Skip Sub Menu

Spring 2021 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 062 - Religions of India, 3 credit hrs.

This course serves as an introduction to histories, practices, institutions, and beliefs of several different religious traditions that either have their origins on the Indian subcontinent or have played a significant role in Indian history. In the former case, we will look especially at many of the different traditions of Hinduism as well as Buddhism and Sikhism; in the latter case, we will examine Indian Islam. The course will track the histories of these religions over time (especially Hinduism), highlighting their myriad developments and heterogeneities, paying particular attention to the roles that Western colonialism and scholarship played in their recent reifications and homogenizations. 

HONR 068 - Religions of the Middle East
, 3 credit hrs.

Three of the largest and oldest religions developed from the cultures of the Middle East. Although the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share similar foundations and many similar beliefs, their histories and innovations led to distinct religions that are often entangled in deep religious and political conflict. Religions of the Middle East will begin by exploring the histories and beliefs of these religions. The class will then examine two major issues that effect and are influenced by the religions of the Middle East (these topics are open and will rotate each semester).

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 078 - Grief and Loss, 3 credit hrs.

In this course, students will learn how narratives of grief are constructed, experienced, debated, politicized, and pathologized. We will examine various aspects of grief including cultural difference, social policing, media portrayals, and theoretical debates. Students will learn how tragedy and grief are used to sell politics and products and what implications this has on individual and cultural understandings of loss.

HONR 083 - Social Context of Urban Schools, 3 credit hrs.

This course provides students with an introduction to urban education. We engage the philosophical, social, economic, and political contexts of urban schooling. We begin by examining the utility and demarcation of space (e.g., urban, suburban, rural, etc.). We then explore historical and contemporary understandings of the notion of "urban," focusing on how "urban" has been constructed and evolves over time. We focus on the impact on schools and communities, in particular, urban educational reform and pedagogical strategies. In addition, we engage the intersections of urban education with questions of political economy, immigration, militarization, and racism. Finally, we discuss how students experience urban schools -- the challenges they may face in urban contexts as well as practices of hope and humanization.


HONR 089 - History of Cosmology, 3 credit hrs.

Cosmology is the study of the origin, fate and nature of the universe on its grandest scales. Over the millenia, it has had a powerful influence on our thinking about the significance of the Earth and human civilization. It is a rich topic with many different flavors, ranging from the poetic to the technical, from the mundane to the truly bizarre. Historically, cosmological ideas have evolved with and influenced the philosophy, art, psychology, culture and ego of humankind. In this class we will examine the human investigation of the Cosmos on its largest scales. We will take an historical perspective of the development of cosmological ideas from flat Earth to inflation, studying how these ideas have developed and changed since antiquity and how these developments have resonated through our societal and cultural experience. We will also explore the modern scientific view of cosmology and discuss how observational results, either support, or conflict with, theoretical ideas about the cosmos. We will employ both descriptive and mathematical approaches to see how these work together to deepen our understanding.


HONR 095 - Artificial Intelligence Ethics, 3 credit hrs.

This course will examine current ethical discussions that arise in the field of Artificial Intelligence.


HONR 096 -Adventure Journalists, 3 credit hrs.

From Marco Polo to Nellie Bly to Bear Grylls, adventure journalists have roamed the globe, sending back reports, photos, and films from far-away places. You’ll read works from and about these adventure journalists and examine their attitudes toward non-Euro-American cultures, as well as the strands of imperialism, US expansionism, and treatment of difference as "other" that often permeated their reports in past eras. You'll meet via Zoom with current-day adventure journalist. You will analyze what makes adventure reporting grip readers' imaginations. And you’ll write, photograph, or video your own adventures with a team of friends from class. Student work may be published in an issue of the web issue of the web magazine "Adventure Journalism."


HONR 109 - Gender and War, 3 credit hrs.

This course addresses the relationship between gender and war in historical and contemporary context. The course examines the ways in which socially constructed gender norms shape the causes, tactics, and consequences of war. Topics include an examination of gender in war propaganda and military training, gender roles in combat, and the gendered construction of the innocent civilian.


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

This class serves as the “arms and feet” of The Comparison Project for Spring 2021. 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 115 - Religion and Science, 3 credit hrs.

