Fall 2017 First Year Seminars



AMST 053H.001 | The Family and Social Change in America

TR, 2:00-3:15pm. Instructor: Robert Allen. Enrollment = 24.

Inspired by successful television program, “Who Do You Think You Are?” and the popularity of such online genealogical resources as Ancestry.com and Family Search, millions of people are taking advantage of billions of digitized public records and publications (census enumerations, city directories, newspapers, military records, etc.) to become online historical detectives. Some are also becoming 21st century family “kinkeepers”: combining digital resources with local archival resources (including the Southern Historical Collection and North Carolina Collection at UNC and State Archives in Raleigh), family memorabilia from “the bottom drawer of grandma’s dresser” and recordings of family stories to create multimedia family archives, which can be shared with far-flung extended family members and passed down to future generations. This course unfolds the process and materials of genealogical research to larger historical issues and contexts; explores how family history can personalize and localize social, cultural, political, and economic history; and asks how the question “Who do you think you are?” can become the basis for examining “Who do we think we are?” as a diverse national culture. Participants will research and document the history of (at least!) the last four generations of their biological/cultural families; gather (and preserve) family history materials from living family members; and explore the complexities of family history in relation to gender, race, and ethnicity. In addition to learning more about your own and your family’s history, we will use the tools and resources that have revolutionized genealogy and family history to ask new questions about the social and cultural history of “ordinary” people in North Carolina over the past 150 years. In the process, participants will also gain valuable experience in using digital technologies to gather and represent historical data; using public records and other primary documents; conducting oral history interviews; and constructing historical narratives. This course benefits from and is designed as an introduction to the work of the Community Histories Workshop (http://communityhistories.org ), a unit devoted to public digital history and humanities.


Robert C. Allen is the James Logan Godfrey Distinguished Professor of American Studies.  He has served as  Director of the UNC Digital Innovation Lab 2011-16); Co-Principal Investigator for the Mellon-Foundation-funded Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative (2012-14);.  And Director of the University Honors Program (1997-99).  He is Faculty Co-Lead for the Community History Workshop. His work in the emerging field of digital humanities has earned him the American Historical Association’s Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History, and the C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities at UNC.  He has published widely  in the fields of American cultural and media history (8 books, more than 40 book chapters and articles).  In 2011 he received the Tanner Faculty Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.


ANTH 053H.037 | Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

TR, 9:30-10:45am. Instructor: Paul Leslie. Enrollment = 24.

Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is central to one of the most profound revolutions in the history of thought, generating stunning insights but also some misunderstanding and tragic abuse. This seminar aims to provide a clear understanding of how natural selection works, and how it doesn’t. We will examine objections to the theory; how the environmental and health problems we face today reflect processes of natural selection; and recent attempts to understand why we get sick, how we respond to disease, why we get old, why we choose mates the way we do, and more. Class sessions will feature a mix of lecture and discussion of concepts and issues. Students will also engage in small group projects—cooperative explorations of problems raised in class or in the readings and/or designing mini research projects.


Paul Leslie’s professional interests focus on human ecology, and he has pursued this primarily through research among nomadic peoples in East Africa. His most recent project entails studying (while nursing an aged Land Rover across the African savanna) human-environment interactions in northern Tanzania, especially how the changing land use and livelihood patterns of the Maasai people living there affect and are affected by wildlife and conservation efforts. When not teaching or practicing anthropology, he enjoys bicycling, motorcycling, woodworking, and jazz.


ANTH 066H.001 | Saving the World? Humanitarianism in Action

MWF, 11:15am-12:05pm. Instructor: Peter Redfield. Enrollment = 24.

What happens when people try to “do good”, especially at a global scale? In this seminar we will explore international aid, with an emphasis on its medical end and the set of organizations and institutions that exist to offer assistance to people suffering from disaster, endemic poverty and health disparities. The current aid complex includes a wide variety of forms and activities, from large bureaucracies to tiny NGOs, massive health campaigns to lonely clinics. We will approach this phenomenon from the critical and comparative perspective of anthropology, focusing on actual human practice. Which forms of suffering receive international attention, and which do not? How do money and services flow and stop relative to inequality? What range of outcomes do different aid projects produce?

