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 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:
Jonathan Shaw
LS 760-31
Fall 2018
Tuesdays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Bio Sciences 155
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*New Course*

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:
Judith Ruderman
LS 780-02
Fall 2018
Thursdays, 6:15-8:45 PM
GLS Conference Room
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*New Course*

Introduction: This seminar examines an array of writings by Jewish-American authors from the massive immigration of Eastern European Jews to the United States after the pogroms of the 1880s until the present day. The course is divided into three sections: Part One: 1896-1934, The Immigrant Experience and the “First Generation”; Part Two: post WWII-1980s, Assimilation and its Discontents; Part Three: New Voices in Jewish-American Literature. Through reading and discussion of novels, short stories, a memoir and essays, along with the viewing of two feature films and a documentary, you will develop an understanding of, and appreciation for, the works as artistic creations but also as sociological examinations of Jewish culture in the United States (and abroad) over time. Topics for exploration include the different ways to define Jews and “Jewishness,” the methods and effects of acculturation, relations between Jews and non-Jews, Israel and the American Jew, Jews and Blacks, the Holocaust, the languages Yiddish and Ladino, the “dirty war” in Argentina, and more. The seminar format and the range of readings and assignments are designed to enhance skills in analyzing, writing, and speaking, and to build a sense of community within the group.

Core Reading assignments: The short stories and essays are on electronic reserve and may be printed for free through a link from our Sakai course site. The novels and novellas are available in the Duke text book store among other purchase sites, and a few copies are in Perkins Library.

Use of Sakai: This course utilizes many of the beneficial components of the Sakai system.  On the course website you will find information about the course. A link to Perkins e-reserves is provided here, and you will also find guidelines for the assignments. Weekly discussions will be conducted via the site. The Library Guide (under the Resources tab will prove especially useful in the development of your papers and presentations. Updates and notices will be posted in the Announcements section. “Stay tuned”! (Note: Sakai has a standing maintenance window on Sundays between one and six a.m. The system may be down during these times without prior announcement.)

Discussion questions are available in advance of class meetings via the Discussion Forum on the Sakai site, in order to stimulate thought, guide the reading of the work, and facilitate the exchange of ideas before, during, and after class. You are expected to access the Discussion Forum to become familiar with the questions in preparation for class, and to review the responses of those posting for that day. Assigned posters for a given week are expected to post on the site by 9pm on the evening before the session, and the rest of the class will engage in conversation on the site by noon on the day of the session. Responses should be no less than one-half page and no more than one page. Please do not upload a document; instead, cut and paste from Word. Your responses will count in the assessment of the class participation grade for the course. My hope is that by means of these on-line responses we will have lively discussions before class as well as during it.

Academic Integrity is a central aspect of teaching and learning. Leading an honorable intellectual life is an expectation of all instructors and students at Duke University, including those in this course. I trust that the work you present to all of us, both written and oral, is your own; when it is appropriate to use the work of others, I trust that you will properly cite your sources and acknowledge these contributions. I pledge to cite my own sources as well, whether orally in class discussion or in written materials on the Sakai web site. I will keep questions of honor foremost in the class, and will help you to understand what constitutes breaches of academic integrity via links to useful guidelines and in-class discussion of pitfalls and strategies for avoiding them.  In short, I expect us all to adhere to the Duke Community Standard in the conducting of this course. 

About Judith Ruderman

Judith Ruderman (Ph.D., Duke) retired as vice provost and adjunct professor at Duke in 2009 but has continued to teach and write. She is the author of D. H. Lawrence and the Devouring Mother: The Search for a Patriarchal Ideal of Leadership; William Styron; Joseph Heller; and Race and Identity in D. H. Lawrence: Indians, Gypsies, and Jews. A fifth book, Passing Fancies in Jewish American Literature and Culture, is due out in January. Her two teaching specialties are D. H.

Instructor:
M. Kathy Rudy
LS 780-03
Fall 2018
Tuesdays, 6:15-8:45 PM
White 106
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*New Course*

In ancient times, midwives traditionally worked with families from ‘womb to tomb,’ bringing in new life and laying out the dead. They saw living and dying as opposing aspects of the same cycle. The two were of equal importance, as two passages through the same door: one coming in, the other going out. Midwives were as intimately involved in every manifestation of death as they were in those of life. Midwives traditionally supported and taught the dying, and cradled the corpse as well as the infant, each to its own particular new life.

                                                                                                                                                                     Carol Leonard

We often think of birth and death as “natural” events that take place outside of any politics or ideology.  This class argues that the processes of birth and death are managed by several competing institutions, and that most of the practices overlook what have been thought of as traditionally women’s roles.  These institutions—science, medicine, and religion—do not intend to usurp women’s work; they are simply fulfilling their mandate: goals of progress, cleanliness, and modernity, inadvertently (?) hide the power of these institutions from public view.  Thus, at the beginning of the 21st century, we know very little about what actually happens during these two important life events, birth and death.

