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Course Descriptions

Explore FWIS Course Topics from Pop Music to Sports

Course Schedule


Spring 2022 Courses


Women Artists

FWIS 103, Layla Seale, Section 1 - TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm/ Section 2 - TTh 4:00pm-5:15pm

This course examines female-identifying painters, sculptors, performance artists and musicians from the early European Middle Ages through modern-day United States. Each week we will read and write about the work of a different artist and discuss their ongoing cultural impact. Key questions this course considers: What factors influence the success of a female artist? How do these artists reflect or respond to their specific time period, region, and culture? What is the role of gender, sexuality, race, or class in their artistic production? Students will learn how to “read” and analyze visual and performative artworks and effectively communicate their ideas through written essays and oral presentations. We will also read, analyze, and compare scholarly readings and different forms of argumentation. Course readings include critical theoretical essays, artists’ statements, art historical articles, and museum exhibition catalogues.

Art and Environment

FWIS 109, Lina Dib, Section 1: TTh 1:00-2:15 pm / Section 2: TTh 2:30-3:45 pm

This course delves into questions of environment, ecology and sustainability through the lens of contemporary art. From earthworks, to performance, to land art, activist art, and community-based practices, participants engage critically and creatively with various contemporary practices. We discuss works that put art and environment into conversation by using landscapes as raw material and by highlighting our relationship to local and global ecological systems. Throughout the course, we explore how art provides ways to rescript interactions with our environment. Students work to design and create their own projects. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of much of the work we view, discuss, and propose, we read across a wide range of disciplines, including media studies, design, urban planning, humanities, art and anthropology. The course involves excursions to landfills, museums, gardens and other visits led by experts. This course is eligible for credit toward the Environmental Studies minor.  

Reading Innuendo

FWIS 110, Evan Choate, MWF 9:00am-9:50am

From 1934 until the early 1960s, the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, strictly prohibited all depictions of “sexual perversion”—such as homosexual or interracial romance—in Hollywood films. But could these desires and experiences ever be completely excluded from popular representations? If not, in what form might they be expressed? How can we read sexualities that were literally unrepresentable? What can such a reading teach us not only about the place of sexuality in the American cultural imagination but also about the nature of communication and interpretation in general? Did the Code shape the ways we express ideas about sexuality, or was the Code merely an expression of popular mores? In "Reading Innuendo," we will begin to answer these questions by exploring what the films produced under the Hays Code, from its origins to its eventual demise, can teach us about ourselves as writers and interpreters.

College Campus Culture

FWIS 111, Amanda Johnson, MWF 11am-11:50am

The American university is a funny place. One the one hand, it fosters world-changing scientific discovery, while on the other hand, it remains indebted to a medieval philosophy of higher learning. It can also be a petri dish for radical activism and social change, while still clinging to institutional traditions passed down through generations. Perhaps for these reasons, most U.S. college graduates still remember "college" as a uniquely transformative period in their lives and continue to identify with their alma mater years after graduation. Together, we will read texts that explore the wonderfully strange experience of university life in America, use our writing to tease out the significance of the university to us, and ultimately, take stock of how our time at the university has and will transform us, on and off the page.  Click the following link for a video about this course from Dr. Johnson --

Exploring Biological Research

FWIS 115, Beth Beason-Abmayr, T 1:00pm-4:00pm

In this course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE), teams of students work on investigative, client-based projects with opportunities to design experiments, analyze data, and communicate their findings. This course is recommended for students interested in majoring in the Biosciences. A major objective is to prepare students who have limited laboratory experience for advanced labs and/or independent research. Students will formulate a hypothesis, design experiments, learn fundamental laboratory skills, follow standard protocols, and collect and analyze data. Scientific communication skills emphasized include maintaining a laboratory notebook, writing a scientific paper, and giving a research presentation. Because of the collaborative, lab-based nature of this course, attendance in all class meetings is essential. Mutually Exclusive: Cannot register for FWIS 115 if have credit for NSCI 120.

Muslim Women & Global Politics

FWIS 119, Elora Shehabuddin, TTh 10:50am-12:05pm

This course traces the history of Western interest in Muslim women, paying particular attention to how the figure of the Muslim women has been used by western feminists to make their own case for gender equality. These ideas about Muslim women have had very real consequences, serving as justifications for colonial policies in the nineteenth century, but also more recently for the US intervention in Afghanistan which was presented to the American public as a mission to save Afghan women from the blue burqas. Just this year, several French towns imposed a ban on modest swimwear, dubbed the burqini, on French beaches, describing them as unsafe and incontrovertible evidence of Muslim women’s subservience to Muslim patriarchy. Readings include the writings of different English and American feminists and feminist organizations as well as texts by Muslim authors from around the world for their take to Western efforts to “rescue” Muslim women.

