Spring 2024 Colloquia

Registration on Nov. 6th, 2023

Overenrolls in DWC sections are not allowed.  If you have an emergency or exceptional reason why you cannot enroll in an available seat, you may fill out this form to request a different section. However, completion of the form does not guarantee over enrollment. Students must register for an open seat if available. Students with holds should submit an exception form if they are not able to register for DWC courses. The director and/or Mrs. Belcher will not consider in-person requests without submission of this form. https://forms.office.com/r/uWuVFC5vmS.

DWC 202 C01: T 2:30-4:20, S01 & S02: R 2:30-4:20
Queer Cultivations
Amy Foley, Virginia Thomas

This course asks about the role of queer culture in challenging the normative, the taken for granted, and the status quo. With a focus on queer of color theory and cultural theory, We will turn to a variety of films, novels, visual art and performance to investigate the role of queer cultural production in shaping society and reshaping ourselves. Looking at these cultural texts alongside queer theory, we will unpack what the word “queer” even means and what potential worlds queer culture attempts to preserve and create. 

DWC 202 C02: W 8:30-10:20, S03 & S04: F 8:30-10:20 Polarization
Samuel Murray, Christopher Justin Brophy

It seems that society is divided at almost every level: religious, political, social, and cultural. This colloquium draws on a wide set of readings, both philosophical and scientific, to help us more completely understand the reality of polarization and potential means of overcoming our common plight. We will consider questions such as: Why is our society so divided? What psychological factors lead people to think according to a particular paradigm? Is there a way we can talk to each other peacefully while also making real progress towards a common good?

DWC 202 C03: T 8:30-10:20, S05 & S06: R 8:30-10:20
Vance Morgan, Rob Stretter

This colloquium asks students who have spent three semesters considering the development of civilization to think about how civilization – and even humanity itself – might end.  With a bang? A whimper? A rapture? A flu? Zombies? Visions of the destruction of civilization are experiencing a renaissance, from literature (e.g., Emily St. John Mandel’s award-winning 2014 post-pandemic novel Station 11) to television (The Walking Dead, The Last of Us) to film (Zombieland, Mad Max: Fury Road) to video games (the popular Fallout series). The “Apocalypse” colloquium is designed to connect this contemporary moment with the long tradition of apocalyptic writing and thinking. We will study Biblical apocalyptic texts such as Daniel and Revelation; the theology of “the Rapture” in evangelical Christianity; novels, films and comics about nuclear war and natural disaster; and dark fantasies about the ruin of civilization by monsters and aliens. By asking ourselves to think about the end of civilization and its aftermaths, we come to reconsider some of the fundamental questions that form the intellectual core of DWC:  what is civilization? what are the limits of its “development”? what responsibilities do human beings have to each other? what role does the divine play in promoting moral behavior? what is virtue, and does it apply in all circumstances, including post-apocalyptic wastelands? what things are essential in life? At a time when a lost internet connection or missed flight or speeding ticket can seem like a minor catastrophe, it can be instructive to imagine life in a world without electricity, planes, cars, police, or laws.

DWC 202 C04: F 10:30-12:20, S07 & S08: W 10:30-12:20
The Global City
Rob Stretter, Elizabeth Bridgham

In “The Global City,” we will explore the ways in which cities function as cosmopolitan spaces, examining them from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including history, politics, literature, drama in performance, cultural geography, the fine arts, museum studies, and more. Our colloquium focuses on two cities as case studies: one far (London) and one right in our midst (Providence). London, one of the world’s first modern global cities, brings together many of the threads that students will have encountered so far in DWC: a Roman imperial outpost that later became the imperial superpower on which the sun never set; the hub of English-language art and culture; the site of superior technological and financial innovation that houses and conceals a substantial underclass; the indomitable and resilient WWII homefront that banded together as one to oppose and withstand the attacks of fascism from without and within; and the culturally diverse and vibrant – though potentially fragmented – national capital that it is today, shaped by immigrants from the far corners of its former Empire.  

