HNR 1100-01, 02, & 03: Humanistic Inquiry, Criminal Minds and Bodies: Narratives of Gender, Crime, and Deviance
There are two sayings that are familiar in any newsroom across the country 1) sex sells 2) if it bleeds, it leads.— Armstrong Williams
With this adage in mind, this course will explore the relationship between stories and truth as they relate to historic, literary, and media constructions of gender and the body with respect to deviancy and crime. Using critical methods from these fields, students will analyze historical texts, literature, film, journalism and other forms of contemporary media with the goal of understanding the ways gender frames our understanding and consumption of the documenting, reporting, and representation of deviancy, victimhood, and criminal behavior
HNR 1100-04, 05, & 06: Humanistic Inquiry, The Beautiful and the Good: Must Art Be Moral?
Is there a necessary relationship between beautiful things and moral goodness? We are told, for example, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but don’t we doubt whether a jerk has good taste? Similarly, can’t evil sometimes have a kind of deceptive beauty to it? On the other hand, must all beautiful works of art make us better people? The Good and the Beautiful have a long, tangled relationship in the history of Western art and letters, at times best friends, at others, skeptical acquaintances. Analyzing their on-again, off-again relationship will reveal at least as much about our own convictions about beauty and goodness as those who have thought, narrated, painted, and performed before us.
Our work together will entail a survey of the most penetrating insights into aesthetics and ethics in Western philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Heidegger), complemented by three case studies in artistic practice and reflection (Greek sculpture, Medieval Painting and Theatre, 19th-century Aestheticism) and framed by the unique socio-cultural concerns of these artists and thinkers. More, students will have regular opportunity to reflect critically on the often hidden assumptions and proclivities of contemporary American taste. Toggling between theory and practice, historical context and universal concerns, our course will enable students to build their own working theory of beauty and goodness, informed by the Western tradition but crafted for a contemporary audience.
HNR 1300-01: Quantitative Reasoning, The Art of Never Being Wrong
This course will equip students with the skills necessary to be educated consumers of the data-driven arguments that surround us daily. From public opinion data to fantasy sports statistics to consuming endless charts, tables, and graphs, we are constantly confronted with “big data”. All too often, the people who present this information to us are skilled data analysts tasked with persuading us to believe their “spin” on an issue. In this course, we will learn to approach these presentations with a critical eye. We will learn basic statistical methods that will help us to understand many of the most commonly used (and misused) tools of data analysis. We will also learn to approach others’ data with a careful eye and quantitative consciousness that will make us more informed citizens, less gullible purchasers, and more ethical producers.
HNR 1300-02 & 03: Quantitative Reasoning, Graph Theory and the Science of Networks
This course is a project-based introduction to the field of network science. Network science allows students to craft solutions to real-world problems arising in a variety of fields using the mathematical language of graph theory. Graph theory is the study of graphs formed by collections of vertices (or points) and edges between them. Graphs can be used to represent data in many realms, including biology, political science, travel, and social connections between people groups. In conjunction with an introduction to graph theory, students will learn methods for collecting network data, representing it in graphs and matrices, and analyzing network models.
HNR 3600-01: Scholar Seminar, Who Am I? Locating the Self Through the Whedonverse
Within the field of Exercise Science, understanding the behavior of patients and clients is of the utmost importance, and doing so requires learning to observe their behaviors carefully and with an eye toward detail. Such observations help practitioners understand the culture in which an individual was born, raised, and educated, as well as where he/she works, lives, and exists. Through a combination of observing and interpreting the individual’s behavior and culture, practitioners can help clients reflect on and even change the ways in which they think about themselves and present themselves to others. Borrowing an idea from sociologist Erving Goffman, we identify the masks they show us and in turn, the reasons why they choose to show those masks when they do. We then use this understanding of their presentation of self to help them to engage in successful behavior changes, teaching them, in essence, to understand and recognize their own personal identity.
In this course we will begin from this conception of self. We will work together to expand this conception, drawing on your individual experiences and your scholarly research. Who are you? What has your world imparted to you? How has it affected the person who sits in this room today? Your understanding of who you are is basic to your thought processes and fundamental to the world and the way you think about it. Therefore, in order for us to expand our conception of self, we will combine publications related to understanding the self with texts from popular culture, specifically the works of Joss Whedon and his “Whedonverse”. Such a combination enables us to examine the behaviors of others to whom we can relate, as the characters within the Whedonverse are undergoing many of the same life changes and experiences that you are right now.
HNR 3600-02: Scholar Seminar, (Neuro)Science Fiction
Have you ever wondered why the science fiction narrative remains so pervasive in our culture? Despite our technological advances, we never seem to tire of fantasies that speculate wildly beyond our own reality. We devour science fiction in literature, film, video games, and pseudoscience, our hearts pound when we watch a scary sci-fi movie, and we delight in the telling of a good speculative yarn, even as it unravels under our scientific scrutiny. Neuroscientists tell us that our brains light up with “mirror neuron” pathways when we read, see, or hear of another person’s narrative peril. Some of our earliest memories revolve around make believe, and while we may not view ourselves as “creative” individuals, millions of people create and consume elaborate fantasy and science fiction narratives our entire lives. These flights of fancy stories appeal to our hearts and our analytical minds, and some evolutionary psychologists believe they may even help us navigate life’s complex social problems. They say that we are “wired” for fiction, but why? How might science fiction stories help us survive? How might an examination of the theories of cognitive psychology and neuroscience enhance our understanding of the science fiction genre? By exploring our shared evolutionary history and the multilayered complexity of that “big brain” that makes our species unique and enables us to tell such entertaining and prescient stories, students will develop intellectual STEAM, solidifying our place as the storytelling species and proving why, indeed, we can’t live without science fiction.