Nowhere is this dilemma more salient than in the questions of birth and maternal-infant health.  Despite the fact that prenatal care and birth are well covered by public and private funds, the United States ranks among the lowest of industrialized nations in terms of mother/child health.  Lack of adequate prenatal care, coupled with overuse of medical interventions, have doubled the rate of maternal death over the last 20 years.  In the face of these problems, many health care professionals are turning to a midwifery model of care in order to try to reduce maternal death and increase infant health. The first section of the course covers the changes in birth practices over the last sixty years.  Once we moved to a hospital setting, it became much harder for birth practitioners to view birth as something “normal.”  In this section we will review the many reasons why this is the case.  We will also investigate the question of whether or not the medical model should dominate or even influence the birth process.  Many midwives believe that medicine has developed important interventions to help birth along; these interventions, they argue, should be “at the ready” and used whenever things even look like they could potentially go wrong.  Midwives in this tradition are called Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM); they are trained nurses who specialize in birth.  Conversely, Certified Professional Midwives (CPM) do not require a nursing degree and do not follow a medical model for the birthing process.  Helping a woman give birth, they argue, is a matter of offering comfort, support, massage, food, entertainment, time.  A woman’s body knows how to give birth, these midwives suggest, and they are present to support this process, not control it.  CPM’s are illegal in 23 states, including North Carolina.  CPM’s caught performing a homebirth in any of these 23 states are prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license.

            The second issue investigated in this class is the event of death.  100 years ago the vast majority of Americans died at home surrounded by family and loved ones.  Today, the vast majority of Americans die alone in a hospital, surrounded by machines.  Moreover, a gap between when a person dies and when the family thinks they are dead can become very wide; i.e., the definition of death is not always clear.  Meanwhile, “hospice” (which was founded in England a century ago by midwife Cicely Saunders), is a practice that tries to close this gap; once a person is within six months of dying, hospice advocates discontinue all treatments, giving palliative care (pain relief), along with a midwifery model of support.  Each dying person has a team that works with them to make sure they are comfortable and have everything they need.  Hospice has many problems, though.  Its rules vary from state to state and, because it is composed mostly of volunteers, it varies even within a state.  It is often difficult to determine when a person is six months from death, so in many cases, hospice enters too late.  The midwifery model even extends beyond death to the care of the body.  How is a corpse dealt with and who gets to decide that?  Family?  Religious leaders?  Lawmakers?  Land developers? 

            No one is discrediting the great advantages medicine has brought to our world, even or especially at birth and death.  What this class is arguing for is a conversation that tries to recover some of the best practices of earlier or more female centered models of care. “Interpreting Bodies” revisits the discourse of midwifery, which argues that the processes of birth and death are not illnesses that need to be cured, but rather are normal and natural events in the course of a life.  Instead of using drugs and technology to manage these events, midwifery seeks the path of “being with” the patient through these changes, and only using drugs or technology to assist a natural transition.  What is this process of “being with” and how does it differ from the ways we are treated in medical settings today? 

Evaluation

Paper 1: Explain why hospital births are standard care in America.  Is the material around midwifery persuasive to you and if it is, why is it still thought of as outmoded and old-fashioned.  If you support hospital births, explain why they are thought of as best practice, and for whom.  5–10 pages 30%

Paper 2: What assumptions are circulating in medical and religious language that block the idea of a good death?  Or using two sources from outside class, explain why green deaths may or (may not) become the wave of the future 5–10 pages 40%

The remaining 30% will be based on your attendance, participation, and general presence toward course material.

Please, no electronic devices in this class.

Book List

Section One: Midwives of Birth

Ladies Hands, Lion’s Heart, Carol Leonard

Cut it Out, Theresa Morris

Section Two: Midwives of Death

Being Mortal, Atul Gawande

Greening Death,  Suzanne Kelly

About M. Kathy Rudy
Women's Studies
Instructor:
Martin Miller
LS 780-12
Fall 2018
Wednesdays, 6:15-8:45 PM
Carr 242
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*New Course*

In this seminar, we will investigate the history of nonviolence in the modern world by focusing on two thematic approaches.

In the first part of the course, we will focus on individual Americans who have historically made significant contributions to the theory and practice of nonviolent solutions to national and international conflicts. Some, like Martin Luther King, will be familiar, but most, such as Gene Sharp, Dorothy Day and A. J. Muste, in all likelihood will not be. Later in the semester, we will study individuals from other countries who have formulated concepts for nonviolent conflict-resolution, including well-known luminaries such as Mohandas Gandhi, Lech Walesa, and Nelson Mandela.

Following this exploration, we shall immerse ourselves in case studies of peaceful resolutions of seemingly intractable conflicts during the twentieth century as alternatives to traditional tactics of warfare and counter-terrorism. Included among the examples to be studied are (1) the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European subordinate states between 1989 and 1991; (2) the end of British rule in India in 1948; (3) the transition from the apartheid regime in South Africa in the early 1990s; (4) the plebiscite that ended the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile in 1988; (5) the Good Friday Accords ending decades of violence in Ireland in 1998; (6) and the successful nonviolent strategies of the American civil rights movement during the 1960s. Not all efforts at nonviolent solutions succeed. One prominent example are the agreements known as the Oslo Accords agreed to in the 1990s by Israeli and Palestinian delegations to end a conflict that continues into the present.            

