University of Vermont

The Honors College

HCOL 086 - First Year Seminars: Spring 2014

  • HCOL 86A D1: The Construction of Race in American Politics
    Professor Alec Ewald - Department of Political Science
  • HCOL 86B D2:Thinking and Acting: Theories of Engagement
    Professor Joseph Acquisto - Department of Romance Languages
  • HCOL 86C D1:Representing Race
    Professor David Jenemann - Department of English
  • HCOL 86D D2: She, He, Them: Gender and the Space of Knowing
    Professor Lisa Schnell - Department of English and Honors College
  • HCOL 86E D1: Arresting Eyes: Race and the Anxisty of Detection
    Professor Jinny Huh - Department of English
  • HCOL 86F D2: Happiness
    Professor Abu Rizvi - Department of Economics and Honors College
  • HCOL 86G D1:Reading and Writing the Racialized Self
    Professor Sheila Boland Chira - Department of English
  • HCOL 86H D1: Reading and Writing the Racialized Self
    Professor Sheila Boland Chira - Department of English
  • HCOL 86I D2: Religion and Ways of Knowing
    Professor Anne Clark - Department of Religion
  • HCOL 86J D2: Medical Anthropology and Global Health
    Professor Jeanne Shea - Department of Anthropology
  • HCOL 86 A
    D1: The Construction of Race in American Politics
    Professor Alec Ewald - Department of Political Science
    TR 2:30 - 3:45

    North Complex 034
    Course Syllabus (pdf)

    The fall semester dealt with how we know what we know. This spring seminar tackles one of the central epistemological problems of American politics: the thing we call "race." The fact that ideas about race have shaped many political institutions, as well as the political behavior of individuals, is well understood. But in trying to study how race has influenced American politics, one winds up spending just as much time putting the question the other way, listening as political actors build race and load it with meaning. That is our primary focus: the ways political activity has constructed, unevenly and sloppily but with great force, not just racial categories but changing definitions of what race itself actually is.

    We will read a lot, and from a wide range: primary materials such as Census documents, court cases, and Congressional materials, as well as a novel and scholarly work by historians, law professors, political scientists, and others. We will try to understand scholars' work on their own terms, but because so much racial knowledge is subjective and relational, we will also pay regular attention to our personal responses to the material. And we'll regularly "talk about talking" - confront directly vexing questions about what we think the "right" way is to discuss documents and arguments that can be bizarre, painful, hilarious, frightening, or just plain wrongheaded.

    This class fills the following distribution/college requirements: (If you don't see your college, please contact your advisor.)

    • D1 - Race & Racism in the U.S. Requirement
    • CAS: Social Sciences
    • BSAD:Social Science Core #3, Diversity 1
    • CALS:Humanities & Social Sciences
    • CEMS:HSS credit
    • RSENR:
    • CNHS:
    • CESS:

    HCOL 86 B
    D2: Thinking and Acting: Theories of Engagement
    Professor Joseph Acquisto - Department of Romance Language
    MWF 1:55 - 2:45

    North Complex 034
    Course Syllabus (pdf)

    This course takes its inspiration from an essay by Hannah Arendt, "Thinking and Moral Considerations," which we will read in the course and in which she explores the problem of the move from theoretical discussions of justice to real political action in the world. While all recognize the need to base political action on firm philosophical principles, the life of the mind, in its constant questioning, problematizing, and reconsideration of its own foundations, does not at first glance seem to support political action, which ideally rests on commitment to firmly held convictions. And yet no thinker would want to shut down the possibility of acting for political change, broadly defined, on account of the ever-changing interrogations of what we mean by "equality," "justice," and so on.

    The course will examine the ways power and privilege have been theorized, with attention to class, gender, race, and other categories, by those who go on actively to support, and also to engage in, activity that promotes political change in the world that is in line with the complexity of their own abstract reflections about engagement with the world. We will spend time looking at the relationship between education and democracy, with readings that trace the necessity of an informed citizenry, the obstacles to cultivating a life of the mind in a democracy and ways to overcome them, and the question of how best to cultivate cosmopolitanism in education. In the second section of the course, we will inquire why the habits of mind encouraged by the formation of intellect (the questioning, creative life of the mind as opposed to the goal-oriented, narrowly focused problem-solving of intelligence) so often lead, not to withdrawn contemplation but rather to progressive political engagement (and to resistance from dominant mainstream culture threatened by intellect). We will then examine theoretical and autobiographical writings by those who have both articulated and lived theories of social change across questions of class, race, culture, and sexuality and how the life of the mind informed, shaped, and altered the course of their political engagement. These figures include a diverse range of intellectuals, artists, and political figures from both within and beyond the United States.

