First Year Seminar Courses 2012 - 2013
Fall 2012 Term First Year Seminars
For many of us, disasters are fortunately not things we experience first-hand. Instead, they are events we hear about, read about or see in mediated ways, be it in newspapers, movies or books, or on television or the internet. In this interdisciplinary course, which will combine the development of critical reading, writing and thinking skills with critical media literacy skills, we will explore the ways that disasters are mediated for us and the meanings that we make of these representations. We will look at the ways that natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis, and so-called human-made disasters, such as large-scale nuclear accidents or smaller-scale accidents of planes, trains and automobiles, are made sense of in a variety of media and critically reflect on the effects they have for notions of personal and collective risk and security, and for what has come to be known as "panic culture", "disaster culture" or "security culture."
Dr. Penelope Ironstone
AF101D: Panic Now! Cultural Imaginings of the Disaster
This course examines the fantasy fiction of contemporary Canadian writers, and focuses on how fantastic secondary worlds probe issues of time, gender, race, belief, and knowledge as well as mind/body, myth/reality, individual/collective relationships. Narratives and short fiction will be studied in their cultural contexts, and the course will explore why Canadian writers choose to write fantasy or speculative fiction rather than realistic novels or other literary forms.
The course will be organized with an introductory portion where major issues, conventions of fantasy, historical development of fantasy, methods of analysis and critical thinking in the context of Canadian fantasy fiction are discussed (Karina Summer-Smith). The rest of the course examines fantasy in the Tolkien Tradition (High Fantasy) (Kay), Historical Fantasy (Kay), The Subversive Tradition (Erikson), and Philosophical Fantasy (Bakker).
Dr. James Weldon
AF101P: Canadian Fantasy Fiction
Walking, for most of us, is an everyday practice and part of our taken-for-granted world. This simple activity is worth scrutiny and reflection. In this seminar we will examine walking from multidisciplinary perspectives, in various places, and at various times in history. We will consider walking both as a topic to be researched and as a method of enquiry. As a research topic, we will investigate: the representation of pedestrian activity in various cultural forms; the role of walking as a contemplative and expressive practice; walking as a means of engaging with and reading the city; and how walking reflects the democratic possibilities of urban public space. We will consider the relevance of walking to policy concerns including healthy living and sustainable transportation. We will also learn how walking is a method of enquiry and will undertake research based on walking experiences. Various tools and techniques will be introduced that enable the researcher to capture, analyze and represent their findings from walking.
Dr. Bob Sharpe
AF101E: Walking: Paths to Discovery
With rapid urbanization, economic crises, and recent transitions to democracy, how are individuals and groups who inhabit cities across the globe claiming their rights? What new kinds of claims and identities are possible? In many parts of the world democracy and rapid urbanization have brought about new conflicts. Often democracy – “a force in its own right” – entangles with other forces such as urbanization and privatization and brings with it new forms of violence, inequality and injustice in cities (Holston 2008:13). Responding to this context, this course examines how the built environment and people’s use of it is related to democracy and processes of identity formation. How does the urban environment produce new areas of equality and also new hierarchies and exclusions? How are groups negotiating their belonging and rights in spaces of the city? How is urban poverty affecting citizenship? The course will explore the interplay of urban planning, global influences, and structural changes on people’s lives in cities. The course covers various themes including the relationship between cities and nationalism, the politics of urban planning, and the rise of new “insurgent citizenships” – groups demanding their right to urban space.
Dr. Sheri Gibbings
AF101T: Cities and Citizenship
The triumphant rise of the scientific world view since the seventeenth century has challenged longstanding ideas about what makes us special. In this course we explore how those challenges have played out – how they have been resisted or embraced – in philosophy, literature and natural history. We will focus our efforts on three ideas about what makes us special: (i) The belief that our minds make us importantly distinct from the rest of nature; (ii) The idea that morality allows us to transcend a nature that is “red in tooth and claw”; and (iii) The belief that we exercise free-will in a world tightly governed by natural laws. What strategies have been employed to preserve our special status? What are the consequences of denying ourselves a position outside nature and embracing a more ‘naturalistic’ view of persons? In addressing such questions students will formulate and clarify their own thoughts about our place in nature.
