Spring 2019 First Year Seminars




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

TR, 3:30PM – 4:45PM. Instructor(s): 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 Lead for the Community Histories 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.


CLAS 051H.001 | Greek Drama on Page & Stage

MWF, 10:10 am – 11:00 am. Instructor(s): 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 historical and cultural context of the so-called “classical” Athens of the fifth-century BCE, placing particular focus on the political, religious, and aesthetic forces that gave rise to humankind’s first recorded theater.

More ambitiously, however, this course probes the dual nature of theater — 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 original compositions (e.g., Tweets, character backstories, stand-up routines, 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, and attending live performances, students will become budding thespians in their own right, learning first-hand just how far performance may extend beyond the theater.

Class trips to Davis Library, the Forest Theater, and live performances will introduce first-year students to the many resources, both academic and cultural, that UNC has to offer.


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, where he teaches 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.

CLAS 061H.001 | Writing the Past

MWF, 2:30 pm – 3:20 pm. Instructor(s): Emily Baragwanath. Enrollment = 24.

The intersection of history-writing, cinema and fiction will be our focus as we engage with the greatest Greek historians – Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius – against the backdrop of modern renditions of the past and of war in cinema (including Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (1981), Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy (2004) and Zack Snyder’s 300 (2007)), documentaries (including Tolga Ornek’s Gallipoli (2005)), news footage and short stories. We will examine the strategies of each of our ancient writers in confronting challenges that remain pressing for directors, journalists and historians today. These include difficulties of conflicting perspectives, biased evidence, and the limitations of memory, as well as broader questions about the nature of historical representation. Should it present the ‘warts and all’ truth, or commemorate and memorialize? What balance should it strive for between informing and educating us, and providing our entertainment? Where lies the border between history and fiction? Homer’s portrayal of the legendary past will supply a further touchstone. The aim is for students to engage in critical and informed analysis of the strategies of our three ancient historians in ‘writing the past’, and to draw appropriate comparisons and contrasts with the challenges that confront modern counterparts.


Emily Baragwanath’s teaching and research interests lie in the areas of Greek literature and culture, with a focus on the ancient historians, particularly Herodotus (the subject of her 2008 book, Motivation and Narrative in Herodotus, Oxford UP). She is especially fascinated by the literary techniques these writers employ in constructing their historical narratives, and by questions relating to the frontier between historiography and mythology or fiction. A current project examines Xenophon’s portraits of women against the backdrop of Greek tradition and Eastern storytelling.


COMP 065H. | Folding, from Paper to Proteins

TR, 11:00AM – 12:15PM. Instructor(s): Jack Snoeyink. Enrollment = 24.

Folding gives shape to paper, creating works of craft and art. Folding gives shape to proteins, which enable life. This is a class about shape and structure, explored through origami, mathematics, robotics, and molecular biology, and the many puzzle-like questions that we find in these areas. In addition to folding origami models and exploring the function of proteins, we will look at how to describe shapes and structures, how to design them, and how to think about the limits of design.

In addition to learning some skills and factoids that you can use to impress your friends (e.g., new paper airplanes, what to do with metro tickets, folding and cutting in the BEAM makerspace, and fascinating molecular machines), the underlying aim is to study the languages used to describe shape and changes to shape in origami, robotics, and molecular biology, and to introduce students to how to tackle research questions, ranging from toy mathematical puzzles to what is arguably the most important puzzle in science today: “How does the sequence of amino acids coded by a gene reliably fold into the three-dimensional structure to be a functioning protein?”



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

MW, 11:15 am – 12:30 pm. Instructor(s): 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.


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

TR, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm. Instructor(s): Buck Goldstein. Enrollment = 20.

This seminar will explore urgent questions about selective college admissions. We will examine the fairness and effectiveness of different approaches to admissions, inviting students to use entrepreneurial thinking to develop innovative alternates. We will explore the market trends, political pressures, and institutional needs higher education must confront in choosing among applicants. Course readings will be supplemented by outside experts to provide a real-world view of current challenges and opportunities for change. Student teams will then develop and test novel approaches to college admissions. Small venture grants will be available to facilitate this process. The course will draw upon the recent book, Our Higher Calling—Rebuilding the Partnership Between American and its Colleges and Universities, co-authored by Buck Goldstein. Eric Johnson will bring unique insight into the conversation through his role as Director of Editorial Strategy for the College Board.


Buck Goldstein is the University Entrepreneur in Residence and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics.  Prior to returning to the University, Goldstein co-founded Information America, an online information company which was publicly traded and subsequently acquired by the Thomson Corporation. Subsequently, he was a partner in Mellon Ventures, the venture capital arm of Mellon Bank.  He is the author, with Holden Thorp, of Engines of Innovation–The Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century and a co-author of Our Higher Calling—Rebuilding the Partnership Between American and its Colleges and Universities.


ENGL 052H.001 | Computers and English Studies

MWF, 9:05 am – 9:55 am. Instructor(s): Daniel Anderson. Enrollment = 24.

In this class, you will learn about the ways that digital technologies are changing the study of language and literature. The main goals, however, are to become producers rather than consumers of digital materials. You will develop multiple projects with the aim of generating new knowledge about literary texts. You will also develop your skills in collaboration and multimedia composing. And you will explore your own imagination, taking risks and experimenting with what it means to develop and study creative works in the twenty-first century.


I’m currently wrapping up a book project—Screen Rhetoric and the Material World. I’m also working steadily at developing a number of online sites geared toward making the social Web a composition space. The PIT Journal is one such site. It provides a space for undergraduate research while using technology to shift patterns of peer review and scholarly production. The best way to find out more about me is to explore some of my other sites:



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

M, 3:35 pm – 6:05 pm. Instructor(s): 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 five 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: 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  has finished 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/)


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

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. 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.