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 also can take graduate courses (500-level and higher) from across campus.  For further details about course grades and requirements, see the RegistrationDegree Requirements or Academic Policies pages.  

Instructor:
Robert Healy
LS 760-34
Spring 2020
Wednesdays, 6:15-8:45 PM
242 Classroom Building
*NEW COURSE* Begins January 15* - Ends April 15 (note: *Monday classes begin on Wednesday, January 8 to accommodate Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday on January 20; no class on March 11)
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People take the places where they spend their waking hours for granted.  Yet the landscape we inhabit is a complex product of history, of economics, of government action and of personal tastes.  For most of American history, where people lived depended on where they worked (and hence on the needs of the firms that employed them) and where they shopped and played depended on where they lived.  Technological changes, particularly highways and the Internet, would seem to fundamentally change those relationships, yet the hand of the past still lies heavily on the landscape.  This course will show how various forces produced the American landscape, the surprising role of a few “visionaries,” and how land use choices affect the natural environment.

 

Living:  Early cities, birth of the streetcar suburb, the “landscape of race,” post WWII suburbanization, slums and Urban Renewal, the abortive “New Town” movement, exurbs, urban revival, gentrification, second homes, New Urbanism

 

Working:  the Industrial Revolution, early offices, the elevator and the “skyscraper,” multi-story and one-story industrial buildings, agglomeration economies, growth of the service sector, women in the labor force, open offices, working from home, WeWork

 

Shopping:  the “high street,” the department store, Sears and catalog sales, the automobile and strip commercial, chain stores, Big Box I, Big Box II, the shopping mall (open and enclosed), outlet stores, dollar stores, e-commerce

 

Playing:  Olmsted and urban parks, National parks, rail tourism for the rich, automobile tourism (Blue Ridge Parkway), festival tourism (from Chatauqua to Woodstock to Burning Man), the Disney parks, virtual tourism

 

Impacts on the Environment – Air, Water, Land, Climate – Andrew Goudie (Human

Impact on the Natural Environment – Table 5.7 of fourth ed. – 7th ed online at Duke); urban wildlife

 

Driving Forces

 

The work-live-school nexus

Transportation technologies

Demographics

Visionaries (Andrew Jackson Downing, Olmsteds – father and son, Wallace Nichols, William Levitt, Robert Moses, Jane Jacobs, Victor Gruen, James Rouse, Andres Duany)

Government Action (the Vernacular Landscape v. the Official Landscape)

Literature and Art:  The Jungle, The Warmth of Other Suns, John Cheever (Checkov of the Suburbs—the Swimmer), Stepford Wives, David Sedaris, art (Riis, Lozowick, Ashcan School, John Sloan)

About Robert Healy
Nicholas School of the Environment

Bob Healy is Professor Emeritus of Environmental Policy in the Nicholas School and of Public Policy Studies in the Terry Sanford School. Before coming to Duke in 1986, he was a researcher with The Urban Institute, Resources for the Future and The Conservation Foundation/World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C. He has written ten books, mainly on issues of land use, environmental management and economic development. The latest are Knowledge and Environmental Policy (MIT 2011) and Environmental Policy in North America (Toronto 2013). Locally, he has long been involved with efforts to protect the New Hope Creek watershed. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Instructor:
Amy Laura Hall
LS 770-98
Summer 2019
Tuesdays, 6:00-9:00 PM - Begins May 21-Ends July 23
GLS Conference Room
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In an August, 2018 interview, artist Boots Riley noted: “In the World of Film, We’ve Edited out All Rebellion” (the title of the interview, in Jacobin). In 1991, Anita Addison, an executive producer and director, explained in the Los Angeles Times: “There are plenty of men directors who are working today simply because they give good meeting” . . . “The industry right now does not accommodate the style of women.” In this seminar, we will read closely films created by African-American artists as acts of creative resistance to the intertwined forces of capitalism, racism, and sexism in the U.S. We will attend in particular to ways that artists acknowledge and bend the daily realities of fear and domination in workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods, as well as create openings for alternative futures. Films will include Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash), The Gifted (Audrey King Lewis), An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (Terence Nance), Bamboozled (Spike Lee), Get Out (Jordan Peele), and Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley), among others to be determined. Television episodes and music videos will include work by Millicent Shelton, Debbie Allen, Sha-Rock, MC Lyte, Prince, Public Enemy, Mos Def, Daniel Glover, Chris Rock, Common, Aaron McGruder, Erykah Badu, and Janelle Monae. Assignments will include close-reading papers (due each session) and regular participation. Regular participation involves listening and attending to the words of other students as well as speaking words of your own.

