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Spring 2020 Course Offerings

HONR 053: Life & Teaching of Jesus, 3 credit hrs.

Jesus was the founder of the world's largest religion and one of the most controversial figures in religious history. "Life and Teaching of Jesus" is an analysis of the early Christian writings with the objective of studying the life and message of Jesus. This exploration will use the tools of historical, anthropological, sociological, and literary scholarship to investigate Jesus and the early Christian communities that produced the literature about him within their historical, cultural, and religious contexts.


HONR 054: Apocalyptic America, 
3 credit hrs.

The dramatic end of the current world order remains a fascination in American culture. From the Puritan desire to establish a Christian utopia prompting the return of Jesus and the expansionist mandates of Manifest Destiny to the Left Behind series and 2012, many Americans continue to anticipate an imminent end of the world. Apocalyptic America will examine this trend in popular culture by exploring the ancient religious documents (the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation, along with portions of the Gospels and the Letters of Saint Paul) on which this vision is based. The role of the "Millennial Kingdom" in American history and culture will then enable students to analyze contemporary incarnations of the theme. The course will conclude with student projects and group presentations that examine current cultural productions including apocalyptic religious movements, cultural productions ("The Road" and "2012"), and apocalyptic language in political discourse.


HONR 066: Beatles Popular Music / Society, 
3 credit hrs.

Often referred to as the greatest rock and roll band of all times, The Beatles' influence on popular music and contemporary culture is unquestionable. The societal context of the growth of Rock and Roll will serve as the framework for this course, which will chart the Beatles rapid rise to fame, their careers as a band and solo artists, and their continued impact on popular music and culture in the 21st century. This course will provide an in-depth, record-by-record, look at the music of this extraordinary group and the unique songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Additionally, the course will explore the development of global cross-promotional marketing, as applied by the Beatles and their corporation, Apple. Designed for non- music majors, this course will help to develop critical listening skills, and demonstrate the progression of musical concepts and themes still being applied in popular music today. Intended audience: Honors Track students who have credit hours that classify them as first-year or sophomore.
 

HONR 077: Reading Gender, 3 credit hrs.

This course explores literature from the perspective of the cultural work it performs with regard to constructing or challenging gender identities. The course varies but may examine particular literary traditions (e.g., literature by women of color) or particular critical issues (e.g., (de)constructing masculinity in the writings of women). 

 

HONR 092: Journalists on Screen /1955 to Present, 3 credit hrs.

Why is reporting such a compelling subject in film and, later, on television? What are key elements in the public's ongoing images and expectations of journalism? From the mid-1950s forward, films about reporters offer plots that are more international, more danger-filled, and more entangled in power politics and media conglomerates. This course will examine particular films and television programs keeping in mind basic issues of production values, film theories, and the structures of American film and television. American history will also provide a backdrop for the course material, as directors attempt to recount realistic and even real-life cases, from Watergate to wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Persian Gulf. Expect to see "Black Like Me," "Heat Wave," "The Year of Living Dangerously," "Under Fire," and even "Kolchak: the Night Stalker," among others.


HONR 098: Business Ethics, 3 credit hrs.

This course examines the moral obligations that business organizations have to a variety of stakeholders in the United States and in the world community. The course content will cover some of the ethical issues in business practice, including leadership and accountability, employee relations, financial reporting, community relations, customer service, social investments, and international business operations. The course will also develop and apply different ethical decision making frameworks that can be used to address ethical issues in business operations.


HONR 106: Atheism, 3 credit hrs.

This class will survey the genealogies, forms, contexts, practices, and goals of “atheistic” ideas and arguments over the course of “Western” history as well as across the globe. The class is philosophical in the sense that it will examine arguments for atheism and against theism (or other institutionalized positions that defend the existence of non-human, trans-empirical beings and/or post-mortem, salvific ends). But the class also takes a sociological, historical, and phenomenological approach in attempting to understand the socio-historical contexts, rhetorical-political objectives, and lived-communal practices of “atheism.”


HONR 108: US-Japan Relations / Film, 3 credit hrs.

In this course, students will learn to interpret both U.S. and Japanese films in the context of contemporary social, cultural, and political environments. They will come to recognize how art is part of the dialogue among a people in the creation of collective identity and relationships (both internal and external to the nation). Students will be required to watch six films over the course of the semester, outside of the regular class time. This is indicated as a film lab on the schedule.


HONR 114: Religions of Des Moines, 3 credit hrs.

This class serves as the “arms and feet” of The Comparison Project for Spring 2020. As such, students will be involved in programming events on campus and in the community, communications, publicity, social media, website design and maintenance, strategic planning, and booklet guides to the "Religions of Des Moines," approaching comprehensive coverage of most religious communities in the greater DSM area. Beyond that, we will continue working on a calendar of sacred events for the metro area, an on-line blogging feature for the website, and preparations for another summer of interfaith youth leadership camps.

 

HONR 116: Community Writing, 3 credit hrs.