Fiction and Empathy

FWIS 120, Burke Nixon, MWF 3:00 pm - 3:50 pm

Is there a link between reading literary fiction and empathizing with others? A much-discussed 2013 article in Science seemed to answer this question in the affirmative, but writers and readers have been making (and challenging) similar claims for almost as long as the novel has existed. In this course, we’ll explore and debate the question ourselves. What does empathy actually mean? What’s the difference between empathy and compassion? Can a work of fiction actually change the way we perceive others in real life? We’ll read and write about the work of fiction writers who are often praised for their ability to inhabit the consciousness of their characters, as well as contemporary authors who attempt to do the same thing in different ways. We’ll also examine and debate what literary critics and authors themselves have claimed on this topic, focusing in particular on the elements of fiction and how those elements might provoke empathy.

Time Travel Narratives

FWIS 121, Laura Richardson, TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

From an aesthetic perspective, time travel has existed as long as there have been stories: narrative is time tourism. Narrative introduces alien temporalities, transporting listeners and readers into different temporal landscapes. Throughout the twentieth century, science and science fiction participated in a shared economy of inspiration, each stirring the other to new creative potential. This course investigates the historical, aesthetic, and scientific connections between the authorial and scientific co-creation of time travel. Our central quests will be to define the relationship between scientific and narrative jumps through time, as well as forge, as a class, a general understanding of how our culture represents time travel, given not just technological limitations, but also the historico-cultural limiting factors of gender, race, politics, and language.

Video Games

FWIS 126, Elizabeth Petrick, MWF 2:00pm - 2:50pm

The history of video games from multiple perspectives: what they’re like to play, how they were developed, their impact on society, their reflection of cultural identities, their economic success or failure, their relationship to the law, their artistry, and their place in game development.

King Arthur in Popular Culture

FWIS 127, Jacob Herrmann, MWF 10:00am-10:50am

This writing-intensive seminar examines how medieval Arthurian literature has been re-imagined within 19th, 20th, and 21st century contexts.  Beginning with foundational readings from Malory’s Le Morte Darthur, we will examine and discuss how the Arthurian tradition has been translated into various mediums, including the novel, poetry, art, comic books, and film.  In doing so, students will be introduced to the basics of cultural studies and film theory.  This course develops critical reading, writing, and presentation skills with an emphasis in rhetorical flexibility—adapting communication style into various mediums for multiple audiences. Students will produce three formal written papers and two oral presentations.  In addition, students will also write several short (1-2 page) reading response essays and low-stakes presentations that will serve as scaffolding for larger assignments.

Global Crises and Politics

FWIS 134, Jared Oestman, MWF 10:00am-10:50am

This course examines the role of political actors and institutions in managing and resolving global crises. Students will learn about the nature of international politics, identify how global actors can coordinate actions to respond to different global crises such as pandemics, armed conflict, and climate change, and analyze the consequences of different policy responses. Key assignments for this course consist of group discussions of assigned readings, short reaction papers, and a student-led simulation involving a mock global crisis.

Pop Music & American Culture

FWIS 137, Andrew Klein, Section 1: MWF 9:00am-9:50am / Section 2: MWF 10:00am - 10:50am

This course will explore the world of popular American music by looking at a number of recent albums and songs as well as many critical and journalistic writings about music. Ranging from Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love to Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap, and from a novelistic portrayal of Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality to a memoir of the Riot Grrrl movement, these texts will also allow us to think critically not only about music itself, but about what other issues (race, gender, sexuality, class, taste, etc.) we talk about when we talk about music. Assignments will include album reviews, song analyses, genre/region presentations, and personal essays.

Technologies of Taste

FWIS 141, Els Woudstra, TTh 1:00pm-2:15pm

Does pineapple belong on pizza? Does red Gatorade taste better than blue? Many of our favorite flavors are produced and marketed by food science and the food industry, through technologies of taste ranging from taste tests that quantify the subjective experience of flavor and smell into objective measures, to food advertisements that appeal to our tastebuds. This course investigates how technologies of taste shape our palates and the ways we think and write about what we eat. Through case studies and in-class tasting sessions of tea, chocolate, and other flavors, students will learn to analyze the sensory experience of foods, and examine the ways in which presentation, packaging, and advertisement of food appeals to our tastebuds. With assignments that include a flavor journal, academic essays, and creative projects, this course invites students to examine how their sensory perceptions influence the language they use, and how language can shape their perception.