Our study of London will help us better understand our own, smaller version of a global city in Providence, RI. This colloquium is unusual in that it emphasizes experiential learning as much as time in the classroom. The city of Providence will be our main class “textbook,” and students will explore it through a series of field trips to various neighborhoods, museums, restaurants, public art installations, performances, and workshops. Active participation is a must! Come see the world in your backyard! 

DWC 202 C05: F 2:30-4:20, S09 & S10: M 2:30-4:20
Providence, Fate and Evil in Ancient Thought
Blythe Greene, Christopher Sauder

Why could the world not be a fairer and less horrifying place ? And where does evil come from anyway ? Do humans have a dark side urging them to do evil or is there something larger at work, such as fate or malign forces ? Is evil something that we do or that we suffer from ? And what exactly is the source of our revulsion at horrifying events ? These questions, obviously still relevant today, will be examined through readings of Greek and Roman tragedies and philosophy, the sources of much of our vocabulary of providence, horror and fate. This colloquium is oriented towards students in classics, psychology, biology, philosophy, English and theology.

DWC 202 C06: M 12:30-2:20, S11 & S12: W 12:30-2:20
“Race and Identity in Contemporary America”
Iain Bernhoft, Jiyoon Im

Questions of identity lie at the heart of American politics and culture. Your race, your sexual orientation, your chosen pronouns—these are the categories by which we define ourselves and our politics. At the same time, we understand the ways in which certain identities are marginalized or subject to violence. Hence, fundamental questions of freedom, justice, and representation are newly cast in terms of “identity.” This course examines the way we talk about identity in America today—race, gender, and sexual identity. It will ask questions such as: To what extent are individuals free to choose their identity? What kinds of assumptions do we make about race, gender, and sexual identity, and why? What role should nature—and human nature—play in navigating these issues? Why are these identity claims so controversial in an age dominated by self-expression and equality? And what is the Catholic response to these urgent moral claims? While the course will focus on contemporary America, it will also include perspectives from Britain, Jamaica, Ghana, and South Africa in order to help us see beyond the American bubble. Our readings will include Anglo-American essays, novels, and films from the 21st century.

DWC 202 C07: M 12:30-2:20, S13 & S14: W 12:30-2:20
Eric Bennett, Chris Arroyo

Is something profound going on when people laugh? Something philosophical, even? Something cruel? Something holy? What are the ethics, politics, and metaphysical implications of humor? What is its basis in physiology? This colloquium surveys humor in everything from ancient texts to contemporary stand-up to take the measure of who we are, who we think we should be, and who we think we shouldn’t be, when we laugh. Prerequisites include having a sense of humor.  

DWC 202 C08: T 12:30-2:20, S15 & S16: R 12:30-2:20
The Neuropsychology and Ethics of Honor, Status, and Sociality
Dominic Verner, Victoria Templer

This colloquium will consider the nature of human sociality, the human desire for status and recognition, and important ethical questions surrounding particular social behaviors such as the giving of honor and shame. We will approach these topics through the lens of contemporary neuroscience and psychology as well as the Aristotelean-Thomistic tradition of philosophy and theology. Over the course of our semester, we will consider the following questions from this interdisciplinary perspective: to what extent are our brains “wired” to recognize and to form social hierarchies? How does the neuroscience of emotion relate to social interactions? To what extent have our brains and motivated behaviors been shaped by social interactions throughout cognitive evolution? What role might honor, and prestige have played in the evolution of our species? How does human sociality compare to other social animals? Is it possible to not really care what other people think of you? Can the desire to be “cool” be sanctified? When is it good to give and to seek honor? Is it ever morally justified to shame someone?  

DWC 202 C09: W 12:30-2:20, S17 & S18: M 12:30-2:20
History of Sports
Sean Holley, John Vidmar

This course is designed to familiarize the student with the cultural history and development of sports in the West. The course will attempt to integrate not only the history of actual sports (such as the beginnings of golf) and current issues in sports, but also philosophical, theological, social, medical, and economic issues throughout the history of the West. Guest speakers drawn from the various athletic disciplines both on and off-campus will augment the lecture material. The professors will also supply literature on the subject as well as audio-visual support.

