Fall 2015 Earlham Seminar Course Descriptions

Following are a sample of Earlham Seminar Courses being offered for the Fall Semester in 2015.

The Care and Feeding of Your iPod: Music, Identity, and Society

Bill Culverhouse, Associate Professor of Music

Have you ever marveled at all the different stuff that’s in your iPod? How did it all get there? What has shaped your tastes in music? Are you an adventurous listener? What do you know about the ways your music reflects the social, cultural and political forces clashing and clanging around us all? In this course we’ll sample some of the forces that have shaped styles, genres and audiences throughout Western history and in our own time. We’ll think about, talk about and take a listen to some rock, classical, jazz, opera, hip hop, ballet, grunge, chant, funk, country, blues, salsa, metal and whatever else might be on your iPods, attend some live performances, and maybe open up each other’s ears along the way. This section will also use a Friday 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., time for course activities.

Prepare and Improvise: Skills for Successful Living

Lynne Perkins-Socey, Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts

Are you uncomfortable if you don’t know what to expect? Or are you most comfortable just “winging it”? Do you agonize over every decision or do you trust your instincts about what feels right? While it’s not realistic to plan every moment of the day, each of us can improve our ability to show up fully present by learning what kinds of preparation serve us best and consciously choosing the principles that guide our spontaneous choices.  Successful artists, athletes, business people, educators, community leaders and scientist all know the importance of finding a balance between intellect and instinct.  In this seminar, our experiential learning adventure will begin with exploration of personal values and decision-making styles as well as the benefits of a liberal arts education.  We will examine creative problem-solving models and apply the Ten Commandments of Improvisation in performance, collaboration, relationship and daily life scenarios. This section will also use a Friday 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., time for course activities.

Media, Games and SF/Fantasy Fans

Neal Baker, Library Director

This course is intended for hardcore SF/fantasy geeks entering Earlham. In academic terms, we’ll mobilize a conceptual toolkit from media studies, game studies and fan studies. More prosaic, we’ll explore what it means to be a first-year college SF/fantasy geek and apply the toolkit to your daily life and future. We’ll read Earlham’s Principles and Practices in light of fictional community codes (e.g. The Night's Watch oath from Game of ThronesDivergent faction manifestos) and examine gender issues via fan cosplay and media like Frozen. You’ll design an Earlham-themed game after extensive scholarly reading and your own analysis of a touchstone like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, or The Settlers of Catan. You’ll complete media projects, too, and we hope to visit the Ohio Renaissance Festival equipped with theoretical lenses on such sites. Be forewarned: Anyone expecting a blow-off class is in for epic grief. This section will also use a Friday 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., time for course activities.

Critical Choices

Steve Heiny, Research Professor of Classics

Human beings make choices. You and I chose to come to Earlham College. We choose our friends and lovers. We choose to be good for them and faithful to them — or not. We choose to obey rules and laws — or not. We choose a way to earn a living. According to Aristotle in each of our choices we choose, ultimately, even our character. In this course we choose, in addition, to reflect on, talk about, and write about these and other choices.  To help us do this we will study a variety of texts, including Plato's Crito, Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice, Melville's Billy Budd, Camus' Myth of Sisyphus, and Morrison's Beloved among other texts. This section will also use a Friday 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., time for course activities.

Home is Where the Art Is: Place, Creativity and Changing the World

Mary Garman, Professor of Religion

What forms of creativity sustain you when you move from place to place? What kind of world do you hope for? We will reflect on those questions, accompanied by novelists, composers, poets, playwrights and other artists. Part of the time we’ll gather in a classroom, but we will also visit some artistic sites in Richmond, and meet local artists and see where they work. Writing assignments will offer chances for reflection, skill building and developing your own voice. Count on doing some critiquing and re-writing, as well as creating class presentations that will support our discussions. Some weeks you will work on your own research questions, and other times you will collaborate with others. This section will also use a Friday 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., time for course activities.

Folk and Fairy Tales

Mary Lacey, Professor of English

This course will focus on the following course goals. Students in this course will read folk and fairy tales from a variety of cultures and explore how scholars explore such texts. Students will be expected to read, write, and discuss in an open and questing spirit. There will be several formal essays and many shorter writing assignments; revision will be required in some instances and will be an option for each essay. Students will lead class at least once, either singly or in small groups.

