Course Offerings 2019

Ortwin KnorrCourse taught by: Ortwin Knorr

Some of the most spectacular movies in film history are epic movies set in ancient Greece and Rome. "Toga movies" such as "Cabiria" (1914), "Ben Hur" (1959), "Cleopatra" (1963), and "Gladiator" (2000) were not only important milestones in film history, but still dazzle their audiences with gigantic sets, huge armies of extras, impressive action scenes, gorgeous costumes, and rousing music. In this course, we will learn to watch these and other "toga movies" closely and analyze them from many different angles, as films with a specific language and tradition, as historical narratives, and as reflections of and comments on contemporary culture.

Shatha AlmutawaCourse taught by: Shatha Almutawa

This course examines a tenth-century Arabic philosophical narrative, The Case of the Animals versus Man before the King of the Jinn, in English translation. In this colorful literary masterpiece, the animals sue the humans for maltreatment, and the two parties face each other to make arguments in favor of their respective positions. While the animals complain about their imprisonment, torture, and murder at the hands of the humans, the humans defend their rights to use animals for food, clothes, travel, and farming. Written by anonymous Iraqi authors who formed a secret society and called themselves Ikhwan Al-Safa, or the Brethren of Purity, the text exhibits a unique worldview, both Qur’anic and Greek, and inspired by the thought of Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus, as well as their Greek, Chrisitan, and Muslim commentators. A text that examines the human’s place in the world, it inspired medieval Jewish and Christian thinkers who translated it into Hebrew and adapted it into Latin. By studying this work, students will consider the exchange and cross-fertilization between Muslim, Christian, Greek, Indian, and Persian cultures. Some questions we will discuss in the course include: How have Muslims thought about justice throughout their history? What is ethical action in Islam? What are the rights of animals? What is the relationship between reason and revelation in Islam? And what is Shari’ah, or Islamic law?

Cayla Skillin-BrauchleCourse taught by: Cayla Skillin-Brauchle

How does art get made?  Why is art relevant in today’s society?  How can art both analyze society and create change?  Artful Engagement: Crafting Social Change uses the framework of Social Practice to understand why Art can and should be an integral part of daily life.  This framework uses critical thinking, research, and analysis to create projects that engage society in self-reflective changemaking.  In Artful Engagement: Crafting Social Change students will keep a sketchbook to both collect information and provide a space to develop core projects in the class: producing a zine and creating an artist book, which both rely on writing and images.  Zines are often written and created by those on the fringes of society; sometimes they address the marginalization of different groups while at other times entertain obscure ideas and collections.  Zines help create new communities and support existing communities by sharing ideas, creating dialogue, and reporting on things newspapers miss.  Artist Books allow exploration of paper engineering and construction techniques to connect conceptual content with design.  Throughout the course we’ll gather inspiration from the fantastic collection of sketchbooks and zines in the Pacific Northwest Artists Archive (right here on campus) and the vast collection at the Zine Library at the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland.

Cecily McCaffreyCourse taught by: Cecily McCaffrey

Who am I and where do I belong? These questions are foundational to our identity as individuals and to our formation of community. This colloquium explores the experiences of people of Asian heritage (broadly defined) who have called Oregon home and examines Asian influences on the land and culture of the state. We will closely examine the connections we make between place and identity by considering Asian American communities in rural and urban Oregon. We will engage a broad range of material, including memoirs (Big Little Man by Alex Tizon) and urban history (Sweet Cakes, Long Journey by Marie Rose Wong), but will focus in particular on first-hand sources and experiential learning, combining work in local and digital archives with field trips to obtain a better sense of the ways in which Oregon reflects Asian heritage.