Dilemmas of Science & Society

FWIS 148, Asa Stahl, TTh 4:00pm-5:15pm

As science advances, it often leads us to doubt aspects of our worldviews and question our concept of the “good”. Technologies like artificial intelligence and genetic engineering present new difficulties for our previously held notions of human nature and biological agency; the dawning era of space exploration forces us to reckon with ourselves not just as global citizens, but universal ones; on the heels of every new breakthrough comes the thought, “How do we avoid its abuse?” This class will challenge students to examine the most prominent socioethical topics stemming from current and future scientific progress and investigate the ways in which science and society communicate with and shape one another. Students will learn to engage critically with multidisciplinary primary and secondary sources, perform independent research, and effectively communicate their ideas through oral presentations and written assignments.

Graphic Medicine

FWIS 149, Lindsay Graham, TTh 9:25am-10:40am

Do graphic novels reflect perceptions of medicine? Can comics orient our notion of care? Formally dependent on interruption, graphic novels demonstrate the complexity of reading—reading texts, reading bodies, reading trauma. Thus, our class will grapple with disruption and healing in comics and will consider these implications for medical practice.

Making Sense of Ourselves

FWIS 151, Burke Nixon, Section 1: MWF 1:00pm - 1:50pm Section 2: MWF 2:00pm - 2:50pm

Before “essay” became synonymous with school assignments and college applications, it meant something very different. When Michel de Montaigne popularized the form in the 16th century, his "Essais" were an attempt to better understand himself and the world. His version of the essay wasn’t boring or formulaic; it was a vehicle for discovery, critical thinking, and self-scrutiny. Inspired by Montaigne’s example, this course will explore and examine the essay form in all its variety and flexibility. We’ll read the work of great essayists past and present, from Montaigne to 21st century writers like Kiese Laymon, Leslie Jamison, and Zadie Smith. And, of course, we’ll write our own essays, attempting to make some sense of ourselves and the world around us, while also investigating the key differences and surprising similarities between personal and academic essays, using this knowledge to become more thoughtful and engaging writers in any genre.  

The Science of Supplements

FWIS 152, TTh 10:50am - 12:05pm

This course examines the science behind some of the most highly promoted nutritional supplements for preventing or treating disease. The supplement industry has recently grown to $33 billion per year, and more than half of Americans now take supplements regularly. Because nutritional supplements are not regulated like pharmaceuticals, consumers have begun to question the safety, purity, and efficacy of these products. Students will examine the challenges in regulating supplements, the role of supplements as alternative or complementary medicine, the biology of common but complex diseases such as cancer and depression, and the molecular mechanisms of supplements’ effects on the human body. Through writing assignments and oral presentations, students will explore this rapidly growing but poorly regulated approach to improving health.

The Good, the Bad, & the Border

FWIS 154, Elizabeth Cummins Munoz, TTh 10:50am-12:05pm

This course will explore portrayals of morality in cultural texts produced in the US-Mexico borderlands. Through film, literature, music, and cultural criticism, students will examine representations of right and wrong that often conflict and many times converge in unexpected ways. As we consider perspectives from within the borderlands and without, we will also explore the ways in which border dwellers employ artistic production to expose and make meaning out of these alternative moral codes. Through the study of a variety of texts, students will be introduced to the following concepts: the nature of representation in film, literature and ballad; the border as both a physical and theoretical construct; the concept of a moral code and its relationship to cultural context.

Writing Asian Food

FWIS 155, Sonia Ryang, MWF 1:00pm-1:50pm

This course exposes students to the exercise of writing about Asian food. Students engage in the activity of "converting" multi-sensory experience, i.e. eating food, into writing on the one hand and think about transnational Asian food in the context of globalizing world.

Global English

FWIS 160, Vasudha Bharadwaj, TTh 10:50am-12:05pm

English is the most widely spoken language in the world, and there are twice as many people second language speakers as there are native users. It has been called a “world language,” a “global language,” and an “international language” and its widespread use is the result of a varied set of historical circumstances. What are the different forms of English? How does the use of English in a non-native setting affect how other languages are perceived? How do non-native / bilingual speakers of the language negotiate between multiple cultural histories and traditions? In this course, students will consider how sociocultural, political, and economic factors have historically influenced decisions about education and language use, particularly regarding English. In doing so, they will practice different forms of academic communication including discussion, writing, and presentation, and refine skills fundamental to their success as critical thinkers, readers, and writers.

