Honors 250. 001 Capitalism, Slavery and Consequence

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Honors 250.001 Capitalism, Slavery and Consequence

Meets with Econ 195.001

Instructor: Warren Whatley Distribution: SS

Meets: Tuesday, Thursday 1:00-2:30, G463 Mason Hall
In this Honors seminar students will explore the historical origins of capitalism, how and why it rejuvenated slavery, and the long-term consequences of this social choice. We will explore the following topics:

  • what is capitalism? the historical origins of capitalism in Europe;

  • slavery and the expansion of capitalism to the Americas;

  • the transatlantic slave trade and the under-development of Africa;

  • the American Civil War and Reconstruction; and

  • the political economy of racial identity in America.

A major goal of the class is to demonstrate how basic economic principles are at work in our past and present worlds.

Intended Audience: The seminar is intended for first and second year undergraduates in the social sciences and history who might be considering a major or minor in economics.
Class Format: Class time will be spent discussing seminal articles and books, listening to lectures and films, debating the professor, stumpin-the-timeline, and conducting online research.

Honors 250.002 Evolution of Cognition and Social Science Ways of Knowing

Instructor: William Birdsall Distribution: SS

Meets: Wednesday 2:00-5:00, G421 Mason Hall
There is now overwhelming evidence for the evolution of all known life. This course will focus on the evolution of human cognition and its implications for what we know and believe about cognition today, particularly social science knowledge. Some questions we plan to address:

  1. In what respects is sensory knowledge given to the brain passively versus constructed by the brain?

  2. What does the brain “know” that it doesn’t tell our consciousness?

  3. When did language evolve and why?

  4. Does language reveal or hide the knowledge process?

  5. What can and do we know consciously?

  6. What is certainty and of what can we be certain?

  7. How does science differ from ordinary experience and from art?

  8. What is the role of imagination in the sciences?

  9. How and why are social sciences so different from physical science and from one another?

In this course we will carefully review the philosophical foundations of modern physical and social sciences and compare their methods. The disciplines I will emphasize are economics, anthropology, sociology, and psychology; political science will not be neglected if there is interest among the students.

Honors 250.003 Alternative Realities: Science and the Study of Human Perception

Instructor: Robert Pachella Distribution: SS

Meets: Tuesday, Thursday 10:00-12:00, G421 Mason Hall
This course will investigate a number of broad, highly subjective, inherently interesting questions about the nature of human perceptual experience. The broadest of these will be the question of cultural relativism: Do people from widely different cultures experience reality in fundamentally different ways? The alternative realities to be explored will be those attributable to cultures, subcultures, cults, historical eras, substances (i.e., drugs), and mental illness. Most importantly, the scientific enterprise itself, as one mode among others, of establishing an order of reality will also be presented in this context. Grades will be determined entirely by writing papers: a one page (or two) weekly “commentary” paper discussing ideas and issues that are currently under discussion in class, and one longer paper due at the end of the term, in which the student develops a concept about the nature of human perception and how it generically relates to some concept of “reality”.

Honors 251.001 Exhibiting Mesopotamia

Meets with Histart 306.001 and Histart 617.001

Instructor: Margaret Root Distribution: HU

Meets: Tuesday 10:00-1:00, 270 TAP
How to exhibit what has become “MESS O’ POTAMIA” in early 21st century America? What are the substantive historical excitements of Mesopotamian antiquities that museum visitors will find accessible but also intellectually compelling? What (if any) are our responsibilities to engage with war, looting, and art market cartels in displays for a university teaching museum? What are the most yeasty theoretical and political challenges relating more broadly to U.S. museums and public discourse in this particular socially-contested terrain? What are the practical, aesthetic, and didactic considerations in mounting a new permanent display in a space currently being planned--but not yet built-- featuring esoteric, often very small-scale artifacts?
HA 306/617 and LSA Honors 251 introduces the ancient civilizations of Iraq and neighboring western Iran through participation in real-time collaborative planning of new exhibition projects on ancient Iraq and Iran for the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.
Students have the opportunity to learn in a stimulating intellectual environment, dealing with real-world issues and hands-on experiences in museum presentation. Initial illustrated lectures plus in-class discussions of readings will lay the groundwork of a common core knowledge especially viewed in relation to strengths of the Kelsey’s distinguished collections/excavations. From there, our method will become fully seminar-like. Several short reading commentaries, class participation, final term project.