Emma CoddingtonCourse taught by: Emma Coddington

Together we will explore the underlying beliefs and assumptions that have driven contemporary practices of science, and consider alternatives that would shift the way we ask questions, and therefore how and what we explore as scientists. Questions that drive the beginning of this course are: What are the physiological and neural consequences of oppression through racism, sexism and ableism? How does the body respond to love? How do emotions and unconscious thoughts interact with rational and conscious thoughts and impact the stories we hold and decision-making? What are the stories that our cultures embed in our bodies and minds? What is love when we detach the malpractice of obligation and manipulation from practices of love? How does the tension between oppression and love affect the practice of science and experience of belonging?  I expect the process of this course to result in your own questions – there will be space for you to explore these individually and in community.

In this class we will use texts (film, written, & images), discussion, writing, and other creative forms of expression in order to a) explore the underlying structures of the dominant colonial cultures, b) examine the current process of science, and c) use the lens of social justice and belonging to consider the value and possibilities that arise when we reconfigure how we do science together.  Texts will include a variety of books, articles, poems and films, which we will explore using scientific processes and collaborative discourse in verbal, written, scientific and artistic formats.

Jonneke KoomenCourse taught by: Jonneke Koomen

“Nobody is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes, if they know that that knowledge will help set you free,” Assata Shakur wrote in 1988. This colloquium examines the life and work of Assata Shakur and Angela Davis in their own words. Through their scholarship, speeches, letters and memoirs, we will learn about revolutionary Black liberation struggles worldwide. We will ask: how are struggles against imperialism, capitalism, racism, sexism and other forms of oppression connected? How can we forge meaningful solidarities across borders, differences and inequalities? How can we work towards anticolonial and antiracist education?  And can student activism contribute to building a better world? Throughout the class we will learn from the work and knowledge of current and former WU students who have contributed to this curriculum and led struggles for justice on our campus and beyond.

Carol S. LongEdward G. WhippleCourse taught by: Carol S. LongCourse taught by: Edward G. Whipple

How do you learn to thrive in times of rapid change?  How do individuals respond successfully to extreme challenges when everything seems to go wrong?  How do businesses like Kodak survive disruptive technology and develop resiliency in highly competitive times? How does a community recover from a devastating natural occurrence such as an earthquake or hurricane? Resilience is defined as "the ability of a system to cope with change," and has been called "the rubber ball factor."  What does resilience mean for you as a Willamette student and your success? We will look at the resilience of human individuals, businesses and organizations, and natural systems through readings from multiple disciplines and genres.  Discussion, research and service projects and interviews with community partners will inform your written work and reflection.  Readings will include Andrew Zolli's Resilience:  Why Things Bounce Back and Judith Rodin’s The Resilience Dividend plus several other works focused on overcoming adversity.

April OverstreetCourse taught by: April Overstreet

In the early 9th century, remains believed to be those of the apostle Saint James were discovered in Galicia and later a grand Romanesque cathedral honoring Santiago became the destination of Catholic pilgrims from all over Europe, establishing four main routes through the north of Spain. In this colloquium, we will explore the complex religious, linguistic, cultural and social interchanges between the local populations and the pilgrims, and articulate the interplay between change and continuity, as the Camino de Santiago has become a phenomenon in which millions of travelers wearing the traditional shell of the pilgrim have joined over the past 1200 years. Key questions to address include: what role did the Camino play in the medieval coexistence among Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula, and how did it evolve during periods of extreme intolerance such as the expulsions of the Jews (1492) and the Muslims (1502)? In what ways has the route and the infrastructure it necessitated shaped patterns of growth along it? To what extent has the Camino informed the construction of a Spanish Catholic nationalist identity? Finally, how have foreign pilgrims on the route contributed to Spain’s multicultural society, and in turn, how have their experiences shaped global perceptions of Spain, Spaniards or of “Spanish-ness”?

Lucas Ettinger, Ph.D.Course taught by: Lucas Ettinger

Human longevity and quality of life have been greatly enhanced over the past century because of advances in modern medicine.  We owe a lot of our understanding of disease progression, illness, injury and medical treatments to the use of animals, cadavers, embryotic stem cells, and living humans in medical research and training.  That progress resulted from the dynamic tension between human mortality and the morality of our decisions; in essence ‘when do the ends justify the means?’

