Spring 2018 First Year Seminars



ANTH 060H.001 | Crisis & Resilience: Past & Future of Human Societies

TR, 11:00am-12:15pm . Instructor(s): Patricia McAnany. Enrollment = 24.

This FYS encourages students to adopt a long view of human societies by examining responses to crises engendered by political, economic, and environmental factors over the longue durée. Perspectives on societal change—both apocalyptic and transformational—are critically examined in light of a suite of case studies that reach back to Mesopotamia (3rd millennium B.C.), Classic Maya and U.S. Pueblo dwellers of the first millennium A.D. and also include more recent case studies, such as the Rwandan genocide, nations such as Haiti that are alleged to be “failed” states, and the current global crisis of environmental sustainability. Students gain familiarity with evaluating archaeological, historical, and environmental information that is pertinent to social change. The aim of the seminar is to foster critical thinking and the ability to evaluate narratives (in both scholarly and popular media) about societal crises and human resilience.

Seminar research materials include books, journal articles, films, and student-run interviews. Class meetings generally consist of a short, introductory lecture followed by discussion headed by student discussion leaders who develop and circulate “talking points” before each class meeting based upon reading material for that day’s seminar. Additionally, each student selects a topic or a case study to research in depth, develops a short class presentation (about 10 minutes), and writes a final research paper.


Patricia A. McAnany is Kenan Eminent Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. A Maya archaeologist, she serves as co-principal investigator of Proyecto Arqueológico Colaborativo del Oriente de Yucatán and as Executive Director of InHerit: Indigenous Heritage Passed to Present (www.in-herit.org). She is particularly interested in the intersection of ritual and economy and in the perspectives of descendant Maya peoples on cultural heritage. She is the author/co-editor of several books, most recently Maya Cultural Heritage: How Archaeologists and Indigenous Communities engage the Past; Textile Economies: Power & Value from the Local to the Transnational (2011) co-edited with Walter E. Little; Ancestral Maya Economies in Archaeological Perspective (2010); Questioning Collapse: Human Resilience, Ecological Vulnerability, and the Aftermath of Empire (2009) co-edited with Norman Yoffee; and Dimensions of Ritual Economy (2008) co-edited with E. Christian Wells. Her recent journal articles include “Casualties of Heritage Distancing: Children, Ch’ortí Indigeneity, and the Copán Archaeoscape” (co-authored with Shoshaunna Parks), Current Anthropology Vol. 53 (2011); and “Thinking About Stratigraphic Sequence in Social Terms” (co-authored with Ian Hodder), Archaeological Dialogues Vol. 16 (2009). She is the recipient of several research awards from the National Science Foundation and of fellowships from the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Institute for the Arts & Humanities (UNC, Chapel Hill), the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Radcliffe Center for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Currently, she works to provide rural communities in the Maya Region with opportunities to dialogue about cultural heritage.


ARTH 055H.001 | Art, Gender, and Power in Early Modern Europe

MWF, 9:05-9:55am. Instructor(s): Tania String. Enrollment = 20.

What did it mean to be a man or to be a woman in the Renaissance? This seminar will explore the ways in which constructions of gender are critical to understandings of the visual arts in the early modern period (c. 1400-1650). We will discuss and analyze a focused group of representations of men and women: portraits, mythological and biblical paintings and sculptures, and even turn our attention to the buildings these men and women inhabited. We will study the work of artists such as Michelangelo, Donatello, Titian, Holbein, and Rubens, amongst others, to find ways of understanding how masculinity and femininity were central concerns in early modern society and in the art produced in this period.


Dr Tania String is an art historian specializing in the art of the Tudor period in England, and the Renaissance more broadly. She is the author of numerous books and articles on the portraits of Henry VIII. Before coming to UNC in 2010 she taught in England at the University of Bristol.


CLAS 055H.001 | Three Greek and Roman Epics

MWF, 10:10-11:00am. Instructor(s): James O’Hara. Enrollment = 24.

