First-year students may choose to take one of four 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.
Global Goods: Commodity Cultures Past and Present
Professor Sarah Croucher
The world we inhabit is full of global goods. We drink coffee and tea; we eat bananas, potatoes, and corn. All of these products moved into global circulation in the last few hundred years, with the intense global connections that came alongside European colonialism. In this course, we will examine the importance of the movement of goods from the 15th century onward. We will ask what traveled when Europeans began to consume goods such as tobacco and tea, and why particular commodities were favored over others. Through examining coffee and other commodities, we will think about the ways in which the meaning of objects changes as they pass through different cultural contexts, paying particular attention to the fact that seemingly concrete objects of globalization (such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's restaurants) may undergo significant shifts in meaning as they move into different contexts.
Religions Resist Modernity
Professor Peter Gottschalk
Why did the Taliban forbid television? Why do creationists reject evolution? Why did Gandhi insist that Indian nationalists spin their own thread? Throughout the last century, resistance has risen to modernity, and religion has played an increasingly important role in challenging the globalization of modern Western values. This seminar will explore how Europe transformed itself into a modern society with worldwide influence. Then it will investigate how the Lakota Sioux, Christian creationists, Mohandas Gandhi, the Branch Davidians, and the Taliban each have used religion in an attempt to resist some aspect of modernity, either outside the Western world or within it.
Myth, Magic, and Movies
Professor Robert Steele
We will examine how the mythic is made and what purposes myth and magic serve in modern culture. Guided by classic psychoanalytic ideas, we will seek to understand both the conscious and unconscious power of myths. The seven volumes in J. K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER series will be the core texts for the course, and we will explore how these texts were transformed by the eight Potter movies.