Honors 493.001 Complexity and Emergence

Meets with Psych 477.001 and Psych 808.001

Instructor: John Holland

Meets: Tuesday, Thursday 9:00-11:00, 2333 Mason Hall

Many of our most difficult contemporary problems depend upon an understanding of systems consisting of agents that adapt and learn: ecosystems, markets, language acquisition and evolution, political systems, the Internet, nervous systems, immune systems, reaction networks in biological cells, and so on. These systems, called complex adaptive systems (cas), exhibit properties such as "emergent" structures, "complex" conditional interactions, perpetual novelty in behavior, and diversity in agents (there is no "best" agent). Because of these properties, cas require novel techniques for analysis and understanding. This class will introduce and explore techniques, such as agent-based modeling, that have been most effective in helping us to explore and understand the behavior of cas.

The class aims to develop a range of ideas, examples, models, and intuitions that provide a deeper understanding of cas. All techniques will be fully developed in class, starting from elementary principles. The order of topics will depend partly upon particular interests of the class, but the following topics, at least, will be covered:

  1. Performance systems — sets of condition/action rules.

  2. Signal-passing systems — their pervasiveness from cell biology to language.

  3. Parallelism — systems with many rules active simultaneously.

  4. Agent-based models — models with multiple interacting agents.

  5. Credit assignment — strengthening stage-setting and predictive rules.

  6. Rule discovery — genetic algorithms.

  7. Building blocks — their role in everything from perception to invention.

Honors 493.002 Singing Out of Our Minds

Instructor: Dick Siegel

Meets: Tuesday 7:00-9:00 pm, 1306 Mason Hall

** In order to get into this course, you must submit an application to the Honors Office, 1330 Mason Hall. Forms available at the front desk.
This course is a songwriting workshop designed to foster student songwriting through the creation and performance of new work, the exploration of the songwriting art itself, and exposure to the masters of the American singer/songwriting tradition.
Most of our time will be spent in workshop mode. Every two weeks a new song will be brought to class to be performed. After the performance, a discussion of the work will be invited. Half the class will be responsible for bringing in their songs one week, the other half for bringing in theirs the next. The song topics will be both self-directed and suggested by class activity. We’ll delve into lyric, melody, rhythm and the creative process.
Class time will also be spent listening to and critiquing some of the best work of the great modern American singer/songwriters, along with songwriting examples from its antecedents--American roots blues, pop, jazz, country, and folk. The purpose of this endeavor will be to expand personal songwriting boundaries and to develop a language for describing the makings of a good song.
If a particularly good songwriter comes to The Ark (Ann Arbor’s premier acoustic music venue), some funds will be available for a class excursion.
At the end of the course there will be a student concert, open to friends, family and the public. The concert will be recorded.

Suggested Guidelines: This course would be well-suited for people who have had some experience with music and song-writing or poetry and are comfortable with the idea of performing new work for their peers.

Being able to accompany oneself on guitar or keyboards will be very helpful, although if they want the class to perform their songs, that would work as well. We’ll try to develop networking possibilities to connect singer/songwriters with musicians to accompany them.

Grading: While performance skills will be honed throughout the semester, an individual’s performing ability (voice quality, musicianship etc.) will not be considered in grading. Individual songs will not be graded either.


Final evaluations will focus on classroom participation and a broad appraisal of student effort in their own songwriting process.

