Liberal Studies Seminars

Each year, Duke GLS offers a wide array of Liberal Studies (LS) Seminars developed exclusively for its students, including the GLS core course.  Students in the program can also take graduate courses from across campus, and up to two 200-level or higher undergraduate courses.  For further details about course grades and requirements, see the RegistrationDegree Requirements or Academic Policies pages.  

Instructor:
Lisa McCarty
LS 770-92
Fall 2017
Tuesdays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Perkins Rubenstein 150
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*New Course*

This course will examine how images have been intentionally composed, collected, and deployed to serve as catalysts for social and political change.  Using Duke’s Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library students will view, handle, and analyze examples of images and printed matter from the late 18th century to today, that have served to advocate for and document underrepresented communities, political causes, cultural movements, traditions, and personal experiences. We will also explore open source archives, as well as works by contemporary artists and documentarians who mediate publically available images and archival material.  Students will gain practical experience to effectively locate, retrieve, handle, document and analyze primary source materials to support their individual research interests. This knowledge will then be applied to produce original written interpretations in response to collection material and visual explorations of present day conditions.  Our emphasis will be on the construction and dissemination of images as democratic tools for activism.

Requirements & Evaluation

Course participants will write short weekly responses to assigned readings, contribute to and lead class discussions, write and present an original analysis of archival material, and compose a creative project that will serve to advocate for a cause of their choosing.  Course will require visits to the Rubenstein Library Reading Room for independent research outside of class. Reading Room hours are typically Monday – Thursday 9-8, Friday 9-5, Saturday 1-5 but are subject to change.  Class participation and assignments will be weighted equally when determining final grades; more than one unexcused absence will negatively impact your final grade.

Required Books (Subject to Change)

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit, Selections from A People’s Art History of the United States by Nicholas Lampert, Selections from Seeing Power: Art & Activism in the 21st Century by Nato Thompson + Short Essays distributed as PDF’s.

About Lisa McCarty
Center for Documentary Studies

Lisa McCarty’s work as a photographer, curator, and educator is driven by her interest in the origins of photography. She is particularly interested in how technology influences image production, as well as the material and associative evolution of images.

Instructor:
Amy Laura Hall
LS 780-92
Fall 2017
Mondays, 6:15-8:45 pm
GLS Conference Room
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In his documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster, Chris Bell begins with the World Wide Wrestling Federation’s carnivalesque version of geopolitics, as Hulk Hogan battled The Iron Sheik during the 1984 season.  Bell tells a story about his two brothers on steroids, but the film is also about what makes a man manly in the U.S., and how athleticism and militarism have been intertwined to confuse, amuse and distract.  (Bell points out that Congress spent more hours during 2005 investigating and discussing steroid use in Major League Baseball than on the response to Hurricane Katrina or the Iraq War.)  In this class, we will consider myths of masculinity and war in the U.S., using film, history, historiography, and literature.  Readings will include War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (John Dower); Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man (Susan Faludi); and Black Sexual Politics (Patricia Hill  Collins).  Films will include Modern Times, High Noon, The Fog of War (documentary) and Bigger, Stronger, Faster (documentary).  Assignments include participation in discussion and 2-3 page close-reading papers on the reading or film for that week.

About Amy Laura Hall
Divinity School

Amy Laura Hall is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics. She holds her B.A. from Emory (1990), her M.Div. from Yale Divinity School (1993), and her Ph.D. from Yale University (1999). Professor Hall has been on faculty for eighteen years. She has taught for the Focus program in Genomics and in Global Health. She serves on the faculty board for Graduate Liberal Studies and for the NCCU-Duke Program. She organized a 2011 conference against torture and is organizing a 2017 conference on drones in warfare. Her book on Julian of Norwich is forthcoming from Duke University Press.