The Rhetoric of Disney

FWIS 165, Matthew Wells, Section 1: TTh 10:50 am-12:05 pm / Section 2: TTh 2:00 -3:45 pm

From their start producing animated shorts to their transformation into a theme park and media giant, few corporate entities have reimagined themselves as much as the Walt Disney Company. This reimagining looms large in much of the company’s past—from recreating Walt’s hometown in their various Main Street USAs to rewriting large swathes of American history in their failed theme park Disney’s America. As Disney continues to spread—now encompassing the libraries of Fox, Star Wars, and Marvel as well as ESPN and ABC/ABCNews—we see much of our media diet coming from one place. While Disney has long held a foothold in popular culture, this reach is almost unprecedented. In this course, we will study Disney through an academic lens as a media company but also as a cornerstone of American culture. How did Walt, Mickey, and their animated cohorts become a staple of countless childhoods and nostalgic memories?

Books You Can't Put Down

FWIS 167, Elizabeth Cummins Munoz, TTh 9:25am-10:40am

This class is about books you can’t put down, the ones you pull out on buses and rainy days and stay up late to read. What is it about these books that draws us in? To answer this question, we’ll consider what goes into books like these, what effect they have on readers, and how it feels to read them. Through the study of selected works of fiction and creative nonfiction, we’ll consider formal aspects of plot, character and literary style; the psycho-social functions of narrative; and the physical and emotional feeling of reading. We’ll also hear from a guest speaker or two who will tell us why they love the books they love. Along the way, students will develop as readers, writers, and researchers as they participate in critical conversations about what makes a book “good” and try their hand at their own creative narrative.

Building Design Problems

FWIS 168, TTh 1:00pm-2:15pm

This course is not for the faint of heart or the timid. We will read and analyze case studies, project documents and other source materials on buildings that have experienced serious design problems and ended up in the news and in court. Some major buildings lose their high-rise windows inexplicably, others experience catastrophic structural failures, while others are saved from disaster through brilliant professional skill and sheer luck. You will write about what went right and wrong, why the situation happened, who caused the problem, and who should have acted differently. We will conduct a mock trial with students serving as the designers, constructors, clients and others involved, as well as their attorneys. Active participation in class is essential and a part of your grade. The broad goals of the course are to improve and refine your ability to think and write critically and powerfully, and to present a convincing argument on the written page and in person.

What Are Human Rights?

FWIS 169, Lora Wildenthal, TTh 9:25am-10:40am

We hear and talk about “human rights” frequently, but few of us have an easy time defining them. This is because human rights are inherently contested and even pitted against one another. In this class, we read, discuss, and write about what human rights have been and could yet become, in the United States and elsewhere in the world. This class offers you basic literacy about the key documents and institutions of human rights.  In addition, it highlights differences in how historians think and how lawyers think, and how politics is mediated in both disciplines. I will argue that human rights are a special kind of rhetoric, and that makes a fitting subject of study for a class in which we foreground oral and written communication.

"What is Citizenship?"

FWIS 170, Scott Pett, MWF 9:00am-9:50am

Paying special attention to the experiences of immigrant, indigenous, and (formerly) enslaved peoples of the United States, this seminar takes a broad approach to the examination of “citizenship,” its global contexts, and its material domains, including education, identity, labor, language, sovereignty, and suffrage. “Communication” will be the seminar's organizing principle. Of course, the student will strengthen their ability to speak, write, and present effectively, but the importance of communication as a historical theme will also shape course content. As we read leading 19C thinkers like Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, for example, we will contemplate public communication as the basis of and the vehicle for expanding the meanings of citizenship. And because civil discourse is failing as quickly as our connections to one another expand, there is no greater imperative than to yoke together the practices of effective communication with the theories, debates, and cultural productions of citizenship.

Mental Health in Lit & Film

FWIS 171, Travis Alexander, TTh 4:00pm-5:15pm

What is the history of psychotherapy both in the US and globally? And how have literature, film, and now social media represented this changing history back to us? Have our understandings of conditions like depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, and psychosis come to be thought—and even lived—as, themselves, essentially cinematic and literary experiences? Has social media now assumed some of this responsibility of narration and explanation? We will find ourselves grappling with nineteenth-century theories of anxiety, nervousness, and neurasthenia; twentieth-century elaborations of psychoanalysis; the discipline of psychiatry; and, more recently, the developments of behavioralism, psychology, and mindfulness. We will seek, in tandem, to place these clinical and scientific developments in conversation with concurrent developments in narrative and cinematic sciences. And after thinking these various trains of thought together, we will ask whether our relentlessly updated personal profiles be understood as adaptations of the confessional and introspective practice first advocated almost two centuries ago?