This year’s version of the course is called Humans of Des Moines, modeled loosely after the very popular Humans of New York series. We will start by examining documentary storytelling as a cultural practice and examine the notion of who and what comprises a community. Students will decide on a sub-group or community they are NOT a part of but want to learn more about. They will research and report on the community, interview representative members, and write/present on these humans using several genres and formats, including the use of digital narrative. We will attend two Des Moines Storytellers Project events on Tuesday, February 25 and Tuesday, April 21 from 7:00 to 10:00 PM. 

 

HONR 118: Youth, Culture, and Society, 3 credit hrs.

This course provides students with an introduction to the study of youth, culture, and society, focusing on urban contexts and schools. This course will examine youth (and adolescence) as historically and culturally specific social formation. We will engage and discuss the construction of youth and its relationship to larger structural forces (e.g., racial, cultural, social, economic, and political contexts) that impact and shape their lives. Using multiple texts, writing assignments, and reflective practices, students will critically examine ideological and representational understandings of youth and youth cultural practices. Specific topics include representations, popular culture, incarceration, subculture, social movements, immigration, sexuality, the politics of urban schooling; and the multiple ways in which youth negotiate, resist, and disrupt their identities.


HONR 119: Material World in Art
, 3 credit hrs.

What would cause someone to physically attack an artwork? What does science tell us about the unanticipated changes in over time? How difficult is it to move an artwork from one location to another? In our digital age we have become distanced from the material dimensions of making, transporting, encountering, and conserving artworks. This interdisciplinary course regrounds visual art in the physical world, taking seriously the properties and interactions of art materials and the impacts of first-hand encounters with it. It also reveals specific aspects of arts' social significance that are not captured effectively in photography, such as the ways in which art’s materiality connects to spiritual, political, or technological practices Looking at these issues in earlier periods of time sheds light on our own ideas about material, labor, time, and space.


HONR 129: Inventing “Religions”, 3 credit hrs.

This is a course about the invention of religion as a category of scholarly inquiry. It tracks the genealogy of "religion" and religions from ancient Rome to the present; it explores the various ways in which religion is constructed and studied by scholars of religion; and it reenacts the 1893 World Parliament of Religions, the first ever dialogue of practitioners and scholars of the world's diverse religions.


HONR 134: Global Migration
, 3 credit hrs.

This course explores global migration and dynamics in both historical and contemporary context. It examines state efforts to regulate international migration and comparative immigration policies. The course looks at the nexus between global migration and citizenship and considers the way that restrictive immigration policies produce exclusionary and inequitable conceptions of citizenship.


HONR 144: Health & Development, 3 credit hrs.

Certainly, a desire to "give back" and help make the world a better place is a noble ambition. Unfortunately, the road to perdition is paved with such good intentions. The data is clear that health development aid can do harm as well as good. In this course, we will explore why countries are poor, what can be done to alleviate their poverty, and some of the results of health and development aid schemes. This is a reading and discussion intensive type course that will familiarize students with current theories, and controversies in health and development. Working in this area is not easy. Idealists and do-gooders burn out quickly. Having an awareness of the major issues in development will assist you in being as effective as possible in your volunteer work or career as an aid worker. It will also make you a better informed citizen and voter. If you finish the course more confused than when you started the course, it simply means you now understand how complex health and development aid actually is.


HONR 146: Restorative Justice, 3 credit hrs.

Restorative justice is a perspective that views crime as a harm against people and the community, which needs to be addressed through the involvement of offenders, victims, and the community. This course provides an introduction to the principles and practices behind restorative justice. A restorative justice movement has been growing dramatically globally in the past couple of decades. Along with this growth come many challenges, pitfalls, and critics. The course is designed to allow students to struggle along with the experts in trying to navigate the opportunities and challenges, the success stories and the pitfalls that accompany restorative justice programs. In the process, students will explore questions about justice, crime, imprisonment, punishment, rehabilitation, forgiveness, and the purpose of a legal system. The course relies heavily on international perspectives to learn about these issues. Prereq. one Sociology course or consent of instructor.


HONR 149: Africa’s Colonial Moment, 3 credit hrs.

Africa's history in the 19th and 20th centuries is crucial not only to understanding Africa's role and relevance in world history but also to understanding current circumstances and challenges that face the continent today. This is the case because, during this period, Africa experienced on of the most disruptive times in the continent's history -- the period of European conquest and colonial rule. European powers endeavored to 'civilize' Africa -- a process intended to "transform" Africans not only economically and politically but also in terms of how Africans saw themselves and their place in the world. Thus, in many ways, the continent in 1970 looked quite different than it had a century earlier. However, despite the differences, European powers clearly failed in their attempts to transform Africa and to 'civilize' its people according to their late 19th century notions of civilization. This course endeavors to analyze why?


HONR 150: Ritual and Myth, 3 credit hrs.

