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Wilfrid Laurier University Laurier Brantford
April 24, 2014
Canadian Excellence

Special Topic Seminars

Special Topic Seminars

Our faculty have created unique course offerings with a real basis in the here and now, our contemporary world. If you are going into your fourth year we hope you will consider taking some of these special courses.

CT412D: Occupy the 21st Century: Global Crisis and Resistance

This course analyzes the current period of political and economic crisis by helping students make sense of how their own lives connect up with broad social trends. The course analyzes competing interpretations of, and responses to the global slump that started with the economic crash of 2008. It guides students' inquiry into how their lives are shaped by and have the potential to shape struggles between, on one hand, the "austerity agenda" promoted by business elites and governments, and on the other, popular resistance movements to the political and economic systems under which the crisis erupted (ex. the Occupy movement, the Arab Spring, the Chilean student movement, anti-austerity protests in Greece, trade union protests in Wisconsin and the UK, etc.). Throughout the course, global trends are interpreted against the backdrop of pressing issues facing Laurier Brantford students; for example, the restructuring of post-secondary education; the challenge of finding meaningful, stable work after graduation; the pressure to be savvy consumers and users of new technologies; and the social tensions inherent in a changing demographic environment. By examining local and global features of the current crisis, the course will develop students' capacities to analyze and argue about the core political and economic institutions that organize life in the twenty-first century, sharpen students' understanding of competing theories of society, and build students' confidence and skills to act upon the world to make positive change. Key concepts to be explored over the term include: crisis, the welfare state, neo-liberalism & austerity, the information age, hegemony, social movements, and anti-capitalism.

CT412E: Digital Play, Digital Labour

In this era of pervasive digital media, the line between what constitutes ‘play’ and ‘labour’ has become increasingly difficult if not impossible to delineate. Where users might perceive social media platforms as ‘free’ sites of play where they can express themselves, post status updates and connect to family, friends, colleagues and co-workers, the reality is that their lives are being put to work. Central to the business model that underpins corporate social media are the ways that user content and data are taken up in commodification regimes that at once position the user as the ‘product’ of the platform and at the same time, as the ‘subject’ of intense forms of surveillance. This seminar examines how the boundary between work and play has vanished in the digital economy, and at the same time, challenges students to think through how these exploitative arrangements might be transformed into empowering ones.__

CT411F: The Conservative Christian Subculture

While many religious communities in North America are suffering declining membership, one faith group, evangelical Christians, is growing in both size and in influence. This course examines what it is that evangelicals believe, why they believe what they do, and how their beliefs affect the way they live and engage society. The culture of evangelicals, as it manifests itself in their religious experiences and their own literature, art, music and movies will be explored. Among other issues, lectures will consider evangelicals in relation to: politics, homosexuality and gay marriage, abortion, the historical Jesus, miracles, demonology, missionary and charity work, mega churches, televangelists, and the anti-Christ.

Exclusions: CT400L "The Conservative Christian Subculture"

CT412F: Political and Economic Struggles in Contemporary Capitalism

This course will apply theoretical tools of political economy to examine contemporary economic and political struggles.  We will pay specific attention to the concept of "class" and it role its understanding the relationship between democracy and capitalism.  We will employ this analysis to explore present day clashes over economic and political issues such as austerity policies instituted in the wake of global economic crises, economic and social inequality, environmental sustainability, anti-capitalist protest movements and youth unemployment/underemployment. Students will be encouraged to analyze connections between these broad social trends and events in their own lives.

CT413C: Contemporary Social Problems

This course examines different approaches to the study of social problems and social trends in contemporary Canadian society. Social problems have both social causes and social consequences. Poverty, crime, racial discrimination, domestic violence, ageism, sexual orientation, addictions and gender are all serious socially constructed problems with extreme consequences. Students will apply sociological concepts and perspectives to analyze specific social problems and recommend social actions individuals, organizations and governments should take to reduce harm and risk among the affected. Students should be aware of the complexity of social problems in Canada and around the world.

CT410A: Sleep in the Contemporary World

This course defines and debates the consequences that social structures and relations have for human sleep.  Sleep is further discussed as an influence on social and cultural development, maintenance and change.  The interactions between sleep, culture and society are debated within selected topic areas such as the definitions of sleep; global variations; medicalization and health; student life and academic performance; sleep time, space and place; sleep and gender; occupational and professional safety; and social justice.

CT411B: Stuttering: Cultural, Literary, and Critical Perspectives

The goal for this course is two-fold: on one hand, it strives to introduce students to contemporary discussions of stuttering and similar forms of speech disfluencies in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. On the other hand, students will evaluate the topic of stuttering through the lens of cultural studies, literary analysis, and critical theory. A mysterious neurological condition that affects approximately one percent of the world's population, stuttering continues to confound scientists and speech therapists. While our course will discuss current issues relating to the etiology, symptomatology, and epidemiology of stuttering, our primary focus will be on the ways in which hesitant or blocked speech has fascinated literary and cultural critics as a polymorphous metaphor for aesthetic and phenomenological experiences of modernity and postmodernity, the materiality of embodied speech acts and performativity, the complexities of temporality and rhythm in industrial society, and the fragmentation of subjective experiences and affective identification. Readings will include autobiographies and blogs related to the experience of stuttering, biographies of famous stutterers, well known case studies of stutterers and research in speech disfluency, novels, poetry, literary criticism, and cultural and critical theory. Students may have the opportunity to apply their readings and discussions of stuttering to their engagement with the Brantford community.