Dr. Rockney Jacobsen
AF101S: Out of Nature: Minds, Morals, and Freedom
AF101X: Understanding Power and Conflict through Film: Making Sense of the Politics of the 21st Century
Every day, Canadian citizens are bombarded by media reports documenting a variety of conflicts and power struggles between different individuals, groups, organizations, and governments from across the world. These struggles take a variety of forms, including violent and non-violent clashes over resources, lands, lifestyles, and rights and freedoms, among other things. This course provides students with the analytical tools to make sense of the political world in which they are embedded. To accomplish this goal, students will read selected academic literature, follow current events, and watch six full-length feature films on the following topics: anarchy and the state of nature; rational choice and game theory; structure and agency; institutions; class; colonialism and Indigenous peoples; and market versus non-market solutions to contemporary policy problems. Particular emphasis will be placed on helping students develop critical thinking and writing skills and to apply course related ideas and concepts to the political events that surround them.
Dr. Christopher Alcantara
AF101X: Understanding Power and Conflict through Film: Making Sense of the Politics of the 21st Century
This course introduces students to a new and exciting research area: Medievalism, that is, the study of how generations after the Middle Ages have perceived this mysterious period in history. For many, the Medieval era seems vast and distant. Many people tend to harbour romantic and myth-like ideas about it. Through comparing ideas and experiences from the Middle Ages, such as heroism, kingship, mysticism, and myth, with depictions of related ideas and experiences in films such as The Thirteenth Warrior, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and The Passion of Joan of Arc, this course will ideally broaden a student’s thinking about the Middle Ages and about the role of popular culture in formulating one’s assumptions concerning earlier eras.
Dr. Robin Waugh
AF101N: The Middle Ages on Film
This course will explore the portrayal of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender identities (LGBT) beyond what we commonly see in North American popular culture. With the critical acclaim of sitcoms such as Modern Family and Will and Grace, talk-shows like Ellen and The Rosie O’Donell Show, and reality shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, one might assume that LGBT presence has become common in contemporary mainstream media. Yet do these representations fully encapsulate the experiences of sexual minorities locally and around the world? By studying the experiences of sexual minorities on a more nuanced and global scale, we will begin to understand how other factors such as nationality, ethnicity, class, race, gender, disability, and colonization also affect the lived experiences of LGBT persons. Because this course is interdisciplinary in nature, we will study novels, plays, films, legal documents, photographs, and other forms of media. In our attempt to identify different LGBT histories, we will also reflect upon the politics of representation, and examine how the experiences of some queer individuals are narrated more than others.
Dr. Robert Diaz
AF101K: Global Sexualities Beyond "The Mainstream"
This course provides an opportunity to examine a broad range of themes concerning governance and the American political experience through the prism of this year's election. Among the topics to be considered include various domestic and foreign policy issues, the impact of interest groups, media coverage including social media, the role of public opinion polls, campaign financing, the impact of third parties, various demographic groups including women, young people and visible minorities, regional trends and various state contests. The review of these topics can be considered in comparison to the analogous Canadian experience.
Dr. Barry Kay
AF101Z: The 2012 American Election
Winter 2013 Term First Year Seminars
Dr. Eleanor Ty
AF101Q: Growing Up Canadian Narratives
This course looks at different experiences of growing up in 20th century multicultural Canada through a study of novels, films, graphic novels, and short stories. The Bildungsroman or coming-of-age narrative usually depicts the psychological and moral struggles of the main character, and reveals the value systems and beliefs of the society. Issues to be discussed include: violence, ethnic and cultural heritage, gender, sexuality, and race. Students will have a chance to present their own stories of development, be introduced to basic literary terms, and have a chance to develop their oral and written communication skills through short assignments.
In an increasingly global world, mobility and borders are two important, yet controversial, areas
that reflect ideas about who we think we are and how we understand our place in our
communities, country and the larger world around us. Today, more people are on the move for
reasons of travel, study, tourism, family, or work, or forced to move as a result of war, famine,
poverty and environmental and development-induced displacement. Yet, since the September
11, 2001 terrorist attacks and “war on terror”, industrialized countries have increasingly
responded by implementing more restrictive border and migration controls that often depend on
surveillance technologies such as biometrics that regulate mobile bodies and redefine borders in
new ways. This course investigates these trends through the theme of “crossing borders in a
globalizing world.” In this interdisciplinary seminar we will discuss issues having to do with
border security and surveillance; mobility and migration; refugees, citizenship and belonging;
and issues of transnationalism and diaspora. Students will probe questions and produce writing
related to “crossing borders” using both conventional forms of writing (the research essay) and
more unconventional forms (border stories and blog or journal entries). Through regular writing
exercises and feedback, students will develop core skills such as how to formulate a research
question, conduct a literature search, develop an argument, and deepen critical analysis.