Honors 493.003 Humor: History, Theory and Practice

Meets with InstHum 411.001

Instructor: Robert Mankoff

Meets: Friday, 1:00-4:00 PM, 1022 Thayer Building

The course is an introduction to the psychology of humor. It explores the ways that the cognitive, emotional and adaptive processes of humor operate, interpersonally, in society at large, and in the media. Students are given a thorough grounding in humor theory, which helps them analyze humor in entertainment as well as in ordinary life.

By the end of the course, in addition to having a theoretical understanding of humor, students will have developed a practical “comic toolbox” which makes use of their own experiences and personal styles to create comic ideas.

Grade is determined by class participation, and a presentation in the last week, that uses what has been learned both theoretically and on a practical level. The presentation might consist of a comic strip, a humorous essay, a stand up routine or a funny website or anything that demonstrates comic imagination.

English 407.003 Theories of Love

Instructor: David Halperin

Meets: Tuesday, Thursday 2:30-4
A survey of theories of love and desire in European literature from Plato to Nabokov and beyond. The course is designed to provide an introduction to the Platonic, Christian, and Freudian traditions as well as an overview of the most important and influential contributions to Western thinking about love by canonical male writers. It offers an opportunity to read broadly, to acquire a general background in the humanities, and to prepare for advanced work in critical theory and cultural studies. Authors to be studied include Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Dante, Montaigne, Proust, Freud, and Nabokov.

Institute for the Humanities (InstHum) 212.001 Language: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Course Coordinators: Philip Deloria and Daniel Herwitz Distribution: SS

Meets: Wed 2:00-4:00, 1022 Thayer Building
The most obvious is the hardest to understand and nothing is more obvious to human life than language use. We live in a world of words; we think in a world of sentences. We act in a world of adverts, internet web sites, translations, twitters and tracts; we live in a city of language that is a storehouse of culture, knowledge, ideology, morality, invention, myth. Language is a marker of human universals but also of the subtle and broad spectrum of human differences. It is the path to communication, bonding, negotiation, truth but also the place where power, inequality, violence, exclusion are articulated. Language is the good, the bad, and the ugly in human life, the sublime and the ridiculous.
It is for these reasons central to the humanities, almost a defining feature of the humanities that they study language, whatever else they do. Heritages of writing, thought, invention, ideology, myth, prose, poetry, philosophy, literary theory, criticism, biography, memoir, archives of document are the places where history, philosophy, literary studies, translation, critique, linguistic theory et al find their object of study. Language demands a wide range of analysis from all quarters of the humanities, which have dedicated their various disciples and dimensions to the study of language, from linguistics to the study of prose, from argumentation to advertisement. An introduction to the multi-disciplinary, multi-faceted study of language is also an introduction to what the humanities are, and how they variously elaborate their approaches to the world.
The Institute for the Humanities is blessed to have, during the 2012 Theme Semester on Language, a wide variety of expert faculty fellows who are variously studying language use, and together our fellows shall mount a unique course which allows the sophomore introduction to the varieties of language use and study, also to cutting edge research by top humanities scholars on language. This course will allow the student to work week by week with our unique scholars, each of whom exemplifies a unique kind of approach to one dimension of human language use or another. By the end of the course students will have learned about things as different as translation, the politics of American buzzwords, the creolization of language under conditions of human displacement, exile and interaction, the fate of language in its internet twitter, the role of description in the study of visual art.
This course is an opportunity to work with a range of scholars who are seldom brought together into a single course, turning that course into a prism of language.
The course earns the student one credit. It will happen over seven consecutive weeks in the Winter Term, 2012, with one two hour session per week (a total of fourteen hours). Each week will be taught by a different fellow.
The course will be stage managed by Daniel Herwitz, Director, Institute for the Humanities, who will introduce it and speak briefly to the question of language today, at once flattened in Internet twitter use and subjected to innovation in the light of the communicative platforms and possibilities of digital technologies. He will also speak briefly to the domination of English, which has become lingua Franca without the franca.
Each faculty member will assign a moderate amount of reading. The course will allow for a creative kind of assignment due at the end, which might simply be a written paper or might be an internet presentation of some particular kind. Students will be encouraged to think out of the box.
What will happen during the seven weeks:
Week One: Introduction to the course and Creoles and Pidgins