The course will involve a close reading in English of Homer’s ILIAD and ODYSSEY and Vergil’s AENEID, and as a transition from Homer to Vergil, we will also read the tragedies of Sophocles from fifth-century Athens. It was epic and tragedy that formulated the bases of Graeco-Roman civilization and provided the models of heroism and human values for the Western Tradition—along with raising fundamental questions about the individual’s relationship to society. We will analyze, discuss, and write about these works both as individual pieces of literature in a historical context, and in terms of how they position themselves in the poetic tradition; after reading the ILIAD and ODYSSEY, we’ll see how heroic myth gets reworked by tragedy for democratic Athens, and then how Vergil combines Homer, tragedy and other traditions to make a new poem for his time. We will look at aspects of structure and technique, questions of overall interpretation and values, and the interplay of genre and historical setting. Requirements: discussion, short online readings in addition to the primary texts, several short papers during the term, and a 6-10-page term paper.


Professor James O’Hara received his A.B. in Classics from the College of the Holy Cross in 1981, and his Ph.D. in Classical Studies from the University of Michigan in 1986. From 1986 to 2001, he taught at Wesleyan University; since 2001 he has been the George. L. Paddison Professor of Latin at UNC, where he has also been department chair. His research and teaching interests are in Greek and Latin poetry, with special interests in Homer, Vergil, and the literature written during the reign of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus; other interests include Roman Civilization, Hellenistic poetry, didactic poetry, and satire.

CLAS 057H.001 | Dead and Deadly Women on the Western Stage

TR, 12:30-1:45pm. Instructor(s): Sharon James. Enrollment = 24.

In this course, we will study the great tragic heroines of ancient Greek drama, focusing on Clytemnestra, Medea, Alcestis, Phaedra, the Trojan Women, Antigone. We will also read a contemporary novel, by Fay Weldon, that engages many of these mythic women. We will studythe Greek tragedies intensively, along with their reception in later art, from paintings to poems, stage productions to sculptures, operas to ballets. Our questions will include: why does Greek tragedy focus so intensely on women? Are the playwrights misogynists or do they express some sympathy for women? What about these female characters grabbed the imaginations not only of ancient Greek playwrights but of later writers, painters, composers, not to mention readers? How are their stories relevant to the 21st century? Did the ancient Athenians know something we don’t?


Professor James specializes in Roman comedy, Latin poetry, and women in ancient Greece and Rome.  She has published many articles on these subjects, as well as a book on Roman love elegy (published in 2003); she is currently preparing a large-scale book on women in Greek and Roman New Comedy (the plays of Menander, Plautus, and Terence).  She is also the co-editor of Blackwell’s Companion to Women in the Ancient World (published 2012).  Professor James regularly teaches all these subjects at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  Her lecture courses, CLAS/WMST 240/240H (Women in Ancient Greece) and CLAS/WMST 241/241H (Women in Ancient Rome) are cross-listed between Classics and Women’s Studies. In summer 2012 she co-directed an NEH Institute on the performance of Roman comedy. She has two very lively dogs who keep her busy at home. In 2013, she won the University’s William C. Friday/Class of 1986 Award for Excellence in Teaching.


COMP 080H.001 | Enabling Technology--Computers Helping People

TR, 9:30-10:45am. Instructor(s): Gary Bishop. Enrollment = 24.

Nearly one in seven Americans has a significant disability; should they be exceptions? Through readings, guest lectures, videos, and projects we will explore the legal, moral, cultural, and technical issues and opportunities raised by this “minority you can join at any time”. Ideas originated in this class have been successfully used by people worldwide.
This is an approved Apples Service Learning course.


Gary Bishop is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research centers on the use of computers to help people with disabilities. Bishop won the Tanner Faculty Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2003 and the Class of 1996 Excellence in Advising Award in 2005. He was one of the first six professors chosen to be a Faculty Engaged Scholar, named by the Carolina Center for Public Service and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Public Service to conduct projects that connect faculty work and community needs. He also received the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Fellowship.


ECON 057H.001 | Higher Calling--Applying Entrepreneurial Thinking to the Challenges of Higher Education

TR, 12:30-1:45pm. Instructor(s):TBA . Enrollment = 24.