What is science? What is Christian theology? Why have science and Christian theology been widely thought to be in conflict with each other? Are they in conflict? Do Christian theologians who speak about science or scientists who speak about Christian theology overstep the legitimate boundaries of their respective disciplines? This course offers an examination of these and other questions. We will begin with an introduction to several perspectives and terms that will shape our discussion, and then we will proceed with a historical survey of the interaction of science and Christian theology in western culture. Students who successfully complete this course will achieve a greater knowledge of the history of science and Christian theology, sharpened skills for analyzing the methods and practices of both science and Christian theology, and a cultivated awareness of how science and Christian theology continue to interact in contemporary American society to shape public policy and perceptions.


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 120 - Philosophy and/as Fiction, 3 credit hrs.

Philosophy is, according to some, the pursuit of truth; fiction, an invented story. And yet some of the brightest philosophers have written in fictional form. What gives? This course looks at whether and how truth can be revealed in fiction (and more broadly language). It takes as its primary sources two pairs of texts, each of which is composed of one philosophical work written in fictional form and one literary work that takes up philosophical issues, together which approach the same philosophical problem: first Plato’s Phaedrus and Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, then Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathurstra and Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It bookends these texts with recent theoretical explorations of the relationship between philosophy and fiction.


HONR 122 - Minds, Brains, and Computers, 3 credit hrs.

What is it to "have" a mind? Are minds, "things"? If so, are they physical things? What is the relationship between your mind and your brain/body? Can computers think, feel, and be conscious? Might you be a computer? In this class we will critically evaluate a variety of answers to these questions and the arguments given for those questions. We will start by examining some traditional approaches to the relationship between mental and physical phenomena, including dualism, logical behaviorism, mind/brain identity theory, and functionalism. Next, we will consider the nature and locus of intentionality and consciousness and how the phenomena of intentionality and consciousness may bear on theories about the mind/body relationship. We will also examine the "common-sense" appeal to beliefs, desires, and intentions in explaining human behavior and explore whether and/or to what extent those explanations can be illuminated, supplemented, revised, or undermined by empirical science Finally, we will look at some recent work on mind, embodiment and action, and consider the extent to which this work provides an alternative to the traditional accounts of the mind/body relationship. Our discussion of these issues will be informed by the arguments of prominent philosophers, as well as theoretical and empirical developments in psychology, computer science and neuroscience.

HONR 128 - Native America
, 3 credit hrs.

This course aims to understand the history of North American indigenous peoples and to better (perhaps differently!) understand American history. Using primary and secondary sources, we will complicate the "native" experience, explore the historical tensions between peoples and nations, and place Native Americans at the center of the American historical narrative.

HONR 130 - Men, Masculinity, and Movies
, 3 credit hrs.

This course aims to provoke insight, stimulate discussion, and lead to academic writing on the objects "men" and "masculinity" today, primarily within a Western socialcultural frame. Students are asked to use careful viewing of popular film and the reading of social theory and research on gender as the bases for that discussion and writing.


HONR 137 - Medical Anthropology, 3 credit hrs.

Medical anthropology examines affliction and healing in a cross-cultural perspective. It emphasizes the understanding of how health and healing are shaped by cultural and biological processes. It also analyzes the relations among health, illness, social institutions, power, and cultural representations. Medical anthropologists examine the ways in which global processes—health policies, epidemics, war and violence, inequalities—affect the life of individuals and communities.

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 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 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 164: Existential Films, 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 170 - Women & Gender in Modern America, 3 credit hrs.

Eighty years ago a pioneering historian asked what U.S. history would look like seen "through women's eyes." In recent years historians have tackled the project, producing a dynamic new history of women and transforming our understanding of the past in the process. This course pursues three related questions. How does our vision of U.S. history change when we place women at the center of analysis? How has gender shaped, and been shaped by, developments in U.S. history? And how can we explain the differences among women's experiences? In this seminar, we will examine historical experiences common to American women while paying close attention to differences and divisions among them. We will also explore how individuals and groups have contested and perpetrated the ways Americans think about and experience gender in family life, education, sexuality, work, marriage, and politics. The course is designed for upper-division students to deepen their knowledge of U.S. history, to learn about important themes in women's and gender history, and to provide a structured opportunity to conduct historical research and analysis in this field.

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 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.


University News