Archived Special Courses

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Fall 2015: 1-Credit Honors/Ethics Courses

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ANTH / LER / SOC 197H (1 cr) Inequality in America - ethics course

Paterno Fellow Visiting Scholar Kathryn Dudley, Professor of Anthropology and American Studies, Yale University

This course explores the sociocultural dimensions and lived experiences of inequality in the contemporary United States. Our discussions draw on works in anthropology, sociology, economics, history, cultural studies, and investigative journalism to examine how economic policies, exacerbated by the Great Recession, impact Americans divided by identity categories such as race, class, gender, and citizenship. We focus on ways in which the social dynamics that produce inequality are embedded in worlds of cultural meaning and institutionalized as taken-for-granted aspects of everyday life. Structural disparities in income, wealth, and opportunity ultimately raise questions about the kind of society we live in an whether the nation's democratic ideals can survive the extreme polarization of life changes that exist in America today. Class meetings 9/28/15–10/7/15, M W 4:00–6:00 p.m., with Field Trip on 10/2/15

CAS / PL SC 197H (1 cr) Communication Policies and Political Activism - ethics course

Paterno Fellow Visiting Scholar, Amit Schejter, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Communication Studies, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

Communication policy and its outcomes weighs heavily on the quality of our lives as citizens and on the quality of the environment in which decisions regarding our future as a society are being made. Students who value the quality of communication in the public sphere and who have an interest in communication policy issues, and who want to understand debates over network neutrality, media concentration, privacy on the net, and the future of public broadcasting, will get an opportunity to explore these issues and to meet the people who try to influence media policy and those that actually decide it. Students will have the opportunity to meet activists in media advocacy groups and the senior staff of the Federal Communications Committee in Washington, DC. Class meetings 9/30/15–10/21/15, W 6:00–8:00 p.m., with Field Trip on 10/16/15

CAS / PL SC 297H (1 cr) Democratic Leadership for Deliberative Government and Social Change - ethics course

John Gastil, Head and Professor, Communication Arts and Sciences, and Political Science, Penn State

Penn State has a special opportunity to create a generation of leaders who learn deliberative approaches to politics and public life. This one-credit course provides a broad background for this approach to democratic leadership, and it also prepares students for a unique Penn State paid internship program (the Nevins Leaders project). Those who complete this course will have first priority when awarding these dozen or more internships beginning in 2016.

The centerpiece of this course are two day-long Sunday workshops where students get to interact directly with the kind of leaders they may aspire to become. The first workshop introduces students to two democratic innovators across the United States from government and non-profit organizations (TBD). These special guests will give public lectures (open to the wider community) and lead workshop discussions with the students in this course on the new democratic practices they have helped to create and the ideas behind them. The second workshop will bring in a new pair of leaders (TBD) who will share their strategies for creating a more deliberative kind of government and engendering democratic social change. The second workshop will also feature recent Nevins Leaders interns (Anna Foley and Brendan Lounsbury from Summer 2015), who will share their experiences in the program.

Bracketing these workshops are two-hour seminars, which introduce ideas, discuss brief reading assignments, and reflect on the experiences of the workshop. In addition to short reaction papers due for each class session, students will produce a single six-page narrative essay at the end of the course that describes how they could see themselves advancing democracy in the United States (or elsewhere) and what kind of internship/work experience will help them prepare for such a career. For those who opt to seek an internship in 2016, this will be a supplement to their formal application. 

Credit for the course requires attendance at every class meeting, workshop, and the Brown Democracy Medal lecture. Required work includes readings assigned for each class, the short reaction papers, and the final essay.

Class meetings September 30; October 4, 7, and 30; November 4, 8, and 11. For detailed schedule, see the flyer.

