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Course Descriptions

Explore FWIS Course Topics from Pop Music to Sports

Course Schedule


Fall 2021 Courses


The Bible in Popular Culture

FWIS 101, Brian Ogren, W 1:00pm-3:30pm

What do Bob Marley and the Hebrew Bible have in common? How was Moses utilized by civil rights activists like Martin Luther King, Jr.? Why was Darren Aronofsky’s film Noah so controversial among Evangelical Christians? What does Donald Trump know about the Bible? This course will address such questions as we introduce ways in which the Bible plays a significant role in contemporary popular culture. By analyzing biblical references found in music, film, art, and the media, we will discover that even in today’s seemingly secular pop culture, the Bible continues to influence our artistic, social, and political landscapes. This class should be of interest regardless of background. Anyone can study the Bible, whether she or he is Jewish, Christian, of a different religion or of no religion. In this course, the Bible is explored as a cultural text; all we require is an inquiring mind.

Blind Spots

FWIS 102, Luis Duno-Gottberg, TTh 8:00am-9:15am

The blind spot of "the act of seeing" is its social construction, its ideological nature. This seminar unveils the various historical, political, economic, and social “filters” that condition our decoding of visual information. This writing seminar aims at developing skills to de-naturalize the "act of seeing." Students will learn various theories and acquire the necessary tools for engaging critically, the visual world around them. 

Women Artists

FWIS 103, Layla Seale, First Section - MWF 4:00pm-4:50pm/ Second Section - MWF 2:00pm-2:50pm

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.

Writing the Senses

FWIS 106, Lina Dib, TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

This First-year Writing Intensive Seminar delves into the senses. We investigate the ways scientists, philosophers, medical practitioners and artists develop theories of and tools for touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, and seeing. With these different approaches, we examine how the senses are constructed, mediated and understood. We examine different standards of practice and how these understandings of the senses create modes of inclusion and exclusion. Through course readings and written exercises, we reflect on and experiment with the distinctions we draw between our senses as well as other ways we process information about the world including our sense of balance, sense of pain, sense of time, and the occurrence of synaesthesia. Each section of the course focuses on a certain sense and we end with a rethinking of our sensual apparatuses in light of our contemporary modes of engagement.

In the Matrix

FWIS 107, Philip Wood, TTh 1:00pm-2:15pm

Using the film The Matrix as the point of reference, this course presents celebrated explorations of servitude and emancipation—from religious mysticism to Marxism and artistic modernism. Texts by Lao Tzu, Farid ud-Din Attar, Plato, Freud, Marx, Baudelaire, J.S. Mill, Proust, de Beauvior, Malcolm X, Marcuse, Baudrillard.

Reading Innuendo

FWIS 110, Evan Choate, MWF 4:00-4:50pm

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.

Waste, Trash, Pollution

FWIS 114, Katie Ulrich, TTh 4:00pm-5:15pm

How do we as a society know that something is waste or garbage? How does something valuable later become trash, or vice versa? This course looks at waste, trash, and pollution from the perspective of culture and sociality. Through examining ethnographic and social theory texts on such materials, we will consider how waste is a sociocultural construct that draws social boundaries and enacts cultural meanings. By denaturalizing waste in this way, the course will ultimately explore how we can understand human culture by looking at our relations with the things, and the people, we treat as disposable. We will read about topics such as: trash collectors and recyclers in Brazil; waste-to-energy biotechnologies in Turkey and China; the politics of landfills in the US; the global circulation of e-waste; how certain human lives are devalued; and the relationship between pollution and colonialism.

Exploring Biological Research

FWIS 115, Beth Beason-Abmayr, T 1:00pm-3:50pm

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. Mutually Exclusive: Cannot register for FWIS 115 if have credit for NSCI 120.

American Journeys

FWIS 116, Randall Hall, Th 1:00pm-3:30pm

The narratives of travelers in the US are a window into history. Drawing on authors like Crèvecoeur, Tocqueville, Trollope, and Kerouac, the class will discuss and write about themes such as Indian life and territorial expansion, democracy, slavery, civil war, western settlement, and 20th-cent. social movements.  This course is eligible for credit toward the major in history.

Islam and Politics

FWIS 118, Waleed Rikab, TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

Together, we will examine developments in religion and politics in the Islamic societies of the Middle East, from the time of the Prophet Muhammad’s reign in Medina to the fall of the Ottoman Empire early in the 20th century. In the process, we will evaluate different Islamic intellectuals’ conceptions of religion, from classical thinkers such as al-Ghazali and Ibn Taymiyyah to modern writers such as Qasim Amin and Mahmud Muhammad Taha. We will also consider how these conceptions inform politics today, both within Islamic societies and in the non-Islamic world. By the end of the semester, we will come to appreciate the richness of Islamic political thought in both its local and global dimensions.