Instructor:
Leela Prasad
LS 780-76
Fall 2017
Thursdays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Gray 319
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*New Course*

How do people imagine, experience and theorize "the sacred"—sacred texts, spaces, times, beings and bodies? In what ways has anthropology represented such subjects? Some of the earliest accounts of lived religion were by from travelers and explorers--“proto” anthropologists—whose descriptions are filled with wonder, revulsion, and curiosity. Colonial conquests and so-called scientific explorations of humankind generated copious descriptions of the religious practices of colonized peoples. Recent anthropology has both taken stock of these early ‘phases,' and also tried to develop more self-reflexive and dialogic methods for the study of religion. The course will consider how the discipline of anthropology, developing in European socio-political contexts, has historically constructed a “religious subject”, a subject who is frequently rendered as the other of Angophonic and Abrahamic cultures. How have “ritual”, “magic”, or “belief” come to legitimize religion? How do different world locations challenge Euro-American theories of experience that are influenced by theorists such as Edward Tylor, Emile Durkheim, or Bronislaw Malinowski? 

Methodologically, we will study how ethnographic research shapes how we understand religious practices. What is the ethnographer’s relationship to the subject of her study? How do gender, political, religious, sexual orientations, and technological choices influence the ethnographic process? In what ways do authority, language and translational practices produce specific kinds of knowledge about religion and culture? By reading a wide variety of accounts of lived contexts of religious phenomena and practice across the Americas, Europe, South Asia, and the Middle East, this course will explore how ethnography—writing about culture—has become a crucial lens in the study of religion. There will be several aspects to this course: a historical study of ethnographic theory and practice, a close examination of ethnographic studies of varied religious locations, and possibly, a (mini) ethnographic project conducted over the duration of the course.

About Leela Prasad
Religious Studies
Instructor:
Martin Miller
LS 780-34
Fall 2017
Wednesdays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Carr 241
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The purpose of this course is to explore the historical roots of modern political violence. Contrary to popular belief, terrorism is not a recent phenomenon traceable to extremist factions or pathological individuals. It has, in fact, been an integral part of the policies of many governments and societies around the globe for centuries. Terrorist organizations can be found in ancient Israel, twelfth century Islam, and fourteenth century India. Theories of achieving a more just society through the tactical use of violence abound in Western Europe long before the French revolution among both authorities in power and insurgents who desire it. In the nineteenth century, however, modern terrorism emerged out of these earlier traditions and coalesced into the structure and ideology with which we are familiar today.

The course will proceed chronologically. We shall first read portions of the ancient and medieval discussions of "tyrannicide," and analyze the earliest insurgent groups dedicated to terrorism. The core of the course will focus on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with the emphasis on trends in Western Europe, Russia and America. Distinctions will be made throughout between state terrorism and insurgent movements dedicated to the use of violence. The course will conclude with an analysis of the American terrorist organizations of the 1960s and of the subsequent rise of Islamic jihadi violence.

Readings will include both primary sources and historical analyses mainly in the period between the French Revolution and 9/11.  Students will also view a number of documentary films, including the secretly produced “Underground” (1974) in which members of the radical Weather Underground seek to examine and explain their terrorist acts.  There will be two papers, one at midterm and on at term’s end.

About Martin Miller
History

Martin Miller received his Ph.D. in Russian history at the University of Chicago and has taught at Stanford University and the New School for Social Research. He has been a member of the History Department at Duke for many years. Dr. Miller has conducted archival research in Russia and Western Europe, and has received numerous grants, among which are the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the National Council on Russian and Eastern European Studies, and the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX).

Instructor:
Jonathan Shaw
LS 769-14
Fall 2017
Tuesdays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Biological Sciences 130
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Darwin’s book (1859), On the Origin of Species, shook the world.  What really was the “Darwinian Revolution”?  Why is Darwinism, or evolution, still so controversial? How do evolutionary ideas affect medicine, agriculture, astronomy, psychology, sociology, even religion? Is evolution and spirituality incompatible?  What IS the evidence for evolution?  These are some of the issues we discuss in The Darwinian Revolution.