About Amy Laura Hall
Divinity School

Amy Laura Hall is the author of four books: Kierkegaard and the Treachery of Love, Conceiving Parenthood: The Protestant Spirit of Biotechnological Reproduction, Writing Home with Love: Politics for Neighbors and Naysayers, and Laughing at the Devil: Seeing the World with Julian of Norwich. She has also written numerous scholarly articles in theological and biomedical ethics.

Instructor:
Martin Miller
LS 780-15
Fall 2019
Tuesdays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Classroom Building 241 (East Campus)
Begins August 27 - Ends November 26 (no class on October 8)
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This course will focus on the extraordinary cultural developments which emerged in Russia during the period when the country evolved from an Imperial autocracy to a socialist empire. The great divide were the revolutions of 1917, which together ended the Romanov monarchy and brought to power a radical Bolshevik party intent on constructing a utopian transformation of society. In the years prior to the First World War during the reign of Nicholas II, Russia experienced a paradoxical set of currents dominated by political decline and cultural awakening. The upsurge in innovations in literature, painting, photography, dance and the cinema that dominated the Silver Age before the revolution maintained some degree of continuity in the early years of the post-revolutionary society of the Soviet Union. Under the banner of socialist construction, new forms of artistic endeavor and experimentation were encouraged and funded by the new regime. Yet, by the end of the 1920s, the ruling communist regime established a doctrinal consensus that led to the abolition of all other political parties at home and the creation of a global confrontation abroad that would later be named the Cold War.

           

We will analyze these contradictory forces, which were so influential during the transition period from tsars to commissars in Russia. Using both print sources as well as examples of the exciting art forms of the era, we shall seek to answer a number of problems which emerged in this historical time frame, including the important question of how culture and politics interact with one another in two entirely different governmental systems.

 

Readings:

Edward Acton, Russia

Steven Marks, How Russia Shaped the Modern World

Selections from the literature, plastic arts and cinema of the time period will be made available,

 

Requirements:

There will be several short response papers in which students will analyze the artistic forms under study in their historical context, and a longer essay due at the end of the term which will permit research in greater depth on any aspect of Russian culture.

 

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:
Susan Thorne
LS 780-88
Fall 2019
Mondays, 6:30 - 9:00 pm
Classroom Building 242 (East Campus)
Begins August 26 - Ends November 25 (no class on October 7)
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The enduring power of Charles Dickens’ representation of urban crime was on regular display in the critical response to The Wire (HBO 2002-2007), which is regarded by many as still the “greatest television series of all time.” The series is a graphic representation of the horrendous violence generated by the war on drugs in Baltimore, Maryland, the “murder capital” of the United States.  It is difficult to imagine a world further removed from the Victorian nostalgia of the Dickens presented in Masterpiece Theatre much less Hollywood productions of Oliver Twist, the novel to which the series is most often compared.  Critics on both shores of the Atlantic have referred to The Wire as “Dickens for the 21st Century.”    “If Charles Dickens were alive today, he would watch The Wire, unless, that is, he was already writing for it.”  This course embraces the comparative invitation issued in such reviews.  It juxtaposes these two tales about crime as well as the very different cities in which each is set: early Victorian London and present day Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to these comparisons, we will also try to account for Dickens’ enduring relevance, the longevity of Dickensian ways of seeing crime, childhood, and the city.  Why—and how—does Dickens continue to matter? 

 

Requirements

 

Informed participation in class discussions (30%)

 

Students are expected to view The Wire in its entirety (5 seasons, about 50 episodes) outside of class, while reading Dickens’s Oliver Twist, in addition to the interdisciplinary assortment of scholarly works and investigative journalism accessible via the class website.

 

Students will submit weekly paragraph to page reactions to each week’s reading assignments on discussion board forums (required but not graded)

 

Group project (30%) 

Research paper (40%)

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:
Jonathan Shaw
LS 760-31
Spring 2020
Thursdays, 6:15-8:45 PM
Location TBA
Begins January 9 - Ends April 9 (no class on March 12)
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Evolution provides the framework on which the science of biology rests, and is central to research in agriculture, medicine, ecology, conservation, and even psychology.  The modern science of evolution began with publication of Charles Darwin’s landmark book, On the Origin of Species, in 1859, and has grown in importance as the scientific foundation of biology ever since.  Moreover, evolutionary ideas pervade virtually all realms of human experience.  In this course we address the following issues and questions, among others. What is evolution?  How did Darwin introduce the modern science of evolution?  What sorts of evolutionary ideas existed before Darwin?  What is the relationship between evolutionary biology and various religious beliefs (including but not limited to modern “creationism”)?  What is the biological (i.e., evolutionary) basis of human races?  How do evolutionary ideas impact the practice of medicine … agriculture?  What is the relationship between biological and cultural evolution?  How does our evolutionary history/heritage (i.e., baggage) impact human behavior? Did human morality evolve? Why is evolution so controversial, especially in the United States? This course includes readings and discussions about the scientific study of evolution, but is intended for those without substantial scientific background! We will discuss what the scientific study of evolution entails, but we focus much of the course on how evolutionary ideas impact everyday life.