Myth and ritual are aspects of all human societies, ours included. What roles do myths and ritual play in human experience and everyday life? Why do we need them? Are myths and rituals ways of responding to existential questions? Or reflecting on the fact they can’t be responded to? Do they reproduce or subvert social orders? This course will address these questions by drawing on readings from history, religious studies, anthropology, sociology, and film studies. By way of case studies, we will examine theoretical approaches to ritual and myth (e.g., psychoanalytical, structural, feminist, symbolic). This course has prerequisite anthropology or sociology entry level coursework, or instructor consent. We begin with an overview of classical and postmodernist interpretations of ritual and myths, looking holistically at myth and ritual in relation to power, gender, religious authority, and history. We look then at some specific cases of societies experiencing turmoil and violence that cannot possibly be understood except in reference to local myths and rituals. We then conclude with a look at mythical and ritual phenomena in American society, focusing on urban myths, vampire legends, and UFO stories to reflect on what these stories tell about “us.”


HONR 154: Captivity Narratives, 3 credit hrs.

This version of the advanced topics course will focus on captivity narratives, which challenge notions of identity, loyalty, affliction, salvation, self, other, and society. We will begin with early American captivity narratives and spend a considerable amount of time on 19th century narratives, including portions of a Mexican-Californian-American critique of the genre. We will end with the story of Jessica Lynch or another more recent "captivity." Definitely a good follow-up to discussions of the "afflicted girls" from the Salem witch trials.


HONR 155: Culture, Knowledge, Power, 3 credit hrs.

The last two decades of the 20th Century witnessed a variety of challenges to conventional disciplinary thought and practice in the humanities and the human and social sciences of western scholarship. Many of these involved a critical rethinking of usual understandings of culture, knowledge, and power, at the least. This course aims to introduce students to themes, questions, and ways of reading, writing, and speaking that may be loosely referred to as "post-" thought, analysis, and criticism that that has constituted a major part of this challenge. Influences from French post-structuralism, cultural Marxism, feminism, psychoanalytic criticism, postcolonial studies, queer theory, critical race theory, and science/knowledge/ complexity studies will be reviewed. Students will be asked to consider the emergence of these critical perspectives and practices relative to established and dominant ways of thinking and writing/speaking defined by existing disciplinary knowledges inside as well as outside the academy. The following themes/perspectives will be central in the course: *The Importance of Discursive Practice *Reality and Knowledge as Constructed *Reflexivity and Knowledge Practices *The Implosion of Ontology and Epistemology *Reconceptualizing Power *Difference *Theory as Resource for Activism *Ethics of Activism


HONR 163: Environmental History, 3 credit hrs.

The environmental history of the continent and nation stretches from geologic time to the present. This course begins by defining different aspects of environmental history and introduces ways that the environment has been influential in shaping past human experience, as well as how humans have in turn shaped the environment. While surveying the sweep of American history through the lens of environment, special attention will be paid to historicizing present-day topics. Themes include the interconnectedness of people and nature, health (ecological and social health is an environmental issue), and the link between local and global. The course balances the physical (rocks, conservation and ecology) and the cultural (ideas, perceptions and images) environment.


HONR 164: Existentialism and Film, 3 credit hrs.

Explore the meaning of life through films as well as readings in existential philosophy. This class will investigate questions about personal identity, fate and human freedom, moral relativism and universal truth, and finding fulfillment in life through readings by philosophers from a variety of world cultures. These readings will be paired with a selection of films all providing a different perspective on existential themes. All films will be available on reserve at the library, and students should plan on watching movies outside of class as part of weekly homework assignments.


HONR 165: Science and Society, 3 credit hrs.

This course examines the nature of science as a thoroughly social and cultural practice. It focuses on the very doing of science rather than the many ways that science as an "institution" impacts "society." It considers science as a way of thinking and seeing, as well as a way of being in the world and draws on major works from the history and sociology of science and from science studies to do this. Prerequisites: One sociology or anthropology course or instructor permission.


HONR 178: Music and Politics, 3 credit hrs.

This class examines different ways in which music and politics intersect and interact. This involves the study of many topics, including (but not limited to): reception history (i.e., ways in which music may be intentionally or unintentionally politicized by audiences), legal directives (particularly censorship laws and conventions), how patronage may determine how and what kind of music is written, ways in which music helps articulate facets of identity (including racial, religious, gender, or national identity), how music may act as a socio-political critique, and the role of music as propaganda.


HONR 181: Death and Society, 3 credit hrs.

How do we respond to death and why? This course examines historical and contemporary perspectives on death and dying. Students will explore variations in attitudes and rituals concerning death, funerals, grief, memorialization, and dying. Though the experiences of death and dying are intensely personal, they are shaped by social, political, legal, and cultural forces. These experiences also vary by culture, social class, age, race, gender, and religion. This course is reading and writing intensive.


HONR 191: Women & Hebrew Scriptures, 3 credit hrs.

The basics of the course include reading Biblical accounts involving women and various commentaries on those Biblical accounts with a critical eye. These accounts will include "Genesis", "The Red Tent", and "The Five Books of Miriam". The goal is to come to an understanding of how the Jewish Bible deals with issues involving women and how such an understanding can help us understand issues today.

 

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