Spring 2021 First Year Seminars

Course times and offerings subject to change




ARTH 054H.001 | Art, War, and Revolution

TR, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm. Instructor(s): Daniel Sherman. Enrollment = 24.
Mode of Instruction: Remote Only – Synchronous (RS)
This course explores the complex relationship between art, war, and conflict.  We will consider the tensions between glorifying war and violence and memorializing their victims, between political justification and moral outrage, between political programs (many of the works being commissioned to legitimate a particular view of war) and the malleability of meaning.  In most weeks, we focus on single or small groups of works, mostly from Europe and the U.S.,  in a variety of media: painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, and graphic arts, taking the opportunity to study them in depth while also gaining exposure to a range of interpretive methods and the richness of the historical context. We also look at the ways works of art themselves become the trophies or stakes of conflict.


Daniel Sherman received his undergraduate degree from Harvard and his Ph.D. from Yale. He came to UNC in 2008 having taught previously at Rice University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he was also Director of the Center for 21st Century Studies. A specialist in modern art and French cultural history, he has written and edited several books on art museums, the commemoration of World War I in France, and the fascination with so-called primitive cultures in France after World War II; he is now working on the history of archaeology. As a historian who has taught French studies, art history, and general humanities courses, he is committed to discussion and debate across traditional disciplinary boundaries.  He enjoys travel, photography, baking, and hanging out with his cats.


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

MWF, 9:05 am – 9:55 am. Instructor: Alexander Duncan. Enrollment = 24.
Mode of Instruction:Remote Only – Synchronous (RS)
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. In years past, this course has placed emphasis on collaborative performance, but of course live theater has being profoundly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. New modes and models of performance are emerging, and this course will embrace digital collaboration and creativity through projects such as radio dramas/podcasts, TikTok-style video submissions, and the like. Together we will explore how we can best bring these ancient works to life so that they may have a positive impact on our world.


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.


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

MW, 11:15 am – 12:45 pm. Instructor: McKay Coble. Enrollment = 24.
Mode of Instruction: Remote Only – Synchronous (RS)
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 071H.001 | Healers and Patients

MWF, 11:15 am – 12:05 pm. Instructor: Kym Weed. Enrollment = 24.
Mode of Instruction: Remote Only – Synchronous (RS)
When medical anthropologist Arthur Kleinman writes that “illness has meaning,” he reminds us that the human experience of being sick involves more than bodily symptoms. Moreover, the effects of illness and disability are rarely confined to one person. 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 through a range of genres including fiction, non-fiction, graphic memoir, podcasts, and oral histories.

Divided into five units, the course will allow us to explore not just the medical, but also the personal, ethical, cultural, and political facets of illness from the perspectives of patients, healers, and families. Central texts will include /Ask Me About My Uterus/ by Abby Norman, /Black Man in a White Coat/ by Damon Tweedy, /Mom’s Cancer/ by Brian Fies and /The Farewell/ directed by Lulu Wang. Additionally, students will utilize the growing archive of oral histories from the Stories to Save Lives project to learn more about the experiences of patients, healers, and families from across North Carolina.


Kym Weed is a Teaching Assistant Professor in English & Comparative Literature and the Co-Director of the HHIVE Lab and Associate Director the MA program in Literature, Medicine, and Culture. She earned her PhD from UNC and recently returned to Chapel Hill via Vanderbilt University’s Center for Medicine, Health, and Society. Her research focuses on the intersection of science and literature in late-nineteenth-century American literature and culture as well as historical and contemporary understandings of illness, health, disability, and embodiment. She teaches courses in health humanities, disability studies, American literature, and writing.

ENGL 089H.001 | Beauty Like a Tightened Bow: Modernist Philosophies of Art

MWF, 11:15 am – 12:05 pm. Instructor(s): David Ross. Enrollment = 24.
Mode of Instruction: Remote Only – Mostly Asynchronous (RM)
“Modernism” was the dominant international tendency in the arts from the 1880s to the 1930s. We will sample the major modernist authors while considering modernism’s representation of the artist and implicit philosophies of art. We will look at much visual art and familiarize ourselves with the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, the Bauhaus, the Bloomsbury Group, Cubism, Dada, Futurism, jazz, Surrealism, and Vorticism.


David A. Ross is a graduate of Yale and Oxford. He has been a member of the Department of English & Comparative Literature at UNC–Chapel Hill since 2002. He is the author of A Critical Companion to William Butler Yeats (2009) and the co-editor/co-translator of The Search for the Avant-Garde, 1946–1969 (2012), the descriptive catalogue of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. A collector and amateur scholar of traditional Chinese paintings and Japanese woodblock prints, he has served as president of Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies and as both editor and book review editor of the Southeast Review of Asian Studies.


