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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
May 29, 2015
Canadian Excellence

2013-2014 First Year Seminars (AF101)

First Year Seminars provide an intensive and collaborative, small-group learning experience in which students develop core academic skills in research, critical thinking, writing and communication.  Topics or themes vary among seminars and instructors, but all seminars promote the acquisition of skills necessary for academic work in the humanities and social sciences.  Available only to first-year students in the Faculty of Arts.

*Note: First year Arts students are only able to enrol in one (0.50 credit) First Year Seminar course during their first year of study.

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AF101A: Beliefs, Burials & Bones: An Introduction to Bioarchaeology  (Fall 2013)


Perceptions of death, funerary practices, the physical reality of death and the human body form a nexus that is at the heart of bioarchaeological research. In this course a holistic anthropological approach will be adopted where cultural, biological and archaeological data derived from cemeteries are explored to reconstruct and better understand past human life ways. Students will develop an understanding of the relationship between mortuary data and past societies through an exploration of attitudes towards death and the afterlife in different cultures and the rituals associated with these beliefs. This course will also include a survey of major theoretical and methodological approaches to mortuary evidence while working towards building analytical skills used to investigate mortuary remains. Students are introduced to the research process through practical assignments and different forms of effective communication including the critical response, anthropological and technical/scientific writing, and oral presentation.AF101A:  Beliefs, Burials & Bones: An Introduction to Bioarchaeology.

Instructor: Dr. Bonnie Glencross

AF101B: Canadian Refugee Policies in the 21st Century: Evolving Traditions (Fall 2013)


Canada has long been a country of asylum for refugees, from the Loyalists and escaped slaves seeking sanctuary from the American government during the 18th century to the thousands who continue to arrive from around the world today. At the same time, the arrival of asylum seekers has often been a highly contentious political issue, and Canada has frequently closed its borders to those in need, such as Armenians and Jews in the first half of the twentieth century. The heightened attention paid to controlling borders since 9/11 and the recent arrival of asylum seekers by boat have intensified this debate, and Canadian laws and policies have been significantly altered in response during the past decade. This Seminar will provide students with opportunities to explore the nature of Canada’s evolving traditions of asylum at the outset of the 21st century through comparative and historical lenses, exploring both societal and state responses. In doing so, students will grapple with debates over the meaning of being a refugee, the responsibilities of states towards those claiming protection from persecution, and how the reactions of both societal and state actors have informed, and continue to inform, Canadian national identity.

Instructor: Dr. Chris Anderson

AF101C: Same-Sex Marriage Debates  (Fall 2013)


Many people consider marriage to be not only a deeply but also a solely personal relation.  Marriage, however, as a social and legal institution, has political implications.  In this course we will examine secular debates, mostly, although not exclusively, as they are occurring in the United States, about the legalization of same-sex marriage.  Our examination of these debates will serve as a forum for clarifying, discussing, and analyzing the politics involved in defining marriage more generally. 

Instructor: Dr. Rebekah Johnston

AF101D: Religious Diversity in Canada  (Fall 2013)

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This course introduces students to the enormous religious diversity in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, particularly non-Christian religious traditions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism).   Through historical and recent patterns of immigration, religion continues to have a significant impact on the Canadian religious landscape, public policy, civic institutions (schools, hospitals, workplaces) as well as on people’s attitudes and understandings.  Major topics covered in the course include issues of diversity (within religious traditions, among members, and between groups); the role of religion in supporting/shaping questions of ethnic, cultural or national identity (individual, family, or group) and sense of belonging; intra and inter-religious relations (such as co-religious participation or inter-faith forums); the changing nature of religious tradition (including adaptations, innovations or secularizing processes); the dynamics of cultural and political contact, both historically and within modern contexts of multiculturalism; the relevance of food - symbolically and practical; and faith-based social activism.  Where possible, visits will be made to different local religious sites (temples, mosques, gurdwaras, churches).  The course is structured in two sections, the first providing general themes and patterns among immigrants and refugees in re-creating and redefining religious beliefs, patterns, organizations, and identities as well as commonly shared challenges within this process; and the second section is an analysis and application of the themes, patterns, and challenges to different religious traditions and communities.