DWC 202 C10: R 12:30-2:20, S19 & S20: M 12:30-2:20
Narnia and Beyond: The Life and Writings of C.S. Lewis
Issac Morales OP, Jordan Zajac OP

The acclaimed twentieth-century writer C. S. Lewis is most famous for his fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Less well known, though also influential, are the many theological and philosophical works he wrote, and which inform the deeper meaning of the seemingly simple tales of Narnia. In this colloquium we will consider both Lewis the fantasy writer and Lewis the theologian, exploring the profound themes in the former by comparing them with the more explicit articulation of those themes in the latter.  

DWC 202 C12: T 12:30-2:20, S23 & S24: R 12:30-2:20
Demystifying the Canon
Alison Caplan, Nuria Alonso-Garcia

The Colloquium seeks to cultivate the bilingual competencies of heritage students and those with an intermediate-level of Spanish proficiency or above.

The course aims to analyze literary texts from the Spanish Golden Age (17th century) through a decolonial
lens and invites students to adapt classic texts to contemporary contexts. We will read (in bilingual editions) and view recent performances of Golden Age theater, including Fuenteovejuna, Valor, agravio y mujer (The Courage to Right a Woman’s Wrongs) , La vida es sueño (Life is a Dream). Discussion will be centered on the themes of gender identity, class struggle and racial diversity that are presented in the original works and that are being recontextualized for 21st century audiences.

The Colloquium will incorporate a community engagement project in partnership with Nuestro Mundo PublicCharter School in Providence, where Providence College students will participate in theater adaptation workshops with bilingual middle-schoolers. Additionally, we will host a variety of guest speakers including: Marta Martínez, Community Oral Historian & Executive Director of Rhode Island Latino Arts, and Nicholas Jones, Assistant Professor of Spanish, Yale University, and author of Staging Habla de Negros: Radical Performances of the African Diaspora in Early Modern Spain.

DWC 202 C13: T 2:30-4:20, S25 & S26: R 2:30-4:20
Dialogue: Interreligious, Intercultural, Interdisciplinary
Augustine Reisenauer, Rocio Cortes

The modern world can be described as simultaneously one of the most interconnected and one of the most disconnected conditions our humanity has ever experienced. In our globalized world fractured by self-enclosures on both personal and communal levels, open and honest dialogue between people of various religious traditions, cultural histories, and disciplinary commitments can contribute to the promotion of the necessary conditions for the possibility of mutual understanding, collaborative justice, and civic peace.

This cutting-edge colloquium explores the theories and practices of dialogue from theological, historical, and cultural perspectives. During overlapping periods of the semester, students from Providence College and students from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile will engage each other via Collaborative Online International Learning seminars in dialogical scholarship on interreligious encounters between Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and indigenous (e.g., Mapuche) groups, deploying scriptural reasoning to read together theological texts and religious artifacts across northern and southern latitudes of America. Furthermore, students will experience the benefits and the challenges of the concrete procedures of global dialogue on specific religious, social, and cultural issues that are of vital contemporary significance.

The course will be conducted in English. Students with Spanish-language abilities and proficiencies may find these helpful, although not required, in dialoguing with Chilean students. Additionally, in consultation with the professors, the prospect of designing and enacting a Smith Fellowship for service learning in Santiago, Chile during the summer of 2024 may be available to a couple of highly-motivated colloquium participants

DWC 202 C14: R 4:30-6:20, S27 & S28: M 4:30-6:20
How the Right Became Right: The Origins and Development of Modern American Conservative Thought