CT413D: Issues in Development

This course is designed to help students understand the purpose, priorities, and possibilities of development while also situating these in the complex realities of modern globalized society. Topics may include the legacy of colonialism, approaches to development, rights and recognition, structural violence, ethical and social justice concerns, religion, peace and conflict, health, education, environment, women and gender. This is a seminar course therefore students will take a central leadership role in what happens during our scheduled meetings. Full attendance and participation are required to succeed in this course.

CT412G: Socrates, Ancient and Modern

Socrates mentored impressionable young Athenians, harassed authority figures, exposed himself to public ridicule, and accepted capital punishment on charges of dubious substance. Without holding an important office or writing a word he became one of the most influential figures in Western history. Part of his appeal derives from his strangeness, which is evident in his unusual personality and the very unconventional way in which he lived his life.

In Plato's dialogues Socrates is describes himself as a philosopher, a mid-wife of ideas, an expert in the art of erotic love, an utter ignoramus, as well as a gadfly. In this class we shall focus on the significance of the final self-description, but it is worth bearing the others in mind. What does it mean to be a gadfly critic? We begin with an examination of Socrates as a model critic in Plato's dialogues, then turn to consider how a gadfly might function in the modern world. To this end we shall read several essays by George Orwell and a book by Neil Postman.

CT410B: A Richer Dust Concealed: History, Memory, and the City of Brantford

This course will explore images of Brantford's past, through written history, public commemoration and artifacts from the past. Special emphasis will be placed on iconic figures such as Joseph Brant, Pauline Johnson and Alexander Graham Bell as well as pivotal events such as the invention of the telephone, the rise of industry and the outbreak of the Great War of 1914-18 in an effort to better understand how history and memory are interconnected.

CT413A: Canada and the Global south

This course critically examines the relationship between Canada and
the Global South. Topics covered shall include various dimensions of corporate
and governmental roles in the South, including the impact of Canadian corporate
investment, foreign investment and security policies, and community mobilization and resistance to Canada's presence.

CT413E: Adoption: Past & Present

This course will analyze the origins and evolution of adoption in Canada, and the experiences of domestic and international adoption on children and families. The course will play close attention to how understandings of race, class, gender, and culture affect adoption practices and perceptions of adoptees.

CT411G: The Green Public Sphere

This course is divided into two sections with each one looking at social-environmental connections that guide and create the Green Public Sphere. Section one introduces students to the inherently political nature of environmentalism by outlining the main ecological ideologies of western environmentalism and exploring the general questions and desires that have guided and shaped the environmental movement over the past few decades. Following this section the class shifts to a focus on the relationship between environmentalism, globalization and other social justice movements. Throughout this section we will explore questions around how, why, if the environmental
movement should be partnered with other justice based movements; we will look at what the consequences of an "ecology first" position might be; and we will look at how environmentalists have tended to situate their arguments within broader alter or anti-globalization arguments.

CT412H: Bodies and Learning

This course is intended to provide students with an understanding of the ways in which urban environments influence human health and well-being. An emphasis will be placed on the importance of social relations and urban design on human health and well-being, and on the special needs of vulnerable urban populations. 

CT413B: The Garden

Gardens are manipulated and often idealized representations of nature. They are living expressions of culture, shaped by, and reflective of, contemporary attitudes and values. At the same time, gardens may be places where dominant cultural values are contested; they are often reflections of resistance to or escape from prevailing attitudes about how garden spaces should look, how they should be used, and who should use them. They can also be heritage sites where cultural and familial artefacts and practices are preserved. By studying the changing nature of gardens, their historical and contemporary forms and uses, and how they have been used to construct, support or challenge prevailing cultural values, it is possible to gain insights into the societies that created gardens.

This course will examine gardens using an interdisciplinary approach. It will look at the changing image of gardens in gardening texts to learn how gardens have changed through time and between cultures. These texts will also be examined to study how they were used to support or challenge the dominant cultural values of their times. This course will also discuss how gardens have been reflected in a variety of socio-political movements through time, including colonialism, the Nazi native plant movement, the wartime war and victory garden movements, the hippie and "back to the land" movements and the current local food movement. This course will also examine the role of science and technology in gardening, and the ecological role of gardens in the conservation of species in settled landscapes.

