Fall 2019 Core Courses

AMST 1700: Honors Core: American Landscapes – The Connecticut River Valley

[UConn Hartford]

The Connecticut River is the main artery and psychological lifeblood of New England. Four hundred ten miles from its source on the United States/Canadian border to its merger with the Atlantic Ocean in the Long Island Sound, the Connecticut River Watershed Council has characterized it as a great Main Street, that “runs through the lives and livelihoods of the people and communities of the Connecticut River Valley. New England’s mightiest river, the Connecticut stands at the heart of this region’s human settlement and commerce; it is at the core of its history and culture; and it represents the essence of its environmental quality and economic vitality.” In this course, we examine different ways of thinking about this foundational natural landmark: geologically; historically; environmentally; as an economic resource; a transportation network; a focus of literature and artistic expression; as a recreational and tourism resource; and as a source of water and power.  We seek, ultimately, to fully answer just one question: WHAT IS THE CONNECTICUT RIVER?

WGSS 3995: (Special Topics) Imagining America: Speculative Culture and American Identity

Reality and myth, histories and fictions, fantasy and fact all provide the contours of both our national and our individual identities. What roles do gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, dis/ability, and race play in determining both our realities and our imaginings? How do they impact who we are and who we could be, as individuals and as a national collective? What else could we be, and how do we know?

In this class, we will use speculative stories including fantasy, steam punk, and science fiction, in conjunction with history, anthropology, and sociology, to explore these questions on both a macro- and micro-level. This class will weave in and out of multiple realities, keeping in mind how the stories we tell emerge from the lives we live, and how the lives we live are shaped by the stories we tell. The only prerequisite is the ability to imagine, although some familiarity with the history of alien invasion in the US will be helpful.

Note WGSS 3995 is a “variable credits” course. Please ensure that you register for 3 credits.

SOCI 3823: Sociology of Law: Global and Comparative Perspectives

The course will examine the relationship between law and social change. We will examine the impact of Western Law on Third World countries, the ways in which legal strategies can and have challenged inequality based on class, race, sex, religion and sexuality, and the impact of international human rights treaties. Students will become knowledgeable about different types of legal systems and will learn to analyze the ways in which the law contends with issues of difference and inequality. Students will also be able to analyze the interrelationships between the law, social structure, and the ways in which nations are linked globally.

In this course, students examine:

  • Theoretical perspectives and empirical studies relating the type of law found in a society to its social structure
  • How the law figures into fundamental social change
  • Anthropological studies of dispute processing in societies that are structured primarily on the basis of kinship
  • What impact the introduction of Western Law into Third World countries has had on economic growth, democratic political development, and human rights protections
  • Cross-national influences on law in the post-colonial world
  • The ways in which legal strategies can and have challenged inequality based on class, race, sex, religion, and sexuality
  • The critiques and limits of legal approaches to social change
  • What is the impact of international human rights treaties on the legal systems of different countries?
  • To what extent are international treaty obligations relevant in domestic court proceedings?
  • What is the relationship between social movements and the law?

Note SOCI 3823 is coded at the catalog level as “open to juniors or higher” but other Honors students may contact Prof. Bernstein for a permission number. In your email, confirm that you are a member of the Honors Program, provide your PeopleSoft number, and very briefly explain your interest in taking the course.

SOCI 2509W: Sociology of Anti-Semitism

Open to sophomores or higher. Requires ENGL 1010, 1011, or 2011.

In 1898, Mark Twain wrote an article about “a remarkable scene in the Imperial Parliament in Vienna,” entitled “Stirring Times in Austria,” which revealed the openness of anti-Semitism.  He received a number of letters in response to his article and one came from a lawyer, which contained several questions:

Now will you kindly tell me why, in your judgment, the Jews have thus ever been and are even now, in these days of supposed intelligence, the butt of baseless, vicious animosities?  I dare say that for centuries there have been no more quiet, undisturbing, and well-behaving citizens, as a class, than that same Jew. It seems to me that ignorance and fanaticism cannot alone account for these horrible and unjust persecutions. Tell me, therefore, from your vantage point of cold view, what in your mind is the cause. Can American Jews do anything to correct it either in America or abroad? Will it ever come to an end? Will a Jew be permitted to live honestly, decently, and peaceably like the rest of mankind? What has become of the Golden Rule?

Twain, Mark. Concerning the Jews. Philadelphia: Running Press, 1985:12

More than a century later, after the destruction of the Holocaust, we are still confronting these questions. Thus, this course will apply several perspectives of sociological analysis to the understanding and explanation of anti-Semitism within diverse societies. Theoretical and empirical materials bearing on this topic will be examined and analyzed. In addition, a trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum or a similar institution may be arranged (contingent on funding). This course will be useful to students interested in such topics as religion, ethnicity, intergroup relations, prejudice, discrimination, and racism.

POLS 3622: American Political Leadership

This course will approach the subject of American Political Leadership from a number of different perspectives.   Students will review  groundbreaking studies on leadership that hail from a variety of disciplines, as well as extensive case studies of U.S. political leaders.   Students will be asked to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of existing approaches to the study of political leadership.   We will also conduct simulations in which students assume different roles in political conflicts; through these simulations, students may effectively test some of the findings on leadership that have already been discussed. At least two themes will receive special emphasis over the course of the semester:  (1) how do the structure of American political institutions, American political culture, and American democratic principles define both opportunities and constraints for political leaders? and (2) Do great leaders make history or does history make great leaders, and how can we even know the difference?

