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Spring 2022 Course Offerings

HONR 053: Life & Teaching of Jesus

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

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 081: AI in Fiction

This course allows students to both read and write fictions about "artificial intelligence." We will examine past and present cultural beliefs and anxieties about conceptions of artificial intelligences, looking at popular works that have spoken to audiences' fears of, and hopes for, intelligent machines that interact with humans and participate in human life. From calculating murderers (eg: HAL 9000) to protective companions (eg: Baymax), how have we viewed these artificial "persons," and what have we imagined becomes of natural, biological humans who live lives integrated with AI? Students will explore their own visions of present and future by writing their own stories about conceived "AI."

HONR 082 - What's Love Got to do with it?

Most humans say they love many things: cookies, cake, football, God, and other persons. But what is love? Can this one concept cover these very different things? Other questions arise. Is love always good for us or for the things or people we love? Do human beings put too much stock in love? Is love saddled with expectations of human fulfillment that are impossible for it to meet? This course seeks to examine some of these questions by looking carefully at what some of the great poets, novelists, and philosophers in the Western philosophical tradition have had to say about love.

HONR 090 - Microcosm, Macrocosm

This is an unusual course that looks at the intersection of visual language and the study of natural history. Students will explore the fundamentals of art making through the lens of organic form and function. We will take a critical look at artists as scientists and naturalists throughout history -- those who used drawing to hypothesize about living systems. We will gain a better understanding of our own relationship with the natural world as we explore their processes of visualization in studio. The course will consist of seminar, art studio, and experimental field trips to important resource sites locally and statewide.

HONR 095 - Artificial Intelligence Ethics

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

HONR 118 - Youth, Culture and Society

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 135 - Law & Society in a Changing Climate

This course will address the overlap between law, society and climate change with a specific focus on how and to what extend law can or could respond to "ruptures" of this magnitude. Broadly the course is structured around the way we use law to make cultural meaning, to structure access to resources and to allocate or resist power. Topics to be addressed in-depth include physical displacement of humans and other animals and the legal and social responses to those movements; the idea of displacement of responsibility and the deferring of crisis management from older to younger generations, and from wealthier, more powerful states to those with less; and the role of law and hope.

HONR 137 - Medical Anthropology

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 138- Transitional Justice

This course examines global efforts to promote justice and to establish the rule of law in the aftermath of systemic violations of human rights and at the end of violent conflicts between and within states. Transitional justice initiatives involve wide-ranging goals, including creating institutions that will foster lasting peace and stability, designing and implementing mechanisms for bringing accountability to perpetrators of war crimes and human rights atrocities, fostering reconciliation in war-torn societies, and developing trauma-informed programs that promote the healing of survivors. This course examines a variety of mechanisms for pursuing transitional justice and sustainable peace, including trials, truth and reconciliation commissions, reparations, and therapeutic justice initiatives.

HONR 141 - Digital Religion: Religions of Iowa

As the digital world becomes more and more a part of the everyday human world, religion has increasingly become digitized and crowd-sourced. Students will participate in critically analyzing the history, traditions, and teachings of a religious movement and creating digital annotations to clarify and connect a group's essential online documentation. This semester will digitize and annotate a manuscript found in Cowles Library from the 1940s about Iowa’s religious traditions.

HONR 144: Health & Development

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

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 160 - Music and the Great War

The Great War's legacy was felt not only in music, but in other branches of art including poetry, literature, and drama. The letters and reminiscences written by those affected by the conflict often blurred the line between reality and fiction, while countless scholars have attempted to understand the war's origins and legacy. The records that they have consulted and stories they tell still resonate today, and thanks to the rapid growth of digital archives, are now accessible to readers the world over. The course will assess two different categories of historical documents: the first constitutes artistic and traditional scholarly engagements with the Great War (the "Literature Project") and the second encompasses texts or studies focused on archives, digitally curated sites, or broadcasts (the "Archival Project").


HONR 170 - Women & Gender in Modern America

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 191: Women & Hebrew Scriptures

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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