CT413I: Architecture and Power

Mainstream discussions of architecture tend to focus exclusively on aesthetics and celebrity, the ability of architect geniuses to produce beautiful works of art. This course takes a critical perspective on this mainstream approach, and seeks to uncover the secret underside of architecture: the relationship between built space on the one hand, and power, violence, and social inequality on the other. By examining 1) a series of key buildings and projects, 2) a series of theories that interpret these building and projects or inform their design, and 3) a series of practices of use and occupation that react to these buildings and projects, this course raises the following questions: In what ways do buildings and architectural projects affect the basic social relations of those who dwell within them? What kinds of architecture are produced by, and help to reproduce, inequality and domination? What kinds of architecture are produced by, and help to reproduce, equality and liberation? What practices are available for using or occupying architecture in a way that reinterprets or challenges the relations of power that it produces?

CT410C: The Production and Consumption of Historical Narratives

This course will examine how historical narratives and fictions are produced and the impact that their consumption has on our historical consciousness. Of particular concern will be the means in which various discursive forms are used in the contemporary world to construct historical narratives, such as novels, films, history textbooks, museum displays and national myths.

EN309Q: World Literatures in English

This course will examine literatures and films in English from around the world. We will examine works from Africa, Europe, New Zealand, and the U.S.

CT413F: Education, Culture, and Globalization

The existence of formalized education is the most globalized institution in the world. What does that mean for education? What are the global forces and messages shaping education? What is the place of culture within global education? This seminar will focus upon the problems and promises of education and culture in a new globalized world. Topic include: cultural messages in education, educational culture, global governmental organizations and education, equity and diversity, professionalization and credentialism, and other educational issues around the world.

CT412J Religion and Politics in Contemporary Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Thought

Over a generation ago, the leading intellectuals, philosophers and sociologists claimed that "God is Dead"; arguing that growing secularization around the world would eventually see religion's influence on society and politics almost disappear. With the events of the past two decades, opinions on the enduring influence of religion have led some of the same voices to change their minds. In this course, we will examine some of the ideas and writings of the most influential religious political thinkers in the West today from Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions. Topics may include: the religious justification or challenge to the state, the role of religion in political life, the challenge of religious law and practice, religiously-rooted conflict, radicalism and progressivism, human rights, etc.

HS405B: Theorizing the Body

What does it mean to have a body? What does it mean to be a body? This seminar course works to understand the body as a social, cultural and political object and subject. Departing from a physiological, or biomedical, explanation of the body, this course locates bodies as residing at the intersection between the "private" (individual, interior) and "public" (social, cultural, political and exterior). We will think about bodies as social performers, bodies as storytellers, bodies as canvases, bodies as objects of control, bodies as sites of pain and suffering and more. As such, course material will draw from a number of fields, including sociology, anthropology, geography, philosophy, theatre and performance studies, literature and fine art in order to critically explore dynamics of the body and embodiment. Beyond engaging with textual course material, students will also be asked to regularly take part in "body experiments" where the lived experience of the body and embodiment will be engaged and discussed.

CT411H: Affect, Aikido, and Embodied Learning

This course introduces students to the idea that embodied practice can be a medium through which the world can be thoughtfully, critically explored. The grounding of the course is in the study of affect theory. Affect theory is an interdisciplinary field that corrects the biases and oversights of what could be described as "social construcitivist" approaches in the Humanities. Our course will also concentrate on the Japanese martial art of aikido as our sustained working example of how the body is more than a passive site in the production of cultural meaning and individual knowledge. At times, our assigned readings examine aikido as an extended metaphor for CT-related skills; at other times, our readings will consider aikido as an opportunity to investigate culture at large. There will be a physical, aikido-based component to this course. However, aikido is by its nature non-competitive in its practice and non-violent in its philosophy. Students will not be judged on the quality of their physical ability, but on their attendance and participation.

CT412K: Protest and Revolution

Revolutions have shaped our world. From the French Revolution to the most recent Arab Spring, revolutions have brought dramatic transformations to societies around the world in the name of prosperity and justice. This course will explore the origins, agendas, and consequences of revolutions and their impact in our world today.

CT411I: Cinderella Stories: Fairy Tales and Contemporary Culture

This fourth-year seminar looks at the ways that motifs, images, and ideologies of fairy tales continue to circulate in print and screen texts for both children and adults in contemporary culture. Focusing specifically on Cinderella, who has appeared in a broad range of tales from around the world and as early as the ninth century, we will look at the evolution of this story from traditional folk texts to recent revisionist narratives, all of which add to the ever-growing library of Cinderella stories.

EN420U: Victorian Fiction and “New” Media

Whether in print, public spectacles, photography,telegraphy, phonography, or cinematography, Victorian media has become one of themost discussed topics in recent studies of nineteenth-century fiction. Thisseminar will introduce students to the fields of new media studies and mediaarchaeology through discussions of the ways in which Victorian novels and shortstories "remediate" contemporary advancements in print, visual, andcommunications media. Lectures and class discussions will focus on bothrepresentations of new media forms in fiction and recent developments inVictorian studies that employ various twenty-first century new media as criticaltools for understanding fiction's relation to the study of media history.