Sounding the City

FWIS 174, Andrew Klein, MWF 11am-11:50am

Sound surrounds us. And yet we often put little thought into what role it plays in our lives and the lives of our public spaces. This course aims to correct this oversight by offering an introduction to the field of sound studies focused on Houston’s audio environment, past and present. We will approach the topic in four ways. First, through an investigation into the audio epistemologies of sound studies. Second, through a cultural history of Houston’s musical legacy and the way in which aesthetic styles can be traced to local geographies. Third, through the production of a guided audio tour into one of Houston’s neighborhoods. And fourth, through a collaborative audio mapping project. In addition to developing students’ interpretive toolkits, critical thinking skills, and writing abilities, the course seeks to raise a number of key questions about the aesthetics, poetics, and politics of sound in the bayou city and beyond.

Writing Social Media

FWIS 176, Baird Campbell, MWF 4:00-4:50pm

Students in this course will become familiar with a variety of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, not just as users, but as critical thinkers. By pairing theoretical and social scientific analyses of social media with assignments based on real-world content and student production, students will come to understand how written and audiovisual communication works (and doesn’t) across these different platforms. As such, the overarching emphasis of the course is on the ways in which written and oral communication must change and adapt to fit the demands of particular media, audiences, or assignments. In this course, we will explore social media from a number of perspectives: we will learn its history; explore its technicalities; think critically about its content; and ultimately seek to understand why and how social media has quickly become a mainstream tool for written and audiovisual communication.

Storytelling in Buddhism

FWIS 177, Eric Huntington, WF 2:00 pm - 3:15 pm

This course explores the forms and contexts of storytelling in Buddhism, with a broad eye toward literature, visual arts, and performance. Students engage in both creative and academic writing to understand the importance of narrative in Buddhist cultures and different approaches to writing in the modern day.

Literatures of the Prison

FWIS 178, Sam Stoeltje, MWF 10:00am-10:50am

In this course, we will read literatures written about, within, and against prisons, developing critical perspectives on this institution and its functions. We will attend to a diverse set of voices, whose contexts include postcolonial and decolonial struggles, differently situated feminisms, the civil rights movement, and the prison abolitionist movement.

Writing for Social Justice

FWIS 180, Baird Campbell, MWF 11am-11:50am

In this course, we’ll take a historical and anthropological dive into a variety of social movements from across time and from around the world. We’ll take seriously the role of media, technology, and infrastructure in the development of diverse strategies, as well as the importance of both individual and group identity formation. We’ll analyze advantages, risks, and affordances that vary along lines of race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class. Along the way, we’ll think critically about the communicational tactics of each one, analyzing what worked, what didn’t, and why. Using this knowledge, students will choose an issue important to them, develop a communicational strategy for addressing this issue and—if they desire—put it out into the real world!

African - American Graphic Novel

FWIS 181, David Messmer, MWF 1:00pm-1:50pm

This course examines the struggle for black representation in comics and graphic novels. We will discuss the unique opportunities that sequential narratives present to creators as they represent race on the page and we will examine the history of black artists working in the comic book industry.

Translating Global China

FWIS 182, Yifan Wang, TTh 4:00pm-5:15pm

This course examines the socioeconomic transformation and the dynamics of everyday life in contemporary China. It looks at how the global flow of knowledge, people, and things transforms China, and how China as a socioeconomic actor impacts the world. This course introduces “translation” as a conceptual groundwork upon which social, cultural, and political communications are made possible. By engaging with contemporary scholarship of China in the humanities and humanistic social sciences, complemented by documentaries, fictions, and non-fictions, this course seeks to foster productive conversations that turn the translational difficulties into possibilities for action. Throughout the course, we will actively use what is learned in class to analyze the immediate world. It will equip students with tools to grasp the world (its economy, sociopolitical life, and cultural dispositions) with an understanding of and appreciation for the complex and interconnected places where we live and think.