Over the semester we will engage in two collective endeavors. First, to better situate current problems, we will review the background history of humanitarianism and development, including colonial missions as well as state oriented projects of social welfare. Thus equipped, we will then examine a number of case studies. During this section of the course students will engage in research projects, exploring specific examples in greater depth.


Peter Redfield is Professor of Anthropology. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and his doctorate from U.C. Berkeley. His specialty concerns relations between science, technology and society, particularly in post-colonial settings. He also teaches courses on human rights and humanitarianism, and recently completed a book project on the organization Doctors Without Borders.


CLAS 089H.001 | Greek Drama on Page and Stage

MWF, 3:35-4:25pm. Instructor: Alexander Duncan. Enrollment = 24.

Taking a participatory approach to ancient Greek drama, this course pairs readings of three Athenian playwrights (Aeschylus, Euripides, and Aristophanes) with performance-oriented activities, readings, and writings. At its most traditional, this course surveys the much-discussed and much-theorized historio-cultural context of “classical” Athens, with particular focus on the political, religious, and aesthetic forces that gave rise to humankind’s first recorded theater.

More innovatively, this course probes the dual nature of theater—that is, its distinct but intertwined existences as script and performance—through sustained investigations of some of its earliest and most influential texts. Through a variety of writing compositions (e.g., Tweets, press releases, director’s and dramaturg’s notes, performance reviews, and scholarly analyses) students will acquire practical and theoretical experience in the ways text and performance interact. Through improvisational activities, scene rehearsals led by the instructor and fellow-students, and the creation of basic aspects of production using UNC’s BeAM Makerspaces, students will become budding thespians in their own right in order to consider how performance extends beyond the theater.


Al Duncan is Assistant Professor in the Department of Classics.  He holds a B.A. in English and Classical Languages & Literature from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Classics and the Humanities from Stanford University.  Having previously taught in Classics and Comparative Literature at the University at Utah, he joined the Carolina faculty in 2015 and offers a variety of courses on ancient Greek language and literature and ancient Mediterranean culture.

Professor Duncan’s research focuses on theatrical production, aesthetics, and genre.  He is currently preparing a book on ugliness in Greek drama, as well as several chapters and articles on the material and cognitive aspects of ancient theater.


DRAM 081H.001 | Staging America: The American Drama

TR, 2:00-3:15pm. Instructor: Greg Kable. Enrollment = 24.

This seminar examines our national drama from its colonial origins to the present. Participants read plays and criticism, screen videos, engage in critical writing, and consider performance as related means of exploring the visions and revisions constituting American dramatic history. We will approach American drama as both a literary and commercial art form, and look to its history to provide a context for current American theater practice. Readings are chosen for their intrinsic merit and historical importance, but also for their treatment of key issues and events in American life. Our focus throughout will be on the forces that shaped the American drama as well as, in turn, that drama’s ability to shed new light on the national experience.


Gregory Kable is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Dramatic Art, where he teaches dramatic literature, theatre history, and performance courses and serves as an Associate Dramaturg for PlayMakers Repertory Company. He also teaches seminars on Modern British Drama and American Musicals for the Honors program. He has directed dozens of productions at UNC and throughout the local community, and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.


DRAM 087H.001 | Style: A Mode of Expression

TR, 12:30-1:45pm. Instructor: McKay Coble. Enrollment = 24.

This seminar studies the elements of design in their pure form and in context, surveys a history of period styles and theatre, and identifies their causes.

Consider Oscar Wilde’s statement from The Decay of Living 1889:

“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life. This results not merely from Life’s imitative instincts, but from the fact that the self conscious aim of Life is to find expression, and that Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realize that energy…”

Do you agree or disagree?

Art and design have frequently shown the inner life of humankind throughout history better than political, intellectual or social history. While a period’s style is seldom defined by the everyday choices of everyday people and is most often recorded in the works of artists, writers and intellectuals we must recognize the “times” as a major motivator for all stylistic choices. Even minor arts reflect major events.