Shakespeare in Practice

Nate Eastman, Associate Professor of English

"The souls most fed with Shakespeare's flame," wrote G.K. Chesterton, "still sat unconquered in a ring." And for the past five centuries, countless people have found something vital in Shakespeare's art — not only by reading and watching the plays, but by engaging Shakespeare as a fellow artist: playing Macbeth, producing Romeo and Juliet, or rewriting Hamlet. This course will help you further discover the value of Shakespeare's work by approaching it not only as a student, but as a writer, actor, director, critic and researcher. Along the way, we'll discover exceptional Shakespeare performances (such as the Globe Theater's most recent Midsummer), famous adaptations (such as The Godfather), and learn to practice the habits of mind that make a lifetime engagement with Shakespeare rigorous, exciting and rewarding. This section will also use a Friday 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., time for course activities.

Road Trips, Film and American Culture

Betsy Schlabach, Assistant Professor of History

In this course, we will examine the American conversation about travel and “the open road,” and look for ways that we can both analyze that conversation and make our own contributions to it. As we examine primary and secondary sources, fiction, poetry, and films about the automobile and road tripping, we will be asking a series of questions: how are the writers and filmmakers we are examining arguing for a vision of American identity through their accounts of their journeys? How do travel narratives help us to engage with understandings of gender, ethnicity, race, sexuality, class, and American identity — past, present, and future? And perhaps most importantly, how can we come to articulate our identities through our own travels and relationships to the automobile? Specifically, this course aims to provide you with an in depth experience writing and revising essays, research, and a variety of digital assignments.  As much as it will focus on content — the history of automobiles, road trips, roadside architecture, gender, family, sexual orientation, and race in the United States — this course also aims to provide you with critical writing and thinking tools you will employ throughout your experience at Earlham College.

World War II in East Asia

Wayne Soon, Assistant Professor of History

The Second World War was transformative for Japan and China. At its height of conquest, the Japanese Empire ruled over more than 130 million people, even as it struggled to deal with wartime controversies. China became one of the Big Four Allied Powers as state building and resistance persisted in unoccupied areas. This course will explore how the Second World War shaped the everyday lives of Chinese, Japanese, and foreigners in East Asia. In addition, students will explore reasons for the major events in the war – including the Nanjing massacre, the Chinese resistance to and collaboration with the Japanese, Japan’s wartime mobilization, the role of science and technology in war-making, the rise of the Chinese Communist Party, and the U.S. government’s decision to release atomic bombs in Japan. Through the use of oral history accounts, recollections, speeches, films, reports, and literary texts, students will investigate how people of different classes, nationalities, occupations, and gender experienced the war. Students will gain an appreciation of the complexities of the war, which has shaped and troubled Sino-Japanese relations ever since.

Who am I? What are you?

Nelson Bingham, Professor of Psychology

One of the distinctive qualities of human beings is the capacity, indeed, the need, to have a sense of self or identity. But our life as an individual almost never happens in a social vacuum. We encounter those who are different from ourselves every day. How can we best engage with the diversity that surrounds us? While it sometimes leads to conflict and oppression, can it also lead to enhancement of our personal identity and enrichment of community? This course will explore the interplay of identity and diversity using texts, videos, Earlham’s Principles & Practices, personal journals, websites and other sources.

Psychology of Humor

Beth Mechlin, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Humans regularly engage in humorous exchanges, and actively seek out books, movies, TV shows and podcasts that will make them laugh. This course will focus on the role that humor plays in our lives. We will examine humor from developmental, cognitive, and social psychology perspectives. Research studying the role of humor and laughter in mental and physical health will also be discussed. This section will also use a F 2:30-4:00pm time for course activities.

The Technological Selfie

Vince Punzo, Professor of Psychology

Our lives are increasingly centered on our use of the Internet, Facebook, twitter, texting and virtual reality. But do these technologies strengthen, or diminish, our relationships with our friends, family members and loved ones? Perhaps it is time to for us to take a “technological selfie,” that is, take the time to explore and reflect on how emerging social media and technology is shaping who we are and how we relate to others and the world around us. Through contemporary readings, discussions, and videos this class will focus on how the utilization of technology transforms one’s sense of self as well as one’s relationships with family, friends, romantic partners, and reconfigures our notions of community. This section will also use a Friday 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., time for course activities.