Exploring research universities’ impact on solving the world’s biggest problems. Students will work on an entrepreneurial project.



ENGL 071H.001 | Doctors and Patients

MWF, 9:05-9:55am. Instructor(s): Jane Thrailkill. Enrollment = 24.

When the medical anthropologist Arthur Kleinman writes that “illness has meaning,” he reminds us that the human experience of being sick involves more than just an ailing body. In this course we will analyze a diverse collection of writers who have taken as their topic the human struggle to make sense of suffering and debility. The course is divided into five units that will allow us to explore not just the medical, but the personal, ethical, cultural, spiritual, and political facets of illness. Central texts may include Anne Fadiman’s /The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down/, Paul Kalanithi’s /When Breath Becomes Air/, and Alan Shapiro’s /Vigil/. We will also read shorter selections from an array of authors, such as Susan Sontag, Audre Lorde, Atul Gawande, Arthur Kleinman, and Eric Cassell. We will draw on the many talented writers and researchers in the area for a series of guest lectures.


Jane F. Thrailkill swerved away from a career in health care and instead earned her Ph.D. in English and American Literature. Her interest in medicine has persisted, however: her first book studied the influence of medical ideas on American authors such as Mark Twain, Henry James, and Kate Chopin. She is Co-Director of HHIVE (Health & Humanities: Interdisciplinary Venue for Exploration). Her talk for TEDxUNC looks at the serious issue of hospital-based delirium and describes how literary study can give insight into medical problems. Dr. Thrailkill has been recognized for her commitment to undergraduate teaching by a number of university-wide teaching awards and a Bank of America Honors Distinguished Term Chair.

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

TR, 9:30-10:45am. Instructor(s): David Baker. Enrollment = 24.

In 1593, the playwright, Christopher Marlowe, supposedly said that “he had as good a right to  [make] coin as the Queen of England,” and that he was going to produce “French crowns, pistolets, and English shillings.”  What did the writers of Renaissance England think about money and making money, and how did this influence their literary creativity? What did they say about the economy that was emerging around them, which today we call “capitalism”? And how did they carve out a place for themselves in that marketplace? In this course, we will go back to the origins of our own market-world. In the literature of the time, authors such as William Shakespeare, Thomas More, Ben Jonson, and Marlowe offered nuanced perspectives on inequality, globalism, and market ethics. They debated the nature of coins and credit, the role of women in the economy, and the dangers (and delights) of consumerism. We will read a variety of Renaissance works—Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, More’s Utopia, Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair, Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker’s The Roaring Girl, as well as others—and compare them with examples of economic thought, commercial art, and literature from our own time. The goal will be to open a conversation between the past and the present.



HIST 085H.001 | What Concentration Camp Survivors Tell Us

TR, 3:30-4:45pm. Instructor(s): Donald Reid. Enrollment = 24.

This course asks what (if anything) only survivors of concentration camps can tell us about the experience and, in turn, what we can learn by exploring the effects of this experience on survivors. This is a course about reading texts and viewing films in such a way that we can learn as much as we can from individuals expressing the inexpressible. Some things get lost in these tellings, but take on importance for this very reason. We are going to work to reveal this absent presence, examining what gets lost, why and how engaging with this can make us better historians of the camp experience and its effects.

We will analyze a number of texts and films about both the Soviet camps and the Nazi camps. We will devote particular attention to the works, written and filmed, of a survivor of Auschwitz, Primo Levi, and of a survivor of Buchenwald, Jorge Semprun. Dealing with the same events in their lives recounted differently over time, they offer insights into the nature of the experience and how the way it is recounted changes with individuals and in different historical situations. Levi’s creations and recreations of the experience of resistance, imprisonment, and liberation reveal the humane in a world predicated on its erasure. Semprun was a Communist whose engagement with novels about the Soviet camps transformed his understanding of who he was and what he had experienced.


Donald Reid is an historian of modern Europe with a particular interest in how individuals and societies deal with traumatic pasts and in the place of history in novels and films. His research has ranged from the social worlds of Paris sewermen and French fascination with them to the way the Resistance has been remembered in France. His most recent publications are on radical politics in modern France and the detective novelist Didier Daeninckx as historian.