We will study the elements of design as they exist in their pure form; a “tool box” of elements available to artists and practice the principles to which design is bound.

We will survey a history of period styles, period theatre and identify their causes.

We will explore one period’s style as a foundation for the next and dispel the Star Trek premise that future styles will only reflect the future.


I teach design, both scenic and costume for the theatre and the history of material culture. I fell in love with the power of choice as far as visuals are concerned early in my career as a Carolina student and have never turned back. I am a professor in the Department of Dramatic Art and am a resident designer for PlayMakers Repertory Company. I use the many and varied artistic venues on campus as co-instructors and we will be visiting them together. You will likely join me on a design journey as I created the scenery for a production for PRC and you will have the opportunity to see the process and product.


ENGL 055H.01 | Reading and Writing Women’s Lives

TR, 11:00-12:15pm. Instructor: Jane Danielewicz. Enrollment = 20.

How do our lives become stories? This simple question provokes writers to produce autobiographies or memoirs or biographies. This honors seminar narrows the scope, focusing on contemporary stories that involve personal and lived experience by and about women. Not only will we be reading autobiographical stories and theories that describe women’s experience, but we will also try producing creative nonfiction ourselves. What stories will students—as women or as men—tell about their lives? Students will be challenged to investigate questions of self and identity by composing (using traditional written or new media formats) four genres of life writing during the course: autobiography, autoethnography, biography, and personal essay. Students will learn the research methods involved in life writing. The seminar will be conducted daily as a workshop to promote interactive, experiential learning. Students will be organized into working groups to facilitate community building. Published authors will visit the class. Students will publish their work through public readings and on-line venues.


Although she is an English professor, Jane Danielewicz is curious about almost all fields, from plant biology and architecture, to American history and literature. She can’t help but live the life of the mind and is a passionate reader, writer, and teacher. At UC Berkeley, her graduate education focused on linguistics and literacy, writing and rhetoric. Professor Danielewicz’s work at UNC continues in this vein.  She investigates the nature of written language, the teaching of writing, and forms of creative non-fiction. Her special interest is in life-writing, particularly the study of contemporary American memoir. She is proud to have been named the Richard Grant Hiskey Distinguished Professor in Research and Undergraduate Teaching. She has twice received the J. Carlyle Sitterson Freshman Teaching Award and has a particular affinity for working with first-year students. She enjoys creating assignments that tempt students to push the envelope and try something new, especially to conduct research in their fields. An associate professor in the department of English and Comparative Literature, she also directs the Writing in the Disciplines Program.  Professor Danielewicz has recently finished a book, How to Do Things with Memoir, which talks about how memoirs are not simply interesting narratives but act to solve social problems or produce new ways of understanding the world.


ENGL 085H.001 | Economic Saints & Villains: The Entrepreneurial Spirit in Early English Literature

TR, 9:30-10:45am. Instructor: Ritchie Kendall. Enrollment = 24.

The rise of new economic activities–whether the birth of international banking, trading in future commodities, or the marketing of junk bonds–bring with them both excitement and trepidation. Literature about how people, both ordinary and extraordinary, go about the business of getting and spending is one way that a culture comes to terms with emergent and potentially revolutionary economic formations. This course will explore how early modern England from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries imagined new economic orders through plays and novels. We will examine how Renaissance plays by Marlowe, Shakespeare, Dekker, and Heywood present economic scoundrels such as Barabas and Shylock as well as heroic entrepreneurs such as Simon Eyre and Thomas Gresham. In the eighteenth century we will sample the work of Daniel Defoe who crafted a guide for early tradesmen but also produced subversive novels with dubious heroines who use sex and business acumen to acquire and lose great fortunes. From the nineteenth century, we will read two works, a little known melodrama, “The Game of Speculation,” as well as the iconic “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Both stories speculate on the compatibility of economic and spiritual success. We will conclude with a modern epilogue: three satiric films from the era of Reagonomics including Oliver Stone’s “Wall Steet,” Mike Nichols’ “Working Girl,” and Jon Landis’ “Trading Places.” Our objective throughout will be to analyze how literary art, itself a form of economic activity, simultaneously demonizes and celebrates the “miracle of the marketplace” and those financial pioneers that perform its magic.


Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Ritchie Kendall joined the UNC faculty in 1980. He holds a BA in English from Yale University (1973) and an MA and PhD in English from Harvard University (1980). His specialty is in English Renaissance drama with an emphasis on the socio-economic dimensions of early modern theater. He has taught Honors courses in Shakespeare, Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, comedy and social class, epic and drama, and early modern ideas of entrepreneurship.


GEOL 072H.001 | Field Geology of Eastern California

TR, 02:00-03:15pm. Instructor: Drew Coleman. Enrollment = 20.

This seminar will be designed around a one-week field trip to eastern California, where students will study geologic features including active volcanoes, earthquake-producing faults, evidence for recent glaciations and extreme climate change, and how locals deal with living on active geologic features. Before the field trip (which will take place the week of Fall Break and be based at the White Mountain Research Station, Bishop, California), the class will meet twice a week to go over basic geologic principles and to work on field topics for which student groups will be responsible. During the trip students will work on specific projects (e.g., making a geologic map of a small area; mapping, measuring, and describing an active fault; observing and recording glacial features on a hike), and collect samples for an original, small group, research project. After the field trip students will complete laboratory analysis of samples and present the results of their research to the Department. Grading will be based on the research, group work presented on the trip, and on a variety of small projects during the trip (notebook descriptions, mapping projects, etc.). Students will be required to pay some of the costs (estimated about $850). This course will require missing three days of classes.


Drew Coleman’s research focuses on understanding how the Earth works by determining the rates of processes (mountain building, extinction, volcanism, etc.) that occurred in the past. To accomplish this he and his students date rocks. His teaching is inquiry based and he is most happy when he is teaching “hands on” in the field or lab.


HIST 072H.001 | Women’s Voices: Twentieth Century European History in Female Memory

T, 3:35-6:05pm. Instructor: Karen Hagemann. Enrollment = 24.

The seminar examines twentieth century European history through the lens of women’s autobiographical writings. It explores women’s voices from different generational, social and national backgrounds. We will read and discuss autobiographical texts by six women, who grew up in middle class families in Austria, Britain, France and Germany and wrote about their lives in the first half of the twentieth century. They all tried to make a difference in society and politics: Emmeline Pankhurst (1958-1928), a leader of the militant British suffragette movement; Alice Salomon (1872-1948), a liberal Jewish-German social reformer and activist of the German middle class women’s movement; Vera Brittain (1893-1970), a British volunteer nurse during World War I, who became after the war a peace activist and writer; Toni Sender (1888-1964), a German-Jewish socialist and one of the first female parliamentarians in Weimar Germany, who  like Salomon after the Nazi’s takeover in 1933 had to flee Germany; Genevieve De Gaulle-Anthonioz (1920-2002), a French resistance fighter during World War II and a survivor of the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück; and Ruth Klüger (1931-), an Austrian-Jewish student who survived Auschwitz and became a professor in the U.S. The overarching theme of the seminar is the struggle of women for equal economic, social and political rights. We will explore what effects social and political changes, revolutions and wars as well as the Holocaust had on this struggle and the lives of women in Europe more general. Through intensive discussions of the reading in class, group work and the opportunity to do research on the female autobiography of their own choice, the seminar offers students a unique approach to twentieth century European history and will introduce them to research and writing.


Karen Hagemann is the James G. Kenan Distinguished Professor of History and Adjunct Professor of the Curriculum in Peace, War and Defense. She published widely in Modern German, European and Transatlantic history combing political, social, cultural and military history with women’s and  gender history. Her most recent monograph is Revisiting Prussia’s Wars against Napoleon: History, Culture, and Memory (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Currently she is finishing as the general editor the work on the Oxford Handbook on Gender, War and the Western World since 1600. (http://history.unc.edu/people/faculty/karenhagemann) and (https://hagemann.web.unc.edu/)


HIST 084H.01 | Monsters, Murders, and Mayhem in Microhistorical Analysis: French Case Studies

TR, 3:30-4:45pm. Instructor: Jay Smith. Enrollment = 24.