James Keating, Patrick Macfarlane

Pre-registration: Political Science

This colloquium investigates the political, religious, historical, and cultural background of modern American conservative thought. Because conservatism represents a significant dimension of contemporary politics, and has allied movements in philosophy, aesthetics, and religion, we believe that offering such a colloquium will be of great interest and contemporary relevance to our students, and will also serve as a fitting capstone to the first three semesters of DWC. Students will engage with a wide variety of primary texts from the history of American conservative thought. This legacy is quite rich, and encompasses themes beginning with the founding of the American republic and the debates about the ratification of the constitution, outlined in The Federalist Papers, to current issues uniting (and possibly dividing) traditional conservatives, neoconservatives, and libertarians. The colloquium begins by examining the global political background – national socialist, collectivist, and totalitarian – against which American conservative thought developed. It ends by examining current issues important to American conservative intellectuals, such as the defense of free speech.

DWC 202 C15: F 12:30-2:20, S29 & S30: T 12:30-2:20
The “Western Tradition” and Scientific Racism
Maia Bailey, Jennifer Illuzzi

Questions we want to address:  

1. What is the role science has played in perpetuating racist ideas?  How does science continue to play a role in our ideas about race?   

2. How is scientific knowledge produced and how personal and cultural subjectivity enter into knowledge production?  

3. How does race science operate in different social/political contexts?  (i.e. Jews/Roma in Europe, anti-Black racism in the US, Brazil, and DR)  

4.  Why is race science so persistent over time?  

5. How does race figure as part of the “western tradition”?  

6.  How has the discourse of “race” changed over time? How are contemporary discourses about “population” and “ethnicity” different from older discourses of “race”?  

Students in our DWC colloquium will think critically about the evolution of racial science from the 18th century to the present.  The course, co-taught by a historian and evolutionary biologist, will address the history and growth of scientific thought on race, and critically examine the impact of this thinking on our contemporary world. We will assess student learning through students reflecting on their own racial histories, exploring the power of genetic analysis in shaping their own stories of selfhood via a podcast assignment. Students will be able to analyze how discredited racist thinking is still prevalent in contemporary discourse. Through reading and writing on primary and secondary source texts on the history of race, students will come to synthesize a variety of perspectives and historical understandings of racial science.   

DWC 202 C16: T 4:30-6:20, S31 & S32: R 4:30-6:20
Music, Beauty, and Desire in the Modern Era
Cathy Gordon, Bob Barry

This class will explore the depictions, considerations and critiques of the modern engagement of human desire. We will explore proposals and projects that go beyond modern engagements such as commodification and consumerism, employing especially music as a creative and interpretive lens.

DWC 202 C17: F 2:30-4:20, S41 & S42: R 2:30-4:20
Dark Psychology and Literature
Olga Limnios, Greg Charpentier

“Don’t get too close, it’s dark inside; it’s where my demons hide.” This line speaks to all of us. No wonder the song it comes from—“Demons” by Imagine Dragons—was such a huge hit. However, shining a light on the dark corners of human psyche is not an exclusive purview of rock musicians. Centuries before Imagine Dragons, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, and Nikolai Gogol devoted their art and skill to examining the human condition in all its manifestations, including such problematic human traits as manipulation, coercion, and hubris. After them, came Oscar Wilde, Arthur Miller, Paulo Coehlo, and Chuck Palahniuk (among others) and continued shining the light on the shadowy aspects of our behavior. In turn, Freud, Frankel, Adler, and Jung offered professional psychological insight into these darker manifestations of human nature.  

In this class, we will examine both the literary representations of human darkness and attempt to uncover their psychological roots. We will center on the theme of self-deceit and trace it to all the unsavory behaviors exhibited by Othello, Satan, Dr. Frankenstein and numerous other literary personages. In the process, we will also look inside ourselves. Like an ancient Greek tragedy, this course will not provide you with the answers but will rather invite you to contemplate. Throughout the semester, you will be thinking about what drives us to hurt ourselves and others, why is beauty so complex that it can damage as well as uplift, what role does fear play in the way we approach and bend reality. Ultimately, you will walk away from this course with a more complete understanding of what it means to be human—even if that completion involves the dark side of our psychology. 