In this class we will dissect the ethical principles that guide knowledge acquisition on disease, illness, injury and decisions regarding the effectiveness of treatment.  Undoubtedly, you all have encountered difficult decision moments in your lives and you know that careful consideration of facts and consequences dictate our choices. In our discussions we will use multiple lenses to examine this topic, such as the perspectives of the laboratory scientist, animal rights activists, patients, and medical practitioners.  Finally, we will have the opportunity to encounter these issues firsthand through discussions with scientists, visits to animal testing laboratories, and explorations in the Human Anatomy Laboratory on Willamette's campus. 

Mike NordCourse taught by: Mike Nord

One can easily argue that the invention of the electric guitar and its essential partner, the amplifier, changed music.  But how and where did music change?  How did those changes inspire artists to begin imagining and prompting new developments in electric guitar, amplification, and signal processing technologies?  Where did this take us? This course will explore these questions thru a historical examination of the development of the electric guitar and its associated technologies, the musical styles both using and prompting this development, and the seminal artists, producers, engineers, and luthiers who made it happen.  No musical background is necessary.  We will listen to, discuss, read about, and research musicians, musical styles, and electric guitar affiliated technologies from across the globe.

Randall HavasCourse taught by: Randall Havas

What is the difference between being a person and being moss, a bit of garbage, or a cauliflower?  What a cauliflower is is fixed, let us suppose, by nature.  According to the existentialist, this is not true of the human being.  That is, what is true of us is, at least in part, a function of what we say or think about ourselves, how we live our lives.  We are, as it is sometimes said, self-interpreting animals; as such, freedom is fundamental to the kinds of beings we are.  Consequently, we bear a kind of responsibility for what is true of us that the cauliflower does not, and nothing can disburden us of that responsibility.  What, if anything, can have authority for me, in view of my radical freedom?  Can anything, and, if so, does nothing?  What can authority even mean in such circumstances?  What does obedience to such authority look like?  In what ways can authority and obedience be deformed?  Such questions are not unique to the philosophical movement known as existentialism, but it is characteristic of the latter that it so consistently leaves the asking and answering of them entirely to the individual, particularly concerned as it is with the various ways in which we tend to disown responsibility for asking and answering them ourselves.  Existentialist themes are the stuff of great modern literature as well as of European philosophy in the mid and late 20th century.  Our colloquium will focus on one seminal example: Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, in which a young and impoverished law student Raskolnikov commits an apparently senseless murder with the aim of determining whether morality is truly binding on him.  The bulk of the novel is spent trying to decipher Raskolnikov’s peculiar motivations and to understand the significance of his ostensible failure to “step over” morality.  In our Colloquium we will read and critically analyse Dostoevsky’s great novel through the lens of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling and Nietzsche’s The Anti-Christ, with an eye to understanding his conceptions of good, evil, and human agency.

Erik NoftleCourse taught by: Erik Noftle

What does it mean to be happy and how can happiness be achieved? The ancient Greeks maintained that no man could be said to have attained happiness and well-being, what they called εὐδαιμονία, or eudaimonia, until he was dead! On the other hand, Sigmund Freud argued that happiness can only be experienced as brief moments of pleasure or relief and thus is ultimately fleeting. As these contrasting views might suggest, the questions of human joy, satisfaction, flourishing, and the good life have long been concerns of societies and scholars alike, leading to an astonishing variety of conclusions. In this course we will discuss happiness from a myriad of perspectives, ranging from philosophy, to popular culture, to current psychological research. We will consider arguments and evidence presented in empirical journal articles, essays, and literary and philosophical works, and will also utilize film and internet sources to extend our analyses. Possible sources include Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s Chronicle of a Summer, Werner Herzog's Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, and Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener’s Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth.


Josh LaisonCourse taught by: Josh Laison

Like any creative medium, games combine technical and artistic processes in their design, and can be analyzed and critiqued from a variety of academic perspectives.  Game designers use mathematical and computational tools to balance complex interconnected systems of abstract rules, and narrative and storytelling structures to give their designs meaning.  Game critics think about games in the context of modern societies, and games succeed and fail in their relationships with player psychologies.  In this course, students will read and discuss a variety of scholarly works on game design and criticism; design and refine their own games through a series of design challenges; and test and review experimental games that push the boundaries of the design and play experiences.