Marlyse Baptista, Professor of Linguistics, Hunting Family Professor, Institute for the Humanities, will provide a linguistic, historical and cognitive overview of pidgins and creoles which happen through the collision of distinct linguistic groups brought together with local linguistic populations through exile, slavery, servitude or other reasons. Relying on her life work in the Cape Verde Islands Professor Baptista will examine various theories of creole genesis and critically evaluate the role that European and African languages played in their development. She will also investigate the various cognitive processes involved in creole genesis and examine the linguistic properties of these languages.

Week Two: The Politics of Literacy

Daniel Hack, Associate Professor, English, John Rich Professor, Institute for the Humanities, will present a seminar called “Literacy, Slavery, and the Power of Language.” At issue will be the role of literacy and language in the maintenance of, and challenges to, U.S. slavery. The kinds of questions addressed will include: why were slaves in many states forbidden to learn to read and write? What were the perceived practical consequences and symbolic implications of basic literacy—and of linguistic sophistication—on the part of African Americans? What kind of power was attributed to literacy and rhetorical skill, and what was the perceived relationship between such power and physical force? The primary text for this seminar will be Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself.

Week Three: Translation and the Career of the War Horse

Sean Silver, Assistant Professor, English, Helmut F. Stern Professor, Institute for the Humanities, will choose a short section from Homer and look at translations from George Chapman's magisterial fourteeners to Eric Alt's tongue-in-cheek tweets, with half-a-dozen or so other stops in between, the idea will be to capture a very rough story about the Western imagination, through the vehicle of a single idea or complex image as it travels through time and how the status of “war horse” comes to be attached to this constantly changing set of translations. 

Week Four: Models of Translation

David Porter, Professor of English, Helmut F. Stern Professor, Institute for the Humanities, will lead a session on the theory and practice of translation focusing on Chinese poetry. The session will introduce the dominant models and current debates in translation theory, with illustrative examples from the history of translations of well-known Chinese poems into English and perhaps a sidebar on the great modernist poet steeped in Chinese and its translation, Ezra Pound & the great art historian and museum collector, Fenollosa.

Week Five: How to Say What You See

Joan Kee, Assistant Professor, History of Art and Helmut F. Stern Professor, Institute for the Humanities, will explore with the class: What does it mean to describe what we see?  What language should be used and how?  This seminar will deal with the relationship between visuality and language through the lens of contemporary Asian art, a field of inquiry crucially shaped by the transmission and reception of language, and in particular, translation.  The seminar will be divided into two parts, beginning with a rough overview of the relationship between text and visual art in East Asia, from the mid-18th century to the present. The second part of this seminar will put into practice some of the skills in looking, speaking, and writing by examining a selected group of screen-based (including, but not limited to video, film, and Internet) artworks of recent provenance. 

Week Six: The Politics of the American Buzzword

Matt Lassiter, Associate Professor, History and Urban Planning, and John Rich Professor, Institute for the Humanities, will focus on how certain types of language like drug "pusher" and "peddler" evolve over time in political and cultural discourse, and on the implications of this for public policy and racial double standards. The course will study the way buzzwords accumulate meanings and how this excess of meaning shifts with the contours of American culture. It will also range over the politics of profiling through language, relying on writing by George Lakoff, the linguist about how conservatives win policy debates through better framing devices (newer and livelier buzzwords and sound bites). And on how liberal thinking does the same: changing, as Frank Luntz has argued, "global warming" to "climate change," and the like.

Week Seven: Greek in the Usual, and also in Unexpected Places.

Artemis Leontis, Associate Professor, Classical Studies, Modern Greek, and Hunting Family Professor, Institute for the Humanities, will teach a seminar among the wide range of Greek roots and words in everything from English medical language to popular culture. The course is about the way root languages enter into the fabric of contemporary use without being noticed, but also as a specific way of dignifying certain kinds of language with their linguistic prestige.

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