DWC 202 C18: M 8:30-10:20, S35 & S36: R 8:30-10:20
Islam and the West: A History of Conflict and Coexistence from Muhammad to the War on Terror
Sandra Keating, Vefa Erginbas

This interdisciplinary course examines a particular aspect of the civilization of the West in depth through literature, philosophy, theology, history, and art. The relationship of Islam to Western Civilization has been at the center of heated debates for centuries. In 1978, Edward Said published Orientalism, in which he argued that the western view of Islam and Muslim societies had become critically flawed.  In this class, a history of the uneasy relationship between the Muslim societies and cultures and the Western world will be examined beginning with early Islamic expansion, continuing through the period of the Crusades, the age of the Ottoman Empire, and finally through the periods of imperialism, colonialism, and the American century. During the final weeks, Islam in America, the growth of the Nation of Islam and figures such as Malcolm X, war on terror, and anti-Americanism in the Muslim world will be also examined. Utilizing primary sources, artifacts from arts and architecture, movies, and documentaries, this class offers students an eye-opening journey to the relationship of two great civilizations and cultures through the lenses of history, literature, art, and cinema.

DWC 202 C20: F 12:30-2:20, S39 & S40: M 12:30-2:20
Belle Epoque
Matt Dowling, Richard Grace

This course will investigate the society and culture of Europe and America in the quarter century before the First World War. This quarter century was rich in new developments (airplanes, automobiles, movies, radio, etc.) and fragile in its political stability (arms races, national ambitions and fears and threats). Hence, the term “belle époque” has about it a combination of exhilaration and foreboding, as we look at it from the distance of over a century.

What we hope to achieve is an understanding that a civilization is as fragile as a human life, and a recognition of how decisions that are sometimes impulsive and shortsighted have consequences that stretch far into the future at great expense. We also hope to arrive at an appreciation of how widely the material circumstances of life in the West changed. Paralleling the new machines and strikingly different perspectives on society, there were radically new approaches to fine art and the performing arts – in painting, music, architecture, and dance. This was the great age of Art Nouveau, and it introduced shocking innovations in music. 

For many people above the level of the working classes, life was very comfortable and enjoyable. It was “the beautiful era.”  However, for many people, especially migrants, upward progress out of poverty was slow. There were also traditional social prejudices as well as aggressive competition in business. We shall take into account the great promise of life in this age, as well as the limitations of that promise, both in economics and in social opportunity. 

DWC 202 C21: M 10:30-12:20, S47 & S48: W 10:30-12:20
Persuasion and Judgement in Liberal Democracies
Iain Bernhoft, Jiyoon Im

We live in times of increasingly extreme political polarization, siloed in “filter bubbles” with our ideological allies and treating our political adversaries as deplorable. Some observers fear that freedom of speech and thought are dying out—that “cancel culture” is replacing open discussion and debate. Is persuasion a dying art? Have we lost faith in our fellow citizens’ capacity to exercise good judgment? This colloquium investigates the proper place of persuasion and judgment in liberal democracies. In it, we will consider why persuasion is necessary in a liberal democracy, and what are the necessary conditions for persuasion. We will read closely texts and speeches from ancient Athens and contemporary America, in order to understand more clearly the proper role and effective practice of democratic persuasion. Readings will include selections from Thucydides, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Rousseau, Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass. Students will also analyze contemporary political speeches and messaging on today’s hot-button issues in order to see the art of persuasion in practice. Finally, students will have the opportunity to cultivate their own art of persuasion through composing and delivering short speeches and debates.

DWC 202 C22: R 10:30-12:20, S47 & S48: T 10:30-12:20
War and Peace
John Lawless, Elizabeth Palazzolo

Few topics are as important in the study of Western Civilization as consideration of our recurring pursuit of warfare and our dogged attempts to achieve and to preserve peace. This colloquium looks at both theoretical reflections (Is war inevitable? in our genes? Are we psychologically uneasy with lasting peace? Is there an identifiable “western” way of war and peace?) and practical matters of waging war (such as sieges, tactics, weapons, etc.) and of maintaining lasting peace in the ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern periods. We will have opportunities to look at how history, literature, art, film and music reflect the glory and horror of war or poignantly express the deep human longing for peace.