Requirements:

In lieu of formal exams, you will be graded on the basis of the quality of several response papers, voluntary oral participation in our discussions of the assigned material, and a research paper due at the close of the semester. The first response paper will count for 15% of your grade, the second 25%, and the term paper 50%, leaving 10% for participation.

Assigned Books: (tentative)

Ackerman, Peter. A Force More Powerful: A Century of Non-Violent Conflict

Chernus, Ira. American Nonviolence: The History of an Idea

Schell, Jonathan. The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence and the Will of the People

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:
Stanley Abe
LS 770-97
Fall 2018
Mondays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Smith Warehouse, Bay 9, Room A290
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*New Course*

What is Chinese Sculpture? When and how was it discovered? The seminar will approach this question from several directions. We will begin with a definition of Sculpture as a class of Fine Art objects in the European tradition. This will be followed by a survey of figural objects (not Sculpture) in China including an introduction to Buddhist and Daoist imagery. We will then explore four case studies of Chinese images in my book Ordinary Images. Next, the seminar will consider how figures and carving were appreciated as antiquities in China over the long nineteenth century. The term "sculpture" was not translated into Chinese until 1905. We will conclude with lectures and student presentations on how Chinese figural objects became Sculpture. Seminar paper topics on sculpture collectors, museum collections and the writing of a history of Chinese sculpture are encouraged. But seminar paper topics of student's choice are welcome with instructor consent. 

Weekly written responses to reading assignments will be required. Grade based on class assignments, presentations and participation (40%) and seminar paper presentations and final paper (60%).

About Stanley Abe
Art and Art History

Stanley Abe has published on Chinese Buddhist art, contemporary Chinese art, Asian American art, Abstract Expressionism, and the collecting of Chinese sculpture. He is now writing a narrative account of how Chinese sculpture came into existence as a category of Fine Art during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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:
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:
Martin Eisner
LS 770-96
Summer 2018
Tuesdays, 6:00 - 9:00 pm
Location TBA
Begins June 5 - Ends August 7
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*New Course*

Readers are always surprised by the modernity of Boccaccio’s stores of desire, deception, and delight: how can a fourteenth-century work speak so clearly to twenty-first century readers, especially on the topic of gender? This course investigates this question by exploring both Boccaccio’s narrative masterpiece, the Decameron, and his other works, including the first collection of women’s lives, On Famous Women. Examining critical debates about Boccaccio’s proto-feminism and the apparent misogyny of the Corbaccio, we will scrutinize how Boccaccio uses literature to create a new space for women and their wit as well as other models of desire. Our attention will focus on the Decameron, but we will also examine the distraught lover that narrates Europe’s first psychological novel, the Elegy of Madonna Fiammetta; the many nymphs that populate both the Ameto and the Nymphs of Fiesole; the lives of mythological and real women recounted in his Genealogies of the Gentile Gods and On Famous Women; and his manipulation of misogynistic discourse in the Corbaccio. Far from being a work of the past, Boccaccio suggests radical new paths forward.

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:
M. Kathy Rudy
LS 770-49
Summer 2018
Wednesdays, 6:00 - 9:00 pm
GLS Conference Room
Begins May 23 - Ends August 1
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*New Course*

The goal of this class is to survey different approaches to ethical thinking in relation to non-human animals and their dilemmas.  In the world named but not captured by the term “animal rights,” philosophical, ethical, and legal theories once sanctioned for use only in relation to humans are now being applied to animals with a varying array of outcomes and conclusions.  This course will examine different strategies of animal advocacy as they are manifested in Kantianism, contract based theories, utilitarianism, welfarism.  The animal advocacy movement is filled with activists, philosophers, political theorists, feminists, lawyers, and representatives of many different intellectual traditions who disagree about the status of animals, about whether or not we should eat them or wear them or hunt them or train them for entertainment or keep them in our homes.  We’ll investigate these conflicts throughout this class by looking at the narratives of particular kinds of animals.  While certain forms of public rhetoric may promote an idea that animal advocacy is a seamless, all-or-nothing, rights-based, vegan agenda, this class presumes there are many acceptable positions in relation to non-human animals.  While what happens to animals beyond the scope of our vision—at the factory farm, the slaughterhouse, the dog pound, the circus, or the research lab—may indeed be unethical, this class presumes that there are many different ways to formulate moral solutions.  Class discussion will focus on novels and memoirs to open our thinking on ethical frameworks for animals.

Booklist:

Pack of Two

Making Rounds with Oscar

Cat Wars

Eating Animals

Love at Goon Park

Evaluation:

Attendance and participation 25%

3-5 page opinion piece about each book and the problems that surround the subject 50%

Expanding ONE paper to 10 pages for final paper 25%

About M. Kathy Rudy
Women's Studies

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