Instructor: Dr. Janet McLellan

AF101E: Imaginative Writing  (Fall 2013)


In this course we will explore the power of language to communicate informed opinion and felt experience.  We will read and analyze short works of creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, drama, and the graphic novel in search of inspiration and a growing awareness of the relationship between form and content and between technique and feeling in the individual process of writing.  We will practice the skills of revision, discernment, analysis, and reflection through weekly creative writing, self-reflection, and peer evaluation.  We will learn how skilled writers use free-writing for exploration, revision for clarification, and analysis and reflection for creative growth.  Each student will develop an individual capstone writing project in one of the genres, a project that will include multiple drafts, a self-reflective journal, and literary analysis of the submitted version.

Instructor: Dr. Tanis MacDonald


AF101F: Kids Today: Changing Childhoods  (Fall 2013)


The social and historical constructions of childhood and children's needs are examined in this course. The coursewill explore children's lives in two main contexts: families and schools.  It will investigate changes in child rearing, with particular attention to how advice to parents has changed over time. It will also examine children's leisure time, risk, children's autonomy and how parenting varies by race, class and gender.  The course will also explore howschooling influences children's lives, with a specific focus on physical education in schools, and the degree to which children's educational outcomes vary based on social class.

Instructor: Dr. Linda Quirke

AF101H:  Magic & Witchcraft  (Fall 2013)


This course examines one of the most fascinating and disturbing developments in European history: the Great Witch Hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. During this period, tens of thousands of people across Europe-eighty percent of them women-were denounced as witches, tried for the crime of witchcraft by judicial courts, tortured, and executed. We will seek to answer such questions as: what was witchcraft; who was accused of being a witch; why did European authorities believe that witchcraft was such a dire threat to society; how were witch hunts conducted; and why did the witch hunts come to an end?

Instructor: Dr. Darryl Dee

AF101K: Global Sexualities Beyond the Mainstream  (Fall 2013)

Check back with us later... info still to come...

AF101S: Pathways to Sustainability  (Fall 2013)


In this seminar we will explore, on foot, some of the distinctive natural and built environments of the Waterloo region.  We will learn how walking can be a powerful method of discovery, enquiry, reflection and inspiration.  Various tools and techniques will be introduced to capture, analyze and represent the field experiences of our walks. We will also consider walking itself as a research topic by reading and writing about its relevance to public policy concerns including healthy living, environmental education and sustainable transportation. 

Instructor: Dr. Bob Sharpe

NOTE: This course is linked to an RLC (Residential Learning Community), and may not be accessible via LORIS.  Please click here for more information on how to apply for a Residential Learning Community.


AF101G: Animals & Society  (Winter 2014)


Have you ever thought about why we dress up some animals in funny costumes and eat others? When did societies begin to legislate against cruelty to animals, and why? Did you know that the Nazis – who murdered millions of people in World War Two – had a special interest in protecting animals? In this course we will examine the various ways that humans have interacted with and thought about animals over different historical periods. We’ll look at the emergence of petkeeping; the history of zoos; animals as sources of food; animal diseases and their effect on human health; the use of animals in scientific research; animals as labour; animals in wartime; and animal celebrities.

Instructor: Dr. Eva Plach

AF101I: Decisions & Games, Conflict & Cooperation: (Winter 2014)


Is it really worth my time to vote? Should I let that driver merge in front of me now, when the sign back there clearly said “lane closed ahead”? Will my Oxfam donation really save a life, or simply be a lost drop in a sea of human misery? What if my children and I were suddenly engulfed in a raging torrent: should I let go of one, if it meant I was more likely to save the other? People face choices like these every day – some mundane, others tragic – and they turn on difficult, emotional, and morally charged calculations. They are also (some of them) problems where conflict could be resolved into mutually beneficial cooperation. This seminar is about these kinds of problems, and some of the simple mathematical and experimental tools that can help us understand and – sometimes, hopefully – solve them.