DWC 202 C23: F 8:30-10:20, S47 & S48: M 8:30-10:20
Consciousness, Contemplation, and Conviction
John Allard,
Peter Costello

DWC 202 C24: T 4:30-6:20, S47 & S48: R 4:30-6:20
Topics in the Philosophy of Sports:  DEI – Ethics & Society
Sean Holley, Andrew Horne

Athletics are big business and a major pastime in the modern US. They also offer much food for thought in an academic context. There is a rich philosophical literature on sports, focusing on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across the sports industry; on the nature and definitions of play, games, leisure, and sports; and on the role of sports in society. This course will be an introduction to the major philosophical topics. Students will gain foundational knowledge of what DEI means within sports, including how power and privilege play out in sport organizations to include some and exclude others. Critical areas of diversity include social class and economic status, gender and gender identity, race and ethnicity, disability, political influence and affiliation, religion, and age. Students will also read foundational theoretical texts about the nature of play, typologies of games, and the purpose of athletics by Huizinga, Caillois, Suits, Weiss, and others. By the end of the course, students will have a rich understanding of the topics, debates, and literature in the philosophy of sports. Guest speakers will appear in-person and/or virtually.

DWC 202 C26: T 10:30-12:20, S51 & S52: R 10:30-12:20
The History and Science of Color
Sean Mulcahy, Ann Shafer

Color is never a static phenomenon. This colloquium takes a critical look at color and its applications across categories of time and place. Through historical and contemporary case studies in the arts and sciences, we explore the origins and evolution of color pigments and dyes in their material dimensions, chemical processes, and cultural significance. The course content is wide-ranging in chronological and geographical coverage. Our work intersects with the topics of environmental sustainability, political/economic/scientific technologies of production and consumption, and emotional/spiritual systems of aesthetics and symbolism. Readings will range from first-hand historical accounts to theoretical writings and scientific essays. There will also be a hands-on component in the laboratory and studio. Every week you will have several assignments. You will also work on a multi-week project, presented at the midterm and in the final class. The goal of the course is to have you reflect critically on the sources, symbolisms, manufacturing, and uses of color, and for color to take on a new role in your worldview.

DWC 202 C27: F 8:30-10:20, S71 & S72: T 8:30-10:20
Judaism’ as an Idea in Western Civilization
Arthur Urbano, Benny Bar-Levi

This colloquium will explore the conceptual roles played by “Judaism” in Western Civilization. For two millennia, “Judaism” – a concept that has often borne little or no resemblance to the beliefs and practices of actual Jews – has underpinned the ways in which the West has understood itself. From Classical Antiquity, through the Middle Ages, the Protestant Reformation, Colonialism, the Enlightenment, the ideological ferment of the 19th and 20th centuries, and down to our present day, Judaism has been utilized as a means to interpret, envision, and above all critique the world we live in.  

Due in part to the tensions between Jews and Christians during Early Christianity, and notwithstanding the profound influence of the Hebrew Bible in Western Civilization, Judaism and its related concepts have tended to be understood in negative terms. Judaism has thus typically been interpreted as having an undue attachment to the flesh over the spirit, the particular over the universal, the temporal over the eternal, the earthly over the heavenly. In both common parlance and scholarly discourse, Judaism has been used to denote error – be it theological, moral, ideological, or political – and has come to represent that which must be overcome and superseded, the very opposite of what we as individuals and society ought to strive for. Not surprisingly, Judaism has proven to be a remarkably versatile concept: virtually any idea, action, or individual, irrespective of whether they are Jewish in any literal sense, risks being categorized as “Jewish” or “Judaizing.” 