French history has recently witnessed an extraordinary outpouring of microhistorical studies covering a range of phenomena from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. This course explores both the distinctive features of microhistorical approaches to the past and the attractions of microhistory for the practicing historian. Does the efflorescence of microhistory among French specialists signal the maturity of socio-cultural history as a branch of the discipline, or does it instead signal the field’s sad retreat from grand interpretation and synthesis? Does the new appeal of the small-scale express historians’ capitulation to post-modern attacks on “truth” or new commitments to finding the truth? What are the strengths and limitations inherent to the genre? Students will read a sampling of recent work (much of it featuring murder and mayhem) and also try their hand at writing and otherwise formulating their own microhistorical narratives.


Jay M. Smith is a specialist of early-modern European history whose research focuses on old regime and revolutionary France. Author or editor of five books, his most recent book in French history is Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast (2011).


MATH 062H.001 | Combinatorics

TR, 9:30-10:45am. Instructor: Ivan Cherednik. Enrollment = 20.

A leading expert in Modern Combinatorics wants to share his vision of the subject with the students. The seminar is a perfect background for future specialists in mathematics, physics, computer science, biology, economics, for those who are curious what statistical physics is about, what is cryptography, and how stock market works, and for everyone who likes mathematics.

The course will be organized around the following topics:

  1. Puzzles: dimer covering, magic squares, 36 officers
  2. Combinations: from coin tossing to dice and poker
  3. Fibonacci numbers: rabbits, population growth, etc.
  4. Arithmetic: designs, cyphers, intro to finite fields
  5. Catalan numbers: from playing roulette to stock market

The students will learn about the history of Combinatorics, its connections with the theory of numbers, its fundamental role in the natural sciences and various applications.

It is an advanced research course; all students are expected to participate in projects under the supervision of I.Ch. and the Graduate Research Consultant (the GRC Program). This seminar is partially supported by Honors Carolina.

The grades will be based on the exam, bi-weekly home assignments and the participation in the projects. The course requires focus and effort, but, generally, the students are quite satisfied with the progress they make (and their grades too).

From the Course Evaluation: “A difficult but wholly worthwhile course: I feel more competent for having taken it”, “I would recommend this FYS to others ONLY if they have a VERY strong affinity for and ability in Algebra (I thought I did, but I was wrong)”.


Professor Cherednik is Austin H. Carr Distinguished Professor of Mathematics. Trained at the Steklov Mathematics Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and at Moscow State University, his areas of specialization are Representation Theory, Combinatorics, Number Theory, Harmonic Analysis, and Mathematical Physics. Cherednik’s particular affection for Combinatorics is well known: he proved the celebrated Constant term conjecture in Combinatorics.


POLI 071H.001 | Politics of Race, Ethnicity, Language, Religion, and Gender

TR, 2:00-3:15pm. Instructor: Andrea Benjamin. Enrollment = 24.

In many parts of the world, race, ethnicity, language, religion and gender are explicitly linked to politics. In the United States, we tend to link these identities to politics through political parties. In this seminar, we will explore the concepts of race, ethnicity, language, religion, and gender in a comparative context in order to gain a better understanding of their application in the United States. From there we will consider the relationship between race, ethnicity, language, religion, gender and politics, from the perspective of citizens, candidates, policies, and institutions. We will use scholarly texts as the foundation for the course, but we will couple those with newspaper articles and narratives to gain a first-hand perspective as needed.


Andrea Benjamin earned her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2010. Her research interests include Race and Politics, Elections and Voting behavior, and Public Opinion. She is currently working on a book that explores the potential for Black-Latino coalitions in local elections.
Professor Benjamin teaches courses on Race and Politics, Public Opinion, Identity, and Urban Politics. Courses will culminate in small group projects that may include political ads, policy recommendations, or government project evaluations.

Professor Benjamin is originally from Northern California and completed her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Davis.


PSYC 058H.001 | The Psychology of Mental States and Language Use

TR, 9:30-10:45am. Instructor: Jennifer Arnold. Enrollment = 24.