Leaders and Leadership

FWIS 122, John Cornwell, TTh 4:00pm-5:15pm

For over a hundred years, social scientists have studied leaders and leadership. The popular press and media pundits continue to expound on the topic with conflicting views. Students will explore what they believe and what science informs us about leaders and leadership and share their analyses through discussions, writing, and oral presentations. This course does not study individual leaders but instead is devoted to learning about scholarship in the field of leadership and applying it to better understanding oneself as a leader. Besides writing about their leadership experiences and applying leadership scholarship in analyzing those experiences, students will also create visual images about leadership using digital technologies and share them with each other.

Star Wars & Writing Culture

FWIS 123, David Messmer, MWF 1:00pm-1:50pm

From Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” speech to Hilary Clinton’s declaration at the end of a recent primary debate, “May the Force Be with You,” the Star Wars franchise has entered our national vocabulary in ways that no one could have imagined upon its release in 1977. This course will unpack the stakes of that discourse through a variety of disciplinary approaches. Why did the Star Wars franchise and its hopeful message emerge out of a popular culture rife with cynicism, and why does it continue to resonate today? What does the franchise’s popularity reveal about our nation’s relationship to issues of imperialism, race, gender, and spirituality? Are these films merely escapist fun, reaffirming a nostalgic vision of America, or are they a vehicle for cultural and social critique? Writing assignments in the class will challenge students to address these questions, while engaging the ever-expanding scholarly discourse surrounding the films.

Witnessing the Holocaust

FWIS 124, Astrid Oesmann, MWF 1:00pm-1:50pm

This course will examine selected testimony given by Holocaust survivors. Their testimony varies according to time and the circumstance in which it was given, and also according to the genre (film, memoir, drama) in which it is presented. Representation then will also be a continuous field of exploration throughout the course, as students will examine how to speak and write about this challenging topic.

Your Arabian Nights

FWIS 125, Paula Sanders, TTh 1:00pm-2:15pm

The Arabian Nights is one of the best known yet poorly understood literary masterpieces. It has been passed down orally, in writing, in performance and film; in multiple languages; and with different collections of stories. What is your Arabian Nights? Is it one of the many Arabic versions? The famous Burton translation? Disney's Sinbad? Alladin or Ali Baba? Scheherezade the storyteller? Robert Louis Stevenson's stories? Do you know it as a collection of stories or a group of colorful characters? We will consider stories of the Nights through both a literary and historical lens, and we will consider stories, films and works of art that were inspired by the Nights in different cultures.

Writing Everyday Life

FWIS 130, Lina Dib, 1st Section - TTh 10:50am-12:05pm/ 2nd Section - 1:00pm-2:15pm

This course is dedicated to the poetics of everyday life. It introduces its participants to cultural and historical writing that draws from the real world and from the forms and colors of the ordinary. First, we will experiment with some non-fiction writing styles, from journalistic, to poetic, to documentary and ethnographic. Then, shifting the focus from writing styles to writing topics, the course will delve into how we experience landscapes, bodies, and objects in prosaic ways. We will develop reading, research, writing, and presentation skills through creative assignments and workshops. Engaging in fieldwork around Houston, we will practice observational and literary tactics, such as experimenting with rhythm and repetition, shifting scales from the micro to the macro, and making the strange familiar or the familiar strange. In short, we will explore, evaluate, and communicate the everyday. This course is eligible for credit toward the major in Anthropology.  

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, MWF 9:00am-9:50am

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.

The Rhetoric of Food

FWIS 138, Matthew Wells, TTh 10:50pm-12:05pm

This FWIS course will examine the way food and food rhetorics shape our perceptions of the self and our connections to larger civic issues surrounding food. In our current social media foodie culture, we snap photos of our plates, but we might not consider the long and winding path that food took to be a part of our daily routine. This course challenges students to consider how the food we eat is part of a much larger human story. From cultural roots to factory farms, food plays a central role in how we understand and connect to one another. Core topics include: food and taste as an identity marker, the appropriation and sanitization of global cuisines, hunger and food inequality in America, the rise of foodie culture and food tourism, classism in the health food debate, and food in popular culture.