 

The course adopts a discussion format, based mainly on the readings, but also on selected videos that I will ask you to view during some weeks before class.   Evaluations will be based on discussion engagement, several short essays assigned during the semester, and on a term paper.  Term paper topics are quite flexible, of your choosing so you can research and write about a topic of particular interest to you.  The papers could be primarily biological in nature, or on just about any topic – sociological, historical, religious, etc. – that connects in some way to evolutionary thought.

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:
Amy Laura Hall
LS 770-78
Spring 2020
Mondays, 6:15-8:45 PM
GLS Conference Room
*Begins *WEDNESDAY, January 8 - Ends Monday, April 13 (note: *Monday classes begin on Wednesday, January 8 to accommodate Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday on January 20; no class on January 20 and March 9
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Sin has been narrated as social and as personal in mainstream, North American storytelling - as a matter of lies writ large and as a result of individual choice. Through a close reading of these works in North American literature, we will think through different ways of reckoning with trauma, accident, and systemic injustice. We will also consider ways that each author offers possibilities for continuing to risk the possibility of change, and even love. Readings include: Plum Bun: A Novel Without a Moral by Jessie Redmon Fauset, Does Your House Have Lions? by Sonia Sanchez, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel, Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, Moral Disorder and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood, and Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson.

 

Course requirements: Weekly in-class discussion of material and weekly close-reading papers (approximately 2 pp. double-spacing) on the text for the week. Participation in class is 40% of your grade; papers, 60%. Listening attentively to your neighbor is as important as speech for your participation grade. Visiting with me about the texts outside of class also counts as participation.

About Amy Laura Hall
Divinity School

Amy Laura Hall is the author of four books: Kierkegaard and the Treachery of Love, Conceiving Parenthood: The Protestant Spirit of Biotechnological Reproduction, Writing Home with Love: Politics for Neighbors and Naysayers, and Laughing at the Devil: Seeing the World with Julian of Norwich. She has also written numerous scholarly articles in theological and biomedical ethics.

Instructor:
Martin Eisner
LS 770-83
Summer 2019
Wednesdays, 6:00-9:00 pm - Begins May 29-Ends July 31
Location TBA
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If “fame is a form, perhaps the worst form, of incomprehension” (Borges), there may be no more famous author than Machiavelli. His name continues to be invoked for both praise and blame by a diverse public that includes management consultants, relationship experts, psychologists, and Alexander Hamilton biographers. Investigating the development of Machiavelli’s thought as it emerges in conversation with contemporary and classical texts, this course addresses questions that have lasted for over 500 years: is he a republican or an apologist for tyrants, a realist or an idealist, Renaissance humanist or modern theorist? We will pay particular attention to how his reading of literary works, such as Ovid, Dante, and Boccaccio, shaped his political thinking in The Prince, Discourses on Livy, and The Art of War. We will also explore his remarkable dramatic and literary works, such as the Mandragola and Golden Ass, for what they reveal about Machiavelli’s distinctive ideas about power, deception, language, and representation. A major concern throughout will be the fame of Machiavelli’s ideas in later thinkers such as the American Federalists, Nietzsche, Gramsci, and Arendt, and the misunderstanding of his thought in fascism and modern conspiracy theories. Just as Machiavelli searched history for answers to his own political situation, our guiding question cannot help but be “What would Machiavelli do?” 

About Martin Eisner
Romance Studies

Martin Eisner is Associate Professor of Italian Studies at Duke University and Director of Graduate Studies for both the Department of Romance Studies and the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He specializes in medieval Italian literature, particularly the works of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, as well as the history of the book and media.

Instructor:
Deborah T. Gold
LS 780-89
Summer 2019
Mondays, 6:00-9:00 PM - Begins May 15-Ends July 22* (no class on May 27)
Location TBA
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The purpose of this course is to examine the final two stages of life—old age and death—using a  biopsychosocial perspective.  We will study the social, emotional, and biomedical changes during these stages and try to better understand the American desire to live as long as possible while delaying death. Although we will examine real-life data on these topics, the focus of the course is to see how these 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.