This course consists of three (very) general and overlapping components.  In the first section of the course we will read (at least) some of The Origin of Species so we can see how Darwin framed the problem and provided evidence in support of his theory.  Although biology has come a long way since Darwin published his book, it’s amazing that the basic tenets of evolution by natural selection, as we understand them today, were accurately laid out more than 150 years ago.  We will then do some reading to better understand the historical context of evolutionary biology. As we shall see, the idea of evolution was not entirely new with Darwin. Darwin’s really original contribution was in proposing a naturalistic (as opposed to a supernatural) mechanism for evolution – that is, natural selection.  First, of course, we will need to consider what we actually mean by “evolution”, what “natural selection” is, and how scientists study these topics. We will also discuss terms such as “fact”, “theory”, and “hypothesis”, as they are used in the scientific literature and by the public. We will read about and discuss the philosophical implications of Darwinism, and examine the “creationist” alternative to evolution in a variety of contexts from the legal to philosophical.

In the second component of the course we will have a look at the modern evidence for evolution. We examine the history of life on earth as revealed by the fossil record, including human evolution over the last two million years.  We will also discuss other sorts of less direct evidence from the fields of genetics and molecular biology, biogeography, and comparative anatomy. 

In the last section of the course, we will discuss some of the uses and abuses of evolutionary ideas.  These include critically important applications in medicine and agriculture, as well as horrendous misapplications of (pseudo)evolutionary ideas, including eugenics and racism.  Here we also examine and discuss current ideas about the evolution of what we think of as uniquely human characteristics such as moral/ethical thinking, and laughter, and discuss the role of natural selection in contemporary human populations.

A couple important points about this course.  You need not be a scientist or biologist!  We will address these issues in a way that is accessible to all.  Who might this course interest?  If you are opposed to the idea of evolution on religious grounds – join us; we need to hear your voice!  If you just don’t know what to think in that regard, and want more information – join us!  If you are interested in biology and natural history – join is; evolution is the glue that holds all of biology together!  The more diverse our class, the more interesting the course.  Several years ago was the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, and the 150th anniversary of publication of The Origin, so the time is right!

About Jonathan Shaw
Biology

Jonathan Shaw is a Professor in the Department of Biology. He received his Ph.D. in 1983 from the University of Michigan. Dr. Shaw's research is on the systematics, population genetics, and evolution of bryophytes (mosses). Some of his research interests have included the taxonomy and classification of particular groups of mosses, developmental anatomy, and genetic relationships among populations of very rare species. A current focus in the lab is the evolution of peatmosses (Sphagnum) and Dr. Shaw's field work tends to be in polar and high altitude environments. He has published some 200 scientific papers and has edited two books, one on the evolution of tolerance in plants to toxic metals in the environment, and one on the biology of bryophytes. Dr. Shaw taught for eight years at a liberal arts college (Ithaca College) before coming to Duke in 1996.

Instructor:
Thomas Robisheaux
LS 780-35
Summer 2016
Tuesdays, 6:00-9:00 PM
GLS Conference Room
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Have you ever wondered why magical knowledge is forbidden, and yet pervasive in our culture at different times? Have you paused to consider what claims religion can make about human affairs, the natural world or the supernatural? Have you ever asked why science commands such authority and even awe? Or have you wondered how religion has at times driven on scientific inquiry and, at other times, curiously dismissed robust scientific theories?

This seminar explores these questions by looking at the ways that three ways of understanding our world—magic, religion and science—have intersected in surprising and creative ways in our culture. The seminar explores selected episodes in our history when the boundaries between these ways of knowing unsettled understandings about nature, the divine and even the supernatural. Topics might include: Renaissance wonder and naturalism; the puzzle about Galileo and religion; witchcraft as a rational way of coping with the world; Romanticism and nature; the first “scientific” religion (Spiritualism); early psychology and its ties with the occult and the paranormal; the curious renaissance of occultism in our own day; the conflict between “creationism” and Darwinism; and religion as a product of evolution. A special unit will focus on the Laboratory for Parapsychology at Duke University (1930-65) and the efforts to make psychical research into a field of modern psychology..  Over and over we will encounter such paradoxes as the uses of science to detect the supernatural; the “magical” underpinnings of both religion and science; and living in a “disenchanted” modern society.

The course may not answer all of our questions, but the aim is to understand the long history behind our current ways of knowing, and how they are shaped by culture and society. Approaches to the topic will include anthropology, history and the history of science, psychology, religious studies, and literature.