Instructor: D. Loren King

AF101J: Finding Jack the Ripper  (Winter 2014)


Jack the Ripper is probably the most famous serial killer in history. The crimes committed in 1888 were never solved, there were few clues, and no one was ever charged with the crimes. Even the name Jack the Ripper came from a letter sent to the Central News Agency  that was widely dismissed as a hoax. The graphic murder of part-time prostitutes in the East End of London terrified residents for years to come, and it continues to haunt our popular imagination. The killings in Whitechapel, while horrific, were neither the most graphic, numerous, or unusual the world had ever seen--so why does this mystery continue to resonate? In this course we will see why the very lack of real information allows this case to stand in for a society's deepest fears and anxieties. Because of enormous popular interest in this event, students will have the opportunity to examine a range of materials from the case including letters, police reports, and newspaper articles. The course will study the history of Jack the Ripper in Victorian London, and we will also examine popular representations including film, criminal copycats, and even video games.

Instructor: Dr. Amy Milne-Smith

NOTE: This course is linked to an RLC (Residential Learning Community), and may not be accessible via LORIS.  Please click here for more information on how to apply for a Residential Learning Community.

AF101L: Equity, Diversity and Justice: Problems, Protest and Possibilities  (Winter 2014)


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.This course will provide an interdisciplinary examination into various forms of social inequality and oppression and will explore the politics of resistance through popular protest and social movements as well as activism through the arts including spoken word poetry and theatre of the oppressed.  Students will have an opportunity to engage in a Community Solidarity 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.

Instructor: Dr. Jasmin Zine

AF101N: Human-Animal Communication (Winter 2014)


This seminar examines nonverbal communication between human and non-human animals. How are the boundaries between human and non-human animals constituted through nonverbal interactions? How do visual representations of human-animal nonverbal interactions influence our understanding of culture and of communication? Topics include, but are not limited to, the role of facial expressions, eye behaviour, gesture, touch, scent, and territoriality in human nonverbal interactions with companion animals, service and therapy animals, laboratory and zoo animals, animals in entertainment and sports, animals farmed for food, and anthropomorphized animal characters in children's storybooks, films, advertisements, and graphic novels.

Instructor: Dr. Judith Nicholson

AF101P: Mic Check! Media, Movements & Messages  (Winter 2014)


This course examines forms of public communication by newsmedia and social movements, including the representation of social movements via corporate and state news media, and via social movements themselves. Since this course emphasizes both the processes of producing messages from within dominant organizations (e.g. corporate and state media) and by social movements (e.g. alternative media), you will learn how to both produce messages as if you were a journalist and an advocate. The differences between the two approaches to producing messages will help inform your own understanding of the ways in which dominant media forms promote particular representations of social movements and issues, while also providing insight into the processes by which social movement advocates produce messages. This course is designed to help you develop your critical, analytical skills in analyzing social movement and news messages, and your writing and conceptual skills in writing messages for different media forms (e.g. leaflets; news stories; opinion columns).

Instructor: Dr. Herbert Pimlott

AF101Q: Growing Up Canadian Narratives  (Winter 2014)


How do you turn an ordinary story about growing up into a lively and moving narrative? In this course, we will look at different ways of telling everyday tales and experiences of living in Canada by film and video makers; short fiction, graphic and novel writers from a variety of locales (urban and rural). We will discuss the impact that Canadian multicultural policy, immigration, the media and cultural stereotypes, poverty and violence have on children and young adults. Students will be introduced to basic theories of representation and identity, will have a chance to present their own stories of development and work on their oral and written communication skills through short assignments.

Instructor: Dr. Eleanor Ty

AF101R: History Detectives: Evidence and the Making of the Past  (Winter 2014)


Who killed JFK? How should we assess the British Empire? Was Lizzie Borden guilty of a horrific double murder? History Detectives examines several historical controversies and the debates surrounding them. These case studies continue to be argued over today and involve a variety of historical approaches. By reconstructing these histories using collections of sources, students are challenged to arrive at their own conclusions about ?what actually happened? and debate their findings in the seminar. By doing so, we will address the central problem in historical study, determining the truth about the past, while becoming more effective and critical users of information in the present.

Instructor: Dr. David Smith

AF101X: Making Sense of the Politics of the 21st Century  (Winter 2014)


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.

Instructor: Dr. Christopher Alcantara