Spring 2015

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ANTH / ASIA / PL SC 197H (1 cr) From Recipients to Donors: Unpacking the Global Development Apparatus - ethics course

Visiting Paterno Fellow Scholar, Patty A. Gray, National University of Ireland Maynooth

How often have you seen a call to end poverty coupled with images of brown people presumably located on the other side of the globe? Much of the public discourse about international development focuses on recipients of aid in the so-called ‘Global South’ and their problems and needs. This course shifts your gaze in other directions. We begin by looking from recipients to donors – at the global development apparatus and the development professionals that staff development agencies; we then consider how the tidy formulations of ‘donor’ and ‘recipient’ have been upset by the recent phenomenon of the so-called ‘emerging donors’.  We examine two such donor countries: Russia and China. You will go out and retrieve current examples of discourse about donors and recipients of international development assistance and will critically unpack it. The goal of the class is to foster a different way of seeing the world and the relationships within it, and to enable you to balance both macro- and micro-perspectives on that world. Class meetings: 6:00-8:00 p.m. on January 14, 21, and February 4, with a field trip on January 28.

CMLIT 197H (1 cr) Landscapes of North Africa in Literature, Film, and Music - ethics course

Hoda El Shakry, Department of Comparative Literature, Penn State

This course explores the rich cultures of the region of North Africa, which includes the countries of Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, North and South Sudan, as well as Tunisia. We will focus in particular on the diverse literary and cinematic traditions of the region, examining contemporary Arabic, Francophone and Anglophone works in translation. These art forms will be contextualized within the specific political and cultural histories of these countries. Our topics will include colonialism, nationalism, globalization, language and religious reform, the environment, gender and sexuality, youth culture, and migration. We will also consider the recent revolutions sweeping the region, known as the “Arab Spring,” which were catapulted by the Tunisian revolution in January 2011. The course is offered in conjunction with The Nile Project, an organization that employs advocacy, music and cultural programming to educate and empower global citizens to collaborate on the sustainability of their local ecosystems. Class meetings: Thursdays, 4:15-5:30 p.m. on April 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30, plus The Nile Project Performance on April 23, 7:30-9:30 p.m. (tickets provided); optional Lunch with Honors April 22, 12:15-1:00 p.m., which will feature lunch and an informal meeting with performers from The Nile Project.

AF AM 397A (1 cr) The Fire This Time: Understanding Ferguson - ethics course

This course aims to deliver an interdisciplinary, academically-rooted experience, to help students grapple productively with the events surrounding Darren Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown last fall. The course will a) contextualize the Brown-Wilson encounter and its aftermath, b) identify the limits of public knowledge and discussion of what happened in Ferguson, c) explore the meaning and structure of the legal proceedings, and d) consider the implications of the protests and of the responses they provoked.

The course will be truly interdisciplinary, with faculty contributors coming from African American studies, anthropology, communication arts and sciences, criminology, English, legal studies, philosophy, psychology, religious studies, and women's studies. Under the direction of AFAM faculty members AnneMarie Mingo, Courtney Morris, and Paul C. Taylor, the course will meet on Mondays from 6-7:30pm, in five sessions between March 16 and April 13, 2015.

PHIL 297D / ART 297E (3 cr) Art in the Anthropocene - ethics course

“The Trash Vortex, a floating mass the size of Texas in the North Pacific made of plastic garbage, was to become the largest water architecture of the twenty-first century.” -- Beatriz Preciado, Testo-Junkie

The Anthropocene is a term coined by Nobel-prize winning chemist Paul Crutzen and ecologist Eugene Stoemer to describe the current geologic era, one where the effects of human activity from industrialized capitalism and State socialist extractivism have resulted in humans becoming the primary geologic force. While the International Stratigraphy Commission has yet to rule on whether or not the Anthropocene will officially be named as the next geologic era, the term has circulated widely in art and academic worlds and has become a shorthand concept for talking about ecological crisis. One of the remarkable features of such a turn in geologic history is the inadvertent and unintentional aesthetic interventions of industrialization, from the trash vortex, to mining tailings, to ever more intense sunsets due to particulate matter in the atmosphere, to the release of over 3.4 million black plastic balls into the Ivanhoe Reservoir in Los Angeles to stop carcinogenic effects. How does our understanding of human aesthetic intention change as we enter the era of the Anthropocene? What does this shift demand from contemporary artistic and curatorial practices?