Readings involve a variety of secondary and primary sources and may change depending upon availability. Books may include: Ian Barbour, Religion in an Age of Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues;; Edward J. Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (1997); David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers, ed., When Science and Christianity Meet (2003); Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (1998); Charles Webster, From Paracelsus to Newton: Magic and the Making of Modern Science; Lawrence Wright, Remembering Satan: A Tragic Case of Recovered Memory (Vintage Books); Thomas Robisheaux, The Last Witch of Langenburg (New York, 2009); Ann Braude, Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth Century America; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: A Tragedy, Part One (Yale University Press); and Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men (HarperCollins); Deborah Blum, Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof After Death (New York, 2006).

Writing assignments will total about 25-30 pages, and will include a combination of short essays and a longer research paper.

About Thomas Robisheaux
History

Thomas Robisheaux, Fred W. Shaffer Professor of History, is an historian of early modern Europe. Dr. Robisheaux has particular interests in social and cultural history, German-speaking Central Europe, Renaissance culture, religious reform, popular religion and culture, and microhistory.

Instructor:
Trudi Abel
LS 780-96
Summer 2016
Wednesdays, 6:00-9:00
TBD
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*New Course*

Nearly 97 years ago and into the 1930s, Frank C. Brown, a Duke scholar, began recording North Carolina folk music and archiving it for posterity.  NC Jukebox will give students the chance to explore the cultural history of North Carolina and the South past through analog and digital archival material through the digitized recordings in the Frank Brown Collection at the Rubenstein Rare Book and Special Collections Library.

Through analyzing digitized historical materials—both texts and vintage audio--and researching in local collections, students will create new interpretations of North Carolina’s cultural history and present these to a wider public through new media. The course will integrate readings in folklore, history, and ethnomusicology. No prior technology experience is expected.

Course participants will submit weekly responses to the readings on our course blog, contribute to class discussions, develop an introductory assignment on a primary source (e.g. a song/singer from the Frank Brown Collection), a research project proposal, and create a final research project/paper with a new media component.  There will be an optional field trip to The Orchards at Altapass (http://www.altapassorchard.org/events_calendar.shtml).

 

About Trudi Abel
Duke University Libraries

Trudi Abel is a cultural historian and Rubenstein Library archivist at Duke who created the Digital Durham (http://digitaldurham.duke.edu), a web repository for primary sources relating to Durham from the post-Civil War decades to the present. Currently, Dr. Abel co-directs the NC Jukebox Project with Victoria Szabo (AAHVS). Over the past decade, Dr. Abel has taught Consumer Culture in America and Digital Durham and the New South for the MALS Program. In the summer of 2016, she will offer NC Jukebox, a cross-disciplinary course in which students use new technologies and digitized audio recordings to create fresh interpretation of the history of North Carolina and its roots music.

Instructor:
Deborah T. Gold
LS 780-89
Summer 2016
Mondays, 6:00-9:00 PM
TBD
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The purpose of this course is to examine the biopsychosocial perspectives of old age and how they influence the dying process.  Although we will examine real-life data on these topics, the focus of the course is to see how biopsychosocial phenomena are represented in fiction, with emphasis on their presence in novels and popular film.  The course is divided into several subsections.  These will include “Theories of Aging and Death,” “Gender in Aging and Death,” “Physical and Cognitive Decline in Aging” and “Extending Life by Preventing Death.”

We will document real-life issues of aging and death through an examination of the age structures of developed and developing nations, focusing on the meaning of an aging population for the future of the U.S.  As most deaths in the US occur in older people, it is important to link these two phenomena on both a theoretical and pragmatic bases.  Keeping the themes of aging and death as constants over the semester, we will examine issues of retirement, relationships and love in late life and among the dying, off-time death, and modern medical intervention with dying patients. We will also discuss institutional differences (i.e., between nursing homes for aging and hospice for dying) and what twenty-first century America must do to prepare for the soon-to-be old and dying baby boomers.  Students will each write a final research paper on a topic discussed during the class.