Food for Thought: The Chemistry of Cooking

Lori Watson, Associate Professor of Chemistry

We all eat, and most of us cook (at least something), but do you know the science behind what you do in the kitchen? Why is salt used in cooking? How can you avoid green eggs? Why does bread rise? This seminar will explore the chemical nature of food, including the water, fats and oils, proteins, and carbohydrates that make up what we eat. We will discuss how the properties of these compounds give rise to choices in preparation, preservation, and cooking of foods. We will also consider how food can be central to culture and identity and how lessons learned in the kitchen translate to life off the plate. The course will (of course) involve edible experiments with food. This section will also use a Friday 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., time for course activities.


Demian Riccardi, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

How does an auditorium packed with Earlham students respond to a segregationist speech by George Wallace? ... silence ... This class is about possibilities within and all around us and the hard work needed to restrain their number. Consider our organized and disorganized cells, our language, our society, our planet, our galaxy, etc.  This class is also about the process of doing stuff. We will take concepts from the physical sciences to develop a new way of thinking about creative work, uncreative work, decisions, and the search for truth; with these powerful tools, we will find endless possibilities for what we should do or the topics we should analyze. Possible topics include history and conspiracy theories (e.g. The Jinx documentary and the impending trial of Robert Durst); language and politics (e.g. constrained language and political correctness); and liberal arts education (e.g. research and novelty).  We will work together, do stuff, and create. Throughout, we will play with the concepts of energy, work, and the flow of information in restrained spaces. This section will also use a Friday 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., time for course activities.

The Epistemology of the Toaster: The Way Things Work (Together)

Ellen Keister, Assistant Professor of Physics

Want to study philosophy and small kitchen appliances in the same course? Investigation, discovery, invention and design all require people with different skills and passions working together, asking different questions and finding answers in different ways. How does this community work and how does it figure out things work, why they aren't working, and how to make them work better? We will explore the ways different groups of people investigate and discover how the world works, and through study and hands-on experimentation, we will investigate and discover for ourselves! This section will also use a Friday 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., time for course activities.

Our Math and the World’s Math

Tim McLarnan, Professor of Mathematics

Mathematics isn’t something Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai. It was created by human beings, and it has arisen and developed differently in different societies. This course explores some of the wealth of human arithmetics and geometries among Africans, Native Americans, Australians, Pacific Islanders and Eurasians. Possible topics include: number names in different languages; how to write numbers in Aztec, Egyptian and Mayan; geometric design in Africa and in Islamic art; Greek and Japanese geometries; the origins of binary numbers in southern African systems of divination; the abstract algebra of Malekula kinship relations; Euler’s Theorem and Bushoong sand tracings; how to make and read an Incan quipu; and how to carry a leopard, a goat, a rat and a basket of sorghum across a river in a canoe that can hold only a human and one of these items. This section will also use a Friday 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., time for course activities.

The Science of Questioning, and the Questioning of Science + Lab

Chris Smith, Assistant Professor of Biology

One of the hardest things to do is ask a good question. From a good question, it is often difficult to get a good answer. The scientific method can help with the latter (answering), but not the former (questioning).  In this course we will explore what makes for a good question.  We will also explore the scientific process and its limitations for finding a good answer. Some of the questions we will ask in this course are: What is the philosophy of science? How do we know what we know, what are the limitations of what we can know, and how is knowing from science different from other ways of acquiring knowledge? Major themes in the course will be examining how science can inform our own decisions, our sense of morality and ethical code, and how science can inform our lives beyond practice … and of course, when it cannot do any of these things. We will also do science, taking an idea/question from its birth to a hopefully satisfying answer.

One Flu Over The Cholera Pest

Peter Blair, Associate Professor of Biology

Infectious diseases represent a scourge to human health and global productivity. This course will examine historical epidemics, through the reading of texts, which lead and enabled scientists into a better understanding of germ theory and the biology of infection. We will extend that knowledge to explore modern disease outbreaks and control measures in a place-based manner. What are the emerging and re-emerging disease threats for Earlham College and in the locale that you call home? We will monitor and track emerging diseases in real-time to assess the efficacy of current disease surveillance. In doing so, we will examine bioethical issues, including those related to vaccinations, in the context of herd immunity, and first-world influence in the third-world. Finally, we will evaluate career paths, potential internships and research opportunities in these areas and beyond. This section will also use a Friday 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., time for course activities.

Print Friendly and PDF