As we will learn, this deployment of Judaism as a category of opprobrium has not been confined to any particular time, place, or group within Western Civilization. It was used by the Church Fathers as a means of condemning Christian heresy, by Catholics and Protestants in their mutual accusations, by Enlightened secularists in their denunciation of religion and conservatism, by conservatives in their denunciation of liberalism, by Marx in his critique of capitalism, and by anti-Marxists in their critique of Marxism, among others. In our time, figural Judaism is being mobilized within an increasingly polarized cultural and political discourse.  

The colloquium will explore these as well as other examples in an attempt to understand the continuities and ruptures, differences and similarities, of the long history of “Judaism” in Western thought. 

DWC 202 C29: W 12:30-2:20, S57 & S58: F 12:30-2:20
Creation, Wisdom, and Suffering: Job’s Whale and Beyond
Bob Reeder, Tom McCreesh O.P.

The Book of Job, a story of a righteous man’s suffering, is among the most provocative and powerful books in the Bible. Widely considered a masterpiece of ancient world literature, it also raises questions with obvious ongoing relevance: does suffering always have a meaning? Why do terrible things sometimes befall good or innocent people? What does the natural world reveal about the God who (from a Jewish and Christian perspective) created it? Do God and the universe conform to human intuitions about justice? Can suffering lead to unexpected compassion, wisdom and even joy? We will explore these questions through careful reading of the Book of Job itself and through a wide-ranging survey of works inspired by Job, including novels, short fiction, plays, poetry, psychological and theological reflections, visual art, music and film.

DWC 202 C31: M 10:30-12:20, S61 & S62: W 10:30-12:20
Tocqueville: Then and Now
Patrick Breen, Raymond Hain

Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is at once the best book ever written about the United States and the best book ever written about democracy. The purpose of this colloquium, centered around a close reading of Democracy in America, is consequently three-fold: first, to understand Tocqueville’s achievement on its own terms and in its proper historical context, allowing us insight into the birth of modern democracy; second, to recognize a wide variety of serious and significant political questions that confront us today and, often enough (though in different clothes), likewise confronted Tocqueville in the 1800’s; and finally, to bring Tocqueville’s claims to bear on our own contemporary situation in order to help us come to a deeper understanding of the nature and demands of genuine democratic life.

DWC 202 C32: M 4:30-6:20, S63 & S64: R 4:30-6:20
The History of Retail from Ancient Merchants to Amazon’s Marketplace
Courtney Bozigian, Guolin Yi

While we are living through the shift from brick & mortar shopping to e-commerce, we are also witnessing a reimagination of the shopping experience.Students will create plans for modern retail experiences that can co-exist in today’s online world, by learning about and discussing the evolution of retail models within time periods and cultures.

This colloquium not only traces the history of retail from early marketplaces through the rise of department stores and e-commerce, but also compares the retail models in the West (Netherlands, England, and the U.S.) and the East (China, Japan, and Korea).

We will explore modern global retail brands through multiple lenses including history, economics, sociology, religion, art & architecture, as well as branding & marketing. Questions and topics will include:

  • How do retail models emerge and evolve?
  • How do retail models reflect the societies in which they exist?
  • What factors impact the development of retail beyond economic or financial models?
  • What are the possible factors that would contribute to the success/failure of Western retail models and brands in East Asia?
  • How can we leverage historical retail models to reinvent or reimagine the modern retail experience?

DWC 202 C33: R 3:30-5:20, S67 & S68: T 3:30-5:20
In Pursuit of Infinity: God, Mind, and Cosmos
Humbert Kilanowski, Joseph Cosgrove

Is God infinite? Is time infinite? Is the universe infinitely large? Is there an infinite number of prime numbers? Do infinities come in different sizes? Can something actually infinite exist or is infinity merely limitlessness? Is infinitude sometimes a flaw? A virtue? Both? Do human beings possess a spark of the infinite? How do we grasp the infinite?  

This course explores the mystery of the infinite in the many settings in which it arises, from religion to the natural sciences, encouraging students to consider infinity not just quantitatively but also in the qualitative sense of an existence not bounded by the physical or sensible world.  We will examine Ancient Greek, Christian, Jewish, and Islamic thinkers across the ages as they have sought to approach this mystery, as we direct our minds beyond the things that can be seen, measured, and grasped, and aim toward the infinite horizon of eternity. 