Crossing Borders

FWIS 187, Hubert Rast, MWF 9:00am-9:50am

Humans are in a constant state of transformation and face numerous extrinsic as well as intrinsic barriers over the course of their lives. We learn about crossing real and imaginary borders, about uprooting and losing identity, about the traumatic loss of homeland and self, and the subsequent acquisition of a “foreign” language and culture. We will examine the ways in which we negotiate these borders and barriers in geographically and temporally diverse texts (from Europe to the Americas, from the Berlin Wall to the US/Mexico border). We will read timely texts about the travails of a virus that does not recognize borders to the nervous system of a schizophrenic with its fluid borders. Lastly, we will turn to the struggles of growing up in a rural, masculinist culture and eventually finding a new (queer) identity in an urban setting.

Eng Design & Communication

FWIS 188, Deirdre Hunter, Section 1: TTh 10:50 am-12:50 pm / Section 2: TTh 1:00 -2:15 pm

First-year students learn the engineering design process and use it to solve meaningful problems drawn from clients such as local hospitals and medical facilities, other local and international companies and organizations, and the Rice University community. Students work collaboratively on a team to design an engineering solution to meet the client’s need, and they use the resources of the OEDK to construct innovative solutions. Documentation is an essential element in the engineering design process.  Engineers must be able to communicate the need for a novel design, numerical design objectives, ideas for solutions, and the success or failure of a project.  During the engineering design process, students interact and communicate with teammates, the project client, instructors, and potential users. This course covers the same technical content as ENGI 120, Introduction to Engineering Design.  This course places additional emphasis on an individual’s development of the written and oral technical communication skills necessary for professional practice, especially results-oriented technical memos and oral presentations.

The Art of The Short Story

FWIS 191, Laura Richardson, TTh 4:00pm-5:15pm

The best short stories leave you with a strong emotional response and a sense of awe at how quickly and masterfully a deft writer can create a world and connect you to its characters. What techniques help authors achieve these effects? And what, beyond word count, defines the unique, dynamic genre of the short story? How exactly does the length of a piece of writing connect to its expression as a work of art and our interpretation of it? In this course, we’ll consider “shortness” as a challenge authors undertake, investigating the ways they weave complex tales into brief, often pithy, masterpieces. Reading a global array of short stories, including selections from the U.S., Great Britain, Latin America, and Russia, we will also seek to understand the short story gene within its national traditions. What kinds of similarities and differences emerge when we make cross-cultural comparisons of twentieth and twenty-first-century short stories? We’ll investigate the ways genre and culture converge to shape the stories we tell and the way we tell them.

Literature and Quarantine

FWIS 193, Andrew Battaglia, MW 3:00 pm - 3:50 pm

Covid-19 made concepts like quarantine and isolation seem new when they are actually quite old. This course examines the way the West has quarantined, isolated, and distanced the sick in the last century and what we might learn from tracing the evolution of these concepts in film and literature.

Law and It's Transgression

FWIS 195, Hubert Rast, MWF 11am-11:50am

Even in democratic societies, the rule of law is a very fragile and frequently threatened “belief” system that is continuously challenged, negotiated and re-negotiated. In this course, we will analyze the fragile state of the rule of law and its transgressions, its relationship to the concepts of rights, justice, guilt and innocence in selected texts as well as films from varying historical and political contexts. We will read literary and historical texts from first successful slave uprising (Haiti) and a discussion of human rights in the aftermath of the French Revolution, to Kafka´s literary musings about the tension between law´s finality as judgment and its always contested grounding. We will pursue the topics of guilt and delayed justice in a larger political context (Germany in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust) as well as the at times precarious concepts of guilt and innocence in contemporary crimes stories.

Science or Pseudoscience?

FWIS 197, Michael Cone, MWF 3:00 pm - 3:50 pm

Is anthropogenic climate change real? Do vaccines cause autism? Are genetically modified crops safe? What is homeopathy? Questions like these illustrate the difficulty that so often arises when dealing with the plethora of complicated topics and issues that are pervasive in modern culture. We can’t be experts in every field, so how do we tell good science from pseudoscience? This course aims to address this issue by focusing on the application of scientific skepticism and critical thinking to questions like those mentioned above, and many others. We will discuss the inherent fallibility of human perception and memory, as well as the cognitive biases and logical fallacies that we so often fall victim to. We will apply these concepts to various examples of pseudoscience. The topics will range from the absurd (astrology, flat earth theory), to more sophisticated and controversial examples that have significant societal impact (climate change denial, alternative medicine).

The Ghosts of Segregation

FWIS 199, Asia Bento, TTh 9:25am-10:40am

This course examines how legacies of segregation and discrimination continue to permeate areas of U.S. social life, related to education, health, housing, sports and leisure, wealth and so on. We will engage the question: what are the causes and consequences of enduring racial and economic inequalities in the U.S.?