Note POLS 3622 is coded at the catalog level as “open to juniors or higher” but other Honors students may contact Prof. Yalof for a permission number. In your email, confirm that you are a member of the Honors Program, provide your PeopleSoft number, and very briefly explain your interest in taking the course.

POLS 3434W: Honors Core: Excavating the International in Everyday Practices

Requires ENGL 1007, 1010, 1011, or 2011.

What is “international”?  The term translates literally into “between nations” (as opposed to intra/within nations) and typically refers to interactions that occur with other states beyond our borders.  It suggests that the international is distinct from the national, that it happens between world leaders somewhere else, and that it has limited relevance to our daily lives.  And yet, the international could not exist without our individual, daily participation in it.  The international is in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the furniture we sit on and the music we listen to.  It’s embedded in places we think of as strictly national — our school systems, the national holidays we celebrate, the water we drink, the objects we buy and the television shows we watch.  Through seminar discussions and research modules on specific everyday objects, we explore international relations as an everyday practice.  In so doing, we consider our personal relationship to global power dynamics and inequalities and what this implies for activism, ethical change and social justice.

POLS/WGSS 3247: Gender and War

War is studied in this course as a range of experiences with armed political violence in the international system. Men, women, and children experience war directly or indirectly through media representations of war, gender combat practices, the militarization of masculinity, terror wars and women suicide bombers, rape in war, use of child soldiers, refugee camps, and through the application of international laws governing gender relations in war and post-war situations. To illustrate these and other points we consider recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Nigeria (Boko Haram) as well as the Mexican drug war, cyberwar and prospects for nuclear war using a variety of resources including fiction, autobiography, and academic studies. Throughout the course, students work in groups on these wars and periodically present their research and updates to the class.

Note POLS 3247 is coded at the catalog level as “open to juniors or higher” but other Honors students may contact Prof. Sylvester for a permission number. In your email, confirm that you are a member of the Honors Program, provide your PeopleSoft number, and very briefly explain your interest in taking the course.

POLS 2062W: Privacy in the Information Age

Requires ENGL 1010, 1011, or 2011.

Privacy is one of the most important concepts of our time, yet it is also one of the most puzzling. As technology makes information more accessible; academics, activists, policymakers, and citizens struggle to define (and redefine) the meaning of privacy. By providing a thematic overview of the topic of privacy from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, this course prepares Honors students for critical engagement with the many and diverse public policy, legal, and ethical debates that surround privacy.

The course focus will provide students with the opportunity to participate in weekly seminar discussions regarding the impact of technology on the ways in which privacy is conceptualized, valued, enacted, and protected.

Topics of analysis include, but are not limited to:

  • The history of privacy
  • Cultural variations of privacy
  • Philosophical definitions of privacy and debates about the moral/ethical status of privacy
  • Legal/constitutional interpretations of the right to privacy
  • The impact of technology on the meaning of privacy

PHIL 2410: Know Thyself

The Delphic Oracle is said to have had two premier injunctions: Nothing in excess, and Know thyself. This course will be an examination of the latter injunction. Our central questions fall into two categories. First, What is it? We shall inquire into just what self-knowledge is: Is it a form of inner perception, somewhat like proprioception, by virtue of which our minds (and hearts) have internal scanners of their own states? Or should we construe self-knowledge in a way not crucially relying on a perceptual model? In that case, what other model might we use? Second, Why is it such a big deal? We shall inquire into the question why self-knowledge should be thought so important. Just what, if anything, is missing from a person lacking in self-knowledge that makes her significantly less wise, virtuous, or able than others who have this capacity? Our exploration will take us into research in Western philosophy, psychoanalysis, current personality and social psychology, neuroscience, aesthetics, and Eastern, particularly Buddhist philosophy as well. In aid of these investigations we will become students of our own dreams, and cultivate some meditative practices. Course requirements are two papers, a midterm and final examination, and active participation in class discussion.

Trouble registering? This class has a catalog-level pre-requisite of PHIL 1101/1102/1103/1104/1105/1106/1107. We can override this pre-requisite. If you are an Honors student, you may register by emailing honors@uconn.edu and including (1) your name; (2) your 7-digit Student Admin number; (3) your registration “pick time”; (4) the course number and section (PHIL 2410-001); (5) the class number from Student Admin; and (6) confirmation that there are seats available in the course.

MCB 2612: Honors Core: Microbe Hunters – Crowdsourcing Antibiotic Discovery

The purpose of this course is to provide underclassmen and non-science majors with an opportunity to undertake real-world scientific research in a fun, supportive, and immersive environment. As part of the Small World Initiative, you will join with college students around the globe to crowdsource antibiotic drug discovery. Your guided independent research projects will involve taking soil samples, isolating bacteria within them, and testing them for antibiotic activity, and there is the opportunity for further pursuit of any promising findings. We have access to the database generated by students at other Small World sites, allowing us to explore issues of biodiversity, effective use of large data sets in the sciences, and the effectiveness of crowdsourcing for scientific research. At the end of the semester, your results will join that database.

As part of the Honors Core, UConn’s Small World course adds an interdisciplinary emphasis on the social aspects of disease: its definition, what it means to be “diseased,” how those definitions have changed over time, and the pivotal role of antibiotics in the evolution of those definitions. We will use both fiction and non-fiction in this exploration, and we will end up in the modern era to consider antibiotic-resistant microorganisms and the ethical, philosophical, and policy issues we may face if antibiotics cease to be effective in treating many common diseases.