to mathematicians and computer scientists. But today our everyday lives are subtly influenced on a daily, hourly, or even minute-by-minute basis by the operations of AI, algorithms, and other digital machines. This seminar looks beyond technical understandings to examine our evolving relationship with digital technology. We will think about how digital processes shape the performance of work, the provision of care, the exercise of power, the persistence of inequality, and the manufacture of taste. We will be guided by the ideas of technology theorists, the research of social scientists, and selected works of cultural criticism and science fiction.

Professor:  Shawn Bender
Time:  MF 11:30-12:45

32.  Sex and Sexuality in the Italian Middle Ages

Our understanding of sex and sexuality is inherently linked to the historical period in which we live. In this seminar, the Italian Middle Ages will be the lens through which we explore these notions. No other historical period is as misunderstood today as the Middle Ages, and Italy provides us with a rich pathway to explore the late medieval period, eventually culminating in what we now define as the Italian Renaissance. This seminar will be comparative in nature, exploring similarities and differences in notions of sex and sexuality between the Italian Late Middle Ages and present-day United States. The aim is to gain insights into the evolution of societal attitudes towards sex and sexuality over time. The course will include a theoretical component, addressing sexuality from various perspectives such as sex within marriage, reproduction, chastity, ethics and immoral behavior, sex work, race, religion, and sexual violence. Alongside the theoretical part of this course, we will analyze and explore Italian literary texts (in English translation) from the period. Works such as Dante Alighieri’s "Divine Comedy" and Giovanni Boccaccio’s "Decameron" will allow us to delve into these notions through late medieval Italian art and literature.

Professor:  James McMenamin
Time:  MW 11:30-12:45

33.  The Not so Beautiful Game? Thinking about Football (Soccer) Culture in Britain

Why are the British obsessed with football? Why are much of the rest of the world obsessed with Britain’s obsession with football? In this seminar we will engage in an in-depth exploration of many aspects – beautiful and not-so beautiful – of British football culture. Along the way we will encounter and write about a number of iconic and legendary figures such as Brian Clough (Derby, Nottingham Forest), Don Revie (Leeds) and Bill Shankly (Liverpool), and a bevy of late 1960s and early-mid 1970s happy-go-lucky but ultimately misunderstood geniuses like George Best, Stan Bowles, and Rodney Marsh. Throughout the semester we will juxtapose aspects of the truly beautiful game, such as the Cruyff turn and Fila ski jumpers, with aspects of the not-so beautiful game like the ‘bubble perms from hell’ that were regularly sported by Liverpool’s late 1970s back-four and many other late 70s ‘icons’. We will also regularly explore the way in which many football fans such as writers such as Nick Hornby view the consumption of football and football culture as an intrinsic component of their identity. Similarly, we will investigate whether football culture may help to break-down divisions of class, gender and race. Throughout the semester we will do much reading and much writing about football culture. We will discuss football cuisine, football fashion, football literature, football songs, numerous football players you may have never heard of (Laurie Cunningham or Charlie George anyone?), and will regularly travel from the football present (Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, and Mo Salah) to the football past (Tommy Docherty and the legendary 1975 game between Fulham and Hereford United). We will familiarize ourselves with legendary football mantras as ‘I’m over the moon’ or ‘I’m sick as a parrot,’ and we will become intimately familiar with the giants of British TV commentary such as Jimmy Hill (the man who invented ‘3 points for a win’), Brian Moore, and John Motson. We will also explore a number of topics which capture students’ interest over the course of the semester (and we will even play a few games if we can find a ball). Accordingly, you will have ample opportunity to help to shape the direction of class discussion and analysis. Ultimately, this is your seminar and  am open to our jointly exploring any football topic which captures your imagination or interest.

Professor:  Andrew Farrant
Time:  WF 11:30-12:45

34.  American Cool         

From beats to hipsters, politics to personal lives, punk to normcore, trendsetters to influencers – striving to be “cool” has long been part of American traditions. More than just describing the latest trend, “cool” is an elusive concept that communicates complex and ever-shifting tensions between gender and racial performance, popular- and counter-culture movements, emotional displays, generational shifts, and ideas around capitalism and consumerism. Using materials drawn from popular culture, history, politics, music, design, advertising, and language studies, we will explore the ways that gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, social values, and self-image have been historically understood, imagined, and communicated through a lens of “cool” in American culture. Through case studies on cool trends in 20th and 21st century American popular culture, we will complicate the distinctions of “cool/not cool” by placing trends in context with their historical moments, examining issues such as: power relationships involved in being cool (especially those related to inclusion/exclusion, participation, and control over trends); contemporary national/international events and conversations; coolness displayed as purchasable commodities; the power of groupthink and the pressures of conformity and individualism; and how we can understand determinations of "cool/not cool” as part of complex intersections of culture and power. Course requirements include active class participation, informal and formal writing and research assignments, class presentations, and an individual project exploring a cool trend of your choice.