 

*Monday classes in the summer semester will begin on Wednesday, May 15, to accommodate the May 27 Memorial Day holiday.

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:
Robert Healy
LS 760-33
Spring 2019
Mondays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Carr 242
Begins *January 9 - Ends April 15 (no class on January 21 and March 11)
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The Arctic and the Amazon are only recently explored, mapped, and affected by the economic, social, and ecological forces associated with modernity.  They have many things in common, including an often inaccurate treatment in popular literature and films, sensitive environments disproportionately affected by global change, recent penetration of even the most remote regions by highways and seaways; new interest by outside economic actors in resource development, and small groups of indigenous people trying to obtain decision-making authority and protect traditional cultures and people/land relationships.

 

The course will interrogate how several disciplines deal with the past, present, and future of these important mega-regions, including history, literature, anthropology, political economy and economics, ecology and conservative biology, and public policy studies.

 

  1. Heroic exploration narratives—not that long ago—Theodore Roosevelt in River of Doubt; Arctic exploration narratives of Fritjob Nansen, accounts of the Franklin expedition, George DeLong’s Jeanette expedition and others;
  2. Literary works with a strong sense of place.  For example, David Gramm’s The Lost City of Z or Kim Leine’s Prophets of the Eternal Fjord (18th century Greenland);
  3. Relatively small numbers of scattered indigenous groups that are struggling for sovereignty over land and resources and to hold on to traditional ways of life;
  1. historical encounters between indigenous people and Europeans; Canadian Film Board film Pangnirtung; exploitation of rubber tappers;
  2. groups exhibiting agency rather than victimhood (Kayapo and Xingu; Choci Mendes and rubber tappers; Arctic Native Claims Settlement Act; Matthew Coon Come and the James Bay Cree); links with national and international environmental groups;

4.    Potential for mineral development (oil and gas, metals); water and dams in Amazonia; agriculture and forest plantations; fisheries in Arctic seas and Amazonian rivers;

5.    Biodiversity—extremely high in Amazonia; extremely low in Arctic.  Concentration of nutrients (in vegetation in Amazon) in waters and under the ice in Arctic.  Emblematic life forms—the polar bear and the jaguar;

6.    Multiple nations involved—six in Amazon basin; six in Arctic.  Scores of subnational governments and stakeholders;

7.    Historically colonial relationship to outside authority—core and periphery; decolonialization;

8.    Relation of local groups to national and international NGOs in seeking to confirm or protect management and use rights;

9.    Role of tourism/ecotourism as both a threat to the environment and a possible income source for local people;

10.  Designation and management of protected areas; type of areas and implementation experience;

11.       Present and future impacts of climate change—warming and ice melt in Arctic; drought and fire in Amazon; impacts on local people; impacts on world climate system; policy alternatives.

About Robert Healy
Nicholas School of the Environment

Bob Healy is Professor Emeritus of Environmental Policy in the Nicholas School and of Public Policy Studies in the Terry Sanford School. Before coming to Duke in 1986, he was a researcher with The Urban Institute, Resources for the Future and The Conservation Foundation/World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C. He has written ten books, mainly on issues of land use, environmental management and economic development. The latest are Knowledge and Environmental Policy (MIT 2011) and Environmental Policy in North America (Toronto 2013). Locally, he has long been involved with efforts to protect the New Hope Creek watershed. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Instructor:
Frank Lentricchia
LS 770-97
Spring 2019
Tuesdays, 6:30-9:00 pm (Note: time is slightly later than other LS courses)
GLS Conference Room
Begins January 15 - Ends April 6 (no class on March 12)
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This is a class about how modernist artists represent the inner life of their characters.  It is a class on the techniques—often radical—deployed to display hidden subjectivity even as these artists put before us an available public world.  The representation of subjectivity was a central feature of the Romantic poets of the early nineteenth century.  Thus, modernism may be viewed as an extension via techniques not before seen of Romantic preoccupations. We will be reading across literary genres—drama (Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard), fiction (Hemingway’s Nick Adams short stories and Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying), poetry (Wallace Stevens), and the avant-garde film-maker Michelangelo Antonioni's L’Avventura and Blowup.  As time allows, James Joyce’s short story, The Dead.

 

Requirements:  4 short essays; faithful and prompt attendance.  No final exam.

About Frank Lentricchia
Literature

Frank Lentricchia, a novelist and literary critic, is the Katharine Everett Gilbert Professor Emeritus of Literature.  He received his Ph.D. from Duke in 1966 and has taught at UCLA, UC-Irvine and Rice University.  He has taught poetry, film, literature, and fiction courses.

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