This course will begin to address and untangle the question of the complicated interrelationship of aesthetic and art practice within the Anthropocene era. We will look at artistic interventions, such as the bioremediation work of artists Mel Chin and Oliver Kellhammer, the temporary shelters of Mary Mattingly, and the pioneering efforts of ecoartists Helen Mayer and Newton Harrison, as well as the critical aesthetic engagements of Marina Zurkow, Pinar Yoldas, Platform London, Nabil Ahmed, Dodo Lab, and others. These works will be examined through the lens of contemporary theory on ecology and art developed by Elizabeth Grosz, Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and others. 

Fall 2014

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ANTH / HIST / RL ST 197H (1 cr) - Religion and Society in Russia - ethics course

Visiting Paterno Fellow Scholar, Jeanne Kormina, Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg, Russia
The course provides an introduction to the ethnographic study of religion with a focus on the post-Soviet space, and Russia in particular. How does religion influence the way people seek to shape and reshape their own selves and the meaningful world they live in? How can religious language be used for "silent criticism" of social injustice and other social problems? How and why does the state try to regulate religious expression, and what are the consequences of such regulation? The goal of the class is to come to a greater understanding of the diverse ways of defining and practicing religion, and to discuss their consequences for social identities and relations of power. Meeting dates: Tuesdays 4:15-5:45 p.m., October 7, 14, 21, 28; all-day field trip Sunday, October 19

ENGL / WMNST 197H (1 cr) - Margaret Atwood and the Contemporary World: Time for Payback - ethics course

Rosemary Jolly and Jennifer Wagner Lawlor
Margaret Atwood is one of North America’s most celebrated, prolific, and challenging living writers. Best known for her novels, she is author of over forty volumes of fiction, short fiction, poetry, prose, and children’s literature; most recently, she has even developed video games! Atwood is famously unflinching in her frank and sometimes disturbing assessments of humanity's paradoxical nature, which is at once generous and greedy, hospitable and hostile, spiritual and cynical, insightful and ignorant. The role of the artist--and of art in general--is always central to Atwood's thinking and writing. Art can at once show us "who we are and what we want," for better and for worse, "and what the limits to those wants may be." Meeting dates: Wednesdays 1:25-2:55 p.m., Oct. 22, Oct. 29, Nov. 5; Nov. 12 at 7:30 for the IAH Medal Ceremony; Meeting with the Author on Thursday, Nov. 13; and a final class meeting Weds. Nov. 19.

HIST 297H (1 cr) - Theorizing Gender and Islam - ethics course

Jonathan Brockopp
The class will meet on November 5, 12, and 19, and December 3, 5:00-6:30 p.m., and a meeting with Prof. Sa'diyya Shaik, University of Cape Town, South Africa, and Prof. Nina Hoel, University of KwaZulu, Natal, while participating in an international conference at the Nittany Lion Inn, Penn State, on Gender and Islam on December 1 and 2. The class will focus on understanding lived Islam in transnational settings and the role of gender in shaping everyday life. How is meaning created in the texture of "ordinary life" and how does it inform understandings of social justice and the obligations we have to one another? By focusing on the "ordinary" and the "intimate" aspects of experience, this class will examine the various ways in which everyday life is constituted through the localized and situated politics of gender, race, and sexuality. The goal ofpe this class is to analyze the role of Islam today in shaping the individual and collective social relationships and encounters that characterize everyday life.