Professor:  Charity Fox
Time: MF 11:30-12:45

35.  Villains Unveiled: The Narrative Journey of Literary and Cinematic Antagonists

Dive into the complex and compelling world of villains in literature and film in this first-year seminar course. Participants will explore the individual stories of iconic antagonists, dissecting how their experiences, motivations, and choices shape their journey within their respective narratives. From tragic backstories to morally ambiguous actions, students will unravel the layers of complexity that define these characters. Through in-depth discussions, character analyses, and creative exercises, students will explore the intricacies of the villain's stories.

Professor:  Lauren Strunk             
Time:  MWF 12:30-1:20

36.  The Search for Life in the Solar System and Beyond: What are we looking for, and what do we do if we find it?!?!?

The Ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus, postulated that there is an infinite number of worlds in the Universe – some like this one, and others unlike it. In 1995 the first exoplanet was discovered and today there are more than 5,500 confirmed planets orbiting other stars within our Galaxy. In recent years, there have been a number of missions supported by NASA to explore planets and their satellites, asteroids, comets, and even Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs). This is in accord with one aspect of their visions for the Space Sciences program – to Search for Life Elsewhere. This search, however, depends greatly on what we know life to be: Earth and its inhabitants. If the requirements for life as we know it are liquid water, a source of energy, organic molecules, and biogenic elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, then NASA has already found multiple arenas in which “life” may reside. We will examine the role that NASA has played in the search for Life Elsewhere and explore the benefits of NASA’s commercial partnerships program. We will examine the current protocols that are in place in case Life Elsewhere is detected and discuss the ramifications such a discovery would have on society. What would our ethical responsibility be to the “life” we discovered?

Professor:  Catrina Hamilton-Drager
Time:  MF 11:30-12:45

37.  Video Explorations in Physics: Sharing the Beauty of Science with the World

The popularity of YouTube has ushered in a new generation of video content that focuses on some aspect of science and technology. A small percentage of these YouTube channels end up with millions of followers while the vast majority remain insignificant in comparison. But what makes one channel thrive while others languish? Is it the specific content, the personality of the creator, the quality of the presentation, of just plain luck? In short, what makes a video go viral and is it something that can be understood and recreated, or is it something intangible that depends serendipitously on a specific moment in the evolution of a society? In this seminar we will investigate these questions to try to understand what factors lead to YouTube fame and what implications this might have on society. As part of this journey, students will create their own video designed to share some beautiful aspect of science.

Professor:  David Jackson
Time: TR 9:00-10:15

38.   Bioethics and Bioissues

If you regularly watch CNN, read The New York Times, or use social media to follow the news, the prevalence of science in our society should not be surprising. However, while science is an essential part of our daily lives, inaccurate, incomplete, and/or biased communication of science often misleads the public. Furthermore, in the US there is a cultural challenge in that many people wish to benefit from science, but have little interest in trying to understand it, or even willingly ignore scientific data. (And to be fair, scientists often do a subpar job at communicating the importance of science to the public.) In this Seminar, we will work together to gain an informed understanding of several past and present ethical quandaries related to biology. Topics of discussion may include genetically modified organisms, vaccines and the anti-vax movement, human experimentation and eugenics, human gene therapy, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, and social and economic consequences of disease. Additional topics may be discussed as they arise. It is expected that you will be of open mind as you read, consider, discuss, and write about these multifaceted issues. Towards the end of the semester, via a small group project and presentation, you will apply and extend your enhanced understanding of concepts underlying these ethical issues to a topic of your choosing not otherwise discussed in the course.

Professor: David Kushner
Time: MF 11:30-12:45

39.  Polyphemus to Pikachu: Making Sense of Monsters

Dragons, giants, zombies, vampires, extraterrestrials, cyborgs—humans are fascinated by monsters, but what constitutes a “monster” anyway? Where do monsters come from, and what does it mean to identify something, or someone, as a monster? And to what ends is the label “monster” deployed? Although monsters can assume many different guises across cultures, they consistently occupy a space beyond established categories of “normalcy.” Monsters subvert the sanctioned order of things, and this deviance gives rise to a contradiction: we fear monsters and view them as chaotic threats to be vanquished by a hero (much as the Greek hero Odysseus overcomes the man-eating cyclops Polyphemus in Homer’s Odyssey), yet we also love monsters, and seek to understand and connect with them (Pokémon, one of the most popular global media franchises in the world today, centers around collecting, befriending, and going on adventures with “pocket monsters”). This seminar explores how monsters give shape to human fears and desires through consideration of a broad selection of sources, both written and visual, fiction and nonfiction. Students will analyze these sources as a basis for exploring monsters as they appear across a range of cultural and historical contexts spanning from antiquity to the present. 

Professor:  Álvaro Pires
Time: MWF 11:30-12:20