    This class fills the following distribution/college requirements: (If you don't see your college, please contact your advisor.)

    • D2 - Human and Societal Diversity Requirement
    • CAS: Humanities
    • BSAD:Social Sciences Core #3, Global & Regional Studies Core #5, Diversity 2
    • CALS:Humanities & Social Sciences
    • CEMS:HSS credit
    • RSENR:
    • CNHS:
    • CESS:

    HCOL 86 C
    D1: Representing Race
    Professor David Jenemann - Department of English
    MWF 12:50 - 1:40

    North Complex 034
    Course Syllabus (pdf)

    "Representing Race" is a follow-up to the fall semester of the FY Honors College seminar ("The Pursuit of Knowledge") in which the students read three philosophers -Descartes, Hume, and Aristotle - who gave them three different perspectives on how and what we know: rationalism, empiricism, and a kind of humanistic thinking that we referred to as narrativism. In the reading that followed our exploration of those philosophical texts, we looked, sometimes directly, often indirectly, at the ways in which subjectivity can play a role in the construction of knowledge. Following on that experience, "Representing Race" narrows the focus to consider questions of knowledge (what do we know?), persuasion (how do we know it?) and power (who decides?) in the field of race and race relations. These are exceedingly vexing questions which play out across disciplinary boundaries. How biologists consider race is likely different than how a legal scholar thinks of the issue and distinct once again from how a poet, a painter, or philosopher thinks about the question. At the turn of the twentieth century, the issue of racial representation was further complicated by the births of cinema and the mass media, which offered spectators images of race that were at once "authentic" pictures of reality while at the same time culturally-determined fabrications. Hence in the first half of Representing Race, we will take a broad view of racial representations across a variety of disciplines, (biology, legal theory, visual arts, literature, philosophy, etc.) dating from antiquity to the present-day. In the second half of the semester, we will examine how these various types of knowledge play into representations of race in the mass-media from early silent films to television shows to the Internet, and beyond. In addition to traditional assignments, the course will culminate in the opportunity to a creative, collaborative project incorporating materials and ideas from the class.

    This class fills the following distribution/college requirements: (If you don't see your college, please contact your advisor.)

    • D1 - Race & Racism in the U.S. Requirement
    • CAS: Humanities
    • BSAD: English Core #2, Language & Literature Core #6, Diverstiy 1
    • CALS: Social Science
    • CEMS: HSS credit
    • RSENR:
    • CNHS:
    • CESS:

    HCOL 86 D
    D2: She, He, Them: Gender and The Space of Knowing
    Professor Lisa Schnell - Department of English and Honors college
    MWF 9:35 - 10:25

    North Complex 034
    Course Syllabus (pdf)

    As with the other sections of this course, we will begin with discussions of Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  In this class, we will be reading the Douglass with a particular eye to the ways in which race issues are also deeply gendered in the text (and by "gender" I mean both male and female; "gender," in other words, is never just about women in the same way in which "race" is never just about blackness). 

    The course will then be divided into three major units.  The first of these units deals with what is arguably the originary myth of gender in the West - the story of Adam and Eve. We will explore the Book of Genesis, of course, and also parts of Milton's Paradise Lost. In addition, we will read a poem by a seventeenth-century woman writer, and read some social science theory that fully introduces gender to us as "social fact." In the second unit, we will begin to disrupt some of the conventional gender constructions of the originary stories (though we will have discovered that they were, themselves, surprisingly resistant to stereotype) by looking at a late nineteenth-century American novel, Kate Chopin's The Awakening, as well as a twentieth-century memoir by an Iranian woman called Reading Lolita in Tehran.  In this section of the course, we will also direct some attention to the concept of gendered space, a concept that will find its way into  research projects students will do involving the construction of gender on the UVM campus.  In the last section of the course, we will examine twentieth and twenty-first-century representations of gender that deeply challenge the "social facts" of gendered space and performance. Along with an examination of the theory and research of Judith Butler and Anne Fausto-Sterling, among others, we will spend time in this part of the course with the amazing 1990 documentary film by Jennie Livingston, "Paris is Burning" about the drag ball culture in New York City in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, as well as with at least one other film that explores the possibility of fluid gender boundaries.  

    This class fills the following distribution/college requirements: (If you don't see your college, please contact your advisor.)