GEOG 050H.001 | Mountain Geography

MWF, 2:30 pm – 3:20 pm. Instructor: Diego Riveros-Iregui. Enrollment = 24.
Mode of Instruction: Remote Only – Mostly Asynchronous (RM)
This honors seminar focuses on understanding the physical geography of mountain environments and the processes that have created them, shaped them, and sustained them. There are several reasons for studying the environments of mountains: (a) they reveal integrative earth systems processes that can be readily observed and understood; (b) the processes are not oversimplified, but have spatial complexity at scales that can be readily comprehended; and (c) they also reveal human interactions with and impacts on their environment. We will explore mountain environments by concentrating on processes that shape the landscape, patterns that are apparent because of those active processes, and how the concept of scale (both through space and time) define the patterns that we see that are shaped by sets of scale-dependent processes. Although we will talk about mountain environments in general, when possible we will draw examples from specific environments, including the Rocky Mountains and the Andes Mountains.


Dr. Riveros-Iregui received a Ph.D. in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from Montana State University (2008), a M.S. in Geology from the University of Minnesota (2004), and a B.S. in Geology from the National University of Colombia in Bogotá (1999).  His research interests include watershed science, forest and soil processes, ecosystem ecology, and landscape biophysical responses to environmental change. Since joining UNC in 2013, he has led more than 40 Carolina undergraduates to field sites in the Andes Mountains and the Galapagos Islands. He teaches courses on watershed science, mountain geography, Earth’s systems, and tropical ecohydrology. Professor Riveros-Iregui has received numerous awards, including the J. Carlyle Sitterson Award for Teaching First-Year Students, the Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Professorship, and the National Science Foundation CAREER Award. 


HNRS 089.001 | Medicine and Narrative: Writing COVID / Writing Us

M, 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm. Instructor(s): Terry Holt. Enrollment = 24.
Mode of Instruction: Remote Only – Synchronous (RS)
A workshop in autobiographical and creative short story, focusing on the complex connections between story-telling, interpretive skill, and the practice of medicine. Students will write and distribute autobiographical and and creative short stories about illness and medical care; the seminar will meet weekly to discuss these stories, attempting to identify and articulate the key issues each story expresses about what it means to be sick, what it might mean to take care of others in their illness. The writing and (especially) interpretive skills acquired in this workshop are directly valuable to anyone contemplating a career in medicine, but are equally valuable to anyone who might at some point encounter (in themselves or in someone they care for) the trauma of illness. In addition to the weekly workshop, participants will have one-on-one conferences with the instructor (himself an MD with an international reputation as a writer). The capstone project will be a public reading (via webinar, allowing participants to invite an audience from anywhere on the globe) of participants’ work, which may (at student option) be in the form of a film composed under guidance of experts at the University’s Media Resources Center illustrating images and themes from the written work.


Terrence Holt taught literature and writing at Rutgers University and Swarthmore College for a decade before attending medical school. Hailed as “a work of genius” by the New York Times, his 2009 In the Valley of the Kings was one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year. Internal Medicine, his New York Times bestselling memoir of medical training, was named best book of 2014 by three industry journals. Holt teaches medicine at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.


PLCY 071H.001 | Justice and Inequality

MWF, 12:20 pm – 1:10 pm. Instructor: Douglas MacKay. Enrollment = 24.
Mode of Instruction: In-Person – On-Campus Learners + Remote Learners (IR)
The value of equality is a foundational principle of the United States of America. The Declaration of Independence proclaims that “all men are created equal” and possess unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Constitution of the United States requires that no State “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Additionally, equality has been the goal of a number of influential political movements, including the Civil Rights movement, the Feminist movement, Occupy Wall Street, the LGBTQ movement, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet despite this prominence of the value of equality, the U.S. is becoming a more unequal society in a number of domains, particularly, with respect to the distribution of income, health, political influence, and social mobility. This course investigates the value of equality, and asks which forms of inequality are unjust and ought to be remedied. We will focus on a variety of different spheres of U.S. social, political, and economic life, including the distribution of income and opportunities, education, health, criminal justice, voting and political influence, and employment. We will also ask whether equality is a value that applies beyond U.S. borders, particularly with respect to immigration policy and climate change.


Douglas MacKay holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Toronto. Prior to joining the Department of Public Policy on July 1, 2013, he completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health. He is a Canadian citizen and grew up in northern British Columbia. MacKay’s research and teaching interests concern questions at the intersection of justice and public policy. He is currently working on projects concerning the justice of economic inequality – both domestic and global; the ethics of immigration policy; the ethics of biomedical and policy research; and the ethics of health and welfare policy.


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

TR, 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm. Instructor: Jonathan Abramowitz. Enrollment = 24.
Mode of Instruction: Remote Only – Synchronous (RS)
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.


SOCI 057H.001 | Rationalization and the Changing Nature of Social Life in 21st-Century America

TR, 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm . Instructor: Howard Aldrich. Enrollment = 24.
Mode of Instruction: Remote Only – Synchronous (RS)
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.” The COVID19 pandemic has changed the way I teach this course, as it will now be online rather than in-person. Nevertheless, insofar as possible, we will still explore “rationalization” through a process called “active learning” in which you will have opportunities to explore online resources, engage in peer-to-peer discussions, and work with me to develop a research project in which you explore the impact of rationalization on an occupation that might be a destination for you. You will be assessed based on your contributions to blog posts, class discussion, short (two page) papers, and a research project culminating in a term paper (15-20 pages). We will have no traditional examinations or quizzes.


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. His two sons and his daughters-in-law graduated from Carolina. 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.