Tabitha KnightCourse taught by: Tabitha Knight

In the robust, complex, and intriguing wizarding world of Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling masterfully weaves fantasy with reality to create underlying subplots related to dealing with difference. In this course, we will journey together through the Harry Potter series to analyze, discuss, and evaluate many of these subplots to guide our inquiry into questions such as: what is the social hierarchy in the wizarding world and how does it overlap with or differ from the real world? How do the natures of the characters and their manifestations of prejudice allow readers to connect to the characters and better understand prejudice? What does Rowling offer as solutions to prejudicial social attitudes and institutions and would these solutions “solve” these issues in the real world today? We will draw upon J.K. Rowling’s series, in addition to other sources that will help guide our conversations on these topics. Familiarity with the Harry Potter texts is recommended.

Ricardo De Mambro Santos              Course taught by: Ricardo De Mambro Santos

The representation of bodies has always played an important role in the making of art, from the pre-historical depictions of animals in the caves of Lascaux, in France, to the performances made by Contemporary artists such as Cindy Sherman and Marina Abramović. Through the rendering of the body, different artists and societies have expressed a wide variety of values, beliefs and conventions. In this class, we will explore the multiple ways in which human, animal and also “post-organic” and “post-modern” bodies have been depicted in art, literature and cinema, in order to understand the variable sets of ideas and ideologies – often presented under the form of “hidden discourses” – that accompany the creation of these images. We will also examine the different functions that these representations might have performed within their original contexts of production and reception. To that end, we will address questions such as: why did Renaissance masters, like Leonardo and Michelangelo, combine very naturalistic anatomies with highly idealized forms in their depictions of the human body? What were the intentions of Surrealist painters, writers and filmmakers when they embraced the definition of art as the
“chance encounter of a sewing machine and un umbrella on a dissection table,” thus creating very unusual images of the human body? Why did abstract artists neglect to depict bodies altogether and focused on the creation of works populated entirely by non-representational forms? What values are embedded in the adoption of different canons of “beauty” and “ugliness,” “perfection” and “deformity”?

Frann MichelCourse taught by: Frann Michel

This course investigates the history, representations, challenges, and possibilities of higher education, especially but not exclusively in the United States today. Do universities provide sanctuaries for free intellectual inquiry and growth, or marketable skills and research?  How much common ground do we see among medieval and early modern seminaries, small liberal-arts colleges, and land-grant universities?  How has the meaning of college education changed with developments in coeducation, racial integration, open admissions, and increasing availability of student loans? Do universities transmit or challenge a shared culture? Do they enable social mobility or ratify inequality?  Together we will explore such questions about the significance of advanced education.

Stephanie DeGooyerCourse taught by: Stephanie DeGooyer

This course investigates the history of human rights from the perspective of literature. We explore how rights are represented and narrated in novels such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace and how their founding declarations—famously, the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)—rely on fictional structures. While attending to some of the more politically contentious issues involved with human rights, such as the claim that universal rights lack political and legal enforcement, we will also consider: how does fiction help articulate and represent claims to universality? Why might a political philosopher turn to a work of fiction in order to make an argument about human rights? What can close attention to literary style teach us about the limitations of rights declarations? Authors to be read in this course include: Hannah Arendt, Edmund Burke, J.M. Coetzee, Franz Fanon, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Hobbes, Thomas Paine, Mary Shelley, Arundhati Roy, and Mary Wollstonecraft.