About Deborah T. Gold
Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; Sociology, Psychology & Neuroscience

Deborah T. Gold is Professor of Medical Sociology in the Departments of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Sociology, and Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University Medical Center, where she is also a Senior Fellow of the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. Professor Gold received her B.A. in English and Latin from the University of Illinois, her M.Ed. in Reading from National Louis University, and her Ph.D. in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University. Her primary research interests are in the psychological and social consequences of chronic disease in the elderly.  She has done seminal research on osteoporosis and its impact on quality of life.  She has also studied the psychosocial impact of breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease, syncope, head and neck cancer, Paget’s disease of bone, and dementia in older adults. Her current research examines compliance and persistence with medications for older adults with chronic illnesses.

Instructor:
Susan Thorne
LS 770-34
Fall 2016
Thursdays, 6:15-8:45 PM, Sept. 1-Dec. 1 (no class on Nov. 24)
Carr 242
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The U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan has prompted considerable reflection on the ethics and efficacy of US foreign policy.  This course locates these discussions in the very broad historical context of Europe’s colonial from Columbus to the present. We will be focusing primarily if not exclusively on the ways in which Empire(s) transformed European culture at least as much as the European colonial powers transformed colonial cultures and the cultures of colonized populations.  To what extent was Western civilization itself a product of the colonial encounter?  What role did colonialism play in the industrial revolution, on which Europe’s global dominance would increasingly depend? What role did the colonies play in making the European working class “safe” for democracy?  How has political culture in the overdeveloped world been affected by postcolonial migrations?  And, finally, what lessons might be drawn from the history of previous colonial encounters regarding the legal and ethical bases, as well as future prospects, of what some have begun to call the present age of American Empire?

Assignments include weekly posts of your reaction to the readings and an independent research paper.

About Susan Thorne
History

Susan Thorne, Associate Professor of History, teaches courses on the social history of Britain and the British Empire, and on the history of European expansion more generally. She is currently working on Charles Dickens’ influence on Anglo American “ways of seeing” the children of the urban poor.  The Dickensian Affect:  Reckonings with Reform in Early Victorian Southwark (in progress) juxtaposes Dickens’s representation of criminal poverty and urban childhood in his most popular novel, Oliver Twist (1837-8) to archival accounts generated by the poor law’s reform during the 1830s and hungry ‘40s. 

Instructor:
Martin Miller
LS 780-79
Fall 2016
Mondays, 6:15-8:45 PM, Aug. 29-Nov. 28 (no class on Oct. 10)
Carr 241
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The primary focus of this course is the interrelationship between national identity and the phenomenon of exile. We will cover the 19th and 20th centuries and center our readings on developments in Europe, Russia and the US. Nation-states are comparatively recent historical institutions, and definitions of belonging (citizenship) have varied widely. Because of huge waves of migrations beginning with the era of the French Revolution, large transfers of populations have taken place with motives ranging from the need to escape from religious and political persecution to the search for either intellectual liberty or a more secure economic existence.

We shall be studying examples of these migrations and the experience of exile within the context of the demands of national identity and criteria of loyalty to the state. In some cases, exile has stirred extraordinary creativity, as witnessed by the large number of famous cultural figures in the Western world whose finest work was done outside of their country of birth. In other instances, exile has been dominated by depression, mourning and nostalgia for the lost homeland and its culture. In yet others, groups of politically committed exiles have devoted their lives to establishing conditions that would make it possible for them to return to their homelands from which they were driven or expelled. We will investigate the history of those who have been expelled from their country of origin and the nature of their experiences in the societies where they found asylum. One of our central questions will be to determine whether nationalism and exile are in necessary opposition to one another. To put it another way, must our notions of national identity and citizenship be dependent upon the need to define unacceptable differences?

Course requirements: Several short response papers and a research paper due at the end of the course.

Required books: (available at the University textbook store)

Dahbour, O. and M. R. Ishay (eds.). The Nationalism Reader

Kramer, Lloyd, Nationalism in Europe and America (UNC Press, 2011)

Simpson, John (ed.). The Oxford Book of Exile

About Martin Miller
History

Martin Miller received his Ph.D. in Russian history at the University of Chicago and has taught at Stanford University and the New School for Social Research. He has been a member of the History Department at Duke for many years. Dr. Miller has conducted archival research in Russia and Western Europe, and has received numerous grants, among which are the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the National Council on Russian and Eastern European Studies, and the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX).

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