ANTH / LER / SOC 297H (1 cr) - "Business as Usual": From Your Street to Wall Street - ethics course

Visiting Paterno Fellow Scholar, Daniela Peluso, University of Kent at Canterbury, England

This course will allow students to gain new perspectives on business formations, corporate cultures, capitalist practices and ideologies. Businesses – be they individuals, families, corporations, nation-states or multi-lateral corporations - have identities that are invariably distinct from one another and which are forged upon and promote particular social relationships. Ethnographic case studies, especially of the stock market and its related businesses, will provide the basis for discussing how these social relationships that enact power are embedded in broader cultural processes as well as ideologies. Acknowledging the multiple dynamic relationships between businesses, people and marketplaces will allow us to evaluate their roles as active and reactive producers, consumers and disseminators of cultural processes within our surrounding environments, extending from the local to the global. During the last class session, students will give presentations on a fieldwork-based interview project.  The instructor is a former Wall Street broker-turned-cultural anthropologist. Class meetings: 6:00-8:00 p.m. on November 18, 20, December 2, 9, and 16.

Congratulations to Business as Usual students Bronson Ford for "Most Original Presentation," and Elyse Grossman for "Most Persuasive Presentation."

Spring 2014

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ENGL 197H (1 cr) - Shakespeare: Text and Performance

For more information, see the description on the Paterno Fellows blog.

Fall 2013

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ENGL / WMNST 197A (1 cr) - Patti Smith: Punk, Poetry, Performance

A 1-credit special topics course, offered in Fall 2013, in conjunction with the Institute for the Arts and Humanities (IAH)

Monday evenings, 8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., from September 23 through October 21, 2013

**This one-credit course is being offered in conjunction with Penn State’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, which is awarding Patti Smith the IAH Medal Distinguished Humanities Award on October 15, 2013.

American musician and artist Patti Smith (b. 1946) exploded onto the American and international music scene with the release of her first album, Horses, in December 1975 and has remained a creative, vibrant, politically engaged artist ever since.  Smith’s celebrated role in the avant-garde of punk rock music represents only a portion of her talents. Smith’s credits extend to photography and visual arts, to poetry, to memoir and nonfiction; while her musical accomplishments are marked by Grammy Awards and membership in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, those awards leave out her accomplishments in photography, the visual arts, poetry and prose literatures. Her receipt in 2010 of the National Book Award for her memoir, Just Kids, surprised many – but Smith’s career in writing is as long as her career in music.  The eight-week course begins with the historical and cultural contexts from which Smith emerges as an artist, but emphasizes throughout the vitality of her ongoing career in various artistic fields. In short, the course surveys the complex cultural milieu that “made Patti Smith possible,” and which Smith herself would go on to complicate and alter in her own right.

This course will meet weekly for five 90-minute sessions, one of which will be (in week four) the celebration of Smith at the IAH Award Ceremony in October.

Required for completion of the course: mandatory class attendance, including attendance at the IAH Distinguished Medal Award Ceremony on October 15, 2013; completion of reading/viewing assignments, to be indicated by consistent and thoughtful engagement in class discussion; short writing assignments/response papers. There will be no exams.

CMLIT / HIST 197A (1 cr) - Uncanny October

A one-credit special topics course, offered over the course of five weeks in Fall, 2013, in conjunction with the Institute for Arts and Humanities (IAH) series "Uncanny October."

Tuesdays, 4:00 p.m.–5:15 p.m., October 1 through October 29, 2013

Instructors: Dr. Jonathan Eburne (Comparative Literature and English) and Dr. Greg Eghigian (History)

During the month of October, 2013, the Penn State Institute for the Arts and Humanities will host a series of events on the theme of the uncanny, or the familiar made strange.  "Uncanny October" will feature performances, talks, roundtable discussions, films, and an art exhibition, covering themes that touch on the weird, mysterious, malicious, supernatural, dangerous, and just plain creepy. Taking seriously the intellectual possibilities for studying everything from ghosts to flying saucers to demons, this one-credit course will consider what makes something uncanny, how we try to make sense of it, and what our engagement with the uncanny might say about being human. Requirements include attendance at all events and lectures. No prerequisites.

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