Photography & Film in Medicine

FWIS 139, Brooke Clark, TTh 10:50am-12:05pm

From hysterical women to the African American men in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study to queer individuals affected by AIDS, medicine has used photography and film to capture moments of innovation, catastrophe, and confusion. While photographic and cinematic images appear to record the world objectively and mechanically, people—along with their subjective, social biases—frame, develop, and curate them. Thus, medical photographs and films are not only visual pieces of scientific documentation but also pieces of historical, cultural, and aesthetic significance and interpretation. The crucial tension between science and aesthetics is the focus of this course and will lead to questions concerning how gender, race, sexuality, disability, class, and mental health operate within clinical and popular representations of medicine and public health. We will learn how to read and write critically about medical images together and study how images inform the way we see medicine and the way medicine sees us.

Film, Fiction, and History

FWIS 140, Scott Derrick, TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

In an important text from several decades ago, Benedict Anderson argued in Imagined Communities that nations construct their identities around shared narratives that necessarily mythologize and simplify their national pasts. Indeed, it’s unclear that a perfectly objective account of something as complex as a national history is even possible (though scrupulous historians do the best they can). Obviously, then, the contemporary crisis of “fake news” may simplify a complex problem if the implication is that the “real news” is easily within our grasp. The premise of this course is that in the twentieth century and beyond, movies and television have been an important ongoing source of mythologized national historical narratives, from war movies, to westerns, to “biopics” of figures such as Kenneth Turing, and Winston Churchill, to Ken Burns-style documentaries. Are their patterns of distortion at work we can identify? How do we correct them?

Water and Cities

FWIS 142, TTh 9:25am-10:40am

This FWIS investigates ancient, historical, and modern cities and the ways their residents received water. A city must have water, and all cities depend on complex water systems. Waterworks are unique to each city, and they reflect the natural setting of the city as well as the choices made by residents and governments. We shall approach water and cities to understand how cities developed their water resources, how the delivery of water shaped city life, and how the environment was affected. Students will be able to select a city and a water topic of their choice for their final presentation and written assignment. The seminar will follow the strategies for teaching writing and effective communication developed by the FWIS program at Rice. The seminar meetings will emphasize discussion of common readings, effective writing, presentations of specific readings by students, and oral presentations of final projects.

America Through Foreign Eyes

FWIS 147, Julie Fette, MW 2:00pm-3:15pm

The United States has always been a source of fascination – both attraction and repulsion – for many people around the world. The course covers the perceptions and interactions of five regions – Africa, China, France, Mexico, and Russia – with America. It offers ways to approach cross-cultural study and concludes with a segment that “reverses the gaze” by analyzing American opinions of other cultures. "America through Foreign Eyes" addresses four overarching themes: 1) democracy and modernity; 2) globalization and capitalism; 3) racism and immigration; and 4) intellectual and cultural life.

Making Sense of Ourselves

FWIS 151, Burke Nixon, Section 1: MWF 12:00pm - 12:50pm Section 2: MWF 1:00pm - 1:50pm

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.  

Travel and Modern Asia

FWIS 157, Jaymin Kim, MWF 11am-11:50am

In this class, we will read and write about people who traveled across and beyond Asia from the fourteenth century to the twentieth century, focusing on core topics such as intercultural interactions, globalization, and modernity. In doing so, we will also challenge the common misconception that Asian societies were isolated from one another and from the rest of the world before the arrival of the Westerners in Asia in nineteenth century.

Voicing Dissent

FWIS 159, Tamar Sella, TTh 10:50am-12:05pm

Wherever social movements take place, music and musicians are sure to be found. As participants, leaders, and narrators, musicians help propel, sustain, and give voice to various forms of organized dissent. This seminar offers an introduction, through a musical lens, into some of the key popular grassroots social movements that have taken place around the world in the last century. Music serves as a stepping stone to discuss both the broader histories of the movements and the foundational relationships between art and social change. Throughout the semester, we analyze the social histories of global struggles for human rights, liberation, abolition, and decolonization in response to interconnected racial, colonial, and heteropatriarchal systems of power in the modern world. At the same time, we reflect on the ways in which music and sound are central to dissent, whether as protest chants, oral/aural testimonies, or movement anthems.