MASC 057H.001 | Waves: From 'The Sound of Music' to 'The Perfect Storm'

TR, 9:30-10:45am. Instructor(s): Alberto Scotti. Enrollment = 24.

We are constantly surrounded by phenomena that are wave-like in nature. We communicate over short distances with sound waves, while we use electromagnetic waves over long distances. We see waves when we stand at beach, and the weather we experience is controlled very often by wave-like features of the jet stream. In this seminar, we will develop the conceptual framework necessary to understand waves, starting from laboratory observations. The main goal is to expose the common traits of waves, and how they can be used to enhance our understanding and predict the outcome of a broad range of important physical phenomena.


Professor Scotti’s research focuses on problems of applied fluid dynamics which are environmentally and/or geophysically relevant. Presently, he is involved in several projects involving stratified flows interacting with topography, internal waves (linear and nonlinear) and boundary layer turbulence using a combination of theoretical and numerical tools.


PHIL 068H.001 | Moral Life

MW, 3:35-4:50pm. Instructor(s): Douglas MacLean. Enrollment = 24.

Modern (post-Enlightenment) moral philosophy is primarily concerned with analyzing or defining moral concepts. This includes basic or “thin” concepts like good, bad, right, wrong, and ought; and it includes “thick” concepts like kindness, cruelty, courage, cowardice, empathy, integrity, selfishness, and other concepts that characterize virtues and vices. Another aim of moral philosophy, which has been less pronounced in the post-enlightenment age but was the central moral question in the ancient world is: what is the proper or ideal life for a human being? This seminar will focus on the latter question, but it will draw heavily on modern philosophical works to help examine it.

We will begin with the ancient Greeks, especially Socrates, the first philosopher in the Western tradition to focus specifically on ethics. We will look briefly at the life and teaching of St. Augustine and then move to more modern and contemporary writing, looking at what modern moral theories tell us about the nature of a morally ideal life and what critics of these theories say about how human beings ought to live. Readings will be drawn primarily from philosophy but will also include literature. We will also watch and discuss several movies.

The class will be conducted as a seminar, and students will be expected to take the lead in discussing various topics. There will be no exams, but there will be at least five papers plus reports to the class. Students will also be required to come up with examples of morally good lives and explain and defend their choice of those examples.


Douglas MacLean’s current research focuses on practical ethics and issues in moral and political theory that are particularly relevant to practical concerns. Most of his recent writing examines how values do and ought to influence decisions, both personal decisions and government policies.


PSYC 089H.001 | Critical Thinking in Psychology and Beyond: How to use Your Brain

TR, 12:30-1:45pm. Instructor(s): Jonathan Abramowitz. Enrollment = 24.

Critical thinking is the ability (and willingness) to assess claims and make objective judgments on the basis of well-supported reasons. It is the ability to look for flaws in arguments and resist claims that have weak supporting evidence (or none at all). Critical thinking is not simply negative thinking; it fosters the ability to be creative and constructive, generate solutions, think of implications, and apply knowledge to a broad range of social and personal problems. Critical thinking skills are essential to success as a student, in your career, as a consumer of goods and services, and in many other areas of your life.

This course focuses on the development of critical thinking skills, especially as they relate to psychological science. The field of mental health is loaded with theories and interventions—some of them scientifically and logically valid, and others not. Critical thinking is a must if one is to successfully learn about how psychological knowledge is created, evaluated, and applied. In addition to learning basic skills of logic, students in this Honors First Year Seminar will learn about the logic of the scientific method and the common errors of human cognition that impede critical thinking. We will emphasize the application of critical thinking skills to psychological phenomena and claims about abnormal behavior and its treatment. Students will learn by discussing and writing effective arguments, analyzing the writings of others and evaluating their claims, exploring contemporary controversies within and beyond psychology, and interacting with members of the class regarding the weekly topics.


Dr. Abramowitz studies psychological processes and cognitive-behavioral treatment of anxiety disorders, especially obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and health-related anxiety.