Dr. Kim Rygiel
AF101F: Borders, Bodies and Avatars: Crossing Borders in a Globalizing World
In this seminar we shall examine perhaps the most important and difficult controversy in international relations since the Second World War – the conflict between Jews and Palestinians over land to which they both lay claim. We shall consider this conflict through the lens of the war of 1948 that led to the establishment of the State of Israel and the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian people from their homes. Today, more than sixty years later, the repercussions of 1948 remain unresolved despite countless efforts to negotiate and implement solutions. To understand these failures and the contemporary challenges facing both Israelis and Palestinians it is essential that we discuss not only the history of the conflict but also how it has been represented in both scholarly and popular accounts.
This seminar provides students with an intense small-class experience that will help to prepare them for the many challenges they will face in their years of study at university. You can expect to write a number of short essays over the course of the term. In turn the instructor will provide regular, detailed feedback designed to assist you in refining your skills. In class, we will examine and discuss essays that you write so that you can learn from each other’s mistakes. At any time you can meet individually with the instructor to discuss your progress and ways in which you can improve your performance.
Dr. Gavin Brockett
AF101B: A War to End All Peace
History is not just what happened ‘before today’, and history does not ‘just happen’ on national and world stages. Individuals, groups, communities, participate in, contribute to, and “make” history. History is in your family, on your street, in your neighbourhood, in your home town, in your school, in the music you listen to and the books you read, the films you watch and the social media you use daily. In short, it is in everything that makes up your life, private and public, and the lives of us all. And history is just as much in the ways, private and public, that we remember and commemorate and study all these.
Public history, consequently, is very much the “history of us”, as we experience it and as we interpret it personally and publicly: in websites [yes, even Wikipedia], in Hollywood blockbusters and documentary film, in television miniseries and on The History Channel, in graphic novels and in historical fiction and theatre. It is in community and national museums, on heritage plaques designating buildings, bridges, streets and parks, and in “family tree” genealogies. Public history is also the name given to the study of all these.
Dr. Cynthia Comacchio
AF101R: The History of Us: The Public Life of History and Memory
The presence of the United States on its borders has long influenced and shaped life in Canada and “Uncle Sam” has always occupied a prominent place in the Canadian consciousness. Indeed, throughout their history, Canadians have vigorously debated the relative merits – and even the possibility – of closer or more distant relations between the two countries. Although the need to define, never mind achieve, some kind of balance between national independence and continental integration can be seen across a wide range of vital cultural, economic, environmental, political and security issues, public discussions often remain confused and obscured. As a result, important empirical questions concerning the mechanics, extent and implications of Canada-US relations remain difficult to answer, as are more normatively driven questions surrounding benefits and costs. In an effort to move past such uncertainty, students in this course will explore the nature of relations between the two countries and map out forces that are pushing towards or preventing greater integration in a North American context. The course begins by reviewing key historical benchmarks in Canada-US relations while providing theoretical tools to structure the analysis of cross-border relations. This serves to underline the importance of both history and theory in thinking about the world in which we live. The course then turns to address such thorny contemporary debates as: Is Canadian culture “too American”? Is Canada too dependent on trade with the United States? Should Canada export water to the United States? Do Canadian immigration and refugee policies threaten American security? How integrated should Canadian and American militaries be? Could stronger relations with Mexico offset US continental dominance? Should the three countries follow the European Union in developing political institutions at the supra-national level? The course ends with a consideration of possible future continental scenarios. In the process, students will gain an appreciation of the complexity and diversity of cross-border relations in North America, and will develop their own ideas as to the extent to which and the areas over which integration might or should be occurring.
Dr. Christopher Anderson
AF101Y: Rebordering North America - The Possible Futures of Canada-US Relations
What we eat and why we eat it has enormous personal and cultural significance. These questions define not only religious and immigrant communities, but all cultures around the world. Much has been written recently about the problems with food production globally—e.g., M. Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006), J. S. Foer’s Eating Animals (2009), V. Shiva’s Manifestos on the Future of Food and Seeds (2007)—with encouragement to support local and organic food production, and in some cases to move to a vegetarian diet. Waterloo Region has been a leader on the Canadian scene in promoting local and sustainable food, linking farmers, politicians and consumers.