Inventing the Bard

FWIS 163, Evan Choate, MWF 2:00pm - 2:50pm

How did Shakespeare become the most famous author in the world? Is there something special about his work that makes it “timeless” or “universal”? This course traces the history of Shakespeare’s evolution from a working actor and playwright in the London theater to the “Bard of Avon,” a mythologized author at the center of the English literary canon. In addition to a careful reading of a selection of signal texts, we will confront the political and cultural legacies of Shakespeare’s plays and poems as a means of reconsidering and reimagining their relevance in the present. By exploring the radically different things “Shakespeare” has meant over the last four centuries, we will interrogate more broadly how the meaning of pieces of writing shapes and evolves in different contexts, and develop a deeper understanding of how literature comes to be constituted as an object of knowledge.

"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.

Rhetoric of Public Memory

FWIS 172, Stephanie Parker, TTh 8:00am-9:15am

This course invites students to consider whose stories we remember, and how? when? where? How does the framing of historical events reinforce or disrupt dominant narratives of public memory? We will explore the histories told through monuments, museums, archives, television, and other forms of narrative, and consider how the language, images, and aural elements contribute to the overall message. This course will provide students with a foundation in rhetoric, narrative, and public memory to develop a deeper understanding of how histories are represented. Students in this course will participate in a variety of writing and communication tasks that will help them to ethically participate in larger scholarly conversations. They can expect to work one-on-one with their peers and the professor to refine drafts and work toward excellence in writing. At the end of the semester, students will pursue their own research topic and present their exciting scholarship in public memory.

Describing the Abstract

FWIS 173, Austen James, TTh 9:25am-10:40am

Mathematics is beautiful, but too often the elegance of its ideas and puzzles is hidden behind a curtain of technical language and prerequisites. It is possible to write about a theorem or conjecture in a way that draws in the reader and invites them to share in the delight of discovery and confusion, even if they are entirely unfamiliar with the mathematical techniques behind it, and the goal of the course is to do just that. Students will develop the skills to describe mathematics, ancient to cutting-edge, with accurate, exciting, and compelling prose. Along the way, they will learn about mysteries and solutions from pockets of the diverse and flourishing world of mathematics.

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.

Surveillance, Security, and Society

FWIS 175, Jessica Bray, TTh 10:50am-12:05pm

In the course, students will read, write, and explore the nature of surveillance, security, and society by asking: What is surveillance? Why does it happen and who does it happen to? Government surveillance is widely regarded as a system of control and classification. Yet, surveillance seems to indicate a weakness in the security state. Against this backdrop, we will analyze how examples of surveillance shape and reshape cultures across the world. In particular, we will explore surveillance in the context of contemporary examples of the post-9/11 security state, colonial settings where the tools of surveillance were birthed, the ways gender, race, and other social identities become imbricated within surveillance, and resistance movements against surveillance. Overall, students will be better at closely analyzing surveillance as a concept, theory, and action by applying the tools from the course to an ethnographic example in written, oral, and visual assignments.

Short Fiction

FWIS 179, Deborah Harter, TTh 4:00pm-5:15pm

If science treats us to graceful discovery and earthly knowledge, the pages of fiction record the triumphs and the suffering of the human. They speak to us about love and death, guilt and redemption.  And they remind us of those obstacles, sometimes imagined, that stand in the way of our content.  They are obstacles that we might call dragons.  They breathe fire across our paths.   And if they sometimes lead to our undoing—Ahab cannot survive his obsession with one particular whale—we also slay them, as does Faulkner’s Sarty when he gives up his father in order to break with a world of violence he cannot bear. This will be a course that studies expressive writing and the art of reading as we enjoy short fiction from Kafka to O’Conner and as we track those dragons that wander freely in the corridors of art and the lives we live.

Writing for Social Justice

FWIS 180, Baird Campbell, MWF 10:00am-10:50am

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!

Caribbean Ecologies

FWIS 186, Ania Kowalik, TTh 9:25am-10:40am

In "Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies," Spanish explorer Bartolomé de Las Casas gave an earnest indictment of the atrocities perpetrated by the colonizers in the Caribbean: after the carnage, the islands were “transformed into one vast, barren wasteland.” The Caribbean suffered an unprecedented intervention into its environment and has experienced increasing ecological vulnerability. And yet, Caribbean artists have affirmed the archipelago as a space of life and creativity where nature helps us imagine alternative ways or being with our human and non-human others. This course examines the complicated ecological relationships in the Caribbean from different perspectives: colonial encounter narratives; memoirs of the Haiti earthquake and Haitian ‘salvage art’; works inspired by the Caribbean Sea; and stories about food and diasporic history. We will also ponder this more general question: How can literature and art help us reimagine who we are and how we relate to the world?

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 9:25am-10:40am / Section 2: TTh 10:50am-12:05pm

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.

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.