Seminars

First-year students may choose to take one of three Learning and Living seminars offered this Fall semester and described below. More details about each seminar can be found on WesMaps, Wesleyan's on-line course catalog.

American Crazy: Four Myths of Violence and National Identity
ENGL150.02
Professor Sean McCann

Among the industrialized nations of the world, the U.S. has long had unusually high levels of crime, violence, and imprisonment. This course will explore five especially prominent cultural explanations for American violence. We will consider the origins of these explanations in American myth and history, and we will investigate their appearance in literary expression, journalistic reporting, popular culture, and social science.

Personal Identity and Choice
PHIL218.01
Professor Elise Springer

We will explore philosophical reflections on the problem of personal identity and its relationship to matters of choice and freedom. How do certain experiences and thoughts and physical materials compose oneself? Am I the same person over time even through complete transformations of experience, thought, and material? Can I choose which elements of my existence to count as essential? Some argue the concept of a unified and enduring self partakes of illusion; at the other extreme, some argue for the permanent integrity of individual souls. Regarding choice and freedom, we find a related debate, ranging from those who deny free will altogether to those who define humanity's essence in terms of choice and agency. Might we coherently say that some human selves can have more integrity and others, less? What gives a measure of meaningful coherence to a person's life? Similarly, can we distinguish some choices as more free than others? What makes for meaningful choice? Besides serving as an introduction to philosophical reasoning, the course will draw interdisciplinary connections on themes such as social identities, religious experience, political freedom, and legal responsibility.

Cinematic Encounters: Muslims and/in/of the West
RELI230.01
Professor Peter Gottschalk

Examining contemporary films by Americans, Britons, Egyptians, Indians, Pakistanis, and Afghans offers the opportunity to challenge the simplistic binaries of West versus Islam upon which popular representations often rely. Themes that will be explored include Muslim emigration, European imperialism and colonialism, religion and secularism in the formation of national identity, terrorism and state violence, representation of gender differences, and the problem of multiple identities. Films will include "The Kingdom of God," "The Battle of Algiers," "Of Gods and Men," "Baby Doll Night," "The Beauty Shop of Kabul," "Restrepo," "Khuda ke Liye," "My Name Is Khan," "Babel," "AmericanEast," and "Brick Lane," plus episodes of "Battlestar Galactica."