This course examines the arguments and debates concerning local, organic, and vegetarian diets. It will introduce students to the main thinkers currently engaged on these topics, and to some of the historical background. It will encourage deep personal reflection (So why do you eat what you eat?), create conversations with key representatives in the Region (farmers and “foodies,” in local markets and on farms) and with Canadian academics who study these questions (e.g., members of the Canadian Association of Food Studies), and allow students to understand where the food comes from that they eat here at Laurier and have eaten all their lives.
Dr. Michel Desjardins
AF101W: Eating Local, Eating Organic, Eating Vegetarian
Has celebrity replaced religion? This course explores the connections between celebrity culture and religious experiences in the modern world. Drawing on examples from a variety of cross-cultural contexts, the course examines the development of celebrity cultures including the star making process, the emergence of secular saints and icons and the cultures of fandom. Relatedly, globalization and celebrity are also explored.
On June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson (1958) died under circumstances that are currently still being debated and discussed in legal and popular discourse. Arguably one of the 20th century’s most famous people since childhood, Jackson’s life (and death) brought to the forefront issues concerning wealth, power, prestige and the making of celebrity. Observations of the outpouring of grief, admiration and adulation for Jackson following his death could be seen as “religious” in their devotional fervour. Similar has been observed of other celebrities such as Princess Diana (1961-1997), Elvis Presley (1935-1977) and Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) all of whom decades after their deaths continue to live on in celluloid and now digital imagery. The celebrity of Presley, Monroe and Jackson fueled by notions of magical qualities, real or imagined, seem at first glance qualitatively different from the first-name basis of stars created seemingly overnight by reality shows such as American Idol, the X-Factor and America’s Got Talent or the “celebutante” status of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Fashion designers such as Chanel (1883-1971), once associated with the super-wealthy who were able to afford the prices of couture clothing, are now more famous than their creations living on, in the case of Chanel, beyond their biological lifetimes and accessible through the marketing of everything from perfumes to scarves.
Dr. Carol Duncan
AF101V: Fame, Fortune and Fashion: Religion and Celebrity
The course aims to familiarize humanities and social science students with the institutional operations of medicine, and the management of human subjects through the use of the clinical power.
Core concepts to be introduced include: biopower and necropolitics, medical classification of the normal and the monstrous, medicalisation of everyday life, and medical responsibilization of individuals.
Course units follow the life-course, starting with birth and ending with death.
Dr. Morgan Holmes
AF101M: Medicine and You
We are witnessing an era of protest where social and political change is being demanded and driven from the grassroots. Through popular revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa and Occupy Movements in the U.S, Canada and Europe people have taken to the streets to demand social, economic and political justice. These popular movements are galvanized by a desire for a more just society for the masses and not just the privileged few. The growing demands for equity, inclusion and social justice are speaking powerfully against corporate greed, oppressive regimes, racism, sexism, classism and war and imperialism. Local concerns are increasingly tied to transnational challenges and must be understood in this broader context. From this vantage point, this course will provide an interdisciplinary examination of various forms of social inequality and oppression based on race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, ability and religion that structure people’s daily lives and social institutions. Situated within relations of power and privilege these overlapping forms of social difference create a nexus of interlocking systems of oppression that mutually reinforce and sustain each other. Using an anti-oppression framework we will unpack the social, economic, cultural and political factors that create and maintain inequality by critically examining specific local and transnational case studies. The ideological and systemic forms of oppression embedded within government policies and law, social services, media, and educational sites, including university campuses as well as representational politics in media and other forms of cultural production will be identified with a view to proposing strategies for dismantling them. Contemporary grassroots protest movements for social justice will be examined along with other creative modalities for dissent such as spoken word poetry, comedy, music and popular theatre that represent sites of resistance and transformation. Students will have an opportunity to engage in a Community Service Learning project in partnership with the WLU Diversity & Equity Office that will allow them to make local interventions in social justice work and help connect theory to practice.
Dr. Jasmine Zine
AF101L: Equity, Diversity and Social Justice: Problems and Possibilities
This seminar course considers changing representations of land and nature, especially plants and animals, in the transatlantic world, from Aesop’s Fables and the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales to the modern environmental movement. Selected primary sources form the core weekly readings, with focused weekly research exercises to situate these readings and their authors in their respective historical contexts. Themes include traditional emblematic interpretations; the European encounter with America; the impact of modernity and modernization; rational and Romantic ways of viewing nature; scientific ways of knowing nature; and the rise of ecology and modern environmentalism.
Dr. Suzanne Zeller
AF101A, Section B: Birds and Bees, Rocks and Trees: Land and Nature in the Transatlantic World