Gaetano DeLeonibusCourse taught by: Gaetano DeLeonibus

Well into our times, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) remains a complex and controversial figure. Rousseau's contemporaries already found inconsistencies between his philosophical and autobiographical selves. After his death, Rousseau was seen as a champion of individualism, at the nexus of Revolution and Romanticism, by both counter-revolutionaries and radicals. Hippolyte Taine went further and wrote that Rousseau's collectivism led inevitably to tyranny and despotism, only to be superseded by Cold War liberal scholars, such as Karl Popper, who claimed that his thinking contained the seed of totalitarianism. Finally, the history of modern educational theory is a series of footnotes to Rousseau, from his influence on the pedagogical practice of his near contemporaries Pestalozzi and Mme de Genlis, to that on later pedagogues such as Maria Montessori and John Dewey. In this course we will explore the man and the ideas that lie behind more than two-centuries of lively reactions, reverence, critique, controversy, and influence. We will ask, for instance: How do we read Emile, his book about child rearing, in light of Voltaire's revelation that Rousseau abandoned the five children he had with his servant? How does a feminist today read an author whose own contemporary, Mary Wollstonecraft, decried his denial to women of the same basic rights claimed for men? And finally: Rousseau, democrat or despot?

Mary R. BachvarovaCourse taught by: Mary R. Bachvarova

The modern Western novel, an extended prose narrative telling of a hero's often life-changing experience, has its roots in the Mesopotamian epic of "Gilgamesh", first recorded on clay tablets ca. 2100 BC. The figure of Gilgamesh, a historically attested Sumerian king who chose friendship over family, who failed in his quest to achieve physical immortality but left behind one of the most enduring monuments to man's search for the meaning of life in the face of inconsolable grief, was a major influence on Homer as he composed the story of Odysseus. And, Homer's Odyssey, considered by many to be the "first novel" of Western civilization, has proved to be a formative influence on Western literature. We will explore how the development of the familiar literary form of the novel over the course of millennia was a product of man's developing sense of self, changing understanding of the relationship to the divine, and desire to understand the purpose of life, through these two "proto-novels" and a series of key works such as Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment and Hermann Hesse's Rosshalde.

David AltmanCourse taught by: David Altman

During the last decade, knitting, crocheting, and the fiber arts in general have experienced a remarkable increase in popularity in the U.S.  In part, this is because activities such as knitting have the ability to play many roles and serve diverse functions. Knitting can be practiced as a craft, and it can also be a medium for art and fashion. Knitting can be used to express political views, and it can also simply be a way to relax. And these various facets are not mutually exclusive. For example, if I am knitting a sweater with an American flag on the front, I may be partaking in craft, political activism, and leisure all at the same time.

The goal of this class will be to examine the impact and value of knitting through a multidisciplinary approach, exploring its significance through the lenses of history, fashion, politics, science, psychology, and philosophy.  Questions that will be addressed include: What has driven the recent knitting revival?  How is knitting perceived, and in what ways is it an effective method of expression?  Does hand knitting present opportunities and experiences that machine knitting is incapable of providing?  What is the relationship between knit products and social equality?  During this exploration, you will also learn how to knit (if you do not already know how). Through speakers and off-campus visits, we will learn about the process of making a knit object, starting from the plant or animal from which the yarn is derived.


Gretchen Flesher MoonCourse taught by: Gretchen Flesher Moon

The myth is ancient and many times retold: Orpheus is a poet and musician of extraordinary powers, Eurydice his only love. When she dies tragically soon after they are married, the grieving Orpheus pursues her to the underworld. His singing moves even the dead to pity, and he persuades Pluto to let him return with her to the living. But he blows his chance, and loses Eurydice forever. His love for Eurydice doesn’t waver, nor does his grief abate. But his music, sung alone in the high mountains, magically charms trees and plants and the spirits; it also leads to his own tragic death.
The myth has classical versions in Virgil and Ovid, and has been retold in poetry and fiction since the medieval period, in at least 20 plays and films, in several operas and ballets, in songs as recent as 2019, in paintings and sculptures, even in video games. We’ll explore several versions, asking what makes this story one we keep turning to? how does it change over time? who tells it, and what difference does the teller make? when is it Orpheus’s story? when Eurydice’s? are powerful emotions the source of art? must the artist suffer?