DWC 202 C34: M 2:30-4:20, S71 & S72: W 2:30-4:20
Time and Time Travel
Mark Pedretti, Alex Moffett

In his Confessions, Augustine asks, “What then is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I want to explain it to a questioner, I do not know.” Indeed, the nature of time — its form and movement, its objective existence and subjective experience — has been a persistent problematic throughout the philosophical history of Western Civilization. In the modern era, it has also been the locus for imaginative exploration in various genres of speculative fiction: the time travel story. From Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to Avengers: Endgame, time travel is a recurring plot device enabling narrative possibilities outside of linear chronology. But what do these time travel narratives tell us about the concept of time? Conversely, what notions of time do they rely upon? Where does narrative’s imaginative horizon expand the limits of our conceptual understanding of time? 

This colloquium intends to place philosophical and scientific concepts of time into dialogue with a host of time travel narratives in both literature and film, in order to interrogate these questions. Students will develop an understanding of different notions of time throughout the history of the West, and will use that conceptual apparatus as a heuristic for interpreting those speculative texts, ultimately working towards a research project in which they select a time travel narrative not covered in class and use the analytical vocabulary they have cultivated as a means for interpreting it. 

DWC 202 C35: W 10:30-12:20, S69 & S70: M 10:30-12:20
Dark Psychology and Literature
Olga Limnios, Greg Charpentier

“Don’t get too close, it’s dark inside; it’s where my demons hide.” This line speaks to all of us. No wonder the song it comes from—“Demons” by Imagine Dragons—was such a huge hit. However, shining a light on the dark corners of human psyche is not an exclusive purview of rock musicians. Centuries before Imagine Dragons, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, and Nikolai Gogol devoted their art and skill to examining the human condition in all its manifestations, including such problematic human traits as manipulation, coercion, and hubris. After them, came Oscar Wilde, Arthur Miller, Paulo Coehlo, and Chuck Palahniuk (among others) and continued shining the light on the shadowy aspects of our behavior. In turn, Freud, Frankel, Adler, and Jung offered professional psychological insight into these darker manifestations of human nature.  

In this class, we will examine both the literary representations of human darkness and attempt to uncover their psychological roots. We will center on the theme of self-deceit and trace it to all the unsavory behaviors exhibited by Othello, Satan, Dr. Frankenstein and numerous other literary personages. In the process, we will also look inside ourselves. Like an ancient Greek tragedy, this course will not provide you with the answers but will rather invite you to contemplate. Throughout the semester, you will be thinking about what drives us to hurt ourselves and others, why is beauty so complex that it can damage as well as uplift, what role does fear play in the way we approach and bend reality. Ultimately, you will walk away from this course with a more complete understanding of what it means to be human—even if that completion involves the dark side of our psychology. 

DWC 202 C36: T 1:30-3:20, S71 & S72: R 1:30-3:20
Jeffery Nicholas, Jackie Satlow

Garden of the Gods, Garden of Eden, Zion, Mount Penglai, Hōrai, Cockaigne, El Dorado 

These mythical paradises are well known in their cultures and religions. They are lands of peace, of gods, of perfection. While far from the real world, they have inspired visions of utopian society. What is the best way for human beings to live together in the natural world? From the Bible and Plato’s Republic to Karl Marx’s extensive writings, the 19th and 20th century Kibbutz, and contemporary Blackfuturism, writers have imagined and activists have fought to create utopia. This course investigates how utopian communities have come about, how they might have failed, and how we might build a successful one as human civilization faces continual crisis. We will explore inspirations and theoretical foundations for building utopia. We will pay particular attention to the Kibbutz and the Paris Commune as examples of modern utopias to learn from their successes and failures. Students will be tasked with designing a utopia. In the process, we will contextualize religion, class, race, gender, and political authority.