    • D2 - Human and Societal Diversity Requirement
    • CAS: Literature
    • BSAD: English Core #2, Language & Literature Core #6, Social Science Core #3, Diversity 2
    • CALS: Social Sciences
    • CEMS: HSS credit
    • RSENR:
    • CNHS:
    • CESS:

    HCOL 86 E
    D1: Arresting Eyes: Race and the Anxiety of Detection
    Professor Jinny Huh - Department of English
    TR 4:00 - 5:15

    North Complex 034
    Course Syllabus (pdf)

    In "The Pursuit of Knowledge," three main areas of Western epistemological thought - rationalism, empiricism, and narrative knowledge - were emphasized. This course titled "Arresting Eyes: Race and the Anxiety of Detection" continues the discussion presented in HCOL 085 by examining the production of racial knowledges in American culture, history, and literature. The theoretical question running throughout the course is: how will we know race if it is no longer phenotypically visible or detectable? How will racial difference be understood when identities are constantly shifting and transforming themselves, transgressing into other boundaries and challenging our understanding of certain "racial knowledges"? This course will examine these questions through a literary framework, particularly detective fiction and passing narratives, with interdisciplinary theoretical readings from anthropology, racial science, law, sociology, and critical race studies.

    This class fills the following distribution/college requirements: (If you don't see your college, please contact your advisor.)

    • D1 - Race & Racism in the U.S. Requirement
    • CAS: Literature
    • BSAD:English Core #2, Language & Literature Core #6, Diversity 1
    • CALS:Humanities & Social Sciences
    • CEMS:HSS credit
    • RSENR:
    • CNHS:
    • CESS:

    HCOL 86 F
    D2: Happiness
    Professor Abu Rizvi - Department of Economics and Honors College
    TR 8:30 - 9:45

    North Complex 034
    Course Syllabus (pdf)

    This course will consider the theme of happiness from an interdisciplinary perspective, using history, psychology, philosophy, literary analysis, and the scrutiny of current political, economic, scientific and moral questions to illuminate a subject of great personal and public importance. Throughout, a concern will be to consider how the concept of happiness has changed over time and is viewed across cultures. The course will address knowledge of self in a cross-cultural perspective.

    This class fills the following distribution/college requirements: (If you don't see your college, please contact your advisor.)

    • D2 - Human and Societal Diversity Requirement
    • CAS: CAS credit only
    • BSAD:Credit only, Diversity 2
    • CALS:Humanities & Social Sciences
    • CEMS:HSS credit
    • RSENR:
    • CNHS:
    • CESS:

    HCOL 86 G
    D1: Reading and Writing the Racialized Self
    Professor Sheila Boland Chira - Department of English
    TR 10:00 - 11:15

    North Complex 034
    Course Syllabus (pdf)

    In the history of our American social and political experiment, autobiography has given individuals otherwise excluded from spheres of political representation and publication the opportunity to address the public in their own voices and challenge deep-rooted assumptions about race, class, gender, and sexuality. In this course, we will read a selection of autobiographies in which the writer's racial identity plays a significant role, starting with Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself (1845). We will explore the evolution of the concept of race - a relatively recent invention - and ask why, if scientists argue that race is not biologically real, it continues to operate as a powerful social idea and salient category of identity. In addition to Douglass's narrative, we will likely read a series of autobiographical sketches published by Zitkala Sa (a Lakota Sioux activist) at the turn of the twentieth century, Malcolm X's controversial collaboration with writer Alex Haley (1965), and Lois Stalvey's The Education of a WASP (1970), in addition to some contemporary autobiographical sketches and essays.

    Further, we will practice writing autobiographically as a means of exploring our own beliefs about race, our own sense of racial identity, and our habits of thinking about others. Working closely with supplementary readings and the film series Race: the Power of an Illusion will allow us to explore a variety of disciplinary approaches to race and racial identity, including genetics, sociology, history, anthropology, public policy and law. This course extends the work you did in your Fall semester Honors College seminar by exploring the history and concept of race through the lenses of rationalism and empiricism, while considering autobiographical acts as attempts to create and convey narrative truths.

    This class fills the following distribution/college requirements: (If you don't see your college, please contact your advisor.)

    • D1 - Race & Racism in the U.S. Requirement
    • CAS: Literature
    • BSAD:English Core #2, Language & Literature Core #6, Diversity 1
    • CALS:Humanities & Social Sciences
    • CEMS:HSS credit
    • RSENR:
    • CNHS:
    • CESS:

    HCOL 86 H
    D1: Reading and Writing the Racialized Self
    Professor Sheila Boland Chira - Department of English
    TR 11:30 - 12:45

    North Complex 034
    Course Syllabus (pdf)

    In the history of our American social and political experiment, autobiography has given individuals otherwise excluded from spheres of political representation and publication the opportunity to address the public in their own voices and challenge deep-rooted assumptions about race, class, gender, and sexuality. In this course, we will read a selection of autobiographies in which the writer's racial identity plays a significant role, starting with Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself (1845). We will explore the evolution of the concept of race - a relatively recent invention - and ask why, if scientists argue that race is not biologically real, it continues to operate as a powerful social idea and salient category of identity. In addition to Douglass's narrative, we will likely read a series of autobiographical sketches published by Zitkala Sa (a Lakota Sioux activist) at the turn of the twentieth century, Malcolm X's controversial collaboration with writer Alex Haley (1965), and Lois Stalvey's The Education of a WASP (1970), in addition to some contemporary autobiographical sketches and essays.