As adults we constantly make judgments about other people’s beliefs, desires, goals, knowledge, and intentions from evidence like eye gaze and inferences from their words and actions. These judgments together can be called mindreading, or theory of mind (where “theory” refers to the theory someone might hold about another’s mental state, not a scientific theory).  This information is known to guide some aspects of language use — for example, you wouldn’t ask someone to hand you “that book” if they don’t know it exists. But sometimes you might ignore what someone else does or does not know – for instance asking someone for “the red book” when that person is sitting in front of two red books.  This course examines how children, adults, and individuals with autism infer other people’s mental states, and how they use it to guide decisions during speaking and understanding. A major focus of this course is on research methods, and how to investigate questions of mental state and language processing empirically. The course culminates in students conducting an original research project and reporting it in both spoken and written formats.


Dr. Jennifer Arnold is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. She studies the ways that our minds handle the jobs of speaking and understanding. How do speakers choose words and produce them? How do listeners pick out the speaker’s meaning? Her research is guided by questions about how people represent the thoughts, intentions, and mental activities of other people, and how this information influences specific linguistic processes.


ROML 055H.001 | Writing with an Accent: Latino Literature and Culture

TR, 12:30-1:45pm. Instructor: Rosa Perelmuter. Enrollment = 24.

In this seminar we will study the literary production of Hispanics living in the U.S. Using a variety of materials (essays, documentaries, films, music) and English-language texts (novels, short stories, plays, poetry) we will examine works by Chicano, Puerto Rican, Nuyorican, Dominican, and Cuban-American writers. Topics to be discussed include: Latino or Hispanic? What’s in a Name?; Negotiating the Barrio; The politics of Bilingualism; The search for Home in Migrant, Rural, and Urban Environments; The Many Faces of Machismo; Religion and Spirituality in Latino Communities; Forms of Prejudice and Discrimination; Music as a Cultural Bridge. All readings will be in English, though knowledge of Spanish is desirable.


Dr. Rosa Perelmuter is Professor of Spanish and Director of the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program. She has held several fellowships, including two Pogue Foundation Research Leaves and a National Endowment for the Humanities summer grant. Her first book, Noche intelectual, a study of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Primero sueño, was published by the Universidad Autónoma de México Press in 1982, and her second, Los límites de la femineidad en Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Estrategias retóricas y recepción literaria, was published in Madrid/Frankfurt by Iberoamericana/Vervuert in 2004. Since then, she has continued to think and write about Sor Juana and other writers of Colonial Spanish America, and is currently at work on two projects: a book-length study of the description of nature in epic poems written in Spanish America in the 16th and 17th centuries and a personal memoir and history of the Cuban Jewish Community between 1920 and 1960.


SOCI 089H.001 | Rationalization and the Changing Nature of Social Life in 21st Century America

TBD. Instructor: Howard Aldrich. Enrollment = 24.

Today, fast food restaurants have become a model for everyday life. Some scholars have even talked about the “McDonaldization” of the nation and the world. By that, scholars mean a drive toward greater efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control by non-human technologies in modern organizations. This drive has shaped many features of American life, including health care, law, and education. Such forces have even affected personal relationships. Sociologists have a term for this process: “rationalization.” In this course, we will explore that social process through a process called “active learning”: field trips, work in a makerspace, presentations by visitors, videos, role-playing, classroom simulations, and other activities. You will be assessed based on your contributions to blog posts, five short (two pages) papers, a term project, and a group presentation.


Howard E. Aldrich is Kenan Professor of Sociology. He has won numerous awards for his teaching and mentoring: Favorite Professor Award from the senior class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; graduate students’ Award for Best Teaching, Department of Sociology, several times; and the J Carlyle Sitterson Freshman Teaching Award from the University of Carolina Chapel Hill. In 2000, he won the Global Entrepreneurship Researcher of the Year Award from the Swedish Foundation of Small Business Research. His main research interests are entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial team formation, gender and entrepreneurship, and evolutionary theory. He writes a regular column, “Speaking from Experience,” for The National Teaching and Learning Forum. He fly fishes year-round in the mountains of Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee and wherever else his travels may take him. Photos of his catches may be seen on his homepage.