Bobby Brewer-WallinCourse taught by: Bobby Brewer-Wallin

Before the pink pussy hats, graphic t-shirts, and the red MAGA caps, people for centuries have donned clothing to visually proclaim their allegiance to a particular cause. How does clothing influence society and what are the consequences of protest dressing? Identity, memory, protest, and politics intersect in the stitches sewn into fabric. This course reframes needlework as a powerful and political medium and examines how marginalized peoples throughout history have used the language of sewing, embroidery, and textiles to tell their neglected stories. We will explore a taxonomy of terms and first hand accounts from revolutionary France to contemporary Mexico, making connections from 19th century suffragettes to the white dress-suits worn in the US Capitol. The language of clothing has helped lift up voices even in the most desperate of circumstances.  Through close reading of non-fiction and personal narratives, we will work to discover how and why the needle has become a weapon of empowerment rather than subjugation. Express yourself in class discussion, writing, and putting needle and thread to fabric – this course will embody multiple forms of expression in and out of the classroom.

Katja MeyerCourse taught by: Katja Meyer

Today the climate is warming due to the addition of heat-trapping gases to our atmosphere from human activities. The harmful effects of climate change already impact human health, society, and the global biosphere. Yet, many people remain unaware of the magnitude of the problem or how to respond to it. In this colloquium, we will explore the scientific basis of climate change and a range of solutions through the lens of science, social science, and policy. We will begin by examining how people experience climate change today comparing personal narratives to the scientific evidence. Are rising sea level, frequent droughts, and disease outbreaks related to climate change? If so, what are the scientific, moral, and social arguments for responding to climate change? What are climate change solutions? What is the evidence that these measures can reduce climate warming? What can you do to mitigate climate change as a college student and engaged citizen? We will consider how to translate the global to the local as we develop proposals to reduce the carbon footprint or increase climate resiliency of an aspect of Willamette’s campus or the local Salem community. 

Jennifer JoppCourse taught by: Jennifer Jopp

This course engages students in a consideration of justice and the role of ideas about justice in the construction of polities.  We will ask: what is a just society? Do we live in a just society?  How might justice be measured? Attained? Maintained? Beginning with Plato’s Republic, we will engage with philosophers and thinkers across many centuries who have pondered how best to construct a society that fosters justice. We will talk about the related themes of the role of faith and of reason in society, the possibilities for equality, and the processes by which we might bring our ideal visions of society closer to fruition. Reading works from authors as diverse as Plato, Karl Marx, and Iris Young we will –together and with others in the community-engage in discussions about the nature of the human quest for justice.  The materials for the course are, likewise, diverse and reflect a variety of approaches to the questions above. We will read works of philosophy, as well as political manifestos, song lyrics and poetry. The final project for the course is the creation of a blueprint for a just society.


Ellen EisenbergCourse taught by: Ellen Eisenberg

In recent years memorials, commemorative statues, and even building names have become sites of conflict. Cities, states and universities are embroiled in debates about the racial and historical implications of monuments, markers and place names. In some cases, these debates have turned violent, as when white nationalists rallied in Charlottesville in 2017 to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Although many of these controversies have focused on Confederate monuments in the South, they have sparked reconsiderations of memorials even in the Pacific Northwest, where the University of Oregon recently changed the names of two buildings whose namesakes were KKK leaders. In addition, they have opened up new discussions about the silences in our landscape; the individuals or groups who should be memorialized but have been
overlooked or ignored. This class will examine the debates over historical monuments and historical memory, beginning with the controversy over Civil War and  Reconstruction memorials in the South and then moving to more local discussions, including an examination of the iconography on and near our own campus. Students will be introduced to archival research, as they seek to answer questions such as: What have been the historical forces and local contexts that shaped decisions to memorialize some aspects of our history and neglect others? Which individuals and events should be immortalized in local monuments? Are there memorials in our midst that represent individuals and values that seem problematic in the early 21 st century and, if so, how should this be addressed? Who is missing from the memorial landscape and what does that reflect about our collective memory?