    Further, we will practice writing autobiographically as a means of exploring our own beliefs about race, our own sense of racial identity, and our habits of thinking about others. Working closely with supplementary readings and the film series Race: the Power of an Illusion will allow us to explore a variety of disciplinary approaches to race and racial identity, including genetics, sociology, history, anthropology, public policy and law. This course extends the work you did in your Fall semester Honors College seminar by exploring the history and concept of race through the lenses of rationalism and empiricism, while considering autobiographical acts as attempts to create and convey narrative truths.

    This class fills the following distribution/college requirements: (If you don't see your college, please contact your advisor.)

    • D1 - Race & Racism in the U.S. Requirement
    • CAS: Literature
    • BSAD:English Core #2, Language & Literature Core #6, Diversity 1
    • CALS:Humanities & Social Sciences
    • CEMS:HSS credit
    • RSENR:
    • CNHS:
    • CESS:

    HCOL 86 I
    D2: Religion and Ways of Knowing
    Professor Anne Clark - Department of Religion
    MWF 11:45 - 12:35

    North Complex 034
    Course Syllabus (pdf)

    "Religion and Ways of Knowing" encompasses two related but distinct questions: "How do religious people know?" and "How do we know religion?" And of course the distinction blurs if "we" or any one of us is religious.

    Throughout the semester, we examine some of the very different ways in which human beings, in the past and in the present, in our culture and in others, have experienced themselves as knowing something, knowing something that, as "religious," usually transcends the boundaries of empirically gained and verifiable knowledge.

    Although "knowing religion," may seem obvious (don't we know it when we see it?), in fact, the problems of defining religion, distinguishing religious from non-religious behavior, and understanding the complex and very diverse ways that human beings have created and transmitted religious belief and practice, have engaged many of the great thinkers of the modern West, and continue to challenge our everyday life in a very religiously diverse world. Part of this challenge lies in the fact that religious people have practiced very diverse ways of constructing and embodying what they understand to be truth. It is this dual focus - how do we know, and how do religious people know - that we will explore throughout the semester.

    This class fills the following distribution/college requirements: (If you don't see your college, please contact your advisor.)

    • D2 - Human and Societal Diversity Requirement
    • CAS: Humanities
    • BSAD:Global & Regional Studies Core #5, Diversity 2
    • CALS:Humanities & Social Sciences
    • CEMS:HSS credit
    • RSENR:
    • CNHS:
    • CESS:

    HCOL 86 J
    D2: Medical Anthropology and Global Health
    Professor Jeanne Shea - Department of Anthropology
    MWF 10:40 - 11:30

    North Complex 034
    Course Syllabus (pdf)

    The focus of HCOL 086: Medical Anthropology and Global Health is an examination of the core concepts, approaches, and findings of the discipline of medical anthropology in examining problems of global health. In doing so, we focus on an investigation of the following questions: What can the knowledge and approach represented in the field of medical anthropology contribute to the scholarly and practical problems faced in researching and ameliorating the global health of the poor? In what ways does anthropology's attention to "culture" not only enrich our understanding of the conditions and dynamics of global health, but also expand our ability to design and implement effective global health interventions? How is an anthropological approach to global health distinct from the approach of other disciplines? How does an anthropological approach to global health overlap with and/or how does it influence or how is it influenced by the approaches of other disciplines? How are anthropologists collaborating on issues of global health with scholars and practitioners of other disciplines? What are the main challenges and the main benefits encountered by anthropologists and other kinds of global health researchers when they work together on issues of global health in resource-poor settings?

    This class fills the following distribution/college requirements: (If you don't see your college, please contact your advisor.)

    • D2 - Human and Societal Diversity Requirement
    • CAS: Social Science, Non-European
    • BSAD: Social Science Core #3,or GRS Core #5, Diversity 2
    • CALS: Social Science
    • CEMS: HSS credit
    • RSENR:
    • CNHS:
    • CESS:

Last modified January 23 2014 09:31 AM